Saturday Single No. 236

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve indulged myself here with random six-song tours of the Seventies and the Eighties, and a rainy Saturday morning seems like a good time to keep the sequence going. So this morning, in search of our weekly treat, we’ll wander through the Nineties.

(I should note that I was baffled why the video I put together for the final tune in our Eighties exploration got so few hits. And I learned this morning that the video had disappeared because the HTML was incorrectly tinkered with, and that’s my fault. I’ve repaired the post, and if anyone wants to take in the Tom Jans performance of “Mother’s Eyes” that closed Jan’s final album, Champion, it’s here.)

There are about 6,800 tunes in the RealPlayer from the 1990s. The mix is far different than those from earlier decades, I would guess. There’s probably much less Top 40, much more adult contemporary, some alternative stuff (especially alt. country, leading to Americana, I would think), some blues, and a fair amount of regular country. So let’s see what pops out of the random slot:

First up are the Spin Doctors and their cover of “Have You Ever Seen The Rain” from the soundtrack to the 1993 movie Philadelphia. The Spin Doctors’ second album, a 1991 effort titled Pocket Full of Kryptonite, went to No. 3 on the Billboard 200, and a single from Pocket – “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” – was everywhere in the autumn of 1992 and the early weeks of 1993, reaching No. 17 in the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 2 on the Mainstream Rock chart. So the Spin Doctors were at their peak when they took on the John Fogerty tune for Philadelphia. Their cover’s not bad, but there’s nothing in it that’s new, either.

Stop No. 2 this morning is a track from the last album by the late Richard Newell, a blues harpist better known as King Biscuit Boy. Long considered, says All-Music Guide, “the premier practitioner of blues harmonica in Canada,” Newell toured with and jammed with many folks during his fifty-eight years, including Muddy Waters, Allen Toussaint, Dr. John and John Lee Hooker. His recorded output is slender: Five albums between 1970 and 1995 (he crossed over in 2003), but all are good listening. The tune we’ve come across this morning is a nifty little workout called “Down On The Farm” from his 1995 album Urban Blues Re: Newell.

We move on, finding ourselves in Walkabout territory. I’ve seen the group tagged as alternative country rock, and that seems to pretty much sum it up. The tune we’ve fallen on is “Polly” from Satisfied Mind, a 1993 collection of acoustic covers. Written by the late Gene Clark, a founding member of the Byrds, “Polly” first showed up on Through the Morning, Through the Night, the 1969 album Clark recorded with Doug Dillard. As much as I like Dillard & Clark, I prefer the Walkabouts’ almost eerie version of the song.

And from there, we tumble into the world as seen by Alabama 3 (known as A3 in the U.S.), the group that came to wide attention when “Woke Up This Morning” was used as the opening theme for the HBO series The Sopranos. “Bourgeoisie Blues” comes from the same album, 1997’s Exile on Coldharbour Lane, and sports the same mix of sound collage, driving rhythms and vocals that to my ears sound ironic, all stirred into a tune that AMG calls an “electro-Marx-house combination.” Sample lyric: “Temptation’s got a hold on you/She’s eating away at your dreams.” Odd but gripping.

Our fifth tune this morning is “Moon Over Catalina,” a surf instrumental from the Blue Stingrays’ lone album, a 1997 effort titled Surf-N-Burn. It turns out that the Stingrays were actually members of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers taking a busman’s holiday. The album, which is a lot of fun, includes what seem to be fourteen original tunes and a surf-washed take on John Barry’s main theme from Goldfinger. All of it, including “Moon Over Catalina,” is a lot of fun.

And we come at last to a tune from one of the last albums from the late Long John Baldry. A blues singer during the early days of the British blues scene, Baldry shifted to pop for a brief period in the the 1960s and then slide into blues rock, with the 1971 album It Ain’t Easy being one of the peaks of his career. The tune we’ve landed on this morning comes from the 1996 album Right To Sing The Blues, a project that showed off Baldry’s gravelly delivery to good effect. So “Midnight Hour Blues” is today’s Saturday Single

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