Rocket_-88-_single_cover

There’s a great deal of debate among music historians as to what was the first rock ‘n’ roll record to ever be recorded and released.  I go with those who maintain that the very first rock record was not a specific point in time but rather that it evolved over a number of years as the influences of different genres and styles, mostly R&B, along with blues, jazz, swing, big band, and folk combined to what was eventually considered to be rock music as we know it today.

When the debate, however, gets down to defining the key milestones along the way to the development of rock music, many point to “Rocket 88” recorded in Memphis on March 3rd or 5th, 1951 as the first rock ‘n’ roll record.  It has all the elements and at the end of the day the debate is really just that, debate.

The interesting fact here is that Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats were actually Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm.  Yep, that Ike Turner – of Ike & Tina Turner fame.

jbatdc1

Brenston was the saxophonist in 19-year old Ike’s band and had written the tune which the band worked on during rehearsal sessions at The Riverside Hotel in Clarksdale, MS. Brenston sang the vocals and the band supplied the rest.  The song was a tribute to the Oldsmobile Rocket 88 automobile which had recently been introduced.  The song is based on Jimmy Liggins’ 1947 record “Cadillac Boogie“.

The song structure is a blend of jump blues and swing.  It infuses a rawer, more distorted sound than had been heard previously.  According to rock legend, the band’s guitar amp (used by Willie Kizart) had fallen off the roof of the car and to repair it, Sam Phillips (of Sun Records) stuffed the back of the speaker cabinet with newspapers creating an early “fuzz” tone.  Ike Turner later disagreed with this tale and thought the fuzz tone came from the speaker getting wet when rain leaked into the trunk.

t03-66-003b      JB

 

(l-r: Ike, Jackie)

 

[Trivia Note: The sax solo is by a then 17-yo Raymond Hill who was later t0 be the father of Tina Turner’s first child before she married Ike.]

Enjoy….

 

 

crimson-clover

I can remember buying the 45 RPM version of “Crimson and Clover” at Woolworth’s on 86th Street and Third Avenue. It was early 1969 (the record was released in December of 1968) and it was getting a lot of radio airplay by the “Good Guys” at WMCA.  I spent a lot of time in 8th grade listening to AM radio through a small transistor radio and an earplug.  Man!  It wasn’t going to get cooler than that!  8-)

WMCA_Good_Guys_1964

The tune was one of the big hits for Tommy James and the Shondells and was  penned by Tommy James and his drummer Peter Lucia Jr..  It was something of a departure for the band as James wanted to write and produce his own music and also wanted to move from singles to albums.  They came up with the title first and then had to come up with the song.

tjs

They went through a few versions of the song before landing on the James & Lucia tune.  It is the band’s best-selling tune and to date has sold more than five million copies.

According to James the song took about 5 hours to record.  Tommy played most of the instruments (except for drums and bass) including the tremolo-laced guitar effect that dominates the composition.  One unique twist, they plugged the microphone into the tremolo unit of an Ampeg amp and recorded the vocals at the end using the same effect as the guitar.  Very cool.

The version supplied below is a longer (5:22) version used on the album.  In expanding the song from the shorter single version, the band overdubbed some of Tommy’s guitar tracks adding steel guitar and fuzz tome effects. If you listen closely you can hear a drop in pitch during the solos.  This was the result of a difference in tape speed between the single version and the expanded track.

cnc1

Enjoy…

dr1

Dina Regine

Apparently the hottest name on the New York DJ scene, it’s lost on me as I rarely venture out past midnight and never to NYC dance clubs.  I’m more likely to want to be at Bar 55 or maybe the Highline Ballroom.  But that doesn’t stop me from recognizing a huge talent when she lands in my inbox here at The Eclectic Ear!   I’m thrilled to name her “Artist of the Month”.

dina-regine-album-cover

From her official bio:

Performing Songwriter Magazine called Dina  Regine’s style ‘roots music with a modern twist’. That pretty much sums it up. Over the years, this hat-obsessed gal has made a name for herself wearing more than one hat. Musician, photographer, and club/event DJ are the titles Regine juggles with a fierce passion. 

While working nights doing telephone surveys, Regine spent most of the time sneaking long distance calls to her buddy, the late Mike Bloomfield (Bob Dylan, Super Session) in California. They were brainstorming the perfect band they planned to form (never materialized), when she met a co-worker who just signed a deal with Roulette Records and needed backup vocals. Needless to say, it was a learning experience for Regine, and it led to her singing with Jimmy Cliff on his live record, produced by Andrew Loog Oldham (Rolling Stones, Small Faces, Donovan).  Shortly after, Regine went on what was to be her last audition as a backup singer in New Jersey for Bruce Springsteen. It was the ‘Boss’ himself who suggested Dina should start thinking about fronting her own band. She took his advice.

After three bands, (Dina Regine Band, Naked Grape and Swamp Honey), a publishing deal with Warner Brothers in the 80s and Sony Music in the 90’s, Regine went solo, and kicked off her new venture opening for Jorma Kaukonen at Irving Plaza. She has since released two homespun CD’s, ‘Be As It Will’ (1999) which later garnered her an award for her song ‘Beautiful’ for best folk song by Song Of The Year, and in 2005, she released ‘Blame It On The Moon’. She also released a holiday single (2008) called ‘Forever Christmas Eve. 

dr2

Dina’s voice has one of those soulful voices that make it sound so easy.  I’ve been listening to this non-stop on the way to work for the past few weeks.  I love her music and I love Dina’s voice and I think you will too.  Check out the video clips below and the link to her website for a real treat.  One of the videos below that just blows me away is her cover of the Stones’ “Under My Thumb”.    Check it out and let me know what you think…

You can find out more at:  http://www.dinaregine.com

Enjoy….

 

 

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Posted: December 9, 2014 in Uncategorized

Tim Brosnan:

I blogged about this timeless classic almost two years ago. Since it had a lot of traffic this week I figured I’d send it to the top of the list.

Originally posted on The Eclectic Ear:

Charlie_Brown_Christmas

A Charlie Brown Christmas is the first prime-time animated TV special based upon Charles Schulz’ comic strip Peanuts.  The program was originally sponsored by Coca-Cola and it debuted on CBS way back in 1965. It’s been shown in the US every year around the holidays since then. It’s been honored with both an Emmy and Peabody Award.

charlie_brown_christmas_desktop_wallpaper-other

You all know the plot.  You also know that the key moment, and the true message of the program is when Linus, aware that Charlie Brown has lost hope about the true meaning of the holiday, reads the second chapter of the Gospel of St. Luke…

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel…

View original 270 more words

daily news front page

As protests mount across NYC in the wake of the Eric Garner decision, I can’t think of a more appropriate soundtrack…..

Released in 1971 on the Tamla label, composer Renaldo “Obie” Benson was inspired to write the song after witnessing an incident of police brutality. Teaming up Marvin Gaye and Al Cleveland, Benson wrote the song and Marvin sang it like only he could.  It was a departure from the famed Motown sound but it was relevant and remains so today.

MI0001957169

Turn it up…..

koad1

Another highly recognizable pop tune, “Kind of a Drag” was written by Jim Holvay and recorded by The Buckinghams.  It reached numero uno on the charts in February 1967 and it was to be the first of three top ten hits for The Buckinghams that year.

Despite being reformed more recently, The Buckinghams were only around for a short time in the late ’60’s but that was long enough for them to keep scoring chart-soaring hits.  In 1967 alone, they followed up “Kind of a Drag” with “Don’t You Care” and “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy”.

They originally broke into the business with a cover of the song “I’ll Go Crazy” which had been recorded by James Brown & The Flames and a cover of The Beatles’ “I Call Your Name”.  Most bands don’t get very far on the basis of covers and when “..Drag” came along the band hit the big time.

The_Buckinghams_1968

The Buckinghams circa 1968

The song is structured around standard pop lines but is distinguished by the use of some great horn playing and some very tight vocal harmonies by The Buckinghams.  Their style is reminiscent of Herman’s Hermits (Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter) without the Mersey-beat and British accents.

Enjoy….

 

 

 

la1

Happy Thanksgiving to all the readers of The Eclectic Ear.

Though not exactly a pop archaeology artifact, “What A Wonderful World” is pretty close and Louis’ version seems a good choice for this particular holiday.

The song was penned by music business heavyweights Bob Thiele (as “George Douglas”) and George David Weiss.   First recorded by Satchmo it was released as a single in 1967.

Tony Bennett was offered the song first but turned it down.  Weiss later said he wrote it specifically with Armstrong in mind and being impressed by Louis’ ability to bring people from different races together, thought it was perfect for him.  It wasn’t a very big hit in the United States (due mostly to not being promoted by the label).  It has since become a standard, covered by countless artists, and as of mid-2014 Armstrong’s version has sold more than 2.2 million copies.

what-a-wonderful-world

So enjoy the holiday wherever you may be, give some thanks, and sing along with this one.   You’ll be glad you did.

 

 

 

Judas_Priest_British_Steel

Talk about killer albums.  A metal classic found on any headbangers rack, the 1980 release British Steel by metal masters Judas Priest.

The band’s sixth studio album it repeated the sound they had brought out on Killing Machine in  1978.  With Rob Halford on vocals, K.K. Downing & Glenn Tipton on guitars, Ian Hill on bass, and their new drummer at the time Dave Holland, Priest cemented their status as heavy metal gods in the UK and around the globe.
Judas-Priest-1

Judas Priest – in more recent times

I wouldn’t call myself a huge Judas Priest fan.  They get a lot of respect but as my heavy metal tastes run more to Zeppelin, I only play them from time to time.  What I like about them more than most metal bands are that they aren’t afraid of being melodic and tackling songs that you wouldn’t expect them to cover.  I mean Rob Halford (pictured below) covers the Joan Baez classic “Diamonds and Rust” and the band does a great version of the Spooky Tooth classic “Better By You, Better Than Me” on some of their other releases.  Well done.

RI like the music but I think it’s time for a costume change.  I can only think of Spinal Tap when I watch the live videos.

Rob-Halford-Metal-God-Houston

 

Rob Halford

In 2009, Priest covered the British Steel album in its entirety to open their 30th Anniversary tour. If you’re a new metal fan or an older one looking to upgrade your collection, British Steel is a good place to start.

  1. “Breaking The Law”
  2. “Living After Midnight”
  3. “Grinder”
  4. “You Don’t Have To Be Old To Be Wise”

Enjoy….

 

61CkrvbFPHL._SX450_

Pink Floyd’s first studio album in more than 20 years has been released.  The Endless River hit the shelves on November 10th and is a stunning work by the band that is the definition of British progressive rock.  As reported previously, the album was originally recorded as more than 20 hours worth of material during the sessions for The Division Bell in 1994.

The album, 18 tracks with another 9 on the deluxe edition, is part of the Pink Floyd lore.  The one that was recorded and put on the studio shelf to get dusty while the band went off to live their lives.  The album that some fans thought would have been finally released at the 25th anniversary of Dark Side of the Moon or perhaps as outtakes from The Divison Bell.  In the end, it stands on its own entirely and is a tribute to keyboardist Rick Wright who passed away in 2008 from cancer.  Wright wrote about two-thirds of the songs on the The Endless River but for me, the guitar work by David Gilmour is what makes this album so good. I find it reminiscent of his haunting work on Wish You Were Here.

Rickwright

Rick Wright (1943 – 2008)

Floyd historians will recall that when the band was first cobbled together as a full-tilt blues band fashioned after The Stones, but with a tendency towards extended solos performed at high volume levels (it certainly beat learning more songs), they actually were developing the chops that brought them to the forefront of what was later tagged progressive rock.

I covered their history on a series of earlier posts here in anticipation of The Endless River being released.

http://timbrosnan.wordpress.com/2014/09/16/the-pink-floyd-retrospective-chapter-three-1978-1985/

The tracks on Endless River run the full gamut of what fans have come to expect from a Pink Floyd album in the Gilmour/Wright/Mason configuration (with help given by a wide assortment of studio musicians).  So we’re treated to Gilmour’s always tasteful melodic solos winding their way around Wright’s melody lines.  There’s the obligatory sax solo ala Wish You Were Here performed stunningly by Gilad Atzmon on the track “The Lost Art of Conversation”.  There’s the string section too (not synthesized but actual strings) added to the closing track “Louder Than Words”.  Some reviewers took this approach as “lazy” but I disagree.  This is musical brilliance at it’s very best.

David Gilmour CBE

Mr. Gilmour, CBE – looking very proper

  1. “Louder Than Word” (Gilmour, Samson)
  2. “It’s What We Do” (Gilmour, Wright)
  3. “Nervana” (Gilmour ) – bonus track
  4. “Things Left Unsaid” (Gilmour, Wright)
  5. “Lost Art of Conversation” (Wright)

Enjoy….

I_want_candy_the_strangeloves_vinyl_side_a_label

Awhile back I blogged about The Strangeloves hit “Night Time” in my review of the Nuggets compilation set.  The set also includes the pop gem “I Want Candy“. The song is probably most famously known for the cover version by new wave artists Bow Wow Wow in 1982.

The tune was written by Bert Berns, Bob Feldman, Jerry Goldstein and Richard Gottehrer in 1965.  Feldman, Goldstein and Gottehrer had already hit the charts with “My Boyfriend’s Back” by The Angels. Although record producers they adopted the fake band name The Strangeloves.  They even went so far as to adopt fake identities (Australian sheep farmers!). That wasn’t so bad until the hit soared up the charts and the public wanted to see them live.  This odd position was solved when four studio musicians (who had played on the record) were drafted into going on tour as The Strangeloves.  What a scam!

 

Strangeloves_press_shot

Enjoy….

 

TVZ1

Townes Van Zandt (1944 – 1997)

For the past few weeks I’ve been watching installments of Sonic Highways a HBO show created by Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters that sets out to compose and record a different song in a different city every week.  Their muse along the way is the local music scene and musical heritages found in places like Chicago, Memphis, Austin, or Nashville. It’s highly recommended and is a wonderful insight into the people behind the music in these various cities. Dave Grohl, who has quickly become one of my favorite artists, calls it “a love letter to the history of American music”.

In a recent installment that focused on Nashville, legend after legend remarked that in Nashville it really is all about the songs.  The stories they tell, the emotions they release, and the memories they evoke. The songs are what bring that to a realization that we have this shared consciousness.  This common element that seems unique to us but is, in the end, human nature.

A number of the artists interviewed, including Steve Earle, Dolly Parton, and Emmylou Harris, mentioned the late Townes Van Zandt.   TVZ wasn’t a flashy guy.  Not much glitter but when he put pen to paper, and pick to string, he created some beautifully evocative songs that spoke volumes to anyone who listens.

tvz2

I think I first became aware of Townes through the 1993 release of the live album Rear View Mirror.  I had picked it up on the basis that it included his own version of his song “Pancho and Lefty”.  I had heard the tune on a Willie Nelson – Merle Haggard album and wanted to know more about the man who wrote it.  Willie & Merle had a fuller, more orchestrated version complete with Willie’s Spanish guitar solo (and Merle’s voicing is just deadly perfect) but Townes’ version just tears you apart.  You can feel the ominous spectre of death and the life of a fugitive in TVZ’ sparse, matter-of-fact presentation. But, in all due respect, Willie and Merle took the song to the top of the country charts bringing Townes much deserved recognition.

Townes was born in Fort Worth TX in 1944.  The Van Zandt’s were a famous Texas family with a line that ran through the Republic of Texas leadership and the founders of Fort Worth.  His father gave him a guitar for Christmas when he was 12 and, inspired by Elvis, Towne’s knew what he wanted to do.  He went off to college but was brought home by his parents who were worried about his depression and his binge drinking.  Later diagnosed as manic-depressive, Townes struggled with drug abuse and alcoholism until he died on New Year’s Day 1997 at the age of 52.

When Townes first started performing he played in clubs with guys like Jerry Jeff Walker, Doc Watson, and Lightning Hopkins.  He started out with covers but eventually moved on to originals.  He moved to Nashville and began to hone his craft.  He always maintained that Hopkins, along with Dylan and Hank Williams were his primary influences.

The late 60’s and early 70’s were his most prolific years.  Releasing five albums in as many years he also penned some of his most famous tunes “To Live’s to Fly,” “Pancho and Lefty”, and “If I Needed You”.  I’d recommend any of the albums as a place to start listening to TVZ but also consider the 1977 release Live at The Old Quarter, Houston, Texas.

tvz

When the fire dancers finish and leave you alone
With nothing but embers and sacks full of stone
That hang round your neck, slicing through to the bone
Will there still be a place for your laughter?

When all your bright scarlet turns slowly to blue

Will you stop and decide that it’s over?

- from: Sad Cinderella by Townes Van Zandt

 

  1. “Pancho & Lefty” – Townes Van Zandt
  2. “If I Needed You” – Townes Van Zandt
  3. “Nothin'” – Townes Van Zandt
  4. “Dead Flowers” – Towne’s cover of the Rolling Stones song
  5. “Sad Cinderella” – Townes Van Zandt

Enjoy…..

imagesCAB6D4JP

I’ve been a King Crimson since the early ’80’s when they released the phenomenal “Discipline”.  Although they’ve been creating progressive rock since the late ’60’s, I hadn’t focused on them too much before that point.

I’ve seen them in concert only once – on June 26, 1984 (isn’t the Internet wonderful?) at Pier 84 in NYC.  Pier 84 was the venue that followed the Schaefer Music Festival move from Wollman Rink in Central Park a couple of years earlier.

I don’t have vivid memories of the concert except for watching Adrian Belew come out on the stage first and play his guitar through a looper effect (where notes are recorded and played back in layers), place it back onto the stand while it was still playing, and then leaving to return with the full band a few minutes later.

Considered among the earliest pioneers of progressive rock, a label they don’t like, King Crimson blended very diverse influences into their music.  Everything ranging from heavy metal to pop to electronica – with some gamelan thrown in – made its way into the now fifty year history of the band.

kc1 kc2

Early and later Crimson

In the Court of the Crimson King (also titled In the Court of the Crimson King: An Observation by King Crimson) was their debut album.  Released in October 1969, it is generally considered to be the seed of progressive rock by shifting the core elements of the songs away from the blues (the basis for almost every rock song prior to that point) to bring in jazz and classical influences.

A musicologist named Edward Macan commented that ITKOTCK “may be the most influential progressive rock album ever released” and Pete Townshend of The Who called it “an uncanny masterpiece”.

kc inner

After a rocky start with producer Tony Clarke (of Moody Blues fame), the band laid it down on a 1″ 8-track recorder at Wessex Sound Studios in London. A recording problem with the machine heads being unaligned during mixdown caused some unwanted distortion and loss of high frequencies.  That can still be heard throughout parts of the album and more so on “20th Century Schizoid Man”.  Later releases used 2nd generation master copies that were cleaned.  The original tapes were shelved and considered lost until 2003.  Since then, and with the help of modern technology, the problems have been largely fixed and new releases have benefited from the original sounds being restored.

The album was originally released to mixed reviews (Christgau called it “ersatz shit”) but has since achieved the status of a rock classic.  KC was clearly ahead of their time and paved the way for more progressive rockers to develop their art.

Greg-Lake-Robert-Fripp-King-Crimson

Lake and Fripp from their Crimson days

  1. “21st Century Schizoid Man”
  2. “I Talk to the Wind”
  3. “The Court of the Crimson King”
  4. “Epitaph”

Enjoy…..

 

Astaire,_Fred_-_Never_Get_Rich

Everybody knows who Fred Astaire is.  Legendary dance man?  Danced on the walls?  It’s hard not to be a fan but over the years I’ve come to realize how much I enjoyed his singing too. Years ago I had a CD of his “greatest hits” but it’s nowhere to be found.  The search is on… unleash the hounds!

Fred was born Frederick Austerlitz in 1899.  His career, which included stage, film, and television spanned a whopping 76 years!  He made 31 musical films.

fa1

Although I’m not a huge aficionado of dance, I will note the Gene Kelly (also no slouch in the dance biz) once said that “the history of dance on film begins with Astaire.”

Fred (and his sister Adele) started dancing around the age of four.  As a young man he eventually landed in Hollywood where one studio bigwig commented “Can’t act, can’t sing. Balding. Can dance a little”.

imagesCAS8JTYE

Fred’s singing style was relaxed, urbane, and I always found it a pleasure to listen to and I still do from time to time.

Try some of these….

tomp

One my earliest album purchases way back when was a double-record compilation assembled by WNEW-FM 102.7  (back when they still played oldies).  That album introduced me to a small but well thought out sample of the rich history of early American pop and the R&B roots that brought some of the greatest singers of my generation to the forefront.  In addition to gems from Johnny Maestro and The Brooklyn Bridge (“The Worst That Could Happen”), Deep Purple (“Hush”), and The Mamas and The Papas (“Monday, Monday”), the record included “Tears On My Pillow” by the group Little Anthony and The Imperials.

Tears on My Pillow” was written by Sylvester Bradford and Al Lewis in 1958 and released the same year.  (No, not Al Lewis who played Grandpa on The Munsters, another Al Lewis.)

Little Anthony and the Imperials waxed it on End Records and it was their debut recording under that name. They sold a million copies and shot up the charts.  The strength of the song lay in the falsetto vocals of Jerome Anthony “Little Anthony” Gourdine.

imagesCAF5YUO2

One of the great New York R&B, doo wop groups, The Imperials were formed from a number of local area groups with “Anthony” coming in from The Duponts.   The nickname “Little Anthony” was bestowed by famed rock DJ Alan Freed.

latp

They topped the charts and followed up the release with “Shimmy Shimmy Ko Ko Bop” in 1960.

The song was later covered and (also a #1 hit) by Kylie Minogue in 1990.

Enjoy….

 

 

GeneClarkImg

Gene Clark (1944 – 1991)

Even though Gene Clark has been gone for more than 23 years I still find his death holds a certain sadness that does not diminish with the passing years.  Some people have that impact on others. He battled unseen demons and eventually the demons won out….

From 1964 to the early part of 1966 Clark was the principal song writer for The Byrds.   He penned some of their greatest hits including  “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better”, “She Don’t Care About Time”, “Set You Free This Time”, and “Eight Miles High”.

A huge creative talent, Clark worked across genres and while he crafted his art for one of the most influential rock groups of all time, he was never commercially successful as a solo artist. Highly prolific and fiercely creative, Clark’s influence on rock music was immense and remains so 50 years later.

2305d88e

Based on his work with The Byrds, he scored a solo record deal at Asylum Records.  He opted for “early retirement” and headed to a house with a Pacific view in Mendocino with an old acoustic guitar and a notebook.

Those efforts produced his life’s masterpiece, the album “No Other”.  The songs represent a blend of country rock, gospel, soul, and folk influences.   I was fortunate to come across a copy of “No Other” a few years back in a discount bin and I happily snapped it up as the “find” that it was.

The album wasn’t promoted much by Asylum and didn’t get very far before it the out-of-print category.  Great songs like “Life’s Greatest Fool”, “Some Misunderstanding” and “Lady of the North” gathered dust.  The album was eventually re-released to a much wider critical acclaim and commercial sales.

Clark had been on the wagon and was fighting to stay sober.  When it came time to record the songs for “No Other” he eventually headed back to the non-stop party that LA was in those days and he fell prey to the lifestyle that brought him to an early grave.

Relish these tunes for the great works they are.  They can be a bit hard to find but are worth the journey.

If you listen to just one of these, I’d recommend the first video “Life’s Greatest Fool”.

Enjoy…..