Archive for the ‘Video’ Category

Saturday Single No. 732

Saturday, April 10th, 2021

The other week, writing about B.B. King’s “Ask Me No Questions,” I said:

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.

Well, I do now. Shortly after I wrote about the track, I was noodling around Amazon in search of Rhiannon Giddens’ forthcoming album (it arrived yesterday, and so far, I’m pleased), and I noticed we had some bonus points or something from the site. So I added to my order King’s 1970 album Indianola Mississippi Seeds.

As I suspected, the session notes I found at the two websites mentioned above were incomplete. And I’m a bit chagrined, because with a little more effort on that Saturday a few weeks ago, I might have recognized that the piano part on that particular track was supplied by Leon Russell. I was listening for Carole King, however, and the idea slipped past me.

Carole King does play on four of the album’s nine tracks, while Russell plays on three, including on his own composition “Hummingbird.” On that one, the background vocals are provided by four women whose names have popped up many times on this blog: Sherlie Matthews, Clydie King, Venetta Fields, and Mary Clayton.

Eight of the nine tracks on the album were recorded at the Record Plant in Los Angeles, and on those, Russ Kunkel handles the drums and Bryan Garofalo provides bass. Guitarist Joe Walsh shows up for a couple of tracks.

(The ninth track was laid down at the Hit Factory in New York. Players there were Hugh McCrackin on rhythm guitar, Paul Harris on piano, Gerald Jemmott on bass and Herb Lovelle on drums.)

The CD fills nicely a gap on the shelves, as the only other B.B. King CDs I have are an a career-spanning anthology and three other CDs with King performing with others: Blues Summit and Deuces Wild feature King with a wide range of other performers (from Ruth Brown to Robert Cray on the first and from Van Morrison to Marty Stuart on the second), and Riding With The King is an album recorded with Eric Clapton.

(If I want more B.B. King, I can turn to the LP shelves, where there are eleven of his albums, mostly from the 1960s and 1970s.)

And here’s another track from Indianola Mississippi Seeds, this one with Carole King playing piano and electric piano: “Ain’t Gonna Worry My Life Anymore.” The track starts with an informal jam over strings and horns, then moves into the song itself. And in the latter portions of the track, Carole King gets a chance to show off her chops on the electric piano. It’s today’s Saturday Single.

Two Headaches

Thursday, April 8th, 2021

I have two concurrent headaches. One of them is literal, the product of a sinus infection.

The other is metaphorical, the product of waiting for the GoDaddy folks to finish “migrating” this blog to a new server. The process, when it starts, will take some time, and anything I post here might or might not be migrated. When will that process start? They can’t seem to tell me.

Additionally, until that process is finished, folks aren’t able to leave comments here.

It’s a headache. So, here’s “Willies’ Headache” from Cymande. Here’s what discogs has to say about the band:

Formed [in] 1971 in London, England featuring musicians from Guyana, Jamaica and Saint Vincent. The name Cymande is based on a calypso word for dove, symbolising peace and love. They play a style of music that they call Nyah-Rock: a mixture of funk, soul, reggae and African rhythms. The band achieved their greatest initial success in America and were actively recording and performing until 1975.

“Willies’ Headache” is on the band’s second album, Second Time Around, released in 1973.

Saturday Single No. 731

Saturday, April 3rd, 2021

Shining stars. Falling stars. Shooting stars. Silver stars. It’s too big a list.

I was going to select a few favorite tracks that have “star” in their titles and blather on about each of them this morning before choosing one for today’s featured single. But a search for “star” in the RealPlayer has discouraged me, coming back with 1,239 tracks.

Many of those, of course, would not qualify. A wonderful album by various artists from 2003 titled All Night All Stars (including tracks by Gregg Allman, Amy Helm, and the duo of Bobby Whitlock and Kim Carmel) goes by the wayside, as does an odd album titled Gulag Orkestar by a group called Beirut. Gone are two albums by the group Big Star. And so on, and I do not have the intestinal fortitude to sort through all 11,239 tracks this morning.

So I’ll just go back to the record that brought me the idea earlier this week without my even hearing it. Something, somewhere, sparked the 1970 memory of hearing Sly & The Family Stone’s “Everybody Is A Star.” And that got me to thinking about records with “star” in their titles. So here we are.

Here’s Sly & The Family Stone’s “Everybody Is A Star.” As the B-side of a two-sided single – “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)” was the A-side – it spent two weeks at No. 1 in February 1970, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 730

Saturday, March 27th, 2021

As I wander through the vast universe of popular music from the middle of the Twentieth Century, I more and more find myself stumbling into lyrics that would no longer be acceptable in polite company.

Last evening, I was playing tabletop baseball with the RealPlayer offering full albums, and I was quite enjoying the Rolling Stones’ 1970 live album, ‘Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!’ And then Mick and the boys launched into “Stray Cat Blues” and got to the second verse:

I can see that you’re just thirteen years old
I don’t want your I.D.
You look so lonesome and you so far from home
It’s no hanging matter
It’s no capital crime

I stared at the computer for a few seconds, wondering what Mick Jagger sings these days if “Stray Cat Blues” ends upon the setlist and wondering, too, how that lyric was ever acceptable even in the 1960s and early 1970s. (In the original version of the song on the Beggars Banquet album, the young lady in question is fifteen years old, which was not much better.)

And this morning, as I searched for tracks recorded over the years on March 27, I came across “Your Funeral And My Trial” by Sonny Boy Williamson II, recorded in Chicago on this date in 1958 and released as Checker 894. Here’s the first verse:

Please come home to your daddy, and explain yourself to me
Because I and you are man and wife, tryin’ to start a family
I’m beggin’ you baby, cut out that off the wall jive
If you can’t treat me no better, it gotta be your funeral and my trial

That tagline shows up on all three verses. Now, that was 1958, and the Stones’ record was 1969-70. Attitudes have changed, at least in mainstream culture. What do we do with the art from earlier times that expresses attitudes we no longer hold?

I dunno. But while we think about it, here’s “Keep Your Hands Out Of My Pocket” by Sonny Boy Williamson II, also recorded in Chicago on March 27, 1958. It ended up on his Bummer Road album. It’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘The Ship That Sailed The Moon . . .’

Wednesday, March 17th, 2021

I woke this morning (earlier than I’d have liked, due to feline interference) with “An American Tune” – the Paul Simon song – running through my head:

Many’s the time I’ve been mistaken
And many times confused
Yes, and I’ve often felt forsaken
And certainly misused
Oh, but I’m all right, I’m all right
I’m just weary to my bones
Still, you don’t expect to be
Bright and bon vivant
So far away from home, so far away from home

I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered
I don’t have a fried who feels at ease
I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered
Or driven to its knees
Oh, but it’s all right, it’s all right
For we lived so well so long
Still, when I think of the road we’re traveling on
I wonder what’s gone wrong
I can’t help it, I wonder what’s gone wrong.

And I dreamed I was dying
I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly
And looking back down at me
Smiled reassuringly
And I dreamed I was flying
And high up above my eyes could clearly see
The Statue of Liberty
Sailing away to sea
And I dreamed I was flying

Oh, we come on the ship they call the Mayflower
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come in the age’s most uncertain hours
And sing an American tune
Oh, it’s all right, it’s all right, it’s all right
You can’t be forever blessed
Still, tomorrow’s gonna be another working day
And I’m trying to get some rest
That’s all I’m trying, to get some rest

Taken from the album There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, the track was released as a single in November 1973 and went to No. 35 on the Billboard Hot 100. I’ve read over the years that the song’s stately, elegant music reflected America’s Shaker tradition, but now I notice that in Top Pop Singles, Joel Whitburn says Simon based the tune on the German classical piece “Oh Sacred Heart” (originally “O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden”), credited to Johann Sebastian Bach.

Wikipedia, however, notes that “Oh Sacred Heart” was actually the text of the German hymn, which was later paired with the melody that Simon uses. That melody, “Passion Chorale,” was written by German composer Hans Leo Hassler and was later harmonized by Bach (who used the resulting composition in several of his works, including his St Matthew Passion).

So, Hassler and Bach get credit for the melody, but the words are all Simon’s. Here’s how it sounded on There Goes Rhymin’ Simon:

After I woke with “Oh, we come on the ship they call the Mayflower/We come on the ship that sailed the moon” running through my head,” I did two things: As I fed the cats, I tried to remember any dream I might have been having that could have brought that lyric into my head, but I failed.

And then I checked to see how long it had been since I’d mentioned the song here. It turns out that in more than fourteen years, “An American Tune” has never been mentioned here. Not once. I know I thought about writing about the song at various times in the four years just past and then decided against it; the words were cutting too closely to my heart. But today it seemed to be about time the song got some attention.

So, there it is, and it might be useful to remember that when Simon released the song as a single, in November 1973, the U.S. was hip-deep in Watergate and heading into a recession that would last a year-and-a-half. An uncertain hour, indeed.

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.

Old Music, Modern Dilemma

Tuesday, March 9th, 2021

About two weeks ago, I wrote about my Christmas present from the Texas Gal: The Harry Smith B-Sides, a collection of vintage music created by flipping over eighty-one of the eighty-four 78s that collector Harry Smith included in his ground-breaking Anthology of American Folk Music, released in 1952.

B Sides

According to the booklet in the B-Sides box, the idea of a Harry Smith B-sides project had been around for a while. Lance Ledbetter of Dust-To-Digital – the label that released the new box set last year – says in a piece in the booklet that he began working on the idea of collecting digital copies of all eighty-four flip sides in 2004 or so but ran into trouble finding several of the old records.

(Because Ledbetter already owned the 1997 CD edition of the original Anthology, he already owned a few of the flips, as in 1952, Smith included both the A- and B- sides of four of the 78s he used to create his collection.)

But Ledbetter shelved the project when he was unable to find all of the old records. And in 2013, Ledbetter heard from record collector John Cohen, who with his partner, Eli Smith, had gathered the Smith B-sides and were wondering if Dust-To-Digital could help with production and release. Connections ensued, and Smith assured Ledbetter and his partner and wife, April, that all eighty-four flipsides were available.

It took some time, but as 2020 dawned, the box set was almost ready to go out the door. But three of the tracks caused some concern because of their racist language and imagery: “You Shall Be Free” by Bill & Belle Reed from 1928, “I’m The Child To Fight” by Uncle Dave Macon with Sam McGee, also from 1928, and “Henhouse Blues” by the Bentley Boys from 1929, would be startling and potentially offensive in today’s culture.

Still, Cohen, Smith and the Ledbetters planned to include the three tracks in the B-Sides collection. As Lance Ledbetter told NPR’s Sam Briger in December:

[B]etween the time in 2013, when we first started talking about this, and 2015, when we finalized the liner notes, we felt that leaving the three songs with racist lyrics . . . including them on the CDs was the right decision because we were looking at it more as historical accuracy and looking at it as a sense of preservation, that this is the full version.

Cohen had died in 2019, leaving Smith and the Ledbetters to finish the project. And things changed:

And between 2015, when we made that decision, and 2020, we changed. We changed that decision. And it really came about when we started listening to the test pressings for the vinyl. And we heard the songs differently. And I remember April and I, we felt like we needed to do something to address this – these songs . . . . And we were conversing on how to deal with this in 2020.

The solution was to place a note in the box set warning that the three tracks in question contained racist and offensive content so they could be skipped if the listener so desired. But one day at an open-air market, Ledbetter says, a friend who ran the market was playing Smith’s original 1952 anthology on the market’s sound system. Lance Ledbetter told NPR’s Briger, “I looked around and just saw a diverse group of people under the tent – Black people, Hispanic people, white people, old people and young people.” And he wondered about the effect on the crowd at the market if the music had instead been the Harry Smith B-Sides and one of those three racist tracks popped up.

Ledbetter went on:

And I just thought that there was no note that you could include in a box set that would explain why they were hearing that music and those lyrics. And it was at that point that the decision was made. We need to take those tracks off because once they’re on those CDs, they’re broadcast in homes and on the radio. It’s putting music out there that, in 2020, we just didn’t feel like it needed to be in the public sphere.

So with the release date for the box set approaching, three of the four CDs were redone, removing the three offensive tracks and leaving four seconds of dead air in their places. The commentary about the three tracks remains in the booklet, so the tracks’ places in history – as three of the Smith flipsides – is still recognized.

The three tracks are not hard to find. I gathered copies from a couple of sources in minutes one day. And they are offensive. They would have been in the late 1920s for some folks, and they’d be offensive to everyone, I hope, in 2021.

So, is it historically inaccurate to offer the Dust-To-Digital box set as Harry Smith’s B-sides when three of the tracks have been purposefully removed from the set? Would it have been better to leave the offensive recordings in their places? I’ve been pondering the question since late December, and I’m don’t know if the removal of those three songs is a matter of altering history (or of “cancel culture,” as some would likely call it). My thought would have been to add a fifth CD to the box set containing those three tracks with clear warning on the CD sleeve of the offensive content. Whether that would have worked, I have no idea.

Here’s the first of the eighty-one tracks included in the box set: “One Cold December Day” by Dick Justice. Little is known about the man except that he was born Henry Franklin Justice in 1906 in Logan County, West Virginia. “One Cold December Day” is based on a traditional British ballad and was one of ten tracks Justice recorded for the Brunswick label on May 21, 1932.

Saturday Single No. 727

Saturday, March 6th, 2021

This will be brief because I still am not feeling the greatest. Backlash from the vaccine? I dunno. But the less time I spend thinking today, the better off I – and the world – will be.

So, I looked at the number above and thought about airplanes and asked the RealPlayer to sort for “planes.” Maybe not a good idea. Anything with “planet” in its title came up, as well, like Bob Dylan’s Planet Waves, the soundtracks to the television series The Lonely Planet and a few more. And then, even when I found the right word, I had to winnow out everything by the Jefferson Airplane.

But there were still lots of tracks about planes and airplanes, including six versions of John Denver’s “Leaving On A Jet Plane” and thirteen versions of Robert Johnson’s “Terraplane Blues,” but since that last is about a car, it doesn’t really count.

I looked on.

There are a couple of tracks titled just “Airplane,” one by the Indigo Girls from their 1992 album Rites Of Passage and a single by a group called Peter’s Pipers on the Philips label from 1968. Other titles jump out: “Trains & Boats & Planes” by Dionne Warwick. “Waiting For The Last Plane” by Joy Of Cooking. “The Great Airplane Strike” by Paul Revere & The Raiders. “Springfield Plane” by Kenny O’Dell on the Vegas label.

(I recognize O’Dell’s name. He was a prolific country songwriter and producer with a handful of country hits and a similar handful of hits in the Billboard Hot 100, including “Springfield Plane,” which went to No. 94.)

There are versions of Woody Guthrie’s “Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)” from the Byrds, Richard Shindell and Nanci Griffith.

There are “Paper Planes” by Scala & Kolacny Brothers as well as by M.I.A., and “Plane Crash” by Basil Poledouris from the soundtrack to The Hunt For Red October and then “On A ’plane To Nowhere” by Barracade (with that odd punctuation) and “Outbound Plane” from, again, Nanci Griffith.

And then I see “Next Plane To London” by Rose Garden, a 1967 single I wrote about briefly some years ago, and adjacent to it is another version of the tune, and there’s Kenny O’Dell again, who wrote the song and recorded it for his 1968 album Beautiful People.

Who am I to argue? It’s a Kenny O’Dell day, and his cover of “Next Plane To London” is today’s Saturday Single.

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:

Saturday Single No. 726

Saturday, February 27th, 2021

There are a very few tracks in the digital collection here that have been recorded on February 27, maybe ten. (Of the 82,000 mp3s pulled into the RealPlayer, I have that depth of information on maybe ten percent.)

And a quick look at the February 27 tracks offers one that came to me via the series called When The Sun Goes Down, a set of eleven CDs issued between 2002 and 2004 featuring vintage music from the Victor and Bluebird labels.

The Hall Brothers recorded the song “Constant Sorrow” in Charlotte, North Carolina, on this date in 1938. The song, of course, is better known these days as “I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow” after being featured in the 2000 movie O, Brother, Where Art Thou?, but there had been somewhere around forty versions of the song recorded and released before that. And since the movie came out, according to Second Hand Songs, at least another thirty-five versions of the song have been recorded and released.

The Hall Brothers’ version – Roy Hall took the vocal and played guitar while his brother Jay Hugh added guitar and Steve Ledford added fiddle – was among the earliest recorded. The first version, again according to Second Hand Songs, came from Emry Arthur, whose take on the song was released on the Vocalion label in May 1928. The next version listed was recorded by the Stanley Brothers and the Clinch Mountain Boys in 1951.

As to the Hall Brothers’ version. for whatever reason, neither the Victor nor Bluebird label released the 1938 track, leaving it dormant for sixty-six years. And since I’m dabbling in vintage music these days, the Hall Brothers’ 1938 take on “Constant Sorrow” is today’s Saturday Single.