Posts Tagged ‘Dr. John’

‘Missed The Saturday Dance . . .’

Friday, January 18th, 2019

With my mind on things medical these days (for obvious reasons), I checked the digital shelves for tunes related to doctors. I found, among others, “Dr. Robert” (the Beatles), “Dr. Feelgood” (Aretha Franklin), “Dr. Dancer” (the Sutherland Brothers & Quiver), “Dr. Death” (Marketts), “Dr. Jive” (J.J. Cale), “Dr. Livingston, I Presume” (the Moody Blues), “Dr. Pretty” (Toots Thielemans), and “Dr. Stone” (the Leaves).

None of those feel right this morning, so let’s step over to the artists column, where we find, of course, Dr. John. And we’ll stop there.

Here’s the good doctor with an entirely suitable tune for me these days. It’s his cover of “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” from Duke Elegant, his tribute to Duke Ellington, released in 2000.

Saturday Single No. 419

Saturday, November 15th, 2014

It’s three degrees outside this morning, decidedly cold for mid-November as we – like friends all across most of the U.S. – cope with the effects of the Polar Vortex. I could go the cheap and easy route – as I did on Facebook a few moments ago – and post a tune by the Three Degrees and then call it a day here. I won’t though. We’ll take a bit more care than that as we look for this week’s Saturday Single.

We’ll tell the RealPlayer to search for the word “cold.” As happens frequently with these types of searches, we’ll have to winnow the results a bit. We lose almost the entire catalog of the San Francisco band Cold Blood. (“We Came Down Here/Cold Blood Smokin’” from the 1976 album Lydia Pense & Cold Blood survives, but it’s unlikely to be today’s selection), and we lose everything on the shelves by Coldplay. We also lose full albums: the 1970 release Cold Fact by the recently rediscovered artist Rodriguez; 1995’s Exit on Coldharbour Lane by A3; the soundtrack to the 2004 film Cold Mountain; and everything but the title track from Gordon Lightfoot’s 1975 album Cold On The Shoulder (and that title track showed up here not quite a year ago, anyway).

That leaves us with maybe 150 or so tracks to tangle with this morning, ranging in time from the promotional 1926 track “I Got Your Ice Cold Nugrape” by the Nugrape Twins to the 2014 track “Where The Rivers Run Cold” by the Infamous Stringdusters. And as I scan the cold tale of years, I’m struck by multiple versions of several tunes: In 1928, Bertha Hill recorded “Some Cold Rainy Day” as a parlor blues, and five years later, Curly Weaver did the same tune with guitar (and, as my ears hear it, with some help from his pal Willie McTell and McTell’s wife Kate, who is said to have occasionally recorded under the wonderful name of Ruby Glaze).

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” shows up three times: In a 1949 duet by Margaret Whiting and Johnny Mercer, a 1996 duet by Vanessa Williams and Bobby Caldwell, and a 1966 organ workout by Jimmy Smith. There are three takes on Hank Williams’ “Cold, Cold Heart” – Williams’ own 1950 original, a 1951 cover by Dinah Washington and a 2002 cover by Norah Jones. Blind Willie Johnson’s eerie 1927 moan “Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground” finds itself echoed in Corey Harris’ 2003 cover. And Gordon Lightfoot’s 1971 track “10 Degrees And Getting Colder” was covered in 1993 by Nanci Griffith and 1996 by Tony Rice.

Some of the cold covered in those tunes – and the many others turned up in the search – is emotional instead of physical, of course. But that’s okay, and I think we’ll turn this morning to one of those tracks about the chill of the heart: Here’s Dr. John and “Cold Cold Cold” from his 1973 album In The Right Place, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.


Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

Back in August, when I shared “Orange,” the second portion of the series of posts we’re calling Floyd’s Prism, I noted my relief that there were enough songs in my files with “orange” in their titles for me to do a standard six-song post.

And I said in a parenthetical note: “I have my concerns about ‘indigo,’ but we’ll deal with that when we get there.”

Well, we are there. I was right to have concerns. And we’ll deal with them.

A search for “indigo” in the files brings up 209 mp3s, the vast majority of which are tunes by the Indigo Girls. There are a couple of singles from a 1960s folk-rock group called the Indigos. We find Duke Ellington’s “Solitude,” scavenged from an album called Ellington’s Indigos.

Then there is “Mood Indigo.” Oddly, I don’t have Ellington’s original version. I have covers of the song by Frank Sinatra, Henry Mancini, Jimmie Lunceford & His Orchestra and John Barry (from the soundtrack to the 1984 film The Cotton Club).

And I have a great, N’Awlins-infused version of the Big Band classic from Duke Elegant, Dr. John’s 1999 album celebrating Ellington’s birth a century earlier. That’s all the indigo I got, but it’s pretty damned good.

We’ll do a rare Wednesday post tomorrow, digging around in the Billboard Hot 100 from October 30, 1971.

Saturday Single No. 343

Saturday, May 25th, 2013

As we sometimes do here, we’re going random today, but only in the 1970s. We’re going to let the RealPlayer bounce around the nearly 20,000 mp3s available from that decade, and – assuming it’s a tune that’s available and not an aesthetic crime – the sixth selection will be today’s featured record. So here we go.

Mama Lion was a blues rock band that released two albums during the early years of the decade although the band is more likely remembered today for the identity of its lead singer. She was one Lynn Carey, Penthouse magazine’s Pet of the Month in December 1972, and she was depicted suckling a lion cub on the inside cover of the group first album, 1972’s Preserve Wildlife. The track we land on to start this morning’s trek is “Griffins” from the group’s second album, 1973’s Give It Everything I’ve Got. “With griffins as my saviors,” sings Carey over a Zepp-like backing, “I fly through burning skies. I need your love no longer . . .” Carey’s bio at Wikipedia suggests that there was more to her than physical beauty and that greater exploration of her later solo career could be rewarding, but that’s something for another day. This morning, we’ll leave Carey and the other members of Mama Lion to their griffins and move on.

Despite my respect for her and her music, Ellen McIlwaine has been mentioned only a few times in this space during the past six years. A talented slide guitarist and an expressive singer, she’s recorded regularly but not frequently over the years, starting when she formed Fear Itself, a psychedelic blues rock band that released a self-titled album in 1969. Her solo career began in 1972 with Honky Tonk Angel, which is where we find her haunting take on Traffic’s “Can’t Find My Way Home,” our second stop this morning. McIlwaine’s most recently listed credit is Mystic Bridge from 2006, on which she steps into Eastern-tinged jazz. Marking that for more exploration as well, we head on.

About five years and maybe a thousand posts ago, I wrote about the New York Rock Ensemble and its 1970 album, Roll On. It was, I noted, the first album of straight-ahead rock recorded by the group that had started business as New York Rock & Roll Ensemble, which on its first two albums had played “rock music on classical instruments and classical music on rock instruments.” Roll On, I noted, got wildly mixed reviews, with the 1979 edition of the Rolling Stone Record Guide offering the best, calling it a “tremendous rock & roll album,” and adding that “the band plays with good taste and fire.” We land on “Running Down the Highway,” which Rolling Stone said was one of the “top-notch” songs on the album. I have to concur this morning, but we can’t stay.

Valdy is a Canadian folk rock musician who came to my attention in the mid-1990s through a flea market find of his Family Gathering album, a 1974 effort. According to Wikipedia, he’s a well-regarded and honored Canadian institution, and I have to respect that. But his work – and I have a few of his numerous albums on the mp3 shelves – leaves me unimpressed. It’s probably me and not him. In any case, our wanderings today bring us to “Mm-Mm-Mm-Mm” from Valdy’s 1972 album Country Man: “And I’ll say Mm-Mm-Mm-Mm, that’s not the way things oughta be. And I’ll say Mm-Mm-Mm-Mm excuse me, I’m on the outside being free.” Underwhelmed again, we head to the next tune.

When A&M Records was beginning to promote Joe Cocker’s live Mad Dogs & Englishmen, studio versions of “The Letter” and of “Space Captain” were recorded in Los Angeles for a single release. In short order, the single was revised to offer the live versions of both tunes from the Mad Dogs album. The original single, with the studio versions of the tunes, was credited to Joe Cocker with Leon Russell and the Shelter People, with “the Shelter People” being the name Russell gave to the backing musicians he brought together for his second solo album, some of whom were part of the Mad Dogs tour. I wonder this morning if membership in the Shelter People wasn’t somewhat flexible and if folks who were on the Mad Dogs tour but not on Russell’s album also took part in the studio sessions for “The Letter” and “Space Captain.” (I’m pretty sure that’s the case.) And I wonder how the single was credited after the studio versions were replaced by the live versions. All of this comes up because our fifth stop of the morning is the studio version of “Space Captain” from those early 1970 sessions in Los Angeles. It’s a decent take on the song but it lacks the power – and the long-time familiarity – of the live take from Mad Dogs. (The tale of the single as related here is not quite accurate, but the information available as I wrote was at best confusing. See the note from reader Yah Shure – and my response – below.)

And we land at last on a track from one of the albums that I tend to take for granted by an artist I tend as well to take for granted. “Somebody Changed the Lock” is a slightly naughty track from Dr. John’s Gumbo, a 1972 album of New Orleans R&B from the good doctor. As the one original tune on the album, it fits right in nestled next to classic tunes “Iko Iko,” “Let the Good Times Roll,” “Tiptina” and “Stack-a-Lee.” Sometimes our Saturday morning random jaunts come up a little bit short, landing on tracks that are okay but no more than that. This morning, the random universe has served us well by giving us “Somebody Changed the Lock” by Dr. John for our Saturday Single.

‘It Must Have Been The Wrong Time . . .’

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Her name was Bonnie. I can still see her on a springtime day of memory, laughing with her blonde hair blowing in a light breeze as she and her co-workers made their ways from St. Cloud State’s Centennial Hall toward the student union for a coffee break. I thought she was lovely. And I remember wondering, as I watched her walk between the two buildings on that springtime day in 1973, if I’d ever find a way to talk to her again.

There was a divide, you see. I was a college student, a sophomore at the time. She worked in the cataloging department in Centennial Hall, the college’s learning resources center (earlier known as the library). Now, she wasn’t that much older than I was, maybe a year, if I recall correctly. After I met her, I’d prevailed on my dad to tap his sources in the college’s bureaucracy to find out her age for me. And if she’d been a student, that one year likely would have meant very little. But she wasn’t a student; she was a member of the working adult world, and in my young eyes – I was nineteen – that made a large difference.

For one thing, it made it more difficult to find a way to have a casual conversation. Except for rare occasion, the only time I ever saw Bonnie was when she was in the company of her co-workers heading out for lunch or coffee. The cataloging office was in one of the back rooms on Centennial’s first floor; it wasn’t a place where a student could wander through casually, hoping to strike up a conversation with the blonde girl whose desk was near the back of the room.

Yes, I knew where her desk was. The walls that separated the cataloging office from the audio-visual equipment storage room – part of the equipment distribution office where I worked ten hours a week – were only temporary barriers with regular gaps about a half-inch wide. Every once in a while, as I pulled a projector from the shelves or wrestled a portable screen out of its storage space, I’d see a flash of blonde hair through the gap nearest Bonnie’s desk. And whenever my duties took me into the storage room, I looked for a glimpse of blonde hair. I didn’t sit there waiting for those glimpses; that would have been difficult to arrange, not to mention a little creepy. But as I hauled equipment in and out of the storage room, I’d glance over at the wall and think about how to approach the young woman whose desk was on the other side.

As I indicated earlier, we had talked once, briefly. I don’t recall what we talked about, but I remember meeting Bonnie near the card catalog and talking for a few minutes. I remember that something I said made her laugh. And I remember that her laughter and her smile delighted me. Being unattached and in a nearly year-long stretch with no dates at all, I was interested.

There was, however, that gap, that gulf between the student world and the worker world. Maybe the importance of that gap was only in my head. Maybe if I’d been braver and more resourceful, more foolhardy and less timid, I could have approached her and found that she’d have welcomed my attention.

I actually think that might have been the case. Fourteen years later, in 1987, I was working for St. Cloud State’s public relations office and I was researching a piece on the advising services the College of Business offered to small businesses in St. Cloud. One of those businesses was a small grocery store just around the corner from my folks’ house on Kilian Boulevard, a store where over the years I’d bought candy and toys and pop and cigarettes and Playboy magazines.

I was finishing an interview with Norb, the store’s owner, when the door opened and the attached bell rang. We both looked up as a mid-thirties blonde woman came into the store. I recognized her immediately.

“Hi, Bonnie,” Norb said as she grabbed something from the shelf and brought it to the counter. Smiling, she greeted Norb and then looked at me. I could see her searching her memory just as clearly as I could see the wedding ring on her finger.

I told her who I was and that I’d worked in Centennial as a student. She nodded. “I remember you,” she said.

“For pleasant reasons, I hope,” I said. “I had a crush on you.”

She nodded. “I know,” she said. “You never said anything.”

“I was too shy, I guess.”

She got her change from Norb and picked up her bag. “You should have said something, you know,” she told me as she headed for the door. “Or done something.” And as she left, she gave me that smile I’d first seen fourteen years earlier.

Well, maybe. I’ve long thought that as we go through our lives, we get what we need when we need it, and over the years, I’ve come to believe that the barrier I perceived between Bonnie and me served a purpose. At the time of our first conversation, when I was intrigued by her laughter and her smile, I’d been accepted to go to Denmark the following academic year but I had not yet committed myself to go, either financially or emotionally. Had that barrier not blocked me and had I begun a romance with Bonnie, would I have been able to leave that behind to go to Denmark? I don’t know, and I’m glad, forty years later, that I didn’t have to face the dilemma. Because, as things played out, I ended up – then and now – in the right place.

And here’s Doctor John, whose “Right Place Wrong Time” was at No. 82 in the Billboard Hot 100 forty years ago this week.