Posts Tagged ‘Peggy Lipton’

‘Going Down The Stoney End . . .’

Friday, February 20th, 2015

The Texas Gal and I were killing time between television shows the other night. She played a game on her laptop while I read a copy of Rolling Stone as the Seventies channel on the TV provided the soundtrack. There was a flourish of drums followed by a ringing piano introduction, and Barbra Streisand sang:

I was born from love and my poor mother worked the mines
I was raised on the good book Jesus
Till I read between the lines
Now I don’t believe I wanna see the morning

And as I listened to Streisand deliver “Stoney End,” one of Laura Nyro’s (perhaps) less cryptic songs, I wondered who played piano on the track, as the piano intro and the later piano fills are two of the things that make me like the record more than I like a lot of Streisand’s work. So when the song ended, I went to the stacks to check out the Stoney End album jacket, but it turns out I don’t have the vinyl of the 1971 album. All I have is a digital copy scavenged from somewhere, and the album credits I find online list several keyboard players, so I don’t know who to thank for that chiming intro on “Stoney End.”

At that point, this post could have gone several different ways. I could assess Streisand’s work in detail, but I gave a brief assessment of my reaction to her work in a 2010 post about a drive-in movie date gone wrong, and nothing has changed my view that Streisand’s career went off the rails – artistically, at least – in 1977 with the ego-trip film A Star Is Born. (The Texas Gal dates the artistic derailment a bit later, with the 1983 release of Yentl. We both agree that early in her career – the 1960s – Streisand was a great interpreter of songs from Broadway and the Great American Songbook.)

And I didn’t really want to turn my interest in Streisand’s “Stoney End” into a post on the late Laura Nyro’s music. You’ve heard folks say about Bob Dylan, “A great songwriter, but man, I cannot stand to listen to him sing,” right? I feel a little bit like that about Laura Nyro: I love her songs, as inscrutable as they may sometimes be, but on too many of her recordings, she sounds shrill to me, so even though I have a little of her work around, I rarely listen to it. Happily enough for today’s exercise, Nyro’s take on “Stoney End” – found on the 1967 album More Than A New Discovery – is one of her better performances, and I quite like it.

So, with both of those versions of “Stoney End” echoing in my ears, I wondered about other versions of the song. And in the past few days, I’ve found nine other covers of the Nyro song, almost all of them jammed between the years 1967 – when Nyro released her version – and 1972, when Bert Kaempfert released, on his album 6 Plus 6, the only easy listening version of the tune I’ve found. (Maynard Ferguson also released an instrumental version of the tune, his coming on his self-titled 1971 album, but being a typically bold and brassy Maynard Ferguson track, one can’t classify it as easy listening.)

From what I find online, the first to cover “Stoney End” were the Blossoms, an R&B backing group with a massive list of credits but perhaps best known for having Darlene Love as one of its members and for being the actual performers on a couple of Phil Spector productions that were credited to the Crystals. The Blossoms recorded “Stoney End” in 1967 for the Ode label. Sharp-eared listeners will note that Love did not take the lead vocal; one of the comments at YouTube notes that in her autobiography (My Name Is Love), Love wrote, “Some of the chorus parts were too high for me, so Jean [Thomas] took the lead.”

Actress and singer Peggy Lipton – whose musical career I examined in a post last summer – recorded the tune in 1968, also for the Ode label, and one doesn’t need to have very sharp ears at all to realize that producer Lou Adler laid Lipton’s vocals over pretty much the same backing track as he’d put together for the Blossoms a year earlier. Lipton’s single release of “Stoney End” was the first one to tickle the Billboard charts, bubbling under the Hot 100 at No. 121. (Streisand’s 1970 single release is the only other version of the song to chart; it went to No. 6 on the Hot 100 and to No. 2 on what was then called the Easy Listening chart.)

A few more covers came along as the 1960s waned and the 1970s dawned: Linda Ronstadt & The Stone Poneys recorded the song for their 1968 album Linda Ronstadt, The Stone Poneys & Friends, Vol. III, Diana Ross recorded the song during the sessions for her self-titled 1970 album, but the track didn’t see the light until 2002, when it showed up as a bonus track, and jazz singer Selena Jones laid down her take on the tune on her 1971 album, Platinum.

And a couple of singers in recent years have recorded the song for tribute albums: Beth Nielsen Chapman added her idiosyncratic take on “Stoney End” to the multi-artist album Time And Love – The Music Of Laura Nyro in 1997, and Broadway singer Judy Kuhn included “Stoney End” on her own tribute album, Serious Playground – The Songs of Laura Nyro, released in 2007.

Of the covers noted in those last two paragraphs, only one stands out to me: The 1968 version by Linda Ronstadt & The Stone Poneys. (And many thanks to reader and pal Yah Shure for providing the mp3 to make the video below.)

Diverted By Peggy Lipton

Friday, June 27th, 2014

Okay, right off the top, take a listen to Peggy Lipton:

I found that rather nice cover of Donovan’s 1967 single “Wear Your Love Like Heaven” after I saw it listed in the Billboard Hot 100 from June 27, 1970, forty-four years ago today. It was bubbling under at No. 112 and would get as high as No. 108 before falling out of sight. (One of the things I particularly like about Lipton’s record is producer Lou Adler quoting from Donovan’s “Sunshine Superman” in the introduction.)

Lipton was better known in the late 1960s and early 1970s as one of three young stars (along with Michael Cole and Clarence Williams III) of the television series The Mod Squad, which centered around three young folks who agreed to work as undercover cops in order to stay out of jail. The series ran from September 1968 through August 1973 and was, says Wikipedia, “one of the earliest attempts to deal with the counterculture. Groundbreaking in the realm of socially relevant drama, it dealt with issues such as abortion, domestic violence, student protest, child neglect, illiteracy, slumlords, the anti-war movement, soldiers returning from Vietnam, racism, and the illegal drug trade.”

(Was it that good? I never watched the show much back then, but I’ve taken in a few clips on YouTube in the past few days, and what I’ve seen seems slow and a little clunky. But that’s a perspective from more than forty years on, so I dunno.)

Lipton might be better known these days as the mother of Rashida Jones, who plays Ann Perkins on NBC’s Parks and Recreation, or for having played Norma Jennings in the 1990s television show Twin Peaks, or perhaps as the ex-wife of Quincy Jones, to whom Lipton was married from 1974 to 1990.

But it was as Julie Barnes in The Mod Squad that the utterly beautiful Lipton came to the public’s attention. She sang at least once during the show’s run. In a 1969 episode, she auditioned for a roadhouse singing job with a performance of Carole King’s “Now That Everything’s Been Said.” (Sharp-eyed viewers will note the presence of a young Tyne Daly and, behind the drum kit, Hal Blaine.)

Her 1968 self-titled album included a cover of Laura Nyro’s “Stoney End,” which was released as a single; it bubbled under at No. 121. A single-only release, “Lu,” bubbled under at No. 102 in early 1970, followed by “Wear Your Love Like Heaven,” which was also a single-only release. lists one Canadian and one Japanese single; the B-side of the Japanese single was “Just A Little Lovin’ (Early In The Mornin’),” originally released (as far as I can tell) by Dusty Springfield as the B-side to her 1968 hit “Son Of A Preacher Man.”

Here’s Lipton lip-synching “Just A Little Lovin’ (Early In The Mornin’)” on The Hollywood Palace in 1969, followed by a bit of “Little Green Apples” with Sammy Davis, Jr., and a bit of show-business nonsense. (How about that? Two posts in a row with Sammy Davis, Jr.!)

After digging into Lipton’s brief musical career, I was intrigued to learn that a CD entitled The Complete Ode Recordings will be released near the end of July. As I’ve dug into stuff the past couple of days, I’ve guessed that the various non-album singles were intended to be on a unreleased second album I’ve seen mentioned vaguely (most notably at All Music Guide) that I assume will be included on the CD. Given that I like what I’ve heard of Lipton’s work – and adding in that Blaine and other members of the famed Wrecking Crew as well as reed man Jim Horn are listed in the credits for Lipton’s album at AMG – I may have to invest in the CD when it comes out.

I admit to getting sidetracked into Ms. Lipton’s career. Next week, we’ll do what I originally planned: We’ll take a listen to Donovan’s original version of “Wear Your Love Like Heaven” and then dig into a few other covers. And now that I’ve been reminded of “Just A Little Lovin’ (Early In The Mornin’),” we’ll likely dig into covers of that one, too.