‘Yellow’

Here we are with “Yellow,” the third installment of Floyd’s Prism. Sorting nearly 70,000 mp3s for the word “yellow,” we’re left with only 125 titles. And not all of them will work for us this morning.

Good chunks of several albums go by the wayside: Of the six Beatles’ tracks on the 1969 Apple release Yellow Submarine, we lose five, with only the title tune remaining. We lose almost all of The Unfortunate Rake, Vol.2: Yellow Mercury, a 2003 album by the Crooked Jades, a San Francisco band whose work could easily be labeled Americana. Almost all of Donovan’s 1966 album, Mellow Yellow, falls to the cutting room floor, as does all of Hot Tuna’s 1975 album, Yellow Fever, and most of the Neville Brothers’ 1989 effort, Yellow Moon. I don’t have much from Elton John’s Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road, but the only thing that survives there is the title track, which we’ll set aside anyway.

A few artists fail to make the finals, too, as we bypass records by the Yellow Balloon, the Yellow Brick Road, the Yellow Jackets, the Yellow Hair, Yellow Autumn (the entire 1977 album Children Of The Mist), and two tracks of Native American chants from the album Lewis & Clark: Sounds of Discovery performed by, among others, Courtney and Dana Yellowfat. But even with all of that, we have plenty of tracks left.

We’ll start with a Donovan song, “Mellow Yellow.” I’m not going to mess around with Donovan’s original version, though. Over the years, I’ve wearied of the Welsh performer’s catalog to the point that a Donovan tune on the RealPlayer almost always makes me click to the next track and a Donovan tune on the car radio generally makes me push the button for another station. Instead, we’ll start today’s exercise with Big Maybelle’s cover of “Mellow Yellow” from her 1967 album, Got A Brand New Bag. The Rojac label released several singles from the album – “96 Tears” went to No. 99 in the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 23 on the R&B chart – but “Mellow Yellow” wasn’t on any of them.

Jaime Brockett’s 1969 album, Remember The Wind And The Rain, brought the New England-based singer – and occasional songwriter – some play on late-night free-form radio with his thirteen-and-a-half minute epic, “Legend of the U.S.S. Titanic,” a track based at least a little bit on Leadbelly’s 1948 recording, “The Titanic.” But our interest here today is another track from the same album, the Michael Smith-penned “Talkin’ Green Beret New Super Yellow Hydraulic Banana Teeny Bopper Blues,” which includes jabs at Spiro Agnew, Dick Clark, lock-step patriotism, apple pie and, of course, the Green Berets.

Among my favorites from the 1990s is the sometimes bleak and always moody group October Project. I recall hearing “Bury My Lovely” from the group’s self-titled 1993 album on Minneapolis’ Cities 97 during the mid-1990s, and once I got a CD player in the latter portions of that decade, I began to listen to more of the group’s stuff. “Sunday Morning Yellow Sky” comes from the 1995 album Falling Farther In, and like most of the group’s work, it was written by Julie Flanders and Emil Adler. Add Mary Fahl’s unique voice, and you have a disquieting yet beautiful piece. Near the end, Fahl sings:

Sunday morning, yellow sky
The sun is floating diamond high
Hours passing, a baby cries
In the arms of someone you imagine

Close your eyes
This is your lullaby
Close your eyes
This is your lullaby

I don’t know what it means, but I love it.

“Don’t cross the double yellow line” sings the Music Machine in its 1967 single “Double Yellow Line.” I found the single in one of the Nuggets box sets that have proliferated in the CD era, based on the original Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era released in 1972. “Double Yellow Line” was released as a single but bubbled under the Hot 100 at No. 111, having far less success than the group’s better-remembered single “Talk Talk,” which went to No. 15 in January 1967. Even having found the lyrics online this morning, I’m not entirely certain what “Double Yellow Line” is about, but it’s a nice bit of garage rock for a Thursday morning.

I mentioned the Neville Brothers’ album Yellow Moon above; the one track we do not have to ignore this morning is the very sweet title track. Written by Aaron Neville, “Yellow Moon” bops along the sidewalk and through the swamp, funky and sweet with a very snaky solo on what sounds like a soprano saxophone. The album was one of the first I bought after I got my first CD player in the previously mentioned late 1990s, and all of its tracks – but especially “Yellow Moon” – remind me of some good times on Pleasant Avenue during the latter years of that decade. As to the music, the album went to No. 66 on the Billboard 200, and according to Wikipedia, Lou Reed called it one of the best of 1989.

Yellow Sunshine was a funk/R&B group that was formed in Philadelphia in 1972 or 1973, says the website Discogs, and one listen to the group’s “Yellow Sunshine” bears that out. The 1973 single, released first on the Gamble label and later on TSOP, didn’t chart. Nor did the group’s self-titled album, and the group split up, with the group’s keyboard player heading to work for the legendary Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff and two other members joining the equally legendary group MFSB.

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One Response to “‘Yellow’”

  1. Paco Malo says:

    “Talkin’ Green Beret New Yellow Hydraulic Banana Teeny Bopper Blues” Perfect 1969 tip o’ the hat to Woody and the talkin’ blues tradition while maintaining the chocolate subway cred.
    I wouldn’t disgrace such a fine song by using a Tool’s rating system. (I saw Dick Clark in person once; he’s a disgraceful suit off camera; not hydraulic banana-esque at all.)

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