Friday, February 5, 2016

Weekend Mix: "Long Long Day"

"It'll be easy" I said to myself, "Just throw something together", I lied. A good mix goes through several permutations. Getting everything to flow, so that it follows a thread, is always a challenge.

Who knew The Hudson Brothers were capable of producing such a slab of prime Pop/Rock, sounding as much like late-period Beatles as Badfinger? This was always the opener and really set the tone.(1974)
Legend was led by Mickey Jupp. The drummer left shortly after this (1971) to join T-REX, where he became known as Bill Legend. Fat bass-line reminds me of Macca.
"Lonely Blue Boy" (1958) is one of those songs everyone should hear. Vocal crick as art.
"The Power Of Your Love"(1969) from the sessions that produced "Suspicious Minds". The last time Elvis was thouroughly engaged and at a creative peak in the studio. Long Live the King.
"In The Ghetto" was written by Mac Davis and recorded by Elvis in 1969. Given recent happenings in Chicago, it seems particularly relevent. This version by Nick Cave (1984) was when I realized he had a future after The Birthday Party.
"Sam" (1969) is a rare slice of midwestern psychedelia. Unreleased until 2013. It features the singing of Linda Bruner, who recorded 4 songs and vanished.
"Dripping With Looks" (1987) is a massive riff I never get tired of.
"Little Bit Of Magic" (1969) is very rare. Rosco originally recorded for SUN, in Memphis. His early singles featured a piano style which contributed to the formation SKA in Jamaica. Rosco left music during the '60's, moving to Queens to run a Dry Cleaners.
In 1969 he cut this single and released it on his own label. In the '80's he briefly returned to music, but stayed with his original SUN material. It's too bad he didn't make more music like this. What a voice! I imagine Bryan Ferry covering it back in the day.
It's hard to believe "Electrify Me (1979) was considered punk rock when it came out. I hear a little RT in the guitar breaks.
If Nick Lowe and Rockpile never covered "Move It Baby" (1964) they should have.
The Shazam (2002) drop some classic Big Star style pop/rock. These guys deserve a bigger audience.
I love everything about "Pass You By" (1996).
"Wonderin'" (1983) is the only keeper on "Everbody's Rockin". It was written in 1970.
"WPLJ"-Frank genuinely loved Doo Wop and R&B. From "Burnt Weeny Sandwich". I keep meaning to try it. Not the radio station.
Swamp Dogg, not Snoop Dogg. From "Total Destruction To Your Mind" (1970).
"I Got It all Indeed" is the only song I know from "Theosophy", Pete Molinari's 2014 album.
"Life Is Good" is one of my favorite songs from my favorite Los Lobos album.
"Jimmy Was" is the title music from "Sling Blade" (1996).
I've always thought Pavement's Stephen Malkmus' voice sounded a little like Jerry Garcia's, and the gorgeous pedal steel on this song really makes the case.
"Chicken" (2014) by Bill Patton brings things down to a gentle simmer while we get a little introspective.
"I Remember Cissy's Baby and the noise on the block,
And seventeen policemen that were in a state of shock,
She had it on the pavement she had it on the ground,
out popped the baby with the cops all around,"
-(1970) Jake And The Family Jewels. Some fine storytelling. It just goes from there.
"Gone Like the Water"(1996) by Freedy Johnston is beautifully rendered. Perfect.
John & Beverly Martyn made two albums. "John The Baptist" is from "Stormbringer"(1970). His early work is some of my very favorite music, but very soon he went MOR and made some records I'd rather not think about.
This demo of "Seeing" is far superior to the version which turned up on "Moby Grape '69". Featuring Skip Spence's original vocal.


Long Long Day

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Turn Around. Go Back.

I have been toying with something for a few days but I didn't want it to be about bad cover versions. Been there, done that. Though, it is a fun topic, I decided it could be more about missed opportunities. Let me explain.

Many moons ago, I mentioned in passing to a band member that Hall & Oates should cover the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling." It would be a massive hit for them, I said. (So did scores of others, I presume. But I heard me say it.) Then, one summer afternoon in 1980, while shooting hoops in the Sheepshead Bay backyard of my friend John, it came on the radio. This was long before the internet and Stereogum, so there was no pre-release sample or build-up. No sharing of news on Facebook. This blew me away.

About ten years after that, I did read that a tribute to Elton John was about to be released on CD and that Hall & Oates were slated to record "Philadelphia Freedom." Genius, I thought. This is perfect. This will be as huge as the Righteous Brothers hit. But it wasn't. As a matter of fact, it wasn't very good. Completely devoid of any soul or emotion, this track felt lifeless, unlike what Elton originally released. How did five English guys nail it and two Philadelphia boys muck it up?

Now some of you might be thinking, "This H&O cover isn't so bad." Well, maybe it isn't. But this isn't about bad cover versions. It's about missed opportunites. This cover should have been massive. It's an A&R guy's dream.

The example I wanted to use instead of Hall & Oates was unavailable for evidence. No video on YouTube and all versions have been safely removed from my music library to avoid any possible infection to my other music. This was from my man, the pop genius, the Posy, Ken Stringfellow. He recorded one of my favorite songs of all time from one of my favorite albums of all time for a Left Banke tribute record. When I saw the pre-release info and spotted "She May Call You Up Tonight" by Ken Stringfellow, I thought, "This will be the best cover version ever." The Posies had already done what so many fail to do, and that is create a cover better than the original. They did that with their version of the Five Stairsteps "Ooh Child." (See below) They played it straight, but reached new heights with harmony and arrangement. It was like the finale of a Broadway musical, with power chords and a kick-ass rhythm section. And check out the genius move in the coda. You'll recognize another A.M. hit from the 70s.

But back to Ken for a minute. Instead of what I just described above, the Left Banke cover was two minutes of sped up drum machines, chintzy keyboards and vocals that sounded like they were recorded inside a giant tuna tin. Needless to say, I was crushed. What could have motivated this master of vocal and harmony to pay "tribute" in this manner?

Well, I guess this would be both a bad cover and a missed opportunity.

So my question is, do you have examples of "missed opportunities" but not necessarily bad cover versions?

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Songs Of The Week, 2016: 1/23-1/29

Going Down On Love-John Lennon
In Old England Town-ELO
Johnny Appleseed- Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros
Cat Food- King Crimson
Cactus- The Pixies
Stolen Car- BS &The ESB
Crown Of Creation-Jefferson Airplane


Friday, January 29, 2016

Today's Special: Paul Kantner, R.I.P.

What the hell is going on?

They say once you move your refrigerator, it will never work properly again. Since the death of David Bowie, we have lost Giorgio Gomelsky, Clarence "Blowfly" Reid, Jimmy Bain, Otis Clay, Dale "Buffin"Griffin, Nicholas Caldwell, Gary Loizzo, Mic Gillette, Glenn Frey and now the great Paul Kantner. It's still January, for heaven's sake.

Let's not forget ending 2015 with loss of Allen Toussaint, Lemmy, Natalie Cole, Stevie Wright, Scott Weiland, Cynthia Robinson and P.F. Sloan, all within the last two months of that year.

I repeat, what the hell is going on?

Peace out, Paul.

And to the rest of you, please cut it out.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Bruce. The River. Morons.

I saw Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band perform "The River" in its entirety and more last night at Madison Square Garden. A rocking good time was had by all...for most of it.  Just as debate over the merits of "Man's Job" continues, so does the attendance of odious morons at concerts, who somehow think it is acceptable to whip out toy chest sized tablets and scroll through pictures of their Acapulco vacation during the songs they don't like, or discuss "Eddie's sister," who is apparently a "real, fucking bitch" during "Stolen Car."

For the record, as much as I love "The River," I don't particularly care for "Ramrod," "I'm A Rocker," and "Cadillac Ranch." I do happen to love "Stolen Car," Point Blank," "The River" and especially "Drive All Night," all of which saw thousands of people sit down, check their e-mail, take selfies and just talk over the band and performance. Again, why show up?

And here now, because I think everyone loves a list and because my ears are still ringing and my head is still pounding from Nils Lofgren's Yngwie Malmsteen-inspired solo in "Because The Night, are my ten favorite Bruce Springsteen tunes, in ascending order.

Interesting note about these ten tunes:

I made this list a few nights ago, and in the same notebook found a Bruce Top Ten that I had created in April of 2015.  Both lists are identical, though the order has changed slightly. So, I must really love these ten.

10. Valentine's Day
 9.  Brilliant Disguise
 8.  Girls In Their Summer Clothes
 7.  Candy's Room
 6.  Badlands
 5.  Drive All Night
 4.  Sherry Darling
 3.  Atlantic City
 2.  Born To Run
 1.  Thunder Road

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Bruce Springsteen's "Man's Job," Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Song

Four times a year, maybe more, my friend and I have an impossibly civil discussion about a song from Bruce Springsteen's "Human Touch" record. The song is "Man's Job." I love the song. He hates the song. Somehow, even during discussions about the weather, Chinese food or David Bowie, the conversation manages to segue into the merits of the song, of which I think there are many and he thinks there are none.

The reason I love the song is simple. It works as a pop tune. It's basic, yet I find the simple chorus with simple harmony, ridiculously catchy. Not everything needs to be "Racing In The Street."

Uncut Magazine recently released one of their "Ultimate Music Guides," where the writers reassess the entire catalogue of an artist. Bruce Springsteen gets the treatment this time around. This is from the review of "Human Touch"--

"Another highlight is "Man's Job," a sweet and sexy ode to Patti with Springsteen presenting himself as the mature dependable suitor seeing off all the flashy Lothario types. Musically, it is a captivating mix of soul and jangle rock with counterpoint vocals from Sam Moore and Bobby King and featuring a luscious retro twang guitar solo. It hinted at the soul Gospel and surf music Springsteen had grown up with, while also serving as a reminder of his gifts as a writer of pop songs often overshadowed by the somber soul-searching elements of his work."

Uncut has been wrong before, but of course, I could not help but feel somewhat vindicated. I sent it to my friend. He replied--

"I cringed the first time I heard it and every time since. I always think it sounds like what people who don't like Bruce think he is all about-pedestrian lyrics, lunkhead central idea, MOR dad-rock music.  
But I really do get what you like about it, the pop craftsmanship, the upbeat soul. I get it. It just backfires on me.  Like, I believe it's you that hates Bobby Jean? That song makes me choke up, because to me I hear a warm hearted goodbye to a lifelong friendship, sadness mixed deeply into a happy sounding song. You hear a riff you hate. I get it. But this one just sounds lkke a song Joe Grushecky would write."

See? Civil.

(For the record, I don't hate "Bobby Jean." I just find it relentless when played live. It's already relentless, never changing at all for its entire length. Live, it's twice as long. But I digress.)

All of my conversations with my friend end positively. I can't think of anyone else is my life I can say that about. We like a lot of the same music, but we also disagree often. We are both passionate about what we love and hate, yet we manage to remain respectful, more times than not making each other laugh hysterically when we verbally destroy the artists the other loves. Oddly enough, I don't necessarily disagree with my friend's take on "Man's Job." It is some of the things he says it is, yet I can listen to it and genuinely enjoy it every time, often singing along. I just don't see it as the affront he does.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Son Of 19th Century Pioneer, Jim.

The clipping above is from the genius pen of N.Y. Post music critic Joe Tacopino. Joe must be a big David Bowie fan. He also mentions in a previous paragraph how "Ziggy Stardust was a character known for flamboyant pantsuits." Thanks for your work, Joe.

This reminds me of the good ol' days of Hugh Wyatt and his clueless reviews for the Daily News, where he would read the hype sticker on an album sleeve and try to convince readers he listened to the music. (I was told he was really a podiatrist.) He once reviewed Talk Talk's "Spirit Of Eden" record as being a new release from the band "Spirt Of Eden" with his favorite tune being the single "Talk Talk."

I certainly don't go to the N.Y. Post for my music fix, but this still should never have happened.

(h/t M's J.)