Saturday Single No. 303

Nearly 64,500 mp3s clog the workings of my RealPlayer these days, and I don’t see that number decreasing anytime soon. One of the tentative plans here at the Echoes In The Wind studios is to get two new external hard drives of a terabyte each, one to hold the ever expanding collection and the other to be stored elsewhere – and updated regularly – as a backup.

The earliest dated recording I have among those mp3s continues to be a performance of “Poor Mourner” by the Dinwiddie Colored Quartette, recorded in Philadelphia on November 29, 1902. The most recent music I have comes from the CD Ragpickers, a collection of rootsy work by Paul Benoit that his label sent to me for consideration the other week. It’s pretty good, based on a few listenings.

In between those two extremes lie the rest of the more than 64,000 mp3s, with more than 15,000 of them – a little less than a quarter of them – coming from the five years from 1968 through 1972. The greatest total for any one year is the 3,500 or so that were released in 1970. (All of these numbers for specific years will increase over the next few months, as I’ve recently begun to sort a vast collection of obscure singles from the 1960s and 1970s, none of which came to me with dates. More on that project, perhaps, in a while.)

I wrote about 1970 and my garage-painting stint yesterday, of course, and combining that with the fact that 1970 is the most populated year in my clogged RealPlayer, I thought I’d take a six-step random walk through that year this morning in search of our regular Saturday Single. I did this for 1972 and 1971 not all that long ago, and I have no doubt that I’ll continue to walk back through the years on those Saturday mornings when I find myself grasping for something to write about. So here we go.

First up is “Here Come Those Heartaches Again” by Merry Clayton from her first album, Gimme Shelter. The sad song was written by James Cleveland, and I find myself wondering if it’s the same James Cleveland who was for years a mainstay of the world of gospel music. The lush track, with sweet strings over what I think is Billy Preston’s piano, shows a softer side of Clayton, one that puts me in mind of similar tracks by Aretha Franklin. As sad as the song is, it’s a nice way to start off the morning.

From there, we go to “Dream,” a track from Ringo Starr’s first solo album, a very interesting and off-beat album of standards titled Sentimental Journey. The idea of major pop-rock performers recording standards like “Dream,” “Stardust,” “Bye Bye Blackbird” and the title track seemed odd at the time, and Ringo noted that he’d recorded the album as a nod to his parents. But these days, with numerous performers – Rod Stewart is perhaps the best example – mining the old standards for CD after CD, the idea behind Ringo’s first solo outing seems less odd. And it continues our mellow beginning to the morning’s journey.

Glass Harp was, according to Wikipedia, a power trio from Youngstown, Ohio, that included guitarist Phil Keaggy, who would go on to become one of the major artists in the genre called contemporary Christian music. Glass Harp recorded three albums during the early 1970s, and our third stop this morning is “Whatever Life Demands” from the group’s first, self-titled album. It doesn’t sound much like my idea of a power trio’s work, having much more of a feel of Gypsy, the Minnesota band from the same era, although there is a nice, trippy guitar solo in the middle of the track.

Our next stop is a piece of bubblegum from a group called the Hardy Boys titled “I Heard The Grass Singin’.” It turns out that the Hardy Boys – if I have this right – were a studio group pulled together in the late 1960s to provide a soundtrack for an animated TV series about the famous juvenile detective duo. The group recorded two albums of pleasant and inoffensive pop: Here Come The Hardy Boys in 1969 and Wheels in 1970. I have no idea where I found Wheels, but it must have been during my first few months of rummaging through music blogs during the summer of 2006, when I grabbed almost anything I could find. “I Heard The Grass Singin’” is a sweet tune that wouldn’t have been out of place on a Partridge Family album. Whether that’s a recommendation or not is yours to figure out.

Our fifth tune this morning comes from a live album that I’ve enjoyed every time I’ve listened to it but that I tend to forget I have: Rick Nelson’s In Concert: The Troubadour, 1969, an album recorded at the famed club in Hollywood and released the following year. The original LP release had twelve tracks, ranging from his own hit “Hello, Mary Lou” through Eric Andersen’s thoughtful “Violets of Dawn” to Doug Kershaw’s twangy “Louisiana Man,” which is the track we land on this morning. A double-CD package released last year added ten alternate tracks to the original release and then doubled up by adding another full concert from the same series of shows at the Troubadour. (The Texas Gal has been asking me what I want for my birthday. I think I have an idea.)

And then we come to this morning’s destination, “They Call It Rock & Roll Music,” a track by Delaney & Bonnie & Friends from To Bonnie From Delaney. With help from Duane Allman and King Curtis, the track is about as good as rock music got for me in the early 1970s when I was exploring things I’d been missing. And there’s not much more to say except that “They Call It Rock & Roll Music” is today’s Saturday Single


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