Posts Tagged ‘Mary Fahl’

Passing It Along

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

“You know,” said Viv, “I thought about you the other day. We were in this music shop in Owatonna, and the records they had . . .”

Viv is the administrative assistant at Salem Lutheran Church here in St. Cloud, the church our family attended while I was growing up and where my mother is still a member. It’s difficult for Mom to get to church regularly, so she listens to the service on a weekly radio broadcast. And every year, Mom sponsors two of the weekly radio broadcasts, usually those closest to October 18, my dad’s birthday, and to July 17, the date they were married in 1948.

I was at Salem last week to drop off Mom’s check for those two broadcasts when Viv told me of her record digging in Owatonna, a city about sixty-five miles south of Minneapolis. Viv and I have talked a lot about music in the past ten years, when I began stopping by Salem on a regular basis to either drop off a check or to get the latest edition of a quarterly devotional booklet for Mom. We’ve talked about a lot of other stuff – pets, cooking, current events, life in general – but we almost always get around to music during our conversations.

“The one thing they didn’t have there,” Viv said, “was Pink Floyd. I asked the manager, and he said that any Pink Floyd vinyl that comes in goes out almost as quickly. That was disappointing.”

“Which Floyd album were you looking for?” I asked.

She shrugged. “Any of them,” she said. “I don’t have any Pink Floyd.”

I have some Floyd on the digital shelves, and I offered to bring her a couple CD’s worth of Pink Floyd’s work, including Dark Side of the Moon ripped as one long mp3.

“That would be great!” she said. “Let me see if I can find some blank CDs, and we can trade.”

We left it at that, and I went home and took up the task of ripping to a higher bit rate a collection of Mississippi John Hurt recordings from 1928 and tagging the resulting mp3s. As I did, I took a quick look at the digital Pink Floyd inventory.

And then I had another thought, so I went to the physical shelves, where I found six Pink Floyd LPs: Ummagumma, Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals, The Wall, and A Momentary Lapse of Reason. The only one of them that held anything beyond musical interest was Dark Side, because it was part of the soundtrack to my long ago days in Fredericia, Denmark. And had the LP in my hands been the first vinyl copy I’d ever owned of Dark Side, there would have been a tug because Mom bought it for me and because it connected me, however vaguely, to May Day 1975 and a note from the lovely Anne.

But that copy of Dark Side is gone, replaced in 1993 after it began to wear out, and I have the album on CD. As to the other Pink Floyd LPs, if I want any of the music I don’t already have digitally, all are available from the public library. And as I’ve noted here before, I do need to trim down the vinyl.

I put the six LPs in a grocery bag and left it at the dining room table. I got back to Salem Tuesday, taking Mom to attend the funeral of a long-time member of the St. Cloud State Faculty Wives & Women. After Mom got settled, I went into Viv’s office. She pulled a CDR out of a drawer. “Will this work?”

“Well, yes,” I said, “but take a look at this.” I handed her the bag, and she began to pull albums out. As she did, I recognized the expression on her face: The look of vinyl dreams come true.

“How much do you want?” she asked, looking up from the open gatefold of Dark Side of the Moon.

I shook my head. “They’re yours.”

“Oh,” she said, “I think I’m going to cry. And I can hardly wait to get home now!”

That was payment better than money.

And I could easily post “Money” from Dark Side here, but it’s too obvious, and the same holds true for the various covers I have of the tune. So I’ll slide back a little, heading from the first track on what was Side Two of Dark Side to the last track on what was Side One, the majestic “The Great Gig in the Sky.” Here’s how Mary Fahl, former lead singer of October Project, offered it on her 2006 tribute album From the Dark Side of the Moon.

Saturday Single No. 434

Saturday, February 21st, 2015

Having been roused early by at least one cat looking for either attention or food, I got up just after six this morning. After brewing a pot of coffee and scarfing down my customary breakfast of a peanut butter and apple butter sandwich, I looked around the kitchen, plugged my iPod buds into my ears and got the dishes out of the way.

While I cleaned, the iPod offered me six tunes from which we can select today’s feature. So let’s be off!

First up are Gladys Knight & The Pips with their second Top Twenty single, “Letter Full Of Tears,” written by the recently departed Don Covay. The single went to No. 19 in the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 3 on the R&B chart in early 1962. (“Every Beat Of My Heart,” credited to simply the Pips, had gone to No. 6 in the Hot 100 and to No. 1 on the R&B chart in 1961.) It would be more than five years before Knight and the Pips got that high in the charts again, with “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” going to No. 2 (No. 1, R&B) in late 1967.

I’ve told the tale before: Rummaging in a record shop in the Minneapolis suburb of Richfield during the summer of 1989, I came across an arresting album cover. The album was Avalon by Roxy Music. Not knowing much about the group except the names of Bryan Ferry and Brian Eno (who by that time had long since left the group) but intrigued by the cover, I grabbed the album for something like three bucks, blundering my way into a decent album with two great tracks. This morning, it’s “Avalon” that makes its warm and inviting way into my ears.

Much of the music of the 1980s sounds a lot better now than it did when I heard it coming out of my radio speakers thirty years ago. Is that a product of my having wider musical horizons than I had back then? Or is it simply the result of radio familiarity, with the hits of the 1980s now being packaged for niche radio along with the remnants of the 1970s and 1960s? I’m not sure, but I do know that I’ve almost always been behind the musical curve. Anyway, Pat Benatar’s “We Belong,” which went to No. 5 in early 1985, sounds a lot better to me this morning than it did when I was finishing up my grad school stay in Columbia, Missouri.

Speaking of being behind the curve, it took me many years to dip into the catalog of Led Zeppelin, puzzled as I was in the early 1970s by the few Zep tracks I did hear. “Whole Lotta Love,” “Stairway To Heaven” and “Immigrant Song” seemed, well, excessive to me. So it took years before I heard and appreciated “The Battle Of Evermore” from the band’s untitled fourth album, with its mandolins and its haunting vocal help from Sandy Denny. But however I got there, the song brings a nod and a smile this morning as I rinse the silverware.

Taj Mahal has showed up regularly in this space over the years, a tacit acknowledgment of how much I enjoy the man’s wide-ranging music and perhaps of how much that music had influenced my listening, especially with his explorations of vintage blues. This morning, I get the song “You’re Gonna Need Someone On Your Bond,” which, with a slightly differing title, was either a traditional gospel song or was written by Texas musician Blind Willie Johnson. Wikipedia notes that Johnson recorded the song first in 1930 but that in 1929, Delta musician Charley Patton had recorded a similar tune titled “You’re Gonna Need Somebody When You Die.” In any case, Taj Mahal covered the Johnson tune on his 1969 album Giant Step, and that’s the version that the iPod gives me this morning.

Mary Fahl’s voice on her solo work is exquisite and haunting, just as it was when she was the lead singer for October Project, one of my favorite groups from the 1990s and beyond. When her music pops up at random, whether it’s from the 2,000 or so tunes on the iPod or the more than 80,000 on the computer, I almost always stop what I’m doing for at least a moment to marvel at the richness of her voice. That was the case again this morning, when the iPod gave me “Going Home” from Fahl’s 2003 album The Other Side Of Time. The stunning track was also used that same year in the soundtrack to the film Gods and Generals. And it’s today’s Saturday Single.