We haven’t done anything random here for a while – “we” being me and Odd and Pop, the two imaginary tuneheads who sit on my shoulders, nagging and advising me – and time presses this morning: There are groceries to buy, floors to sweep, oil levels to check, cats to herd, beer supplies to replenish and football games to watch. Altogether, that’s not a heavy duty list for a Saturday, and none of those tasks are onerous (unless watching the University of Southern California Trojans utterly dismantle the University of Minnesota Gophers this afternoon becomes a burden I cannot bear, which is well within the realm of possibility).
“Get to the point, guy!” Odd pulls my ear. “I want weird tunes.”
Pop hums a few bars of “The Love Theme from The Godfather.” “Andy Williams’ version went to No. 34 in 1972,” he says. “Let’s go there.”
I check and have to tell him that I don’t seem to have Mr. Williams’ take on the tune in our files. He turns away, not at all pleased. Odd grins and says, “But you do have ‘Seaside Shuffle’ by Terry Dactyl and the Dinosaurs from the same year, right?”
I nod. Odd’s grin widens. Pop holds up a finger. “Just wait before you get all idiosyncratic on me this morning,” he tells Odd. “It’s true that ‘Seaside Shuffle’ might be a little, well, odd, but it did go to No. 2 in the U.K. in 1972.”
Odd snorts as Pop smirks. I look from one to the other. “Well,” I say, “as you’ve both landed on something from 1972, why don’t we do a random six-song shuffle from that year and see what we end up with. They nod their heads.
“I hope it’s something with a nice guitar solo, or maybe some funky horns,” says Pop.
Odd snorts. “Tribal drums and kazoos would be better,” he says.
Me? I’m just relieved that it won’t be “The Candy Man” by Sammy Davis, Jr., which was No. 1 for three weeks in June of 1972. Odd and Pop both like that one a fair amount, but I can’t abide the record, and I don’t have it in the collection. As they watch, I sort for songs from 1972, sort for running time, and then click on the song in about the middle, and then click from there and we’re off on a random 1972 adventure:
Our first stop is “Time Lonesome,” a track from a Colorado band called Zephyr, which is best known as the band with which the late guitarist Tommy Bolin got his start. The track is from Sunset Ride, the band’s third album and its second for Warner Bros. While the band is better known as tossing some psychedelics into its blues-rock sound, “Time Lonesome” is far more easily filed in the country-rock slot, with a nice violin (fiddle, if you prefer) solo just before the fadeout.
Next, we come to a cover of Bill Withers’ “Lean On Me” by saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr., from Washington’s All The King’s Horses album. Washington was still nine years away from his only Top 40 hit, which he found when he teamed with Withers for “Just The Two Of Us.” His cover of “Lean on Me” has a nice groove and some good riffing around the melody. I note that it’s not the best track on the album, a title I reserve for “No Tears (In the End).” “Is there anything weird on the album?” Odd asks. No, I tell him, just some very accessible jazz. He’s disappointed, but Pop is pleased when he learns that the album went to No. 1 on the jazz chart, No. 5 on the R&B chart and got to No. 111 on the Billboard 200 album chart.
We move on and land on a track by a One-Hit Wonder singer-songwriter: “Dream Song” by Jonathan Edwards, an album track from Honky-Tonk Stardust Cowboy, a decent country-rock effort that was Edwards’ second album; the first, of course, was home to “Sunshine,” which went to No. 4 during the winter of 1971-72. “Dream Song” is pleasant but inconsequential; the most interesting thing to me about Edwards – courtesy of All-Music Guide – is that he was born in Aitkin, Minnesota, a town where the high school teams are nicknamed the Gobblers.
Fourth on our short trip through 1972 is a cover of Blind Willie McTell’s “Statesboro Blues” by blues artist Chris Smither from Don’t Drag It On, his second album. A mix of covers and originals, the album caused All-Music Guide’s Brett Hartenbech to gush that Smither in 1972 was “a rare combination — a Cambridge folkie with roots in New Orleans, a great writer who knows when to look elsewhere for material, a masterful guitarist who understands simplicity and a powerful singer with restraint.” Well, okay. The track is a decent enough performance, but neither Pop nor Odd nor I are as impressed as was Hartenbech.
“Find some weirdness!” Odd urges the RealPlayer. “The Canadian Tambourine Chorus or something like that!”
Pop shakes his head. “It would never make the charts,” he sniffs.
Odd stares at him for a long moment. “That’s the point,” he finally says.
The RealPlayer moves on to “Give Me Your Love (Love Song)” a Curtis Mayfield track from the soundtrack to Superfly. With some chunky guitar – “wackit-wackit” – and sinous strings, the intro is classic seventies R&B, and then Mayfield’s feathery voice comes in on top, and it doesn’t matter what he’s singing. This is sweet stuff. And folks liked it – or at least they liked the album, which went to No. 1 on the R&B album chart and on the Billboard 200. The album was also home to two hit singles: “Freddie’s Dead (Theme from Superfly),” which went to No. 4 (No. 2 on the R&B chart), and “Superfly,” which went to No. 8 (No. 5 on the R&B chart). “At least it’s not all formula and stuff,” mutters Odd as the track ends. “Not nearly formula,” I tell him.
And the player settles on “Galarnad” by Meic Stevens from his 1972 album, Gwymon. Stevens, says AMG, “is a legend in his native Wales, even as he remains somewhat unknown outside of that country, due chiefly to his insistence on singing in his native Welsh language. The psych-folk singer and guitarist is often referred to as ‘the ’60s Welsh psych-Dylan’ and compared favorably with fellow astral-travelers like Syd Barrett.” Gwymon was his second album, following 1970’s Outlander, and it was that first album’s lack of success that spurred Stevens to record in Welsh. (AMG notes that Stevens’ contract with Warner Bros. did not give the label jurisdiction over his Welsh-language recordings.) Gwymon is pretty simply recorded, with Stevens on guitar and a few other instruments in the mix. And of course, it’s in Welsh, which means that none of the three of us in the Echoes In The Wind studio have any idea what Stevens is singing about. Pop hates it, and of course, Odd loves it.
Me? I’m making it today’s Saturday Single:
“Galarnad” by Meic Stevens from Gwymon