Saturday Single No. 331

It’s time for a random six-song jaunt through the mp3 shelves. (It’s a good thing the shelves are reinforced; the number of mp3s in the library went past the 67,000 mark sometime in the past two weeks.)

First up this morning is “Black, White & Blue” from guitarist Sonny Landreth’s 1996 album, Blues Attack. The track, featuring sweet solos on saxophone and blues harp (I wish I knew who from whom; the credits at All-Music Guide are sparse), rolls on for a pleasant 4:40. Landreth, a native of Mississippi, has been playing since the 1970s, working at one time or another with Clifton Chenier, John Hiatt, John Mayall, Allen Toussaint, Junior Wells, Gatemouth Brown, Johnny Winter, Martina McBride and many more. (His list of credits at AMG contains 595 entries.)  AMG tells me I need to find his earlier albums from the 1990s, Outward Bound and South of I-10. If those two are better than the two Landreth albums I have – Blues Attack and Levee Town from 2000 – then AMG is very much right.

From there, we land on “High Priest of Memphis” a 1971 track by a British group called Bell & Arc. The quartet released one self-titled album, one that’s not especially heavy by today’s standards but that likely seemed like it rocked out a bit when it came out. I wasn’t all that impressed by the album when I came across it a few years back. I mean, having a track from the album pop up every once in a while is fine, but I’m not particularly interested in listening again to the album as a whole. The plodding “High Priest of Memphis” does nothing this morning to alter that judgment.

And we stay in 1971, but with a major difference. After Stephen Stills hit No. 14 in 1971 with “Love the One You’re With,” the Isley Brothers covered the song on their Givin’ It Back album and released the track as a single on their own T-Neck label. It went to No. 18 on the Billboard pop chart and No. 3 on the R&B chart. Although it’s not as creatively reimagined as some of the Isleys’ other covers of the time – see their work on Seals & Crofts’ “Summer Breeze” in 1974 – the Isleys’ take on Stills’ song is sly and funky and a nice stop on this morning’s journey.

One of the most annoying singles during my prime Top 40 listening years – say, 1969 through 1975 – was Albert Hammond’s No. 5 hit in 1972, “It Never Rains In Southern California.” Why? Well, after telling us that he got on a west-bound 747, Hammond sings, “Didn’t think before decided what to do.” That second line may be the most awkward bit of writing I’ve ever come across that didn’t come from my own keyboard, and it’s quashed for more than forty years any appreciation of Hammond’s single, which otherwise was a pretty good record. That annoyance also kept me for years from listening to anything else by Hammond except for the joyous “Free Electric Band” from 1973, so when a friend of mine passed along Hammond’s 1975 album, 99 Miles from L.A., I was skeptical. I shouldn’t have been; it’s a little lightweight, but it’s a pretty decent singer/songwriter effort (especially on the title track, which I first knew from Art Garfunkel’s Breakaway album). This morning, the RealPlayer lands on the mellow “Rivers Are For Boats” from the 99 Miles album, and as far as I can tell, there’s nothing nearly as awkward as that awful second line from “It Never Rains . . .” So that’s good, as we head toward our fifth stop.

I’ve written frequently that when I was beginning to build a CD library in 1999 and 2000, among my favorite sources of new (to me, anyway) music were the discount CD carts at the various Twin Cities locations of Half Price Books. I’ve never gone back and figured out how many CDs I grabbed from those carts for one or two bucks, but I think the total would be impressive. The one that pops up this morning is One Of These Days, a 1996 album by the James Solberg Band. The band was the long-time backing band for bluesman Luther Allison before releasing its first albums in the mid-1990s. One Of These Days was the second of those albums, and the track we land on this morning – “Can It Be” – is a decent blues workout for Solberg and his pals.

As I was writing about the track that would have been our sixth stop – and today’s feature – the power went out, and when it came back on, the paragraph I’d started was gone. As I was not pleased with the record anyway, I’m going to take the brief outage – it lasted no more than two seconds – as a sign and go one more selection forward.

And we do pretty well, staying with the blues. During my time (1993-2001) in the blues & R&B band I’ve mentioned occasionally, one of our favorite workouts was the Freddy King/Sonny Thompson tune “I’m Tore Down,” which likely came to our attention after Eric Clapton included it on From the Cradle, his 1994 all-blues album. Clapton’s version is a nice place to end our trek this morning, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.


One Response to “Saturday Single No. 331”

  1. porky says:

    As a budding teen-age guitarist I bought this Columbia Records sampler in a local cut-out bin:

    It contains the original Freddy King version which has prejudiced me against all the others.

    The record’s diversity of artists served me well as a tenderfoot picker. And hearing then-teenaged Shuggie Otis’s blistering playing gave me some hope…..

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