‘In Apartment 21 . . .’

July 17th, 2020

Looking once more at the Billboard Easy Listening chart from fifty years ago this week – published July 18, 1970 – we move below the Top Ten and see several familiar titles:

No. 12: “Silver Bird” by Mark Lindsay
No. 21: “Snowbird” by Anne Murray
No. 23: “United We Stand” by the Brotherhood of Man
No. 30: “Teach Your Children” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
No. 32: “Apartment 21” by Bobbie Gentry
No. 35: “Solitary Man” by Neil Diamond

Having noted those, it’s clear that there are far more singles in that chart that are unfamiliar or only vaguely familiar (though some members of my audience, far better versed than I in chart lore, likely would recognize more of those titles than do I). Anyway, five thoughts jump out at me as I look at that list of six singles:

First, I really liked Mark Lindsay’s work in 1969 and 1970. “Silver Bird” was the second single from Lindsay I recall hearing on my radio, either from the Twin Cities’ KDWB or from WJON across the railroad tracks in St. Cloud. The other was “Arizona,” which was released and hit the charts in late 1969. When I hear either one of those singles now, fifty years later, I’m immediately pulled back to my room or the front porch on Kilian Boulevard.

To be honest, “Arizona” is the more potent of the two; I wanted to find my way into radioland and go rescue that seemingly bewildered flower child, but “Silver Bird” also tugged at me. It would eventually peak at No. 7 on the Easy Listening chart and at No. 25 on the Hot 100. (During the winter of 1969-70, “Arizona” got to Nos. 16 and 10, respectively.

Of course, Lindsay – lead singer for Paul Revere & The Raiders – had a few other solo hits, but “Silver Bird” and “Arizona” are the two that stay with me.

An Anne Murray hit came through the television speakers the other day as part of a commercial, prompting me to say to the Texas Gal, “You know, I have no idea why, but I have never really liked Anne Murray’s music.” She concurred. Now, there’s nothing specifically wrong with “Snowbird,” which was No. 1 for six weeks on the Easy Listening chart and peaked at No. 8 on the Hot 100. And there’s nothing specifically wrong with “Love Song,” “Danny’s Song,” “You Won’t See Me,” “I Needed You” or any of the rest of Murray’s broad catalog.

It’s just that all of her work has left me pretty much untouched. I had one of her LP’s – 1980’s Somebody’s Waiting – at one time, but I’m pretty sure it went in the Great Sell-Off before we moved to the condo, and the only Murray track on the digital shelves is “Danny’s Song.” And I’m not sure why.

The titles of “United We Stand” and “Solitary Man” produce a similar reaction in my head. Seeing the first immediately brings me a cascade of strings followed by the female vocal: “There’s nowhere in the world that I would rather be than with you, my love . . .” And just seeing the title “Solitary Man” brings me Diamond’s bleak “Melinda was mine till the time that I found her . . . holding Jim, loving him.”

Some records do that. With most, I see the title and can summon up in my head the sound of the record, but there are some that are on a kind of autoplay: I see the title and I hear the song. And it has little to do with how much I like the records. These two aren’t particular favorites, though there’s nothing wrong with them.

I should note that “United We Stand” peaked at No. 15 on the Easy Listening chart and No. 13 on the Hot 100, while “Solitary Man” peaked at Nos. 6 and 21, respectively on its reissue. The Diamond record had gone to No. 55 on the Hot 100 on its earlier release in 1966.

“Teach Your Children” brings back an odd memory. In 1988, a teaching colleague at Minot State University asked me to take part in a desert island-type program he ran on the university’s public radio station. The concept is familiar: What ten tracks would I want to have on a desert island? I don’t recall all ten of my selections, although I have a tape of the show somewhere. I do remember “Layla” was one, as was Pink Floyd’s “Us and Them.” And so was “Teach Your Children.” The odd thing is that when I got around to creating my Ultimate Jukebox in 2009, “Teach Your Children” was nowhere to be found, meaning it went in just more than twenty years from my Top Ten to nowhere in the top 240. Odd.

Just for the record, the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young single peaked at No. 28 on the Easy Listening chart and at No. 16 on the Hot 100.

Reading Bobbie Gentry’s name and the title of her “Apartment 21” reminds me that I’ve never written anything about the box set The Girl From Chickasaw County: The Complete Capitol Masters, which sits on a shelf just a few feet from where I write. There are two reasons for that. First, when I got the set, the ink was so fresh on the pages that just opening the book – much less reading it – gave me severe headaches. Second, I think I’ll be disappointed: From very brief explorations of the book, it seemed that detailed discographic information about Gentry’s work was absent: No session information, no catalog numbers, none of the things I’ve come to expect from an elaborate box set. Now that the ink will be less of a problem, I should dig into the set and see if those first impressions were correct.

As to “Apartment 21,” it’s a decent single from the Fancy album, and it peaked at No. 19 on the Easy Listening chart and at No. 81 on the Hot 100. Like the album itself, it’s got smoother edges than the early work that made Gentry a star as it tells the tale of a musician watching the days go past on the road and in the haven of her apartment.

Rain on my Sunday shoes
Pick up the daily news
Looks like tomorrow’s blues
But it’s better than none

Call on the telephone
Knowin’ that he’s not home
I’ll put on the Rollin’ Stones
And I can have me some fun

Start up a flight of stairs
Stand up and comb your hair
Try not to change things
More than you can withstand

Get into something new
That’s made for a year or two
Pick up the pieces
Where you think they might land

Every day goes, another day’s gone
Hate to say so but I’m getting older
Day by day

Take off all your clothes
Stand up and wipe your nose
Cry for your daddy
You lost so long ago

Jump on another plane
Today it’s all the same
You can catch me in Boston
’Cause that’s how it goes

I’m here in apartment 21
Stop by and have some fun
Say “How you doin’,
You old son-of-a-gun?”

Look at a photograph
Lord, don’t it make you laugh
For all those changes
What have you done?

And I say,
La la la, la la la, la la la la
La la la la, la la la, la la la la
La la la, la la la, la la la la
La la la la, la la la, la la la la

Sit down and write a song
Wait till the days grow long
And wait for the autumn wind
To blow me away

‘I Can Take Or Leave It . . .’

July 15th, 2020

Here are the top ten easy listening records from fifty years ago this week, as noted in the July 18, 1970, edition of Billboard:

“(They Long To Be) Close To You” by the Carpenters
“My Marie” by Engelbert Humperdinck
“A Song Of Joy” by Miguel Rios
“I Just Can’t Help Believing” by B.J. Thomas
“One Day Of Your Life” by Andy Williams
“She Cried” by the Lettermen
“Que Sera Sera (Whatever Will Be Will Be)” by Mary Hopkin
“Overture From Tommy” by the Assembled Multitude
“Make It With You” by Bread
“Song From M*A*S*H” by Al DeLory

I have no memory of four singles in that Top Ten. I know, of course, the song “Que Sera Sera,” but I don’t recall Hopkin’s version. “My Marie” is a blank to me. As I write, I’m thinking I might know “One Day Of Your Life,” maybe from a commercial. And “She Cried” rings faint bells although I do not know if I am recalling the version by the Lettermen. It’s time to go to YouTube.

I like “My Marie,” the tale of a husband off to do something risky to get his family out of poverty – “But if I’m not back there with you/By the time the sun goes down/Take the train, change your name/And get the children out of town” – but it’s still unfamiliar.

Still unfamiliar, too, are the singles by Hopkin and Williams. As to “She Cried,” the Lettermen’s version might be the one I recall. I took a listen to the 1962 version by Jay & The Americans, but that’s not one I remember.

Five of the other six in that top ten are records I recall from working at the 1970 state trap shoot on the gun range out southeast of St. Cloud. (I told the tale of that job long ago; you can find it here.) And all five of those – the singles by Rios, Thomas, the Carpenter, the Assembled Multitude and Bread – are among my current listening in the iPod. And the last of those ten to be accounted for – Al DeLory’s “Song From M*A*S*H” – will be in the iPod before the sun sets today.

DeLory’s version of the theme from the 1970 film M*A*S*H – the television series went on air in 1972 – seems to be the only version of the tune that’s charted. (I might have missed some, but I’ve checked under “Song From M*A*S*H,” “Theme From M*A*S*H,” and “Suicide Is Painless,” which is the actual title of the tune composed by the recently departed Johnny Mandel and Mike Altman.) It peaked at No. 7 on the easy listening chart and got to No. 70 on the Hot 100.

Saturday Single No. 696

July 11th, 2020

Okay, so how many tracks among the 80,000 on the digital shelves were recorded on July 11?

This, of course, is the kind of thing I resort to on days when my stock of ideas to write about is running low. Sometimes it results in something that limps, sometimes it works. (And it’s worth remembering that I have recording dates for maybe ten percent of the mp3s in my collection.)

Anyway, the answer is ten, and those tracks are:

“Put It There (Shag Nasty)” by McKinney’s Cottonpickers, 1928
“Pete Brown’s Boogie” by the Pete Brown Quintet, 1944
“Fat Stuff Boogie” by the Beale Street Gang, 1948
“Me & My Chauffeur Blues” by Memphis Minnie, 1952
“You Win Again” by Hank Williams, 1952
“I Forgot To Remember To Forget” by Elvis Presley, 1955
“Mystery Train” by Elvis Presley, 1955
“Trying To Get To You” by Elvis Presley, 1955
“(You’re A) Bad Girl” by Paul Revere & The Raiders, 1966
“Samantha’s Living Room” by the Guess Who, 1972

Four of those – the first two by Presley and the singles by Memphis Minnie and Hank Williams – are pretty well known. The others? Well, the Cottonpickers’ record is 1920s jazz on the Victor label, and the two from the 1940s are – as their titles indicate – piano-led boogies (with lots of horns) on Savoy. “Trying To Get To You” showed up on Presley’s 1956 self-titled album. “(You’re A) Bad Girl” came out of the sessions for The Spirit Of ’67 but was unreleased until the CD era. And the Guess Who track was on the 1973 album Artificial Paradise.

And of those, the one that catches my ears this morning is “Samantha’s Living Room.” An odd, atmospheric track, it showed up here on a two-CD anthology of the Guess Who’s work, and its lyrics intrigue me:

The family’s in the front room cheering
Old Dad’s in the corner snoring
Mother’s helping baby walk
And Auntie Jean is yawning
In Samantha’s living room

Granddad’s at the punchbowl drinking cordial
While Grandma sees the children play
Blindman’s bluff and chess, and the music plays
All in all it’s time for fun
In Samantha’s living room
In Samantha’s living room, in the year 1921

In Samantha’s living room
In Samantha’s living room
In Samantha’s living room, in the year 1981

So, because it intrigues me, and because I have the sense that I’ve not often mentioned the group here, “Samantha’s Living Room” by the Guess Who is today’s Saturday Single.

Dylan All Around Me

July 8th, 2020

“I woke up this morning, there were tears on my face,” begins one of Bob Dylan’s more forgotten songs, the 1971 single “George Jackson.”

As I wrote in 2008:

George Jackson . . . was an inmate in a California state prison who became a self-educated leader and political figure during his incarceration. He wound up dead in prison during the summer of 1971 in what some called an assassination, while others seemed to think that his death was simply the unsurprising end of a life of violence and crime. Folk hero or thug? I don’t know, and the page on Jackson at Wikipedia doesn’t really resolve anything. I recall the first time I heard the record: I was sitting . . . somewhere with Rick and a radio one day, and we listened intently, as we did in those days to anything Dylan did. I don’t know if the deejay was asleep at the switch or making a statement, but the radio station didn’t bleep the line, “He wouldn’t take shit from no one,” and Rick and I looked at each other, startled. “Bob Dylan lays it on the line,” said Rick, laughing. In any case, the record – which never made it to an LP back then and, as far as I know, has since been included only on three relatively obscure Dylan CD anthologies – is an audio artifact of the tail end of the odd and bitter time we now call the Sixties. I sometimes wonder if Dylan ever regrets recording and releasing the song, but I figure not: I don’t think – at least as far as his music goes – Dylan has much time for regrets.

Anyway, as I woke up this morning, there were no tears on my face, but for some reason the line “He wouldn’t take shit from no one,” embedded itself in my brain not long after I wandered down the hall intent on brushing my teeth. I recognized the source of the line immediately, of course, and as I cleaned my teeth and went on into the morning, I wondered how often Dylan pops up, unsought, in my life.

Quite regularly, I would guess. Two examples come to mind from recent weeks. (I could, of course, hold off on this idea for a month and keep track of any other examples that come to mind, making this idea more flesh than bare bones, but hey, I’m not a scientist. And I’m already this far into the post . . .)

Standing in front of my music bookshelf and looking for something to browse through the other day, I grabbed The Band FAQ, a lengthy and somewhat oddly organized volume by Peter Aaron, and although Dylan is not mentioned on every page or even in every section, he of course shows up a fair amount in portions of the book and otherwise flits around the margins, as he does with almost anything written about The Band.

And the other day, Facebook offered up – as one of my memories from years past – my scan of a post card of Rome’s Colosseum. I’d sent the postcard to Rick when I was in the Eternal City long ago, and he’d given it back to me – along with other cards and letters I’d sent to him – when I returned home. So where’s Dylan in that?

Well, I began my message on the back of the postcard: “Oh, the hours that I’ve spent inside the Colosseum, dodging lions and wasting time . . .” Those are, of course, the opening words to Dylan’s “When I Paint My Masterpiece.” My choosing to open my message to Rick with those words wasn’t random, but Facebook offering my scan of the card as an “On this date . . .” certainly felt so.

So do bits of thought about Dylan pop up more frequently than bits of thought about other performers? Does Dylan permeate my life more than, say, Springsteen, the Beatles, The Band or Richie Havens? It’s an odd thing to ponder, but I’d have to say yes. There’s more music by Dylan on the shelves here than there is from any other performer or group. In my early songwriting days, Dylan was the major influence on my lyrics (with Lennon & McCartney being the greatest influence on song construction). And bits and reminders of Dylan likely pop up regularly.

So yeah, whether I always realize it, I’d have to say that Dylan is all around me. And here’s the acoustic version of “George Jackson,” the track that sparked this odd post. Interestingly enough, it’s found – as one can see below – on the 2012 album Listen, Whitey! The Sounds Of Black Power 1967-1974, and it’s the version that went to No. 33 around the time 1971 turned into 1972. (The flip side was the same song with a backing band.)

Saturday Single No. 695

July 4th, 2020

Well, it’s Independence Day, or as they may refer to it in Great Britain, Treason Day.

(Admission: I get mightily peeved in the weeks leading up to today’s holiday when folks who should know better – writers, reporters both print and broadcast, and editors – refer to the holiday as only July Fourth or the Fourth of July. That’s a date, folks. It’s an informal way of referring to the holiday, but the name of the holiday is Independence Day. Use it. Look, I know “independence” is a long word, but deal with it. Be pros. Get it right!)

Rant over.

I’ve long had in my collection of 45s an Everest release, “Independence Day Hora/Like A Young Man,” and I’ve wondered about it ever since it showed up in the early 1960s in one of those “thirteen records for a buck” bags that my sister used to buy at Dayton’s in downtown Minneapolis. I’ve never bothered to look it up until today.

Turns out that the songs come from a 1961 Broadway musical, Milk and Honey, the tales of two American widows touring Israel. The book and music were by Jerry Herman, and the musical earned several Tony nominations (but won none).

The tune on the A-side of the record, it turns out, is one that helps the characters in the musical celebrate Israel’s Independence Day. Given the perfidy of numerous Israeli actions in recent years, there’s a little bit of a bad taste in my mouth as I proceed, but the musical was set in 1961, so we’ll go on. After all, in 1961, neither Herman nor those involved in producing the musical nor the musicians who recorded the 45 in my collection had any idea how Israel would lose its way in the years to come. (Had that nation already lost its way in 1961? I don’t know.)

Beyond all that, it’s the musicians who recorded the Everest single that make it more interesting this morning: Wild Bill Davis, a pianist, organist and arranger; and trumpeter Charlie Shavers. Each has an impressive list of credits at discogs.com and Wikipedia. I imagine I should know more about the two of them than I do. Maybe I’ll take the time to do so, but I fear that like so many other musicians about whom I learn a trifle, their names will fade and I will forget.

The duo also released “Independence Day Hora” and “Like A Young Man” on the 1961 album The Music From Milk & Honey. From what I can tell with a fairly cursory search this morning, neither the album nor the single made any charts.

Anyway, leaving behind all the contradictions and questions, here’s “Independence Day Hora” by Wild Bill Davis and Charlie Shavers. It’s today’s Saturday Single.

A Quick Look at No. 100 (July 1970)

July 3rd, 2020

Having been sidetracked by household duties this morning, I was going to let things slide here, but I nevertheless took a look at the Billboard Hot 100 from the first week of July 1970, fifty years ago.

And, as I do, I took a quick look at No. 100, and I was startled to see “Eve Of Destruction” by the Turtles. Really? In 1970?

I mean, the world wasn’t puppies and roses in 1970 by any measure, but Barry McGuire’s No. 1 hit with the song came in 1965, and five years in pop music and radio terms is an eternity. And things got even more strange when I looked at versions of the song at Second Hand Songs because the Turtles were among the first to record the song in 1965.

The website lists songs by release and lists McGuire’s version as the first released in August 1965. Then comes P.F. Sloan in September, and in October, the Turtles’ version came out on their It Ain’t Me, Babe album (as did a version by a Danish group called Sir Henry & His Butlers).

So the question hangs in the air: Why release an album track from 1965 as a single in 1970, especially of such a topical (and idiosyncratic) song? Whatever the reason was, it didn’t work, as the record spent two weeks at No. 100 and then sank from sight. (It was the Turtles’ last record to hit the Hot 100. In November 1970, “Me About You” bubbled under for three weeks, peaking at No. 105).

Here’s the Turtles’ “Eve Of Destruction.”

And I’m going to offer here the heavily accented cover from 1965 by Sir Henry & His Butlers. I’m especially amused by the enunciation of the letter “v” with a “w” sound (“wiolence” and “woting” instead of “violence” and “voting”). It reminds me of life with my host family in Denmark; during the autumn of 1973, my host mother Oda would see me reading the International Herald-Tribune on Tuesdays and – knowing of my interest in Minnesota’s professional football team – would ask me, “How did the Wikings do this week?”

‘Happy’

July 1st, 2020

The madness out there, it seems, increases every minute. I could list all the things in just the past few days that have enraged me, made me shake my head or made me drop my jaw, but what’s the point? In another ten minutes, or so it seems, another outrage or example of idiocy will come along.

And I haven’t been sleeping well the past few weeks, which leaves my tolerance for all that stuff low. I need something happy.

So here’s one of the few Rolling Stones’ tracks on which Keith Richard sang the lead vocal: “Happy” from 1972. I recall hearing it on the radio a bit that summer (it went to No. 22 in the Billboard Hot 100), so by the time I got my copy of Exile On Main St. a year later, I was already accustomed to the pinched, thin vocal.

Instrumentally, it fits right into the raw and mostly weary aesthetic of Exile, which I think I’ve marked here before as one of the contenders for best rock album of all time (a judgment I came to only in the 1990s after years of listening).

And that’ll have to do it for today.

Saturday Single No. 694

June 27th, 2020

So what do I think of when I see No. 694? Well, I think of the Twin Cities’ Interstate Highway 694, the half-loop that crosses the Twin Cities’ northern and eastern suburbs, providing a way for drivers to avoid I-94’s route through the downtowns of both St. Paul and Minneapolis.

I’ve driven portions of 694 probably hundreds of times, and I lived near it twice, first during the winter of 1975-76, when I was a sports intern for an independent television station in the suburb of Golden Valley, and then during the autumn and winter of 1991-92, when I was beginning my work at the Eden Prairie News, a paper – as I noted not long ago – that no longer exists.

Musically, the earlier time period is more interesting, but of course, it’s not winter right now. We are in the early days of summer, the early days of one of most confounding, confusing and worrisome summers I can ever remember. It’s quite a contrast to the summer of ’75, my last undergraduate summer, when I was twenty-one, knew what I was doing, knew where I was going, and thought I knew what I would find there when I arrived.

Hah!

So let’s twist this up and take a look at the top ten in the Billboard Hot 100 for the fourth week of June 1975, when – except for having a steady girl – absolute certainty ruled my life:

“Love Will Keep Us Together” by the Captain & Tennille
“When Will I Be Loved/It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” by Linda Ronstadt
“Wildfire” by Michael (Martin) Murphey
“I’m Not Lisa” by Jessi Colter
“Love Won’t Let Me Wait” by Major Harris
“The Hustle” by Van McCoy & The Soul City Symphony
“Listen To What The Man Said” by Paul McCartney & Wings
“Get Down, Get Down (Get On The Floor)” by Joe Simon
“Magic” by Pilot
“Cut The Cake” by the Average White Band

Boy, those first eight singles are imprinted musically and with memories, the Ronstadt double-sided single a little less than the other six. They remind me of working with my pal Murl and the rest of the inventory crew, cruising through my four physical education courses and my last general eds, hanging around The Table with a slightly changed cast (summer sessions were different), sipping coffee at the Country Kitchen with a variety of young women . . .

It was one of the great summers of my life, now forty-five years in the past.

As to the last three of that Top Ten, I remember the records by Pilot (currently adapted to sell a pharmaceutical) and the Average White Band, but they never meant much to me. And I had to go to YouTube this morning to verify that I don’t recall the Joe Simon single. My listening those days was mostly WJON and WCCO-FM on the radio, and the jukebox at the student union, and I don’t think those three gave the Simon a lot of play.

So, how many of those seven records are on my day-to-day playlist forty-five years later? Let’s look at the iPod (still a work in progress after firing up the new computer). Turns out that only the Jessi Colter single got into the device during the early sessions. But by the end of the morning, five more of those in that Top Ten – the rest of the top seven except the Ronstadts – will be in the device.

Our final business this morning, as long as we’re here, will be to look at the bottom rung of that long-ago Hot 100 and see what we find. And I’m reminded that no matter how long I’ve dug into music, there will always be something new to find. The No. 100 record forty-five years ago this week was “What Time Of Day” by Billy Thunderkloud & The Chieftones.

Thunderkloud and his band were a country group made up of First Nations musicians from British Columbia, and they were backed on the single – obviously – by a children’s chorus. It’s a pleasant little tune but no more than that, and it peaked at only No. 92 on the Hot 100. It did better than that on the other charts, getting to No. 32 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart and to No. 16 on the country chart. (Later in the year, the group hit No. 37 on the country chart with “Pledging My Love,” a cover of the 1955 hit for both Johnny Ace and Theresa Brewer.)

Here’s “What Time Of Day.”

‘For Your Love’

June 26th, 2020

I imagine that the first time I heard the Yardbirds’ “For Your Love” was on a friend’s radio sometime after summer vacation began in late May or early June 1965. The KDWB surveys at Oldiesloon tell me that the record debuted at No. 40 in the station’s “Fabulous Forty” on May 22 that year, just a week after it reached the Billboard Hot 100.

It moved quickly at KDWB, reaching No. 34 and No. 14 during the next weeks and then peaking at No. 8 in the June 12 survey. It then hung around for another six weeks before falling out of the KDWB survey at the end of July.

Sometimes when I hear the record these days, I have a quick vision of the halls of South Junior High, and it’s possible I heard the record there or at least nearby, as that was the summer between sixth and seventh grades, and I went to a couple of so-called enrichment classes – beginning Spanish and cooking, I think – at South during June and July.

Anyway, I was aware of the record, and I liked it, though like almost all pop rock at the time, I would not have known whose record it was. (A quick look at the June 12 KDWB survey – when “For Your Love” peaked – shows only two or three records for which I might have been able to name the performer: the Beatles’ “Ticket To Ride,” Glenn Yarbrough’s “Baby The Rain Must Fall,” and maybe the Seekers’ “A World Of Our Own.”

The first version of the tune I ever owned came a bit later when my sister gave me – for my birthday or Christmas; it’s a bit foggy – a copy of Herman’s Hermits’ On Tour album. The Hermits’ cover of “For Your Love” was recorded only a few months after the Yardbird’s version and is quite a bit less intense than that original.

(It’s worth noting here that the song was written by Graham Gouldman, who, among other things, was a member of 10cc.)

Other covers followed, of course, from Gary Lewis & The Playboys in August 1965 to – according to Second Hand Songs – a group called Cracks last year. A search with the RealPlayer finds six tracks titled “For Your Love” on the digital shelves here. Two of them – by Gwen McRae (1975) and by the Romantic Saxophone Quintet (2005) are not Gouldman’s song.

Otherwise, we find the versions by the Yardbirds and Herman’s Hermits, a lackluster cover of the tune by Fleetwood Mac from the 1973 album Mystery To Me, and a cover by the London Symphony Orchestra. That last is one of numerous tracks of pop rock songs the orchestra recorded beginning – from what I can tell – in 1983. There were in total five CDs worth of such work, I think, and I somehow came across a compilation pulled from those five CDs.

Here’s the London Symphony Orchestra’s take on “For Your Love.” It’s from the 1983 album Classic Rock: Rock Symphonies (repackaged later as part of a five-CD set).

All At One Time

June 24th, 2020

Sometime way back (likely about ten years ago, but I’m not going to go dig), I wrote that one of the benefits of the digital age was getting away from the album format and being able to structure a playlist of separate tracks.

Back in the LP days, if there was a horrendous track right in the middle of Side One of a generally great album (friends of mine in those days might have nominated “Octopus’ Garden” on Abbey Road), one had to either endure the track or go to the turntable and actually lift the tone arm to set it down at the start of the next track.

As I explored that idea back then, I wrote something (maybe) about being freed from vinyl tyranny.

About six months ago, as I puttered here in my corner of our downstairs room. I thought, “Y’know, it might be nice to listen to Abbey Road all in order.” (Or it might have been Blood On The Tracks or maybe A Question Of Balance.) I had two ways to do that. There’s a large CD player on the other side of my desk, but I’d have to pull the CD from its spot in the stacks and walk around the desk and the keyboard.

Or I could have the search function in the RealPlayer find the tracks that made up the album and place them in running order and then listen.

And then I wondered: Does my new CD ripper allows me to rip an entire CD into one mp3? For years, I’d used a freeware program that allowed me to do that. I’d not done entire albums but I’d done large mp3s of suites, like the medleys on Side Two of (again) Abbey Road. And maybe five years ago, when I got a new computer, that freeware program and Windows 10 didn’t like each other. So for a few years, I used RealPlayer to rip mp3s, and as much as I like most of what that program does, its ripping function is clunky and slow.

But about eighteen months ago – six months before this inner conversation took place – I’d invested in a new suite of mp3 management tools, including an mp3 ripper. I’d not dug into it very much, as I was still trying to catch up on replacing the single mp3 rips lost in my external drive crash the autumn before we moved. Maybe it had a function to rip whole CDs as one mp3.

Well, as readers might expect (or there would be no point to telling the story), it does, and at odd times over the last six months, I’ve been doing just that.

There are currently eighty-seven tracks tagged “Full Album” on the digital shelves. The selection is heavy with the Moody Blues (part of the long-delayed project here reviewing all of their albums), Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan. None of that is a surprise, I’m certain. Those are my mainstays, along with the Beatles, who will soon have many more albums in the section than they do now.

What I find more interesting are some of the other artists whose works have come to mind and wound up in the “Full Albums” section: Three Counting Crows albums from the 1990s; two from 1969 and 1970 by Brewer & Shipley; Jim Croce’s three major label releases from the early 1970s; three by Dan Fogelberg from the 1970s (one of those with flautist Tim Weisberg); two from the 1970s British folkie Shelagh McDonald; Dusty Springfield’s Dusty In Memphis; Steve Winwood’s Arc Of A Diver; and David Gray’s 200 album Babylon, just to mention a few.

I let the albums play on random as I read news or putter or play tabletop baseball. I don’t always listen purposefully, but I hear the music roll by (just like it used to in the rec room back home on Kilian Boulevard), and I’m learning some things: I don’t really like Roxy Music’s Avalon beyond “More Than This” and the title track. The Fogelbergs wear thin after a few listens. August And Everything After by Counting Crows is a far better album than I recall. So, too, is The Way It Is by Bruce Hornsby & The Range. And Steely Dan’s Aja remains a sonic masterpiece.

It’s a long-range project, adding three or four a week. Where will it end? I dunno. Right now, I still have more than two terabytes free on the external hard drive. Will I get rid of the CDs and LPs if I get them all ripped as albums? Hell, no.

Here’s a full album from 1989 I posted at YouTube almost three years ago that will soon be in the “Full Album” folder on the digital shelves: Evidence by Boo Hewerdine and Darden Smith, one of my favorite obscurities.