Archive for the ‘Covers’ Category

Promises

Thursday, March 4th, 2021

I was going to do marvelous things here this week. Well, I was at least going to do something here this week.

But a trip to the doctor’s office for blood work Monday turned into an additional appointment Wednesday to catch up on some Medicare regulations, split by a trip across town Tuesday evening for my first Covid vaccination.

The shot gave me no trouble at the moment – considering my history with reactions to chemicals, I was concerned – but last evening, I started to have some fatigue and body aches. Add to that the common cold I generally carry from mid-November to mid-March, and I slept in this morning. And I do not feel at all well.

So, for at least today, I cannot offer what I planned, which was my post about The Harry Smith B-Sides, the collection of vintage music I described last week. Perhaps tomorrow, although I make no promises (and I should not have done so last week).

And that provides an opportunity to offer instead of some vintage music a version of one of my favorite songs, “Don’t Make Promises,” written and first recorded by Tim Hardin. He released the tune on a Verve single in June 1966 and on the album Tim Hardin I in August of that year. According to Second Hand Songs, more than thirty covers have followed, most of them in the 1960s and 1970s.

Here’s the Texas Gal’s favorite version of the tune, one that was included by Three Dog Night as an album track on its self-titled 1969 album:

‘Faith Has Been Broken . . .’

Wednesday, February 17th, 2021

Sometime during the summer of 1971, in the car or hanging out on the front porch or even while cleaning floors at St. Cloud State with Janitor Mike, I must have heard the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses” on the radio.

It was on the Billboard Hot 100 for only eight weeks, and it only went to No. 28, yeah, but given that I surrounded myself with music during my non-work and non-sleep hours (and even during work at times as Mike and I waited for floors to dry so we could wax them), I think I had to have heard it. But it must not have made much of an impression, as I recall the first time I played the album Sticky Fingers about a year and a half later, when I got the album through a record club.

“I need to learn to play that on piano,” I recall thinking, listening to the Mick Jagger/Keith Richards composition as it came out of the speakers in the basement rec room. Hearing the song as part of the album – a hodgepodge of outtakes and finely constructed pieces the Stones had clumped together in the spring of 1971 – was like hearing the song for the first time, I guess. Or maybe I just paid attention to it for the first time.

There was no way that I knew that the song existed elsewhere. But it did. “Wild Horses” had showed up in April 1970 on Burrito Deluxe, the second album by the Flying Burrito Brothers:

Here’s the “Wild Horses” timeline, as pieced together from AllMusic Guide, Second Hand Songs, and Wikipedia.

December 2-4, 1969: Rolling Stones record “Wild Horses.”
December 7, 1969: Keith Richards gives Gram Parsons a demo of “Wild Horses.”
April 1970: Flying Burrito Brothers release “Wild Horses” on Burrito Deluxe.
April 1971: Rolling Stones release “Wild Horses” on Sticky Fingers.

My question, admittedly an inside baseball kind of thing, is: Which recording is the original and which is the first cover? Is the original version of a song the first one recorded or the first one released?

My thought is that the first recorded version is the original and anything else – even if it comes to light ahead of that first recorded version – is a cover.

But to close things out, here’s one of my favorite covers of the song, the version that Leon Russell included on his 1974 album Stop All That Jazz.

‘This Old World . . .’

Thursday, February 11th, 2021

I woke from a dream this morning with the chorus from the Fred Neil song “Dolphins” running through my head:

I’ve been searchin’ for the dolphins in the sea
And sometimes I wonder, do you ever think of me . . .

It’s a haunting, lovely song that was first recorded and released in 1967 on Neil’s first third* album, a self-titled work that also included his most famous song, “Everybody’s Talkin’ At Me,” used as part of the soundtrack of the 1969 movie Midnight Cowboy. Here’s Neil’s version of “Dolphins.”

Covers – many of them titled “The Dolphins” – popped up quickly, of course, and several of them are here on the digital shelves: Gale Garnett & the Gentle Reign (1968) and It’s A Beautiful Day (1970) did covers that seem from here to be a little odd, as did a country-ish group called West (1968).

The two most standard of the early covers – through, say, the mid-Seventies – were those by Dion and Al Wilson (both 1968). I think I like Wilson’s better. Richie Havens released a nice live version in 1972.

We might come back another day and look at some other early covers as well as those from the mid-Seventies onward. (There were very few in the 1980s, but the 1990s onwards saw the song covered more frequently.) But we’ll close today with one of the covers that I always think I should like but have a little trouble embracing: Linda Ronstadt’s 1969 version that was part of her Hand Sown . . . Home Grown album. I think maybe she over-sings it a little.

*Neil’s self-titled 1967 album was his first for Capitol but his third overall. He and Vince Neil recorded Tear Down The Walls in 1964, and Fred Neil released Bleeker & McDougal in 1965; both were on Elektra.

‘Friday’s Child . . .’

Friday, January 29th, 2021

So I went looking for songs with “Friday” in their titles, and there were about twenty of those in the RealPlayer. Some were obvious, like “Friday On My Mind” by the Easybeats. And then I spotted “Friday’s Child” by Nany Sinatra, a 1966 release on Reprise.

As the tune played, I checked Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles: The record hit the Billboard Hot 100 in early July of 1966, the follow-up to “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’,” which went to No. 1 in February of that year, and to the No. 7 hit from spring of that year, “How Does That Grab You, Darlin’?”

“Friday’s Child,” written and produced by Lee Hazelwood (who was either Nancy Sinatra’s Svengali or her Henry Higgins), didn’t fare nearly as well, topping out at No. 36. That’s not surprising, as it’s an odd and unsettling piece of work:

Friday’s child hard luck is her brother
Friday’s child her sister’s misery
Friday’s child her daddy they call hard times
Friday’s child that’s me

Friday’s child born a little ugly
Friday’s child good looks passed her by
Friday’s child makes something look like nothing
Friday’s child am I, yeah

Friday’s child never climbed no mountain
Friday’s child she ain’t even gonna try
Friday’s child whom they’ll forget to bury
Friday’s child am I

Friday’s child am I

Sinatra’s version, perhaps not surprisingly, turns out to be a cover. Hazelwood recorded the song himself in March 1965, according to the website Second Hand Songs, and used it as the title track for his own album in 1965. The album didn’t chart, and if there were any singles pulled from the album, they didn’t chart either.

Hazelwood’s version of the song is a little busier than Sinatra’s but is disquieting, too, though perhaps a little less so:

Saturday Single No. 720

Saturday, January 16th, 2021

As it often does as I sit here on the seventh day of the week, the tune “Come Saturday Morning” popped into my head today.

Written for the 1969 film The Sterile Cuckoo, the song was first recorded by the film’s star, Liza Minelli, as the title track of an album released in February 1969, according to Second Hand Songs. The film came out in October 1969, and it was the Sandpipers’ cover of the song that was used on the film’s soundtrack and released as a single. The record went to No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 8 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart.

Other covers followed, of course, and a few of them have ended up on the digital shelves here, by artists like Joe Reisman & His Orchestra & Chorus, the Fifty Guitars Of Tommy Garrett, the Mystic Moods Orchestra, and Mark Lindsay, one-time lead singer for Paul Revere & The Raiders.

Other familiar names show up on the list of covers at Second Hand Songs with Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett, Patti Page, Robert Goulet, Ray Conniff and Scott Walker found among the vocal list, and artists like Percy Faith, Andre Kostelanetz, Peter Nero, Roger Williams, and Jackie Gleason listed among the instrumental covers of the song. The most recent of all of those was Walker’s take on the song, which came in 1972, and more followed.

Only five of the thirty-eight versions of the song listed at SHS have been released later than 1974: Vocal versions by Charles Tichenor (1996) and a female vocalist called Rumer (2010), and instrumentals by the Keith McDonald Trio (1986), Jim Hudak (2000), and the Dave McMurdo Jazz Orchestra (also 2000).

So there are lots of versions to sample and choose from. But I’m going to take the easy way out and find Peter Nero’s version of the tune because he’s one of the very few artists I’ve written about who has left a note here. (He responded a few years ago to a post about “The Summer Knows,” the theme from the movie Summer of ’42.) Nero’s version of “Come Saturday Morning” is from his 1970 album I’ll Never Fall In Love Again, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 25th, 2020

It’s early Christmas morning, and it’s quiet here. The Texas Gal is still sleeping, likely with Little Gus the cat keeping her company after his breakfast. The other two cats have probably found their morning nap places, too. And it’s quiet as I write, with only the sound of warm air blowing from the vents keeping me company.

We’re staying home today, nibbling during the day on a charcuterie tray and dining this evening on a homemade lasagna. We’ve got a few television series we’re running through, so we’ll likely watch some episodes of those, and no doubt the jigsaw puzzle on the dining room table will get some attention, as will the new box sets of music. (More about those later.)

So, Merry Christmas to all our friends out there! In this strangest – and for some, stressful and sad – holiday season, may you find yourself among those whom you love in the places you call home. If at all possible, may you be joyful and be at peace!

Here’s a lovely piano version of one of the few Christmas songs I post here. It’s pianist Ilio Barantini taking on John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” from 1971. It’s from Barantini’s 2019 album Merry Christmas All Over The World.

‘The Price You Pay To Fall’

Wednesday, December 9th, 2020

Consider “December Dream,” singer/songwriter John Braheny’s languid song of love lost:

I can see her slowly walking
Through the empty streets of morning
Who she’s with I cannot tell
His face fades with the others
In the endless spell of dreams I know so well

Though she walks with him, no more with me,
And I know she’s where she wants to be,
Her happiness is there for all to see,
But I find that I still wish it was for me

I can hear her voice still ringing
Through the empty songs I sing
It seems that all the words I find
To say the things that crowd my mind
Only bring me closer to the things I’d rather leave behind

Though I know the game’s been played
I know the mistakes I’ve made
I know I shouldn’t be afraid
To love, for love for any time at all
Is worth the price you pay to fall

Here’s what the Stone Poneys (of which Linda Ronstadt was a member, of course) did with it on their first album, Evergreen Vol. 2, in 1967:

Braheny died at age 74 in 2013. His web page is still up, and there, he noted – not at all surprisingly – that he wrote the song in 1964 after his girlfriend “had a fling with another guy that just destroyed me.” The song later won a songwriting contest in a Cambridge, Massachusetts, festival, and was published in Sing Out! magazine.

One of the musicians Braheny knew in the Boston area was Pete Childs, who – a few years later – was a guitarist for the Stone Poneys sessions. When the Poneys came up light on songs to record, Braheny’s web site says, Childs suggested “December Dream,” which ended up as the first track on the Poneys’ album.

(As it happened, Childs had also worked on earlier sessions by Fred Neil, the reclusive singer/songwriter, and had taught Braheny’s song to Neil, who titled it “December’s Dream.” The recording went unused, however, until it resurfaced in 1999 on the anthology The Many Sides of Fred Neil. It’s available at YouTube.)

Along the way, Braheny recorded a 1968 album, Some Kind Of Change, and left us his version of “December Dream.”

At his website, Braheny marveled that his song got any attention at all: “In retrospect . . . I never would have given the song a shot at being recorded. No real hook, no ‘commercial’ structure, no repeated chorus, a title that doesn’t show up in the song, not even a bridge. Sometimes emotional honesty, sincerity, a little poetry and a pretty melody win. Who knew?”

‘I Was Alone, I Took A Ride . . .’

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020

As I noted last week, some dates resonate and unlock memories. I typed today’s date at the top of this post and was immediately pulled back fifty years to St. Cloud Tech and a day of high school crisis during my senior year.

What was the crisis? I’d spent a portion of the previous evening visiting a young lady – the blonde sophomore girl I’ve mentioned here over the years, calling her Dulcinea in honor of my quixotic pursuit of her affections, a pursuit that lasted the bulk of my senior year of high school.

She had a boyfriend, and he’d made it clear to me and some mutual friends that he was not pleased with me and my goals. What he told her, I’ve never known. And fifty years ago last evening – on December 1, 1970 – I visited the young lady at her home, bringing along the Beatles’ Revolver album to make a point.

We sat at her kitchen table, talking of everything and nothing as the record played. Then came the fourth track on Side Two, “Got To Get You Into My Life.” She nodded and smiled at me as Paul McCartney’s words filled the space between us, words I’d written out and tucked into her locker at school only a few weeks earlier.

I left not long after the album ended. She accompanied me to my car, and we stood talking in the cold for a few moments before I drove off. As I did, I wondered if I should have kissed her.

And the next day, fifty years ago today, whispers and urgent conversations filled my day and those of my friends. In a quiet corner of the band room, I told my Dulcinea how I felt about her and left her to make a choice. It took her some time to do so, but by the end of the school year, she did, and as I graduated and headed off to college, my load of regrets was just a bit heavier.

There are more than 130 covers of “Got To Get You Into My Life” listed at Second Hand Songs, ranging from one by Cliff Bennett & The Rebel Rousers in August 1966, shortly after the Beatles released the song, to a cover by a singer named Fay Classen released last March.

Here’s one from 2009 by Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs, from the soundtrack to the movie Imagine That.

‘From Nowhere Through A Caravan . . .’

Wednesday, November 18th, 2020

I took a glance this morning at what I was likely hearing on the radio fifty years ago, checking out the “6+30” from the Twin Cities’ KDWB from November 23, 1970, and found no real surprises.

The No. 1 record was “I Think I Love You” by the Partridge Family, a record I suspected of having bubblegum tendencies at the time but which I now admire as being a great piece of craft (as well as being the trigger for several memories that have become far less bitter and far more sweet with the passage of half a century.)

Sitting at No. 2 was Brian Hyland’s “Gypsy Woman,” a record I remember well without putting any real heft on it, which means that no young lady danced around a campfire for me during that long ago November (or any other time, to be honest). It was an okay record:

Hyland’s record would go no higher at KDWB. In the Billboard Hot 100, it would get to No. 3. What I didn’t know at the time, of course, was that it was a cover of the Impressions’ 1961 original, a record that went to No. 20 on the Hot 100 and to No. 2 on the magazine’s R&B chart. It was, also, a better version of the song:

The website Second Hand Songs lists thirty-four other versions of the song, ranging from a cover by Major Lance in 1964 to a 2017 version by the Isley Brothers and Santana on an album titled Power Of Peace. In between came versions by a lot of folks whose names I recognize as well as by folks unknown to me. I checked out versions by Ry Cooder, Bobby Womack, Santana, Bruce Springsteen and more and was unmoved.

The only cover I heard that I really liked was the version by Santana and the Isleys, an atmospheric take on the song:

Saturday Single No. 712

Saturday, November 14th, 2020

Trying to keep things picked up around here, about once a week, I head into posts from years past and replace – if I can – videos that have been deleted. Doing so also has the benefit of reminding me of topics I planned to follow up, ideas that have been swept away by my inattention and simple time.

That brought me yesterday to a 2015 post about the song “He Did Me Wrong But He Did It Right,” written by Patti Dahlstrom and Al Staehly and recorded by Patti for her 1975 album Your Place Or Mine. In 1978, Bobbie Gentry covered the song as the B-side to a promo release of the Jimmy Hughes song “Steal Away.”

The promo turned out to be, from what I can tell, the last new recording Gentry ever released, which was interesting enough, so in that 2015 post, I offered videos of Gentry’s cover and Patti’s original. (It seems odd to use Bobbie Gentry’s last name and Patti Dahlstrom’s first name, but Patti and I are friends because of this blog and exchange emails occasionally. Gentry, as you might imagine, has never contacted me.) It was the video for Patti’s version of the song I replaced yesterday; the fan-made video I’d originally used was deleted, so I dropped in Patti’s official version.

And I saw that I’d written at the end of that post five years ago that I’d noticed one other cover of the song available on YouTube and promised to share it later that week. Later that week, however, I wrote that the video – by a soul trio called Hodges, James & Smith – had disappeared. And that was that, at least five years ago. But I did a quick search yesterday and found not one, but two other videos of “He Did Me Wrong . . .”

The first was from Evelyn Rubio, a Mexican-born singer and sax player who recorded the song for her album Crossing Borders, released in May 2020. I didn’t care at all for her vocal style, so I left before the sax break I assumed would be there, and moved on to the version from Hodges, James & Smith.

The website Discogs tells me that the trio of Pat Hodges, Denita James and Jessica Smith was the idea of producer William Stevenson. They released four albums, the first two – 1973’s Incredible and 1975’s Power In Your Love – on 20th Century and the others – 1977’s What’s On Your Mind? and 1978’s What Have You Done For Love? – on London. The only chart action I can find for the trio came from a 1977 disco medley of “Since I Fell For You” (a No. 4 hit for Lenny Welch in 1964) and “I’m Falling In Love” (written by Stevenson), which went to No. 96 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 24 on the magazine’s R&B chart. (You can find the medley as both an album track and an extended disco mix at YouTube.)

The trio’s version of “He Did Me Wrong, But He Did It Right” was an album track on Power In Your Love, and it sounds just like 1975, as it should. Is it a great record? Probably not, but it’s a decent take on the song. And, just like I promised five years ago, here it is, as today’s Saturday Single. (Whoever made the video got the title wrong.)