Saturday Single No. 263

It seems that yesterday, despite its being 11-11-11, was a normal day. Scanning the news on the Intertubes this morning, I see no accounts of ships seized by krakens, no tales of resurrected Mayan gods terrorizing tourists at Cozumel, no hint of even a disgruntled lobster holding a sous-chef hostage. It seems to have been an ordinary day.

As is today. The Texas Gal is in the kitchen this morning, poring over her cookbook and preparing to cook up a mess of spinach and bacon for canning. I’m not much in favor of spinach as a table vegetable – it has its place in quiche and some casseroles – but it’s a fact that bacon can make anything tasty. So I’ve got an open mind about canned spinach and bacon.

As to music here, I had thought to offer today a track I found on CD set called Night Train to Nashville, a collection of R&B recorded in that Tennessee city between 1945 and 1970. But some digging revealed that I’d be better off holding that track to a weekday, when I can look at some cover versions as well and then add one more item to the list of Jukebox Regrets. So now what do I do?

Well, as I looked yesterday at the music from a few years with what I call “jackpot dates” – 11-11-11, 7-7-77 and so on – I realized I’d not done much lately with 1977. I’ve touched on the year in a few chart digging exercises, but it’s been since October of last year that I spent an entire post in the year that, for me, defines the boundary between student life and adult life. So here’s a six-track random walk through 1977:

The Soul Children – says Wikipedia – were a group put together in the late 1960s at Stax Records by Isaac Hayes and Dave Porter. They had eight singles reach the R&B Top 40 between 1968 and 1978, with three singles reaching the Billboard Hot 100, including their best known tracks, “Hearsay” and “I’ll Be The Other Woman.” By 1977, the Soul Children had moved to Epic, and on the group’s second album for that label — Where Is Your Woman Tonight? – one finds “Merry-Go-Round,” which was the B-side of the title track when it was released as a single. “Merry-Go-Round” is a decent-sounding piece of late 1970s R&B but no more than that.

In the first year or so of this blog, I shared a couple of albums by the team of Toni Brown and Terry Garthwaite, the two women who had been members of Joy of Cooking, the Berkeley-based band of the late 1960s and early 1970s. One of those albums was The Joy, which found Brown and Garthwaite writing and recording in a vein very similar to that of their old group. The record is one of my favorite obscure albums, and every time something from it pops up, I think I should write a post about, say, my five favorite obscurities. The tune that showed up from The Joy this morning was the lovely “Maybe Tomorrow,” so maybe that’s when I’ll think about those obscurities.

And then we land on a record with a gentle, rolling piano-driven introduction and a clearly country-ish texture and sense: “What can I say, girl, except I love the way, girl, you love me every time that we’re alone.” “Stay With Me” is a sweet tune, made poignant to me by its circumstances: Credited to Robert Parker Jameson, the RCA single was the last record released by my pal Bobby Jameson. And it’s our third stop this morning.

Fourth up is “The Saga of Pepote Rouge,” an album track from Islands, the last album The Band released in its original incarnation. The album was a collection of some leftovers, as I understand it, pulled together after the group called it quits on Thanksgiving in 1976 with the massive celebration of The Last Waltz. “Pepote Rouge” is, to my mind, one of the better efforts on the album: The musicianship and the vocal interplay that made the group so ground-breaking almost ten years earlier is still there, and if not all the songs on Islands are top-notch, that’s a concern that doesn’t affect this track.

When I do these random runs, I almost always stumble over a track that I had no idea I had. Sometimes it’s one that makes me smile; sometimes I wince, and sometimes I just shake my head. This morning, I’m shaking my head at “The Light of My Life” by the Starland Vocal Band. An album track from the group’s second album, Rear View Mirror, the tune is a sweet if undistinguished song about the wonder of a new baby. I’m not sure why I have the group’s second album – the first, from a year earlier, was of course anchored by “Afternoon Delight” – and I’m going to have to think about that a little.

Finally, we land on a track from Steve Winwood’s first solo album, a record I discussed and shared in one of the very earliest posts here. In that post, I noted that at the time of its release, many listeners seemed to dismiss the album with the complaint that it sounded too much like Traffic. My response was: Well of course it does! Beyond the fact that Traffic’s musical sensibilities mirrored those of one of its founders, Winwood’s unique voice is going to carry echoes of anything he’s ever done. Anyway, the track that popped up this morning is “Hold On,” a decent love song that’s more interesting for its musical textures – especially (surprise!) the keyboard work – than for its lyrics. Whatever its shortcomings, it’s a good tune. And it’s today’s Saturday Single.

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