Posts Tagged ‘Shelagh McDonald’

My Faves From ’71

Friday, October 15th, 2021

I saw a squib the other day on Facebook for a book titled Never a Dull Moment: 1971, The Year That Rock Exploded by writer and broadcaster David Hepworth, a book I plan to read as soon as the local library sends it my way. The squib was followed by a challenge to list the twenty best albums from that admittedly very rich year, now fifty years in the past.

Well, I love lists, as anyone who comes past here knows. I usually do lists of single tracks, although I recall listing my thirteen favorite albums in a very early post here (the post is here, but I’ll warn you, it wanders around for a while before getting to the list). I revised that list a little later, and I imagine if I took on the topic again, my list would look at least a little different than it did fourteen years ago.

So, I’ve put together – in no particular order – a  list of my twenty favorite albums from 1971, which was, in fact, a great year for music. The greatest? Impossible to say, except to note that it lies right in the middle of my sweet spot. The years of high school and early college – 1968 through 1974 – were the best years for music for me.

I should note that one album that I wrestled with was The Concert For Bangla Desh, but I decided that all-star live albums have an unfair advantage. I’ll just note that Leon Russell’s “Jumpin’ Jack Flash/Youngblood” medley at that concert might be the single best thing released in 1971.

Here are my twenty:

Tapestry by Carole King
Sticky Fingers by the Rolling Stones
It Ain’t Easy by Long John Baldry
Naturally by J.J. Cale
The North Star Grassman and the Ravens by Sandy Denny
Madman Across The Water by Elton John
Pearl by Janis Joplin
Ram by Paul & Linda McCartney
Mudlark by Leo Kottke
Every Good Boy Deserves Favour by the Moody Blues
Stargazer by Shelagh McDonald
Leon Russell & The Shelter People
Stoney End by Barbra Streisand
Teaser & The Firecat by Cat Stevens
Every Picture Tells A Story by Rod Stewart
The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys by Traffic
Just An Old Fashioned Love Song by Paul Williams
2 Years On by the Bee Gees
Chase (Self-Titled)
Closer To The Ground by Joy Of Cooking

This was not a deeply researched list. I simply sorted the mp3s in the RealPlayer for 1971 and then sifted through the 300 or so albums that showed up, so I imagine I might have missed one or two that I’ll think about later.

And again, without thinking too hard about it, I’ll choose a track to share here today. It’s the title track to Shelagh McDonald’s Stargazer. Her story, as I’ve said here before, is quite strange; here’s a link to her tale at Wikipedia. And here’s “Stargazer.”

Saturday Single No. 305

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

As August enters its final week, we see very clear signs of the coming change of seasons: The lawn is spotted with the first fallen brown oak leaves, and the lower leaves on about half of the oaks are turning color as they prepare to join them. Not all that long from now, the rest of the oaks and the basswood will follow, and most of the lawn will be deep in brown and yellow reminders that time never stops.

The two gardens are about played out, with only the pole beans and carrots remaining in the farther plot and the tomatoes still producing in the nearer one. That’s okay, though, because when it comes to picking, preparing, canning and eating fresh vegetables, the Texas Gal and I are about played out as well. We have added about forty jars of various pickles, about forty jars of green beans, five pounds of potatoes, eight to nine pints of pasta sauce and maybe four pints of various types of relish to our shelves in the fruit cellar and the freezer. Next weekend, we’ll likely take the last of the tomatoes and make some chili base.

(We also did put up a few pints of corn, but that corn came from the supermarket. Our first attempt at growing corn whimpered to a stunted halt, overwhelmed by heat, the lack of nitrogen and weeds.)

Other signs of autumn’s eventual arrival settle more and more each day into the frame of life here on the East Side: The slight morning mist in the low spots along the railroad tracks and the crowds of geese taking a break from their flights in a nearby yard are most easily noticed, but the most potent might be the shift in the breeze. On several days, as the temperature struggled to reach seventy degrees, the wind came across the yard from the northwest, cool, bracing and dry. Gone, for those days, at least, was the damp southwest wind that brings summer thunder.

One of the odd things about this year’s autumn prologue is the lack of acorns. By this time of August during our first three years here, acorns were plenty; one of the signal sounds of our annual picnic during its first two years was the crunching of acorns under the wheels of cars as our friends drove up Thirteenth Avenue. There are few if any acorns in the street this year; whether they will yet fall or whether they were hampered by the stop-and-start spring and a few overheated weeks of the summer, I do not know.

I do know that, acorns or not, our friends will drive up Thirteenth Avenue tomorrow for our annual get-together. I’ve been keeping an eye on the weather forecast all week; early on, WeatherBug offered a forty percent chance of rain for tomorrow, and I worried how we’d cope should we need shelter from a summer storm. But this morning’s forecast for tomorrow promises clear skies, west winds and a temperature near eighty degrees, a warm and sunny day for us to say farewell to this summer.

 So here’s a fitting and lovely piece of British folk music. Taken from Shelagh McDonald’s August 1971 sessions for a third album that was never completed, it’s “Sweet Sunlight,” and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Edited slightly after first posting.

Saturday Single No. 285

Saturday, April 7th, 2012

With chores and errands waiting for the second half of the day, it’s time for a six-track random walk through the junkyard this morning, and then we’ll select one of those six for this morning’s feature.

First up is “Ledbetter Heights,” the title track to Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s 1995 debut album, recorded while the blues guitarist was still in his teens. Thom Owens of All-Music Guide said, “It may still be a while before he says something original, but he plays with style, energy, and dedication, which is more than enough for a debut album.” I admit I’ve not kept up with Shepherd’s career as closely as I once thought I would. I’ll have to rectify that.

From there, we stop at “C’mon People (We’re Making It Now)” from Richard Ashcroft’s 2000 album Alone With Everybody. That was the first solo effort from the one-time frontman for the Verve, and it’s an album I find myself digging into more and more frequently. I never paid too much attention to the Verve at the time, but as I find Ashcroft’s solo work to be thoughtful and engaging, I’m tempted to go back to his group’s catalog.

I’ve written once before about Shelagh McDonald, whose tale is one of the strangest in pop-rock history and whose catalog – collected on the anthology Let No Man Steal Your Thyme – is beautiful and heart-breaking. Our third stop this morning is McDonald’s demo of her tune “Stargazer,” recorded in London in December 1970. The tune was recorded the next year with a full band and became the title track of McDonald’s second (and last) album. As nice as the album version is, there’s an amazing intimacy to the demo.

“Eclectic musical polymath” is a hell of a title to lay on anyone, yet it truly fits Ry Cooder. From the blues of the legendary Rising Sons through roots music to soundtracks (with some stops in between), Cooder’s  journey touches on just about every facet of American popular music (and a few other cultures as well). The track that popped up this morning was “Goodnight Irene,” the Leadbelly classic, which Cooder derivers with a touch of what sounds like Zydeco accordion. The track is the closer to Cooder’s 1976 classic, Chicken Skin Music.

No random journey here would be complete without at least one piece from a movie soundtrack. This time it’s “Creole Love Call,” a piece popularized by Duke Ellington but evidently written – according to Wikipedia – by Joe “King” Oliver. The track – with a haunting wordless vocal augmented first by a solo muted trumpet and later by full-throated trumpets and mellow woodwinds – is from the soundtrack to The Cotton Club, the 1984 film by Francis Ford Coppola. (The late John Barry is credited with the soundtrack work on the film, and he did compose several tracks. Did he also arrange “Creole Love Call” and other classic works for the film? I don’t know.)

Our final stop this morning is the late Sandy Denny’s “Bushes and Briars” from her 1972 self-titled album. Recorded with help from – among others – Richard and Linda Thompson, Allen Toussaint and Sneaky Pete Kleinow, the album is a delightful trip through folk-rock with a decidedly British tinge, and “Bushes and Briars” is one of its highlights.

Those are six fine candidates, but as soon as the Shelagh McDonald track popped up, I was leaning that direction, and nothing happened to change my mind. So, here’s McDonald’s December 1970 solo demo of “Stargazer,” and it’s today’s Saturday Single.