Archive for the ‘Chart Digging’ Category

What’s At No. 200? (LPs, March 1970)

Thursday, March 25th, 2021

Digging into the bottom of the singles in the Billboard Hot 100, as we frequently do here, often finds us listening to records that, well, are unfamiliar and perhaps . . . well “odd” is a good word. The bottom of the singles chart can be a strange place.

And when one dives into the bottom of the magazine’s album chart, the Billboard 200, well . . . it’s a deeper dive, and the denizens of deeper portions of that sea can be unfamiliar as well, the kind of thing that we here in Minnesota would listen to politely and then say, “Well, that’s different.”

We’re heading into that deeper place this morning, checking out the No. 200 album in the chart released on March 27, 1971, fifty year ago this week. Before heading into the depths, we’ll take a look at the Top Ten. (Just for fun, I’m going to tag onto each title in parentheses the year I acquired the album, if I ever did, adding a + if the album sits in the CD stacks.)

Pearl by Janis Joplin (1971+)
Love Story soundtrack
The Cry Of Love by Jimi Hendrix (1999)
Chicago III (1989+)
Jesus Christ Superstar (1971)
Abraxas by Santana (1989)
Love Story by Andy Williams
Tumbleweed Connection by Elton John (1988+)
All Things Must Pass by George Harrison (1981+)
Stoney End by Barbra Streisand (1992+)

Well, eight of them on vinyl, five on CD, and all of those eight, plus the Love Story soundtrack, are on the digital shelves, leaving only the Andy Williams album ignored. This chart obviously falls in the thick of my sweet spot, though I don’t know every album well.

The three I know best, unsurprisingly, are the three I’ve had the longest: the albums by Joplin and Harrison and Jesus Christ Superstar. And if I had to choose two more to supplement those three on a desert island, I’d add the Streisand and the Chicago. (And I would venture that nothing in this paragraph is a surprise to anyone who’s read this blog for even a very short time.)

And although the results will be similarly unsurprising, we’ll employ my usual measuring tool for current relevance and see which of those albums has the most tracks among the 2,900 or so tracks in my iPod that make up my day-to-day listening.

The tally: Harrison 8, Joplin 6, Streisand 3, Santana and Elton John, 2 each, Jesus Christ Superstar 1, with Lai, Hendrix, Chicago and Andy Williams shut out. And “Free” from Chicago might end that album’s shutout this week.

And now to our other business here, checking out the bottom spot in that long-age LP chart. And we find Sugar by jazz saxophonist Stanley Turrentine. I’ve heard the name but know little about the man’s work. The album was in its second week in the chart, both weeks at No. 200. It would move to No. 182 a week later and then fall from the chart.

Sugar was one of sixteen albums that Turrentine would get into the Billboard 200 between 1967 and 1981, most of those failing to get into the top half of the chart. Of the six that reached the Top 100, 1978’s West Side Highway did the best, getting to No. 63.

Sugar seems to have been an odd album, but I don’t know, not really knowing the man’s work. Albums released before and after Sugar seem to be a mix: Some are filled with short tracks – three minutes or less – covering pop songs of the day. Some have a few short tracks and a couple lengthier works. Sugar in its 1971 form had three long tracks, all running ten minutes or more. (Reissues have altered that over the years.)

Here’s a link to the title track. (Although the video credits the piece to the Stanley Turrentine Sextet, the record is credited at discogs to Turrentine alone. The jacket front does list three other musicians: trumpeter Ron Carter, guitarist George Benson and bassist Freddie Hubbard. And the liner notes mention drummer Billy Kaye, organist Butch Cornell, as well as Lonnie Smith, Jr., on keyboards and Richie “Pablo” Landrum on congas.)

No. 46, Forty-Six Years Ago

Friday, March 19th, 2021

Looking for a quick Friday fix, we’re playing another game of Symmetry, this time looking back to 1975 and the Billboard Hot 100 that was released on March 22 of that year. We’ll check out the top two records of the week and then see what was sitting at No. 46 in that chart from forty-six years ago.

Sitting in the top two spots were two pretty good records: “My Eyes Adored You” by Frankie Valli at No. 1 and “Lady Marmalade (Voulez-Vous Coucher Avec Moi)” by LaBelle. The latter made my long-ago Ultimate Jukebox, and maybe the Franki Valli record should have, too. Coincidentally, I’ve heard both of these this week on the Seventies cable channel the Texas Gal plays as she’s working on jigsaw puzzles.

But what’s at No. 46? Well, it’s a lesser Harry Chapin record: “I Wanna Learn A Love Song,” pulled from his album Verities & Balderdash. It was the follow-up on the charts to “Cat’s In The Cradle,” which had gone to No. 1 in December 1974 (though “What Made America Famous” had been released between the two records and had not hit the charts).

When I saw the title, I did not recall the record, but five seconds into listening, I remembered the tale of the itinerant musician who wins another man’s wife with his guitar and his songs. The record didn’t go much higher on the Hot 100, peaking at No. 42, but it went to No. 7 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart.

Saturday Single No. 728

Saturday, March 13th, 2021

It’s been a while since we played “Symmetry” here, so we’re going to pull up the Billboard Hot 100 from March 13, 1971, and check out what record was at No. 50 exactly fifty years ago.

We’ll start, as we customarily do, with the Top Ten:

“One Bad Apple” by the Osmonds
“Me & Bobby McGee” by Janis Joplin
“For All We Know” by the Carpenters
“Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)” by the Temptations
“She’s A Lady” by Tom Jones
“Mama’s Pearl” by the Jackson 5
“Proud Mary” by Ike & Tina Turner
“Have You Ever Seen The Rain/Hey Tonight” by CCR
“Doesn’t Somebody Want To Be Wanted” by the Partridge Family
“If You Could Read My Mind” by Gordon Lightfoot

At the time, I was heading into my last few months of high school, and I got my radio fixes mostly from WJON down across the railroad tracks in the hours before bedtime and from WLS when I went to bed. The radio was pulled right up to the edge of my nightstand, and I’d keep the volume down low enough that the music coming from the Chicago giant would lull me to sleep. The Twin cities KDWB supplied daytime tunes, but that happened infrequently.

Nine of those eleven were familiar back then. I think I may have heard the Partridge Family record at the time, as it was vaguely familiar when I came across it on an anthology in the mid-1990s. If I ever heard “Mama’s Pearl” in 1971, it was either not frequently enough to register or loud enough to wake me up as I slid toward sleep. The only times I recall hearing it have come in the fourteen years I’ve been writing this blog.

The other nine, though, are lodged in my memory, and two of them – the Janis Joplin and Gordon Lightfoot records – are among my favorites and have burrowed deep inside. (Just yesterday, I was down in my corner of the family room working on baseball statistics while the Texas Gal was working on a jigsaw puzzle upstairs with one of the music channels keeping her company. I was only vaguely aware of the sounds of “Bobby McGee” coming down the stairs as I bent over a stat sheet, but my hands knew, as I suddenly realized I was playing air piano and air organ during the long instrumental break at the end of the record.)

I used to love the Turners’ “Proud Mary,” but now I’m a little tired of it, and the same goes for “One Bad Apple,” which has been in my iPod for years now but may be retired soon.

Which of the others are in my iPod and thus part of my day-to-day listening? The Joplin and the Lightfoot, certainly, along with the Temptations and both sides of the Creedence single. Adding in the Osmonds, that makes six. The Carpenters and Tom Jones may be added. The Turners and the Jacksons won’t be. The Partridge Family? Maybe.

And now, let’s drop to No. 50 from fifty years ago. And we find B.B. King’s “Ask Me No Questions,” a track pulled from the album Indianola Mississippi Seeds. The record was climbing the Hot 100, heading for a peak at No. 40, while over on the magazine’s R&B chart, it was at its peak of No. 18.

It’s an interesting record, in that it’s got more piano in it than I tend to expect of a King record, but a quick look at the credits at both AllMusic and discogs tells me that Carole King was around for the album sessions. I wish I had track-by-track information, but I don’t. Even without knowing for sure who’s on the piano, it’s a good listen, which means that B.B. King’s “Ask Me No Questions” is today’s Saturday Single.

What’s At No. 100? (February 1971)

Wednesday, February 24th, 2021

Well, the Billboard Top Ten from the last week in February 1971 – fifty years ago – doesn’t hold many surprises:

“One Bad Apple” by the Osmonds
“Mama’s Pearl” by the Jackson 5
“Knock Three Times” by Dawn
“Rose Garden” by Lynn Anderson
“If You Could Read My Mind” by Gordon Lightfoot
“I Hear You Knocking” by Dave Edmunds
“Sweet Mary” by Wadsworth Mansion
“Amos Moses” by Jerry Reed
“Mr. Bojangles” by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
“Me & Bobbie McGee” by Janis Joplin

Man, there are a bunch of short titles in there. That list might set a record for the Top Ten with the fewest words in its ten titles: Thirty, making for an average of three words per title.

That, of course, says nothing about the quality of the records, which is pretty good, as I sort it out. (As always, I’m confronted by the quandary: Do I assess these records as I would have when the chart was new, or do I look at them from today’s perch? I end up doing a little bit of both, I imagine.)

What did I like back then? I liked the records by Anderson and Lightfoot. I liked “Sweet Mary,” “Mr. Bojangles” and “Bobbie McGee.” And fifty years later, only “Rose Garden” isn’t as good as it used to be.

I liked “I Hear You Knocking,” but I didn’t understand why the vocal sounded as if it were pinched somehow, and I really didn’t get why Edmunds hollered out what seemed like random names during the instrumental. I recognized only one of the names – Chuck Berry – and that one only vaguely. I could have used the record as a road map to learn more about music if I’d only paid attention or had someone to ask, I guess. I like it a lot more today, knowing what Edmunds was up to, than I did then.

“One Bad Apple” and “Amos Moses” didn’t do it for me when I was seventeen. I’ve changed my mind about the Jerry Reed single but not about the Osmonds’. The Dawn record was a hoot in 1971; when it played on the jukebox in St. Cloud Tech High’s multi-purpose room, kids would use their fists on the lunch tables to knock three times themselves. It’s a nice memory today. I don’t recall hearing “Mama’s Pearl” back then at all. And from 2021, it’s just okay.

What, then, do we find when we drop to the bottom of that Hot 100, which came out on February 27, 1971?

We find “Super Highway” by Ballin’ Jack, a record that kind of fits into the “back to the land” ethos that permeated a lot of tunes at the time, or if not “back to the land” at least offered a critique of society’s tendency to trade land for asphalt.

The chorus, specifically, tugs at me:

Super highway tearing through my city
Super highway tearing through my town
Super highway tearing through my country
Super highway, got to tear it down

We seem in the United States these days to at least be starting to reckon with how our culture has treated the cultures of people of color. Whether that turns into a long-term effort is, of course, an open question. But among the topics I’ve seen raised lately in news coverage and in online gathering spots is how the routing of the Interstate Highway system literally tore apart inner-city communities of color.

Here in Minnesota, St. Paul’s Rondo neighborhood – the center of Black culture in the city – was shredded when I-94 was routed through the city in the late 1950s and early 1960s. I think a similar thing happened, though not to the same degree, when the western segment of I-35 was routed through South Minneapolis. And Ballin’ Jack was singing about it – or something very much like it – fifty years ago.

Ballin’ Jack was, according to Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, an interracial jazz-rock group from San Francisco. “Super Highway” was the group’s only single to hit the Hot 100, topping out during a four-week run at No. 93. The single was a very tight edit of a longer track on the group’s first album, a self-titled effort that hit No. 180 on the Billboard 200.

The album track starts with a slow introduction that kills the track before it begins to rock, while the single kicks from the start, sort of like what happened not quite a year earlier with the punchy radio single of Pacific Gas & Electric’s “Are You Ready” and the slowly starting album track.

Here’s the single of “Super Highway,” which would have been a fine piece of horn band rock if the writers had developed the lyric – which is way too repetitive – a lot more.

A Survey From St. Cloud!

Tuesday, February 9th, 2021

I have no idea how many times in the past fourteen years I’ve written about WJON, the AM radio station that brought me a lot of my Top 40 fixes during my teenage years. More than I want to count, I’m sure.

Settled on Lincoln Avenue just down the street and across the railroad tracks from our house on Kilian Boulevard, WJON and its disk jockeys eased my way, starting in the summer of 1969, from being a soundtrack and trumpet nerd into knowing a little bit more about the music my peers had been listening to for a long time.

(And that continues today, as I often get a note of enlightenment here from my friend Yah Shure, whose career in radio includes a late 1970s stint at WJON; our paths did not cross, however, as he arrived in St. Cloud about the time I decamped to Monticello, thirty miles away, for a newspapering gig.)

Similarly, I have no idea how many times I’ve stopped by the Airheads Radio Survey Archive for fodder for a post here. But until recently, I’d not found one survey from St. Cloud from the years I lived there and listened to Top 40. There were a few from KFAM, another AM station now called KNSI, from the 1940s and 1950s, and there were some from the early 1980s from KCLD, an FM sister station of KFAM/KNSI.

The other week, though, I found one survey at the site from WJON, a survey issued February 9, 1976, forty-five years ago today. Now, I guess I wasn’t really living in St. Cloud at the time, as I was taking my internship in the Twin Cities, but I was in St. Cloud every other weekend or so, so I would have heard whatever it was WJON was offering at the time. Here’s the top ten:

“Convoy” by C.W. McCall
“I Write The Songs” by Barry Manilow
“Saturday Night” by the Bay City Rollers
“50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” by Paul Simon
“Evil Woman” by the Electric Light Orchestra
“Squeeze Box” by the Who
“All By Myself” by Eric Carmen
“Fox On The Run” by Sweet
“Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” by Neil Sedaka
“Winners & Losers” by Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds

That’s a “meh” from here. I liked “Convoy,” but like all novelty records, it’s got a limited shelf life. I liked the Manilow then, but now, not so much. I still like the Simon and the ELO records, and the Carmen is good from time to time.

Lower down, however, there are some records I liked better: “Fanny (Be Tender With My Love)” by the Bee Gees at No. 17, “Break Away” by Art Garfunkel at No. 25, “December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night)” by the 4 Seasons at No. 27, “Somewhere In The Night,” by Helen Reddy at No. 37, and a few more.

But the record at No. 18 in that forty-five-year-old survey popped up on my iPod the other day, and reminded me of something I wrote here about three years ago:

There are a few records that bring back viscerally the last months of 1975 and the first of 1976, and Diana Ross’ “Theme From Mahogany (‘Do You Know Where You’re Going To’)” is one of them. Those months were my last as an undergrad; I was an intern in sports at a Twin Cities television station, with graduation quickly approaching (and no job prospects in sight). I was also in a relationship that seemed promising, but I was nevertheless very aware of the not-so-subtle hints being laid down by the lovely redhead who was interning in the station’s promotions department. So, to answer the record’s question, no, I had no idea where I was going to. But it wasn’t the lyrics that pulled me into the song; it was the twisting, yearning melody that caught me then and still does today (with current hearings all the more potent for the memories they stir). Whether for the melody or the words, the record caught many people as 1975 turned into 1976: It went to No. 1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the magazine’s Easy Listening chart, and it reached No. 14 on the magazine’s R&B chart.

Saturday Single No. 721

Saturday, January 23rd, 2021

Earlier this week, we glanced at the top ten singles in the Billboard Hot 100 from January 25, 1975, and were decidedly unimpressed. I thought that today might be a good time to see if the top ten albums from that week made me feel any better. Here they are:

Greatest Hits by Elton John
Fire by the Ohio Players
Miles Of Aisles by Joni Mitchell
Dark Horse by George Harrison
Heart Like A Wheel by Linda Ronstadt
Relayer by Yes
Back Home Again by John Denver
AWB by the Average White Band
War Child by Jethro Tull
Goodnight Vienna by Ringo Starr

I look at that Top Ten, and I feel like I should find it interesting. I don’t. Six of those albums eventually found their ways onto my LP stacks over the years. The best was probably the Elton John album, but after years of listening to the hits and to the albums from which those hits came, I tend to think that a listener is better hearing the hits in their original settings nestled among very good album tracks (some of them better than the singles).

For various reasons, I never thought much of the Mitchell album, and the albums by the Ohio Players and the Average White Band also left me unmoved. Heart Like A Wheel was good, but not as good as other Ronstadt albums, so it stayed pretty much on the stacks, and Goodnight Vienna was mediocre Ringo.

When Dark Horse pops up in these kinds of things, I’m always surprised that I’ve never owned it. I like Harrison’s solo work, maybe more than I liked the solo work of the other Beatles, and there was a fair amount of Harrison’s stuff on the LP stacks before the Great Vinyl Sell-Off the other year. But not Dark Horse. And I’ve never bought the CD or even sought out a digital version of the album.

Which leaves the albums by Yes, Jethro Tull and John Denver, none of which I’ve ever owned. Maybe I’ve missed out on something over the years, but I paid no attention to those albums and little attention to Yes or Tull over the years. And I’ve resolutely ignored almost anything Denver released after 1971.

So, I owned none of those albums when this chart was published in 1975, and none of them has endeared me to itself over the years. (Am I grumpy as I write this on a cold and soon to be snowy Saturday? Perhaps.)

Well, sorting out what’s written here, if we ignore the Elton John hits album, the best thing in that Top Ten is the Ronstadt album. (I said it was good but not as good as other Ronstadts I had.) So, let’s dip into Heart Like A Wheel and pull out my favorite track. That would be Ronstadt’s cover of Lowell George’s “Willin’.” It’s today’s Saturday Single.

Chart Digging: January 1975

Wednesday, January 20th, 2021

Here’s the Top Ten of the Billboard Hot 100 from the fourth week of January 1975, released on January 25 that year:

“Please, Mr. Postman” by the Carpenters
“Laughter In The Rain” by Neil Sedaka
“Mandy” by Barry Manilow
“Fire” by the Ohio Players
“Boogie On, Reggae Woman” by Stevie Wonder
“You’re No Good/I Can’t Help It” by Linda Ronstadt
“One Man Woman/One Woman Man” by Paul Anka w/ Odia Coates
“Morning Side Of The Mountain” by Donny & Marie Osmond
“Never Can Say Goodbye” by Gloria Gaynor
“Pick Up The Pieces” by the Average White Band

Oh, my god. No wonder I was depressed that month.

Well, there were other reasons for my deep funk. I was still trying to put my life back together after my Halloween 1974 traffic accident (and I was not doing a very good job of it). But if that’s the music I was hearing as I skipped class and spent my days at The Table sipping bad coffee and pretty much chain-smoking Marlboro Lights, then the tunes were not likely helping my mood.

The best thing there is the Stevie Wonder single. Some folks will find virtues in the Ronstadt A-side that I have never heard. There are times when I enjoy the records from the Ohio Players, Gaynor and the Average White Band, but they’re not real frequent. (Of those three, the Gaynor is the best.)

I have no time at all for the records by the Carpenters, Anka/Coates or the Osmonds, and I can enjoy the Sedaka record on only very rare occasions.

Then there’s “Mandy,” which I swear we’d been hearing in the Atwood Center jukebox since mid-October, at least four weeks before it entered the Hot 100 in November. It got to No. 1 a week before the chart we’re examining today, where we found it at No. 3.

It’s an overly dramatic, trite and bathetic song and a bombastic record. And I loved it. I recall regularly dropping quarters in the snack bar jukebox for four records between the autumn of 1974 and spring 1975. They were “Life Is A Rock (But The Radio Rolled Me)” by Reunion, “We” by Shawn Phillips, “I Saw Her Standing There” as performed by John Lennon with Elton John (the flip side of Elton John’s “Philadelphia Freedom”), and “Mandy.”

I probably dropped more quarters for “Mandy” during that 1974-75 year than for any other record. And the thought of it this morning brings back potent bittersweet memories.

As we usually do, let’s see how many of those eleven records in the top of that chart are among my current day-to-day listening in my iPod.

Well, only one of them is included in the more than 2,800 tracks I carry around the house with me: The Stevie Wonder single.

Now, here is where I usually drop to the bottom of the chart, or somewhere in the middle, to find something more or less at random, something we’ve never (or rarely) heard in the nearly fourteen years this blog’s been throwing things at the wall. But a search of the 2,500-or-so posts in our history this morning told me that we’ve mentioned Barry Manilow’s “Mandy” twice and never posted it.

So here’s “Mandy.” Will I drop it into the iPod? I dunno.

Incorrect title changed after posting.

Chart Digging, December 1969

Friday, December 18th, 2020

Having played around the other day with the albums from this week in 1969, I thought we should look at the Hot 100 for that week as well. Here are the Top 10 records from the third week in December 1969:

“Leaving On A Jet Plane” by Peter, Paul & Mary
“Someday We’ll Be Together” by Diana Ross & The Supremes
“Down On The Corner/Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
“Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” by Steam
“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” by B.J. Thomas
“Come Together/Something” by the Beatles
“Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday” by Stevie Wonder
“Take A Letter, Maria” by R.B. Greaves
“Holly Holy” by Neil Diamond
“And When I Die” by Blood, Sweat & Tears

Wow. There’s not a one of those I wouldn’t welcome anytime. If forced to trim two records from those twelve, I’d likely take out “Down On The Corner” and “Take A Letter, Maria,” but only because I had to.

Maybe I love those records in large part because they were among the first batches of records I ever heard rise to the top in the Top 40. I started listening sometime in August 1969 and by December, I had gotten used to the cycle: New record shows up and catches my ear, so I wait for the next time I hear it, and it gets the same reaction from lots of other listeners and climbs up the ladder.

I dunno. But it seems that the records from, oh, the first year-plus of Top 40 listening – August 1969 to December 1970 – belong to me more than records from any other time of my life. There would be a few exceptions, sure, for stuff that came along later during the years I call my sweet spot, but after 1970, I’m not sure I could find a Top Ten in which every record was something I liked.

Has that appreciation for those twelve records lasted for fifty-one years? Let’s look at the iPod and see. Well, ten of the twelve are there. Missing are the B.J. Thomas and Blood, Sweat & Tears records. They should have been there.

Let’s take a look now at the bottom of the chart, at No. 100, and see what we find. It’s a record in its first week on the chart that would enter the Top 40 in early February 1970 and eventually peak at No. 7.

And even my mother liked it. Sometime in February or March 1970, she’d hear it coming from my radio as she came upstairs and stop and listen in the doorway for a moment. Then, as she headed to do whatever it was she was doing, she said something like “Why can’t more of your music be like that?”

Here are the Hollies and “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.”

Chart Digging, December 1969 (Albums)

Wednesday, December 16th, 2020

It’s time to dig into an album chart. Here are the top ten albums from this week in 1969, fifty-one years ago:

Abbey Road by the Beatles
Led Zeppelin II
Tom Jones Live In Las Vegas
Green River by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Let It Bleed by the Rolling Stones
Puzzle People by the Temptations
Santana
Blood, Sweat & Tears
Crosby, Stills & Nash
Easy Rider soundtrack

Well, that’s a hell of a great chart. Seven of those ten albums were once on my LP shelves. Most of those are on the CD shelves, and all seven are here digitally. The exceptions are the Easy Rider soundtrack and the albums by the Temptations and Tom Jones. They never made the LP shelves, and on the digital shelves, I’ve got about half of the tracks from the soundtrack from other sources, but only one track from the other two albums, the Tempts’ “I Can’t Get Next To You.”

But I could put the seven I do have on shuffle and be happy for a long, long time.

It’s time, though, to look for interesting albums further down the chart. Instead of just falling to the bottom of the chart as we often do, we’re going to check some other stuff along the way, fifty slots at a time. And we’ll see what we find to listen to.

Parked at No. 50 we find the soundtrack to the 1969 film Romeo & Juliet by Nino Rota. The album would peak at No. 2 for two weeks, but the only track from it that had any success on the Billboard Hot 100 was a recording of an actual scene from the movie, “Farewell Love Scene,” with the voices of Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey. That single peaked at No. 86 in the late summer of 1969. (Henry Mancini, of course, had a No. 1 hit with Rota’s “Love Theme From Romeo & Juliet” – also known as “A Time For Us” – in June 1969.) As you might guess, the soundtrack is atmospheric, laden with strings and a little subdued. It had a spot on my shelves at one time but seems not to have survived the great sell-off about five years ago. I may have to rectify that.

Heading down fifty spots to No. 100, we come to an album by The Mamas & The Papas that my sister used to own (and may still): 16 Of Their Greatest Hits. I recall listening to it in the basement rec room many times before my sister took it with her in 1972. All the familiar records are there, as well as a few that weren’t as prominent. The most interesting of those might be “For The Love Of Ivy,” a 1968 single that peaked at No. 81 and was inspired by a 1968 film starring Sidney Poitier. I don’t recall the single; I got my M&P fix from the 1967 compilation Farewell To The First Golden Era, which gave me all the hits I needed. (I imagine that during my record-digging days,  if I’d seen a copy of the album my sister had, I’d have grabbed it.)

Down at spot No. 150, we find the first of two albums released by the group Fat Mattress, which was founded by Noel Redding, who played bass in the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Both of the group’s albums are on the digital shelves, and I’m not sure why (except that someone offered them to me). Fat Mattress’ rock doesn’t seem to center on a particular style, and what it does offer is pretty derivative. The album was on its way down the chart after peaking at No. 134. The second album didn’t make the chart, and neither of them spun off any hit singles (though I doubt that was the aim of Redding and his pals).

Finally, at the bottom of the Billboard 200 from fifty-one years ago this week, we find Your Good Thing by Lou Rawls. The album did one more week at No. 200 and then fell off the chart, but it did spin off two singles: “Your Good Thing (Is About To End),” which went to No. 18 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 3 on the magazine’s R&B chart, and “I Can’t Make It Alone,” which went to Nos. 63 and 33, respectively. From what I can tell, the album is your basic Lou Rawls joint, which is a good thing around here. I doubt if I ever saw the album during my digging days. I had a couple of Rawls’ hits albums on the LP shelves, but they’re gone; I have all the hits and lot of album tracks among the digital files.

Once Lou Rawls showed up, the decision here was easy. Rota’s original version of his gorgeous theme got a few moments’ consideration, but Rawls’ work is so smooth, it over-rides even Rota’s theme. And then, Rawls has show up here at this blog only three times since we got our own spot more than ten years ago. He’s due. Maybe Rota is, too, but anyway, here’s “Your Good Thing (Is About To End).”

‘Jerusalem’?

Tuesday, November 24th, 2020

Here’s what topped the Billboard Easy Listening chart in the November 28, 1970, edition, fifty years ago this week:

“You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” by Elvis Presley
“It’s Impossible” by Perry Como
“We’ve Only Just Begun” by the Carpenters
“He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” by Neil Diamond
“Stoney End” by Barbra Streisand
“Jerusalem” by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass
“One Less Bell To Answer” by the 5th Dimension
“Fire & Rain” by James Taylor
“I Think I Love You” by the Partridge Family
“And The Grass Won’t Pay No Mind” by Mark Lindsay

I knew seven of these well at the time, and I like six of those seven. (The Presley record never worked for me.) But three records stand out. We’ll start at No. 10, “And The Grass Won’t Pay No Mind,” on its way down the chart after peaking at No. 5.

I don’t recall hearing the record fifty years ago, which makes sense, as it only went to No. 44 on the Hot 100. If I did hear it, it wasn’t often enough for it to sink into my memory, which it likely would have with repeated hearings, as it’s my kind of record. After all, I liked Lindsay’s more popular records of the time, “Arizona” (No. 10 on the Hot 100 and No. 16, Easy Listening) and “Silver Bird” (Nos. 25 and 7, respectively).

Then, there’s Diamond’s cover of “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother,” pulled from his album Tap Root Manuscript. When I first heard it across the street at Rick’s, I wasn’t impressed, probably because I thought it was kind of limp when compared to the Hollies’ version from the previous winter. Did I hear it on the radio? I might have, as it went to No. 20 on the Hot 100 (as well as to No. 4 on the Easy Listening chart, right where we found it). But compared to “Cracklin’ Rosie” and “I Am . . . I Said,” Diamond’s singles that both went to No. 2 on the Easy Listening chart (and to Nos. 1 and 4 on the Hot 100) around the same time, it’s kind of lame.

Finally, until this morning, I’d never heard of “Jerusalem” by Herb Alpert and his gang, much less heard it, as far as I know. All I can say is that it’s pleasant and vaguely familiar. And, I guess, that being the owner of the record company – as Alpert was – allows you to release whatever you want; the record doesn’t sound like single material to me. But it worked, at least on the Easy Listening chart, where we found it at its peak at No. 6. On the Hot 100, “Jerusalem” stalled at No. 74. (By that time, Alpert was having much more success on the Easy Listening chart than on the pop chart. We might take a look at that another time.)

Anyway, here’s “Jerusalem.”