Posts Tagged ‘Staple Singers’

Saturday Single No. 718

Saturday, January 2nd, 2021

Okay, so I was confused two days ago when I said I’d be back here yesterday. New Year’s Eve felt like a Friday, so I was anticipating posting a Saturday Single the following day. Then yesterday turned out to be Friday.

It’s been hard keeping track of days, anyway, a statement that’s likely not surprising to anyone out there. The disruption in our routines over the past year have often left me trying to track back, wondering what television show I watched the night before or trying to remember something else from the day before that would help me put it on a peg and thus identify the current day.

The one thing I do have that helps me lock in my temporal fix is Wednesday, garbage day. Now, the truck comes by early Thursday morning, so that’s technically garbage day for this part of the city. But the trash goes out to the alley the afternoon before, making Wednesday the day of the week that offers a task than cannot be farmed out to another day, thus providing one bit of certainty during the week.

So even though it’s a Saturday, we’re going to celebrate a Wednesday song: “A Wednesday In Your Garden.” Written by Randy Bachman of the Guess Who, it first showed up on that band’s 1969 album Wheatfield Soul. According to Second Hand Songs, there have been only a handful of covers of the song in the fifty-plus years since.

One of those covers came my way this Christmas, when the Texas Gal gave me the Staple Singers’ Come Go With Me, a seven-CD box set that collects the six albums the group did for Stax in the late 1960s and early 1970s and adds a seventh CD of non-album B-sides and some live work from the 1972 Wattstax concert.

And on the 1969 album We’ll Get Over, we find “A Wednesday In Your Garden.” The Staples take a few liberties with the lyrics, dismissing the “long black funeral gown” for a line I can’t hear clearly.

Doesn’t matter. Here’s the Staple Singers’ take on Randy Bachman’s “A Wednesday In Your Garden.” It’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 472

Saturday, November 21st, 2015

It was about this time forty years ago – as November was entering its fourth week – that the brilliant autumn of 1975 shifted into the cold.

I can’t be sure of the date, but I know we went deep into November that year with sunny days and unseasonably warm temperatures being the norm. As is the case for any man who cherishes a time long gone, I will insist for the rest of my life that during the autumn of 1975, the sun shone brighter, the golden leaves stayed on the trees longer, the laughter was louder, the girls were prettier and the music was better.

About that last, there is no question.

The end of 1975 is, as I comb through the archives and reference books, the ending of my musical sweet spot. It’s not that I loved all of the music I heard as I wandered through my youth from the autumn of 1969 to the autumn of 1975. There were great records and there were bad records, just like there were rewarding times and there were difficult times. But the music I heard was the music of my most formative years, and thus it’s in my bones in a way that no other music from any other era can be. And that sweet spot’s last autumn – autumn was my favorite season even then – was one of the best seasons I’ve had in all my years. So even if the music of the autumn of 1975 wasn’t quite as stellar as, say, the music of the autumn of 1970 – and it wasn’t – it was still more than good enough to still matter today.

That brilliant autumn of 1975 came to an abrupt ending sometime during the fourth week of November. One day we were basking on the lawns at St. Cloud State, relishing the treasure of another unseasonably warm day, and the next, we were waking to maybe six inches of snow on the ground with more falling. It was one of the most memorable transitions from season to season of my life, made more memorable because it ended that sweet autumn.

I could offer here many tunes that bring that sweet season back to my heart, but many of them we’ve heard here before. Let’s listen instead – for the first time in eight years in this space – to another record from that season whose title expresses the impossible wish that sometimes rises in me when I think about that lovely autumn of 1975. “Let’s Do It Again” by the Staple Singers is today’s Saturday Single.

Six At Random

Friday, June 5th, 2015

I’m gonna fire up the iPod and let it do the work this morning. Many of the 2,000 or so tunes in the device are familiar, but sometimes the familiar tends to get ignored around here. So off we go:

First up is “Be Easy” by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, a 2007 joint that, like most of Jones’ catalog, sounds as if it could have come out of Memphis forty years earlier. The track comes from 100 Days, 100 Nights, Jones’ third release and the first one I ever heard. Six of her albums with the Dap-Kings are on the shelves here along with a couple of one-off recordings. One of those one-offs, a cover of the First Edition’s 1967 hit, “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In),” caught the ear of my pal Schultz when he was here a few weeks ago, and he spent a few moments jotting down the titles of Jones’ CDs for future reference.

Then we jump back in time to 1971, when Ten Years After’s “I’d Love To Change The World” went to No. 40. When this one popped up on the car radio a couple of years ago, I wrote, “I was once again bemused by the ‘Tax the rich, feed the poor, until there are no rich no more’ couplet. I also considered – not for the first time – about how unacceptable the reference to ‘dykes and fairies’ would be today. Social change happens glacially, but it does happen.” Even with those considerations, it’s still a pretty good record.

And we do get some Memphis R&B: “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)” by the Staple Singers from 1973. The slightly funky and sometimes propulsive record went to No. 9, one of three Top Ten hits for the singers, and it spent three weeks at No. 1 on the R&B chart. I didn’t really get the Staple Singers back then – too much other stuff crowding my ears, I guess – but they’re well-represented these days on both the vinyl and digital files, and “If You’re Ready” is one of my favorite tracks of theirs.

From there, we head into the mid-1990s and find a cover of Billie Holliday’s version of “I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance (With You)” as performed by the late Etta James. The track comes from James’ 1994 album Mystery Lady – Songs of Billie Holiday. I can’t find any fault with the song selection, with the classic pop arrangements on the album, or with James’ performances, but there’s something about the entire project that leaves me a little cold. It’s a little odd: It’s like the parts are all fine but just don’t fit together. “I Don’t Stand . . .” is probably the best track on the album, and it’s nice and all, but ultimately kind of empty. That one may not stay on the iPod too much longer.

Somewhere along the line, I came across a huge pile of work by the late Lee Hazlewood, ranging from the early 1960s all the way to 2006, a year before his death. One of the more idiosyncratic folks in the pop music world, Hazlewood kind of fascinates me. And this morning, we get Hazlewood and Ann-Margret gender-flipping and covering Waylon Jennings’ No. 2 country hit from 1968 with “Only Mama That’ll Walk The Line” from the 1969 album The Cowboy & The Lady. Despite my affection for Hazlewood’s work, the limp performance by Ann-Margret means that this is another track that’s likely not going to remain long in the iPod. Linda Ronstadt’s superior version from the same year is already in the device, and that one should be the only one I need.

And we close with one of my favorite melancholy tracks, “Scudder’s Lane,” by the New Jersey band From Good Homes. Found on the group’s 1993 album, Hick-Pop Comin’ At Ya!, the song tells a tale familiar and yet unique. I’ve posted the lyrics here before, but they’re worth another look:

Scudder’s Lane

me and lisa used to run thru the night
thru the fields off scudder’s lane
we’d lay down and look up at the sky
and feel the breeze, thru the trees
and I’d often wonder
how long would it take
to ride or fly to the dipper in the sky

as I drove back into hainesville
I was thinking of the days
when my dreams went on forever
as I ran thru the fields off scudder’s lane

I stayed with my love lisa
thru the darkness of her days
she walked into the face of horror
and I followed in her wake
and I often wonder
how much does it take
’til you’ve given all the love
That’s in your heart
and there’s nothing in its place

as I drove back into hainesville
I was thinking of the days
when my dreams went on forever
as I ran thru the fields off scudder’s lane

i’m afraid of the momentum
that can take you to the edge of a cliff
where you look out and see nothing
and you ask
it that all there is

still I drove back out of hainesville
and I asked myself again will there ever come a day
when you drive back home to stay
could you ever settle down and be a happy man
in one of the houses that they’re building thru the fields
off scudder’s lane

Saturday Single No. 369

Saturday, December 7th, 2013

I saw this morning that Mavis Staples – whom a commenter at a Facebook music group called “a national treasure” this week – has been nominated for a Grammy in the Americana category for her album One True Vine.

And as I read that news, a video played on YouTube showing a performance by the Staple Singers of “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me),” which was No. 12 in the Billboard Hot 100 released forty years ago this week, on December 8, 1973.

Sometimes the universe speaks, even about things as ultimately as inconsequential as the selection of a record to highlight. So here, in a performance that likely took place in June 1974, are the Staple Singers performing “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me),” today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 332

Saturday, March 9th, 2013

It’s Preparation Day!

Not quite a year ago, the Texas Gal and I walked through the doors of the St. Cloud Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. For much of the time since we moved here in 2002, she and I have been trying to find what we call “a community of like-minded individuals.” And we’ve found such a community in that small building located in what used to be the far west end of St. Cloud.

I’ll likely write more about our search and its outcome on another day, but there is little time today. One of the programs in which we’ve become involved through the fellowship is what are called Circle Dinners. Folks who sign up are assigned to a group of six people, and every couple of months, the members of that circle have dinner at one of the homes of the members.

The hosts provide a main dish and beverages, and the other folks bring salads, side dishes and desserts along with whatever else they wish. We’ve been to two of the dinners so far, and it’s been a good way to get to know the other four people.

Tonight it’s our turn to host. The weather may have something to say about that, but we’ll go on with our day under the assumption that about 5:30 this evening, four other folks will come through our doors for dinner and conversation. That means we have tasks to accomplish in order to be ready.

With that in mind, I went through the mp3 library this morning and skimmed through songs with the word “ready” in their titles. And I settled on a 1973 record by the Staple Singers that went to No. 9 on the pop chart and No. 1 (for three weeks) on the R&B chart. Here, in a performance on Soul Train from May 25, 1974, is “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me),” and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

One Chart Dig: September 7, 1974

Friday, September 7th, 2012

With the road still bumpy here at the Echoes In The Wind studios, we’ll talk at length next week about early September of 1974. In the meantime, it’s instructive enough to know that the No. 1 record on the Billboard pop chart as I prepared to head back to school after an often joyful, sometimes perplexing, frequently astounding and occasionally sorrowful twelve months was “(You’re) Having My Baby,” a disturbing piece of dreck by Paul Anka (billed as “with Odia Coates”).

There are relatively few records that I dislike so intensely that I’ll switch the radio station or turn the music off. That Anka single is one of them. But leavening that displeasure were several records in the Top Ten from that long-ago September week that were pretty good. For example, the No. 10 single that week was “Then Came You” by Dionne Warwick & The Spinners.

Heading into the lower portion of that week’s Billboard Hot 100, we find a great record, the Staple Singers’ “City in the Sky.”

“City in the Sky” was one of the Staples’ last releases on Stax before the group left that label for Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom label. The record was sitting at No. 79 during the first week in September 1974, and it would go no higher. (It got to No. 4 on the R&B chart.) It should have done much better.

And At No. 44 on April 4 . . .

Monday, April 4th, 2011

It’s time for Games With Numbers again. It’s April 4 today, or 4/4. So I thought I’d dig into some charts from selected years and see what tunes were at No. 44.

We’ll start in 1961, looking at the chart from fifty years ago this week. Sitting at No. 44 was “Spanish Harlem” by Ben E. King. The record, King’s first solo hit after his work with the Drifters, had peaked at No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and at No. 15 on the R&B chart. It was the first of twenty-two Hot 100 hits for King.

A few years ago, I found in a box of old records the Rays’ classic version of “Silhouettes,” from 1957. The first version I ever heard of the tune, however, was the one sitting at No. 44 in 1965, forty-six years ago today. Herman’s Hermits’ version of “Silhouettes” was on its way to No. 5, the third of an eventual nineteen Hot 100 hits – including two at No. 1 – for the pop-rock group from Manchester, England.

Looking at 1969, I don’t think I’d ever heard the No. 44 tune from the week of April 4 until this morning. But then, I was never much a fan of Engelbert Humperdink. I did like “Les Bicyclettes De Belsize,” which went to No. 31 in 1968, but I seem to have missed “The Way It Used To Be” the following spring. The record would only move up two spots more, to No. 42. It was the seventh of an eventual twenty-three Hot 100 hits for the man born Arnold Dorsey in Madras, India.

The Wattstax concert in Los Angles during the summer of 1972 provided the Staple Singers with the eighth of an eventual fifteen Hot 100 hits, including two No. 1 hits on the pop charts and three on the R&B Chart. A live version of “Oh La De Da” was at No. 44 as of April 4, 1973, and probably should have done better than it did: It peaked at No. 33 on the pop chart and at No. 4 on the R&B chart.

After seventeen years with the Miracles, Smokey Robinson went out on his own in 1972. In the spring of 1977, “There Will Come A Day (I’m Gonna Happen To You)” brought him the tenth of an eventual twenty-five Hot 100 hits as a solo artist. The record, which was at No. 44 during the first week of April, eventually peaked at No. 42 on the pop chart and at No. 7 on the R&B chart.

And we’ll close our excursion this morning by doubling back to a time four years earlier than we started, in April of 1957. The No. 44 song in the Billboard Hot 100 fifty-four years ago this week was “He’s Mine” by the Platters, the thirteenth of an eventual forty Hot 100 hits for the long-lived group from Los Angeles. A quick check at YouTube this morning brought a video of the Platters lip-synching the record, which would peak at No. 16 on the pop chart and at No. 5 on the R&B chart.