Posts Tagged ‘Yvonne Elliman’

‘Somebody Holds The Key . . .’

Thursday, April 29th, 2021

I was puttering at my computer the other week, probably reading the news, while across the room, the Texas Gal was working on a quilt. My computer’s iTunes provided the soundtrack.

There came a familiar acoustic introduction and then Steve Winwood’s unmistakable voice:

Come down off your throne and leave your body alone
Somebody must change
You are the reason I’ve been waiting all these years
Somebody holds the key

Well, I’m near the end and I just ain’t got the time
And I’m wasted and I can’t find my way home . . .

It was, of course, “Can’t Find My Way Home,” a track from the only album ever released by the British supergroup Blind Faith and a staple of progressive stations when the album came out in 1969.

The moment came back to me yesterday as I was wandering around YouTube digging into the oeuvre of Yvonne Elliman, the Hawaiian-born singer who first came to prominence in 1970 when she sang the role of Mary Magdalene for original release of the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. The album spent three non-consecutive weeks in early 1971 on top of the Billboard 200, and was in the magazine’s Top Ten for more than forty weeks.

And it brough Elliman her first two hits. In 1971, “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” went to No. 28 (and to No. 15 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart), and “Everything’s Alright” went to No. 92 (No. 25, Easy Listening). As fine as those records were, yesterday, I was looking into other portions of Elliman’s career.

Why? Because the fine blog And The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ – run by my friend jb – pointed me to Elliman’s single “I Can’t Get You Outa My Mind” from 1977. And once at YouTube, I began to dig around in the Hawaiian singer’s other later work, as collected on The Best Of Yvonne Elliman, a sixteen-track CD released in 1997. It’s got the two 1971 hits, of course, and 1978’s “If I Can’t Have You” a No. 1 hit from the movie Saturday Night Fever, as well as “Hello Stranger,” a No. 15 hit from 1977.

But it’s also got a lot of other stuff I’ve never heard, some of it from Elliman’s 1978 album Night Flight and a fair amount from elsewhere. One of those – and here things tie together – is Windwood’s “Can’t Find My Way Home.” Elliman’s version was released as a Decca single in 1971 and then showed up on her first album, a self-titled effort released in 1972.

Neither the record nor the single hit the Billboard charts. The single was listed as “hitbound” on an April 10, 1972, survey released by WILI in Willimantic, Connecticut, and was listed two days later as one of more than forty unranked singles on a survey released by WRKR-FM in Racine, Wisconsin.

There are a few other versions of Winwood’s song on the digital shelves here – and many more beyond that, based on the information at Second Hand Songs – but we’ll listen to Elliman’s today and perhaps dig into more covers in the weeks to come.

‘They Won’t Tell Your Secrets . . .’

Friday, January 15th, 2016

Things start with a familiarly slinky piano riff joined by a girl group singing softly in the background. Then, enter Mitch Ryder.

“Sally,” he says, “you know I’m your best friend, right? And four years ago, I told you not to go downtown, ’cause you’re gonna get hurt. Didn’t I tell you you were gonna cry? Mm-hmm. So you kept hangin’ around with him.”

Then, sounding utterly fed up, Ryder hollers, “Here it is, almost 1968, and you still ain’t straight!”

And Ryder rolls into his own version of “Sally, Go ’Round The Roses,” one that works in the chorus to “Mustang Sally” along the way:

Ryder’s cover of the Jaynetts’ 1963 hit is on his 1967 album What Now My Love, and it’s just one of numerous covers of “Sally” in the more than fifty years since the Jaynetts’ hit went to No. 2 in the Billboard Hot 100. Twenty-seven of those covers – including two in French – are listed at Second Hand Songs. There are certainly more covers of the song out there, but as usual, that’s a good starting place.

That list of twenty-five covers in English range in time from a 1965 version by Ike Turner’s Ikettes that doesn’t roam very far from the Jaynetts’ original to a 2012 version from the album Moving In Blue by Danny Kalb & Friends – Kalb was a member of Blues Project in the 1960s – that’s instrumentally exotic but vocally drab.

There have been plenty of others along the way. One that I’ve heard touted as worth hearing is a live performance from 1966 by the San Francisco group Great Society with Grace Slick. I found it uninteresting, as I did a 1974 version by the all-woman group Fanny (on the album Rock & Roll Survivors). Yvonne Elliman traded in the Jaynetts’ slinky piano for some weird late Seventies electronica when she covered the song on her 1978 album Night Flight, and that didn’t grab me too hard, either. More interesting was the funky 1971 version by Donna Gaines (later Donna Summer) released on a British single.

At a rough estimate, covers of “Sally” by female performers outnumber those by male singers by about a three-to-one ratio. Joining Ryder with one of the relatively few male covers of the tune was Tim Buckley, whose 1973 cover from his Sefronia album has an interesting folk vibe (though he wanders away from the lyrics and the melody for an odd bit in the middle).

Another folkish version of the tune comes from the British band Pentangle, who included the song on its 1969 album Basket of Light. The group’s version is one of my favorite covers, as is the version by the far more obscure group Queen Anne’s Lace, which put a cover of “Sally” on the group’s only album, a self-titled 1969 release.

But the honors for strangest version of “Sally, Go ’Round The Roses” that I came across go to singer Alannah Myles, who found an utterly weird – but compelling – Scottish vibe for the song on her 1995 album, A-Lan-Nah.