Posts Tagged ‘Buddy Miles’

‘Be On My Side . . .’

Friday, October 20th, 2017

Sometime in the past week or two – and I cannot recall where or when – I heard a faint snippet, no more than five seconds, of Buddy Miles’ cover of Neil Young’s “Down By The River.” It reminded me of this piece, now more than ten years old.

There was a half-second of empty air after the commercial ended. A softly strummed guitar broke the silence, and then, above that, came the moan of an electric guitar playing one long note and then a short break of melody in a minor mode. A choir came in behind the guitars, a chorus of “oooooh” sounding as lonely as a back road while the guitar continued its forlorn dance above the chorus.

A quiet organ wash replaced the chorus as the drums entered and set a pace, and then a tortured voice sang, “Be on my side, I’ll be on your side, baby. There is no reason for you to hide . . .”

Rick and I paused whatever we were doing – probably playing a board game – and stared at the small radio and the sounds coming from its somewhat tinny speaker. What the hell was that? And who was singing?

The sounds of a summer night came through the screened windows of the porch that Rick’s dad had recently added to their house: oak leaves whispering in the wind, a car’s honk some blocks away, the faint “breek-breek” of frogs in the low places near the railroad tracks, the laughter of teens out walking in search of something, the distant horn of an approaching train.

But we kept looking at the radio, wondering what in the heck they were playing on WJON, whose studios were no more than two blocks away, just the other side of the railroad tracks.

It was 1970, and like many stations in non-metro America, WJON tried to be all things to all people. Daytime was farm reports, the Party Line show in the morning, news at regular times during the day, and, I seem to remember, lots of traditional pop music during the day: Dean Martin, Rosemary Clooney, Al Martino and maybe, if the deejay were feeling adventurous, Hugo Montenegro’s version of “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,” with its eerie whistle and twangy guitars.

At night, from seven o’clock on, the station played pop and rock, ranging from mostly Top 40 during the early hours of the segment to deeper cuts and slightly harder sounds as the night aged. And it was about ten p.m., I guess, when Rick and I were transfixed by the sounds coming out of the radio.

Maybe Rick recognized the song as Neil Young’s “Down by the River,” but I don’t think he recognized the vocals as coming from funky drummer Buddy Miles. I didn’t know either the song or the singer. I was still pretty unhip to most pop and rock music, although in the past nine months, I’d started to listen and to buy LPs. My first two purchases had been Chicago II and the Beatles’ Let It Be. It would be a while before I got around to Neil Young. And beyond hearing on radio the spooky sounds of his version of “Down by the River,” it would be a longer time yet before I got around to Buddy Miles and his combination of blues, funk and rock.

“Down by the River,” which Rick and I would hear several more times late at night that summer, was from Miles’ third solo album, Them Changes. His first two, Expressway to Your Skull and Electric Church, had been well received by critics. (Jimi Hendrix, with whom Miles would play in Band of Gypsys, had produced about half of Electric Church.) Earlier, Miles had been part of Electric Flag, a group that was eclectic in both its membership and its music.

He’s not always been received well by critics. I recall reading particularly savage reviews in the various editions of the Rolling Stone Record Guide and Album Guide. But in the years following Them Changes, Miles would team up with Carlos Santana on a well-regarded live album in 1972 and would record consistently through 1976. After that, his recording was sporadic.

For me, though, as intriguing as his other work may be, nothing from Miles has ever grabbed my attention and imagination as tightly as that first hearing of “Down by the River” during that long-ago summer evening.

Miles, of course, is gone now: He passed on in February 2008, less than a year after this piece first showed up here. The album track of “Down By The River” remains one of my favorite tunes; I’m not as fond of the single edit that went to No. 68 in the Billboard Hot 100 that summer. I have a few other interesting covers of “Down By The River” in the digital stacks, and I pondered offering one of them here. But having heard just a snippet of Miles’ version the other day, I’m hungry for more of it.



(I’ve edited the 2008 post slightly.)

Saturday Single No. 204

Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

Autumn  is the season when the ending becomes clear. Like the plot point in the movie that foreshadows the climax and the untangling of plot strands, autumn shows the way to the end – the end of the warm times, the end of the year and – metaphorically – the end of our time here.

Autumn has also always been a season of beginnings, and that’s clearly tied with the first weeks of school, bridging the time between late summer and early autumn. Having been a student or teacher for twenty-six of my fifty-seven autumns and a reporter – small-town newspapers are tied closely to the schools everywhere I know in this country – for another ten of those autumns, the days of September and October seem like a time of new starts as well as a time of preparation for endings.

When one is not involved in the doings of schools, though, it’s easier in autumn to see endings than it is to see beginnings. When I walk past our flower beds on the way to the mailbox these days, the returns are mixed. The marigolds and petunias are still blooming, as are the coral impatiens and the begonias; I wonder how many more days that will be true, as the temperature dropped to 36F sometime early this morning, only a few degrees away from freezing. Around the front of the house, at the northeastern corner where there is little sunshine, the lilies of the valley are already brown and bedraggled, leading the other flowers in the dance of decay that comes every year at this time. Very soon, the rest will follow.

Some will be back next year. We planted some bronze bugleweed along the walk this year, and being a perennial, it will return next spring, as will the red nancy a little further down the walk. And the lilies will crowd their sunless corner again, as well. As fragile as those lilies look, they retreat and get through the winter to come back every spring.

Metaphors abound, of course. And I wonder about my long-time romance with the fall. All my life, I’ve waited through the other seasons for the first signs of autumn: the slight chill in the air of a late summer morning, the first hint of leaves turning orange or yellow, the first photo in the newspaper of anyone – from peewees to pros – in football gear. And every year, it’s been in October that my infatuation with autumn fully blooms each year.

Yesterday, October 1, marked the first time this year that I had to kick leaves lightly out of my way as I made my walk down the sidewalk to the mailbox. As I did, I glanced at the oak trees lining the way; they have plenty of leaves still on their branches, so we are some days away from raking and from climbing the ladder and cleaning the gutters. So, free for a while yet from those mundane chores, I kicked leaves with the joy of the seven-year-old I once was, delighting for an instant in the rustle of leaf on leaf on leaf.

And yet, autumn always ends. It will end this year almost certainly as it has other years, in a four-week slice of rain and gloom and bitter wind. My romance with the season begins every year with joy and sunlight, bright colors and smiles and ends every time with grim and grey days and colder and colder nights. No matter how many years we’ve counted, the last weeks of autumn are a hard ending. If our lives followed that pattern of the season, living would be a grim business indeed. But most of our lives, I like to think, reject that pattern. I know that not all of us are so favored, but I’d hope that most of us have sources of joy and colors and smiles in our lives all year ’round, thus magnifying the beauty of autumn’s beginning and providing a counterbalance to the bleakness of its ending.

That is the case with me, of course. I can pull out of my autumn reverie and know that my Texas Gal is here, along with all the other things that ease my life. I am reasonably certain at the age of fifty-seven that I have more autumns behind me than I do ahead of me, but that’s a good thing to know, as I think it helps me to appreciate more the passing of all our seasons, not just autumn.

But as much as I may appreciate all the seasons, autumn will remain my favorite, and it will always bring with it that slight sense of melancholy, a sense of endings approaching, of business left undone and dreams left behind. I don’t immerse myself in those feelings as I kick the leaves, but at fifty-seven, I know they’re there.

So where do we go musically for that? I renewed my acquaintance this morning with a Buddy Miles performance, a cover of an Allman Brothers Band tune that showed up on Miles’ Them Changes album. Forty years ago this week, the record was heading into the Billboard Hot 100. It got to No. 86 and no further. Whether it fits today’s thoughts perfectly, I’m not sure, but here’s “Dreams” by Buddy Miles, and it’s today’s Saturday Single:

Buddy Miles – “Dreams” from Them Changes [1970]

Good News From London

Monday, March 15th, 2010

Sometimes, really good things happen. Today’s tale is proof.

It was two years ago this week that I first shared the music of Patti Dahlstrom, writing about her first album, a self-titled 1972 release. Hers was a name that I did not remember from that era, when there was so much new music to hear, but once I heard her music – years after her four albums came out – I loved it: the bluesy and sometimes countryish shadings in her vocals, backed by some of the best players on the West Coast.

I first heard two of her tunes at the fine blog Ill Folks and then immediately clicked my way to Ebay and found all four of Patti’s albums, released between 1972 and 1976. As they arrived in the mail, I began turning the vinyl into digital files and sharing the results. And then came a surprise: I got a note from Patti Dahlstrom, now living in London. Not only was she pleased that I was sharing her music, she passed on to me CD copies of her four albums that had been burned, she said, from the best sources available outside of the master tapes.

We exchanged notes about her music and about life in general. Along the way, after I’d shared three of her four albums, she asked one day if I could post the final album – Livin’ It Thru from 1976 – as some folks from a record label were thinking about releasing a retrospective CD of her music and she thought that the easiest way to get them the album was through Echoes In The Wind. (You can imagine the grin on my face.) As it happened, I’d already been preparing to write about Livin’ It Thru, and I was more than happy to accelerate my timetable.

The music folks must have liked what they heard, as the wheels of the business began to turn toward the release of a compilation of Patti’s best recordings. And come next Tuesday – March 22 – the CD Emotion – The Music of Patti Dahlstrom­ will be released. The twenty tracks cover half of the songs that were released on Patti’s four albums.

Patti says she’s thrilled, adding that there’s always been some interest in her music: “Over the years, so many have contacted sites about my music on CD.” She said that folks who’ve listened to the tunes on the CD “have said they are amazed at how well a number of the tracks/songs have held up, but then I did have the most remarkable players in pop history working with me. Good talent never fades.”

Good talent, indeed. A page at Patti’s new website – you can buy the CD there – lists the musicians who worked on her four albums, and many of the names are very familiar. It’s almost unfair to list some of the musicians here and not others, but among the  names listed in the credits are those of Larry Knechtel, Jim Horn, Michael Omartian, David Lindley, Jim Gordon, Leland Sklar, Tom Scott, Jay Graydon, Craig Doerge, Steve Cropper, Klaus Voormann, Chuck Findley, Don Dunn, Jimmie Haskell and Jeff Porcaro. (That’s just a sample: Look at the credits for all four albums at Patti’s website.)

As Patti and the folks at Rev-Ola put the CD together, I had a chance to play a small part in the process. Patti sent an email one day asking me – and several others who got the same email – if I would go over her catalog and list the seventeen tracks that I thought should be on the CD along with three tracks that had been released as singles in the 1970s. I was delighted, and I spent a weekend reviewing her four albums and putting together my list. As it turned out, about half of the tracks on the CD were among those I recommended.

The first song I put on that list for Patti is my favorite track of hers. “Wait Like A Lady” was on her debut album in 1972 and was released as a single on the Uni label. I don’t recall hearing it in 1972, but when I first put Patti Dahlstrom on my turntable a couple of years ago, I loved it. So when I began putting together the Ultimate Jukebox last autumn, I made sure it was on the list. And when I got an early look at Patti’s website the other week, I was pleased to see that “Wait Like A Lady” was one of the twenty tracks on her new CD.

Patti was kind enough to allow me to share “Wait Like A Lady” this week, and before we head to the music, I’ll let her have the last word about her CD:

“I just feel so blessed that this is happening,” she said, “another in a long line of wonderful events in my life.”

Video placed May 9, 2011.

A Six-Pack from the Ultimate Jukebox, No. 8
“Down By The River” by Buddy Miles from Them Changes [1970]
“Long Long Time” by Linda Ronstadt, Capitol 2846 [1970]
“Mother Freedom” by Bread from Baby I’m-A Want You [1971]
“Wait Like A Lady” by Patti Dahlstrom from Patti Dahlstrom [1972]
“The Boys Are Back In Town” by Thin Lizzy from Jailbreak [1976]
“South Side” by Moby with Gwen Stefani from Play [1999]

About a month after I started this blog, I wrote:

“There was a half-second of empty air after the commercial ended. A softly strummed guitar broke the silence, and then, above that, came the moan of an electric guitar playing one long note and then a short break of melody in a minor mode. A choir came in behind the guitars, a chorus of ‘oooooh’ sounding as lonely as a back road while the guitar continued its forlorn dance above the chorus. A quiet organ wash replaced the chorus as the drums entered and set a pace, and then a tortured voice sang, ‘Be on my side, I’ll be on your side, baby. There is no reason for you to hide . . .’  Rick and I paused whatever we were doing – probably playing a board game – and stared at the small radio and the sounds coming from its somewhat tinny speaker. What the hell was that? And who was singing?”

That’s how I remembered my introduction to Buddy Miles’ cover of Neil Young’s “Down By The River.” It seemed like we heard the song on WJON at least twice a week that summer, until it became one of the recurring sounds of that season along with, as I wrote then, “oak leaves whispering in the wind, a car’s honk some blocks away, the faint breek-breek of frogs in the low places near the railroad tracks, the laughter of teens out walking in search of something, the distant horn of an approaching train.”

I don’t know that I ever associated one specific young lady with Linda Ronstadt’s “Long Long Time,” but I do know that from the first time I heard the tune sometime during the autumn of 1970, it became one of those songs that will always make my heart ache for a few moments. The yearning tone of Ronstadt’s voice and the weeping strings tilt the record – which went to No. 25 – in that direction anyway. Add some adolescent dreams, and there you go.

“Mother Freedom” is pretty crunchy and not at all what most people think of when they remember Bread. The group had its catalog of soft and often sad songs, yes, but there was a tougher side that you can find by revisiting the group’s original albums. Of those harder songs, “Mother Freedom” is my favorite. Most listeners liked the softer stuff, though: “Mother Freedom” went only to No. 37, the poorest peak among Bread’s twelve Top 40 hits.

I don’t know that I have much more to say about the Thin Lizzy record than I said last autumn:

“With its almost relentless guitar riffs, ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ dares you not to tap your feet or bob your head or pound out a rhythm on the steering wheel. And if you’re in the car, there’s no way you’re not going to turn the radio up all the way. The single was Thin Lizzy’s only hit, peaking at No. 12 during the summer of 1976. Oh, and that line about ‘drivin’ all the old men crazy’? It’s a little disquieting to realize that if I were anyone in the song these days, I’d be one of those old men.”

“South Side” brings back a particularly pleasant memory for me. It’s sometime in the early months of 2000, and I’m sitting at my computer, having a long chat with a woman from Texas. There’s something there, I think, and it turns out she thinks the same. And as we chat, my radio plays a catchy tune that seems like it’s part rap, part techno and part something else. It took me several listens over the course of a few months to figure out what the song was. By that time, the Texas Gal and I had figured out a few things, too. Moby’s tune, according to All-Music Guide, went to No. 14 in 2000, but the album from which it was pulled, Play, came out in 1999, so it belongs here. And finding out what and who belongs where is kind of what life is all about.