Posts Tagged ‘Linda Ronstadt’

A Stop In 1975

Thursday, May 16th, 2019

We’re going to scan the digital shelves here today and play around in 1975, checking out five tracks from that long-gone but fondly remembered year. We’ve got a little more than 1,800 tracks to play with, so we’ll sort them by time, put the cursor in the middle of the column, and go.

Our first stop is a track titled “Thirty-Piece Band” by guitarist and singer Ellen McIlwaine from her third album, The Real Ellen McIlwaine. Recorded in Montreal and released on the Canadian Kot’ai label – after her first two albums came out on Polydor – the album is generally a decent mix of covers and originals. She’s not well-known – never having hit any chart that I’ve ever seen – but her records from the 1960s and 1970s were nice additions to a collection. According to Wikipedia, she released a couple albums in Japan in the early 2000s. “Thirty-Piece Band” is two-and-a-half minutes of churning solo guitar work topped off in the middle by some vamping and less than coherent lyrics. It’s not one of McIlwaine’s best moments.

On we go, landing on Linda Ronstadt’s “Hey Mister, That’s Me Up On The Jukebox” from Prisoner In Disguise, an album that went to No. 4 in the Billboard 200 after being released in September 1975. Ronstadt’s cover of James Taylor’s 1971 album track has always been my favorite track from Prisoner; her restrained vocal and the light steel guitar are far more effective than anything else on the album, including the hits (“Love Is A Rose,” “The Tracks Of My Tears” and “Heat Wave”). From this point on (with just a few exceptions), Ronstadt seemed a lot more vehement and got a lot less interesting.

The late Larry Jon Wilson pops up here from time to time with his southern wit. This time, it’s “The Truth Ain’t In You” from his debut album New Beginnings. A mostly spoken tale of an early 1960s college-age pursuit of a young woman, the track rambles on nicely, winding around three times to the chorus: “You don’t love Jesus and the truth ain’t in you.” Fun, like much of Wilson’s work was.

In 1975, Gordon Lightfoot followed up the mega-success of 1974’s Sundown – buoyed by two Top Ten singles (“Sundown” and “Carefree Highway”), the album was No. 1 for two weeks during the summer of 1974 – with Cold On The Shoulder, an album similar in approach but, to my ears, less distinctive. Part of that judgment, certainly might be that I know Sundown better, having listened to it more frequently. The tune we fall on today is “Now & Then” from Cold On The Shoulder. It’s your basic softer Lightfoot song, a tuneful reverie of love now gone that slips on occasion into cliché, backed with chiming guitars and perhaps a few too many strings. Pleasant listening, but not as satisfying as his best work.

Albert Hammond has popped up here from time to time, at least once for his hit “It Never Rains In Southern California” and one other time for his “99 Miles From L.A.” Today, we get “Lay The Music Down” from the 99 Miles From L.A. album. A song of lost love told in the context of musicians and their songs, “Lay The Music Down” is backed, says Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic, by “mild disco rhythms.” I don’t get that, but okay. It’s a decent track but no more than that.

‘Five Nails In The Door’

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

I don’t have a copy of everything I’ve ever written. That would be ridiculous for someone who’s spent more than twenty-five years employed as a writer of some sort and more than forty years scribbling words on paper (or typing them on a screen) on his own account.

I tried to come close. For about ten years after I left the Monticello Times, I hauled around nearly six year’s worth of weekly editions in twine-tied bundles, so each time I moved, I hefted every word that had been published in the paper during my years there. I also had file folders with copies of the most significant pieces and editions of the paper, so there finally came a day when I began to go through the twined bundles edition by edition, saving tearsheets of the pieces I wanted and letting go of the rest of it.

After all, a reporter at a small town paper writes everything from obituaries to crime stories to the annual announcement of the sale of Girl Scout cookies. (One year, a headline for a column I wrote about my political concerns got lost during weekly paste-up, and the annual cookie story ended up with a headline that read: “Fears and Worries, Scouts Sell Cookies.”) Obits and the small stories about meetings and reunions and spaghetti dinners – the stuff we used to call “pots and pans” at the Monticello paper – went by the wayside, and I kept the stuff that had personal connections – various columns – or that stretched my skills or brought me some recognition.

The same is true of my professional efforts from every other stop along the way, whether in newspapering or in public relations: I have over the years kept only those pieces that were significant in one way or another. As to my personal writing – lyrics, fiction, a few longer bits of non-fiction – I have almost all of it. There is, as far as I know, only one piece missing.

I was reminded of it last evening as the Texas Gal and I watched an episode of American Idol. A seventeen-year-old fellow, facing the judges as the crowd of contestants was being winnowed from seventy-five to about fifty, sang one of his own songs. It was pretty good, and there was one line in it – I should have jotted it down, but it’s flown away – that made me say, “Wow! I wish I’d written a line like that when I was seventeen.”

And I added, “When I was his age, I was writing silly songs with Rick.”

“Rick wrote songs?” the Texas Gal asked.

“Yeah,” I said. “For a while, he and I would trade lyrics back and forth.”

That came as we were finishing high school and I was starting college (he was a couple of years behind me), and I was just beginning to write my own stuff. Despite my comment to the Texas Gal, we rarely co-wrote. When we did, the result was sometimes silly, sometimes not.

He rarely handed me his stuff. He mailed it. Just for fun, he’d undone a simple envelope and made a template; when he found a page-size visual in a magazine that caught his interest, he’d pull it out, trace around his template, cut and carefully fold and paste, and he’d have a custom envelope. A small label on the front completed the process, and he’d put his new lyric – or sometimes just a quick note – inside, and a day or two later, I’d come home from school to a brightly colored envelope in the mail.

I imagine I have some of those envelopes and their contents in a box somewhere. I might even have the one that I thought about last night while watching American Idol. One evening, probably during the spring of 1972 as I was finishing my first year of college, we were whiling away time at Tomlyano’s, a long-gone pizza joint. (Tomlyano’s has shown up here once before: That was where, in 1975, my date and I fled John Denver’s “Thank God I’m A Country Boy” so abruptly that we left half a pizza on the table.) And we were talking about writing.

“You know what we should do?” Rick said. “We should find a title and both write lyrics for that title.”

“Sure,” I said. “What title?”

He looked over my shoulder. “How about ‘Five Nails In The Door’?” I turned and followed his gaze toward the swinging half-door between the kitchen and the dining area, which in fact did have five large metal circles – nail heads or decorative pieces, I’m not sure – visible. I nodded.

And a few days later, I copied out my version of “Five Nails In The Door” and either dropped it off across the street or put it in a plain white envelope and mailed it. At about the same time, I got a brightly colored envelope in the mail with Rick’s take on the title.

He’d written something that owed at least a little bit to “Wooden Ships,” the post-apocalyptic song by David Crosby, Paul Kantner, and Stephen Stills that we knew from the 1969 album Crosby, Stills & Nash. (It showed up as well on Jefferson Airplane’s Volunteers that same year; Rick might have known that version, but I did not.) But it also held tinges of an empire falling in traditional fashion to outsiders, as Rome did to the Visigoths.

Rick’s lyric noted that the dying society’s hopes of survival depended on the preservation of a treasure. But that treasure was lost because “there were only five nails in the door.”

What did my version say? I don’t entirely know. As I noted above, I have copies of almost everything I’ve ever written on my own (as opposed to work product). The one lyric – among a couple hundred, maybe – that I do not have is “Five Nails In The Door.” I do vaguely remember its ending. As was my wont at the time – the spring of 1972, I’m guessing – I created a love song, and it ended something like this:

If they stand for love, and I think they do,
Then first there was one, and later came two.
So as you go, I’m adding more,
And now there are five nails in the door.
Five nails in the door for you . . .

Confusing? A little bit. Evocative? I thought so. Overwrought? Yep.

Here’s a tune that does better with the topic of nails. Here’s “Rock Salt & Nails” by Earl Scruggs, with help from Tracy Nelson and Linda Ronstadt. It’s from Scruggs’ album I Saw The Light With Some Help From My Friends, which coincidentally came out in 1972, the same year I was trying to figure out how to write a decent lyric.

Missing The Midnight Special

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

Rummaging around on Facebook over the weekend, I came across a link to a piece at the Rolling Stone website offering seventeen reasons to adulate Stevie Nicks. Now, I don’t adulate Nicks, nor do I need reasons to do so, but I do admire her and like a lot of her music, both with and without Fleetwood Mac.

So I didn’t need to click through for those seventeen reasons, but the video that was embedded in the piece tempted me. And I found myself watching the Mac’s performance of “Rhiannon” on the June 11, 1976, episode of The Midnight Special.

I loved pretty much everything about that clip and wished for maybe the thousandth time that I’d paid more attention to The Midnight Special. The late-night Friday show* ran from February 1973 into May 1981, and I’m not at all sure why I didn’t watch it even occasionally, much less regularly.

During most of the early years – up to the middle of the summer of ’76, not long after above Fleetwood Mac performance – I could easily have watched the show on the old black-and-white in my room (with the sound turned down some so as not to wake my folks in the adjacent bedroom). After that, at least in a couple of places, I might have had to persuade a couple of roommates (or for a few years, the Other Half) to watch with me. But I never even tried.

So I never got on board, and I wish I had. There are selected performances from the show’s nine seasons available commercially, but I’m not about to spring the cash that Time/Life is asking for discs of those assorted performances. Instead, I wander on occasion through the valley at YouTube, finding bits and pieces of things I missed half a lifetime (or more) ago, things like Linda Ronstadt (introduced by José Feliciano as a country performer) making her way through a December 1973 performance of “You’re No Good” and a May 1977 performance of “Smoke From A Distant Fire” by the Sanford/Townsend Band.

It’s a seemingly bottomless trove of long-ago treasure, and I can easily get lost clicking from video to video (something that happens occasionally anyway, though with less of a focus). Well, there are worse things to get hooked on, I suppose. And for this morning, we’ll close with a performance by Redbone from February 1974, when they opened “Come And Get Your Love” with a Native American dance quite possibly pulled – though I’m not certain – from the Shoshone heritage of Pat and Lolly Vegas, the group’s founders.

*The show followed The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, which meant that for most of its run, The Midnight Special actually started at midnight here in the Central Time Zone. When Carson trimmed his show to an hour in late 1980, The Midnight Special aired at 11:30 our time.

Saturday Single No. 358

Saturday, September 21st, 2013

Thoughts on writing implements – as promised in Thursday’s post – will have to wait, because two tales from some years ago are intertwining, and there’s more there to untangle than we generally do here on a Saturday morning. And in making Thursday’s promise, I did not account for the fact that the Texas Gal and I have signed up for a few hours of booth duty today representing our Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at today’s Pride in the Park, part of the local LGBT organization’s annual Pridefest.

So, due to the vagaries of my forearm tendons and my lack of planning, this blog has become a little bit of a sparsely seeded place this week. With luck, next week will find me more productive.

In keeping with the disjointedness of the week, here’s a track that has nothing to do with any of this except for the song’s title. It’s the classic country song, “Making Plans,” written by Voni Morrison and Johnny Russell. The version recorded by Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner went to No. 2 on the country chart in 1980, and seven years later, Parton recorded it with Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris as part of their Trio album.

Here’s “Making Plans,” today’s Saturday Single.

Jackson, Linda, Bonnie & Tom

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

Well, thanks to reader and friend Yah Shure, we’re still digging around in Jackson Browne covers this morning. After Tuesday’s post about such covers, Yah Shure commented, “How about the cover of “Rock Me On The Water” by . . . Jackson Browne? He redid it from scratch for the 45. Much better than the cut from the self-titled album, IMO.”

Until then, I’d had no idea that the single version of “Rock Me On The Water” was a different beast. I plead unfamiliarity: “RMOTW” went only to No. 48 as the autumn of 1972 set in, and I evidently didn’t hear it much, if at all, on the radio. And by the time I was catching up to Browne’s music and got around to that first, self-titled album, it was 1978. Thus, the only version I’ve really known has been the one on the album.

So I went hunting. And I think that this (scratchy) video features the single version (although final judgment will be reserved for Yah Shure). And yes, I also think it’s a better version than the one that showed up on the album.

And we might as well listen to another version of “Rock Me On The Water” while we’re at it. Here’s Linda Ronstadt from her self-titled 1972 album. A single release of the track went to No. 85 in March of 1972. (I’ve seen 1971 listed as the issue date for the album, but I’m going with the date on the CD package The Best of Linda Ronstadt: The Capitol Years, which says the record came out in 1972. I’m open to correction, though.)

Moving up in time a bit, here’s Bonnie Raitt with her cover of Browne’s “Sleep’s Dark and Silent Gate” from her 1979 album The Glow. It’s not bad, maybe a little too forceful.

I was going to close today’s coverfest – and at least for a while, I think, the exploration of Jackson Browne covers – with one of my favorites: Joan Baez’ take on “Fountain of Sorrow,” which was the second track on Baez’ 1975 album Diamonds & Rust. But the video I put up was blocked in 237 countries, including the U.S. So I pulled it down, and we’ll instead close shop today with a tender cover of Browne’s “Jamacia Say You Will” by Tom Rush. Rush included the song on his 1972 album Merrimack County, but this version is a live performance – I don’t know the date – that was released on the 1999 collection The Very Best of Tom Rush: No Regrets.

‘I’d Give Anything To See You Again . . .’

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

A few weeks ago, I dug lightly into the song “Love Has No Pride” and promised a few more covers in a few days. Those days stretched into these few weeks, but now I’ll take a look at some more versions of the song.

In that earlier post, I noted that the song was written by Eric Justin Kaz and Libby Titus, and I added: “The song was first recorded, according to the website Second Hand Songs, by Bonnie Raitt for her 1972 album Give It Up, with numerous cover versions following. The best known of those – and ‘the only version that matters,’ according to the Texas Gal – was Linda Ronstadt’s cover, which went to No. 51 on the Billboard Hot 100 in January 1974.”

Here are links to the original by Bonnie Raitt and the album version of the tune from Linda Ronstadt.

Some of those other covers are versions I can pass by. I generally enjoy Tracy Nelson’s work, but her cover of the Kaz/Titus song – from 1974’s Tracy Nelson – falls flat for some reason. I don’t know Billy Bragg’s version, nor that done by Celtic-British singer Ron Kavana, so I can’t comment on those.  And I have little interest in the covers of the song done by Rita Coolidge and John Paul Young, so those can wait for another day. On the other hand, county singer Michelle Wright did a nice version on her 1996 album, For Me It’s You. And there are, of course, other covers out there.

The one cover I was truly interested in hearing is the cause for the delay in writing this post. As I was rummaging through the catalog of Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul & Mary, I noticed that he’d covered “Love Has No Pride” on his 1972 album Love Songs, recorded at Muscle Shoals. Unable to find the album on CD, I went off to Ebay and ordered a copy of the LP. The record, when it arrived, was essentially unplayable, so I got my money back and tried again. The next copy was better, and I’m slowly making my way through the record, ripping songs to mp3s as I listen. Unfortunately, I’m not all that impressed with Yarrow’s version of “Love Has No Pride.” Even the great studio pros at Muscle Shoals don’t seem able to get the track going.

So I went back and looked for versions by the song’s two writers, Libby Titus and Eric Kaz. It turns out I had both. Titus included the tune on her self-titled 1977 album, and she does a pretty good job of it.

As for Kaz, he’s evidently never recorded the song on his own, but in 1976, he was a member of American Flyer, a country rock band with some serious lineage – Kaz was in the Blues Magoos, Craig Fuller had been in Pure Prairie League, Steve Katz was in Blood, Sweat & Tears, and Doug Yule had been a member of the Velvet Underground – and “Love Has No Pride” showed up on the group’s self-titled album.

Of the two from the writers, I prefer Titus’ version. I also still like the Grady Tate version I shared here earlier, but having sifted through the various covers and Raitt’s original in the past few weeks, I have to finally agree with the Texas Gal and with reader Yah Shure – who left a note at the earlier post – in their assessment that the only version that matters is Ronstadt’s.

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.