Saturday Single No. 687

May 2nd, 2020

I’m trying to organize my thoughts about Long John Baldry’s 1991 CD It Still Ain’t Easy, which arrived here yesterday . . .

(The past six or so weeks of relative isolation have spurred jokes online and on television about folks going on online shopping sprees. There’s some truth to that here, as both the Texas Gal and I have been combing our favorite sites for goodies. Hers have been generally for quilting or cooking. Mine? Well, you can guess. Recent CD arrivals have been: Bob Dylan & The Band: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11 – The Basement Tapes Complete, The Essential Bob Dylan, Intersection by Nanci Griffith, the three mid-1990s anthologies by the Beatles [supplementing the vinyl versions I got at the time], and the Baldry album mentioned above. I did buy one book, The Man Who Saved Britain, British author Simon Winder’s irreverent look at post-WWII Britain and the James Bond phenomenon.)

I’m pacing my listening of the Basement Tapes and the Beatles anthologies; those are more archival purchases than anything I’ll put into my regular rotation. The Essential Dylan will similarly get spare listening; it brings together most of his major recordings, almost all of which I’ve had for some time in at least one physical form, sometimes two. The one exception to that is “Things Have Changed” from the 2000 film Wonder Boys. So that was likely a frivolous purchase.

The purchases of the Baldry and Griffith CDs had more usual aims. I now once again have – in one form or another – all of Griffith’s studio albums (as well as one or two live performances), which satisfies an itch. And I’ve heard some of the Baldry album in various places and wanted to hear the rest.

And, pondering writing about It Still Ain’t Easy before I’ve totally absorbed it, I went to AllMusic this morning to see what the folks there had to say about the effort. Here’s Chip Renner’s assessment: “Baldry’s deep, rough-edged vocals have not changed over the years. The band is tight, with Mike Kalanj’s Hammond B-3 and Bill Rogers’ sax standing out. There are no flaws on this one, just great music.”

Well, all that is nice to know. But it terms of giving me a direction or pointing out specific tracks on which to focus, it leaves me wanting more. And I guess that’s okay. So we’ll just listen to the track that tipped me to the album a few years ago: “Midnight In New Orleans.” And it’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘When I Was Small . . .’

May 1st, 2020

Well, it’s the First Of May, which makes it a Bee Gees day here.

The maudlin track showed up first in early 1969 on the group’s Odessa album, which entered the Billboard 200 on February 22 of that year, on its way to No. 20. It’s a somewhat baffling collection of lovely tracks covering almost every genre conceivable in 1969 (excluding hard rock). As I wrote almost thirteen years ago:

Perhaps the most sensible comment I’ve ever heard or read about Odessa came from the Rolling Stone Album Guide, which called it “the Sgt. Pepper’s copy all ’60s headliners felt driven to attempt,” noting that it “wasn’t bad; faulting it for pretentiousness makes absolutely no sense.”

I didn’t hear the album until a few years after it had been released, and I certainly don’t recall hearing “First Of May” on the radio after it was released as a single in early 1969. I wasn’t yet in full Top 40 mode, but the sounds were around me a fair amount of the time, and I think I’d remember the record. I’m not sure it charted on the Twin Cities’ KDWB or WDGY, based on the (incomplete) information offered at Oldiesloon.

The record did get into the Top 40 in Billboard, reaching No. 37, not major hit territory.

But right from the start, the song attracted cover versions. Second Hand Songs lists fifty covers. The earliest is from a group called Top Of The Pops in March 1969. I suspect a connection to the British television show; a glance at the album’s jacket kind of tells me that the recordings on the album are performed by studio musicians.

The first cover of “First Of May” by a known musician came from José Feliciano on his Feliciano/10 to 23 album released in June 1969. Covers followed into 1974 from names I know like Cilla Black, Matt Monro, Mel Carter, and Roger Whittaker, and from names I’m not familiar with like Jill Kirkland and Cornelia.

Instrumental covers by groups including the Mystic Moods Orchestra also came along in those five years after the Bee Gees’ release, as did covers in Danish, Italian, Portuguese and Swedish.

And even after that flurry, covers would come along every once in a while, with a spate of ten or so of them in the Oughts by performers whose names I do not recognize. (Except, that is, for Robin Gibb, who collaborated on a cover of “First Of May” with G4 in 2005.)

I’ve not heard a lot of those covers (the only covers of the song on the digital shelves are those from Feliciano and the Mystic Moods Orchestra), so I’m going to select one pretty much at random to mark the day.

Here’s Tony Hadley’s atmospheric and, frankly, odd cover from 1997. (Knowing that Hadley was the lead singer for Spandau Ballet makes the cover’s quirks a little more understandable.)

‘Somewhere East Of Midnight . . .’

April 29th, 2020

In 1988, April 29 was a Friday, and I’m guessing that I stopped off to do some shopping on the way home from Minot State University that day and came away with a copy of Gordon Lightfoot’s 1986 album East Of Midnight.

The album was Lightfoot’s most recent release of all new material. (Sometime in 1988, he would release Gord’s Gold, Volume II, which included re-recordings of some of his recent work, as well as some repackaging of earlier recordings and one new track.) And it was, according to the LP database, the fifth album by the Canadian folk singer to come home with me.

I was likely in a difficult mood that day, struggling after the ending of a relationship during the first days of the month. New music might cheer me, I suppose I thought. And there was another thing, as I look back.

One of the stages of grief, it’s said, is bargaining: If I do this, things will change and the grief will go away, or something like that. And, I’ve read, we don’t often recognize the bargaining behavior at the time. One of the touchstones of the relationship just ended had been music, and Lightfoot’s music had been high on our list. Was there a subconscious motive in my buying East Of Midnight?

Maybe. I’d added some Lightfoot to my stacks during the previous year, while things had been going well. I might have seen East Of Midnight as a talisman of some sort. Or maybe not. As well as I recall the events of that spring, I can’t untangle my motivations on that long-ago Friday.

So I don’t remember the specific purchase. At first thought this morning, I was guessing I stopped at a garage sale on the way home, but after pulling the record from the stacks, I lean toward a retail purchase: the jacket is crisp and the record is shiny and unmarked. I assume I put the record on the turntable sometime after dinner that evening, but it’s pretty evident that the record has not been out of the jacket very often in the past thirty-two years. And when it has come out of the jacket, it did so most often at the times I was making mixtapes for friends. I often included the album’s moody title track on those mixtapes.

I recognize the other titles listed on the jacket, but none of them are favorites of mine, especially not “Anything For Love,” which was pulled from the album as a single. It’s the one track on the album produced by David Foster, whose work I’ve never much cared for. (Lightfoot produced the rest of the album.) And as a single, “Anything For Love” had some success, reaching No. 15 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart; the album itself went to No. 165 on the Billboard 200. Given the radio stations I tended to listen to in 1986, I imagine I heard the single without really noticing it.

In the context of the album, though, the single was noticeable, as Foster’s overblown approach was vastly different from the tack Lightfoot took, a pop-folk vein familiar to listeners since his first major successes in 1970. And I imagine I noticed that difference during that first playing of the album on that long-ago evening.

In the years since, I’ve continued to gather Lightfoot’s work, with seventeen LPs and five CDs on the stacks here. East Of Midnight isn’t my favorite; I think that title would go to 1974’s Sundown, with Shadows from 1982 coming in second. East Of Midnight comes somewhere after those two, but the dark title track still ranks pretty highly with me. Lyrically, it’s a bit of a hodge-podge, so I’m not sure what Lightfoot was actually trying to say, but I like it nevertheless.

And the fact that I found the track during a difficult spring and still like it in a springtime thirty-two years later – a springtime also difficult but for far different reasons – pleases me. Here’s “East Of Midight.”

Saturday Single No. 686

April 25th, 2020

Here’s what the top ten “Middle-Road” singles looked like in Billboard on April 24, 1965, fifty-five years ago yesterday:

“The Race Is On” by Jack Jones
“Cast Your Fate To The Wind” by Sounds Orchestral
“King Of The Road” by Roger Miller
“Red Roses For A Blue Lady” by Vic Dana
“Baby The Rain Must Fall” by Glenn Yarbrough
“Red Roses For A Blue Lady” by Wayne Newton
“And Roses And Roses” by Andy Williams
“Crazy Downtown” by Allan Sherman
“I Can’t Stop Thinking Of You” by Bobby Martin
“Goldfinger” by Shirley Bassey

That’s a half-way familiar clutch of records. I recall hearing Nos. 2 through 5 on the radio regularly at home, either on WCCO from Minneapolis or St. Cloud’s own KFAM. And I liked all four of them. I also remember hearing Bassey’s “Goldfinger,” but I never cared much for it (despite my burgeoning James Bond fixation), and later in the year, when I got the soundtrack, I wholly embraced John Barry’s pulsating instrumental version of the tune.

Bassey’s version peaked at No. 2 on the Middle-Road chart (and at No. 8 on the Hot 100), while Barry’s own release of the instrumental got to No. 15 on the MR chart and to No. 72 on the Hot 100.

As to the top record in that mid-Sixties chart, I’ve heard Jack Jones’ “The Race Is On,” but it pales in comparison with George Jones’ 1964 No. 3 country original. Of course, George Jones’ record was never going to get middle of the road airplay, so if someone were going to get non-country chart success with the song, it might as well have been the inoffensive and bland Jack Jones. (Looking at Jack Jones’ listing of twenty-six chart hits in Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, I can’t recall hearing a single one except for “The Race Is On,” which I’ve listened to a couple of times at YouTube while researching posts here.)

As to Nos. 6 through 9, I’m not familiar with them, which kind of surprises me, given my affection for mid-Sixties middle of the road stuff. Sherman’s record is, of course, a parody of Petula Clark’s massive hit “Downtown,” and Newton’s record is, like Dana’s, a cover of John Laurenz’ 1948 release. (According to Second Hand Songs, Dana and Newton released their versions in January 1965; theirs were evidently the first covers of the song in sixteen years.)

(Also parenthetically, Dana’s version of “Red Roses For A Blue Lady” was one of the records I got from Leo Rau, the jukebox jobber who lived across the alley from us back in those years. I have a hunch the record’s still here.)

Martin’s weeper sounds almost like it could have been a country hit (it wasn’t), but perhaps that’s because the title phrase is so similar to the opening of “I Can’t Stop Loving You” as recorded by (among others) Kitty Wells and Don Gibson in 1958 and Ray Charles in 1962.

Then there’s the Andy Williams record, which starts with a nifty bossa nova intro only to collapse into a languid and saccharine ending.

So, I like four of those ten. How many of them are in the iPod, indicating they’re still part of my day-to-day listening? Only two: “King Of The Road” and “Baby The Rain Must Fall.” I’m a little surprised by the absence of “Cast Your Fate To The Wind,” given that I’ve got almost thirty tracks by Sounds Orchestral on the digital shelves. And that’s the direction we’re going this morning.

Here’s “Cast Your Fate To The Wind” by the English pop orchestra Sounds Orchestral. Sometime after mid-April 1965, the record spent three weeks on top of the Middle-Road chart, and it peaked at No. 10 on the Hot 100. It’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘Night Theme’

April 24th, 2020

As has been noted here numerous times, one of the formative albums in my musical life is the 1963 release by trumpeter Al Hirt, Honey In The Horn.

It encouraged me in my horn playing, giving me a model, something that all young artists and performers need. And it introduced me to a wide variety of songs, although it took a few years to realize that. On the album Hirt covered songs written by legends such as Hank Snow (“I’m Movin’ On), Allen Toussaint (“Java”), Boudleaux Bryant (“Theme From A Dream”) Ira Gershwin and Vernon Duke (“I Can’t Get Started”) and others.

Shortly after I got the record for my eleventh birthday, I knew the tracks well enough to “play” them in my head, nailing the background chorus work and Hirt’s solos. It took me years, though, to begin to read the credits, and it wasn’t until the Internet years that I began to look for the original – or at least additional – versions of the songs.

Some were easy, like the three mentioned above. “Java” came from Toussaint’s pen, “I Can’t Get Started” is one of the entries in what we now call the Great American Songbook, and “I’m Movin’ On” is one of the biggest hits in country history. Others took some digging, like “Al Di Là” by Carlo Donida and Mogol, which turned out to have been Italy’s 1961 entry in the Eurovision Song Contest.

And there were some I never looked into: “Tansy,” “Man With A Horn,” and a few more.

Not long after I began this blog, I wondered about the moody “Night Theme.” Broad Googling got me nowhere, and a trip to YouTube failed. A few years later I went to one of my favorite tools, the website Second Hand Songs and found nothing, there, so I forgot about “Night Theme,” except whenever Hirt’s rendition popped up on the RealPlayer or iTunes or when I played his CD in the car:

A mention earlier this month at my pal jb’s blog, The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, of a different tune with the same title got me looking again. Armed with a wider range of tools, and a copy of Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, I got some results.

“Night Theme” was the product of songwriters Wayne Cogswell and Ray Peterson a pair of Rhode Island natives. Cogswell’s fingerprints are all over 1950s pop and early rock ’n’ roll, especially for his work in Memphis with Sam Phillips. Peterson was a guitarist and composer based mainly in his home state, if I read things correctly. Right around 1960, according to a 2014 piece in the Johnston Sunrise newspaper in Warwick, Cogswell came back home and started Wye Records with a business partner, but still wanting to perform and record, he looked for a musical partner and found Peterson:

“I met Ray Peterson and we decided to do a dual piano act, one piano, two players, like the old Ferrante and Teicher thing.” One of the products of the piano thing was “Night Theme,” an atmospheric, blues-infected instrumental that was a favorite for slow dancing at record hops and teen hangouts for many years.

The duo released the record – Wye 1001 – as The Mark II, and in 1960, it got to No. 75 on the Billboard Hot 100.

So that’s one minor mystery solved. I have a few to go.

Tops On The Sidewalks

April 21st, 2020

Beyond the warming weather and the greening of the trees and shrubs, there were four sure signs of spring for students at St. Cloud’s Lincoln Elementary School in the early 1960s:

At the three or four mom-and-pop grocery stores near Lincoln – including the one around the corner and down the block from our place – you could find a rack full of balsa wood glider planes, and very nearby, a cardboard bin full of kite kits. I dabbled with both over the years, the planes more frequently than the kites.

And in stores with larger customer bases – drugstores, larger grocery stores, and places like Woolworth’s and Kresge’s – you could find new displays of Duncan yo-yos and spinning tops. Again, I dabbled with both of those from, oh, 1963 to 1967. I was never very good with a yo-yo, being much more likely to end up with a great tangle of string than I was to make the toy walk the dog or jump the camel or whatever it was a yo-yo did.

But I could wrap cord around a top, unleash it and watch it spin, and I joined my classmates and other friends for top-fests on the sidewalks in front of our house and on the concrete driveways in the neighborhood, and I spent plenty of hours spinning tops on the smoother concrete of our basement floor. (Dad’s work to create the basement rec room was still a few years away.)

And one spring, sometime around 1964, I got a package in the mail. In it, I found what was called a Campbell Kid Play-Kit, which consisted of a yo-yo, a spinning top, and a handball – a small rubber ball connected by a rubber cord to a hand-held disc – all stored in a plastic bag with a drawstring and all emblazoned with the faces of the Campbell Kids, the cartoon characters used at the time to market Campbell’s soups.

campbells-soup-campbell-kids-play-kit_

Its appearance at our place on Kilian Boulevard was, I’m sure, the work of my grandmother or my Aunt Ruth (who still lived on the farm with Grandma and Grandpa, and whom we called Tudy). Every now and then, Grandma or Tudy would see an offer for a toy or game on a cereal box or in an ad in one of their magazines, something they thought that my sister or I might like, and they’d send in the cash and the required number of soup labels or cereal box tops and put either my name or my sister’s name as the recipient. And some weeks later, a surprise gift would make its way to our door.

(And I wonder for the first time if they had similar gifts sent to my cousins in Pennsylvania, four girls by 1964 with two boys yet to come. I imagine they did.)

I never played much with the handball. It was similar to – but harder to control – than the paddleballs one could buy at dime and drug stores, and those had never interested me much. I gave the yo-yo a try or two, but – as noted above – while other kids might master The Creeper or The Elevator, I could only perform The Tangler.

The top, though, got a lot of use for a while. Its bright red appearance got some appreciative glances from the top aficionados in our neighborhood, and it spun nicely on its plastic tip. At least it did until – as with all tops I ever had – continued contact with the harsh concrete of the sidewalk abraded the tip until the top’s spinning was at first wobbly and then comically impaired. (The thought hangs in my mind that replacement tips were available at drug and dime stores – or perhaps the hobby shop downtown – but I never thought to replace the worn-down tips.)

And with that, the top joined the yo-yo and the paddleball in the box of ignored toys, and sometime during the forty years between 1964 and 2004, all three were likely discarded, as sometimes happens to our childhood things. But the memories this morning of tangled yo-yo strings, of the awkward paddle-ball (and of a few elastic-powered bops to my face), and of the red top spinning its way across someone’s driveway, well, those memories brought back a little childhood joy. And along with them came pleasant memories of my grandmother and my aunt, both gone now for decades.

The digital library brings no joy from a search for “spinning top.” (There are, however, thirteen versions of Blood, Sweat & Tears’ “Spinning Wheel.”) So we’re going to dip into the Billboard Hot 100 from this week in 1964 and drop down to No. 25, because at a guess, the gift of the Campbell Kids Play-Kit likely cost my grandmother or aunt no more than twenty-five cents (along with the required soup can labels).

And at No. 25 in the Hot 100 from April 25, 1964, we come across an instrumental I’ve never heard before, “Forever” by Pete Drake & His Talking Steel Guitar. Drake has, of course, popped up as a studio musician on many tracks I’ve heard over the years, but I’ve not encountered much of his solo work. A sweet and romantic track, “Forever” peaked during this week in 1964, going no higher than No. 25. The record also went to No. 5 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart.

Saturday Single No. 685

April 18th, 2020

I’ve spent a little bit of time yesterday and this morning trying to sort out Nanci Griffith’s discography, all in the wake of sharing yesterday her 1987 version of “There’s a Light Beyond These Woods (Mary Margaret).”

I say “1987 version” because Griffith first recorded and released the poignant song in 1978. Without the parenthetical portion of the 1987 title, the song was the title track to Griffith’s first album, released on the B.F. Deal label. The re-recording of the song came after Griffith was signed to MCA; the album Lone Star State Of Mind, where the re-recording can be found, was Griffith’s second album for MCA.

And as far as I can tell, that’s the only song that Griffith has re-recorded in the studio – or at least re-released – from either There’s A Light Beyond These Woods or her second album, Poet In My Window (released on the Featherbed Productions label in 1982). One track from Poet – “Workin’ In Corners” – did find its way into the set list for the 1988 live album One Fair Summer Evening.

I imagine I’m the one of the few people who cares about this stuff. Well, probably not. I’m sure there are Nanci Griffith obsessives out there, just as there are discography obsessives. I only dabble in both topics, digging around in Griffith’s music when something brings her up (as the randomizer did yesterday), and digging around in various discographic sites when I have a question (as I did about “There’s A Light Beyond These Woods”).

As far as Nanci Griffith’s music goes, I have a fair amount of it: All but one of her albums are on the digital shelves and I have five on CD. Before the vinyl sell-off a few years ago, I had three LPs of her; the first one I bought was Last Of The True Believers. I actually remember pulling it from a bin in a store on Minneapolis’ Nicollet Avenue about a mile or so from my 1990s apartment.

How do I remember? I’m not sure, but I know I rarely shopped in that Nicollet Avenue store, and I recall being intrigued as I looked at the album, which came out on the Philo label in 1986, in between two of her albums on MCA. Something about the jacket grabbed my attention, and at the time, I was willing to try pretty much any new artist in most genres, so I put the album in the stack of stuff I was buying. The LP log tells me it was March 20, 1993; I also bought albums that day by Don McLean and Glenn Yarbrough.

Anyway, I took the album home, and sometime in the next few days I plopped it on the turntable. I clearly liked what I heard – especially her idiosyncratic voice and diction – as I ended up buying more and more of her stuff over the years. So I wondered, as I was digging around in the course of writing this (probably not too interesting) piece, what was the first Nanci Griffith track I heard?

Well, it likely was the opening track of Last Of The True Believers, which turned out to be the title track. So here’s “The Last Of The True Believers,” today’s Saturday Single.

One Random Shot

April 17th, 2020

As I wrote ten years ago:

It was twenty years ago today that I watched a Bekins van pull away from my door with almost everything I owned inside of it. Fifteen minutes later, I gave my apartment key to my landlady, put three cats in carriers into my car and then followed the van’s path toward the highways that would take me from Anoka, Minnesota, to Conway Springs, Kansas.

I wasn’t in Kansas long, just about three months, and at the time, my moving there and then away in such short order felt like random events that life was throwing at me. Looking back, those moves – and a few that followed – look more like mid-course corrections that brought me back to the path where I belonged.

Thirty years after that move, I am without doubt where I belong, but life seems evermore random right now. That’s unsettling, and until I figure out how I feel about that, I’m going to move to another topic.

The Texas Gal and I are putting together a list of household tasks that we have neglected: defrosting the freezer, pulling out the carpet cleaner and letting it do its work, and so on. Some of the tasks on our list are less arduous, and we’ll start with a couple of those today.

But I’m going to go back to the randomness I noted in that earlier paragraph. I’m going to open up iTunes and hit “play,” and we’ll all listen to whatever it gives us.

And we get one of Nanci Griffith’s gentle meditations on life, time, and friendship, “There’s A Light Beyond These Woods (Mary Margaret).” It’s from her 1987 album, Lone Star State Of Mind.

There’s a light beyond these woods, Mary Margaret.
Do you think that we will go there
And see what makes it shine, Mary Margaret?
It’s almost morning, and we’ve talked all night.
You know we’ve made big plans for ten-year-olds,
You and I.

Have you met my new boyfriend, Margaret?
His name is John, and he rides my bus to school.
And he holds my hand.
He’s fourteen, he’s my older man.
But we’ll still be the best of friends,
The three of us, Margaret, John, and I.

Let’s go to New York City, Margaret!
We’ll hide out in the subways
And drink the poets’ wine. Oh,
But I had John, so you went and I stayed behind.
But you were home in time for the senior prom,
When we lost John.

The fantasies we planned, well, I’m living them now.
All the dreams we sang when we knew how.
Well, they haven’t changed.
There’ll never been two friends like you and me,
Mary Margaret.

It’s nice to see your family growing, Margaret.
Your daughter and your husband here,
They really treat you right.
But we’ve talked all night
And what about those lights that glowed beyond
Our woods when we were ten?
You were the rambler then.

The fantasies we planned, oh, Maggie,
I’m living them now.
All the dreams we sang, oh, we damn sure knew how
But ours haven’t changed.
There’ll never be two friends just like you and me,
Maggie, can’t you see?

There’s a light beyond your woods, Mary Margaret

See you tomorrow.

No. 47, Forty-Seven Years Ago

April 15th, 2020

We’ve not done anything in 1973 since sometime last year, so I thought we’d fire up the Symmetry machine and jump into the middle of April 1973.

I was finishing my second academic year at St. Cloud State, but I recall at most two of the classes I took. I think I repeated the basic history class I’d failed during my first quarter on campus, replacing African history with a look at Nineteenth Century anarchism in Europe. And with more than a hundred other folks, I was taking an orientation to Denmark (once a week, I think), and as we met, I had no clue that most of the people in that room would become friends with whom I would still gather more than forty years later.

(Of course, at nineteen, I couldn’t conceive of things being forty years later. Hell, I trouble trying to figure out what life was going to be like five months later when most of us in that room headed out to Denmark. And I kind of knew that however I envisioned it, it would be different.)

Otherwise, I was hanging around at The Table in the student union, laughing and sipping coffee with about ten other folks, three of whom remain in my life today. And I assume we heard at least some of mid-April’s Billboard Top Ten as we gathered not far from the jukebox:

“The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia” by Vicki Lawrence
“Neither One Of Us (Wants To Be the First To Say Goodbye)” by Gladys Knight & The Pips
“Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree” by Dawn feat. Tony Orlando
“Ain’t No Woman (Like the One I Got)” by the Four Tops
“Sing” by the Carpenters
“The Cisco Kid” by War
“Danny Song” by Anne Murray
“Break Up To Make Up” by the Stylistics
“Killing Me Softly With His Song” by Roberta Flack
“Call Me (Come Back Home)” by Al Green

Well, the records by Gladys Knight, the Four Tops, the Stylistics, Roberta Flack and Al Green save that set of ten, although “Neither One Of Us” is one of Knight’s lesser efforts (and the same might be said of the Four Tops’ record).

Lawrence’s attempt at a southern gothic tale of good ole boys, illicit romance, murder and lynching has always fallen flat to me, with too much pop sheen and too lilting a chorus. Slow it down a fair amount, add some swamp, and have Cher include it on her Muscle Shoals album, and I’d probably like it.

I tuned out “Yellow Ribbon” and “The Cisco Kid” whenever I heard them, and even though I liked some of the Carpenters’ stuff, “Sing” was just too saccharine. As to “Danny’s Song,” I much prefer Loggins & Messina’s 1971 version.

So, how many of those ten have stayed with me for nearly fifty years? Among the 3,900-some tracks in the iPod, I find only the records by Gladys Knight and the Stylistics. I’m surprised by the absence of the records by Al Green and Roberta Flack; those will be added by the end of the day.

And what of our other business today? When we drop to No. 47 in that long-ago Hot 100, what do we find? Well, we find the only Top 40 hit for an R&B group from Harlem, and it’s a record I remember well, one I liked a lot. And it was in fact one of the first tracks I dug out of the LP stacks to rip to an mp3 when I got my digital turntable: “I’m Doin’ Fine Now” by New York City.

Released on the Chelsea label, the record went to No. 17 in the Billboard Hot 100, No. 14 on the magazine’s R&B chart, and No. 8 on the Easy Listening chart.

Saturday Single No. 684

April 11th, 2020

So, what do we know about April 11?

Well, sifting through the list and information provided by Wikipedia, we find one major musical connection:

In 1727, Johann Sebastian Bach’s sacred oratorio, the St. Matthew Passion, had its premiere at the St. Thomas Church in Leipzig. At the time, Leipzig was in the Electorate of Saxony (now a federal state in Germany), and Bach was cantor at the St. Thomas School in Leipzig – a school that still exists – and was responsible for providing music for St. Thomas and three other Lutheran churches in the city.

Bach’s appointment as cantor came in 1723, and he stayed in that position until his death in 1750. His body was originally buried at Old St. John’s Cemetery in Leipzig, where his grave went unmarked for nearly 150 years. In the early Ninteenth Century, there was a revival of interest in his music, and in 1894, his remains were located and moved to a vault in St. John’s Church. The church was destroyed during World War II, so in 1950 – 200 years after his death – Bach’s remains were reburied under a bronze marker in St. Thomas Church.

Wikipedia adds, “Later research has called into question whether the remains in the grave are actually those of Bach.”

There’s not a tremendous amount of Bach’s work on the digital shelves here, basically the “Air on the G String,” the six Brandenburg concertos, some of his toccatas and The Well-Tempered Clavier. I do have several albums of Bach’s work recreated as wordless vocal pieces by the Swingle Singers, and a copy of Switched-On Bach, the 1968 synthesizer recasting of some of the composer’s most well-known works by Wendy Carlos (she was Walter Carlos at the time the album was released).

It seems that none of Carlos’ original work is available on YouTube (though many synthesized Bach pieces note her as an inspiration). Here’s one take from 2008 – by a YouTube user called syntesen – on the first movement of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 (1721), today’s Saturday Single.