Posts Tagged ‘Johnny Cash’

‘A Wednesday Car’

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

It’s Wednesday, it’s cold outside – 13 degrees, but it feels like zero – and I have to go out a little later today to see the foot doctor and get some groceries for my mom. I think she’d like to go along, but I’m going to discourage that; it’s just too cold out there.

Anyway, I did some digging in the files for something for a cold Wednesday when I can’t seem to get things going, and I came across “A Wednesday Car” from Johnny Cash. It was on his 1977 album The Rambler. It’s good for a chuckle (if not a little bit of thought about the truth of the song).

The assembly line is runnin’ slow on Monday
They’ve been livin’ it up and layin’ up Saturday and Sunday
On Tuesday, they’re about to come around
But they still feel bad and they’re kinda down
And mad ’cause they’ve got four more days before the weekend rolls around
On Wednesday they’re feelin’ fine again
And they’re workin’ like a dog and diggin’ in
Tryin’ to do everything they should, puttin’ them cars together good
And I got me a car that was made on Wednesday, on Wednesday
If you’re gonna buy yourself a new car,
You just better hope you’re lucky enough to get one made on Wednesday

On Thursday, the weekend is in sight
And they’re in a hurry and they don’t do nothing right
Friday is the worst day of the week, that’s the day they make the lemons, dogs, and freaks
If your car was made on Friday, friend, you’ll soon be in the creek
Cause it’s payday and the loafin’ has begun
Lord, them Friday cars, just hope you don’t get one
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday
Are all bad days, and the only try day is Wednesday
And my car was made on Wednesday, on Wednesday
If your car wasn’t made on Wednesday I’d advise you not to even leave home any.

Saturday Singles No. 402 & 403

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

The tale of the Cash family and the song “Tennessee Flat-Top Box” feels to me this morning like something that might have been told by a country radio version of the recently departed Casey Kasem.

Having come to an appreciation of country music by a roundabout way and not via the radio, I can only assume that there is or was a country radio show similar to Kasem’s American Top 40. If that’s the case, then the tale has to have been told. But it was new to me this morning.

Johnny Cash wrote the tale of the boy and his guitar:

In a little cabaret in a South Texas border town
Sat a boy and his guitar, and the people came from all around.
And all the girls from there to Austin
Were slippin’ away from home and puttin’ jewelery in hock.
To take the trip, to go and listen
To the little dark-haired boy that played the Tennessee flat-top box.

And he would play: [Instrumental]

Well, he couldn’t ride or wrangle, and he never cared to make a dime.
But give him his guitar, and he’d be happy all the time.
And all the girls from nine to ninety
Were snappin’ fingers, tappin’ toes and beggin’ him: “Don’t stop.”
And hypnotized and fascinated
By the little dark-haired boy that played the Tennessee flat-top box.

And he would play: [Instrumental]

Then one day he was gone, and no one ever saw him ’round.
He’d vanished like the breeze, and they forgot him in the little town.
But all the girls still dreamed about him,
And hung around the cabaret until the doors were locked.
And then one day on the Hit Parade
Was a little dark-haired boy that played a Tennessee flat-top box.

And he would play: [Instrumental]

Cash recorded the song in Hollywood on July 19, 1961, fifty-three years ago today. Released as a single, “Tennessee Flat-Top Box” went to No. 11 on the Billboard country chart and to No. 84 on the magazine’s Hot 100.

Fast forward twenty-six years to 1987, when Cash’s daughter Rosanne was putting together her sixth album, King’s Record Shop. According to Wikipedia, it was at the urging of her then-husband Rodney Crowell that the younger Cash recorded “Tennessee Flat-Top Box.” When she recorded the song, Wikipedia says, Rosanne Cash was unaware her father had written it; she thought the song was in the public domain.

Released as a single in late 1987, Rosanne Cash’s version of “Tennessee Flat-Top Box” went to No. 1 on the county chart, the third of four country No. 1 records from King’s Record Shop. (The others were “The Way We Make A Broken Heart,” “If You Change Your Mind” and “Runaway Train.”) According to a note in the 2001 edition of the Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, the younger Cash’s success with “Tennessee Flat-Top Box” “marked a healing of her strained relationship with her dad.”

That healing probably wasn’t as easy as that makes it sound, but never mind. And the tale is probably not unique; I imagine there are other examples of families’ later generations finding success with remakes of earlier generations’ works. (I’m not going to dig for them today, but I imagine I’d find some.)

But it’s still a nice story, with two versions of the same song that are both worth hearing. That’s why Johnny Cash’s 1961 recording of “Tennessee Flat-Top Box” (offered above) and Rosanne Cash’s 1987 cover of her father’s song (below) are today’s Saturday Singles.

‘You Put Me Here . . .’

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

Sometimes I come across stuff lurking in the lower levels of Billboard charts from over the years that startles me to the point where I have to ponder how to react. That’s the case this morning with the record “Kate” by Johnny Cash, which peaked at No. 75 on the pop chart this week in 1972; it went to No. 2 on the country chart.

Well, I saw you with another. It made me lose my mind.
Shot you with my .38, and now I’m doin’ time.
And you put me here. You put me here.
Well, there’s no way to doubt it. There ain’t no two ways about it.
As sure as your name’s Kate, you put me here.

I’ve been tryin’ to tell ’em that I didn’t do no wrong,
Only gave you what you been deservin’ all along.
And you put me here. You put me here.
There ain’t no use denyin’ you done it with your lyin’.
As sure as your name’s Kate, you put me here.

Well, the jury found me guilty. They wouldn’t hear my plea.
I listened as that judge said, “Murder in the first degree.”
And you put me here. You put me here.
Well there ain’t no need to doubt it. There ain’t no two ways about it.
As sure as your name’s Kate, you put me here.

Now the warden and the preacher, they’re lettin’ me go slow.
It won’t be long until I’m gone, just thirteen steps to go.
And you put me here. You put me here.
There’s just one way to figure: Your cheatin’ pulled the trigger.
As sure as your name’s Kate, you put me here.

Well there ain’t no need to doubt it. There ain’t no two ways about it:
As sure as your name’s Kate, you put me here.

Kate, you just plain bad, you know that . . .

These days, we call that blaming the victim. Now, it could be that the tale told in “Kate” was just offered tongue-in-cheek by both Cash and writer Marty Robbins. I don’t think so, but even if it were so, it wasn’t funny in 1972, and it’s not funny now. It’s just disturbing.

Why?

Because the kind of casual misogyny offered in “Kate” still exists in American culture. To verify that, we need look no further than the tales told on Twitter in recent weeks with the hashtag #YesAllWomen. Those tales – harrowing in small portions and deeply depressing en masse – were shared in response both to the mass shooting in California June 1 by a young man bent on taking revenge on women because he couldn’t get a date and to the hashtag #NotAllMen, started by men to point out that there are good guys out there, too.

I think it’s unlikely that mainstream culture would give any time or attention or any kind of winking approval to the record “Kate” these days. I doubt whether “Kate” would get more than twenty seconds of attention from anyone programming a country station today. Nevertheless, I think it’s pretty likely that songs like Robbins’ are still written, recorded and heard with pleased nods and grins in one or two or more of the various social and/or ethnic subcultures present in American society. Why do I think that? Because someone – a lot of someones online, from what I’ve read – validated the California shooter’s disdain for women, and that disdain, combined with easy access to guns and the lack of effective treatment for his mental illness, made him deadly.

There’s a whole stew of American problems in that last sentence, and our society seems to have no answers yet to any of them. And maybe I’m straining as I see a connection between a 1972 single by Johnny Cash and our culture’s disturbing fringes. As I noted above, “Kate” would likely come nowhere near country radio today, much less go to No. 2 on the country chart, and that is progress. But considering the frequency with which men who feel spurned and/or marginalized take up their guns for vengeance, and considering as well the tales told at #YesAllWomen, I’m guessing that those disturbing fringes are longer than we’d like to think. And that’s a scary thought.

‘Another Man Done Gone . . .’

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

So, what do we know about “Another Man Done Gone”? The tune has led me on a merry chase (well, maybe not so merry, considering the subject matter of the song) since I posted the version of the song that Jorma Kaukonen recorded for his 1974 album Quah. The first item on my list was to find out where the song came from.

In the notes to the 2003 CD reissue of Quah, Jeff Tamarkin writes that “Another Man Done Gone” is “another one of those ancient blues standards whose origin is shrouded in mystery. Although credited on Quah to Ruby Pickens Tart, Vera Hall and folklorists John and Alan Lomax, other versions have assigned its authorship to any number of persons, among them Johnny Cash, Sonny Boy Williamson, C.C. Carter and Woody Guthrie – or Public Domain.”

The earliest version I’ve been able to find of the tune is the one performed by Vera Hall that was recorded by John Lomax in Livingston, Alabama, on October 31, 1940.

I believe that’s the Lomax recording. According to the information at Discogs, Alan Lomax also recorded two versions of the tune during visits to prisons in the south around the same time, but I’ve not heard those or seen the documentation. Someday, maybe.

In the meantime, we have Hall’s haunting a capella version as a starting point. Odetta offered a similar version on her 1957 album Odetta Sings Ballads And Blues. I was puzzled by the last verse of Hall’s version of the song, which sounds like “I’m going to walk your log.” A discussion at the Southern music board WeenieCampbell.com, where folks better informed than I share their ideas, seemed to come to no conclusions as to what the verse means. The phrase “walk your log,” the discussion said, sometimes appears in blues and folk songs as meaning “I’ll get the better of you” (perhaps from log-walking and -rolling contests, one poster theorized), while another poster thought the line might be “a tribute from a fellow prisoner, who will pick up the workload/log of his departed comrade.”

As versions of the song multiplied during the folk/blues boom of the late 1950s and early 1960s, some other lyrical elements showed up along the way. The spare version that Johnny Cash offered on his 1963 album Blood, Sweat and Tears includes the additional lines “They hung him from a tree/ they let his children see” and “When he was hangin’ dead/ the captain turned his head.” By the time Kaukonen recorded “Another Man Done Gone” for Quah, the lines “They set the dogs on him/they tore him limb from limb” had become part of the song.

As I wandered through discography websites and versions of the tune this week, I came across a couple of head-scratchers. The spooky and somewhat weird 1959 version by Lorrie Collins turns the tune into a song of lost love and credits Johnny Cash as the writer. (Lyrically, it is a different song, though the melody remains the same.) I don’t know who Cash originally credited in 1963, but the current listing for Cash’s version at AllMusic Guide now credits the quartet of Tart, Hall and the Lomaxes. (Tart, if you’re wondering, was an Alabama folklorist whose work was similar to that of the Lomaxes and who assisted them during their travels in that state.) The other puzzle I found came from the credits of Harry Belafonte’s 1960 album, Swing Dat Hammer, on which the writing credit goes to Anita Carter of the Carter Family, which I find odd, as the Carters never recorded the song, as far as I can see.

Well, anyway, it’s a haunting song still, and versions of it keep showing up. The bluesman Sugar Blue included a nice version on his 1979 album Cross Roads; Irma Thomas added some lyrics for a post-Katrina version that was included in the Paste Magazine Sampler Issue 24 in September 2006; the Mercy Brothers, a Boston duo, recorded an intriguing version of the song for their 2008 album, Strange Adventure; and there are no doubt others out there worth hearing that I missed.

One of my favorite current versions of the tune hews pretty closely to Hall’s version from 1940. The Carolina Chocolate Drops, a group from Durham, North Carolina, described by Wikipedia as “an old-time string band,” included the song on their 2007 album, Dona Got a Ramblin’ Mind.

‘You Done Your Daddy Wrong . . .’

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

Back when I was a little horn-playing sprout, listening to my Herb Alpert and Al Hirt records on our RCA stereo, I found myself wanting to dance every time the needle got to the last track on Hirt’s 1963 album, Honey In The Horn. With its rapid tempo, its lip-rippling horn riffs, and its background singers chants of “Go along, go along,” I loved Hirt’s cover of Hank Snow’s “I’m Movin’ On.”

Of course, at the age of twelve or so, I had no idea it was a cover. I had no idea who Hank Snow was. And I had no idea that Snow’s 1950 original had topped the country chart for a record-tying twenty-one weeks, matching the performance of Eddy Arnold’s 1947 release, “I’ll Hold You in My Heart (Till I Can Hold You in My Arms).” (In 1955, Webb Pierce tied Arnold and Snow when his “In The Jailhouse Now” was No. 1 for twenty-one weeks, and in 2013, notes Wikipedia, the three records were dropped from their record-holding positions when “Cruise” by Florida Georgia Line spent twenty-four weeks at No. 1.*)

I’m not sure when I learned about Snow’s original – sometime between 1965 and 2000, I guess – but it’s without a doubt one of the classics of country music:

The record came to mind the other day when I heard a version of “I’m Movin’ On” by Johnny Cash with Waylon Jennings that was recently released on Out Among the Stars, a collection of recently discovered Cash recordings from 1981 and 1984. And I wondered what other covers might be out there, expecting the list to be lengthy.

And I was right: Second Hand Songs lists more than fifty covers of the Snow song, and there are others at Amazon (though many of those listings are the Rascal Flatts song with the same title). And Wikipedia references a few other covers. I don’t entirely trust that list, however, as it cites covers by Bob Dylan and Led Zeppelin, and I can find no indication that either Dylan or Zep recorded the song. (Dylan’s official website does note that he performed the song in concert nineteen times between 1989 and 1993.)

Some of the covers have hit the various charts. On the country chart, Don Gibson took the song to No. 14 in 1960, and a live version by Emmylou Harris went to No. 5 in 1983. (The Harris version linked here is from an anthology, and I believe it’s the single version from the live Last Date album, though I imagine the single might have had the introduction trimmed. If it’s the wrong performance, I’d appreciate knowing about it.)

Three versions of the tune have also hit the pop chart: A jaunty cover by Ray Charles went to No. 40 (and to No. 11 on the R&B chart) in 1959, singer Matt Lucas took the song to No. 59 in 1963 in his only appearance on the chart, and John Kay saw his Steppenwolf-ish cover of the tune go to No. 52 in 1972.

And that’s enough for today. We’ll be back later this week with some more.

*Based on what I read at Wikipedia, I have some reservations about “Cruise” holding the record for most weeks at No. 1, as some of those twenty-four weeks belong to the original release and some of them belong to a remix by hip-hop artist Nelly. If there’s a remix, is it the same record?

‘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.

Saturday Single No. 345

Saturday, June 8th, 2013

Despite being aware every day that I can always learn something, on occasion the things I learn make me sit back in my chair and murmur, “Whoa! I had no clue!”

Looking for inspiration – or at least a good hook – this morning, I sorted the 68,000 mp3s for the word “June.” I thought I might chronicle recordings made in June over the years, and if I were very fortunate, there would be something very good recorded on a June 8 in the past. (I have recording dates for maybe ten percent of the mp3s in the digital stacks; that still gives me enough to play with, at least when looking for months if not specific dates.)

So I sorted the “June” results chronologically and began going down the years, familiarizing myself with the 400 or so listings. How about “Little Old Cabin in the Lane” by Fiddlin’ John Carson, recorded in Atlanta on either June 13 or 14 in 1923? Or any one of four sides by Ma Rainey recorded in Chicago during June 1928? I moved on.

Charlie Patton had a busy day in Richmond, Indiana, on June 14, 1929; I have eleven tracks he recorded that day. Eight Junes later, in 1937, Robert Johnson had a busy two days in Dallas, recording twenty tracks (some of which were alternate takes), including “Hell Hound on My Trail,” “Love in Vain” and “Stop Breakin’ Down.”

I wandered through the 1940s and the 1950s, noting recordings by Blind Boy Fuller, Memphis Minnie, Tommy Dorsey, Louis Armstrong, Hank Williams, Muddy Waters and Eddie Bo. And as I reached the midpoint of the 1960s, I scrolled past “Slow Down” and “Matchbox” from the Beatles’ 1964 Long Tall Sally EP. And I stopped, seeing a track I’d not noticed before.

In 1978, Bear Family Records released Johnny & June, a collection of tracks recorded mostly in 1964 and 1965 by Johnny Cash, some of them with his wife, June Carter Cash. A rip of the album came my way some time ago, and I didn’t dig into it very much as all. I dropped it in the files and let the tracks come up when they might. I did dip into it when I looked at covers of Bob Dylan’s “One Too Many Mornings,” but beyond that, I let it sit.

But because I sorted for the word “June,” the entire album showed up in today’s sort, and I saw a title that startled me: “Thunderball,” recorded May 12, 1965. My 007 detector started to ping. And through a little bit of digging, I learned that Cash either offered or was invited to – it’s not entirely clear which from a little bit of research this morning – provide a title tune for the fourth James Bond film, Thunderball, which came out in 1965. In any case, Cash’s version – which describes the story – wasn’t used. The “Thunderball” theme that was used – sung by Tom Jones – had lyrics from Don Black that equated “Thunderball” with the film’s villain. John Barry wrote the music.

I imagine that had I heard Johnny Cash’s tune as I watched the film’s opening sequence in 1965, it would have long been the norm when I thought about the film and its soundtrack, and the Barry/Black composition would have been an interesting curiosity when it showed up on the expanded soundtrack CD. But having seen the film at least a few times and having heard the Barry/Black/Jones version many times more than that, it’s the Johnny Cash version that seems a bit out of place. Nevertheless, it’s interesting, and thanks to YouTube user BYWPodcast, who paired it with the opening sequence from Thunderball, Johnny Cash’s take on “Thunderball” is today’s Saturday Single.

‘Five’

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

We’re back to the March of the Integers this morning, looking at ‘Five,’ and the RealPlayer comes up with a list of 262 mp3s as a starting point.

Before we can get to work, though, we have to winnow out records by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, the Original Five Blind Boys of Alabama, the Original Memphis Five, the We Five, Louis Jordan and His Tympani Five, the Ben Folds Five and the Dave Clark Five as well as tracks by the Five Americans, Five Bells, Five Blazes, Five Breezes, Five Chavis Brothers, Five Delights, Five Empressions, Five Keys, Five Man Electrical Band, Five Stairsteps and Five For Fighting. We also need to set aside Nick Drake’s 1969 album Five Leaves Left, most of the 1969 Hawaii Five-O soundtrack by the Morton Stevens Orchestra and most of the similarly titled 1969 album by the Ventures.

Still – as has been the case in the previous four chapters of this exercise – we’re left with enough titles available so we can be a little picky. We’ll once again go chronologically.

With a nod to events in the eastern U.S. this week – and meaning no disrespect to anyone affected by Superstorm Sandy and its aftermath – we’ll start with a country tune about a flood from 1959. Johnny Cash chronicles the rising waters in “Five Feet High and Rising” in a dry and matter-of-fact tone that one can interpret as either comic or stoic. I’ll go with the latter. The record spent nine weeks in the country Top 40 as summer edged into autumn in 1959, peaking at No. 14.

The pleasantly trippy track “Five O’Clock in the Morning” by Wendy & Bonnie comes from one of the more interesting one-shot albums of the 1960s. Wendy and Bonnie Flowers were sisters from San Francisco who were seventeen and thirteen, respectively, when their album, Genesis, was released in 1969. It came out on the Skye label, which folded soon after the record came out, dooming any chances for the album to gain any attention. Was it interesting because it was good or because Wendy and Bonnie were so young? A little more the latter than the former, I think, but the album – re-released on the Sundazed label in 2001 with bonus tracks – is worth finding.

I noted that we’d have to ignore most of the Ventures’ 1969 album Hawaii Five-O, but there was really no way I could put together a selection of songs featuring the number “five” and not include the title track from that album. “Hawaii Five-O” is about as catchy as a television theme can be, and the Ventures’ recording of the theme went to No. 4 in 1969. The tune came from the pen of composer Morton Stevens, who recorded the version used for the show’s opening.

Jade was a British folk-rock group that released its only album, Fly on Strangewings, in 1970. It’s a pleasant album with a few very good pieces, but I think that Richie Unterberger of All-Music Guide got it right: “While Jade’s only album is decent early-’70s British folk-rock, its similarity to the material that Sandy Denny sang lead on with Fairport Convention is so evident that it’s rather unnerving.” Unterberger went on, however, to note several tracks on the album that could stand on their own without drawing comparisons to Denny and Fairport. “Five Of Us” is, sadly, not one of those tracks. Still, from the distance of more than forty years, it’s a decent piece of British folk-rock with impressive harmonies and a very eerie recurring “whooooooh” in the background.

The country-rock group Cowboy released half-a-dozen albums on the Capricorn label during the 1970s and deservedly sold a fair number of records. I’d guess that most folks who went looking for Cowboy’s work, though, did so for the same reason I did: The track “Please Be With Me” was included on the first Duane Allman Anthology because of Allman’s Dobro work. And, like me, those who bought the 1971 album 5’ll Get You Ten just for that track discovered a lot of additional fine music from Scott Boyer, Tommy Talton, Chuck Leavell and the others who sat in. The track “5’ll Get You Ten” is as good as anything on the album.

In 1999, country-folk artist Nanci Griffith took some of her best songs from previous albums and re-recorded them with backing from the London Symphony Orchestra. Some of Griffith’s performances were overwhelmed by the orchestra, and some of them came out all right. To my ears, the best thing on the album was the duet on “Love at the Five and Dime” by Griffith and Darius Rucker, best known as lead singer for Hootie and the Blowfish. The song, which had been affecting in its original version on Griffith’s 1986 album, The Last of the True Believers, became more powerful and poignant with the addition of Rucker’s unique voice.

‘Let The Sentence Fit The Crime’

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

The real world calls me away today: There are towels to wash, counters to clean and menus to plan, among other things. I’ll be back briefly Saturday morning, and I hope to return to this space next week with some new things to share both in text and music.

In the meantime, here’s another cover, though not one as unlikely as Tuesday’s. In 1983, a year after Bruce Springsteen released the song on Nebraska, Johnny Cash made “Johnny 99” the title track for an album on Columbia during the performer’s last years with that label. It was little noticed at the time, but in the years since, according to comments I’ve seen in numerous places, the album has become somewhat of a collector’s item, especially among Springsteen fans looking for the title track as well as Cash’s take on Springsteen’s “Highway Patrolman,” also from Nebraska.

Those are the two tracks that interested me when I first read about the album as few years ago, and after a little bit of digging, I learned that Koch Records had released a CD edition of the album in 1998. I also soon learned that copies of the CD were going for prices of anywhere from $25 to more than $100 online. (A few copies of the original 1983 vinyl available through Amazon are priced at $75 or more.) So I bided my time, and about a month ago, I spotted a copy online for about $12.

I still haven’t absorbed all of the CD yet, but Cash’s take on “Johnny 99” – and I’ve heard quite a few covers of the tune as well as Springsteen’s original – might be definitive.

‘It’s A Restless Hungry Feeling . . .’

Friday, March 25th, 2011

With a nearly complete* collection of Bob Dylan’s work available, I can pick and choose when I want to listen to an hour’s worth of the Bard of Hibbing. And there are a few of Dylan’s albums that rarely make it to the CD player or turntable or mp3 player.

Chief among those are Saved, the 1980 release that was the second of the three Christian-era albums; At Budokan and Dylan and The Dead, two pretty bad live albums; his debut album, titled simply Bob Dylan; and his third album, The Times They Are A-Changin’.

That last album, The Times They Are A-Changin’, was released in 1964 and was Dylan’s most topical during his early folkies-can-change-the-world days, and as such, it’s not aged well. Not all the songs are tied to then-current events, but enough of them are – “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” and “Only A Pawn In Their Game,” for example – that it’s not an album I play very frequently. And that’s too bad, as it means I have to find other settings – beyond the hope of a random play – for some strong songs that aren’t tied to those times, like “Boots of Spanish Leather” and “Restless Farewell,” to name two.

The same holds true for my favorite on the album, “One Too Many Mornings,” which was written for Suze Rotolo, Dylan’s girlfriend at the time. (Rotolo, who crossed over February 25 at the age of sixty-seven, was the girl walking with Dylan on the cover of his second album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. In the evocative words of Jeff Ash of AM, Then FM: “The girl on the cover, now forever young.”) Their relationship lasted into 1964, and Rotolo was the inspiration for some of Dylan’s most enduring songs, including “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” “Tomorrow Is A Long Time” and “Boots of Spanish Leather.” But out of the cluster of songs that I’ve read were inspired by Rotolo, “One Too Many Mornings” is my favorite:

Down the street the dogs are barkin’
And the day is a-gettin’ dark
As the night comes in a-fallin’
The dogs’ll lose their bark
An’ the silent night will shatter
From the sounds inside my mind
For I’m one too many mornings
And a thousand miles behind

From the crossroads of my doorstep
My eyes they start to fade
As I turn my head back to the room
Where my love and I have laid
An’ I gaze back to the street
The sidewalk and the sign
And I’m one too many mornings
An’ a thousand miles behind

It’s a restless hungry feeling
That don’t mean no one no good
When ev’rything I’m a-sayin’
You can say it just as good.
You’re right from your side
I’m right from mine
We’re both just one too many mornings
An’ a thousand miles behind

Dylan’s version of the song from The Times They Are A-Changin’ is a solo take, with just his guitar and harmonica. It’s thoughtful and gentle. That wasn’t the case with the next version of the tune in Dylan’s catalog. On stage during a 1966 concert in Manchester, England (erroneously and eternally known as “The Royal Albert Hall Concert” and released in 1998), Dylan and his band – four-fifths of The Band and drummer Mickey Jones – tear into the song with gusto, and Dylan makes his way raggedly through the song in the weary, half-sneering voice that every Dylan imitator prizes. It’s a fun trip.

The third version of the song that Dylan released, a take from the 1975 Rolling Thunder tour that was released in 1976 on Hard Rain, is maybe the most interesting. Still ragged, but less frenetic than the 1966 version, the version on Hard Rain finds Dylan seeming to actually think about what he’s singing as he provides slight changes from the 1964 melody.

Still, as much as I love Dylan, none of his versions of “One Too Many Mornings” provide my favorite take on the tune. For that, I have to turn to a cover. And there are plenty of them from which to choose. All-Music Guide lists 196 CDs that include a song with that title. At a guess, two-thirds of those are duplicates or different songs with the same title. That kind of blunt math leaves us with about sixty-five different versions of the Dylan tune.

I’ve posted videos in the past couple weeks of two of those covers: a 2007 release by David Gray this week and a 1989 release by Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings in February. That last outing wasn’t the first time Cash had taken on “One Too Many Mornings.” He and Dylan gave it a try – I believe there are bootlegs out there – during the sessions for Dylan’s 1969 album, Nashville Skyline, and he recorded a solo version in 1964 with help, it seems, from June Carter Cash. That one was released in 1978 on Johnny and June:

A lot of familiar names pop up in the list of covers. The Association released the song as a single in 1965, and it showed up on the group’s 1970 live album. The Beau Brummels also released the tune as a single; it went to No. 95 in 1966. Joan Baez took a couple of shots at the song; her first version showed up as a bonus track on the CD reissue of her 1964 album, Farewell Angelina, and a version with a slightly Latin tinge to it – one I like a lot – came out in 1968 on Any Day Now.

Perhaps the most surprising name on the list of those who’ve covered “One Too Many Mornings” is that of Bobby Sherman, whose 1969 version – from his Bobby Sherman album – isn’t bad at all.

The list of names goes on, some familiar and some not: The Dillards, the Kingston Trio, Jerry Jeff Walker, Radio Flyer, Robyn Hitchcock, Jaime Brockett, Tony Furtado with Jules Shear, Steve Howe with Phoebe Snow, Ralph McTell, the Alan Lorber Orchestra and more.

But my favorite take on the song comes from the later version of The Band. Released as the closing track of the 1999 CD Tangled Up In Blues: Songs of Bob Dylan, it’s a cover that echoes the classic sound of The Band, with Dylan’s old friends Rick Danko, Levon Helm and Garth Hudson joined by new members Jim Weider, Richard Bell, Randy Ciarlante and guest Derek Trucks.

*A while back, I wrote that I owned a copy – vinyl or CD – of everything Dylan has ever released. I was in error. I forgot about Live at the Gaslight 1962, which was sold through a chain of coffee shops that has no St. Cloud outlet (though a friend was nice enough to provide me with a digital copy, which is good, with even used copies of the CD going for more than $22), and I do not have Christmas in the Heart because I don’t do Christmas records, not even Dylan’s. Since I wrote the post overlooking those two albums, Dylan has released Bob Dylan In Concert: Brandeis University, 1963, which I plan to get soon. I also see limited copies for sale of Live At Carnegie Hall 1963, which isn’t yet listed on Dylan’s website, but when it is officially released, I’ll make sure it’s soon on my shelves.

(Lyrics copyright © 1964, 1966 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1992, 1994 by Special Rider Music)