Jazz_Impressions_of_Black_Orpheus   guaraldi_castf

 Fantasy Records – Cat # 3337 with original and 2nd cover.

Most people are well aware of jazz pianist, Vince Guaraldi’s (1928 – 1976) connection to the music of Peanuts, the Charles Schulz comic featuring Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the rest of the Peanuts gang.  Guaraldi actually recorded compositions for seventeen Peanuts specials but topping this wonderful body of work is his soundtrack for the 1965 Charlie Brown Christmas Special.  My favorite Christmas film, I sometimes drag it out in mid-August just to be reminded of how great I feel when I watch it.  Go Linus!

What many people don’t realize is that Guaraldi, despite his death at only 47 years old, left a legacy of recorded jazz over a career that spanned 23 years and included 31 albums as a leader or co-leader and more than a dozen collaborations with jazz royalty like Cal Tjader and Stan Getz.

vinceguaraldi

Guaraldi was born and raised in the North Beach section of San Francisco. He made his first recording with the Cal Tjader Trio in late 1953 and it was released as an early 10-inch LP early in 1954.  He formed his own trio in 1955, with Eddie Duran and Dean Reilly, but continued playing with Tjader.  A fixture on the North California jazz scene, Guaraldi also got his chance to shine on a bigger stage when he played with Cal Tjader at the 1958 Monterey Jazz Festival.

vg5

 

Early photo of Vince’s first trio

He left Tjader in 1959 to follow his own projects and hit it big when he was asked to compose a tune for the French/Brazilian movie Black Orpheus on which he had been hired to play cover songs.  He composed “Samba de Orpheus” for the film, which picked up an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, but surprised everyone with the B-side composition “Cast Your Fate to the Wind“.  He picked up a Grammy for that B-side recording and had a hit on his hands.  Throughout his career he never turned down a request to play it publicly and was happy to include it in all his live shows.

vg1

The album, however, was not a soundtrack, it contained a mixture or original Guaraldi tunes and covers and jazz-based interpretations of songs from the movie.  In addition to Guaraldi on piano, Colin Bailey is on drums and Monty Budwig handled double bass,  I have a CD of the original release. There is also a 2010 Original Jazz Classic (OJC) version that has a number of otherwise unavailable alternate takes. And, yes, it’s on my “needs” list.

vg4

$1.25 Dinner and Vince on piano.  Sounds like a good night!

“Cast Your Fate to the Wind” had more in store, however, for Guaraldi.  The legend is that Lee Mendelsohn, the producer of the Peanuts series, was riding in a taxi across the Golden Gate Bridge when CYFttW was played on the radio. He had been looking for the right accompaniment to the Peanuts work and phoned Ralph Gleason the famed jazz critic at the SF Chronicle.  Gleason connected the two and the rest, as they say, is music history.

vg3

Enjoy….

 

 

 

45E

Under the Boardwalk” was written by Kenny Young and Arthur Resnick and recorded by The Drifters in 1964.

Squeaking in  #489 on Rolling Stone’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, UTB tells the tale of a young couple who plan to meet “out of the sun” under the boardwalk where it’s nice and cool and more importantly out of sight of everyone else.  With the rhythmic background scratch of the guiro and a triangle, The Drifters open the song with a reference to their previous “hot summer” hit “Up On The Roof”.

Scheduled to be recorded on May 21, 1964, the session was put on hold when the lead singer of The Drifters, Rudy Lewis, died of a suspected heroin overdose the night before. Rudy had sung lead on most of their songs following the departure of Ben E. King three years before.  Rather than reschedule the session or try to find a new singer, they brought back former Drifters lead vocalist Johnny Moore to handle the job.

drif18

Trivia note:  The mono 45 USA released version contains the backup singers line “We’ll be falling in love”. On the stereo album version, the line “We’ll be making love” is used instead.  No doubt an edit for radio play.

A personal digression here…. UTB was perfect for the times but I couldn’t help but be reminded of two of my own favorite “boardwalk” lyrics from just nine years later when Bruce Springsteen penned “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” and the erotic imagery of the verse “…  chasin’ the factory girls underneath the boardwalk where they all promise to unsnap their jeans” and even more direct “She worked that joint under the boardwalk.”  One of my favorite Bruce tunes, “Sandy” was also the song that Danny Federici chose as the last song he played with Bruce in concert on March 20, 2008 at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis .  Terminally ill with melanoma, Danny knew that “Sandy” summed it all up for the life they had led down the shore.  He died less than a month later on April 17th.  A great song that is worth a close listen to the lyrics.  I’ve included it below.

45D

Enjoy….

MilesDavis_SomedayMyPrinceWillCome

Frances Davis (Miles’ wife) on the cover

Columbia Records – CS-8456

In what was his seventh studio release for Columbia Records, Miles Davis came into Columbia’s famed 30th Street Studio with an all-star lineup that included John Coltrane on tenor sax, Wynton Kelly on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, Jimmy Cobb behind the drum kit and Hank Mobley, in his only Miles Davis Quintet recording, on sax.  Philly Joe Jones sat in for Cobb on “Blues No.2″ (but not included on the original release) and the group laid down this masterpiece in three sessions (March 7, 20, and 21, 1961).  Miles uses a mute throughout much of the recordings – including the title track – and plays glissando – a music term which indicates sliding from one pitch to the next. Mobley is the journeyman on the title track and gets blown away by Coltrane’s solo.  In a review by AllMusic, they noted that Trane’s solo on SMPWC is “so deep within the harmony that it sounds like it’s coming from somewhere else”.

Miles Davis and Hank Mobley-Carnegie Hall

(l-r) Hank Mobley, Miles Davis – Carnegie Hall, NYC – 1961

Davis had adopted a standard approach to recording at Columbia of alternating big band projects with small group sessions. Coming off of 1960’s Sketches of Spain release (with Gil Evans producing), Miles turned to Ted Macero to take the production helm of Someday My Prince Will Come (SMPWC).

It is interesting here to look at what was going on in the jazz world in the period of 1960/1961.  Not long after the success of Kind of Blue (no doubt Davis’ masterwork), the jazz world began to embrace free jazz with Ornette Coleman leading the way.  By late 1959, Coleman had secured a residency at the Five Spot in NYC and the critical view of his purer improvisational approach on albums such as The Shape of Jazz To Come (1959) and Free Jazz (1960) took much of the spotlight away from Miles.

miles-davis-57

At the same time, Miles band was going through some big changes.  Cannonball Adderley had left to team up with his brother Nat thus making Miles’ sextet a quintet. Cobb and Kelly had come on board in 1958 but Coltrane left to form his own band and, given the stature of his talent, that was a big blow to Miles.  He went through a few sax players – including the phenomenal Sonny Stitt – before bringing in Hank Mobley in late 1960,  Coltrane did stick around for a short tour and came back to lend his talents to the title track and to track #5 “Teo”.  The rest are all Mobley.

Track Listing

  1. “Someday My Prince Will Come” (Churchill / Morey)
  2. “Old Folks” (Robison / Hill)
  3. “Pfrancing” (aka “No Blues”) – (Miles Davis)
  4. “Drad-Dog” (Miles Davis)
  5. “Teo” (Miles Davis)
  6. “I Thought About You” (Van Heusen / Mercer)

The 1999 CD reissue version provides the missing “Blues No.2″ (with Philly Joe on drums) plus a shorter alternate take of SMPWC.

The selection of tunes for the album included three originals and three pop standards but the shiniest gem on this album remains, for me, the title track. (The first track is actually the only sextet piece here as the balance of the tracks are quintet works.) The three original compositions used here are all named after people. Davis’ wife (Frances), the president of Columbia Records (Goddard), and producer Teo Macero respectively get the tributes.  In addition to SMPWC, which I expand on below, “Old Folks” is a Willard Robison tune, famous for his standard “Cottage for Sale” while “I Thought of You” is a Jimmy Van Heusen, Johnny Mercer tune from 1939 that was a very popular result of their short-lived collaboration.

With regard to “Someday My Prince Will Come”, the song is from the 1937 Walt Disney film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It is a beautiful melody and the combination of Miles’ horn and Trane’s tenor is spectacular in both virtuosity and phrasing.

The melody of SMPWC was penned by Frank Churchill in 1937.  Churchill was originally a pianist in cinema houses, went on to work with Disney on numerous films starting in 1930 and by the ’40’s had become musical director at Disney Studios. It was originally written as a waltz and Miles was not the first to provide a jazz interpretation.

vlcsnap-2012-10-20-08h21m29s180

Frank Churchill 

It was first performed as a jazz piece by a group of musicians (The Ghetto Swingers) at a German concentration camp in 1943. It was subsequently recorded by other musicians including pianist Dave Brubeck who included it on his 1957 release Dave Digs Disney.  (By the way, I should mention that I had the pleasure of being tipped to Brubeck’s album 30 years ago and have enjoyed it ever since.  It’s a wonderful interpretation of Disney compositions by a true jazz legend. I’ll explore that in another post.)

SMPWC remains a popular song among jazz musicians to this day. Following Miles’ 1961 treatment it was subsequently recorded by guitarist Grant Green, Oscar Peterson, Herbie Hancock, and Chet Baker. The Davis Sextet’s original pianist Wynton Kelly re-recorded it for a solo album of the same name.  Pianist Wynton Kelly, who performed on Davis’ version, recorded the track as a trio later that year on his own album of the same name later in 1961.  Kelly was always known for being at home with the great standards and this is no exception.

MI0001662390

If you’re looking for a good introduction to Miles Davis, this is a good album to include.  If picking just one I’d recommend starting with “Kind of Blue” (the most widely sold jazz album in history) but SMPWC would be an excellent second choice.

Enjoy….

 

Mercy,_Mercy_single_cover

 

“Mercy,, Mercy” is one of those songs that I had heard many times by different artists but, to be honest, I only heard the name Don Covay recently.  It didn’t ring a bell and neither did Don Covay and The Goodtimers.

The R&B tune is sometimes referred to as “Have Mercy”) and was first recorded by Covay in 1964.  Despite my lack of awareness, Covay’s work was not unknown to singers like Mick Jagger.  Sir Mick acknowledges that Covay had a big influence on his vocal style.  The Stones wasted no time and covered the tune a year later in 1965.

DonCovay

Another fascinating note here is that when Covay entered A1 Recording Studios in New York on May 13, 1964 a young studio musician named Jimi Hendrix played on the recording.  It was one of Jimi’s earliest known recordings as a sideman.

HendrixInTheBeginningFronta

Probably the most famous cover of “Mercy, Mercy” was by The Rolling Stones.  They recorded it in 1965 just as they were transitioning from a pure blues and R&B to their more distinctive rock sound.  They recorded it at Chess Records in Chicago on May 10, 1965.  Although they mostly stuck to Covay’s arrangement you can hear two distinct differences: they amped up the wattage on the guitar tracks and you can hear that Mick was growing more and more confident in his vocal abilities.  The song can be found on their Out of Our Heads album.

Enjoy…

 

 

 

45F

 

 

The hit songwriting team of Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich penned”Do Wah Diddy Diddy” in 1963, as “Do-Wah-Diddy”, for The Exciters but it didn’t hit the top of the charts until a year later when Brit-Pop Rockers (and R&B Band) Manfred Mann recorded it.

Manfred_Mann

Manfred Mann was a British pop band that had some jazz chops.  The leader / founder Manfred Mann (aka Manfred Sepse Lubowitz) adopted his last name from famed jazz drummer Shelley Manne but later dropped the “e”.  The original Manfred Mann band had hits with “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” and later a cover of Dylan’s “Quinn the Eskimo” (“The Mighty Quinn”).  The band was a predecessor to the short-lived Manfred Mann Chapter Three and the more widely-known”Manfred Mann’s Earth Band.

5149f11fafa96f7310000053

The song was also “covered” by Bill Murray and the late Harold Ramis in the movie Stripes.  Well done.

Enjoy….

 

 

45A

 

My parents had this record and used to play it all the time back in 1964/1965 when I was growing up.  A huge hit for Petula, and although not exactly my style of preferred music, there’s no denying the impact it had on the charts around the time when performers were basically all competing with The Beatles.

Composed by Tony Hatch, “Downtown” was the offspring of a trip Hatch took to New York City.  He later recalled  “I was staying at a hotel on Central Park and I wandered down to Broadway and to Times Square and, naively, I thought I was downtown. Forgetting that in New York especially, downtown is a lot further downtown getting on towards Battery Park. I loved the whole atmosphere there and the [music] came to me very, very quickly”.  According to Hatch he was standing on the corner of 48th St waiting for the traffic lights to change, looking towards Times Square when “the melody first came to me, just as the neon signs went on.”

Hatch thought the tune would be better as a doo-wop kind of thing for The Drifters but when he played a demo for Petula upon his return to the UK she liked it and asked to record it.  She entered a London studio and hit “record” on October 16, 1964 at Pye Studios near Marble Arch.  The desire here was to attract new (younger) fans while not alienating her (older) fan base.  Looks like it worked!

1968-petula-downtown-3

Petula Clark was the first UK female artist to have a US #1 hit during the rock and roll era.  I’ve included a studio and live version below.

Enjoy…..

The_Decemberists_-_The_King_Is_Dead

 

I’m a relative newcomer to The Decemberists.  Founded in 2000, I first heard them a few years ago on WFMU (the free-form radio station in the NYC area).   I kept an eye out for some used CD’s from the band and recently came across this 2011 effort The King Is Dead.  It was their sixth studio album so I may have some catching up to do.

Reportedly their most “rustic”work, the album has an infectious quality of great lyrics, solid songwriting and beautiful harmonies layered over relatively simple, understated music for a group of this size.  The band’s frontman, Colin Meloy was quoted as saying:

“If there’s anything academic about this record, or me trying to force myself in a direction, it was realising that the last three records were really influenced by the British folk revival […] this whole world that I was discovering, that I was poring over, learning inside-out. It was a wanting to get away from that. And looking back into more American traditions, reconnecting with more American music.”

Meloy’s point is well-taken.  The British folk roots come through clear through out the songs.  Take a closer listen to a track like “Rox in The Box” and you can hear strains of Fairport Convention or Donovan.  The supporting staff include such music luminaries as Peter Buck (R.E.M.) and Gillian Welch (Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris).  The influences don’t end there.  Listen to the opening track “Don’t Carry It All“.  You can almost hear Mr. Young singing “Heart of Gold“.

decemberists

Rolling Stone reviewed it as the “most pastoral, rustic record they’ve ever made”.  The public clearly dug it too and it reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart for the week ending February 5, 2011.

Enjoy…

 

 

wdyl1

“You shoulda heard just what I’d seen”

Who Do You Love” is a tune composed and recorded by Bo Diddley but the version by Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks is so good I had to highlight it here.  Hawkins recorded it in 1963 on what was one of his last recordings for Roulette Records.

He pretty much stuck to Diddley’s arrangement with a tight to the bone growling vocal treatment that was his trademark approach.  As is widely known of course, Ronnie’s band The Hawks went on to back up Bob Dylan and eventually became The Band.   Check out guitarist Robbie Robertson on the right in the Hawks photo below taken at a gig in Ontario in 1963.

HAWKS1

Robertson was widely acclaimed for his guitar work on this recording.  One of my favorite music writers, Richie Unterberger, described RR’s work here as “a good few years ahead of its time in its manic distorted intensity”.  Robert Palmer (not one of my favorite reviewers) compared Robertson’s work to the style of blues legend Willie Johnson, who backed up Howlin’ Wolf.

Ronnie performed the song with The Band in the concert film The Last Waltz. Truly memorable and a wonderful tribute to their early efforts that propelled them to stardom.  The Last Waltz version used a “Bo-Diddley” beat that was, by then, most identified with the song.

The song was also later covered by George Thorogood and the Destroyers.  It almost seems written for them.

I’ve included both the original Hawkins cover and The Last Waltz clips below.

Enjoy…..

gm3

I was at Exile On Main Street Records in Branford, CT this past weekend for Record Store Day and what more appropriately named store to pick up Gov’t Mule’s second vinyl release of six Rolling Stone classic tracks recorded live at The Tower Theater in Upper Darby, PA on Halloween 2009.

Very few bands do covers better than the Mule.  They cover a wide variety of tunes from Sabbath’s “War Pigs” to Pink Floyd’s “Money” to even rarities like Steppenwolf’s “Don’t Step on the Grass, Sam”,  They add a talent and energy that I find sometimes surpasses the original but at the end of the day t comes down to their incredible chops.

gm4

This second offering of The Stone’s catalog is well-chosen and is a must have for any Mule fan.

They open Side A with “Wild Horses” and follow-up with “Bitch” and close out the side with “Slave“.  All three tracks are Mule at full rockin’ mode with the addition of  special guest Jackie Greene (Black Crowes) to handle some of the guitar work.   “Wild Horses” and “Bitch” are, of course, from Sticky Fingers with “Slave“from Tattoo You.

Side B is no less impressive.  They open with a short cover of “Play With Fire” and segue into a perfect treatment of “Can You Hear Me Knockin'” and close it out with the opening track from Sticky Fingers, “Brown Sugar”.

Government Mule

The vinyl record is a weighty 180 gram production and sounds great.

Enjoy….

 

tws1

I first came across Toad the Wet Sprocket on an outstanding compilation bootleg titled The Best of Parking a Juggernaut.  The Parking A Juggernaut series was a large set of compilations which exposed me to alternative rock, New Wave, and power pop music,  I’ve seen references to there being at least 15 discs but I suspect there may be more.  I was able to acquire five to date and they’ve opened my eyes to number of great tunes and great bands.  Many, in my opinion, are highly underrated bands including Toad the Wet Sprocket.

Formed in 1986, Toad the Wet Sprocket (hereafter Toad..) includes vocalist /guitarist Glen Phillips, Todd Nichols (guitar) Dean Dinning (bass), and drummer Randy Guss.

They disbanded in 1998 (some solo work followed) but started doing some short U.S. summer tours in 2006.  In late 2010 the reunited and started writing their first new material since 1997’s Coil release. They subsequently released their newest album, New Constellation, on October 15, 2013.

Trivia Alert:  They took their name from a Monty Python sketch in which Eric Idle reads “Rock Notes”:

“Rex Stardust, lead electric triangle with Toad the Wet Sprocket, has had to have an elbow removed following their recent successful worldwide tour of Finland. Flamboyant ambidextrous Rex apparently fell off the back of a motorcycle. “Fell off the back of a motorcyclist, most likely,” quipped ace drummer Jumbo McClooney upon hearing of the accident. Plans are now afoot for a major tour of Iceland.”

 tws4

Toad hit fortune and fame with their third album “fear”released in 1991. Driven by the singles “All I Want” and “Walk on the Ocean” the album soared into the top 20 and they reached platinum status.

When I first heard Toad I mistakenly thought I was listening to a new Gin Blossoms song.  An honest mistake given their similarity – listen for yourself as I’ve added “Til I Hear It From You” for comparison.  Hear it?  I also hear a bit of Crowded House in some of their tunes too…

If you want to add some Toad to your collection, fear is a good place to start although their triumphant homecoming live release Welcome Home: Live at the Arlington Theatre, Santa Barbara 1992 is a spectacular glimpse at their live show and contains many of their big hits.  I’ve also added an acoustic version of “California’s Wasted“.  Well worth a listen.

Toad_the_Wet_Sprocket_Fear      tws6

Enjoy…

jb3

James Brown (1933 – 2006)

The current issue of Wax Poetics magazine (#61) has a great interview with Fred Wesley who for many years was James Brown’s musical director. In the piece Wesley describes the collaborative process that went on between Brown, Wesley and The JB’s, Brown’s back-up band.   Coming to Brown’s band as a trombonist with some serious jazz chops (and aspirations to match), Wesley joined a talented team of musicians and quickly found his soul and funk legs.  He moved up the ladder to the musical director spot and received writing credits which still provide him with a comfortable life to this day.  I liked the WP piece although I came away thinking that Wesley didn’t show proper enough respect to Brown’s talent and the fact that he was a consummate show man who stayed at the top of his game for over 50 years.

61_Cover_James_Brown-300x394

Brown was born on May 3, 1933, in Barnwell, South Carolina.  Supposedly, Brown’s name was to have been Joseph James Brown, Jr.; however, his first and middle names were reversed in error on his birth certificate. He later legally had the “Jr.” designation removed.  Around the age of four or five the Brown family moved to Atlanta  to live with an aunt who ran a brothel but they eventually moved to a nearby house of a different aunt. His mother split for NYC and Brown spent a lot of time on his own before dropping out of school in 6th grade.

Although Brown started his career singing gospel in Georgia he eventually joined an R&B vocal group called The Avons as lead singer.  Winning talent shows at Augusta’s Lenox Theater, Brown knew this was life for him.  The Avons later became The Famous Flames and came to public attention in the late 1950s with the hits “Please, Please, Please” and “Try Me”.

JB1

Brown was tireless.  He toured the world, showed how it was done, and had the tightest back up band ever behind him.  His backup band, The Famous Flames, were also known as the James Brown Band (or Orchestra) or just the JB’s.  Brown’s success peaked in the 1960’s.  During that period he churned out hits such as “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”, “I Got You (I Feel Good)” and “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World”.

Brown’s 1963 release “Live at The Apollo” is considered one of the greatest live album ever.  What the ABB’s “Live at The Fillmore” is to rock music, Brown’s “Live at the Apollo” is to soul music.  The album captures the essence and power of Brown’s live show in a way that doesn’t always come through on a studio track.  The record company thought it foolish to release an album with no new songs.  They figured it wouldn’t sell to JB’s fan base but he proved them wrong.  Christgau pointed out in his review that although shorter than most live albums, the screams and swooning of the female fans push this over the top as great music.  I also like his characterization that The Famous Flames were “cleaner than a silk suit”.  The last glimpse of the now-defunct chittlin circuit.

James_Brown-Live_at_the_Apollo_(album_cover)

As the ’60’s drew to a close and the civil rights movement changed the perceptions of both black audiences and performers, Brown’s music evolved from a gospel and blues base into a more “Africanized” approach and style which, in turn, heavily influenced the development of funk.

I’ve been listening to Brown since the late ’60’s.  I believe the first JB song I grooved to was the 1967 hit “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”. I had it on a compilation album and was mesmerized by the soul funk groove that JB and his back up band was laying down.  PGABNB didn’t include Wesley but it did include legendary sax player Maceo Parker and Jimmy Nolen, Brown’s guitarist (1965 – 1970) credited with inventing the chicken scratch playing style that was his trademark.

Part of the James Brown legend was that in response to withheld wages and poor treatment, the entire band quit on the same day in 197o. This didn’t appear to faze Brown much who picked up a younger band he found in Cincinnati called the Pacemakers.  The new band famously included future funk master bassist Bootsy Collins and his brother Catfish Collins.  James knew how to pick ’em.

Brown’s career spanned six decades and he was always at the top of his game.  While influenced mostly by Louis Jordan and Little Richard, Brown was clearly the single-most critical influence for a generation of soul singers including Michael Jackson, Sly Stone, and Prince.

James-Brown-2014-HD-Images

Brown died on Christmas Day 2006 from complications of pneumonia.  According to his manager who was at his bedside, Brown stuttered “I’m going away tonight”, took three deep breaths and passed.

Enjoy….

fg2

 

Then…

The band Flamin’ Groovies, formed in San Francisco in 1965.  They were active until about 1992 before they disbanded,  They have since reunited a few times and are currently back on the scene sans most of the original members.

I’ve heard them from time to time on the radio (I listen to some very free-form stations), I’ve never seen them in concert, and I don’t have even one of their eight studio releases or eight live releases plus as many compilations in my collection.  I plan to correct that last point the next time I’m digging through my favorite bin.  Yet, when I hear them I’m always mesmerized.  Clearly influenced by the likes of Chuck Berry, and The Beatles with some Dave Clark Five thrown in for good measure, more than one of their tunes sounds like “Roll Over Beethoven” or some derivation.

Founded by Ron Greco, Cyril Jordan and Roy Loney, their best known song is probably “Shake Some Action” from 1976.  Cracker covered the tune for the 1995 movie Clueless which gave FG a bit more needed attention.

Their debut album (Supersnazz – 1969) is a blend of ’50’s style pop tunes and covers with their added FG interpretation. I think this is where the announcer says “the stylings of….”.  Cue the power pop influences for an endless list of 1970’s bands.  Fast forward to them painting their own masterpiece with 1971 release Teenage Head.  Loney left the band in 1971 and his replacement, Chris Wilson, steered the band towards power pop.  They more or less went radio silent for the next five years but by 1976 had teamed up with producer Dave Edmunds (of Rockpile fame) to release Shake Some Action.  Clearly, it pays to go with the talent.

My two favorite Flamin’ Groovies songs however are”You Tore Me Down” from Shake Some Action and “Yes, It’s True”.  Listen to the Beatlesque choruses and harmonies and the tight pop execution.  Truly great songs.  Both are below.  So turn it up and get up and dance.

fg1

 

Now….

Enjoy…

 

 

 

nap1

I’ve been wanting to include a song by The Searchers for a while now and almost landed on their classic 1964 cover of Jackie DeShannon’s gem “When You Walk in the Room” but I recently heard their equally great “Needles and Pins” again and knew I had to dig it up for you,

The song was written by Jack Nitzsche and Sonny Bono (which may explain why it was covered by Cher).

Originally recorded by DeShannon, it was also covered by Tom Petty & Stevie Nicks, and The Ramones but the award for innovative cover goes to Petula Clark for recording it in French where it rocked to #1 on the French charts.  I’ve included “La Nuit N’en Finit Plus” below.

The_Searchers_-_Needles_and_Pins_single

 

Enjoy….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

mhh1

Sulk was the 1993 debut album from the band Molly Half Head.  The band was an alternative pop quartet formed in Manchester, UK in 1992.  They produced two albums but split up not long after the second release in 1995.

The members included Paul Bardsley (vocals), Phil Murphy (guitar), Neil Daly (bass guitar), and Andy Pickering (drums).  Daly left the band after the first release and was replaced with Graham Atkinson on bass.

They released their first single “Taste of You” in March 1993 and had minor success with their single “Shine” from their 2nd album although the album itself was a commercial flop that led to their demise.

mhh4

I like the band’s more complex arrangements which echo the avant-pop genre so prevalent of the early ’90’s in the UK.  These are talented musicians who clearly have some chops.  They blew me away. They’re reminiscent of bands like Magazine or That Petrol Emotion (with whom they shared club dates) but there’s no doubt here that they run a distant third to those bands.  Like many bands, their weakest link is the vocals.  The music is well-done (especially the bass and drum groove) but as soon as Bardsley opens his cake hole it all goes downhill like just so much shite.  In an insightful review by Trouser Press, it was pointed out that Bardsley pronounced all his consonants like the letter “z”.  Hmmm.good ear!

The lyrics are art-school gibberish but the music (without vocals) really over shines the mysterious writings here.

mhh3

Enjoy….

 

220px-Zager_&_Evans_-_In_The_Year_2525

I was talking to a colleague recently and she remarked that a document we had with an expiration date of 2027 seemed so far away.  Only 12 years but, yeah, it does seem kinda futuristic.  But not quite as futuristic as the year 2525 which is a mere 510 years from now.  The one-hit wonder duo of Zager and Evans contemplated this back in 1969 and it intrigued enough people that it rocketed to the top of the charts  for six weeks in the summer of ’69.

The full title of the song is “In the Year 2525 (Exordium et Terminus)” and it was written and composed by Rick Evans in 1964 and originally released on a small regional record label (Truth Records) in 1968.

ze2

Zager and Evans disbanded in 1971. Denny Zager now builds custom guitars in Lincoln, Nebraska and Rick Evans no longer performs and lives in Sante Fe, New Mexico.

The song is about as ominous as it gets.  I’m sure somebody uttered the phrase “Heavy, man” back in the Summer of Love. The lyrics warned of the dangers of technology, it portrays a future where man is destroyed by its own technology.  References to robots replacing workers, test tube babies, environmental calamity.  Hmmm…this is bit too on the money for me.

“In the Year 2525 (Exordium and Terminus)” opens with the words “In the year 2525, If man is still alive, If woman can survive, They may find…”.

3526339

The final verse laments that mankind will undergo a never-ending cycle of birth, death and rebirth.

Now it’s been 10,000 years, Man has cried a billion tears,
For what, he never knew. Now man’s reign is through.
But through eternal night, The twinkling of starlight.
So very far away, Maybe it’s only yesterday.

According to Wikipedia:

“The song was included in the controversial 2001 Clear Channel memorandum, a document distributed by Clear Channel Communications to every radio station owned by the company. The list consisted of 165 songs considered by Clear Channel to be “lyrically questionable” following the September 11, 2001 attacks.”  

Brilliant, really.  CC once again demonstrates how they consider the average listener to be a moron.

Enjoy….