Posts Tagged ‘Ray Conniff’

‘I’m Not S’posin’ . . .’

Thursday, November 12th, 2020

My sister’s record collection, the stuff she took with her in 1972 when she departed Kilian Boulevard and St. Cloud for marriage and a life in the Twin Cities, has been the topic of a few posts here over the years. And I’ve also explored my attempts to find, over the years, the twenty or so LPs that made up that collection.

One of those records, one she bought from the Record Club of America around 1965, was, I think, the acquisition that moved me twenty-some years later to recreate on my own shelves the collection she took with her. And it was also, I think, at least one of the reasons I continue to collect both the music of Ray Conniff and of the wider universe of mid-Sixties easy listening.

I never thought to ask my sister why she chose Conniff’s 1964 album Invisible Tears as one of her selections from the record club, (for about three years, we chose records from the club in alternate months), just as I never thought to ask her why she once chose the album Traditional Jewish Memories. But once the stereo found a permanent home in the basement rec room in 1967, both albums became part of my own regular listening, along with Al Hirt and the soundtracks of John Barry.

The tracks on Invisible Tears were covers of country and pop-folk songs: The title track was a No. 13 hit for Ned Miller on the Billboard country chart in 1964 (Conniff’s version went to No. 57 on the Hot 100 that year). Other tracks included “Honeycomb,” “Oh, Lonesome Me,” “Singing The Blues,” “I Walk The Line,” “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine,” and “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” That’s stuff, of course, that was made famous by other artists, folks I did not know about then.

And among the other tracks on the album was one titled “S’posin’,” which went:

S’posin’ I should fall in love with you
Do you think that you could love me too?
S’posin’ I should hold you and caress you
Would it impress you or distress you?


S’posin’ I should say “For you I yearn”
Would you think I’m speaking out of turn?
And s’posin’ I declare it
Would you take my love and share it?
I’m not s’posin’,I’m in love with you

S’posin’ I declare it
Would you take my love and share it?
I’m not s’posin,’ I’m in love with you

I’m not s’posin,’ I’m in love with you
I’m not s’posin,’ I’m in love with you

For some reason, the song fascinated the twelve-year-old I was, and I found myself humming or singing it as I went about my tweenage business around the house (which I’m sure was at least a little annoying to the other three occupants). I don’t remember if I had anyone in mind as I sang the song, anyone to whom I wanted to declare my ardor, but I imagine I did.

Then, a few years later, I fell into the Beatles, Chicago, Top 40 radio, underground progressive radio, and all the other musical stuff that’s followed me around for years. And until August 1989, for the most part, I forgot about Ray Conniff and Invisible Tears and “S’posin’.” That was when the album turned up in a box of stuff I picked up at a garage sale, tucked next to records by Peter, Paul & Mary, Roy Hamilton, Percy Faith, James Taylor, Joan Baez, and the Climax Blues Band. (An interesting mix, to be sure.)

The record wasn’t, as I recall it, in very good shape, but through the hiss and the crackle came the sounds from the basement rec room. I still liked most of it, although the continued use of the contraction in “S’posin’” now seemed a silly construct. (And it’s been silly for a long time, as the song, written by Andy Razaf and Paul Denniker, was first recorded in 1929 by Bob Haring & His Orchestra and was most recently recorded by Lesley Lambert in 2017.)

That was about the time, 1989 was, when my record buying became a little manic, and that was about the time – probably inspired by finding Invisible Tears – when I began to replicate my sister’s collection as well as to look for Conniff’s work and the work of other easy listening artists from the mid-1960s. (All of my sister’s collection, Invisible Tears included, is replicated on my digital shelves, as is a lot of the easy listening stuff.)

And I still don’t know why my sister chose the record more than fifty years ago, why it mattered to her then and why it still does. About ten years ago, when she and her husband passed on to me a box of LPs they’d decided were no longer essential, Invisible Tears was not among them.

Here’s “S’posin’.”

And here’s a playlist of the album:

Four At Random

Friday, May 15th, 2020

We’re wandering through iTunes today, landing on four of the 3,900-some tracks I keep there and on my iPod.

First up is “I Want Candy” by the Strangeloves. The Strangeloves were a goof perpetuated in 1965 by Brill Building writers Bob Feldman, Jerry Goldstein and Richard Gotterher. As Dave Marsh notes in The Heart of Rock ’n’ Soul, they decided in the wake of the British Invasion that “if the public wasn’t interested in domestic acts, they’d reinvent themselves as foreigners.” So they became the Australian brothers Miles, Giles, and Niles Strangelove, claiming to “have taken their rhythmic ideas from aborigines and to have added Masai drums after hearing them while on an African safari. The goof worked, with the Masai drums – actually tympani – helping “I Want Candy” to get to No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100.

We jump ahead to 2019 and “Moonlight Motel,” the most effective track on Bruce Springsteen’s Western Stars:

There’s a place on a blank stretch of road where
Nobody travels and nobody goes
And the Deskman says these days ’round here
Two young folks could probably up and disappear into
Rustlin’ sheets, a sleepy corner room
Into the musty smell
Of wilted flowers and
Lazy afternoon hours
At the Moonlight Motel . . .

Last night I dreamed of you, my lover
And the wind blew through the window and blew off the covers
Of my lonely bed,
I woke to something you said
That it’s better to have loved, yeah it’s better to have loved
As I drove, there was a chill in the breeze
And leaves tumbled from the sky and fell
Onto a road so black as I backtracked
To the Moonlight Motel

She was boarded up and gone like an old summer song
Nothing but an empty shell
I pulled in and stopped into my old spot

I pulled a bottle of Jack out of a paper bag
Poured one for me and one for you as well
Then it was one more shot poured out onto the parking lot
To the Moonlight Motel

As regulars here know, I love Springsteen’s work, but I have to admit that most of Western Stars left me unaffected, its subdued mood not really grabbing me. It held together thematically, but most of the tracks were just okay. I did, however, think that “Moonlight Motel” worked, and worked well.

Great Speckled Bird was a Canadian county band put together in 1969 by folk performers Ian and Sylvia Tyson. Named after the 1938 recording by Roy Acuff, the group released a self-titled album in 1970, You Were On My Mind in 1972 (billed as Ian & Sylvia & The Great Speckled Bird), and was credited on Ian Tyson’s 1973 album, Ol’ Eon. Wikipedia notes that the band continued to back the duo until their break-up in 1975. What we get this morning is a track from the 1970 album, “Long Long Time To Get Old.” The song is a series of vignettes, most of which end with the advice, “Remember this, children: If the good lord’s willing, live a long, long time to get old.” I guess it sounded profound in 1970.

Our final stop brings us one of those sappy things that I carry close to me and always will: “Somewhere My Love (Lara’s Theme from ‘Dr. Zhivago’)” by Ray Conniff & The Singers. The 1966 single went to No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and spent four weeks on top of the magazine’s Easy Listening chart. I heard it, no doubt, on WCCO from the Twin Cities and on KFAM from St. Cloud’s south side, and it became one of my favorite records from the mid-1960s. The song itself is also one of my favorites: there are twenty versions of the tune on the digital shelves by performers like Roger Williams, Ramsey Lewis, Ferrante & Teicher, along with – of course – the Conniff version and several versions by Maurice Jarre, who wrote the soundtrack for the film.

What’s Being Watched?

Friday, November 20th, 2015

It’s been just more than four and a half years since I started putting my own videos up on YouTube. I started making my own videos because either the tunes I wanted to share here weren’t available at YouTube or because I didn’t care for the visuals that were available. And I decided to keep my stuff simple. As the audio is the point, my visual content is either a record jacket or label or a static visual I’ve created to illustrate the track.

(Most of the videos I make and upload to YouTube are for this blog. Every once in a while, there will be some back-and-forth on Facebook and I’ll make a video to throw into the conversation, but that’s happened maybe ten or fifteen times.)

It’s been interesting over these four-plus years to see which of my 346 videos attract the most interest. By a wide margin, the most-played piece I’ve put up at YouTube is “Bittersweet” by Big Head Todd & The Monsters, which as of this morning has been viewed 544,647 times. A total of 2,403 of those viewers have given the video/track a “thumbs up” and 72 folks have given it a “thumbs down.”

After that, the views drop off considerably, but the numbers are still pretty large. Here are the next ten:

“Love Has No Pride” by Bonnie Raitt, 99,661 views (426 thumbs up and 14 down)
“Rør Ved Mig” by Lecia & Lucienne, 95,321 (282 and 9)
“Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie Woogie On The King Of Rock & Roll” by Long John Baldry, 81,674 (547 and 14)
“Tangerine” by Eliane Elias, 79,843 (335 and 5)
“The Windmills Of Your Mind” by Michel Legrand, 78,556 (218 and 8)
“Misty” by Groove Holmes, 70,808 (181 and 2)
“Anything For Love” by Gordon Lightfoot, 68,557 (262 and 2)
“Ballad Of Easy Rider” by Roger McGuinn, 65,602 (277 and 3)
“Banana Boat (Day-O)” by Stan Freberg, 63,668 (437 and 2)
“Theme from ‘Summer of ’42’” by Michel Legrand, 60,926 (321 and 9)

It’s interesting that two of those top eleven are from Michel Legrand. And the presence of Stan Freberg in the top ten kinda tickles me.

I’ve put up as well a few long-form pieces and full albums. The most popular of those is the live version of “Nantucket Sleighride” by Mountain, which ranks thirteenth overall with 58,180 views (324 and 6) in the year-and-a-half it’s been up.

As in all counting statistics, longevity has its rewards. Most of those videos are from 2011 and 2012. The highest-ranked video from 2013 is Long John Baldry’s classic track (and I find it hard to believe there are fourteen folks who disliked it enough to give it a thumbs down). The highest ranked from 2014 is the Roger McGuinn track. The most-viewed video from this year is Billy Preston’s live version from The Concert For Bangla Desh of “That’s The Way God Planned It,” which ranks 33rd, having garnered 13,561 views (87 and 3) since it went up last March.

And we’ll close this with one of the videos I originally made to share on Facebook: Ray Conniff’s cover of Boz Scaggs’ “Lowdown” from Conniff’s 1976 album If You Leave Me Now. When I posted it at Facebook last March, jb of The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ noted that the similarities between Conniff’s instrumental track and Boz Scaggs’ original were a little bit disturbing. As of this morning, it’s had 166 views (1 and 0).

Sometimes It’s Not So Easy

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

On occasion, my fascination with easy listening music jumps out of the speakers and bites my ears.

I was puttering at the computer yesterday, posting a note or two on Facebook, checking email, keeping an eye on the news from Ukraine and scoping out the latest rumors about the Minnesota Vikings and the upcoming NFL draft. Keeping me company was the RealPlayer, chugging along on random and offering me some current Americana, some 1960s and 1970s pop, some 1950s R&B and the occasional bit of a film soundtrack.

And then came this:

I winced and then laughed at Ray Conniff’s pretty much clueless take on “Happy Days” (found on the 1976 album TV Themes), and then I took a look to see exactly how much music I have by Ray Conniff in the files. It turns out to be 227 mp3s. That means that Conniff should have been listed in the Top 20 artists I posted a few weeks ago, coming in at No. 15, just ahead of Richie Havens. Why wasn’t he? Because some of his albums were credited to just Ray Conniff, others to Ray Conniff & The Singers, others yet to Ray Conniff & His Orchestra and so on, and that inconsistency, along with my inattention to detail that day, kept Conniff off my chart.

Why so much Conniff? Because I do love – generally – easy listening music from the 1950s through the 1970s, probably in large part because the work of Conniff and his easy listening brethren reminds me of the years of Hula Hoops and Erector sets on through the years of madras shirts and eventually mood rings. So my love for the music is mostly nostalgia, but that’s a potent enough force as it is.

And then there’s the fact that some of the easy listening tunes in the stacks are pretty good music. In terms of execution, nostalgic weight and chart performance, it’s hard to beat “Theme from ‘A Summer Place’” by Percy Faith, which was No. 1 for nine weeks in 1960. There were many other decent easy listening pieces during the years of my youth; many of those are in my files; some, I have to assume, are not.

But it’s not at all difficult to find easy listening missteps like Conniff’s “Happy Days,” especially when the easy listening folks tried to translate pop-rock hits into instrumentals palatable for their audience (generally older folks, of course, as well as the unhip kids like me). And since pratfalls are often more fun than graceful success, I thought I’d wander through the collection and find some easy listening efforts that are not at all easy to listen to.

So here are a couple from 1969: A clueless take on Neil Diamond’s “Cracklin’ Rosie” from Billy Vaughn’s Theme From Love Story and a flighty version of the Doors’ “Touch Me” from Enoch Light & The Brass Menagerie, Vol. 1.*

I could dig further for hard listening, but I won’t. Instead I’ll close with a couple of covers that are interesting takes on popular songs. On his 1970 album Doc Severinsen’s Closet, the Tonight Show band leader of the time took some chances by covering a number of intriguing titles (including a cover I once shared here of “Court of the Crimson King”). The one that caught my ear this morning was his cover of the Chairmen of the Board’s “Give Me Just A Little More Time” (into which Severinsen incorporated a quote from “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” from the group then called Chicago Transit Authority).

And as I dug around in the 121 tracks I have from dual pianists Ferrante & Teicher, I came across their cover of Paul Simon’s “The Sound of Silence.” Ferrante & Teicher occasionally missed the sense of a song; there are some missteps in their work. But far more often than not, at least to the ears of this easy listening fan, they succeeded in translating pop songs into their own idiom. I think they did so with “The Sound of Silence,” which was on their 1969 album Midnight Cowboy.

*I was going to make it a trio of missteps from 1969 by including Franck Pourcel’s version of Zager & Evans’ “In The Year 2525”, which seems to have first been issued on the Bolivian release En El Anno 2525, but after a couple of listens, I’m liking it.