Posts Tagged ‘5th Dimension’

‘Orange’

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

When we sort the mp3s on the shelves looking for titles with the word “orange” – the second of nine stops on our tour of Floyd’s Prism – we don’t have a lot of irrelevancies to discard. The search brings up fifty-three mp3s, a good share of which will be useful.

We do have to discard the eleven tracks from the 1970 self-titled album of the group Orange Bicycle (a group whose “Jelly on the Bread” showed up on a recent Saturday), and we set aside as well the 1970 album by Paul Siebel titled Woodsmoke and Oranges. We also have to drop tracks from two similarly titled bands: “Your Golden Touch” by the Clockwork Orange, which I believe was a garage rock band from Paducah, Kentucky; and both sides of a single on the Liberty label, “After Tonight” and “Ready Steady,” by the Clockwork Oranges. The latter group was evidently from England, based on the note at the Lost Jukebox discography that calls the single an “Ember Records Production [f]rom London.”

We also lose a few tracks from Johnny Cash’s 1965 album Orange Blossom Special, both sides of a 1966 single by the Palace Guard on the Orange Empire label, both sides of a 1969 single by the group Orange Colored Sky, and an odd piece of leftist theater titled “Operation Godylorange” by a Danish ensemble called Totalpetroleum.

But we do have enough to work with, which is a relief, as I was worried about “orange” when I began to look at Floyd’s Prism. (I have my concerns about “indigo,” but we’ll deal with that when we get there.) We’ll start with the oldest of our six recordings and more forward from there.

A couple CDs’ worth of Nat King Cole’s music came my way a few years ago, and on one of them, I found our first record for this morning: “Orange Colored Sky” by the King Cole Trio. Recorded in August 1950, the track comes from a time when Cole’s recordings were sometimes credited to the trio and sometimes to Cole as a solo artist. The record, which was recorded with Stan Kenton and his orchestra (according to the notes of the 1994 CD Nat King Cole: The Greatest Hits) did not show up in the R&B Top 40. Given that, I’m not sure why “Orange Colored Sky” shows up in that hits package. It’s not like there was a dearth of material to choose from; between 1942 and 1964, Cole had forty-six records reach the R&B Top 40, and starting in 1954 and going into 1964, he placed sixty-six records in or the Billboard Hot 100. (In 1991, both charts – as well as the Adult Contemporary chart – hosted “Unforgettable,” the creepy hit that paired the long-dead Cole’s 1961 vocals with those of his daughter Natalie.)

I noted above that today’s winnowing took away a few tracks from Johnny Cash’s 1965 album, Orange Blossom Special. One track that survived, of course, is the title track. Recorded in December 1964 and released as a single, Cash’s take on “Orange Blossom Special” went to No. 3 on the country chart and to No. 80 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song, long a country and bluegrass standard, was written in 1938 by fiddler Ervin T. Rouse and first recorded by Ervin and Gordon Rouse in 1939. Their version is no doubt widely available; I found it on East Virginia Blues, one of the eleven CDs in the remarkable series of roots music titled When the Sun Goes Down: The Secret History of Rock & Roll. Cash recorded the tune at least one more time: The live album recorded in 1968 at California’s Folsom Prison includes a pretty good version of the song.

One of the stranger tracks I came upon this morning – not quite as strange as the Danish “Operation Godylorange” but still odd – was “Orange Air” from the 5th Dimension’s second album, the 1967 release The Magic Garden. Written by Jimmy Webb, the song notes in its chorus: “And then the night Jasmine came clinging to her hair and lingered there, and there was orange air.” At All Music Guide, Matthew Greenwald says the song is “another one of Jimmy Webb’s emotionally intense, slightly depressing lyrics that make up this brilliant concept album. The downcast message of being let down by the disintegration of a love affair is nicely juxtaposed by a buoyant arrangement and vocal performance.” I’m glad he got it, because I sure didn’t, but it’s still a nice track.

Staying in 1967 for another moment, we land on an outtake from the sessions that provided us with Music From Big Pink, the first album by The Band. “Orange Juice Blues (Blues For Breakfast)” first showed up as a track on The Basement Tapes, a 1975 release of some of the music The Band and Bob Dylan recorded in the months after Dylan’s July 1966 motorcycle accident and before the releases in 1967 of his John Wesley Harding and in 1968 of The Band’s Big Pink. The version of the Richard Manuel tune linked here is, I believe, the one included on the expanded edition of Music From Big Pink released in 2000 and labeled there as a demo.

And it’s off to San Francisco in 1971 and an album that reflected as it was being recorded the changing membership of the group It’s A Beautiful Day. The album Choice Quality Stuff/Anytime, notes Lindsay Planer of AMG, was recorded as “lineup number two was replaced by lineup number three – netting a separate band for the Choice Quality Stuff side and the Anytime side.” The sprightly instrumental “Oranges & Apples” shows up on the Anytime side of the LP, and it turns out to be an offering that sounds more like something from a middle-of-the road ensemble than a track from one of the great hippie bands of its time. David LaFlamme’s famous violin is hardly there at all, which is just weird. But then, the track is titled “Oranges & Apples,” which probably means something about comparisons.

And we close this edition of Floyd’s Prism with a stop in 1989 and a track from one of my favorite Van Morrison albums. “Orangefield” was tucked on the second side of Avalon Sunset, and I’m of two minds about it. It’s repetitious, both lyrically and musically, which should make the track a little tedious. But there’s something thrilling about it, too, with the string and percussion accents and the backing vocals of Katie Kissoon and Carol Kenyon pulling me in and drawing me briefly into another Morrison-inspired trance.

‘Don’tcha Hear Me Callin’ To Ya’

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

We’re doing some rearranging around here, the kind of reorganization that involves moving heavy boxes from one level of the house to the other. We spent quite a bit of time on that task over the long Thanksgiving weekend, with the Texas Gal filling boxes in the loft and me taking them down to the basement.

At this point, those boxes still stand in the center of the basement floor. Their final destination will be one of the back corners, though that will have to wait maybe one more day until a few rarely used muscles tell me they are ready to cooperate once more. And when that is done, next weekend promises more boxes that need moving. I think – though I am not certain – that next weekend’s boxes will be filled with fabric rather than with scrapbooking materials, so they should be lighter.  And I also think – though again, I am not certain – that next weekend’s boxes will go to the main floor and not the basement, making the task easier.

The eventual outcome of the rearranging will find the Texas Gal’s quilting/sewing room on the main floor, just down the hallway from the Echoes In The Wind studios, so we’ll feel like we’re in the same house when we’re hobbying. Should we have anything to say to each other, sound will carry better down the hallway than it does up the stairway and around several corners.

All that brought to mind this morning one of my favorite tracks by the 5th Dimension: “Don’tcha Hear Me Callin’ To Ya” was the B-side of “Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In (The Flesh Failures),” which was – as I’ve related before – the first music 45 I ever bought. That makes “Don’tcha Hear Me Callin’ To Ya” my first B-side, and I imagine I played it once or twice while the A-side was getting repeated plays. The tune also showed up on the album Age of Aquarius, which I got hold of sometime in the autumn of 1969.

And simply because I like to do these types of things, here’s an easy listening cover of “Don’tcha Hear Me Callin’ To Ya” by British bandleader Ted Heath, found on the posthumously released 1970 album The Big Ones.

It’s Election Day: Go Vote!

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

I was going to write about a 1961 stocking stuffer, a 1964 LP and a certain form of magazine advertising today – and yes, they all link together – but I realized it’s Election Day.

I shifted gears and tried to write about the sorry state of our election process, and find I can’t do that without being either so milquetoastish that I say nothing significant or so angry that I offend a good portion of the readers I think I have.

So I’m just going to say to those of my readers here in the United States: Go vote. It matters.

Now, you and I might not support the same candidates, and we might have markedly different ideas about how best this nation can make its way through the difficulties it now faces. But I have to believe that whoever we vote for, our votes are cast in good faith. If your vote and mine cancel each other, that’s fine. That’s part of the bargain of democracy.

I have my hopes for today’s vote, and you, my readers, have yours. Whatever those hopes are, go express them at the ballot box sometime today.

And here’s a medley that might remind you – if you need it – where we came from, how far we’ve come, and how far we’ve yet to go.

The 5th Dimension:
“Medley: The Declaration [of Independence]/A Change Is Gonna Come/People Gotta Be Free”

From Portrait [1970]

‘Shahdaroba’ Is The Word They Whisper Low . . .

Friday, September 17th, 2010

Last television season, one of my favorite shows, Mad Men, ended its season finale – as it does all its episodes – with a popular song framing the last moments. As ad man Don Draper’s wife, Betty, flew to Nevada with her lover to get a divorce, Draper found himself checking into a hotel, and the mournful music – though it had a positive final lyric – underlined the melancholy and uncertainty of the moment. As I watched, I recognized the voice: It was unmistakably Roy Orbison. But the song?

I had no clue. The melody and accompaniment were clearly based on Middle Eastern themes, as was the lyric:

Where the Nile flows
And the moon glows

On the silent sand
Of an ancient land

When a dream dies
And the heart cries
“Shahdaroba”
Is the word they whisper low

Shahdaroba, Shahdaroba
Means the future is much better than the past
Shahdaroba, Shahdaroba
In the future you will find a love that lasts

So when tears flow
And you don’t know
What on earth to do
And your world is blue

When your dream dies

And your heart cries
Shahdaroba
Fate knows what’s best for you

Shahdaroba, Shahdaroba
Face the future and forget about the past
Shahdaroba, Shahdaroba
In the future you will find a love that lasts

Shahdaroba

As soon as the show was over, I wandered to the record stacks and pulled out The All-Time Greatest Hits Of Roy Orbison, and on Side Three I found a song titled “Shahdaroba” and put it on the turntable. That was the tune. And it was just as haunting without the visuals of the television show.

I’ve seen the title spelled numerous ways. The listing inside the jacket of the two-LP set I pulled from my shelves listed the song as “Shahadararoba,” which I knew wasn’t right. The listing at All-Music Guide for the album I have has the title as “Shahadaroba,” while the CD version of the two-LP album I have now – listed at Amazon – spells the title “Shadaroba.” And on-line listings for merchants selling the record include several spellings, with “Shahdaroba” being the most frequent (although frequency in those precincts is certainly no guarantee of accuracy). The generally accurate folks at the Both Sides Now discography site have it as “Shahdaroba,” as does the label on the LP I have, so I’m going with that.

Whatever the spelling, the haunting recording used to close last season’s Mad Men was from 1963 and was released as the B-side of Orbison’s No. 7 hit, “In Dreams.” And although I know I’d heard it before – no LP goes into my stacks without being played at least once – it evidently didn’t leave much of an impression when I got the album in February 1998. (I do remember being intrigued by “Leah” on the same album and immediately using it in several mixtapes for friends; I wish now I’d paid more attention to “Shahdaroba.”)

I’m not entirely certain when the practice began of closing television shows with an entire popular song in the soundtrack continuing over the credits. Sometime in the 1990s, when I watched very little television? Or earlier? I don’t know. I do know that I’ve listed in recent weeks two songs from the 1960s that were brought to my attention in that way: “Shahdaroba” today and Richie Havens’ “Follow,” which I wrote about two weeks ago.

The virtues of “Shahdaroba” – written by one Cindy Walker – are clear and include a great vocal from Orbison, an eerie melody with what I think is an oboe providing the sinuous counter-melody, and an enigmatic yet hopeful set of lyrics. There’s clearly room for it in the Ultimate Jukebox.

A Six-Pack from the Ultimate Jukebox, No. 34
“Shahdaroba” by Roy Orbison, Monument 806 [1963]
“Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In (The Flesh Failures)” by the 5th Dimension, Soul City 772 [1969]
“Up On Cripple Creek” by The Band from The Band [1969]
“Minnesota” by Northern Light, Glacier 4501 [1975]
“Smoke From A Distant Fire” by the Sanford/Townsend Band, Warner Bros. 8370 [1977]
“Mandolin Rain” by Bruce Hornsby and the Range from The Way It Is [1986]

I’ve written before about the 5th Dimension’s “Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In (The Flesh Failures)” and its place as the first musical 45 I ever bought with my own cash. (Long-time readers will remember my discovery of Dickie Goodman’s “Batman and His Grandmother” in a box and my memory of that being my first 45 purchase of any kind.) Why does “Aquarius” belong here? First, having been pulled from the musical Hair, the two songs that were merged to form a medley reflect a good portion – some of the most positive portions – of the spirit of the late 1960s. Second, the 5th Dimension’s pop-soul sounded good then and still sounds good today, with production by Bones Howe and backing provided by a large cast of session stars that included Larry Knechtel and Hal Blaine. Third, and most importantly, I guess, I just like it.

I was out on an errand with my mother sometime in January 1970, and I had the radio tuned to KDWB, one of the Twin Cities’ Top 40 stations. I remember exactly where we were – I drive past the spot on St. Cloud’s North Side on occasion – when the strains of The Band’s “Up On Cripple Creek” came out of the radio. I’d been listening to Top 40 for a few months, and I’d heard the song before, but for some reason, this was the first time I’d really listened. I took in the drum and guitar riff introduction, Levon Helm’s countryish vocal with its sly “hee-hee” along the way, the ensemble choruses and Garth Hudson’s twangy fills that sounded like a jew’s harp (I had one of those at home and twanged it on occasion), and I wondered why I hadn’t paid the song any attention before. Every evening from then on, I listened for “Up On Cripple Creek” as I tuned into WJON, just down the street and across the tracks. Why I just didn’t go out to Musicland and buy the single or the album, I have no idea. I wouldn’t buy any LPs until May of that year, when I would get stuff by the Beatles and Chicago. By that time, I’d likely forgotten about The Band.  “Up On Cripple Creek” peaked at No. 25 in early January 1970, and by the middle of the month, the record had dropped out of the Top 40 and consequently faded from the airwaves and, evidently, my memory. That Christmas, in 1970, Rick brought The Band back into my life when he gave me The Band, the group’s second album. I loved most of it, and made a vow to look into the group’s other work. I did so eventually, and The Band is still my all-time favorite group. And “Up On Cripple Creek” is about as good a track as that talented group ever recorded.

Every state should have its own popular song. Sorting through songs whose titles refer to states – just off the top of my head – maybe the best would be “Georgia On My Mind.” In the spring of 1975, Minnesota got its own popular song when the group Northern Light released “Minnesota.” With its harp glissandos, Beach Boys-inspired harmonies, a great blues harp solo and its iconic opening of a loon calling across the water, “Minnesota” reeled me in right away. I don’t have access to any Twin Cities charts from that spring, but the record, as you might expect, got a lot of airplay here. It did get a little bit of national attention, peaking at No. 88 in the Billboard Hot 100 in mid-May and reaching No. 77 on the Cashbox chart a few weeks later. I was lucky enough to find a near-mint copy of the 45 at a garage sale here in St. Cloud a few years ago, so I can hear the tune whenever I want, but I feel even luckier when I’m in the car and I hear the call of the loon and the rest of the single on the oldies station.

(For more on “Minnesota” and Northern Light, check out the post my friend jb put up at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ in May.)

A true one-hit wonder, “Smoke From A Distant Fire” came from the first, self-titled album by the Sanford/Townsend Band. And nothing else on the group’s first album or on its two follow-up albums was ever quite as good as that single. Bursting from the speakers with a drum intro followed by a bluesy guitar solo, the record grabbed one’s attention from the start. Add the solid vocal and great guitar and saxophone solos, and you have a hit single. The record went to No. 9 in the late summer of 1977 and was a vital part of the soundtrack to my life as I was finally finished with school and tentatively began to find my place in the working world.

Sanford/Townsend Band – “Smoke From A Distant Fire [1977]

The gorgeous piano introduction to “Mandolin Rain” pulls me back to a place of refuge. During the winter of 1986-87, I made a number of poor life decisions, and for several months, the only place I felt I could relax was in my teaching office at St. Cloud State, a tiny space in the offices of the Performing Arts Center. I had a cassette player there, and I’d retreat there for lunch, eating the same thing every day for most of those months: egg salad on wheat bread and black coffee. A friend in the public relations office frequently loaned me music from his large tape collection, and one day he handed me The Way It Is, the first release from Bruce Hornsby & The Range. I liked most of it but loved “Mandolin Rain.” The record went to No. 4 early in 1987, but it was No. 1 on my list, and I listened to that side of the cassette two or three times a week that winter and early spring. Late in the spring of 1987, I emerged from my cocoon, thirty pounds lighter, a little bit wiser, and ready to live again. I’ve never been certain what the lyrics of the song are really about, but to me they sound like a tale of necessary and welcome transformation.

Bruce Hornsby & The Range – “Mandolin Rain” [1986]

 

(“Shahdaroba” © Combine Music Corporation)

(Chart error corrected since first posted,)

Digging A Bit Deeper In The Chart

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

A radio listener was doing pretty well forty years ago this week. As the month of July moved into its second week and a sixteen-year-old whiteray got ready for his four days of work at the state trapshoot, the radio supplied some good company. Here’s the Billboard Top Ten for the week ending July 11, 1970:

“Mama Told Me Not To Come” by Three Dog Night
“The Love You Save/I Found That Girl” by the Jackson 5
“Ball of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today)” by the Temptations
“Ride Captain Ride” by Blues Image
“Band of Gold” by Freda Payne
“Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)” by Melanie with the Edwin Hawkins Singers
“(They Long To Be) Close To You” by the Carpenters
“The Long And Winding Road/For You Blue” by the Beatles
“The Wonder of You/Mama Liked The Roses” by Elvis Presley
“Hitchin’ A Ride” by Vanity Fare

An interesting week in the Top Ten: A little bit of R&B, some folkie stuff, some mainstream pop-rock, some pure pop, a bombastic ballad from Elvis with a countryish flipside, a ballad from the Beatles with a three-chord blues on the flipside, and some Randy Newman surrealism filtered through Three Dog Night’s production values.

Things would get a little more interesting and surreal yet the next week when the Pipkins’ “Gimme Dat Ding” moved up two places and took up residence at No. 9. By then, I think, I was spending ten hours a day in a gunproof blockhouse, loading targets onto a machine so men and women with shotguns could shoot the targets and win trophies, money and more guns. I didn’t mind; I got paid pretty well for a kid in 1970: $15 a day. The worst part was that the dust from the targets – made from some kind of brittle tarry substance – burned my face, and during the week after the trapshoot, the skin on my face would crinkle for a few days and then peel off in large chunks.

But during the week in question, the first full week in July, my skin was blissfully uncrinkled, and aside from chores at home – mowing the lawn, picking up sticks after storms, patrolling the yard for dandelions (all of which I could do with a transistor radio in my pocket and an earpiece in my ear) – my time was pretty much my own. And I got a lot of listening done, the vast majority of which came from the Top 40.

Had I dug a little deeper into the Billboard Hot 100, I would have found some interesting bits and pieces.

Sitting at No. 31 was the 5th Dimension’s cover of a Laura Nyro tune: “Save the Country.” In its fifth week in the Hot 100, the song was already the group’s thirteenth Top 40 hit (the final total would be twenty Top 40 hits) and was heading for its peak position of No. 27.

 

Moving out of the Top 40 and further down the Hot 100, we run into a Chicago soul group at No. 56. The Lost Generation’s “The Sly, Slick, And Wicked” would eventually rise to No. 30 on the pop chart and to No. 14 on the R&B chart. The record would also inspire separate groups in Cleveland and Los Angeles to name themselves “Sly, Slick & Wicked,” ensuring confusion for music researchers for years to come.

I never cared much for Kenny Rogers as a country singer, the niche he fell into in the late 1970s with “Lucille” and many more, including the execrable “Coward of the County.” But there’s no denying that most of his hit records with the First Edition – seven Top 40 hits between 1968 and 1970 – also had a country tinge to them. Looking at the Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits this morning, the only one of the First Edition’s hits that didn’t have at least some kind of countryish feel was the trippy “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In),” a No. 5 hit in 1968. Sitting at No. 65 during the second week of July 1970 was one of those records with a country/gospel feel to it. “Tell It All Brother” would eventually make its way up the chart to No. 17. (The video credits the recording to Rogers alone, but it was released under the name of Kenny Rogers and the First Edition.)

As is pretty widely known, the female voice doing the high-pitched end-of-the-world vocals on the Rolling Stones’ track “Gimme Shelter” was that of Merry Clayton. One of the most active and sought-after background vocalists in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Clayton also released three solo albums on the Ode label during the early years of the 1970s: Gimme Shelter in 1970 and Merry Clayton and Celebration in 1971. Ode would release another album, titled Keep Your Eye On The Sparrow in 1975 before Clayton moved to MCA for 1979’s Emotion and eventually to A&M for the 1994 Gospel CD, Miracles. But a lot of that was yet to come during this week in 1970, when the Ode single, “Gimme Shelter,” was sitting at No. 76. The record would peak a week later at No. 73 and would fall off the chart entirely during the next week.

And then we go from the horror of a world falling viciously apart to a sweet recording about an idyllic small town in California. Rita Abrams was a singer-songwriter who in1970 was teaching elementary school in the town of Mill Valley, California, located in Marin County about four miles north of San Francisco (via the Golden Gate Bridge). According to Wikipedia:

“On Christmas Day 1969, [Abrams] wrote a song about the town for her kindergarten class to sing. It was heard by record producer Erik Jacobsen, who recorded Adams with the children from the third grade class at the school, and took it to Warner Bros. Records where the label management ‘guys in suits stood up and gave it a standing ovation’. Released in June 1970 on the Reprise label, the record reached # 90 on the Billboard pop chart. Promotional photos of the singers were taken by Annie Liebowitz, and Abrams appeared on several networked TV shows and in national magazines, while also turning down an opportunity to advertise Jell-O. A performance for the Mill Valley Fourth of July celebration was filmed by Francis Ford Coppola, then a little-known documentary maker. Following the song’s success, Abrams, Jacobsen and the children recorded and released an album, entitled Miss Abrams and the Strawberry Point 4th Grade Class as the children had by then moved up a grade. According to reviewer Greg Adams, ‘Only the most hard-hearted cynic could find no enjoyment in this minor masterpiece of early-’70s soft pop.’”

And here’s “Mill Valley” by Miss Abrams and the Strawberry Point Third Grade Class: