Posts Tagged ‘Janis Ian’

Saturday Single No. 674

Saturday, January 25th, 2020

Some songs haunt.

As I read the paper this morning, the RealPlayer wandered through 1975: Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Albert Hammond, Seals & Crofts, Barry Manilow, and then Janis Ian:

The days are okay
I watch the TV in the afternoons
If I get lonely,
The sound of other voices,
Other rooms are near to me
I’m not afraid . . .

And in the winter,
Extra blankets for the cold
Fix the heater, getting old
I am wiser now, you know
And still as big a fool concerning you . . .

And I was pulled back twenty years, into the winter after I was overexposed to toxic chemicals and was left unable to work, unsure of where I could go safely for more than a few minutes, and uncertain of the future. I was isolated in a new apartment in the southern reaches of Minneapolis, and I was lonely.

Ian’s song “In The Winter” has left me feeling desolate from the first time I heard it during the late summer of 1988. It’s from her 1975 album Between The Lines, the album that contains the remarkable “At Seventeen,” which itself is no joyful romp in the meadow. But the angst in “At Seventeen,” is a look back to youth, and when it came out of speakers everywhere during the late summer and early autumn of 1975, it was a tale of memory. And those of us at The Table at St. Cloud State – all attuned for years to Thoreau’s distant drummer – could listen and agree that our younger days had been confusing and sometimes far less than happy.

But “In The Winter” has no insulation of time gone, being written in the present instead of as a look back. I first heard it, I imagine, in September 1988, when Between The Lines was among a batch of records I brought home from a Saturday excursion to either the flea market or some garage sales. It had been a difficult summer, and in Ian’s dirge of solitude after the end of a relationship, I heard echoes of my life at the time.

And this morning, as it came up, I was back for a moment in another desolate time, January 2000, when I wondering how where my life would go (not knowing, of course, that by mid-February, during my first full week online, my life would take another astounding turn, this one fulfilling). I must have heard it during that winter, but whether I sought it out to underline my depression or forgot it was on the album as I cued it up, I do not know. (I’d like to think it was the latter.)

It’s still a bleak song, but beyond that first twinge, its tale is now memory, like the tale of “At Seventeen” was forty-five years ago. And its appearance this morning during random play is a reminder – one we all sometimes need, I think – that bleakness doesn’t always last. And all of that means that Janis Ian’s “In The Winter” is today’s Saturday Single.

‘Nine’

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

It’s time for “Nine” as the integers march on, and when we sort the 67,400 mp3s on the digital shelves, we come up with ninety-one mp3s, but only about ten of those tracks will suit our purposes this morning.

What do we leave behind? Steely Dan’s “Hey Nineteen” and Muddy Waters’ “She’s Nineteen Years Old” won’t work for us, nor will “John Nineteen Forty-One,” the elegiac closing instrumental on Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s 1970 opus Jesus Christ Superstar. We’ll pass on “19 Somethin’,” a 2002 tribute to the 1970s and 1980s by country boy Mark Wills, and we’ll pass as well on Paul McCartney’s 1973 track “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five.” Also unqualified are Julius Daniels’ 1927 recording of “Ninety-Nine Year Blues,” several versions of “Ninety-Nine And a Half (Won’t Do)” and the Sonics’ 1965 album track “Strychnine.”

Also going by the wayside are two versions of “Ninety Miles An Hour (Down A Dead End Street)” – one by Bob Dylan and one by country singer John Berry – along with most of the tracks on the Cloud Nine albums by the Temptations (1969) and George Harrison (1987). We’ll also ignore Steve Winwood’s 2008 album, Nine Lives, and the few tracks I have from Bonnie Raitt’s similarly titled album from 1986.

One Nine Seven Zero, a 1970 album by French singer Françoise Hardy also goes in the “no thanks” pile this morning as do single tracks by Nova’s Nine, James K. Nine and two similarly titled tracks: “Janine,” a 1971 plaint by Parrish & Gurvitz, and “Jeannine,” a decent 1969 single from Neil Sedaka.

Having disposed of those and others, where do we start? With some tasty slide guitar, I think, found in “Cloud 9” from Harrison’s similarly titled 1987 album. The album, produced by Harrison with fellow Traveling Wilbury Jeff Lynne, was seen as one of Harrison’s best and went to No. 8 on the Billboard 200; the single “Got My Mind Set On You” went to No. 1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the magazine’s Adult Contemporary chart. I don’t know why Harrison used the numeral “9” in the title of the track and the word “nine” in the album’s title, but either way, the sweetly morose “Cloud 9” is a nice way to start our short journey this morning.

And we’ll stay with clouds for another track: A cover of the Temptations’ “Cloud Nine” by Cuban conga player Mongo Santamaria. There are four albums of Santamaria’s work from the late 1960s and the 1970s on the digital shelves here, all of them good for getting the feet tapping, the head bouncing and the fingers dancing on the keyboard. “Cloud Nine” comes from Santamaria’s 1969 album Stoned Soul, and a shorter version of the track went to No. 32 on the Bilboard Hot 100 as well as to No. 33 on the R&B chart and No. 30 on the AC chart. It was the second of two Top 40 hit for the Cuban percussionist; in 1963, “Watermelon Man” went to No. 10 on the pop chart, No. 8 on the R&B chart and No. 3 on the AC chart.

At the thoroughly enjoyable blog, Dr. Schluss’ Garage of Psychedelic Obscurities, the good doctor had this to say about Sitar & Strings, a 1968 album by the Nirvana Sitar & Strings Group: “I’m always up for a psychsploitation album early in the morning . . . and this one can certainly fill in for the cheese missing from my eggs. Just as the title sort of suggests, we’ve got a bunch of late 60’s hits with the melody lines played on a sitar while 101 Strings-style orchestrations lumber on in the background. You’re either in for this ride or you’re not.” Well, I’m in, and the NS&SG’s track “Nine O’Clock” twangs and twingles along nicely this morning. The group’s Sitar & Strings album, according to Leonard at red telephone 66, had eight covers and three originals, and as I don’t see any listing of a tune titled “Nine O’Clock” making the charts, the track must have been one of the originals. (If I’m wrong, someone please let me know.) It’s good, trippy Thursday morning music.

“Nine Pound Hammer” is a traditional English folk song, and the earliest recorded version of it, according to Second Hand Songs, came from Al Hopkins & The Buckle Busters in 1927. The earliest version in my stacks comes from the Monroe Brothers, who recorded it for Bluebird in 1936, and the best-known version of the tune is likely the 1947 cover by Merle Travis (who, having added a few lines to the traditional song, is frequently given writing credit). The version on the table this morning, however, comes from the Beau Brummels, better known for the 1965 hits “Laugh, Laugh” and “Just A Little.” In 1967, the San Francisco group recorded “Nine Pound Hammer” for their album Triangle, a collection of songs that All Music Guide called “a ruminative dream cycle.” The album barely edged into the Billboard chart, peaking at No. 197.

Janis Ian’s 1975 comeback might have seemed to come out of nowhere. That was when her album Between the Lines went to No. 1 and its single, “At Seventeen,” went to No. 3 in the Hot 100 and to No. 1 on the AC chart. But the foundation for that comeback seems to have been laid the year before when Ian’s album Stars went to No. 83 and a single from the album, “The Man You Are In Me,” went to No. 33 on the AC chart. (It bubbled under the Hot 100 at No. 104.) Now, those aren’t great numbers, but keep in mind that Ian had been absent from the singles chart since 1967. “Page Nine” was one of the tracks on Stars, and like the album it comes from – and Between the Lines a year later – its sound is for me one of the defining sounds of the mid-1970s.

Over the course of something like 1,200 posts at this blog, I’ve mentioned the British progressive group Caravan twice: Once when cataloging the records I brought home in a certain November and once when I included a track from the group in a random mix. Today, we’ll make it three mentions with the inclusion in today’s offerings of the group’s side-long suite, “Nine Feet Underground” from the group’s 1971 album In the Land of Grey and Pink. In his assessment of the album, Bruce Eder of All Music Guide called the piece “musically daring,” noting that it “didn’t seem half as long as its 23 minutes” and adding that it was “a dazzling showcase for Pye Hastings’ searing lead guitar and Dave Sinclair’s soaring organ and piano work.”