Posts Tagged ‘Scala & Kolacny Brothers’

Out From The Sun, Part 2

Friday, June 6th, 2014

Having safely crossed the Asteroid Belt beyond Mars, we continue our trek outward from the Sun and approach Jupiter, the largest of the planets. Fittingly, our tune here is one that is related to spaceflight: A search for information about the 1958 instrumental “Jupiter-C” by Pat & The Satellites brings us, among others, a link to Wikipedia, where we learn that Jupiter-C was an American rocket used to test re-entry nosecones during three sub-orbital spaceflights in 1956 and 1957. The rocket, Wikipedia says, was one of those designed by the U.S. Army under the direction of Wernher Von Braun (whom I once met). The record spent four weeks in the Billboard Hot 100 and peaked at No. 81, and as I check that out in Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, I learn that the studio musicians who recorded “Jupiter-C” included the great King Curtis, whose sax is front and center for much of the record.

From Jupiter, we head on toward the beautiful rings of Saturn, and our tune is a Stevie Wonder track titled “Saturn” and found on Wonder’s 1976 album Songs In The Key Of Life. The track was never used as even the B-side of a single, but the album was No. 1 for fourteen weeks, beginning in the middle of October 1976. And even though it’s an album that I heard frequently if not constantly in the spring of 1977 as I hung out with friends from the St. Cloud State student newspaper, I’m sad to say don’t recall “Saturn” and its message:

There’s no principles in what you say
No direction in the things you do
For your world is soon to come to a close
Through the ages all great men have taught
Truth and happiness just can’t be bought – or sold
Tell me why are you people so cold?


We’ll hang around
Saturn for a while yet and make a stop at Titan, the largest of Saturn’s many, many moons. And as we gaze at – as Wikipedia says – “the only object other than Earth for which clear evidence of stable bodies of surface liquid has been found,” we listen to “Sirens of Titan” by Al Stewart, a track from his 1975 album Modern Times. The album sold decently, reaching No. 30 on the Billboard 200, but that pales, of course, compared to the reception received by Stewart’s next two albums, Year Of The Cat and Time Passages, which went to No. 5 and No. 10, respectively. Sonically, Modern Times is similar to the next two albums – all three were produced by Alan Parsons – but it sounds to me just a shade thinner than Cat and Passages. Stewart’s voice is, of course, unmistakable.

And we find ourselves approaching Uranus, the planet whose name is the source of thousands of schoolboy giggles, some of which have found themselves attached to some sophomoric song titles. But we don’t need to go there. Digging through the mp3 files and related tunes this morning, we find “Uranus” by the Brunning/Hall Sunflower Blues Band. According to All Music Guide, Bob Brunning was the bassist for the band that became Fleetwood Mac, but was let go by Peter Green once John McVie had left John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers to join Green’s band. Brunning went on to teach and continue recording part-time, and he and pianist Bob Hall formed the Sunflower Blues Band. In 1969, the band, with some participation from Green, recorded the album Trackside Blues, which included the track “Uranus.” It’s a decent blues track, but its primary appeal this morning is its title.

Heading on, we stay in the realm of the gas giants and find ourselves at Neptune, with the music provided by Nicole Atkins, herself a native of Neptune, albeit the city in New Jersey instead of the distant planet. “Neptune City” was the title track to her 2007 solo debut album. As I wrote in 2010, the album is “lushly produced pop with some tricks and warbles that made it clear how much Atkins listened to – among other things – the Brill Building sounds of the early 1960s.” And it’s an album that I like very much, one that stays pretty close to the CD player that I use for late-night listening.

Pluto is either a planet or a dwarf planet, depending on which cadre of astronomers you talk to, but all I know is that it’s out there and we need to stop by on our way toward the edge of the Solar System. Music was hard to come by here, and we had to dig deep into the digital shelves before finding a song that originally came from a Dutch pop duo called Het Goede Doel. In 1982, the duo’s single “België (Is er leven op Pluto?)” – which translates to “Belgium (Is There Life On Pluto?)” – went to No. 4 in the Netherlands. According to Wikipedia, the duo also recorded a version of the song in English. I didn’t look for that, though, because I have a cover of the tune in its original Dutch by Scala & Kolacny Brothers, the Belgian girls choir that has popped up here at least once before. From a bonus disc included with the 2010 album Circle, here’s “België (Is er leven op Pluto?)”

What’s Current On My Playlists?

Friday, July 30th, 2010

Back in the early 1990s, when I was writing for the newspaper in Eden Prairie – a good-sized suburb on the southwestern corner of Minnesota’s Twin Cities – I spent a great deal of time at Eden Prairie High School. The stories I found there ranged from the standard menu of sports, drama, music, the prom and more to stuff that only comes along when both the reporter and the sources – the school administration, faculty and the students – are generally comfortable with one another. I may write about some of those less-standard stories sometimes, but what I was going to mention today was that as I covered events and people at the high school, I became friends with a wide range of people – staff, faculty and students alike. And one of the students, a kid named Matt, learned of my interest in music and began to tip me off to new and cool things coming into the music store where he worked.

It was through Matt that I first learned of Hootie & the Blowfish’s Cracked Rear View, which isn’t in my playlists much anymore but remains a marker that tags some of the better years in my professional life.

Well, all that was fifteen years or more in the past, and Matt’s not a kid anymore, of course. I ran into him on Facebook a little while ago – a husband and father now in his mid-thirties – and sent him a birthday greeting, mentioning Hootie and asking who he was listening to these days. He said Jack Johnson, Luka Bloom and Nickel Creek. And he asked what I was listening to. I had to think for a second. What – beyond the music of my youth and the following years – do I listen to now? What’s current in my collection?

The first name that came to mind was that of Georgia-born Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings. Recording on the Brooklyn-based Daptone label, Jones puts out current records that sound like they’ve been waiting since 1968 to be discovered. She and the Dap-Kings – one of the tightest backing groups around – have released four albums in the past few years, the most recent being I Learned the Hard Way, which came out earlier this year. And there have been a few other bits and pieces here and there, one of which I found when I did a little bit of digging at YouTube. Here’s a scorching cover from 2005 of the First Edition’s No. 5 hit from 1968, “Just Dropped In To See What Condition My Condition Was In.”

Also current on my playlist is the music from Grace Potter and The Nocturnals, a Vermont-based band that performs well-written and well-played rock, much of it built on the foundation of Potters’ work on the Hammond B-3 (as well as her alternately supple and powerful vocals). The group put out self-released albums in 2004 and 2005 before signing with Hollywood Records; since then, This Is Somewhere came out in 2007 and Grace Potter & The Nocturnals was released earlier this year. Here’s the band’s take on the classic “Mystery Train” from 2006 at The 8X10 in Baltimore, Maryland.

As to other new stuff, I’ve listened very recently to bits of Tom Petty’s new release, Mojo, and I’ve dug a little bit into Cyndi Lauper’s very new exploration of the blues, Memphis Blues (it’s not bad at all). I’m waiting for new work from the Dukhs, from the Wailin’ Jennys and from Ollabelle. And I’m still winding my way through the catalog of a group I found utterly by accident as I got lost clicking around on YouTube one day. I found myself watching and listening to a large choir of young women performing the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

Intrigued, I dug a little further, and I learned that the choir – Scala & Kolacny Brothers – is a Belgium-based organization, a girls choir conducted by Stijn Kolacny with the music arranged by Steven Kolacny, who provides piano accompaniment. The choir mostly performs covers of well-known songs; Wikipedia mentions groups like Radiohead, U2, Nirvana, Depeche Mode and more as the sources for the group’s repertoire.

I began clicking and wound up watching a video for the group’s performance of “Respire,” the title of the group’s third album, released in 2004. There have been six more releases since then, including this year’s Circle. I’ve listened to a few of them, but I always keep coming back to “Respire.”

(If you’re interested, here’s a link to a subtitled video of the original version of “Respire,” performed by French group Mickey 3D.)