Saturday Single No. 347

I thought about writing about the recent passing of Bobby “Blue” Bland this morning, but for as little as I really know about the blues, I know less about Bland’s life and music, except that both deserve my respect and more of my attention. Others can do the man and his life more justice than I can.

And I thought about digging into tunes with the word “storm” in their title, as a way of tying off the events of the last week. But that didn’t arouse my enthusiasm this morning.

So when all else fails, go random.

“Don’t Get So Down On Yourself” is a track on Chris Isaak’s 1998 album Speak Of The Devil. The song is on one hand a matter-of-fact first-person tale of a lover gone away; on the other hand, there are moments during the song when Isaak’s delivery gives hints of the haunting persona that grabbed my ears and imagination the first time I heard “Wicked Game” in 1991. Finally, it’s a not-bad track, but I’m glad it’s a place to start our journey this morning rather than its ending.

Bread’s self-titled 1969 album hints at the treasures to come. “Move Over” might not be the best track on the album, but I’m not certain, as Bread is not an album to which I’ve devoted much listening time. The group’s cascade of hits – thirteen records in the Billboard Hot 100, with six in the Top Ten – began the next year, in 1970, and the albums that start with that year’s On The Waters are where I’ve spent my time. (Yes, “It Don’t Matter To Me” from Bread was a hit, but that happened a couple of years later and with – I think – a new version of the tune.) So the James Griffin-penned “Move Over,” with its half-fuzz chords and its garage rock keyboard solo, is only a step toward both Bread’s eventual success and wherever we’ll get this morning.

“She grew up with the children of the stars/in the Hollywood hills and the boulevard . . .” Shawn Mullins’ “Lullaby” was omnipresent on whatever radio station I was listening to in 1998 (probably Minneapolis’ Cities 97) with its matter-of-fact yet affectionate portrayal of a girl lost. “Lullaby” is not a record I’ve spent a lot of time with, although the album it came from, Soul’s Core, was one of my relatively early CD purchases (one of the first two hundred in a collection that now numbers more than 1,100). Time spent or not, “Lullaby” is a track that’s insinuated itself into my head, which is okay. There are worse things to hear internally than “Everything’s gonna be all right . . .”

Our fourth stop of the morning is “Grey Line Tour,” a track from Gayle McCormick’s second solo album, 1972’s Flesh & Blood. McCormick, who came to attention as lead singer for the band Smith – the group’s cover of “Baby It’s You” hit No. 5 in 1969 – could certainly grab hold of a song, and she does so here, leading her backing band through a romp that sounds absolutely both like 1972 and a slightly tougher Joy of Cooking. That’s a sound I like a lot, and I wish I knew more about the track, but not even the record jacket tells me who wrote the tune; beyond McCormick’s name, the only names I recognize on the jacket are those of Chuck Findley, who played trumpet and trombone, and Ike Turner, who’s given a special thank you as the owner of Bolic Sounds, where the album was recorded.

Caravan, says All Music Guide, “was one of the more formidable progressive rock acts to come out of England in the 1960s, though they were never much more than a very successful cult band at home, and, apart from a brief moment in 1975, barely a cult band anywhere else in the world.” For a brief while during my vinyl madness of the 1990s, I was looking hard for stuff by Caravan; I found an anthology and I found In the Land of Grey and Pink, about which I’d read good things. It was a good album, and this morning’s jaunt stops on the album’s side-long epic “Nine Feet Underground.” Like most prog rock these days, it works better for me as something playing in the background than as something I’ll actively listen to. Maybe that’s my ADD, but whatever it is, I’m not going to listen to all twenty-two minutes this morning before moving on our sixth and final stop.

How to describe the 1970s group Mandrill? Back to AMG: “One of funk’s most progressive outfits . . . [its] jam-heavy brand of funk was liberally infused with Latin, Caribbean, and jazz influences, plus blues, psychedelia, African music, and straight-up rock.” Fair enough, and the track we land on this morning is “Mini-Suite For Duke,” a shape-changing and tone-shifting piece from the 1974 album Mandrilland. Mellow enough at one moment to be something from Franck Pourcel and then turning funky enough for Bootsy Collins, the track brings our trek to a nice close.

What then, do we choose? Well, since the moment McCormick’s “Grey Line Tour” popped up on the RealPlayer, I’ve been leaning that direction. My only question was whether a video of the tune would be allowed on YouTube. Happily, it was, and Gayle McCormick’s “Grey Line Tour” is today’s Saturday Single.

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4 Responses to “Saturday Single No. 347”

  1. Larry Grogan says:

    I dug (perhaps too deeply) into ‘It Don’t Matter To Me’ (including the different versions by Bread) a while back at Iron Leg – http://ironleg.wordpress.com/2012/09/30/the-it-dont-matter-to-me-variations/

  2. JohnnyC says:

    Apparently Gayle (now 64) lives in a single-wide trailer in the St. Louis area with her aged mother and works in a mall. She hasn’t performed since the mid-’70s. Has no voice left from decades of a 2 pack-a-day habit. She should write her autobio. Another mostly sad pop music story.

  3. porky says:

    here’s some pre-Smith ephemera from a St. Louis site of 60’s and 70’s bands:

    http://www.stlmusicyesterdays.com/Gayle%20McCormick.htm

    I love “It’s a Crying Shame.” Growing up I listened to WIRL in Peoria and WLS from Chicago and one (maybe both) of those stations gave that song a lot of airplay.

  4. skyknack79 says:

    First off let me say that JohnnyC does not know what the hell
    he’s talking about with Gayle. Fact. I recently visited Gayle in
    May of 2013. She does NOT live in a trailer, but an apartment
    in Florissant, MO. She has not worked anywhere in over 8
    years and her mother is deceased. Go to Faceb@@k and look
    up A Group Called Smith, group page. You will find some
    current pictures and news of both Gayle and Larry.
    Second, if you happen to look on the Flesh & Blood album
    and not the album cover, you will see the writing credits for
    each song. The writing credits for Grey Line Tour, are as
    follows; J. Hawks, J. Simmons, J. Newman, B. Hauser, and
    L. Fagan.

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