A Day In The Life

Musicasaurus.com digs into the art of the music mix…

A new mix will be posted every two weeks on Monday morning.....If you are a dinosaur, you’ll probably be searching out these tunes to create a mix copy on CD; if you have evolved, you may instead be pulling from iTunes or another downloading source to create a playlist for your mobile device.  Either way, ultimately allow yourself this time to shut out the world (and the physical and mental multi-tasking that we are heir to).  Sink into these sonic revelations...Let the songs insinuate themselves. 

Highly recommended:  Playback of these playlists should be through a home stereo system, cranked up mightily.

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Posted 11/20/17.....

(Next posting:  Monday morning, December 4, 2017)

1967…..This is the year that Rolling Stone magazine debuted, and Sgt. Pepper’s blew young minds and befuddled old ones…Here are ten classic songs released that year that had a huge impact on me:

1. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds – The Beatles…..Yeah, this epic song could have been inspired by John Lennon’s experiments with LSD or by his young son Julian’s nursery school drawing.  Maybe it was the former; he certainly was a bit acidic during the band’s breakup (Oh No!)… (you’ll have to go to iTunes or Spotify to sample this because the band’s rights-holders are still holdin’ out on the original version being on YouTube.)

 

2. Light My Fire – The Doors…..My strongest memories of this song spring from a Lake Erie family vacation.  I was fourteen, on my towel and baking on the beach, lying back with my hands behind my head checking out the swooping gulls, and suddenly I heard this song crackle out of my mom’s nearby transistor radio.  Girl, we couldn’t get much higher—really?!!  Talk about opening up doors of perception… https://youtu.be/jKU74Uns9_0

 

3. Chain Of Fools – Aretha Franklin…..In the Fall of 1967 this song hit Top Forty radio, blaring out of our kitchen clock radio and causing my mom to sidestep, shuffle and spin on her way through the living room.  Looking back now I admire her spunk but she couldn’t quite inhabit the funk.  Aretha was killin’ that same year with other singles, too, like “Respect” and “Baby, I Love You.”  https://youtu.be/tdr6gKiLLkI

 

4. Nights In White Satin – The Moody Blues…..This band of Brits was originally rhythm & blues based but changed directions in 1967 at the advice of their record label Decca, practically birthing the meld of classical music and rock ‘n’ roll through their resulting album Days of Future Passed.  This mix of orchestral sweep and British rock lodged in my brain and spurred my search for more things with mellotrons and strings.  https://youtu.be/kx-vy-pmZ4I

 

5. Somebody To Love – Jefferson Airplane…..This San Francisco psychedelic rock band took off in a big way in ’66 after original female lead singer Signe Toly Anderson left the group and Grace Slick replaced her.  The next year this scorching and propulsive tune, sung by a searing Slick, hit the national airwaves and galvanized attention for that flowering San Fran music scene.  If I had had a pinup girl back then, Slick was the one to have graced my wall next to my Buffalo Springfield pix.  https://youtu.be/a-C9pUGszsw

 

6. Funky Broadway – Wilson Pickett…..This African American soul artist was nicknamed “Wicked” Pickett for a reason—his hellacious growl and howl of a vocal style was accompanied by a fantastic bed of funk in songs that skittered across the top of the pop and R&B charts for a lot of the mid-late 1960s and early 1970s.  Even today I can’t sit still, listening to some of his limb-twitchin’ masterpieces like the one listed here, and earlier gems like “Midnight Hour” and “Land of 1,000 Dances.”  https://youtu.be/hj0XM92UvHc

 

7. Whiter Shade of Pale – Procol Harum…..This song by British band Procol Harum sounded like little else when it hit the USA radio stations in May of ’67.  It had classical nods, a rich organ, and literary allusions in the lyrics, and was played at every teen dance across the country for the longest spell.  Word has it that it has been covered by more than 1,000 other artists through the years, including Michael Bolton, The Highwaymen (Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson), Herbie Mann, Annie Lennox, and...well, about 996 others.  https://youtu.be/sblgLwpTNbc

 

8. Purple Haze – The Jimi Hendrix Experience…..The song hails from Hendrix’s 1967 release Are You Experienced, and he reportedly maintained that his composition wasn’t drug-related, but rather a love song inspired by a dream of his that he was walking under the sea.  The track also has one of the most frequently misheard lines in rock history—“Excuse me while I kiss the sky” is often audibly ingested as “Excuse me while I kiss this guy.”  https://youtu.be/ZGc4TLyr9yc  

 

9. One More Heartache – The Paul Butterfield Blues Band…..Okay, so I wasn’t even aware that this song was a Motown-bred hit for Marvin Gaye in 1966, because by 1967 I was immersed in a lot of other forms of music which is how I came across the song as performed by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.  I dropped the needle on Side One, Track One of this band’s third album The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw (1967), and was blown away by this blues-infused shot of R & B led by the wailing, sailing Butterfield on lead vocals and harmonica.  Spine-tingling stuff, still, fifty years on… https://youtu.be/KFOLED9VfVQ

 

10. I Can See For Miles – The Who…..Back when this track from the album The Who Sell Out hit my turntable for the first time, it stunned me.  It was an all-out assault with bashes-full of drumming by the late Keith Moon and power-chord slashes extraordinaire by guitarist Pete Townshend.  I never saw The Who do this song live, but did get to see a number of late-1960s SW Pennsylvania bands pummel out respectable covers.  In particular, a band that’s now lost to the mists of time named Freeport played this tune a lot at regional rock festivals I attended through the late 60s, and even in the hands of a local poser unit, the song still killed.  https://youtu.be/GL8tPJPiZ64

 

 

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Posted 10/23/17.....

Back in 2007, I worked up a mix expressly for some clan-leading family members who wear nearing that Age 80 milestone.  Instead of pulling hits from yesteryear like big band material and singers like Sinatra that would croon for the swoon, I scoured my CD shelves and iTunes playlists in order to find a perfect blend of “newer” material (meaning songs from the 1970s through recent times).  I labeled the CD compilation Songs For The Elderly But Spry—which I am sure they relished a lot more than, say, something like Cranky But Still Crankin’.       

1. Pre-You – Jimmy Buffett.....from the 1988 album Hot Water, the artist’s 17th release.....This was the first song that I put on the mix for my elderly but spry family members.  I went the way of a “deep cut” here and picked a commercially unrecognizable soft and smooth ballad, thus avoiding Buffett’s overplayed “Margaritaville” and sidestepping a lot of his other hedonistic calls to party.  Big bar jukebox favorite “Why Don’t We Get Drunk” wasn’t even considered, of course.  No heart palpitations for my elderly kin, please and thanks.  https://youtu.be/zQkDPMmXeeA

 

2. The Girl Who Fell In Love With The MoonBoo Hewerdine.....from Harmonograph, an album released in 2006.....Folk-pop singer-songwriter Hewerdine is a Brit who’s been flying well below the radar of widespread fame since the late 1980s.  Critics lined up to praise Hewerdine’s 1989 teaming with Texas native Darden Smith on an album called Evidence, and the track “All I Want Is Everything” was a great tune that got passed around amongst the critics and the more perceptive members of the public.  “The Girl Who Fell in Love With the Moon” is a pleasing mid-tempo ballad, and stems from one of his solo album efforts which began surfacing sporadically through the 1990s on into the 2000s.  https://youtu.be/3pfra46d1Rw

 

3. Both Sides Now – Clannad and Paul Young.....Though this cover of the Joni Mitchell classic was released in 1991 the production on it has just a touch of an ‘80s sheen, but not near enough to mar the beautifully matched vocals of Clannad’s lead singer Máire Ní Bhraonáin (aka Maire Brennan) and English singer-songwriter Paul Young.  The two came together for this soundtrack submission to the 1991 film Switch which starred Ellen Barkin and Jimmy Smits; the song also appears on Clannad’s greatest hits compilation from 1994 entitled The Best Of Clannad: In A Lifetimehttps://youtu.be/NHlPoEXYkxI

 

4. Saturday – Josh Rouse.....from the artist’s 2005 release Nashville.....This album was the fifth from this indie folk artist who was born in Nebraska and after childhood self-transplanted to Nashville.  There are depths to this record in the keen ear for production and intelligent song arrangements; this is a great example of a “new” singer-songwriter whose style was at least partly inspired by the wave of singer-songwriters of the ‘70s.  https://youtu.be/0SALdUTFR3o

 

5. Hands – Jewel.....from the singer’s second album Spirit (1998).....A sparkling ballad from Jewel which was, to the artist’s surprise, snatched up by some radio stations across the country in the days immediately following 9/11; these particular disc jockeys found themselves turning toward this meditative, prayer-like number to soothe our jagged consciousness.  I saw Jewel in a Greensburg, PA majestic theater setting in 2012, alone with an acoustic guitar and that voice, and she held the audience in her lovely “Hands” as she performed this particular number midway through.  https://youtu.be/ne0s3XtUzEY

 

6. Crazy Love – Poco.....This band formed in Los Angeles in 1968, some of the members remnants from the recently dissolved Buffalo Springfield (Richie Furay and Jim Messina).  The band went through a number of line-up changes through the 1970s and by the time their Legend album was released in 1978, Poco consisted of Rusty Young, Paul Cotton, Charlie Harrison, Steve Chapman and Kim Bullard.  “Crazy Love” comes from that album Legend, which turned out to be the band’s largest selling record in their then ten-year history.  https://youtu.be/kdxtpOlc4hU

 

7. Memphis – Janis Ian.....from Ian’s album god & the fbi, released in 2000.....Reportedly Ian in the late ‘90s had cast off her own accumulated fears about record sales success (which she’d been experiencing a lack of), and instead just focused on putting together an album that pleased only her.  The album was recorded in a house setting versus a studio—with all involved hunkered down in bunker mentality—and this particular song on the eventual record became a duet with Willie Nelson, with fine pickin’ in the middle from guitar great Chet Atkins.  https://youtu.be/eU7CkFuUaw4

 

8. Better Together – Jack Johnson.....from In Between Dreams, the artist’s third album released in 2005.....Hawaii-born Johnson musically rode a wave into the minds of many college kids in the early 2000s, as he was an audibly affable twenty-something singer-songwriter who epitomized “cool” and laidback charm.  The tune included here is one of Johnson’s best known songs, and there exists on DVD (and on YouTube) a great version of it performed live with accompaniment from frequent touring sidekick G. Love on harmonica.  That’s the one you’ll see here:  https://youtu.be/9NoWDrslhm0  

 

9. Catch The Wind – Donovan.....from the artist’s 1965 debut album What’s Bin Did And What’s Bin Hid.....Donovan was early on labeled the “English Dylan” when his recorded works first started hitting record shelves, and certainly this tune could be imagined coming from the early Dylan catalogue.  It’s a pleasant folk song that can easily transport musicasaurus.com readers of a certain age back to the early-mid ‘60s, a time when folk songs were just about to give way to more powerful, popular and politicized rock ‘n’ roll.  https://youtu.be/458AWqjSbD4

 

10. It Doesn’t Matter Anymore – Linda Ronstadt.....from the singer’s third studio album Heart Like A Wheel (1974).....Ronstadt back in the ‘70s was a great interpreter of others’ works, and “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” is no exception.  Originally a posthumous hit for Buddy Holly in 1959, this Paul Anka-penned tune is graced (like the rest of this Ronstadt record) with great instrumental backing and production courtesy of collaborators/contributors Peter Asher and Andrew Gold.  https://youtu.be/rbYS2RbjTA8

 

 

 

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Posted 10/9/17.....

PEOPLE WHO’VE PASSED…in 2017.

1. TOM PETTY

Dreamville, by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.....Petty had always been on the battle lines with regard to artists’ rights, starting well over three decades ago when his record company at the time (circa 1981) wanted to raise the price of his looming new album from the industry’s standard $8.98 list price to $9.98.  He threatened not to release the record at all, and then vowed to make the title of this album Eight Ninety-Eight if it was released at the higher price.  The record company capitulated, and the album eventually hit the stores with the name Hard Promises instead...Flash forward a couple of decades, and Petty was at it again in 2002, releasing a themed album entitled The Last DJ.  With songs like “Money Becomes King” and the title track “The Last DJ,” Petty was pondering modern life where corporate avarice was running rampant, radio stations were further restricting playlists, and musical expression was increasingly stifled, gagged & bound.  This track “Dreamville” is a pretty and contemplative piece, though; a mid-tempo ballad about being young in the 1950s and 1960s, living the small town life, buying guitar strings at the local music store, and listening to the radio where, as the song says, “there was rock ‘n’ roll across the dial.”  https://youtu.be/ViczcWEHgaY  

 

2. CHARLES BRADLEY

Changes…..Bradley’s success was not overnight; for him, it was late in the evening—his debut album No Time For Dreaming was released in 2011 when Bradley turned 62.  He slogged through some tough times earlier on, but soul music was always in his head and heart starting with his life-changing concert experience as a 14-year-old when he saw James Brown at the Apollo Theater in 1962.  Some friends and I were first exposed to Bradley live at the 2016 Three Rivers Arts Festival in Pittsburgh, where Bradley was testifyin’ to the power of music and the power of The Lord; an incredible mix of passion and gratitude leapt out of that man’s throat at every turn…Bradley passed away on September 23rd from a battle with cancer.  The song featured here is Bradley’s cover of, yes, a Black Sabbath song—it appeared on Bradley’s third album Changes, which is also the name of the Sabbath song from their fourth album entitled Vol. 4, released in 1972.  https://youtu.be/DPHKVmFrvfw

 

3. GLEN CAMPBELL

Wichita Lineman…..Campbell was incredibly popular in the ‘60s-into-the-‘70s with TV appearances and chart-topping radio hits like “Gentle On My Mind,” “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” and later on,“Rhinestone Cowboy”—but Musicasaurus.com’s pick of the litter is the Jimmy Webb-composed tune “Wichita Lineman.”  Campbell was quite the picker as well, an underrated guitarist who, as a session player, helped propel hits for Nat King Cole, Elvis Presley, Phil Spector and others.  He also was a member of The Wrecking Crew, L.A.s’ renowned group of studio musicians who in the 1960s churned out an amazing amount of songs for stars like Frank Sinatra, Sonny & Cher, The Mamas & The Papas, The Beach Boys, and more…The song included here comes from Campbell’s 1968 album of the same name.  https://youtu.be/mhGogr2qbwA

 

4. CHRIS CORNELL

Fell On Black Days, by Soundgarden.....Superunknown, from which this track was taken, was this Seattle band’s blistering, bludgeoning, and quite tuneful fourth album, the one that brought them widespread acclaim critically and commercially in 1994.  It was dense and delicious, sounding a little like the crew of Zeppelin had decided to steer toward sky’s-the-limit alternative rock.  Cornell was the vocal frontman who led the charge here, and then later on, as vocalist with Audioslave which featured three remnants of Rage Against The Machine—guitarist Tom Morello, bassist Tim Commerford and dummer Brad Wilk…Cornell was hugely respected within the industry by peers, and by fans, for his vocal talent but spent periods of his life chased by internal demons (drugs and depression).  His lyrics in “Fell On Black Days” are indicative of his struggles:  Whatsoever I've feared has come to life / And whatsoever I've fought off became my life / Just when everyday seemed to greet me with a smile.”  Cornell took his own life one evening after a Soundgarden performance in Detroit, on May 18thhttps://youtu.be/pcmAwDebmLw

 

5. CHESTER BENNINGTON

What I’ve Done, by Linkin Park…..Bennington first broke through to the masses as the lead singer on Linkin Park’s 2000 debut album Hybrid Theory, and was renowned for his vocal prowess which could go from anguished whisper to cathartic scream, in a heartbeat.  “What I’ve Done” is from the band’s third album, Minutes To Midnight, which was produced by Rick Rubin and which spotlighted Bennington’s towering vocals (still alongside the raps and rhymes of Linkin Park’s other vocalist, Mike Shinoda).  His suicide on July 20 came just two months after Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell’s death by similar means.  Bennington had sung Leonard Cohen’s song “Hallelujah” at Cornell’s funeral, and was also the godfather of Cornell’s son Christopher.  https://youtu.be/qu0k38VMaV4

 

6. GREGG ALLMAN and BUTCH TRUCKS

Statesboro Blues, by the Allman Brothers Band.....For musicasaurus.com readers of a certain age, this leadoff track is the first song we soaked in as our turntables spun the brand new Allman Brothers Band album At Fillmore East in July of 1971.  All these years later, the effect is the same: there’s sizzlin’ slide from Duane Allman and—speaking of the whole album here—it’s one of the tightest rock-band workouts ever captured in a live setting.  It brims over with energy, road experience, discipline, and intuitive playing; the musical boundaries blend into a magical amalgam of blues and rock, and even some adventurous jazz.  This crew, all in their twenties, were at the absolute peak of their powers; Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident just 3 months after this double-live album was released at age 24, and Gregg Allman and Butch Trucks passed away this year, both at the age of 69.  https://youtu.be/67tXz8pqNh0

 

7. WALTER BECKER

Time Out of Mind, by Steely Dan.....“Tonight when I chase the dragon, the water will change to cherry wine”this is the usual lyrical esoterica put forth by Walter Becker and partner Donald Fagen, but it is also musically crisp, catchy, and of course full of the band’s signature accents and whip-smart jazz shadings.  The song is taken from their 1980 release Gaucho…(Note:  I would have posted a Becker-only tune here, but sadly his solo output paled in comparison to all of his collaborative efforts with Fagen; outside of Steely Dan, Becker just wasn’t as deft with the heft.)  https://youtu.be/HxPwX8-CELY  

 

8. CHUCK BERRY

Nadine.....One of Rock’s forefathers, Berry had a string of hits in the late 1950s that titillated teens here at home and also perked up the ears of English musicians abroad—like the Beatles and the Stones—who then covered these tunes on their earliest recordings.  Berry’s landmark rock records include “Johnny B. Goode,” “Sweet Little Sixteen,” “Rock ‘n’ Roll Music,” “You Never Can Tell” and the track listed here that was released as a single in 1964 and then included on Berry’s first greatest hits album released that same year.  He was one of the first inductees in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (in 1986), and Rolling Stone magazine in 2004 created a tantalizing list and put a Berry on top—he was crowned # 5 in this magazine’s tribute issue entitled “The Hundred Greatest Artists of All Time.”  https://youtu.be/1shb2yvbpRM

 

9. LARRY CORYELL

She's Leaving Home.....Coryell was a jazz-rock rabble-rouser who blew minds and blew right past boundaries in the 1960s.  Through the decades he’s bounced between aggressive electric spazzed-out jazz, and intimate, more accessible acoustic exercises.  And he’s got a list of albums a mile long—over 70 records since his debut album Lady Coryell in 1968.  This cover of the Beatles’ classic from their Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album is a thing of beauty, and it’s just Coryell alone on guitar.  The song hails from his 2004 release Tricycles, a trio effort which also features ex-Pat Metheny Band collaborators Paul Wertico on drums and Mark Egan on bass.  Coryell died on February 12 in New York City at the age of 73.  https://youtu.be/PtBW6UjAMoc

 

10. AL JARREAU

Thinkin’ About It Too.....Jarreau’s Milwaukee childhood was all church and song, with his father a singer and minister, and a mom who played piano in that house of worship.  In the late 1960s he hit L.A. with his hellacious vocal style which playfully braided together pop and jazz in a winning combination, and which established him as a draw in venues like the Troubadour and the Bitter End West.  Television appearances for this master of vocalise on Merv Griffin, Dinah Shore, Mike Douglas and Johnny Carson brought him mainstream fame, and in 1975 Jarreau released his first major-label album on Warner Brothers’ Reprise Records entitled We Got By.  The track listed here, “Thinkin’ About It Too,” was the album opener for Jarreau’s third major-label exercise, 1977’s All Fly Home.  This is the best track on the album, a funky fast-paced jazz-pop pleasure that has Jarreau sailing all around the syncopation and percolation.  The artist passed away, at the age of 76, in February of this year.  https://youtu.be/NgKk_dg9vOU

 

 

 

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Posted 9/25/17.....

No exposition this time out on musicasaurus.com.  I am providing the leap into 1970, but take this journey of twenty-two tunes only when you have time to stream with little else on your agenda.  Unplug and plunk down that mobile…you can do without; it’ll serve you here.

Birds – Neil Young   https://youtu.be/k4imn-swb34

Dig A Pony – The Beatles   https://youtu.be/3qz-7mwroI0

Déjà Vu – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young   https://youtu.be/YCs6Tpd5sFQ

The Tears Of A Clown – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles   https://youtu.be/ofGJPMyvwkg

I Love You – Steve Miller Band   https://youtu.be/NFPOgHWQVlQ

Can't Stop Worrying, Can't Stop Loving – Dave Mason   https://youtu.be/gDYUaE8x68M

Revival – The Allman Brothers Band   https://youtu.be/3_pUWz4CHWM

Only You Know and I Know – Delanie & Bonnie and Friends   https://youtu.be/DnBijF6hawc

Country Road – James Taylor   https://youtu.be/wr_ZRLgduiU

Chestnut Mare – The Byrds   https://youtu.be/QlcLAcCMVYM

Spill The Wine – Eric Burdon and War   https://youtu.be/7B3d7loXra8

Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours – Stevie Wonder   https://youtu.be/cE3ut0cWprg

Friend of the Devil – Grateful Dead   https://youtu.be/rjWa53ZdqlA  

Love the One You're With – Stephen Stills   https://youtu.be/cZyj6GECjZ0

Them Changes – Jimi Hendrix's Band of Gypsys   https://youtu.be/m9cjw5OHAf8

I Want You Back – The Jackson 5   https://youtu.be/gjLfUt2nzHc     

Who'll Stop the Rain – Creedence Clearwater Revival   https://youtu.be/DZmKhHG9RD0

The Boxer – Simon & Garfunkel   https://youtu.be/0JXCnNh8x4o     

Nature's Way – Spirit   https://youtu.be/qvQa04JP73o            

Inside – Jethro Tull   https://youtu.be/j1VYRZF8bCs                                        

Hummingbird – Leon Russell   https://youtu.be/rokNTY_qLC4

Into the Mystic – Van Morrison   https://youtu.be/pbZf8GY1-Ag

 

 

 

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Posted 9/11/17.....

VOICES MIX........Yeah, I admit it.  I was hearing voices when contemplating this mix back in the Fall of 2010.  I wanted a mix full of masterful vocals—a cappella and/or multi-tracked harmonies in a host of different song settings.  And I think I got it:

1.) White Winter Hymnal – Sonos.....A beautiful a cappella version of a song originally written and recorded by the Fleet Foxes.  This is one to crank to the rafters when testing out a new sound system; you can hear even the faint preparatory breaths taken before these spellbinding voices enter their weavings.  Sonos is three men and three women from Southern California, and the song is from their 2009 release SonoSings which also sports a cappella covers of tunes by Rufus Wainwright, Imogen Heap, and Bjork.  https://youtu.be/3n3xuA2tV0w

 

2.) God Only Knows – The Beach Boys.....Thank God that Brian Wilson pushed out this masterpiece before mentally moving to the Land of the Lotus Eaters (it seems as if he has since returned).  When the Beach Boys eleventh album Pet Sounds was released in 1966, Wilson claimed that he rose to the occasion after hearing the Beatles’ latest album Rubber Soul.  Turnabout being fair play, Paul McCartney then cited Pet Sounds as a great influence on the Beatles’ very next effort: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  https://youtu.be/EkPy18xW1j8

 

3.) I Can’t Remember – The Thorns.....A “supergroup” of sorts...Shawn Mullins (he of the one-hit-wonder “Lullaby” from 1998), Matthew Sweet, and Pete Droge teamed up in 2003 to produce a beautiful blend of harmonies for their self-titled debut on Columbia Records.  The album is a paean to the classic rock of the 1970s—the lush harmonies of Crosby, Stills & Nash, America, and the Beach Boys, and the jangling guitars a la Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.  https://youtu.be/Jxszfw-Sm-o

 

4.) Don’t Stop Believin’ – Petra Haden.....Idiosyncratic vocalist Haden (daughter of jazz bassist Charlie Haden) took this arena-rock anthem and subverted its classic rock stature by supplanting Journey’s instrumental portions with her quirky, alternative-style vocals.  The result may be an acquired taste, but it’s a grand a cappella attempt to redefine this 1980s radio staple and elicit new emotions from listeners.  Haden’s remake comes from a compilation album entitled Guilt By Association, Volume I (2007), a mix of indie-rock artists covering well-known pop, rock & rhythm-and-blues hits.  https://youtu.be/OQT6loi-Q0k

 

5.) It’s No Use Pretending – Cliff Richard.....Richard is an English singer/songwriter who ruled the British airwaves in the late 1950s and early 1960s, prior to the British Invasion bands and the Beatles.  He was immensely popular and racked up no less than forty-three Top Twenty hits between 1958 and 1969.  In this particular track from his 1976 release I’m Nearly Famous, Richard builds a wall of harmony on the choruses that is pretty high on the meter in scope and execution, but the song is strong throughout and is actually quite reminiscent of the best ballads from countryman Elton John.  https://youtu.be/je2x4uG6cpM

 

6.) Your Sweet Voice – Matthew Sweet.....Nebraska native Sweet first came to prominence with his 1991 album Girlfriend, a collection of alternative/pop that pointed to a mix of influences, most noticeably the Beatles, the Byrds and R.E.M.  The album was Sweet’s biggest and best; it had great songwriting and inventive guitar work from Robert Quine (who’d worked with Lou Reed, Eno and others) and also from Richard Lloyd (guitar slinger from the band Television).  “Your Sweet Voice” is one of the more lush and layered tracks; an aural cushion, a beautifully rendered love song.  https://youtu.be/58JFP1oOlqA

 

7.) Calling My Children Home – Emmylou Harris.....This track is from a live set from Harris, captured for posterity in 1998 for the album Spyboy.  The record features a stellar touring band composed of Daryl Johnson on bass, Brady Blade on drums, and Buddy Miller on guitar (Buddy is an under-the-radar guitar hero; his stints include a couple of Robert Plant collaborations with Alison Krauss and then Band of Joy).  “Calling My Children Home” is awe-cappella at its finest; just Harris and her three band mates.  This is just one milestone of many in Harris’ long and illustrious career bringing what her mentor Gram Parsons called “Cosmic American Music” to the masses.  https://youtu.be/Z61NL0AtJJk

 

8.) Baby – Bobby McFerrin.....McFerrin is a free spirit who long ago found his voice, and then found his voice to be more than enough.  His parents were both classical singers, and McFerrin has applied his own pipes through the years to classical, pop and jazz.  He is best known for his 1988 song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” but it pays to dig deep into his catalogue to find arresting gems such as this one, “Baby,” from McFerrin’s 1990 album Medicine Music.  The song is percolatin’…and here he’s able to flex his overdubbing and leap octaves in a single bound.  https://youtu.be/NN_ObsAF6LM   

 

9.) O Holy Night – *NSYNC.....Pretty close to perfection, this holiday song features Justin Timberlake and the boys in an a cappella reading of the classic Christmas tune.  The vocal skills on display here are astonishing (lofty, I know), and they illustrate the discipline involved and the depth of talent in this particular quintet.  The song comes from the album Home For Christmas which hit record stores a scant eight months after the boys’ self-titled debut was released in March of 1998 (hey…have to strike when the iron’s hot; fans young & fickle can turn a flood into a trickle).  https://youtu.be/0KeVHwGWJUg

 

10.) What Do I Do – Sam Phillips.....This song is one of many satisfying numbers included on Phillips’ second album The Indescribable Wow released in 1988.  Producer T-Bone Burnett puts meat and muscle into all of the songs’  arrangements and production, but on this particular track it is really Phillips’ infectious, layered and occasionally interwoven vocals that clinch it.  Plus, the song beautifully swells into being for its first 28 seconds of life and ultimately ends the same way, in an ear-caressing orchestral fade.  Pretty nice achievement.  https://youtu.be/P96om77z9hI

 

 

 

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Posted 8/28/17.....

Friend Rick Sebak suggested last week to do an eclipse mix, but my posting timing was off…Well, I’m here now.  These are ten tunes; suns & moons…Enjoy!

1. Look Into The Sun – Jethro Tull…..British band Jethro Tull—originally blues-based then incorporating English folk, all the while honing rock and prog-rock dynamics—was the one that lured me into the possibilities of a lead instrument that could float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.  Ian Anderson was a high-stepping, possessed pied piper who handled all lead vocals for the band, and he used his flute to spit and spool out frenzied solos and fluttering accents both on record and in memorable live performances.  My first exposure to Tull came through their 1969 album Stand Up, which is exactly what the group did as album buyers ripped off the shrink-wrap and spread open the gatefold cover.  The cartoonish paper foursome stood up as the gatefold spread, their arms splayed in a major “Ta-DAH!” which to me heralded great things waiting within… “Look Into The Sun” was Stand Up’s closing track on side one, a pleasing mid-tempo folk-rock excursion.  https://youtu.be/A6VXRSVZHIY

 

2. Surface Of The Moon – Del Amitri…..This alt-pop yet folkie kind of band originally formed in Scotland in 1983, and in terms of success over here in the States, they penetrated the Top Ten nationally with only one song, “Roll To Me,” from their 1995 album Twisted.  I have dug deeper, though, and there are a few other really compelling bits of songwriting and execution to be savored: The beautiful ballad “Driving With The Brakes On” from the Twisted album as well, “Kiss This Thing Goodbye” from 1989’s Waking Hours release, and the track included here for the Sun and Moon mix, “Surface Of The Moon” from 1992’s Change Everything.  https://youtu.be/rOvTwnzNjMA

 

3. In The Sun (live) - Michael Stipe with Coldplay.....This track is from a 2005 Austin City Limits performance of R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe with Coldplay, and is taken from a six-song EP (“extended play” record) entitled In The Sun.  The EP was released in 2006 exclusively through the iTunes Store, and its sales benefited the victims of Hurricane Katrina.  All six songs on the EP are versions of “In The Sun,” with Stipe in collaboration with a) Chris Martin, b) Coldplay, or c) the song’s originator, singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur.  The version listed here is the best of the six; it’s live, lyrically moving, and very well performed and produced.  https://youtu.be/ffD6TP16ZFQ

 

4. Moonshadow – Cat Stevens…..The album from which this simple but bewitching song comes from is called Teaser And The Firecat, released in October 1971, one month after I started my freshman year at Clarion State College in Clarion, PA.  I remember my new college buddy Frank (now lifelong friend) glomming onto this album immediately, and spinning it incessantly in his dorm room.  He often warbled along, which may have had something to do with my reluctance to join Cat’s cult.  Over the years since, though, certain of this artist’s songs have resonated upon revisiting, including this appropriate slice for the eclipse mix.  According to Wikipedia, Stevens recalled in a 2009 interview with Chris Isaak the impetus for penning it:  "I was on a holiday in Spain. I was a kid from the West End (of London) - bright lights, et cetera. I never got to see the moon on its own in the dark, there were always streetlamps. So there I was on the edge of the water on a beautiful night with the moon glowing, and suddenly I looked down and saw my shadow. I thought that was so cool, I'd never seen it before."  https://youtu.be/nISVQfiSl_E

 

5. The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore – Jules Shear.....Born in Pittsburgh in 1952, pop rocker Shear moved to L.A. in the mid-1970s and has had a career characterized by blips of success within various areas of the music business.  Although some of his solo releases from the early 1990s were critically acclaimed, they never engendered widespread fame; some of Shear’s songs, though, did strike a chord with the public through other artists—Cyndi Lauper had a hit with Shear’s “All Through The Night,” and the Bangles covered his tune “If She Knew What She Wants.”  Shear also waded into MTV back in 1989, becoming the host of the first 13 episodes of the music channel’s program MTV Unplugged.  The track listed here—a cover of The Walker Brothers’ 1966 radio hit—is from Shear’s 1994 release Healing Bones.  This album and Shear’s 1992 release The Great Puzzle both have some gems on them, a nice change of pace for pop-rock fans who want to dig beyond the usual pop pablum that’s pushed front-and-center by streaming services, iTunes, etc.  https://youtu.be/VvnaVaerKdQ

 

6. Blue Moon – Mark Isham (with Tanita Tikaram).....Mark Isham straddles more than a few musical pursuits—solo trumpeter, prolific film-and-television composer, and a touring sideman of the first caliber.  In 1983 he released his solo debut Vapor Drawings on the prestigious New Age record label Windham Hill and also scored his first film, Disney’s Never Cry Wolf.  He has also toured and/or recorded with jazz greats like Pharoah Sanders and Charles Lloyd, and rock luminaries such as Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, the Rolling Stones, Suzanne Vega, XTC and Springsteen.  His solo records are amazing, and in addition to trumpet, Isham adroitly programs and incorporates synthesizers into his work.  The song “Blue Moon”—guest sung by Tanita Tikaram—is from Isham’s 1990 self-titled album.  Nominated twice before for a Grammy in the category of Best New Age Performance, Isham was finally ushered in through this release.  https://youtu.be/9FZ0ZfHX9A8

 

7. Ain’t No Sunshine – Bill Withers…..Hard to believe that this song is only two minutes in length when it has twenty-six “I knows” in it.  Withers was born in West Virginia in 1938, spent some time in the Navy as a young man, and then moved to L.A. with dreams of becoming a musician while holding down a real paycheck at assembly jobs, most notably in a factory that built toilet seats for 747s.  In the meantime he gigged at clubs and shopped song demos around, and finally when signed by a record company on the strength of this particular tune, he reportedly blanched at giving up his day job, suspecting that a life in music wouldn’t pan out.  Glad he kept the faith and made the leap.  “Grandma’s Hands,” “Lean On Me,” and “Use Me” followed, all within a year of his kick-started music career that began in 1971 with this song from his debut album Just As I Amhttps://youtu.be/tIdIqbv7SPo

 

8. Half Moon – Blind Pilot.....A folk-pop unit from Portland, Oregon led by guitarist/singer-songwriter Israel Nebekes, Blind Pilot in a live setting really delivers; the songs come alive with a captivating combination of instruments including (but not limited to!) acoustic guitar, upright bass, organ, vibes, dulcimer and banjo.  My late-twentysomething daughter Moira and I stood riveted (no choice; general admission floor) at Mr. Small’s, a continuously busy little gem of a club in Pittsburgh, to see the band back in February of 2012.  This song—which commercial television followers might remember from Ellen DeGeneres’ birthday party episode from January of 2013—comes from the band’s second album entitled We Are The Tide, released in 2011.  https://youtu.be/ZuIwRweZoec

 

9. Baobab Sunset – Manu Dibango.....Cameroon-born saxophonist Manu Dibango provides a simmering stew of Afro-funk fusion that is understated, sweeping and majestic.  The tune unfolds like an open road—no jarring speed bumps; just all natural grooves with a wide & beautiful vista stretching out ahead.  The arrangement and execution of this seven-minute song is peerless; it’s bass, drums, rhythm guitar, piano, and percussion, with Dibango on a soothing soprano sax, marimba, and synthesizer.  The song is from this artist’s 1976 album Afrovision.  https://youtu.be/rFh43rDvV3c

 

10. Moonlight Mile – The Rolling Stones…..A gorgeous six minutes from the Stones, from their 1971 album Sticky Fingers.  One of its most famous lines is the opening bit from Jagger that goes, “When the wind blows and the rain feels cold / with a head full of snow / with a head full of snow…” and I believe Jagger now disputes that those lines carry the meaning that things go better with you-know-what.  The song is just plain beauteous…and a major contributor to its overall impact is the song’s conclusion, masterful sweeping strings orchestrated by British composer/conductor/arranger Paul Buckmaster, kinda famous especially around the turn of the ‘60s-into-‘70s because of his work on Bowie’s “Space Oddity” and a number of early Elton John songs such as “Border Song” and “Levon.”  https://youtu.be/2YBHyG2OaoM

 

 

 

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Posted 8/14/17.....

Ten tunes…A couple of swinging jazz-inflected things, some typically great Ronstadt (covering Warren Zevon), a New Age-y guitar, a deep-cuts classic rock song—it’s a potpourri.

1. Oracle – Michael Hedges.....California-born Hedges was an innovative guitarist who seemed to be in tune with some kind of celestial, deeper understanding of Life, which he expressed through his instrument in some amazing works captured largely on Windham Hill-label recordings in the 1980s and early 1990s.  Hedges reportedly dubbed his harmonic style “violent acoustic” and “heavy mental” to escape the nagging tag of “New Age.”  I met Hedges in the early 1980s when Pittsburgh-based music retailer National Record Mart held their annual convention in Seven Springs, PA, and I remember him (in our few minutes together) to be warm and approachable, and when complimented, humble about his gifts.  “Oracle” is a track from the artist’s 1996 album of the same name; the record turned out to be the last one released during his lifetime, as Hedges died in a single car crash in Mendocino County, California in December of 1997.  He was 43 years old.  https://youtu.be/tieL8ZcMX2Q

 

2. Poor, Poor Pitiful Me – Linda Ronstadt.....Ronstadt was the reigning queen of country rock throughout the 1970s, an artist who had amazing popularity and girl-gone-wild chart success, and key to her ascension was a number of tasteful, energetic covers of other artists’ material.  “Poor Poor Pitiful Me,” a cover of Warren Zevon’s rousing rocker from his 1976 self-titled second album, appeared on Ronstadt’s Simple Dreams released in 1977.  Simple Dreams featured the cream of the California crop of backing musicians—including Waddy Wachtel, Andrew Gold, Kenny Edwards, David Lindley, and Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar—and the album sported two Zevon compositions (the track listed here, plus “Carmelita”) as well as songs originally done by Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison.  https://youtu.be/jpGkn5jbFfA

 

3. This Is What You Are – Mario Biondi & The High Five Quintet.....This song starts out with a sinewy bass line...then congas come in...drums & cymbals ease into place...and finally piano chords set the stage before the alluring deep and soulful voice of Mario Bondi kicks off this absolutely swingin’ jazz tune (don’t let the word “jazz” cause your nose to wrinkle up; just go forth and take a taste).  Warning:  This tune percolates with such smooth sophistication that a cocktail may suddenly appear in your hand; but relax, and keep the other one free for snappin’.  Born in Bitetto, Italy in 1971, Biondi came from a musical family and has recorded or performed with a number of artists from Italy as well as musicians beyond its borders.  “This Is What You Are” comes from the artist’s 2006 release Handful of Soul.  Also, when downloading or streaming, be sure to glom onto the 7-minute, 11-second version of this song because there are other versions “out there” that can’t measure up to this particular slice of magic.  https://youtu.be/kagQVzK5gG8

 

4. Annie Get Your Gun – Squeeze.....The 1960s brought us The Beatles and the magical pairing of childhood chums Lennon & McCartney, songwriters and musicians who wrote prolifically and balanced each other’s excesses to produce masterful end products.  Another couple of British buds who wielded a mighty melodic pen together were Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, who first bonded around the late ‘70s.  They fronted a lyrically sharp punk-pop unit called Squeeze that produced great edgy pop tunes and cultivated a very nice-sized cult of adoring listeners.  “Annie Get Your Gun” was released as a single in 1982, and never officially appeared on a Squeeze album aside from their later compilation discs.  https://youtu.be/BmkmtvxxG3o

 

5. A Ride With Polly Jean – Jenny Scheinman.....Born in Jacksonville, Florida in 1979 and now Brooklyn-based, violinist Scheinman is primarily a jazz artist though she applies a brush of many colors.  She has recorded solo albums as well as collaborated in studio and live settings with a variety of artists including Lou Reed, Bruce Cockburn, Lucinda Williams, Norah Jones, Sean Lennon and the gifted, largely unheralded American jazz-and-world-music guitarist Bill Frisell.  This track from her 2012 solo recording Mischief & Mayhem clocks in at over 6 minutes, and it is quite simply a great jazz-rock excursion which also features the talented guitar work of Wilco’s guitarist Nels Cline.  A YouTube clip of the studio version is currently unavailable—and this is the preferred version—but you can find it on Spotify:  https://open.spotify.com/track/1UU1tpRqS56Vo5BfQK1KKs

 

6. Baby’s Callin’ Me Home – Steve Miller Band.....This smooth, bluesy piece of pop is from the Steve Miller Band’s 1968 debut album Children Of The Future.  The tune was written and sung by band member Boz Scaggs, who remained with the group for just one additional record—1968’s Sailor—before spinning off to a solo career.  Both Miller and Scaggs were originally steeped in the blues and the psychedelic era of San Francisco circa the late ‘60s, but their music moved more toward the mainstream throughout the early ‘70s.  In 1976, both artists ignited: Miller with his Fly Like An Eagle album and Boz with his blue-eyed soul classic Silk Degrees.  https://youtu.be/XtuqhONRZS0

 

7. Your Husband’s Cheating On Us – Matraca Berg.....From Berg’s 2011 release The Dreaming Fields, this is a fascinating sung-in-first-person slice about a mistress coming to visit the wife of her current lover, expressly to tell the woman at home that her man is cheating on both of them.  Berg truly inhabits this cool and confident character, with a half-sung, half-spoken vocal that conveys a touch of menace amidst the swamp music feel that is provided by her gifted backing band.  (In sound and instrumentation, this song would fit right in with a mix of more familiar, somewhat similar fare like Tony Joe White’s “Polk Salad Annie,” John Fogerty’s “Born On The Bayou,” and Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode To Billie Joe.”)  https://youtu.be/Ah-TXq2CBrE

 

8. Riviera Paradise – Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble.....Legendary blues-rock guitarist Vaughan spins a mid-tempo miracle here in an almost-nine minute exploration that some say was his “musical prayer” after kicking heroin.  “Riviera Paradise” is the soulful blues-and-jazz-tinged instrumental that closes side two of his fourth and very formidable album entitled In Step.  That 1989 record also contained the blistering studio performances of “Crossfire” and “Tightrope,” as well as Vaughan’s ode to his almost-overdose, a song he entitled “Wall Of Denial.”  Clean and sober and focused and ferocious, Vaughan perished in a helicopter crash a little more than one year after In Step’s release.  https://youtu.be/V8wtZeVAa9I

 

9. Tulip – Jesca Hoop.....The scoop on Hoop:  This Northern Californian is the offspring of folk-singing Mormons…she reportedly nanny’ed at one point for Tom Waits…and she toured between 2007-2011 with the likes of Peter Gabriel, Polyphonic Spree, Andrew Bird, Matt Pond PA, British alternative band Elbow, and Mark Knopfler.  My daughter first alerted me to Hoop in 2011 when she happened to catch the artist warming up a local Pittsburgh club audience in front of headliners The Punch Brothers (mandolin player Chris Thile’s post-Nickel Creek band).  That night in the club, Hoop and The Punch Brothers tackled “Tulip” together.  Here in Hoop’s studio version of the song from her 2010 release Hunting My Dress she comes charging out of the gate, her slightly Celtic-sounding voice floating confidently above a wonderfully arranged, sonically rich tapestry that is reminiscent of Kate Bush’s or Bjork’s more pop-centric stuff.  https://youtu.be/Pgs2zKv43XE

 

10. Thinkin’ About It Too – Al Jarreau.....Jarreau’s Milwaukee childhood was all Church and Song, with his father a singer and minister, and a mom who played piano in that house of worship.  In the late 1960s, he hit L.A. with his hellacious vocal style which playfully braided together pop and jazz in a winning combination, and established him as a draw in venues like the Troubadour and the Bitter End West.  Television appearances for this master of vocalise on Merv Griffin, Dinah Shore, Mike Douglas and Johnny Carson brought him mainstream fame, and in 1975 Jarreau released his first major-label album on Warner Brothers’ Reprise Records entitled We Got By.  The track listed here, “Thinkin’ About It Too,” was the album opener for Jarreau’s third major-label exercise, 1977’s All Fly Home.  This is the best track on the album, a funky fast-paced jazz-pop pleasure that has Jarreau sailing all around the syncopation and percolation.  The artist passed away, at the age of 76, in February of this year.  https://youtu.be/NgKk_dg9vOU

 

 

 

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Posted 7/31/17.....

Here are ten cover tunes, some faithfully resurrected and others completely reinvented.  Some may surprise you with the paths taken…

  

1. A Case Of You—Joni Mitchell covered by Prince.....In 2007 an album entitled A Tribute to Joni Mitchell was released, featuring a myriad of musicians all sufficiently moved to muster up some quite compelling covers.  The artist line-up included, among others, Prince, Sufjan Stevens, James Taylor, Bjork, Elvis Costello, k.d. lang, and Cassandra Wilson.  Prince does a beautiful take on Mitchell’s “A Case Of You” solely for this tribute release (it hasn’t appeared elsewhere in Prince’s repertoire that I know of), and he excised some of the lyrics to tighten up the tune; the result reveals a breathtakingly intuitive vocal by Prince and commanding musical accompaniment.  The original version of “A Case Of You” hails from Mitchell’s 1971 album Blue.  Here is Prince’s cover version:  https://youtu.be/9d-_gjpzJdw

 

  

2. Holding Back The Years – Simply Red covered by Gretchen Parlato…..Parlato is an L.A.-born jazz songstress who has only three studio albums and a live recording under her belt as a solo artist, yet she has collaborated as a guest vocalist on approximately 100 other musicians’ projects thus far.  Her work is lauded by Downbeat Magazine, Grammy voters, and jazz fans nationwide who, once smitten, never abandon the fetchin’ Gretchen.  The song listed here is a smooth, insinuating piece of work that must be ranked at least equal to the powerful, time-tested original as debuted by British soul & pop band Simply Red on their 1985 debut album Picture Book.  Parlato’s version, dreamy and expansive, comes from her 2011 release The Lost And Found.  https://youtu.be/HccPfkdgR0s

 

  

3. Hit Me With Your Best Shot – Pat Benatar covered by Big Daddy…..Big Daddy is delightfully incorrigible.  They found their calling—satiric treatment of popular songs—back in 1988 on their first album What Really Happened To The Band of ’59.  The album cover for their debut was modeled after the front page of The National Inquirer—our nation’s forerunner of alternative facts?—and on that news-rag style album cover, in a sub-headline, it reads: “Early Rock Group Held Captive for 24 Years Releases Album of Current Hits Performed in 1950’s Style.”  That about sums it up.  The album is a doo-wop-like delight as Big Daddy gleefully deconstructs and reassembles the popular hits of the ‘70s & ‘80s with grin-inducing and twisted treatments of songs such as “Betty Davis Eyes,” “Super Freak,” “Whip It,” and “Hotel California.”  Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” is covered here as well.  The original by Benatar was on her second album Crimes of Passion (1980), but get a load of this loony and charming re-do, courtesy of Big Daddy:  https://youtu.be/wo0yB2J6JNE

 

  

4. Bizarre Love Triangle (live) – New Order covered by Pete Yorn.....Yorn is a guitarist/singer-songwriter who left a New Jersey boyhood for Los Angeles, and after some soundtrack collaborations with the movie-making Farrelly Brothers he moved more fully into recording-and-touring musician mode.  His first record may be his best—2001's Musicforthemorningafter—but his output overall since is dotted with deliciously unconventional yet tuneful efforts.  “Bizarre Love Triangle” by original purveyors New Order comes from their 1986 Brotherhood album, and the cover here by Yorn is from a 2009 EP of his entitled iTunes Live From Soho.  This particular performance isn’t currently findable on YouTube, so musicasaurus.com is giving you another live Yorn rendition to check out, this one recorded in January 2010 at the Paste Magazine Offices in Decatur, Georgia.  https://youtu.be/gwcZK6cU5a4

 

  

5. Behind Blue Eyes – The Who covered by Julian & Roman Wasserfuhr…..This is a totally satisfying reinvention but faithful fans of The Who are likely to pooh-pooh.  “Behind Blue Eyes” in the hands of German musicians Julian and Roman Wasserfuhr becomes a meditative jazz experience that is fulfilling as a new work of art, yet you’ll also love the wisps of recall you’ll experience as you reflect back on the original.  The Who banged out this classic rocker in 1971 as part of Who’s Next, and who-da-thunk that 42 years later two young and talented German brothers—Julian (28) on trumpet and Roman (31) on piano—would lay claim to it with heartfelt respect, and masterfully spool it out instrumentally into the world of jazz lovers and connoisseurs.  The song hails from their fourth album on the German record label ACT entitled Running, which was released in 2013.  https://youtu.be/WwC3YQ4JYKI

 

  

6. Swanee River – Stephen Foster covered by Ollabelle.....Ollabelle is one of musicasaurus.com’s favorite unheralded bands.  Their stir-pot consists of contemporary ideas about production and song arrangement that are reverently applied to past musical treasures—old songs that are traditional folk, gospel or blues classics, or newer songs that are crafted with that sensibility in mind.  Named after the Appalachian folk artist Ola Belle Reed, the band’s debut album hit in 2004 with a sophomore follow-up in 2006.  The third Ollabelle album was five years in the waiting; Neon Blue Bird was released in 2011, and the cover song of consequence on this particular album is the track listed here, Stephen Foster’s classic “Swanee River” (also known as “Old Folks At Home”).  The song, originally written in 1851 as a first-person narrative of an African American slave, is a splendid showcase for Ollabelle’s vocal harmonies and relaxed yet sophisticated and spot-on musicianship.  https://youtu.be/ZrijW8Ert8s

 

  

7. Well I Wonder – The Smiths covered by Sara Lov.....Indie singer-songwriter Lov has a voice of pure pop that she plunks down in mostly off-mainstream territory.  Here she mines the British new wave and is one of many under-the-radar acts who lined up in 2011 to participate in the double-album project entitled Please, Please, Please: A Tribute To The Smiths.  "Well I Wonder" was first crooned by The Smith's lead singer, the magnetic malcontent Morrissey, as the band was assembling their now legendary 1985 album Meat is Murder.  Here is Lov’s cover:  https://youtu.be/tA1SMXAjabA

 

  

8. Glad And Sorry – The Faces covered by Golden Smog.....Golden Smog was a fun and loose little supergroup that came together in Minneapolis in the late 1980s, kind of built on a whim for the bars, and born of the love of playing out live.  The Smog line-up was a bit of a revolving door, however.  The constants were The Jayhawk’s Gary Louris and Soul Asylum’s Dan Murphy, and by the time Smog settled in on the 1995 album Down By The Old Mainstream, the line-up had become Louris and Murphy plus Run Westy Run’s Kraig Johnson, The Jayhawk’s Marc Perlman, The Honeydogs’ Noah Levy, and Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy.  “Glad And Sorry” comes from this Mainstream release, and it has twin guitars and a twin vocal lead, all contributing to a mighty enjoyable alt-country tune that is, in musicasaurus.com’s estimation, really kind of a classic.  The original version of this song, a Ronnie Lane composition voiced by Rod Stewart, was on Ooh La La, the last studio album by the British band Faces.  Here is Golden Smog’s version:  https://youtu.be/9Ey4fwfh9rw

 

  

9. Gasoline Alley – Rod Stewart covered by Phoebe Snow.....Contralto singer-songwriter Snow was born in NYC and in the early 1970s did yeoman’s work in Greenwich Village clubs honing her craft.  Her eponymous debut album hit the record store shelves in 1974, and the lilting, scat-tinged tune “Poetry Man” hit soft rock stations and dug deep into their playlists.  Her style straddled jazz, pop, soul and even—as evidenced here—some heartfelt rock ‘n’ roll.  “Gasoline Alley,” originally the title tune of Rod Stewart’s 1970 solo album, appears on Snow’s 1981 Rock Away release.  Though Snow slowed a bit in her recorded output after Rock Away, she occasionally still stepped up to the plate every few years during the ‘90s and early 2000s.  Snow passed away in April of 2011 of complications from a stroke one year earlier.  https://youtu.be/Pf6FEp9TGnI

 

  

10. Save It For Later – The English Beat covered by Pete Townshend.....And the Beat goes on:  Here, Townshend does a ferocious acoustic cover of this rockin’ English Beat tune that first appeared on that band’s 1982 album Special Beat Service.  Townshend took the song under his wing for the 2006 beefed-up re-release of his 1985 solo album White City.  Both versions of this song are riveting, but I give the edge to Townshend because he has created a propulsive, majestic treat with just acoustic guitar and piano.  https://youtu.be/NSWdug1HiCg

 

 

 

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Posted 7/17/17.....

Southern California Mix...originally recorded July 29, 2009.

Here are ten tunes from the geographically concentrated, artistically incestuous group of singer/songwriters and musicians who all hung out in Southern California back in the freewheelin’, got-that-lovin’-feelin’ 1970s…It was quite the collective.  A lot of these folks guested on each other’s recordings, and Southern California back then was one big pocket of oozing artistry that really resonated with us Easterners who could only dream of making it to L.A. to soak in the sunshine and all those good vibes…

1. Late For The Sky – Jackson Browne (from Browne’s 3rd album of the same name, released in 1974).....This wasn’t the album that put Browne on top of the heap and on the tip of all tongues; that was still to come with his commercial breakthrough record The Pretender which was released two years later.  On Late For The Sky, Browne dealt with love, fragility, and the striving for hope and balance, and he did so through beautifully honed lyrics that have resonated with listeners of all ages, through the ages.  Another fine track on this album, “For A Dancer,” is a near-perfect meditation on mortality.  https://youtu.be/n3SJz9jujEA

 

2. Tequila Sunrise – Eagles (from the band’s 2nd album Desperado, released in 1973).....This is a sweet tonic of a tune any way you slice it, with the trademark country lope, harmonies, and pedal steel.  Written by Don Henley and Glenn Frey, this song is on an album that wasn’t one of the band’s best—“Tequila Sunrise” and the title track were the only true standouts, and yet the band was still methodically building a fan base, which of course reached just plain ol’ preposterous proportions when they checked in with Hotel California just three years later.  (The Eagles have a “thing” against their stuff on YouTube, so this is them, but from a pirated live video, apparently.  https://youtu.be/iXsAVwJ7Q30)

 

3. Long Time Gone – Crosby, Stills & Nash (from the landmark self-titled debut of this trio, released in 1969).....“Long Time Gone” is lyrically a lament about the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, and Crosby wrote the tune on the night RFK died.  This song also opens up the famed film Woodstock, playing behind the scenes of the furry freak-brother types who are building scaffolding and generally prepping Max Yasgur’s farmland for the imminent Three Days of Peace & Music.  “Long Time Gone” by the way is also the name of Crosby’s 1988 autobiography, a great tale of music, brotherhood, passion—and of course guns, drugs and jail.  Glad he’s still with us.  https://youtu.be/nS3l_TwPNRY    

 

4. Tenderness On The Block – Warren Zevon (from the artist’s 2nd album, 1978’s Excitable Boy).....Zevon had a real gift for leavened lyrics of wit and dark humor, set in solid rock-song format and executed by his musically muscular band of brothers—Southern California’s Jackson Browne, guitarist Waddy Wachtel, bassist Leland Sklar, drummer Russ Kunkel, and many others.  Critics generally seem to go gaga over his first album, his 1976 self-titled debut, but Excitable Boy also contains some masterpieces of the Zevon canon, especially “Lawyers, Guns and Money.”  https://youtu.be/KPyotCPHZu0

 

5. You’re No Good – Linda Ronstadt (from 1974’s Heart Like A Wheel).....This song is a cover of a tune first recorded by Betty Everett in 1964, though this particular artist was a lot better known for her performance of “The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss)”.  Heart Like A Wheel turned out to be a great commercial and artistic success for Ronstadt.  She was greatly aided by the skillful song arrangements of producer Peter Asher, who coaxed passionate & forceful vocals out of Ronstadt and surrounded her with stellar support (including the multi-instrumentalist Andrew Gold).  The track listed here has an extended (minute-plus) instrumental ending with atmospheric strings over a moderately paced, majestic fadeout.  https://youtu.be/TuDFbaC0EiI

 

6. The End Of The Innocence – Don Henley (from Henley’s 3rd solo album of the same name, released in 1989).....Eagle Henley wasn’t nesting on his laurels on this album; he’d already soared to solo success but this is arguably his finest effort, exemplified by the title tune that is a beautiful evocation of moving on from childhood into middle age, and thus into the complex, confounding realities of the larger world.  As an added shot at 1980s Reaganism, Henley included the lyrics “O’beautiful for spacious skies / but now those skies are threatening / They’re beating plowshares into swords / for this tired old man that we elected king”... (Henley’s solo works, like The Eagles’ output, seem to be unavailable on YouTube, so go seek elsewhere on Spotify or somewhere else…apologies.)

 

7. Help Me – Joni Mitchell (from 1974’s Court And Spark).....This is Joni at her prime—or, in one of her primes.  This accomplished and visionary singer-songwriter tackles the topic of love and its trials and tributaries, its awe and its angst.  Court and Spark as a whole is musically a treat as well; the arrangements are first-rate fusions of pop, rock, folk and jazz, and Mitchell’s musicians include essential contributor (and saxophonist) Tom Scott and his L.A. Express.  https://youtu.be/NPCf7Ysc2R4

 

8. For What It’s Worth – Buffalo Springfield (from their self-titled debut album from 1966).....This band is one that holds a special place on rock genealogy charts, as three key members spun out of the band’s total 2-year existence into other pursuits & projects:  Richie Furay, who went on to form Poco, and Stephen Stills and Neil Young, who went on to forge CSNY and establish solo careers as well.  “For What It’s Worth” deals with the Sunset Strip youth riots in L.A., which bubbled up through the early-mid ‘60s because of local curfew and loitering laws that inhibited club-goers who were starting to flock to that scene in greater and greater numbers.  https://youtu.be/T9gZ4KLS24M

 

9. Only Love Can Break Your Heart – Neil Young (from the artist’s 3rd album, After The Gold Rush, 1970).....This particular album was released five months after Young and CSN had issued their classic Déjà Vu album.  After The Gold Rush featured the beautiful ballad listed here, as well as the Skynyrd-tauntin’ tune “Southern Man”.  All of the piano parts were played by an 18-year-old Nils Lofgren, better known in later years as guitar-slinger for Bruce and the E Street Band.  https://youtu.be/364qY0Oz-xs

 

10. Nothing Seems To Matter – Bonnie Raitt (from Raitt’s Give It Up album, her 2nd, released in 1972).....Bonnie has a voice that beguiles and bewitches, and oh yes, she blazes on the bottleneck.  She got her first guitar at age 12 and spent her formative years in the clubs of Boston doing shows with blues mentors Howlin’ Wolf, Sippee Wallace, and others.  Her self-titled release from 1971 included blues in several hues (jazz and folk tinges, and R&B twists), yet this 2nd album really stretches, convincingly, into a number of musical directions and pacings.  Raitt wrote three tunes on this album including the track listed here, and covered other songwriters as well including cohort Jackson Browne, Eric Kaz and Chris Smither.  https://youtu.be/nlzFMVdBE0c

 

 

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Posted 7/3/17.....

I believe I’m a mongrel—a mix of Scotch-Irish, Welsh, English and German.  So I have no idea why I’ve always been inexorably drawn toward a certain sliver of Scandinavian music, but it is deeply rooted and a deeply satisfying preoccupation of mine.

The mix I’m trotting out to you this time consists of ten songs—all instrumentals—from the European jazz label ECM.  That acronym fleshed out is “Edition of Contemporary Music”, and this record label—which steadfastly refuses to acknowledge any boundaries between musical genres—was founded in Munich, Germany in 1969 by producer Manfred Eicher. 

Most ECM releases actually emanate from a recording studio in Oslo, Norway.  The label has always been noted for its slavish dedication to superior sound quality in the recording, mastering and ultimate reproduction of its artists’ releases.  In its formative years in the early 1970s, ECM built up a roster of incredibly gifted musicians, a crossbreeding of Scandinavian artists, American artists, and others who flocked to this label haven where the artist’s muse and music were the highest priorities.

It is hard to explain the ECM appeal, but a lot of it has to do with a) jaw-dropping aural splendor...b) the spaces between the music that are of equal importance to the notes surrounding them...and c) the fact that this genre-defying music ultimately strikes a chord deep within the listener—down where you hurt, where you harbor, where you heal and where you feel.

ECM is not purely jazz...it is not really classical or folk...it is not third-world nor entirely other-worldly—but it IS music as art, in full flower.

1. The Water Is Wide – Charles Lloyd.....Memphis-born Charles Lloyd is a gifted saxophonist who first picked up the instrument at the age of nine.  He gigged with bluesmen like Howlin’ Wolf and B.B. King as a teen, played in NYC circles that included Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Cannonball Adderley, and then in his late twenties began his first formidable quartet that included Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette.  He blew minds at the Monterey Jazz festival in 1966 and through his subsequent album Forest Flower, with its melding of Eastern music and adventurous jazz.  Lloyd began his association with ECM in the late 1980s; this particular track from 2000’s The Water is Wide is a centuries-old English (or Scottish?) traditional folk song that has been covered by a plethora of artists in both full-lyric and instrumental treatments.  Lloyd’s tone and absolute command of his instrument and his ensemble provide a rich listening experience.  https://youtu.be/s2yKXn24kAc

 

2. Open Your Eyes You Can Fly – Gary Burton Quartet.....Indiana-born and longtime Berklee faculty member Burton has been one of the premier jazz vibraphone players on the scene since the 1960s.  He has straddled a few record labels, but his work for ECM has produced a wide body of first-class recordings featuring Chick Corea, John Scofield, Pat Metheny and many others.  This Corea-penned tune is from the 1973 album The New Quartet, which began Burton’s run with ECM that concluded in the mid-1980s.  https://youtu.be/cXC_vKNQtqI

 

3. Witchi-Tai-To – Jan Garbarek & Bobo Stensen Quartet.....This track hails from the 1974 album of the same name, and some reviewers through the decades have labeled it one of the top jazz records of the 1970s and certainly one of ECM’s finest jazz-oriented recordings ever produced.  Norwegian soprano and tenor saxophonist Garbarek and Swedish pianist Stenson joined bassist Palle Danielsson and drummer Jon Christensen for this landmark release, and this track in particular is bewitching.  The song is about four-and-a-half minutes in length, yet timeless as it builds and builds; it’s predominantly piano at the outset until the saxophone wafts into place and wails its way to the song’s summit.  https://youtu.be/Zf5dq8CmtmQ

 

4. Rose – Manu Katche.....Katche is an accomplished drummer who toured and recorded with a number of top-level talents including Sting, Peter Gabriel, Joni Mitchell, Jeff Beck, Afro Celt Sound System, Robbie Robertson, Joe Satriani, and Tears For Fears, to name a few.  He very much leans toward jazz in his own outings, though, having edged into band-leader territory in the 2000s and recorded his EMC debut Neighbourhood in 2006 (from which this track is taken).  It is an accessible form of jazz, with stellar ensemble playing fueled by Katche’s punctuating drum style.  The album also features trumpeter Tomasz Stanko and saxophonist Jan Garbarek.  https://youtu.be/SzzHlyvJ4ng

 

5. Water Girl – Zakir Hussain.....Bombay-born Hussain is a tabla player, whose musician father was a longtime collaborator of Indian “superstar” Ravi Shankar.   Truly a world music proponent, Hussain has played with the likes of George Harrison, Tito Puente, Jack Bruce (bassist from Cream), Pharoah Saunders, Van Morrison, John McLaughlin, and Grateful Dead drummer/percussionist Mickey Hart (on the latter’s Grammy award-winning album Planet Drum).  The song “Water Girl”—an Indian-flavored flute and percussion exercise—comes from Hussain’s debut solo album on ECM entitled Making Music (1986).  This album, Hussain’s only one with ECM, has been called by at least one critic “one of the most inspired East-meets-West fusion albums ever recorded.”  https://youtu.be/c1FsfYjU-mo

 

6. Country – Keith Jarrett Quartet.....Keith Jarrett is an accomplished pianist who was a musical prodigy (on the bench by age three; in recitals by seven), and he has been a major force in jazz since the 1960s, whether performing and recording as a solo artist or in various quartets and quintets through the years.  He has a 40-year history with ECM, having released his first record for that label in 1971.  The 1970s were notably a busy, productive stretch for Jarrett, as he was balancing solo piano recordings with commitments to an American jazz ensemble AND to the European unit who played with him on the 1977 album My Song, from which this track is taken.  Like “Witchie-Tai-To,” this song is one that stays with you, and appreciation deepens with each listening.  https://youtu.be/z-gq2k3kypE

 

7. Piperspool – John Surman.....This English saxophonist and clarinet player has floated around rock and jazz-pop as well as dabbled in dance company collaborations and big band, but his jazz output on ECM really stands out.  “Piperspool” is a track from his one-man-band effort entitled Road To St. Ives, released in 1990.  Surman wrote all of the compositions and played all of the instruments, and this song is both adventurous and accessible.  It is a swirling, soothing head-spinning treat.  https://youtu.be/T6314fLleNo

 

8. The Mother – Ketil Bjornstad.....This track MAY BE one of my favorite songs of all time—and isn’t it a little sad to think that somebody else on the web right now is writing the very same thing about Debby Boone’s “You Light Up My Life.”  What a world, what a world...The album from which this track is taken (The Sea II; 1998) is listed in ECM catalogues as a release by the Norwegian pianist Ketil Bjornstad, but it is truly an ensemble effort with David Darling on cello, Terje Rypdal on guitar, and Jon Christensen on drums.  Save one, all of the compositions are by Bjornstad alone and he’s a fluid driving force here, but really it is the mournful, masterful cello of Darling and the powerful yet not overpowering drum thrash of Christensen that put this piece on a pedestal for me...It is simply heartrendingly gorgeous.  https://youtu.be/vVMX8CXnKj8

 

9. Spain – Return To Forever.....There have been a few incarnations of the band Return To Forever, and this was the very first—group founder Chick Corea on keyboards; Stanley Clarke on bass; Joe Farrell on sax and flute; Flora Purim providing the wordless, soaring vocals; and Purim’s husband Airto Moreira on all manner of percussion.  The album from which this track emanates was technically Return To Forever’s second one, entitled Light As A Feather (1973).  “Spain” is arguably RTF’s signature song, as it has been covered by jazz bands for decades in clubs, in theatres, and in high-school and college performances.  Here on Light As A Feather, it largely defies description:  I can say that it’s a 10-minute marvel, the sum of electric piano + flute + bass + percussion + handclaps + wordless vocals + chorus shout-outs, but nawww, that won’t suffice.  Listen to it.  Soon.  Now, maybe.  https://youtu.be/_DHNHmOfqzg

 

10. Climbing – Steve Tibbetts.....This Minneapolis-based guitarist delves into a fusion of folk, jazz, classical and a few other borrowed influences to create sonic landscapes that are eye—er, ear opening.  His ECM output was fairly steady through the 1980s, and this track is culled from his 1983 album Safe Journey.  Tibbetts displays his penchant for looped, rhythmic patterns on this song; it is propelled by percussion and then dotted with kalimba and some subtle, sometimes sustained guitar flourishes that wash over the listener.  One can detect bits of Steve Reich, as well as early Pink Floyd and Soft Machine in here, and...well, we’re at the end of this ECM mix.  Hear, hear!  https://youtu.be/aQQeY7yt9U4

 

 

 

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Posted 6/19/17.....

I’ve labeled this one an Art-full Endeavor, a mix originally compiled on February 15, 2010.  The gimmick was finding good songs that had some kind of “art” reference in their titles.  Art appreciation is a very subjective thing, of course, but I believe I can escape a preponderance of pooh-poohing here if you just open your ears and don’t fixate on strict adherence to theme...

1.  Paint A Picture – The Wailin’ Jennys.....from their fourth album recorded in 2008 and entitled Live At The Mauch Chunk Opera House.....Canadian female folk outfit The Wailin’ Jennys came together in 2002 for a performance at a Winnipeg guitar store, and the immediate favorable response to the distinctive weave of their alto, mezzo and soprano (courtesy Cara Luft, Nicky Mehta and Ruth Moody, respectively) led them to hit the road officially as a touring trio.  In 2005 Luft left and Heather Masse moved in...“Paint A Picture” is all of a minute-and-a-half, but it’s the blend that gets ya.  It is just one of those reminders of the power of the unadorned human voice.  The album was recorded at the Mauch Chunk Opera House in Jim Thorpe, PA which sits in the Allentown/Bethlehem area of the state near the Poconos.  The Jennys spent a lot of time on Prairie Home Companion beginning in the early 2000s, and their name derives—no duh—from country artist Waylon Jennings. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJ2b7RufXfA&index=3&list=PL452F31B2D1E639EB

 

2.  Colors – Amos Lee.....from his self-titled release from 2005.....Lee was a Philly boy who got his first real break opening for Norah Jones in 2004, and the latter subsequently appeared on Lee’s debut album which was produced by the bass player from Jones’ band.  Lee’s music is a blend of ‘70s folk-rockers and a little bit o’ soul, and he spent a good while, for a while, as a tour opener for illustrious artists such as Dylan, Elvis Costello, and Lucinda Williams.  The song listed here for the mix was a standout from his debut, appearing in a slew of TV shows around the time his first album hit including Grey’s Anatomy, House and Six Feet Under; it also appeared in a film called Just Like Heaven, a time-passing, not too tantalizing romcom fantasy with Mark Ruffalo and Reese Witherspoon. http://youtu.be/1FtvF4k2QaQ

 

3.  Create – Alana Davis.....from Surrender Dorothy (2005).....This Greenwich Village singer-songwriter born in 1974 has a voice that floats and flutters through her material like a lead instrument versus a vocal that’s just on top of the proceedings.  I first caught wind of her through 1997’s Blame It On Me, which sported an Ani DiFranco cover (“32 Flavors”) and a couple of killer, far-from-filler tunes in “Murder” and “Crazy”.  For her third album Surrender Dorothy, Davis ditched her original label Elektra who were much too hands-on for her taste, and she formed her own label Tigress to take artistic control.  Back in 1998 I was the general manager of Pittsburgh’s Star Lake Amphitheater (now Key Bank Pavilion), and I ran into Davis backstage at the H.O.R.D.E. Festival, a Blues Traveler-led event that toured the amphitheater circuit through most of the 1990s.  We had a nice chat; I told her that I loved the keenly placed piano touches in her song “Murder” (her debut album had just hit stores recently), and she volunteered later in the exchange that her songwriting leads her to view her voice more as a horn than any other key instrument.  Try out the tune listed here, but also check out “Murder”, “Crazy”, and a cool cover she’s done—Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home”.  The link to “Create:” http://youtu.be/bKvgqcvOb6o

 

4.  When I Paint My Masterpiece – The Band.....from the album Cahoots released in 1971.....Dylan wrote this song, but The Band recorded it first.  Cahoots was the group’s fourth album (the one after Stage Fright, right before Rock Of Ages), and this is one of the standout tracks because of Levon Helm’s splendiferous pipes atop a fetching blend of mandolin and accordion.  Cahoots is generally regarded as a lot less than a masterpiece in The Band’s catalogue; Robbie Robertson wrote most of the material, and arguably only the track listed here and the album’s leadoff track “Life Is A Carnival” (written by Robertson, Helm and Rick Danko) are high praise worthy.  Dylan, by the way, ended up placing “Masterpiece” on a compilation coaxed into life by his record company Columbia, Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Vol. II.  This 1971 collection of his bore some unreleased material in addition to choice cuts from albums past. http://youtu.be/wq2e7DPhyHg

 

5.  Canvas – Keiko Matsui.....an instrumental from the artist’s 2005 release Walls Of Akendora.....Matsui is a Tokyo-born keyboardist who over the last 30 years or so has primarily floated in and around the worlds of smooth jazz, new age and fusion.  Her influences include classical music, fusion elders like Chick Corea, and also Stevie Wonder.  On “Canvas,” Matsui plays a sprightly piano and for folks who absolutely despise smooth jazz, this probably won’t disappoint.  But it is not elevator music, really—the artist deftly guides the piece with the keys firmly under command, lending a sophistication to the tune that is absent from “normal” smooth jazz (you know the type of stuff I’m talkin’ ‘bout—those bland, blah pieces whose sum total effect on discerning listeners caught in their wake is eyes-rolled-back, spittle-comin’-down). http://youtu.be/ekNlSlXdV64

 

6.  Choice Of Colors – The Impressions.....from the 1969 album The Young Mods’ Forgotten Story.....If you know this song from the Sixties, then it is obvious that it is not about art but rather the art of getting along.  The soul-and-gospel-fueled Impressions first formed in the late 1950s as a doo wop group, went through personnel changes (including the departure of popular group member Jerry Butler) and finally in 1963 scored a huge R & B and pop chart hit with “It’s All Right.”  In 1965 Curtis Mayfield—long the mainstay of the group and its social conscience—got the guys on board with recording the classic “People Get Ready,” which then became a banner song for the simmering civil rights movement.  Then in 1969, the group released “Choice Of Colors,” a direct call to the black community to reflect on its prejudices and preconceived notions:  “If you had a choice of colors / Which one would you choose, my brothers / If there was no day or night / Which would you prefer to be right / How long have you hated your white teacher / Who told you, you love your black preacher / Do you respect your brother’s woman friend / And share with black folks not of kin / People must prove to the people / A better day is coming for you and me / With just a little bit more education / And love for our nation / Would make a better society”... http://youtu.be/SNV1Y01xNk8

 

7.  Painting By Chagall – The Weepies.....from their duo’s second album Say I Am You (2006).....The Weepies ain’t wimpy—this is just a nicely written and performed love-fueled slice of folk-pop, as the couple is a couple both on-stage and in life.  Singer-songwriters Steve Tannen and Deb Talan bonded ‘round Boston and were a mutual admiration society of two before they came together in the early 2000s to lyrically dissect love and spin sweet harmonies.  Their path was from the folk club scene to adult alternative radio to tunes snatched up for teen-and-twentysomething shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, Everwood, One Tree Hill, Gossip Girl, etc.  “Painting By Chagall” is not the usual song-long harmonic convergence of the two; it is Deb Talan’s turn front and center for the most part to voice their unabashed contentment with each other:  “Sometimes rain that’s needed falls / We float like two lovers in a painting by Chagall / All around is sky and blue town / Holding these flowers for a wedding gown / We live so high above the ground, satellites surround us”... http://youtu.be/3PmXpT6ejE4

 

8.  Picasso’s Big Blue Heart – 20/20.....from the band’s album Interstate, released in 1998.....This band of the initial new wave in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s had a second wave in the mid-90s, from which this track emanates.  The group’s first go-round was as a Tulsa-to-L.A. power pop band (the Dwight Twilley Band, also from Tulsa, took this same route around this same time).  Disbanding in 1983, 20/20 reformed again in 1995 with personnel twists and new material, and “Picasso’s Big Blue Heart” comes from this iteration.  The band originally had been labeled by some as “skinny tie” music similar to The Knack (“My Sharona”) and the lesser-known Dwight Twilley, and it is true that a number of these L.A. power-poppers were highly influenced by the first British wave of the early ‘60s Beatles, Kinks and Rolling Stones. https://youtu.be/6BkWBKVeYl0

 

9.  In The Gallery – Dire Straits.....from the band’s 1978 self-titled debut.....Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits is another of the pack of British rock guitarists like Clapton, Beck and Page that were weaned on American black musician elders like B.B. King while awakening their own talents.  Knopfler, though, was also a fan of Duane Eddy, the Everly Brothers (who had Chet Atkins playing guitar on some songs), and Elvis Presley, and he crafted quite a unique lead guitar style—including fingerpicking and clawhammering—that in ’78 propelled the Dire Straits debut album onto American radio stations through the lead-off single “Sultans Of Swing.”  I caught a Warner Brothers label showcase concert in an Atlanta club when the band first came over to the U.S., and songs like the track listed here were blistering in this live setting.  Knopfler was fluid and fleet-fingered, and the record company people seated all around my table were agog…Knopfler also from an early age followed Bob Dylan, saying in a September 1984 Guitar Player magazine interview, “I was hugely influenced by him about the age of 14 or 15, going ‘round to girls’ houses, drinking 75 cups of coffee, smoking 90 cigarettes, and listening to Blonde On Blonde 120 times.” http://youtu.be/7wefT_t2lHU

 

10.  New Coat Of Paint – Tom Waits.....from the 1974 album The Heart Of Saturday Night.....Waits was in good form here on his second major-label release.  A few of the tunes from the previous year’s debut album were showing up on other artists’ records (like The Eagles’ cover of “Ol’ 55”) and thus he was gaining a few more fans on top of the critical acclaim that he had garnered in most quarters.  Some didn’t like his approach, however.  Critic Robert Christgau from the Village Voice reviewed this new record and stated “...while nostalgia for past bohemias sure beats nostalgia for past wars, it’s still a drain and a drag.  I mean, there might be more coverable songs here if maudlin melodies didn’t merge with neon imagery in the spindrift dirge of the honky-tonk nicotine night.  Dig?”  I think this song and the title tune are standouts, though.  There is an art to lead-off lyrics like this:  “Let’s put a new coat of paint on this lonesome old town / Set ‘em up, we’ll be knockin’ em down. / You wear a dress, baby, and I’ll wear a tie. / We’ll laugh at that old bloodshot moon in that burgundy sky…” http://youtu.be/107dADrIVBk

 

 

 

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Posted 5/30/17.....

AND THE BEAT GOES ON…Musicasaurus.com posted ten tunes with the word “heart” in the title on Monday May 15th—and here’s another ten to unclog your arteries, should you be on the search for more:

1. Queen of Hearts – Gregg Allman.....This is a tune I have always come back to, now and again, and it will be even more so now with Allman’s death this past Saturday, May 27th.  His voice is a treasure, and it is the heart and soul (emphasis on soul) of The Allman Brothers Band.  “Queen of Hearts” is actually an individual effort by Allman, composed for his debut solo album Laid Back which was released in 1973.  Though this album includes a few members of the Allman Brothers Band and reworkings of two of the band’s signature tracks, the overall feel of the record is ballad-driven rhythm & blues and gospel, with back-up singers and occasional strings; revisiting this record now may be your soul satisfaction.  https://youtu.be/DR1mpRxbL2M

 

2. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Beatles.....It was almost fifty years ago today that I first heard this record play…This is the two-minute album opener to the band’s 1967 release Sgt. Pepper’s, which set the stage for the wonders to come by then seamlessly segueing into “With A Little Help From My Friends,” “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds,” and so on.  McCartney is the lead barker on this tune, enticing listeners along for the ride; the audience chatter & cheers are prerecorded embellishments from the minds of the Fab Four and producer George Martin.  (There is no clip of this on YouTube due to fanatical Fab Four licensing issues…so please fend for thyself elsewhere.  Sorry.)

 

3. Listen To Her Heart – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.....In May of 1978, I had just left life as a record store co-manager and embarked upon a world of wheels—driving around the tri-state area of southwestern PA, eastern Ohio, and northern West Virginia to do in-store record displays for new employer WEA (Warner Brothers, Elektra and Atlantic).  I spent a ton of time back then listening to this particular tune and others off this brand new album, Petty’s second, entitled You’re Gonna Get It!  That cassette fueled many a drive of mine, aided by the six-string and twelve-string magic of Petty and his lead guitarist Mike Campbell…Ahhh, life on the open road with the Heartbreakers’ ringing guitars, my own “chimes of freedom.”  https://youtu.be/pH7nUIHLIC0

 

4. Heartache – Valerie Carter.....In 1977 Little Feat’s founder Lowell George produced an album entitled Just A Stone’s Throw Away, the solo debut from 24-year-old Valerie Carter, an aspiring L.A.-based singer-songwriter.  George had produced an earlier group effort by Carter called Howdy Moon, but for her solo debut (from which this track is taken) George brought in the heavy artillery.  Just A Stone’s Throw Away features great instrumental and vocal backing from a lot of Little Feat, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, John Sebastian, Maurice and Verdine White (of Earth, Wind & Fire) and many others.  But it is Carter’s voice that stands above it all; she’s angelic, but also has a devil of a bluesy wail.  https://youtu.be/llgnTEEmVBU

 

5. Hungry Heart – Bruce Springsteen.....It took five albums and seven years for Springsteen to finally have a solid charting hit that brought wider legions of fans over to E Street.  This song led off Side Two of his double-record set entitled The River (1980), which reportedly started out as a single album before Springsteen added more tunes and touches of Darkness from his previous album.  “Hungry Heart” was originally written by Bruce for New York punk band The Ramones but upon the advice of his manager Jon Landau, Bruce ended up retaining it for The River.  On background vocals:  Two of The Turtles, Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan (Flo & Eddie).

 

6. Heart of the Summertime – Charlie Mars.....Mississippi-born Mars is a alternative/pop singer-songwriter now in his early forties who has been slugging it out for the last twenty years or so on the touring and indie-label circuits.  “Heart Of The Summertime” is perfect summertime playlist fodder; it’s a lil bit funky and rootsy, but also pure pop.  The tune comes from Mars’ 2009 release Like A Bird, Like A Plane which was the first of his five albums to really start tongues wagging outside of the Southland.  The artist’s most recent recording effort (according to Wikipedia) appears to be Blackberry Light, which came out in 2012.  https://youtu.be/uKTNenqW0Zo   

 

7. Only Love Can Break Your Heart – Neil Young.....After The Gold Rush was the third solo album from Canadian rocker Young, released between his longstanding classics Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969) and Harvest (1972).  The track listed here was released as a single and was the artist’s highest-charting effort at that point in time; the album itself is considered a classic due to the enigmatic, environmentally-themed title track and “Southern Man,” Young’s diatribe against racism below the Mason-Dixon.  https://youtu.be/d6Zf4D1tHdw      

 

8. Listen To Your Heart – Little Feat.....It must have been some mean feat for Craig Fuller to step into Lowell George’s shoes, but he quickly found his footing when Little Feat reformed in 1987 (they had disbanded eight years earlier due to the unexpected passing of band leader/auteur George).  Prior to joining up with Feat, Fuller was best known for his work with Pure Prairie League, and is indeed the voice on their FM-friendly tune “Amie” from 1972.  Once planted with Feat, lead singer Fuller provided a legitimate new foundation for the band, wrote new material, and, in concert, pulled off the old material with ease.  The track listed here is from Feat’s “comeback” album Let It Roll, released in 1988.  https://youtu.be/hGdie1StalQ

 

9. In The Shape Of A Heart – Jackson Browne.....This song is from Browne’s 1980s output, specifically from his 1986 release Lives In The Balance.  Always a probing, spot-on lyricist, Browne deals in the song listed here with the premature death of his first wife Phyllis Major, who was taken by a drug overdose in 1976.  The album chilled some of Browne’s regular followers in that it dealt more overtly with political issues as well—always a risky business for singer-songwriters who fearlessly and faithfully pursue their muse.  https://youtu.be/lbRKL6HHN88  

 

10. The Heart Of The Matter – Don Henley.....Between flights with The Eagles, Henley has over the years produced some decent solo work including this track which essentially nails the concepts of lapsed or lost love, and forgiveness.  I’m generally a bit too sarcastic when it comes to message songs, but this one scores because of its simple grace and depth of understanding.  “Heart Of The Matter” hails from Henley’s 1989 album The End Of The Innocence, his third and best-selling solo effort; the track was co-written by Henley, J.D. Souther and Petty & The Heartbreakers’ guitarist Mike Campbell.  (Yeah, well, this is the message on YouTube, re: Henley’s The Heart of the Matter: “This video contains content from UMPG Publishing, who has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds.”  Perhaps a second good reason to move to Canada?)

 

 

 

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Posted 5/15/17.....

The “Heart Mix”...originally recorded June 26, 2012...

1. What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted (live) -- Joan Osborne.....There’s an original recording of this song as performed by Jimmy Ruffin, but it’s Osborne’s version that is Oz-some (referring to her wizardry here).  She grabs a hold of this tune as a fully-in-command artist and interpreter, and never lets go until the spine-skittering conclusion.  This song was recorded live for the 2002 documentary Standing In the Shadows of Motown, with Joan fronting The Funk Brothers (the studio musicians who backed up all of the original stars of Motown in recordings from 1959 through 1972).  https://youtu.be/gA0GcXV2njY

 

2. 6th Avenue Heartache -- The Wallflowers.....On the Wallflowers’ second album Bringing Down The Horse from 1996, son-of-Bob and band leader Jakob Dylan provides this solid mid-tempo rocker awash and particularly rich in organ and guitar.  Guests Adam Durwitz of Counting Crows and Tom Petty’s right-hand man Mike Campbell pitch in on background vocals and slide guitar, respectively.  https://youtu.be/UEKv-IlTzl0      

    

3. Heart Of The Country -- Paul McCartney.....This bewitching tune hails from McCartney’s release Ram, his second solo album and the first that really woke me up to the deceiving ease with which he spins his solo musical set pieces.  The album was released in 1971, and was the only McCartney effort credited to both Paul AND Linda McCartney (the artist’s talented—just not in a musical sense—wife).  Ram bridged the gap between the Beatles breakup in 1970 and the sprouting of Wings in late 1971.  https://youtu.be/hs9SToSWp-g

 

4. Heartbeats -- Jose Gonzalez.....Reared by Argentinean parents and raised in Sweden, Gonzalez has been branded indie rock but his style could be called intelligent, acoustic tranquility—quiet, confessional songwriting shaped by a number of disparate musical influences, flowing through unhurried vocals and a sweetly bedrock acoustic guitar.  The song “Heartbeats” comes from his debut album Veneer, originally released in 2003 overseas and available in the states by 2005.  https://youtu.be/HxJhYpTIrl8

 

5. Cold Wind Across My Heart -- Night.....The band Night formed in L.A. around 1978 and lasted just four years, with two recorded attempts to establish themselves—their self-titled debut in 1979 and a follow-up album entitled Long Distance.  “Cold Wind Across My Heart” comes from the band’s first album, with lead vocals by Chris Thompson, ex-singer of Manfred Mann’s Earth Band who two years earlier had scored a radio hit with its cover version of Springsteen’s “Blinded By The Light.”  https://youtu.be/wMHIQHg4frY       

 

6. How The Heart Approaches What It Yearns -- Paul Simon.....In 1980, Simon wrote and starred in a film called One Trick Pony, reportedly based on his own life and career, but veiled in different character names and situations.  The song “How The Heart Approaches What It Yearns” comes from the album released concurrently with the film, and the album and the film both employ a dream team of musicians including guitarist Eric Gale, drummer Steve Gadd, bassist Tony Levin and pianist Richard Tee.  The song that broke big for Simon out of this effort was “Late In The Evening,” but the track listed here is also a keeper.  https://youtu.be/I54Z9xaBH5Q

 

7. Your Heart Is An Empty Room -- Death Cab For Cutie.....Death Cab is an indie/alternative rock band from Washington state that came together as a four-piece in 1997, fronted by guitarist/pianist Benjamin Gibbard.  Their music is melodic, interesting, and accessible, and the song listed here is from the band’s fifth album Plans (2005).  The group’s name was borrowed from the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, who had written and performed a song entitled “Death Cab For Cutie” in The Beatles’ 1967 film Magical Mystery Tour.  https://youtu.be/zVZl3FCzNak

 

8. Longing In Their Hearts -- Bonnie Raitt.....I worship this woman.  Raitt has produced a wonderful body of work since her self-titled debut album released in 1971.  She’s a double threat on vocals and slide guitar, and a great interpreter of (and champion of) other songwriters’ material.  “Longing In Their Hearts” is rollicking rock ‘n’ roll with a vocal assist from the late Levon Helm on the choruses, and it comes from Raitt’s twelfth album of the same name, released in the early 1990s when her ebb-and-flow career was solidly set on the latter.  https://youtu.be/vu6BedtHYKQ

 

9. Easy Hearts -- Whiskeytown.....Alt-country band Whiskeytown released their third album in 2001, their swansong, entitled Pneumonia.  The band’s internal driving force was singer-songwriter/guitarist Ryan Adams, and this last Whiskeytown record was a harbinger of his bold and idiosyncratic solo career to come.  Quite simply, “Easy Hearts” is a gorgeous and meditative masterpiece, aided immeasurably by Adams’ co-vocalist and fiddle player Caitlin Cary.  It’s a thing of real beauty.  https://youtu.be/EMUWjZJHQ-o

 

10. Searching for a Heart (live) -- Warren Zevon.....There is a studio version of this song on Zevon’s 1991 album Mr. Bad Example, but here I went with Zevon’s solo-acoustic performance from 1993’s Learning To Flinch, his second and final live record.  Zevon peaked commercially in the late 1970s with “Werewolves Of London” (from 1978’s Excitable Boy) but all throughout his career he delivered wry, funny, insightful, pointed and poignant observations about Life.  In 2002 doctor-shy Zevon was suddenly diagnosed with inoperable cancer, and he opted not to take on the rigors of medical treatment.  Instead, he set about working on his final release The Wind, and invited longtime friends like Bruce Springsteen, Don Henley, Jackson Browne, Tom Petty, Emmylou Harris and others to take part in the recording. Also, on October 30, 2002 he said a very public goodbye to his close friend David Letterman by spending a full hour as Dave’s only guest on the Late Show (he’d been a frequent visitor since the program first aired in 1982).  Zevon performed some numbers and freely talked about his illness.  Letterman asked, “From your perspective now, do you know something about life and death that maybe I don’t know now?”  Zevon replied “Not unless I know how much you’re supposed to enjoy every sandwich.”  Zevon passed away on September 7, 2003.  https://youtu.be/SF4yyvxNLyg

 

 

 

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Posted 5/1/17.....

A mix of rock, jazz, blues and other hues…

1. Wailing Wall – Todd Rundgren.....from the album released in 1971, entitled Runt: The Ballad of Todd Rundgren.....Rundgren’s long been home-schooled in the realm of music, video, and production--a real D.I.Y. kind of guy.  As a producer he’s birthed classics in the rock sphere including Stage Fright by The Band and Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell, and as a musician he’s pushed boundaries with his outsized talent.  For Runt: The Ballad of Todd Rundgren, only his second solo album, the 23-year-old Rundgren wrote and produced it, played all instruments (including guitar, mandolin, fiddle, piano, organ, clavinet, vibraphone and baritone sax), and sang all vocal parts.  About the latter:  Listen to the layered magic of this beautiful ballad; it’s mesmerizing.  https://youtu.be/_spp-Hmvgn4

 

2. Jupiter or the Moon – Los Lobos.....from Tin Can Trust, released in 2010.....Los Lobos can always surprise with their sophistication when churning out their blues-infused works on record; this is a prime example, and has a nice touch of subtle garage-rock distortion at one point in the proceedings.  https://youtu.be/zW56SAQlbMo       

                          

3. Sails – Orleans.....from the band’s fourth studio album Waking and Dreaming, released in 1976.....Orleans was a pop-rock band who scored a few national chart-climbing hits in the early-mid ‘70s, although the word namby-pamby came to mind while writing this and searching for a term to describe that particular output.  Leader John Hall, who later veered off into environmental causes as well as politics, was still with the band at this juncture, and “Sails” is one of the better slices from this Waking and Dreaming release that also produced their second huge pop radio hit “Still The One.”  https://youtu.be/clCjoxcxUnw

 

4. I Won’t Be Here – The Marcus King Band…..from the band’s first album Soul Insight (2015)…..King was born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina, gigging since the age of 8 under the watchful eye of his blues-gospel musician father Marvin.  And young Marcus (he’s now 21) has had more than his share of mentors, including Warren Haynes from Gov’t Mule and the lesser-known (but no less impactful) Steve Watson of Greenville’s Fine Arts Center, who introduced King to jazz.  "I guess you could say we're applying jazz principles on overall just a rock thing, like Southern rock," King said in a July 2015 interview in GreenvilleOnline. "It evolved more from blues into what we now call jazz-influenced psychedelic Southern rock. It's a mouthful, but that's kind of the only way we've found to describe it."  The track here belies that definition, however, as it is more of a slow-driftin’ yet exquisitely soulful ballad.  Set yourself down…and crank it up.  https://youtu.be/a7G9xUYP_jk

 

5. They Had a Dream – The Zawinul Syndicate.....from the group’s album Black Water (1989).....This percolating Third World instrumental starts out slowly but then gives way to funk and world beat, nicely cushioned in jazz.  This is where keyboardist Joe Zawinul ventured after his legendary jazz fusion band Weather Report was no more.  https://youtu.be/wmeZ2IEOlag

 

6. The Never Empty Table – Chris Robinson & The New Earth Mud.....from the singer-songwriter/musician’s 2004 release This Magnificent Distance.....This is an affront to the Crowes nation, I know, but musicasaurus.com really, really likes the Crowes reduced to Robinson (or at least his steppings-away from that band, when he gloms onto other musicians to do more of a solo thing).  There is greater range and more of a creative spirit in evidence in Robinson’s solo works.  https://youtu.be/l4Ou8tsvENg  

 

7. MMM MMM MMM MMM – Crash Test Dummies.....from the band’s second album from 1993, God Shuffled His Feet.....Aided by quasi-mystical lyrics about a few unnamed children’s strange afflictions, and delivered via the deliciously deep-set pipes of lead singer Brad Roberts, the tune was a worldwide curiosity—and a hit.  https://youtu.be/NHOE0tcjtl4

 

8. Church Falling Down – Little Feat.....from the group’s 2012 release Rooster Rag.....Though long ago Feat lost a founder, they never really floundered.  This musically diverse band (with a bedrock of rock & blues and New Orleans funk) disbanded after the death of Lowell George in 1979, but then reformed in 1987 and continue to this day (after some personnel shifts) to tour and record new material.  “Church Falling Down” is a contribution from guitarist and mandolin player Fred Tackett, who jumped in Feat first in 1988.  http://youtu.be/Bhgf1jHyfoE  

 

9. China – Red Rockers…..from the group’s second full-length album, 1983’s Good As Gold…..Those of you who were musically weaned on MTV might remember the video of this song from the early ‘80s.  Red Rockers formed in 1979 in New Orleans, a band of punk aesthetes who were itching to join the wave of political, in-your-face bands like The Clash.  By the time of their second album, however, they had streamlined their harder-edged attack into the smoother, moodier New Wave (less The Clash and more A Flock Of Seagulls).  Still, “China” was a catchy propulsive tune, now stuck in the ‘80s but back then, an anthem of sorts.  https://youtu.be/MycqOEkUqsA

 

10. This Lonely Love – Juliana Hatfield…..from the artist’s eighth studio album How To Walk Away (2008)…..I’ve loved Hatfield from afar for years (actually, I got close to her just once, at a Club Café, Pittsburgh performance some years ago).  Boston-bred Hatfield writes on-the-surface simple, almost throwaway pop songs but they’re melodic, usually filled with hooks, and sometimes laced with a bit of punk energy (check out her song “My Sister” from her 1993 album Become What You Are).  Here for the mix, however, we have a later-on effort of Hatfield’s—“This Lonely Love” which could and should be a hit on pop radio stations, a place these days normally reserved for Auto-tuned over-emoters.  A nice addition to this track is Richard Butler from The Psychedelic Furs on harmony vocal.  https://youtu.be/1DYQGnDYRA4

 

 

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Posted 4/17/17.....

A Various Artists’ mix from May 2013…

1. The Cricket’s Wicket – Billy Oskay & Micheal O Domhnaill.....from the duo’s self-titled album on the Windham Hill label released in 1984.....It’s piano, violin, viola, acoustic guitar and harmonium—oh, and the cricket at the song’s conclusion.  This dreamy Celtic piece cries out for loud volume on a traditional stereo system—so ear bud enthusiasts, please dust off that thing that probably lays fallow in your living room.  https://youtu.be/sjHG55c0H04

 

2. I and Love and You – The Avett Brothers.....from the 2009 release I and Love and You.....With a melding of country, folk and bluegrass at their core, singer-songwriters and musicians Scott and Seth Avett have kicked around North Carolina for more than 16 years now as The Avett Brothers.  The album from which this song is taken was produced by the idiosyncratic (and artist sympathetic) outlier Rick Rubin.  https://youtu.be/T0eSpAgqrWo

 

3. The Dangling Conversation – Simon & Garfunkel.....from the duo’s 1966 LP Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.....A song about lovers and communication: “And you read your Emily Dickinson, / and I my Robert Frost, / And we note our place with book markers / That measure what we’ve lost.”  https://youtu.be/dQHbQ0XgCRM

 

4. The Camera Eye – Billy Corgan.....from the album The Future Embrace, released in 2005.....At this point, Corgan had carved himself out of the Pumpkins and was also gone from Zwan.  This is the artist’s first true solo release, and “The Camera Eye” doesn’t stray far from his penchant for dark and pretty alt-pop songs.  https://youtu.be/RyXJ3iJvVRU

 

5. By Way of Love's Express – Ashford & Simpson.....from the 1977 album Send It.....Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson were ‘60s songwriters in the Motown stable whose tunes were taken to high-charting places courtesy of Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell, and others.  “By Way of Love’s Express” is from the duo’s fifth studio recording, and it’s an irresistible blend of rhythm & blues, soul, and pop music.  https://youtu.be/JzQqK42in_0

 

6. Landslide – Chris Stills.....from the artist’s second album, self-titled and released in 2006.....Clarifications required:  This song is NOT from Fleetwood Mac, but the artist IS from Stephen Stills.  The famous offspring pulls off an arresting folk-rock tune here, sounding a bit like Jeff Buckley in the process.  http://youtu.be/hDg4L9aYJ9A    

                

7. Keep the Car Running – Arcade Fire.....from the band’s 2007 album Neon Bible.....If you’re looking to switch out a tune on your favorite rock anthems playlist and are looking for a more or less permanent fixture, this is it.  “Keep The Car Running” has the grandeur and the grit of the best alternative rock, and also evokes the spirit of Springsteen (not a leap to imagine this as one of the Boss’ works).  http://youtu.be/GEZockGkEyY

 

8. On the Wing – Sea Level.....from the album On The Edge released in 1978.....One has to take the time to scour through this Southern-style jazz-rock fusion band’s catalogue, but in there gems do reside.  Born out of the Allman Brothers Band’s initial breakup in 1976, Sea Level absorbed bassist Lamar Williams, drummer Jaimoe and keyboardist Chuck Leavell (the latter lent his name to the outfit, through a phonetic pun).  The personnel shifted a bit from album #1 in 1977 through album #5 in 1980, but consistent aural pleasures abound like the soaring instrumental plucked for this mix.  https://youtu.be/selH42b7vKk

 

9. Going Up to People and Tinkling – Hatfield & The North.....from the band’s self-titled debut released in 1974.....Hatfield hatched in Canterbury, England during that city’s first and most fertile period of improvisational and progressive rock in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.  The four original members of the group came together from other early-on progressive rock outfits such as Caravan and Gong, and “Tinkling” is a sprightly sprinkling of time signature shifts and stellar musicianship, representative of what this English outfit trafficked in, back in the day.  Okay, but really, I just love the song title.  http://youtu.be/QYYiMLjC4LU

 

10. River Man – Nick Drake.....from the artist’s 1969 album Five Leaves Left.....Musicasaurus.com would love to say that it discovered and thoroughly explored Cave prior to his death in 1974, but no, my admission here is that I’m a latecomer to this understated folk rocker’s hypnotic tunes.  https://youtu.be/o9VtfyqgiFE

 

 

 

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Posted 4/3/17

A various artists’ mix, originally cobbled together in April of 2012…

1. Welcome To The Boomtown—David & David.....David Baerwald and David Ricketts were L.A. musicians who came together for just one album, 1986’s Boomtown, which featured this electrifying rock song, a real breath of fresh air to FM station listeners across the country.  It sounded like little else on the radio back then:  Sonically, the song’s a churner with rich, atmospheric layers of guitars & keyboards, and lyrically, it spins a tale of the monied malcontents of Los Angeles—perhaps once well-heeled, now soul-deprived and artificially-fueled.  The chorus:  “I say welcome, welcome to the boomtown / pick a habit, we got plenty to go around / welcome, welcome to the boomtown / all that money makes such a succulent sound / welcome to the boomtown.”  https://youtu.be/7M7zeEvWNO0

 

2. Song For Aries—Cactus.....It was 1970, and two leftovers of broken-up Vanilla Fudge (bassist Tim Bogert and drummer Carmine Appice) were looking to form a supergroup with guitarist Jeff Beck and singer Rod Stewart.  These plans were thwarted by Beck’s sudden motorcycle spill, and so Bogert & Appice turned toward others to fill the bill—singer Rusty Day (late of Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes) and guitarist Jim McCarty (fresh from Mitch Ryder’s Detroit Wheels).  The band they formed was called Cactus, and their first album was a respectable hard-rock record; they plied their trade and plowed those furrows pretty well.  The song that musicasaurus.com selected for this mix is an instrumental from Cactus’ second release, 1971’s One Way...Or Another.  The star of the piece is Jim McCarty and his guitar wringing; he doles out an easy acoustic start, but two-thirds of the way in, he can no longer contain himself.  https://youtu.be/NPdCFUdvZiQ

 

3. Situation—Jeff Beck Group.....Jeff Beck, one of the original Sixties Guitar Gods along with Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton, has continued to produce compelling works to this day, exploring new sonic directions and collaborations to keep him challenged and to keep us fixated, if not outright flabbergasted.  Through the decades, Beck has recorded full instrumental albums as well as anchored group efforts, veering from rock and jazz rock to edgy almost-metal—and then he’ll flex a slightly different musical muscle, switching gears as he did in 2010 to helm a tribute-concert recording session dedicated to Les Paul.  The song included here, “Situation,” is from the Jeff Beck Group’s album Rough And Ready which was released well over four decades ago in 1971.  At the time, Beck had teamed up with keyboardist Max Middleton, drummer Cozy Powell, bassist Clive Chaman, and singer Bob Tench to produce a ‘70s rock record fairly typical for the time—except Beck couldn’t be fully contained in this format, and so songs like “Situation” really begin to sail when a solo turn arises and Beck can take flight.  Beck produced one more record with this unit, 1972’s The Jeff Beck Group.  Three years later he shed the band and produced what’s perhaps his magnum opus—1975’s all-instrumental Blow By Blow.  (Here is the link to “Situation”): https://youtu.be/MSTQKuM8ZSA

 

4. Crazy ‘Bout You Baby—Johnnie Taylor.....The song’s opening is very appealing—the guitarist peels off a monster riff right out of the chute, and Taylor immediately howls “All you blues fans get ready out there!”  Taylor’s a formidable singer and a passionate purveyor of both rhythm & blues and straight-ahead blues.  He began his musical journey in Gospel in the early 1960s, becoming a protégé of Sam Cooke and his band the Soul Stirrers (in fact, after Cooke booked, Taylor slipped into place there).  Taylor then concentrated largely on rhythm & blues music, and had just a few moments in the sun with two R&B-and-Pop hits in 1968 and again in 1976 (“Who’s Making Love” and “Disco Lady,” respectively).  The song included herein, “Crazy ‘Bout You Baby,” comes from a 2003 collection of previously-unreleased material, all wrapped into a posthumous record release entitled There’s No Good In Goodbye.  https://youtu.be/tcoTBrD7HZY

 

5. Orion—Elizaveta.....Here’s another tune with a somewhat startling opening—the multi-tracked angelic and operatic voice of (full name) Elizaveta Igorevna Khriponova.  Though born in New York, the classically trained Elizaveta was raised in Russia and graduated from the University of Southern California.  Her passions lie in classical, opera and indie-pop, which is a captivating formula quite evident in the ear-caressing track included in this mix.  “Orion” comes from Elizaveta’s first full-length album Beatrix Runs (2012), and her idols reportedly include both Adele and the rock band Queen. Listen to the soaring multi-tracked harmonies and the handclaps here; somewhere Freddie Mercury has his ear buds in, singing to the high heavens.  https://youtu.be/_IXetWgBK9o

 

6. In Your Eyes—Peter Gabriel.....Britain’s Gabriel reached his critical and commercial peak with the release of the album So in ’86, and “In Your Eyes” stems from that release.  The mid-80s must have been “his time.”  MTV was four years old at that point, and Gabriel was doing tremendously innovative song videos which then had incessant play on the channel; musically, Gabriel was creating albums that sacrificed nothing to commercial considerations, yet The Public widely embraced them on their own terms.  “In Your Eyes” features South African vocalist Youssou N’Dour on the choruses, and longtime Gabriel musicians David Rhodes, Tony Levin and Manu Katche on (respectively) guitar, bass & drums.  This song from So was later famously featured in the 1989 Cameron Crowe film Say Anything, when John Cusack’s character Lloyd Dobson stands defiantly outside of his lost love’s bedroom window, hoisting up a boom box over his head and blaring this tune, seeking strength and another chance, determined to win her back... (Gabriel’s original video of the song): https://youtu.be/kU8OJAOMbPg

 

7. Two Grey Rooms—Joni Mitchell.....A track from Mitchell’s 14th studio album entitled Night Ride Home, this is typical lush, confessional Joni with piano and multi-tracked harmonies.  Night Ride Home was Mitchell’s 4th and final album on the Geffen label, which spanned the years 1982 through 1991.  Her wide commercial acceptance had withered in the late 1970s after her Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter release, but in critical corners and in her still slavishly-devoted cult following, Mitchell maintained...There are several dazzling tracks on Night Ride Home beyond the one listed here as part of the mix: “Come In From The Cold,” the title song, and “Nothing Can Be Done” (the latter a duet with David Baerwald, one-half of the duo David & David—see track #1 above).  https://youtu.be/H3ZAiM7yMNI

 

8. This Love Of Mine—Frankie Miller.....British blue-eyed-soul singer Miller mined the English pub circuit through the early 1970s, but never really broke out of the pack to climb to widespread fame.  This particular track from Miller’s 1977 album Full House was actually a song co-written and performed by Frank Sinatra in 1941.  Miller’s impassioned vocals remind one of Otis Redding in their focus and intensity; on this horn-charted, basic blues lament, he really wails and nails it.  https://youtu.be/dc-fHLPgxyk

 

9. The Otherside—Breaks Co-Op.....This three-member unit was first a duo, composed of original members Hamish Clark and Zane Lowe in their native New Zealand.  After relocating to England and before the recording of their 2005 album The Sound Inside, singer Andy Lovegrove was added and they first collaborated as a group on the track listed here.  “The Otherside” is a great mid-tempo pop song that would sound a natural fit for a cover by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, or say, Amos Lee.  The tune was a huge hit in New Zealand upon release in 2005, and picked up “Single of the Year” honors from New Zealand’s music awards, the Down Under’s equivalent of the Grammies. It has life-affirming lyrics (plus an odd, mid-song bit of narration) that hints of Christian mysticism or Scientology or…  (You’ll have to chase this one down on Spotify—go!)

 

10. Back In The High Life Again—Steve Winwood.....Back in the 1980s, I leapt into righteous indignation when I had heard Winwood sold the use of some of his songs to beer companies for TV commercials—but like the rest of humanity, I’m over it.  We all need to get back to indiscriminate and voluminous consumption, and not let petty issues like “artistic expression versus commercialization” consume us.  So now that my head’s back on straight again, I can safely say that “Back In The Highlife Again” stands on its own as a great pop-rock ballad displaying an uplifting message, fine harmony vocals from James Taylor, and one of Winwood’s finest hours at the microphone.  (The song comes from the album of almost the same name—Back In The High Life.)  https://youtu.be/QFVG9SUREzs

 

 

 

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Posted 3/20/17

  C   O   V   E   R   S      M   I   X

  

When approaching their covers, most of the following artists liked to blend in their signature strengths but also mix it up a bit...These ten selections were part of a covers mix I originally put together on April 24, 2014.

 

 

1. Smiling Faces Sometimes – Joan Osborne (with Isaac Hayes) does The Undisputed Truth – Originally part of the Motown Records stable of artists, psychedelic soul band The Undisputed Truth had a few minor chart hits in the ‘70s, more often than not songs previously released by their Motown mates The Temptations.  “Smiling Faces Sometimes” was a cautionary tale in the vein of the O’Jays’ “Backstabbers” – two-face-edness, if you will.  Osborne covered this 1971 hit on her 2002 album How Sweet It Is, an all-covers release that has well-plotted-and-played rearrangements of classics like Edwin Starr’s “War,” Hendrix’s “Bold As Love,” The Band’s “The Weight,” Aretha’s “Think” and more.  Joan Osborne’s version: https://youtu.be/90GR2nqZbeU  / Original version: https://youtu.be/8CJZcVi5BA4

 

 

2. Super Freak – Big Daddy does Rick James.....I remember discovering the Southern California ensemble Big Daddy in the early ‘80s through their first release on Rhino Records, Big Daddy aka What Really Happened To The Band Of ’59.  This 1983 album bore songs that totally upended the originals through a very clever concept: Framing each tune in a late-1950s/early-1960s performance approach.  The original “Super Freak” of course is a long-lasting party favorite from 1981, and one would think James’ version was sacrosanct.  But Big Daddy slows it down and gives the song a yearning ballad approach, and to hear these lyrics so sweetly crooned—“She’s a very kinky girl / The kind you don’t take home to mother / She will never let your spirits down / Once you get her off the street”—is precious, maybe even priceless.  Other righteously overhauled songs from Big Daddy on this particular album include  “Betty Davis Eyes,” “I Write The Songs,” “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” “Hotel California,” and “Whip It”—all doo-wopped or Duane Eddy’ed satirical little gems that are polished perversions of the originals.  Big Daddy’s version http://youtu.be/kaufhdtVCJ8  / Original version: https://youtu.be/8J_F-GCJH6w

 

 

3.  I Think We’re Alone Now – Lene Lovich does Tommy James and The Shondells.....The original version of this pop song was an inescapable Top Forty radio hit in 1967 from Tommy James, and then twelve years later the Detroit-born, Britain-bred new wave musician Lovich quirkily covered it.  On the basis of a demo recording of this tune, Lovich was signed to the prestigious British new wave record label Stiff (original home to Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Ian Dury and The Blockheads, Wreckless Eric, and other pioneering English pop-punkers).  Lovich had another notable nugget aside from the Tommy James tune that she had cribbed, and that was “Lucky Number,” the original B-side to “I Think We’re Alone Now.”  Her yelping vocals and new wave-y thrust really clicked with fans in the UK (and with those in-the-know in our own United States), and Lovich also influenced a number of similar bands in her wake.  But her career in large part only carried forward a few years beyond her 1979 debut.  Lene Lovich’s version: https://youtu.be/amu9NrYJ2y4 / Original version: https://youtu.be/FeGmP0E5bHE

 

 

4.  Take On Me – A. C. Newman does a-Ha.....Newman is a Canadian artist who first gained prominence (relatively speaking) with the grunge band Superconductor in the ‘90s and then as a founding member of indie-rock band The New Pornographers (also featuring Neko Case) in the early 2000s.  He launched a solo career in 2004, and five years along he contributed this cool cover for a 2009 Starbucks compilation album entitled Sweetheart:  Our Favorite Artists Sing Their Favorite Love Songs.  The original version of “Take On Me” by a-Ha was from 1985, an MTV smash hit (with its innovative rotoscoping and pencil-sketching) and also a #1 radio hit.  A.C. Newman’s version:  http://youtu.be/v_eBTIIQOtA / Original version: https://youtu.be/MIgK3zOk0zg

 

 

5.  After Midnight – Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders do J.J. Cale.....J.J. Cale wrote the song in 1966 but never recorded it for an album until his 1972 debut Naturally.  Clapton of course killed with it, including the song on his own solo debut album in 1970. The version here, though, is from the early 1970s archives of Jerry Garcia and keyboardist Merl Saunders, who were quite fond of gigging and recording together and stretching out their selected songs into sinewy, jazz-tinged jams.  The album from which this version of “After Midnight” comes is entitled Well-Matched:  The Best of Merl Saunders & Jerry Garcia (2006).  It is a sweet compilation of Saunders/Garcia material that also boasts multi-minute explorations of Dylan (“Positively 4th Street”, clocking in at 7:43), Smokey Robinson (“I Second That Emotion” / 9:45), and Jimmy Cliff (“The Harder They Come” / 6:22).  Garcia & Saunders’ version: https://youtu.be/d8q8kBcFdQA  / Original version:  https://youtu.be/j81Vx-0uM0k

 

 

6.  I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight – Maria Muldaur does Bob Dylan.....The original version of this tune was written and performed by Dylan, and appeared on his eighth studio album John Wesley Harding (1967).  Muldaur’s cover here is actually from an album that is full of ‘em:  In 2006 the singer released Heart Of Mine:  Maria Muldaur Sings Loves Songs Of Bob Dylan, and throughout this album you can feel Muldaur’s jazz & blues passions percolate as she plies the songs of Bob.  Other songs on the record include “Buckets Of Rain,” “You’re Going To Make Me Lonesome When I Go,” and “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.”  Maria Muldaur’s version: https://youtu.be/zcMi9tHelOk  / Original version:  Bob is apparently persnickety about—nay, opposed to—YouTube, so go your own way to find this one on Spotify or somewhere else.

 

 

7.  Running On Empty – Bob Schneider does Jackson Browne.....Tribute albums that feature a hodgepodge of artists all converging on one artist’s material is sometimes a risky endeavor—for the listener.  If you are a diehard fan of a certain musician or singer/songwriter, you find yourself at the outset scanning the titles and muttering to yourself, “They covered that song?  I bet they f*ck it up”—and sometimes unfortunately you’re right on.  Straight-ahead cover versions of an original artist’s material can often be by-the-numbers and flat, and more expansive interpretations—like all-out monkeying with the song structure—can be equally upsetting.  But I found a gem on the recent 2014 release Looking Into You:  A Tribute To Jackson Browne.  Austin singer-songwriter Bob Schneider turns in a reflective reading of “Running On Empty,” and it is, in his hands, a ruminative ballad that accentuates the lyrics and the wistful beauty within.  Bob Schneider’s version: http://youtu.be/NYHRjO3Le74 / Original version: https://youtu.be/5WhDTS2AeLw

 

 

8.  Help Me – k.d. lang does Joni Mitchell.....The province of Alberta, Canada has produced two of recent history’s most talented female singer-songwriters in Lang and Mitchell, and it’s befitting that one covers the other here.  The original version was a pop radio hit when Mitchell’s 1974 Court And Spark was released, and Lang acquits herself nicely here in this contribution to the 2007 recording A Tribute To Joni Mitchell.  Other notable artists having a go at Joni on this album include Sufjan Stevens performing “Free Man In Paris,” Prince’s royal treatment of “A Case Of You,” Emmylou Harris’ sensitive reading of “The Magdalene Laundries,” and Elvis Costello’s tackling of “Edith And The Kingpin.”  k.d. lang’s version: https://youtu.be/WgkINbz35-g  / Original version: https://youtu.be/NPCf7Ysc2R4

 

 

9.  Baby Don’t Go – Dwight Yoakam and Sheryl Crow do Sonny & Cher.....This is a rollickin’, good-timey duet from Yoakam’s 1997 album of covers aptly entitled Under The Covers.  The song features the artist sharing the microphone with Crow; on the original version from 1965, the song’s composer Sonny Bono of course shared it with Cher and it became that duo’s first big hit (and the title of their debut album from that same year).  FYI, Yoakam has some other sleek and satisfying numbers on Under The Covers, including Roy Orbison’s “Claudette,” The Clash’s “Train In Vain,” an imaginative big-band reworking of The Kinks’ “Tired Of Waiting For You,” and a runaway bluegrass romp through the Rolling Stone’s “The Last Time.”  Yoakam and Crow’s version: https://youtu.be/NgbCNJzhQ3Y  / Original version: https://youtu.be/dWNJtUd4WjA

 

 

10.  Put A Little Love In Your Heart – Al Green and Annie Lennox do Jackie DeShannon.....This cover is a little ‘80s sounding in its overall sheen, having first appeared on a late-1980s movie soundtrack—Bill Murray’s film Scrooged (destined not to be a holiday classic for the ages).  The pairing of these two velvety voices makes this tune timeless, though, and it is one of the better treatments to come along since Jackie DeShannon’s original chart-topper in 1969.  This Green & Lennox version—soul man meets soul sister—can also be found on various Al Green compilations, and there are many; I came across it on at least three Green retrospectives that were issued in 2001, 2004 and 2006.  Green and Lennox’s version: http://youtu.be/S3J_3mcOwdQ / Original version: https://youtu.be/8LgdRJmjNMY

 

 

 

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Posted 3/6/17

Musicasaurus.com was recently digging through some cassette mix tapes from the 1980s.  On more than a handful of these, I found peppered within the mix some time-locked seasonings—a few less-than-mainstream artists whose one and only spotlight MAY have been during that whole ‘80s wave...Enjoy.

1. Painted Moon -- The Silencers.....from the band’s debut album in 1987 entitled A Letter From St. Paul.....Hailing from Scotland, this pop-rock band with Celtic and folk leanings had a stateside radio “cult hit” with the track listed here, which made a bit of a splash on MTV as well.  They’ve been compared to their fellow nationals of the time, Big Country and The Proclaimers.  http://youtu.be/RqrIjxG4API

 

2. Gettysburg -- The Brandos.....from Honor Among Thieves, the group’s first album (1987).....The band formed in New York City in 1985, and the subsequent MTV adoption and radio embrace of the tune “Gettysburg” propelled them onto critic’s lists—and on to cassette mix tapes like mine!  The song was one of those rock anthem-types that sounded refreshing—at the time, at least—and it served as a nice break from the dominant synth and new wave-ish stuff pumped out by a lot of other ‘80s outfits.  http://youtu.be/CMb9Uoi0d2M

 

3. We Are What We Are -- The Other Ones.....from their self-titled 1986 debut.....The Other Ones were another band helped immeasurably by MTV’s influence, though the video was pretty pedestrian.  But the song was kinda cool; it had an eeriness coupled with an ‘80s sheen, like a few other new wavers from that era (Eurythmics, Missing Persons, etc.).  The band consisted of a 50/50 split of Aussies and Germans, and were originally based in Berlin—but der furor never arose in terms of wild success, and they went kaput.  https://youtu.be/A1-Q_3X6RCU

 

4. Too Much Ain’t Enough Love -- Jimmy Barnes.....from the album Freight Train Heart released in 1987 in native Australia, and in 1988 in the USA.....Singer-songwriter Barnes left the dissolving but immensely popular Australian band Cold Chisel for a solo go in late 1983.  Freight Train Heart was his third solo effort after leaving the band, and it was #1 in Australia but also once again aimed at perking up more ears in the States.  Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain from Journey were involved in the record as well.  Barnes’ strong suit?  He’s a blackbelt belter, for sure.  http://youtu.be/xn-BeXNNDYM 

 

5. Don’t Fear Me Now (Kiss You Once More) -- In Tua Nua.....from The Long Acre (1988).....This Irish ensemble, sounding a bit like an Emerald Isle 10,000 Maniacs, got their first break in the early ‘80s by signing on with U2’s record label Mother for a radio single.  Nothing much gelled commercially, though, until a few years later after personnel shifts and a signing with Virgin Records; still, the band never really made any kind of dent in the United States.  In the mid-to-late 1980s I was working at Pittsburgh’s Civic Arena, and In Tua Nua was an opening act on a major tour coming through town, which led me to their album The Long Acre.  The particular track listed here and one called “Innocent And The Honest Ones” are the picks of the litter.  http://youtu.be/Fst5IyUQKA4

 

6. The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades -- Timbuk3.....from the duo’s debut album Greetings From Timbuk3 (1986).....If you HAVE to become a one-hit wonder, then may you be renowned for it eternally in a good light.  Timbuk3—at the time a Madison, Wisconsin husband and wife, AND a musical union—came up with this lyrical, satirical pop culture nugget that has appeared in CD compilations aplenty, and has also popped up in many films and television programs over the years.  Sample lyrics:  “I study nuclear science, I love my classes / I got a crazy teacher who wears dark glasses / Things are going great, and they’re only getting better / I’m doing all right, getting good grades / The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades”.....and.....“I gotta job waiting for my graduation / Fifty thou a year will buy a lotta beer / Things are going great, and they’re only getting better / I’m doing all right, getting good grades / The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades.”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qrriKcwvlY&list=RD8qrriKcwvlY&index=1

 

7. Charlotte Anne -- Julian Cope.....from the artist’s fourth solo album released in 1988, My Nation Underground...Cope is a citizen of the world—would that make him the original citizen Cope?—as he is a musician, an author, a political activist, an antiquarian, a counter-culturalist and much more.  Interestingly, the album from which “Charlotte Anne” stems is one that Cope labels a wrongheaded move or a misstep; his albums before and after, he proclaims, were more experimental and more to his liking.  “Charlotte Anne” did, though, help him get solid exposure in America for the first time as the more progressive rock stations across the U.S. added the song and ran with it, delighting seekers like myself that were glued to the alt-airwaves looking for fresh off-kilter sounds to feed upon.  http://youtu.be/QtgXVZmIoy4

 

8. Soviet Snow -- Shona Laing.....from the 1988 album South, the artist’s fifth.....Laing is an alternative-pop New Zealander who made significant headway in America (for the first time in her career) with a song that became a heavy favorite on college campuses back in the late ‘80s, “Glad I’m Not A Kennedy.”  Another song from South, the one featured here on the playlist, is “Soviet Snow” which illustrates Laing’s knack for sometimes writing melodic, powerful, and politically relevant alt-rock songs that have anthem choruses and intelligent spins of lyric:  “Are we wide awake? Is the world aware? / Radiation over Red Square / Creeping on to cross Roman roads / Fear of freezing in the Soviet snow/  One eye on the winter / Oh there's just a hint of Soviet snow”.....and.....“We need something to keep the chill / From freezing our own free will / We're teasing at war like children / Love is the one solution / Seeing ourselves inside / Our enemies' need for shelter / Same winter wind that's blowing / Deep down inside we know / We’ve got one eye on the winter...”  http://youtu.be/kfdUiqGHbY0

 

9. No Other Girl -- Semi-Twang.....from the band’s debut album Salty Tears, released in March 1988.....A native of Kenosha, Wisconsin, singer-songwriter John Sieger eventually moved to Milwaukee and ended up with a Warner Bros. recording contract for his newest band Semi-Twang in 1988.  The debut album had a lot going for it, including long-established top-tier producers including Mitchell Froom, Jerry Harrison of Talking Heads, and Chris Thomas (who had labored on The Beatles’ White Album and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon), and also some stellar musicians including two of Elvis Presley’s band, guitarist James Burton and bassist Jerry Schef.  But the album upon release did nada.  It is out of print today, but the band reunited in 2009 (twenty years after their tanking debut) and these days they’re issuing new material via private-label endeavors…“No Other Girl” from Salty Tears really captures the band’s late-‘80s alt-country sweetness and sophistication.  http://youtu.be/LAoIzkxX9R8

 

10. All Touch -- Rough Trade.....from the band’s 1981 release For Those That Think Young.....Toronto-based vocalist Carol Pope and keyboard player/guitarist Kevan Staples formed a band in 1968, shifted personnel and redubbed themselves Rough Trade in 1974, and then achieved cross-Canada success starting in 1980 with the release of the song “High School Confidential.”  This tune, from their 1980 album Avoid Freud, was in its day quite controversial with its overt references to lesbian love.  The album For Those That Think Young followed that next year, containing another somewhat explicit song in “All Touch,” which became a top radio hit outside of Canada when the once-delayed international release of the album finally happened.  The song hit modern rock stations in the States in late 1982/early 1983, and aided by an MTV video picked up much wider recognition.  Singer Pope was clearly the centerpiece of the band, looking like Grace Slick’s younger, bondage-garbed sister (judging from her concert getup), and “All Touch” was their forever frozen-in-time moment in the sun.  https://youtu.be/gpraodUSyjA

 

 

 

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Posted 2/20/17

A CD mix made ‘round ‘bout 2011…

1. War Out of Peace – Tristan Prettyman.....A native of San Diego and compadre of Jason Mraz in terms of her official “start” in the music business, singer-songwriter Tristan released her first album in 2005.  Her influences include Ani DiFranco though she has a pop, jazzy sheen on her rhythmic folk introspections.  “War Out of Peace” is from her second release Hello...x which came out in 2008.  https://youtu.be/2-ckLCFhVeU

 

2. Can You Tell – Ra Ra Riot.....This band from Syracuse, NY put out their first full-length album The Rhumb Line in August 2008, about a year after the drowning death of a founding band member.  “Can You Tell” comes from that initial release.  The sound here is similar—a bit—to Arcade Fire and Vampire Weekend, and is resplendent with drums, violins, guitars and charismatic lead vocals by Wes Miles.  https://youtu.be/iBryCQWEdFI

 

3. Spooky – Dusty Springfield.....This track was originally an instrumental in 1967, but it morphed—and shot up to # 3 in Billboard Magazine’s Hot 100—when words were added and it became a classic for, uh, The Classics IV.  This atmospheric tune has been covered by many artists through the years—from Andy Williams to the Velvet Monkeys; from R.E.M. and Phish to the Atlantic Rhythm Section and The Puppini Sisters.  Here, the British white soul songstress Dusty Springfield—more famous for 1960s hits “Wishin’ and Hopin’” and “Son of a Preacher Man”—wraps her vocal cords around it in a tantalizing rendition that didn’t make the original 1968 release of the album Dusty…Definitely, but finally did on the 2001 CD re-issue of that album which included bonus tracks.  https://youtu.be/f7QzxYAjgNc

 

4. Stranger – Johnny Winter.....Albino blues brothers Johnny and Edgar Winter were born in Beaumont, Texas in the mid 1940s, and guitarist Johnny in particular immediately took to the blues stylings of Muddy Waters and B.B. King.  This well-produced, more rock-based track is from John Dawson Winter III, released in 1974; brother Edgar plays on it as well, but it’s Johnny’s soloing that cries out “FM Rock Radio!”—but not in a bad way.  https://youtu.be/WMHZWvPcRqY

 

5. Still Breathing – If By Yes.....If By Yes is an interesting partnership project of Japanese musician Yuka Honda who co-founded Cibo Matto, and Petra Haden, an L.A. singer/violinist who’s done some interesting a cappella quirky covers of—who’da thunk—Journey and Who songs.  “Still Breathing” (from 2011’s Salt on Sea Glass) creates a sonic dreamscape throughout that ends with a blissful blend of vocal trills and thrills.  https://youtu.be/vey90o-g1zw?list=PLTiDFSb-dmMtCq8W4yzwsUW2nCmf_JdbP

 

6. Time In Place – Mike Stern.....This Boston-based jazz guitarist played years ago with Billy Cobham and Miles Davis (the latter in the early 1980s), and the track listed here is the title song from Stern’s third solo album released in 1988.  It starts out with Pat Metheny-style tones, but then soars into a solo that reminds one of jazz fusion peer Al DiMeola; the tune then transitions into some great sax work by Bob Berg to take it to the finish line.  https://youtu.be/k_W-R5VRY1I  

 

7. Out of the Blues – Rita Coolidge.....Coolidge backed up Joe Cocker and Leon Russell on their 1970 Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour and live album, but is probably best known from radio playlists of the 1970s with easy-goin’-down covers of songs like “Fever,” “Your Love Has Lifted Me (Higher and Higher),” and Boz Scaggs’ “We’re All Alone.”  Here, from her 1996 release Out of The Blues, she applies herself to a smoky-bar type of blues tune.  https://youtu.be/d-YbEbRKAlM

 

8. Representing Memphis – Booker T. Jones.....Booker T & The M.G.’s were the house band in Memphis for all of the Stax Records’ studio recordings—a ton of pivotal pop hits, mostly soul and rhythm & blues—from the beginning of the 1960s into the early 1970s.  On this particular track from keyboardist Jones’ 2011 solo album The Road From Memphis, the late Sharon Jones (of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings) and Matt Berninger (lead singer of The National) dish out a soulful duet, aided by Booker T’s characteristically rich and sweet sounding Hammond organ.  https://youtu.be/RV6-NAFFBRw

 

 

9. Sharpening Bone – Piers Faccini.....This Brit of Anglo-Italian descent has crafted a tune that is quite unpredictable as it unspools; it may remind one—just a bit—of Jeff Buckley at a lower register.  Faccini released the album from which “Sharpening Bone” comes—2006’s Tearing Sky—during a time of recording and touring with Ben Harper.  https://youtu.be/9x0g319GaXw

 

10. Golden – Dead Man Winter.....Dead Man Winter is essentially a solo side project from Dave Simonett, lead singer of Duluth, Minnesota’s folk/bluegrass band Trampled By Turtles.  This song, taken from Dead Man Winter’s 2010 EP (extended-play) release Wolves is yer basic nutritional slice of Americana featuring acoustic guitar, harmonica, violin and voice.  Quite purty… https://youtu.be/oOVPqSciR1E

 

 

 

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Posted 2/6/17

A MASHED-UP MIX...DETOURS ALONG ABBEY ROAD

This is ONLY going to appeal to Musicasaurus.com readers who are, as they say, “of a certain age”—okay, I’ll take the gloves off.  It’s for old people.  They’ll most likely have the full comprehension of what I’ve done to sacred Side Two of The Beatles’ Abbey Road album from 1969.

Some years ago in the era before CDs when cassettes ruled our late night make-a-mix productions at home, I came up with the idea of fleshing out Abbey Road, Side Two.  My inspiration at 1:00 am that evening—er, morning—was to insert different artists’ songs in between the formerly uninterrupted flow of the Fab Four’s masterful suite of tunes, starting with Side Two’s opener “Here Comes The Sun” all the way through the final 23-second track “Her Majesty.”  The latter, of course, was a “hidden track”—not listed anywhere on the album cover, and only hitting listeners a full fourteen seconds after the end of…well, “The End.”

You can be the judge of whether the results here are a desecration or a delight—and you just might want to try this on your own, creating a playlist of songs that are, in your mind, the perfect detours along Abbey Road

(Note:  The Beatles are not on YouTube—criminal, I know.  So the links to their songs are from Spotify, and the in-betweener artists are from YouTube.)

1.) Here Comes The Sun  https://open.spotify.com/track/6dGnYIeXmHdcikdzNNDMm2

 

2.) Slave Driver – Taj Mahal

I don’t know where my disconnect was back in the early 1970s but somehow I wasn’t—early on, at least—majorly swept up in the rising tide of Jamaican phenomenon Bob Marley.  It actually took a Taj Mahal album released in 1974 called Mo’ Roots to energize me into a full-on reggae worshipper.  The song here is a sweet, richly textured cover of Marley’s tune that originally appeared on the Bob Marley and the Wailers’ 1973 album Catch a Fire.  https://youtu.be/AQM31tyUCsc

 

3.) Because  https://open.spotify.com/track/1rxoyGj1QuPoVi8fOft1Kt

 

4.) Sweet Surrender – Sarah McLachlan

A song from Canadian songbird McLachlan’s mostly mesmerizing album Surfacing, her fourth, which came out at the same time (July of 1997) that the artist’s Lilith Fair festival was making noise & making the rounds to large amphitheaters all across the U.S.  https://youtu.be/k--TkFlV990

 

5.) You Never Give Me Your Money  https://open.spotify.com/track/1jOLTO379yIu9aMnCkpMQl

 

6.) The Magnificent Seven – The Clash

Reportedly Mick Jones from British punk rockers The Clash fell in love with late 1970s/early 1980s hip hop tunes he’d come across from the likes of the Sugarhill Gang and Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, and so Jones and his band mates ventured into what was one of the first major white rap records.  It’s hypnotic and propulsive, and the lyrics were spit out quickly, in session, by the band’s main vocalist Joe Strummer.  The tune is from The Clash’s double-album set Sandinista!.  https://youtu.be/HnSQFaHvxTI

 

7.) Sun King  https://open.spotify.com/track/4nwKdZID1ht0lDBJ5h2p87

 

8.) Murder – Alana Davis

I remember running into this artist—literally—by rounding the corner of the dressing room hallway at Star Lake Amphitheater back in 1998.  I was general manager of the venue back then, and happened to be backstage during that summer’s edition of the traveling H.O.R.D.E. music festival, which Davis had climbed aboard as an untested but talented new attraction.  I confessed to her that I loved the songs from her debut album that had come out the year before, and she was noticeably moved by my stuttered praise.  Her song “Murder” is a great window into her atmospheric debut album Blame It On Me.  https://youtu.be/24PHLRawVSc

 

9.) Mean Mr. Mustard  https://open.spotify.com/track/4JOyMhad5dD81uGYLGgKrS

 

10.) My Stupid Mouth – John Mayer

A lot of us have “I remember when…” moments when it comes to hearing songs for the first time, and with this one, I was riding to a concert with Cleveland friends and company mates in the summer of 2001 when I first laid ears on Mayer’s “My Stupid Mouth.”  There was something very refreshing about the lyrical spins and the pure pop pleasure of this Mayer-crafted tune, and the album (2001’s Room for Squares) held other treasures as well.  https://youtu.be/2Xqm-zvart0

 

11.) Polythene Pam  https://open.spotify.com/track/1FTCA6wQwulQFokDddKE68

 

12.) Free Man in Paris (live) – Joni Mitchell

This jazz-tinged rollicker by Mitchell was originally on her 1974 studio album Court and Spark, but here I went with a powered-up version that this pioneering artist eventually released as part of some captured lightning-in-a-bottle live performances from 1979.  These performances—now available on the artist’s Shadows and Light CD—lent incredible muscle to Mitchell’s music; her backing back on this particular tour included saxophonist Michael Brecker, bassist Jaco Pastorius, keyboardist Lyle Mays and guitarist Pat Metheny.  Incendiary stuff.  https://youtu.be/5_p84ZK97Eo

 

13.) She Came In Through the Bathroom Window  https://open.spotify.com/track/2jtUGFsqanQ82zqDlhiKIp

 

14.) The Freshman – The Verve Pipe

There are several versions of this 1990s underground (for a time, above ground) alt-rock song that combines heaviness in theme as well as delivery.  First recorded acoustically by Michigan-based alt-rockers The Verve Pipe for an indie release in 1992, the song was rerecorded for their 1996 major-label debut Villains, and AGAIN soon thereafter for a release as a single for radio play.  The latter move brought them widespread acclaim (at least throughout 1997), and odds are today if you chance upon it once upon a playlist, its grandeur will stick with you.  https://youtu.be/1umEXpGHc0E

 

15.) Golden Slumbers  https://open.spotify.com/track/01SfTM5nfCou5gQL70r6gs

 

16.) Solsbury Hill – Peter Gabriel

Once ubiquitous on FM radio and cool kids’ turntables throughout 1977, “Solsbury Hill” is arguably Gabriel’s most accessible and commercially sprightly tune.  The song hails from his first solo album entitled Peter Gabriel and is ostensibly about his decision to leave the band Genesis, but honestly I almost don’t hear the lyrics and have always approached this song as a most pleasurable musical lark of a listening experience.  https://youtu.be/NNMR5MCpYGU

 

17.) Carry That Weight  https://open.spotify.com/track/5eZrW59C3UgBhkqNlowEID

 

18.) If It Makes You Happy – Sheryl Crow

As the story goes, Crow was once part of a musician’s songwriting collective that edged in the process toward working on and then completing Crow’s own album debut in 1993 entitled Tuesday Night Music Club.  Even if you’re of the camp that considers Crow as just occasionally worthwhile, “If It Makes You Happy”-- a song from her 1996 sophomore album, self-titled and self-produced--has enough grunge-lite guitar work to pull you in, and also sports a slight Stonesy feel to the pacing and rhythm.  https://youtu.be/yPV4nMUfdcQ

 

19.) The End  https://open.spotify.com/track/5aHHf6jrqDRb1fcBmue2kn

 

20.) The Last Goodbye – Jeff Buckley

The credentials for this one are pretty good.  Reportedly David Bowie thought the album from which it came, 1994’s Grace, was the best, or one of the best records ever made.  It’s a haunting achievement and not just because of Buckley’s soaring on "Hallelujah; the other tracks are worthy of exploration as well, including “The Last Goodbye,” which was the artist’s most widely heard FM Radio track upon the album’s release.  Jeff is son to Tim Buckley, praised in the most adventurous of folk music circles (circa late ‘60s-early ‘70s) as a dynamic vocalist and genre-twisting artist.  Like father, like son.  https://youtu.be/3MMXjunSx80

 

21.) Her Majesty  https://open.spotify.com/track/6UCFZ9ZOFRxK8oak7MdPZu

 

 

 

 

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Posted 1/23/17

Women…No one has more respect for women than Musicasaurus.com does.  So I have put together a themed mix, tied together by the single name song titles.  Enjoy…                                                                           

1. Cecilia – Simon & Garfunkel.....Proof of the theory of evolution can be found in the seven-year journey of Simon & Garfunkel through the 1960s.  In that 1964-1970 time span, this duo morphed from their simple Everly Brothers-inspired folk through the full flowering of folk-rock to fully-realized ambitions pressed to wax, including the classic Bridge Over Troubled Water album released in 1970.  In addition to “Cecilia” and the grand title song, Bridge includes the classic “The Boxer.”  https://youtu.be/yTG_fPEPJB0

 

2. Jolene – Mindy Smith…..I first heard Smith on a local Pittsburgh indie station doing a hellacious tune called “Come To Jesus” that forced me to the curb to crank it up and soak it in with 100% focus—the song was that powerful.  This was 2004, and as it turned out, this Nashville resident had just released a debut album entitled One Moment More from which this heavenly track hails.  I bought the CD soon thereafter, and as I made my way through the songs I came to “Jolene,” another track of significance—it turned out to be a song that, one year earlier, Smith had recorded as a one-off for an upcoming Dolly Parton tribute album. Parton was impressed—and Smith soon moved on to clinch her own record deal.  https://youtu.be/fhBECqryY1c

 

3. Billie Jean – Michael Jackson.....One of the best and most successful pop records of all time, the 1982 album Thriller was a killer confluence of talent (Jackson’s songs), production (Quincy Jones’ behind-the-boards savvy), and timing (MTV’s embrace of its first real African-American “star”).  Jackson had strong charting success as a solo artist three years prior with Off The Wall, and Thriller was no filler—seven of its nine songs (including “Billie Jean”) went on, over the 2-year period following the album’s release, to break into the USA’s Top Ten national airplay & sales charts.  “Billie Jean” is aided by attitude, sonic spunk, and Eddie Van Halen’s guitar-solo guest shot, executed in typical Van Wailin’ style.  https://youtu.be/Zi_XLOBDo_Y

 

4. Isobel – Bjork.....Bjork is one of the greatest of Iceland’s musical exports, and she’s carved out her career through tireless pursuits to marry technology with her avant garde approach to songwriting and execution.  In her earlier years she vocally fronted the Icelandic rock band The Sugarcubes, but it’s her solo career that is particularly noteworthy for its genre bending and convention up-ending.  “Isobel” is from Bjork’s second album entitled Post, released in 1995.  https://youtu.be/s1PPGlqVWXc

 

5. Carrie Ann – The Hollies.....This band was one of the original early-mid 1960s British Invasion groups, along with the Beatles and the Stones, whose earliest recordings were covers of R&B and early rock ‘n’ roll hits.  Graham Nash and Allan Clarke formed the Hollies in 1963, and it wasn’t until almost three years later that one of their 3-part harmony pop nuggets dented American consciousness with the chart climb of “Look Through Any Window” from their album Hear! Here!  In 1967 (the year that Sgt. Pepper’s came out), The Hollies released an album called Evolution, which contained the track listed here and also sported a classic album cover reflecting the times—a psychedelic swirl probably replicating someone’s recent trip (and I don’t mean to the beach).  https://youtu.be/_PQTSwSUfAY

 

6. Fiona – Lyle Lovett.....We’ve delineated the style of Lyle before in other musicasaurus.com postings in this mix section.  Suffice to say that this Texan sings and western swings through keenly crafted tunes that blend country, country & western, folk, blues, jazz, gospel, pop, and honky tonk.  “Fiona” is a fetching concoction of acoustic guitar, fiddle, pedal steel and more, from Lovett’s sixth album The Road To Ensenada released in 1996.  https://youtu.be/AuxcPxS7KW8

 

7. Michelle – The Beatles.....Arguably 1965’s Rubber Soul album was the one that first fully mined the unique talent confluence that was Lennon, McCartney and Martin (as in George Martin, their hands-on producer at Abbey Road Studios).  "Michelle" was mostly McCartney’s, the song with the French feel that was influenced, says Sir Paul, by the guitar style of Chet Atkins.  This song from Rubber Soul won the Grammy Award for Song of The Year in 1966—the first win for the Beatles in that category—beating out four other songs in a move that may have signaled a bit of the changing of the guard:  “Michelle” swept to the side the other more mainstream throne contenders "Born Free,” "The Impossible Dream,” "Somewhere My Love" and "Strangers in the Night.”  (There are no versions of the song by The Beatles’ themselves available on YouTube, so this clip is of McCartney performing it in concert):  https://youtu.be/4yr6Sl-86Nc

 

8. Nadine – Chuck Berry.....One of Rock’s forefathers, Berry had a string of hits in the late 1950s that titillated teens here at home and also perked up the ears of English musicians abroad—like the Beatles and the Stones—who then covered these tunes on their earliest recordings.  Berry’s landmark rock records include “Johnny B. Goode,” “Sweet Little Sixteen,” “Rock ‘n’ Roll Music,” “You Never Can Tell” and the track listed here that was released as a single in 1964 and then included on Berry’s first greatest hits album released that same year.  He was one of the first inductees in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (in 1986), and Rolling Stone Magazine in 2004 created a tantalizing list and put a Berry on top—he was crowned # 5 in this magazine’s tribute issue entitled The Hundred Greatest Artists of All Time.  https://youtu.be/5madtiLf7DI

 

9. Bertha – Grateful Dead.....Hitting the record stores a year after the landmark 1970 Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty releases, the Dead’s second live double-album (usually referred to as Skull  & Roses) contained this track that, once recorded, became a staple of the band’s future live shows.  The entire album was recorded in 1971 at various concert venues in San Francisco and New York City, and at this stage of the game, The Dead were a five-some—Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Ronald “Pigpen” McKernan, and Bill Kreutzmann.  Skull & Roses also contains other Dead classics such as “Playing In The Band” and the two-song blend of “Not Fade Away / Goin’ Down The Road Feeling Bad.”  https://youtu.be/mTu0SsE8BMY  

 

10. Amelia – Joni Mitchell.....Mitchell apparently wrote all of the songs for her 1976 album Hejira while on a cross-country car trip from Maine to Los Angeles, and with “Amelia,” she reportedly said that the song sprang from “thinking of Amelia Earhart and addressing it from one solo pilot to another”.  Mitchell is, like her fellow Canadian Neil Young, a restless innovator and creative whirlwind, beholden to no one when it comes to audience expectations and pushing envelopes and boundaries.  The album Hejira is one of Mitchell’s more jazz-laced works, and it’s the start of a collaboration (over a couple of records and a tour) with acclaimed bassist Jaco Pastorius from Weather Report.  Also guesting on Hejira on select tunes:  Larry Carlton (guitar), Neil Young (harmonica), Tom Scott (horns), and vibes master Victor Feldman.  https://youtu.be/15d_7b1KjvE

 

 

 

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Posted 1/9/17.....                                           

RIFFS & GROOVES.....Ten tunes from a mix that will restart your heart, cause your head to bob, provoke leg shakin’—whatever happens when music really moves you:

1. The Sky Is Falling - James Cotton.....from the 1970 release Taking Care Of Business.....Cotton is one of the legendary American blues masters who is in that prized circle of key influencers who inspired musicians like Steve Miller, Boz Scaggs, Paul Butterfield, Bonnie Raitt and many more.  He was born in Mississippi in 1935 and early on was schooled in Howlin’ Wolf’s band, playing blues harp; by the mid-1950s he had moved on to Muddy Waters and then formed his own band around 1966.  On Taking Care Of Business, the rock quotient is increased a bit (compared to most of his output) thanks to guests and contributors including album producer/player Todd Rundgren, Michael Bloomfield, David Sanborn (at the time, with Paul Butterfield’s band) and Johnny Winter...“The Sky Is Falling” is the lead-off track on the album, and has those key moments you hope for in a blues-rock record--the band sailin’; the harp wailin’.  https://youtu.be/yOt0KjLZHjo

 

2. Burning Down The House -- Talking Heads.....from Speaking In Tongues, the band’s fifth studio album released in 1983.....Musicasaurus.com especially loves the opening and the closing instrumental parts of the song—they’re quirky, murky and of course rhythmic.  This was the band’s one and only Top Ten hit on radio, and the tour that stemmed from this particular album brought about The Heads’ well-received concert film helmed by film director Jonathan Demme, Stop Making Sense.  Link is to the performance from Demme’s film:  http://youtu.be/-FlIV6Bmd5g   

 

3. Daytripper - The Beatles.....from the band’s 1966 release Yesterday And Today.....Readers of a certain age may remember buying the 45 PRM when it was released in American ahead of the full album; it was the “A” side of the radio hit single, with “We Can Work It Out” as the flip side.  The song was actually recorded around the time that the band was putting together 1965’s Rubber Soul, and those studied in Beatles’ lore generally regard that album as the first to reveal in full flower the boundary pushing of the songwriting team Lennon & McCartney…Okay, so, YouTube clips of the original Fab Four are scarce and are instantly uprooted if posted there by fans (apparently), so here’s a knock-off Beatles tribute band who does a decent job of capturing the propulsion of the original:  https://youtu.be/imi3o3Ba6fA   

 

4. Dancing In The Street -- Bowie & Jagger.....This musical collaboration became a 1985 single and video, produced by the duo expressly for the Live Aid event held that summer.....Listening to this song as part of a mix is fun, but to reach pure exhilaration one needs to ramp up to the music video that can currently be found on the Live Aid DVD set.  Bowie & Jagger recorded the song first at Abbey Road studios and then filmed the video in the London Docklands.  The video was shown twice at Live Aid, and soon after this world-stage event had concluded, the song was released as a single with all profits going to the event’s famine-relief charity.  The video has a spontaneous, tossed-off feel and is basically two of Rock’s greatest icons clown prince-ing and prancing for a great cause.   http://youtu.be/9G4jnaznUoQ  

 

5. Good Rockin’ Daddy -- Marcia Ball, Angela Strehli & Lou Ann Barton.....from the 1990 album entitled Dreams Come True.....This is fine Texas roadhouse rhythm & blues, with three powerhouse ladies each taking a turn or two front and center, backed by a band of Austin’s finest players on the national blues circuit (led by Dr. John, who also produced the record).  The song was originally a Top Ten R & B hit for Etta James back in 1955, but Barton stakes her claim with sensuality and sass aided by swooping horns, sizzling harmonies from Ball and Strehli, and a short but stingingly sweet guitar solo from Stevie Ray’s older brother Jimmy Vaughan.  https://youtu.be/L7OrLErpf6A    

 

6. 867-5309 / Jenny -- Tommy Tutone.....from the group’s 1981 aIbum Tommy Tutone 2.....I heard this song at more bad parties in the early ‘80s than I care to think about, so it’s a bit tainted---but now with refreshed ears, musicasaurus.com better appreciates this time-capsule bit of power pop.  The tune led to all sorts of phone-call pranks especially in that ’81-’82 time period, and these days, the number 867-5309 is the fourth most common 7-digit password (so saith at least one recent study on password security).  http://youtu.be/5g22Ja32QDU 

 

7. Ants Marching - Dave Matthews Band.....from the group’s 1994 debut album Under The Table And Dreaming.....If musicasaurus.com gets a vote (admittedly easier when wielding a website), this is the best Dave song.  More than a handful of others come close, but this is just the happiest sort of alternative rock hoedown.  Dave first surfaced at the concert venue I worked for (Star Lake Amphitheatre, Pittsburgh) in 1995 as part of a multi-act festival called H.O.R.D.E., but soon returned on his own as a headlining act and sold out all 23,000 available tickets.  Oftentimes when a sell-out-level artist would play our venue, we would buy about 10-12 dozen golf shirts with left-breast logos of the particular artist (or his or her printed name), along with the amphitheatre’s name and the date of the concert.  These were free gifts from us to the artist; in concert industry parlance, these bestowed items were called “swag.”  For this first-time headlining gig by Dave, we had golf shirts made up that had that left-breast info of name/date/venue, but circling all around this little word-and-logo cluster we stitched in place a number of tiny ants “marching”.  The band loved the reference to what was still at that time their biggest hit and concert highlight.  http://youtu.be/XFgfqEPhYOQ    

 

8. You Got Me Hummin’ - Cold Blood.....from their 1969 self-titled debut album......Pint-sized vocalist Lydia Pense has been compared to Janis Joplin with regard to her intensity and raw & rippin’ vocal delivery, and in fact Joplin was the one who referred this at-the-time fledgling band to San Francisco promoter & rock club entrepreneur Bill Graham, who ended up signing them to his Fillmore record label.  “You Got Me Humming” is a blistering, flat-out funked-up phenom, first popularized three years earlier by ‘60s rhythm & blues singers Sam & Dave.  http://youtu.be/Y2mzaL_U1lc  

 

9. Superfreak -- Rick James.....from the artist’s 1981 album Street Songs.....Buffalo-born James was an American singer-songwriter/musician who injected this bit of infectious funk into the mainstream in July of ’81.  The song became a crossover hit nationally on the Pop, R & B and Dance charts, and it lives on today, at wedding receptions and at ‘80s Nights in clubs across America.  The song’s primary riff was sampled by MC Hammer for his ‘89 concoction “U Can’t Touch This,” and one of the most interesting covers of the tune comes from the L.A.-based music parody band Big Daddy, who slowed it down and gave it an Everly Brothers feel on their ‘88 debut album What Really Happened To The Band Of ’59.  Here is Rick James’ original version:  http://youtu.be/QYHxGBH6o4M

 

10. The Magnificent Seven -- The Clash.....from the 1980 triple-album set Sandinista!.....The Clash, the fearless punk-rock foursome formed in London in 1976, was comprised of a lead guitarist, a bass player, a drummer, and a Strummer.  The latter was a joe who was a vocalist from the “Spit and Snarl” school of rock, and the band itself was dynamic, irrepressible, and musically quite adventurous.  On this album in particular, they blended political messaging with punk, ska, rock, jazz, reggae, rockabilly, dub, third-world beats and even rap to produce an inspirational stew that ended up ultimately inspiring a large number of questing alternative bands, both peers and progeny.  http://youtu.be/GcHL8efKKPE

 

 

 

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Posted 12/26/16.....                                                 

This is a mix from November of 2004…This time, musicasaurus.com is sending you right to the songs to sample.  No required digestion of artist & song descriptions; nothing to delay you in terms of seeking this out and syncing it up.  String these sixteen songs together, let them unfurl in order, and see if you don’t agree that a good mix is all about the flow...

 

1. Supertramp – “Easy Does It” from the 1975 album Crisis? What Crisis? (no satisfactory YouTube selection, so just grab an audio snippet here:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/easy-does-it/id111466?i=111446)

 

2. Jefferson Airplane – “In Time” from the 1968 album Crown of Creationhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OfEzV8ni48A

 

3. Keane – “Your Eyes Open” from the 2004 album Hopes and Fears: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tlVbCg7cLxY

 

4. Herbie Mann (with special guest Duane Allman) – “Spirit in the Dark” from the 1971 album Push Push:  https://youtu.be/0L0H0y9EZvw

 

5. John Campbell – “Wiseblood” from the 1993 album Howlin Mercy:  https://youtu.be/3Z3jZM4EIh4

 

6. R.E.M. – “The One I Love” from the 1987 album Document:  https://youtu.be/j7oQEPfe-O8

 

7. Ray Charles – “Still Crazy After All These Years” from the 1993 album My World:  https://youtu.be/UOYd3_Z7wEs

 

8. Television – “Carried Away” from the 1978 album Adventure:  https://youtu.be/rIbweWhtLW0

 

9. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – “Thunder Road” from the 1975 album Born To Run:  https://youtu.be/YdhkaPZtQF4

 

10. Allison Moorer – “Louise is in the Blue Moon” from the 2004 album The Duel:  https://youtu.be/ZmhWWDegS60

 

11. Steve Winwood – “Take it to the Final Hour” from the 2003 album About Time:  https://youtu.be/3KrmEPumfJs

 

12. Brian Auger & Julie Tippetts – “No Time To Live” from the 1978 album Encore:  https://youtu.be/tvE7DMsxp2w

 

13. Matthew Sweet – “I Almost Forgot” from the 1995 album 100% Fun:  https://youtu.be/ZR0rZCAqWEQ

 

14. Altan – “Gleanntáin Ghlas Ghaoth Dobhair” ("The Green Glens of Gweedore") from the 1997 album Runaway Sunday:  https://youtu.be/fGqvZTIcMBI

 

15. The Band – “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Downfrom the 1978 concert film The Last Waltz:  https://youtu.be/jREUrbGGrgM

 

16. The Beatles – “A Day in the Life” from the 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band:  https://youtu.be/usNsCeOV4GM

 

 

 

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Posted 12/12/16.....                                           

LOVE MIX.....Just in time for the holidays, an opportunity to share the LOVE...It’s not holiday music, but these aptly-titled tunes spin tales of LOVE in all its forms.  It’s good contemplative stuff, and a nice break from the numbing presence of traditional holiday tunes that incessantly float above the frowning faces and weary countenances of mall stalkers.

1. (Love Is) The Tender Trap -- Robert Palmer.....from Ridin’ High, an album released in 1992.....British singer Palmer is best known through classic ‘80s MTV videos with pale faced, deadpan models mock-playing musical instruments, dispassionately backing up a dapperly dressed Palmer crooning hits like “Addicted To Love”.  He’s lesser known for his solid earlier works when he was covering Little Feat tunes and weaving reggae into more of the proceedings...On Ridin’ High, Palmer teamed up for strings and things on an album of popular American songs spanning the ‘20s through the ‘50s, including this one written by Sammy Cahn and James Van Heusen for the 1955 Frank Sinatra-Debbie Reynolds film The Tender Trap.  The producer of Palmer’s album was the highly revered Teo Macero, who had helmed Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue and Bitches Brew, and Dave Brubeck’s Time Out.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfAjYb7Zr7s&feature=share&list=PLY5rYrDAyZi9jm3NW9XJ0bg5c8a0zA4vP&index=1

 

2. Tainted Love -- Soft Cell.....from Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret, the group’s 1981 debut album.....In the early ‘80s British synth-pop duo Soft Cell took note of a huge club hit in the U.K., a song performed by American gospel-rooted soul singer Gloria Jones.  For their first album, the duo chose to approach this song with a complete ‘80s-style overhaul, messin’ with the tempo, and nixin’ the traditional sounding guitars, bass, etc. in favor of synths and rhythm machines.  Love it or loathe it, it’s a great ‘80s timepiece.   http://youtu.be/qDHnGz6Scik

 

3. Everybody Loves A Loser -- Morcheeba.....from The Antidote (2005).....Another British outfit (this one tagged none-too-expansively with the label “trip hop”) is Morcheeba, a trio originally comprised of musician-producers the Godfrey brothers and female lead vocalist Skye Edwards.  The Antidote, however--the band’s fifth studio record--featured front-woman Daisy Martey in what turned out to be a one-time shot; future recordings featured other vocalists and eventually the return of the wayfaring Edwards.   http://youtu.be/UsWHk-K5H-A

 

4. This Love Is Real -- John Prine.....from the artist’s 1995 album Lost Dogs And Mixed Blessings.....Prine is a gem if you’ve not yet discovered him.  He’s been recording since the ‘70s in the folk-and-country vein, with atypical, insightful lyrics often trafficking in human foibles and preoccupations.  On the track listed here he duets with Marianne Faithfull to great effect, and if this fuels you to pining for more Prine, check out his signature tunes “Sam Stone” (about a returning Vietnam vet), “Angel From Montgomery”, and the LOL lyrics of his duet with Iris DeMent “In Spite Of Ourselves”.  https://youtu.be/W0f8AFKI_mU

 

5. Can’t Help Falling In Love -- Luka Bloom.....from The Acoustic Motorbike, released in 1992.....This singer-songwriter started out in his native Ireland performing under his given name Barry Moore, and he's also kid brother to revered Irish singer-songwriter Christy Moore, a founding member of seminal Irish-folk band Planxty.  After three albums the younger Moore moved to America in 1987 and adopted the stage name Luka Bloom; the first name was taken from Suzanne Vega’s hit single from that same year, and the last name from the character in James Joyce’s Ulysses...The track listed here is a cover of the song previously immortalized by Elvis Presley.   http://youtu.be/eP9KNHlffYE

 

6. We Don’t Need Love Songs – Fitz & The Tantrums.....from the group’s debut studio EP (extended-play album) Songs For A Break-up, Volume I that arrived in 2009.....Touring brought a lot of fans to the altar early on after this L.A.-based band formed in 2008.  On this 2009 EP and on subsequent releases, one can hear the deep influence of Motown and/or Stax Records with more than a dollop of pop-soul blends a la Style Council and others of that ilk...There’s a cool band appearance worth checking out on the program Live From Daryl’s House, which is on the web.  Each episode of Live From Daryl's House features a different guest artist singing and playing with Daryl Hall, one-half of the legendary blue-eyed soul duo Hall & Oates.  The program has great production values, and each episode’s musical performances are videotaped in Daryl’s basement recording studio.  (The link to “We Don’t Need Love Songs”:   http://youtu.be/6uOh_OSejQU..... The link to Live From Daryl’s House to view Fitz and company do other material:  https://youtu.be/abyNb8rrcUo?list=PLP7a0KcrE6Nujs4d3pAR4iKnDWzLSc8Rd

 

7. Hold On When You Get Love And Let Go When You Give It -- Stars.....from the album The North (2012).....Canadian group Stars’ shining lights are the principal vocalists Amy Millan and Torquil Campbell.  Originally from Toronto, this indie-rock-and-pop band migrated to New York City and then up into Montreal, where they reached the apex of the local indie scene upon the release of their debut album in 2001.  “Hold On...” is from the group’s sixth album (The North), and they’re still only simmering in this country in terms of cooking up massive popularity, but they continue to build up a loyal and lasting fan base with each new excursion into a given market.   http://youtu.be/2SYO6a6PaTs

 

8. Stranger To Love -- Rufus.....from the band’s 1978 album Street Player, their sixth.....One of the most talented musical ensembles of the 1970s and early 1980s, the interracial band Rufus defied easy categorization because they successfully straddled the world of rhythm & blues and rock, laced with funk and soul.  On several fronts they excelled--the musical sophistication at the heart of the band, the songwriting, and the seemingly boundless talents of lead vocalist Chaka Khan.  “Stranger To Love,” written by band keyboardist David “Hawk” Wolinski, has Khan righteously sailing above a lightly polished jazz-funk base, and the horn section from the ‘70s fusion band Seawind sweetens the effect.   http://youtu.be/HBuwhPgRFqo

 

9. Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City -- Bobby “Blue” Bland.....from Dreamer released in 1974.....I was streaming the 2011 movie Lincoln Lawyer recently, and became reacquainted--while the credits were giving way to the film--with this soulful tune from Bobby “Blue”...This Memphis-area artist was prolific--and successful, at least on the Rhythm & Blues circuits and national music charts--in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, and he churned out tunes that Blues Die-Hards today will still recognize--songs like “Farther Up The Road” (sometimes called “Further On Up The Road”), “I Pity The Fool”, “Turn On Your Love Light”, and “Stormy Monday Blues”...Back to the featured tune: Though musicasaurus.com prides itself on musical knowledge, somehow the Whitesnake version of “Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City” slithered right past me when the hard rock band’s debut EP hit record stores in 1978.  Just as well; I would have recoiled.   http://youtu.be/WcF8Aos4XDA

 

10. Learn How To Love -- Tedeschi Trucks Band.....from the band’s 2011 debut release Revelator.....Married musicians Derek Trucks of The Allman Brothers Band and blues-rock belter Susan Tedeschi professionally joined forces a few years back and brought to birth an 11-piece ensemble that absolutely scorches live AND in the studio.  “Learn How To Love” is aptly representative of their work together, anchored as it is by Trucks’ supple slide and Tedeschi’s ballsy beseechingness.  I have not witnessed them live before, and missed opportunities in the Pittsburgh area over the last few years at sites like Hartwood Acres and Stage AE and the Benedum, but I can get my blues-rock thirst quenched every time I view Clapton’s 2007 Crossroads Guitar Festival DVD, on which Tedeschi guests with the Derek Trucks Band on the old Junior Wells’ tune “Little By Little”.  This performance turned out to be a preview of coming attractions, as three years after that the musical union of Tedeschi & Trucks became permanent.   http://youtu.be/chR5fk7mElw

 

 

 

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Posted 11/28/16.....                                          

Musicasaurus.com is sending you right to YouTube, this time out…That’s the place I found all of these particular artists’ treasures, and each may or may not be otherwise available.  Enjoy…

1.) Sarah Jarosz – “Come On Up to the House”…..This twenty-five year old mandolin, guitar and banjo player from Texas covers Tom Waits in a 2010 performance in a trio setting, accompanied by fiddle and cello.  The song is from Waits’ Mule Variations album which hit record stores in 1999.  It’s a plucky cover version all the way around.  https://youtu.be/DzapgZI5SEc 

 

2.) Alabama Shakes – “Future People”….. Alabama Shakes, rattles and rolls.  Lead guitarist/vocalist Brittany Howard fronts this band of Alabamans that first reared their heads around 2009.  They went from endless bar and club touring to eventually crafting an independent release, which was then scooped up by ATO Records and re-released in 2012 with more marketing muscle behind it. The video here is a 2015 in-studio performance of "Future People" from their second release Sound & Color, which came out in April of 2015. Howard is a howler and (at the end of the video) a headbanger, and her band seems to straddle and intertwine blazing rock and blistering soul.  https://youtu.be/JbR999N5MiA 

 

3.) Darlingside – “Sweet and Low”…..I’ve seen Darlingside three times in Pittsburgh in the last few years, twice in a club but first as part of Calliope’s alt-country/bluesgrass/etc. series of shows at the prestigious Carnegie Lecture Hall which adjoins the Carnegie Museums of Art & Natural History.  Their music is hard to categorize—folk but a lot of weavings, actually—and these four Williams College alumni manage bass, violin, guitar, cello and kick drum, while harmonizing and accenting while all clustered around a single, self-standing microphone.  Mesmerizing stuff…Here, they are recorded live in 2016 in someone’s work garage(?) clustered as described with a guest singer as well—Caitlin Canty, a Nashville artist whose alto was labeled “a casually devastating voice” by the San Francisco Chronicle. “Sweet And Low” is devastatingly pretty.  https://youtu.be/xr5Adx54SxQ  

 

4.) Pickwick – “Hacienda Motel”…..On Halloween night 2016 a small “war party” of my family members, all in Seattle because of an October 29th wedding, dressed up in costume—as various Snapchat options—and ubered downtown to a club for some music.  The band that evening was named Pickwick, who daughter Moira had earlier picked up on from an NPR station back home.  According to Wikipedia, reviews of their latest release Can’t Talk Medicine say that the band sounds similar to, or could be a brew of, The Black Keys, Alabama Shakes and Sam Cooke.  The performance video here for “Hacienda Motel” dates from 2013.  https://youtu.be/yULM3MMe1mo

 

5.) James Brown and Luciano Pavarotti – “It's a Man's Man’s Man’s World”…..Pavarotti did a series of concerts (occasionally, and for a decade or more) of benefit types of things, and invited a slew of interesting guest performers, including Sting, James Brown, Bocelli, Bono, Zucchero, The Eurythmics, and others.  Pavarotti powered his way along in synch with each of the singers, focusing largely on that singer’s own material.  Here from a 2002 concert is James Brown doing an incendiary yet measured version of “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World” with Pavarotti’s electrifying interludes.  https://youtu.be/gb-B3lsgEfA

 

6.) West Side Story Flash Mob…..Just ahead of the 50th anniversary of the release of the film West Side Story, in order to help launch a looming special commemorative Blu-Ray of the film, a flash mob "invaded" Times Square in New York City a few days before November 15, 2011 and did justice to Jerome—Robbins, that is.  Choreographer Extraordinaire.  The cameras captured some exquisite angles of the mob in action here, while more and more dancers along the way slink in from the sidelines to help swell the numbers and deepen the impact.  https://youtu.be/WTtYu1djG90

 

7.) Lissie – “Pursuit of Happiness”…..Lissie was Annie at age nine in a high school play in her native Rock Island, Illinois, and so from an early age found her calling in music.  Her career trajectory includes opening for Lenny Kravitz and Tom Petty and recording with Snow Patrol, as well as releasing her own albums beginning in 2010.  But it is her dynamic interpretations of other people’s material that really shakes the rafters including this song plucked from a performance from 2010, a cover of Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness.”  You’ll become a believer:  https://youtu.be/PQMJCOT2wlQ 

 

8.) The Lumineers – “Cleopatra”…..This song, the title track of the Lumineers’ latest release, is taken from an April 1, 2016 hour-long performance for 90.3 KEXP at Columbia City Theater in Seattle.  Fast forward to the 13:40 mark, and ho, there you go; hey, you’re on your way:  https://youtu.be/353lHGbvu8o 

 

9.) Raphael Saadiq – “Stone Rollin'”…..Well, this is NOT a true concert performance clip from Saadiq.  Instead, it’s the official music video for the title track of this “old school” R & B artist’s fourth album, released in 2011.  And it’s smoldering.  And then stokes your inner fires.  It’s even guaranteed to get you into debates with friends as to whether this music video is “appropriate” in these Trumpian times—it’s that damn hot.  So regardless of your position on this, your temperature’s risin’.  https://youtu.be/wHyalVRUXrA 

 

10.) Joss Stone and Melissa Etheridge – “Cry Baby” / “Piece of My Heart”…..Taken from the 2005 Grammies, this is an incendiary teaming-up of the then 18-year-old British soul sensation Joss Stone with the 44-year-old American rocker Melissa Etheridge, who just a year prior had been diagnosed with breast cancer and then underwent surgery and chemo.  Grammy performances often disappoint due to the cheese factor, the show biz taint, and/or simply unwise pairings of performers—but this coupling slays, with the two women at the peak of their powers belting out their tribute to Janis Joplin with Stone’s flowing mane and Etheridge’s bald head.  It’s a visual and sonic wonder.  https://youtu.be/QX_1OUJapME 

 

 

 

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Posted 11/14/16.....                                          

Various Artists’ Mix.....cobbled together back on March 3, 2014.

1. Stars -- Dan Fogelberg.....from the artist’s 1972 debut album Home Free.....I can’t explain why I’ve come to like a couple of numbers by Fogelberg.  Older, mellower?  It’s not nostalgia, because I was never into the man (so to speak).  When I co-managed a record store in my relative youth, I pushed across the counter a good number of the Netherlands album plus a few other Fogelbergs, but his music never dented me when my co-managing compadre Gary and I deigned to play it on the in-store stereo system.  These days, this track and one other--“The Last Nail” from Captured Angel--are quite easy on the ears and even mesmerizing in a soft ‘70s way...“Stars” picks up mellow steam about a minute into the track, and at that point really kind of converts you.  https://youtu.be/Xjc15i_T8mI

 

2. The Prayer Cycle - A Choral Symphony In 9 Movements: #1. Mercy -- Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Alanis Morissette, Lawrence Schwartz, Linda Ronstadt, Liz Constantine, Martin Tillmann, Ofra Haza, Richard Bona, Salif Keïta, The American Boychoir, English Chamber Orchestra, English Chamber Chorus & Yungchen Lhamo (whew, Musicasaurus.com wasn’t sure we’d make it through the credits).....The Prayer Cycle is an ambitious and quite stirring blend of prayer, classical & world music, as masterminded by American film-and-television composer Jonathan Elias; the album was released on the Sony Classical label in 1999.  It works on many levels, but it is essentially a nine-part choral symphony utilizing twelve different languages (Swahili, Urdu, English, Italian, Hungarian, Tibetan, Spanish and more); reduced to a word, this long, flowing work centers on Faith.  On the track listed here, “Mercy,” Morissette is front and center as well as West African afro-pop artist Salif Keïta, and their reverent wails soar over and through the lush orchestral and choral support.  Fairly amazing stuff.   http://youtu.be/Yu58-2UiA1k

 

3. Vampires -- Bryan Elijah Smith.....from the 2010 album Pour On Me.....I don’t know if seeing this artist live in the summer of 2013 in a small, tucked-away club in tiny Thomas, West Virginia was key, but Smith continues to knock me out in terms of the passion in his alternative/country approach to songwriting and execution.  My friend Frank and I witnessed this four-piece unit unspool a full evening of original material and a few choice covers, and then we scooped up a few of the artist’s CDs from the young woman who worked the makeshift merch stand near the door.  “Vampires” is a moody and atmospheric alt-country chugger; it is meant for repeated plays where the simplicity of the song yields a deepened appreciation--also meant to be played loud.  No YouTube video currently exists of this particular track, so...   http://www.bryanelijahsmith.com/track/369104/vampires?feature_id=20455&trackship_id=180869

 

4. A Girl In The War -- Solas.....from The Turning Tide (2010).....I’ve followed this Irish-American band the last dozen years or so, through their personnel changes and their accomplished excursions into traditional tunes, contemporary self-penned pieces and intuitive covers.  Their craftsmanship (and craftswomanship?!!) is truly exemplary.  The band’s been anchored through the years by founding members Seamus Egan (flute, banjo, mandolin, tin whistle, low whistle, guitars and bodhran) and Winifred Horan (violins and vocals).  On this particular album, the featured female lead vocalist is Mairéad Phelan, who turns in a stirring and sensitive cover here of Josh Ritter’s “A Girl In The War”.  http://youtu.be/uKb6hc18Fzw

 

5. Stacy -- Chico Hamilton.....from the artist’s 1973 release entitled The Master.....One night a few weeks back, with nary a thought of my paltry retirement funds nor my more pressing utility bills, I surrendered to the alluring call of Amazon.com (like Odysseus to the Sirens), and plunked down a little over $40 for a single CD available from a seller in...Japan.  Yes, while surfing that night it was the only place I could find this largely out-of-print compact disc of jazz drummer Chico Hamilton playing not with a raft of peer musicians, but instead with five young pups from a rock band--Little Feat’s Lowell George, Paul Barrere, Kenny Gradney, Bill Payne and Sam Clayton.  I am not sure how Hamilton--born in 1921 and schooled in Duke Ellington, Count Basie and others of that ilk--ever latched on to Little Feat, but these L.A. rockers brought a nice bit of funk, R & B feel, and fusion to The Master’s table.  “Stacy” has a nice mid-tempo groove aided especially by George’s sinewy slide guitar and Payne’s fluid keyboards.  Maybe not a Master work, but certainly a Feat of accomplishment.  https://youtu.be/zpwIR2mnmm4

 

6. Warm Shadow -- Fink.....from the artist’s 2011 album Perfect Darkness.....Fink (real name Fin Greenall) is a British singer-songwriter who grew up in a household of music, and after leaving the roost he ventured into deejaying, producing, and performing.  “Warm Shadow” is a hypnotic, mildly menacing track from Perfect Darkness, Fink’s fifth album, and its sound is full of portent.  In addition to a warmly expressive vocal, there is some beautifully front-and-center acoustic guitar pickin’ that propels the tune along its moody pathways.  I became aware of Fink through, of all things, The Walking Dead.  Long into a binge one day in front of the teat we call the TV, I literally shifted up from my slouch when this song began somewhere deep within Episode 13 of Season 3.  The song somehow seemed destined for this show; they are both very emotionally gripping...maybe even sweetly sinister.   http://youtu.be/rR1-lyOxEVE

 

 

7. Left Of Center -- Suzanne Vega.....from the 1986 soundtrack to the John Hughes’ film Pretty In Pink.....Barnard graduate Vega essentially grew up in Greenwich Village, NYC and came up through the coffeehouse/club circuit.  Her largest commercial success through the years was her audio exposé “Luka” which dealt with child abuse and domestic violence; it was her only significant chart-topper in the USA, hitting #3 in Billboard Magazine’s Hot One Hundred in 1987.  “Left Of Center” is credited as being a musical collaboration with singer-songwriter Joe Jackson (no co-vocal, just piano), and it is a nice ode to individuality:  “If you want me / you can find me / left of center / off of the strip / In the outskirts / in the fringes / in the corner / out of the grip.”   http://youtu.be/vHNBozMNCIw

 

8. Ain’t No Rules -- Farewell Milwaukee.....from 2011’s When It Sinks In.....Musicasaurus.com reader Robert Klaus from North Carolina first turned me on to Farewell Milwaukee, whose only Wikipedia mention thus far stems from their inclusion on a Minneapolis radio station’s 2011 charity fundraising CD, Cities 97 Sampler Vol. 23Farewell Milwaukee does have a few albums available on iTunes though, and after scouring through, I latched onto the track “Ain’t No Rules”, a nice representation of their easy flowin’ country-rock approach.  The band has released four albums since 2009, and has been a cornerstone live presence in Minneapolis for the past nine years or so.  No studio version of this is on YouTube, so I will point you to...   https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/aint-no-rules/id436053736?i=436053742

 

9.  Dreams Today -- Efterklang.....from the album Piramida from 2012.....A few years back, a music-biz friend from Houston, Texas had pointed me toward an NPR piece on this alternative/electronica band from Copenhagen, Denmark.  They had just released a new album, and the background story was captivating--the songs were the product of an initial nine-day stay on a deserted Arctic island where the enterprising Danes sampled, collected, and coaxed out a myriad of sounds from the industrial fragments & leftovers of an abandoned Russian coal mining settlement.  The soundscape tidbits were then subtly integrated into the band’s music, and the organic, sweeping Piramida was the end result.  The song “Dreams Today” lends the listener clues to this larger canvas; the entire album is awash in elegance and imagination.  The following link leads to the NPR story about the band and its journey toward completing this album:  http://www.npr.org/blogs/therecord/2013/03/04/173274068/how-one-band-turned-a-ghost-town-into-a-giant-recording-studio?utm_medium=Email&utm_source=share

 

10. Corfu -- Claus Ogerman & Michael Brecker.....from the 1991 album Claus Ogerman Featuring Michael Brecker.....Ogerman was born in Germany in 1930, and at the age of 29 moved to the U.S. where he blossomed into a ceaseless arranger, composer and conductor.  Through the years he’s had his fingerprints on classic albums like the Sinatra-with-Antonio Carlos Jobim collaborations in the 1960s, George Benson’s immensely popular Breezin’ album (1976), and Diana Krall’s The Look Of Love (2001).  He also worked on countless arrangements for a multitude of artists’ recordings on the Verve and CTI jazz labels.  On his own, Ogerman has released a few albums of his original compositions which strive to marry the formidable force of jazz with a full classical music orchestra.  One of these successes is “Corfu,” the track listed here, which is an almost eight-minute voyage with sweet, sensitive strings and a host of “A+” session players that populate the whole album, including the co-featured primary artist Michael Brecker on tenor sax, but also Brecker brother Randy on trumpet, Abraham Laboriel, Sr. and Marcus Miller on bass, Robben Ford and Dean Parks on guitar, and Vinnie Colaiuta and Steve Gadd on drums.  Cannot locate on YouTube, and so...   https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/corfu/id120954708?i=120954711

 

 

 

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Monday, October 31, 2016:  No posting this time in BUILDING A MIXTERY…Please return to musicasaurus.com on Monday, November 14, 2016 for new entries…Thanks!

 

 

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Posted 10/17/16.....

Various Artists’ Mix.....Before the advent of iTunes, Musicasaurus.com was still putting playlists together for burning onto CDs, and this one hails from September 2000.  It’s got the blues, new wave, folk, R & B, and I remember it well:  It was a mishmash and I was making a splash, ‘long about a Saturday night... 

1. Love Is Stronger Than Pride -- Herbie Hancock.....from the 1996 album The New Standard.....Jazz keyboardist Hancock was early on a Miles Davis disciple (1963-1968), and continues to be musically adventurous to this day.  Like Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, Hancock’s a pioneering spirit who pushes boundaries, blends genres, and occasionally courts collaborators in the process.  On The New Standard, Hancock offers a mixed bag of signature rock and pop tunes that he pries apart, injects with pure jazz, and then reassembles for his smokin’ band to tackle.  The players:  Hancock on acoustic piano, Michael Brecker on saxes, John Scofield on guitar, Dave Holland on bass, Don Alias on percussion, and Jack DeJohnette on drums.  The songs include:  Don Henley’s “New York Minute,” Stevie Wonder’s “You’ve Got It Bad Girl,” Peter Gabriel’s “Mercy Street,” Simon & Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair,” Nirvana’s “All Apologies”, and the best of the lot, Sade’s “Love Is Stronger Than Pride.”   http://youtu.be/46FjTLsvcFo

 

2. Making Contact -- Bruce Cockburn.....from the 1984 album Stealing Fire.....I became aware of this Canadian folkie in the late 1970s, with an album called Dancing In The Dragon’s Jaws, and songs like “Creation Dream” and the modest U.S. hit “Wondering Where The Lions Are”.  But it was Stealing Fire that gained Cockburn more widespread attention due to his politics, with songs like “If I Had A Rocket Launcher” (I know the title sounds like one-upmanship of “If I Had A Hammer”, but it’s about the plight of Guatemalan refugees in Mexico).  The album is consistently fine, and includes less politically overt tunes like “Peggy’s Kitchen Wall” and the track listed here for this mix.   http://youtu.be/CNaJFHufWks

 

3. Trouble Man -- Buddy Guy.....from the 1993 album Feels Like Rain.....Louisiana-born Guy moved to Chicago in 1957 and made his early mark as a guitarist for Muddy Waters, then began a stretch of recording his own albums for the Chess record label.  Though deep blues aficionados have always known about the guy, his popularity eventually widened from constant touring but also from his move to Silvertone Records in the early ‘90s.  On these early Silvertone releases, some of his idol-worshiping musician friends began jumping aboard to collaborate.  Damn Right, I’ve Got The Blues (1991) included Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits on select tracks, and 1993’s Feels Like Rain--from which the Marvin Gaye cover “Trouble Man” is taken--featured guests like John Mayall, Travis Tritt, Bonnie Raitt, and Paul Rodgers (ex-Free and Bad Company).  I’m a little hazy on the following personal recollection, but I swear I saw Guy in the very late 1970s in McKees Rocks, PA (just outside of Pittsburgh) in a club called Mancini’s Lounge.  The memory is of Guy leaving the stage and--courtesy of a longgggg guitar cord--jumping up on the barkeep’s counter and strutting the entire length of it, peeling off hair-raising riffs left & right.  Damn right, I loved those blues!   https://youtu.be/a1-HqFoAfUI

 

4. How Could You Want Him (When You Know You Could Have Me) -- Spin Doctors.....from the band’s 1991 release Pocket Full Of Kryptonite.....A pop-savvy jam band who toured incessantly in the early ‘90s to build its fan base, the Doctors basked in well-earned success but it only came a full year after the album’s release, when there was a sort of good fortune cosmic convergence--MTV was on ‘em, radio was picking up tracks, they played on SNL in late ’92, and then they made the cover of the Rolling Stone in early ’93.  I worked at the time at Star Lake Amphitheatre in Pittsburgh, and remember having to convince their booking agent that the time was ripe for a play at our 23,000-capacity outdoor venue.  He rolled the dice with us, and the June ’93 headlining gig at Star Lake pulled in over 15,000 fans.  The album has a lot of treats like “Two Princes” and “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong”, but it is the track listed here that I found myself spinning quite a bit.   http://youtu.be/8VVHHm_A-8E

 

5. Sweetest Decline -- Beth Orton.....from Central Reservation (1999).....Through WYEP, the public-supported AAA (adult album alternative) station here in Pittsburgh, I learned of Beth Orton at the time of this album’s release.  Early on, her formative musical experiences revolved around William Orbit, a fellow Brit and ambient music / electronica artist (and eventual Madonna producer).  With the release of her second album Central Reservation, Orton eased up on the electronica and put the peddle down on pop, folk and jazz, all anchored by her evocative, mellifluous vocals.  “Sweetest Decline” is very fine; she flutters and sails above a smooth, almost easy-listening instrumental blend of primarily piano and sensitively set-in-motion strings.  It’s soothing and sensual stuff.   http://youtu.be/SjF6akZ2WqI

 

6. The Whole Town’s Laughing At Me -- Teddy Pendergrass.....from the artist’s 1977 self-titled solo debut album.....Philadelphian Pendergrass was drumming with a doo-wop/early rock & roll band called The Cadillacs when Harold Melvin plucked him in 1970 to join him and his Blue Notes.  The latter band then found pop and rhythm & blues chart success starting in 1972 with the tune “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” (sung by Teddy, who had given up the sticks).  The artist then split from the Blue Notes in ’76, and a year later released his self-titled debut which oozed soul and self confidence--Teddy was ready.  He could have dubbed himself LL Cool Ted, for the ladies lapped him up and gave him sell-out concerts and incredible album & single sales for the next six years running.  A tragic car accident in 1982 left Pendergrass a quadriplegic, and though he continued to record, he didn’t appear live in concert anywhere until 1985’s Live Aid concert in Philly, reemerging--in his wheelchair--to sing Ashford & Simpson’s “Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hand)”.  The track included on this mix, “The Whole Town’s Laughing At Me,” is a pure delight with producer team Gamble & Huff’s sweet arrangement, soulful back-up singers, and Pendergrass’ kinda-gravelly, exquisitely commanding vocal.   http://youtu.be/RvdOvUv0mYk

 

7. Migra -- Santana.....from the 1999 album Supernatural.....Carlos Santana was once upon a time a true rock god, though he looked a bit like the devil.  Check him out in the film Woodstock, where he’s on-stage and garbed in a black shirt, leading the charge on a song entitled “Soul Sacrifice” (hmmm).  A few months after that, in November of 1969, my friend’s big brother took us to see Janis Joplin at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena and the opening act was Santana.  He was even more devilish in appearance then, in black shirt and black leather pants, and once again was a sizzling soul stirrer through his lightning fast guitar runs...Flash forward to his amazing commercial comeback thirty years later, in the hands of Arista Record Company head Clive Davis.  The latter signed Santana to his label in 1999 and set about stocking the planned new album (the artist’s seventeenth) with guest stars in an obvious attempt to scale new commercial heights and sell a shitload of records--and it worked.  The album featured Matchbox Twenty’s Rob Thomas on “Smooth”, The Product G&B on “Maria Maria”, Everlast on “Put Your Lights On”, Lauryn Hill, Eric Clapton, and more.  The album did incredibly well and was a #1 top seller in ten countries including the U.S.  The track that holds up for me, though, is “Migra”, which takes me back to my earlier days of wonderment over Carlos’ superb tone and his hellacious all-out attack.   http://youtu.be/rBkDK0AngXY

 

8. Ride The Wind To Me -- Julie Miller.....from the artist’s 1999 album Broken Things.....Julie and Buddy Miller are an item, as they say, married since ’81 and part of the Nashville alt-country music scene.  Buddy’s an unstoppable force, having played powerhouse guitar with the likes of Emmylou Harris (in her four-piece outfit Spyboy) and Robert Plant’s Band of Joy (which also featured Patty Griffin).  Julie started her solo recording career in 1990 on Christian label Myrrh, and then settled in with Hightone Records in 1997 for a few releases (some with Buddy).  “Ride The Wind To Me” is a bit Lucinda soundin’, but really more reminiscent of female folk-rocker Sam Phillips.  The album from which this track is taken features twelve tunes all written by Miller, and it boasts some impressive contributors including husband Buddy, Patty Griffin, Steve Earle and Emmylou Harris.   http://youtu.be/psClOIbvU2o

 

9. 1880 Or So -- Television.....from the 1992 eponymous release.....Television was one of the bands that first formed back in the punk explosion days of the mid-to-late 1970s, when the first wave of the New Wave rolled into the Manhattan, NYC club CGBG--bands like The Ramones, Talking Heads, Blondie, and Patti Smith Group, and lesser lights but perfectly-named punkers like The Dead Boys, Richard Hell & The Voidoids, and The Cramps.  Television’s distinction was the two-guitar attack and made-for-punk vocal style of lead singer-songwriter Tom Verlaine.  The ace second guitarist in the band was the incendiary Richard Lloyd and the two were interweaving specialists.  None of this really translated into much commercial success for the band back in the punk heyday, but in 1992 the group reformed (some say because of the early ‘90s Seattle scene with Nirvana and the like) and issued this self-titled, admirable outing.  “1880 Or So” is simply enchanting, leavened with the spunk of punk, a mid-tempo “best example” of how deliciously this band could float along on intertwining guitars and Verlaine’s genre-appropriate vocals.  Infectious stuff.   http://youtu.be/TZfq2D1hv-8

 

10. Rock & Roll -- Johnny Winter.....from the 1973 album Still Alive And Well.....The same year that his brother Edgar’s band had the smash instrumental pop hit “Frankenstein”, Johnny released his Still Alive And Well album, aptly named as he’d recently risen from the lows of heroin, having sought treatment and eventually breaking on through to the other side.  The album was a supercharged victory lap, powered by great song selection (including the self-penned tune listed here) and Winter’s balls-out style of blues-infused rock.  In one of his Consumer Guide reviews, famed Village Voice critic Robert Christgau wrote, Winter will never be an especially personable singer, but I like what's he's putting out on this monkey-off-my-comeback: two late-Stones covers, plenty of slide, and a good helping of nasty.”  Old Man Winter is regrettably no longer with us, having boarded the Train to Glory in 2014 at the age of 70.   http://youtu.be/jOuj95k_gRA

 

 

 

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Posted 10/3/16.....

A mix of alt-country, jazz, old R & B, Third World and more...

1. Dinner For Two -- David Byrne & St. Vincent.....from the 2012 collaborative album Love This Giant.....This head Head and Tulsa-born singer-songwriter & multi-instrumentalist combined forces in 2012 for an album and a tour, and this representative track, “Dinner For Two”, is literally brassy (pumped through with horns) as well as classy.  The song sounds a bit more Byrne than Vincent, though on her own releases, she spins different influences into arresting compositions that are part pop, chamber music, cabaret, indie rock, electronica and more.  St. Vincent recently released her fourth solo album in February 2014 entitled simply St. Vincent.   http://youtu.be/elpS-uX7Mdk

 

2. Lickin Stick -- George Torrence and The Naturals.....from an R&B / Soul collection released in 2010 entitled Dr. Boogie Presents Wasa Wasa (Fabulous Rhythm ‘n’ Blues Shakers On The Dancefloor 1952-1968).....“Lickin Stick” is a gritty soulful slice of funk originally released as a single (45 rpm) in 1967, and musicasaurus.com tracked down the roots-rich compilation that now houses it on iTunes recently...Torrence was a Washington, D.C. singer who started out in doo-wop around 1958.  Through the next decade he morphed from the group harmony thing to more James Brown-inspired work, and “Lickin Stick” is his swan song recording before leaving the music business full-time.  He eventually founded his own church in Duncan, Oklahoma in 1992, and is pastor as well as sidelines singer, occasionally releasing some of his own gospel music CDs.   http://youtu.be/gk1STeEwTQs

 

3. Be Still My Heart -- Peter Bradley Adams.....from the artist’s 2011 release Between Us.....I first discovered this song on a compilation CD, the Nashville Indie Spotlight 2014.  Adams has several things going for him:  An understated, breathy vocal style; good songwriting instincts; and far-from-overblown, spot-on production that serves each song.  Consider him an alternative Americana artist worth checking into...   http://youtu.be/kbjnF8gHGDU

 

4. Space -- Chick Corea’s Elektrik Band II.....from Paint The World (2010).....When I need a break from earthbound concerns because I’m mired in mental lists of what I have to do and where I have to be, I unplug and give myself “Space.”  Keyboardist Corea played with Miles Davis in the 1960s and then forged his own pathways into more expansive jazz-rock-fusion, creating the legendary Return To Forever ensemble in 1972 that also had as members bassist Stanley Clarke, Brazilian vocalist Flora Purim and ubiquitous jazz-scene percussionist Airto Moreira.  In 1986 Corea formed his first Electrik Band that carried through to 1991, and then he and saxophonist Eric Marienthal spun off to form Electrik Band II.  Some jazz fusion is tough to swallow, too challenging to do much more than stir “appreciation” in the listener, but the tune included here is such a melodic and flowing piece that most (despite individual musical bent) will find it both accessible and hypnotic.   http://youtu.be/Yw4ooKt6N0w

 

5. Look Out For My Love -- Linda Ronstadt.....from the artist’s 1980 release Mad Love.....After her string of 1970s critical and commercial triumphs including Prisoner In Disguise, Hasten Down The Wind, Simple Dreams, etc., Ronstadt went all punk on us but stayed rock-and-pop rooted, of course--enough to make this particular release her seventh consecutive million-selling album.  On Mad Love, Ronstadt worked with Mark Goldenberg of The Cretones, an L.A. band that had been recently riding the New Wave, so this latest from Linda contained that punkish edge on some tracks.  Here on “Look Out For My Love”, Ronstadt lends a needed bit of grit to this Neil Young composition, originally recorded for the latter’s Comes A Time album.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYWIJDVEiiE

 

6. Miles End -- Gomez.....from the group’s third album In Our Gun (2002).....Indie band Gomez is hard to pigeonhole; they are British and three of the five members (all still intact since their 1996 formation) sing vocals, and four of the five contribute to songwriting.  Their music varies greatly so a Gomez tune isn’t necessarily easy to spot by its lonesome--but as different as they are, the songs are largely compelling, warm and unpredictable.  In 2006 the band signed with Dave Matthew’s record label ATO, and they also toured as his opener on some DMB tours...Fetching stuff for ears that crave not the same old thing.   http://youtu.be/_cJNSPGGArs

 

7. Emajer -- Tinariwen.....from the 2014 album Emmaar.....Tinariwen is a band--really, a politically-born musical collective--from the Saraha regions of Mali.  They are part of the Tuareg, a nomadic people who stem from the Berbers of North Africa, and the band has experienced much upheaval in their homeland as well as growing recognition beyond their borders (beginning in the 2000s) for their intoxicating musical style.  The music hews to their traditional Tuareg melodies but is influenced by the guitar styles of West African music, other Malian musicians like Ali Farka Toure (who had recorded with Ry Cooder), and even some Western artists (such as Santana and Hendrix) whose bootleg recordings made their way into the collective’s collections many years ago.  “Emajer” is a treat--an uplifting, rhythmically alive tune.  Sad to say that I missed a chance to witness this band live in concert in the Spring of 2014 in Pittsburgh, when they had slipped into town on April 1st for a performance at the Andy Warhol Museum; I had plans that were set in stone and couldn’t be chiseled apart.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fIknRjiTFIA&list=PLJ7QPuvv91Jsf2mEnwtCaVyxkuLMkRJF6&feature=share&index=9

 

8.  Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) -- The Beatles.....from 1965’s Rubber Soul.....The classic Lennon-McCartney tune, sung by John with sitar by George...The song was reportedly written mostly by Lennon with the subject matter a marital affair, and McCartney apparently added the fuel to the fire at song’s end (“And when I awoke I was alone / This bird had flown / So I lit a fire / Isn’t it good Norwegian wood?”).  Also, this was the first appearance of a sitar on a Western pop song, and Harrison continued his interest in Indian music and instruments as the band went on to record their next few albums Revolver (check out “Tomorrow Never Knows”) and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (“Within You Without You”).   https://youtu.be/eeQksRHT9Yo

 

9.  Only Lies -- Robert Ellis.....from the 2014 album The Lights From The Chemical Plant.....Present day formula country music leaves musicasaurus.com cold cold cold, but Ellis is of the new breed, I think.  In “Only Lies”, a steel guitar sweeps the listener along a la some of Whiskeytown’s sweet, sinewy works (like “Jacksonville Skyline”), so Ellis joins the ranks here as one of my current alt-country favorites. The album is also indelibly aided by Chemical Plant’s producer Jacquire King, who has lent his ideas of space, touch and tone to other artists such as Tom Waits and Kings of Leon.  But it’s also Ellis’ lyrics that are far above the norm; they deal incisively with Life’s small moments and big stakes.   http://youtu.be/Pq_-NBq_hZ8

 

10.  Me And Baby Jane -- Leon Russell.....from the 1972 album Carney.....I’ve run into people that can’t abide Russell due to his voice, but who still love some of his material nonetheless, like the classic tune “A Song For You” that’s been covered by artists ranging from Andy Williams and The Carpenters to Amy Winehouse and Simply Red, and “My Masquerade”, covered by many but most notably by George Benson on his pop crossover sales behemoth Breezin’ from 1976.  “Me And Baby Jane” is from Carney, Russell’s third solo studio album, which in addition to “My Masquerade” featured the signature tune “Tight Rope”.  After this album, Russell’s chart success faded a bit but his legendary band ringleader skills--for Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs & Englishman tour and album, and George Harrison’s Concert For Bangladesh event and album--preserve his status as one of the most accomplished members of 1970s rock royalty.   http://youtu.be/4hQIhWasQRM

 

 

 

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Posted 9/19/16.....

Musicasaurus.com spun you some dreams in a ten-tune mix posted on 11/3/14, and here are eight MORE songs that you can flesh out that playlist with…Enjoy!

1. Don’t Dream It’s Over – Crowded House.....New Zealander Neil Finn started up Crowded House in 1985 after his former group Split Enz dissolved, fomented by the departure of his brother Tim.  The new group then migrated to Los Angeles for the purpose of label shopping, and ended up cultivating a sweet and sophisticated pop sound for growing audiences in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  Interestingly, their 1986 self-titled Capitol Records debut (which holds this particular track) came out of the stalls somewhat...stalled.  The band felt that Capitol was delivering insufficient promotion and attention, so they “worked it” themselves for the next six months straight, doing industry acoustic gigs, record store appearances, song sessions in key markets’ restaurants, and appearances on talk shows. After this barrage of self-promotion, the album climbed into the Top Forty charts, and “Don’t Dream It’s Over” became, eventually, an international hit.  https://youtu.be/J9gKyRmic20

 

2. Outside Of A Dream – The Push Stars.....This track is a lovely little alt-pop song (more pop than alt) by this Boston-based trio, who’s only real dent in the public consciousness came from another song of theirs included in the 1998 film There’s Something About Mary (“Everything Shines”).  The band formed in 1996, and their first major-label record, After the Party, came out three years later.  In 2003, Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty loved what he’d heard of their fourth album in progress, and took them on tour with Matchbox as the opening act.  The following year that fourth album progressed to the finish line: 2004’s Paint the Town, from which this track is taken.  https://youtu.be/iPUzHtTAqJY

 

3. Dreams (live) – Fleetwood Mac.....This song is plucked from the Mac’s 2004 release Live in Boston.  It was the first U.S. live album from the band in 24 years, recorded as part of the cross country Say You Will tour.  The core line-up of the group at this juncture was the Rumours-era band sans Christine McVie.  The production on Live in Boston is quite good with Nicks in great voice and Buckingham, as usual, displaying his renowned guitaristry (just made up a word right there, but it seems to fit).  https://youtu.be/iEhWwz2XcV0

 

4. Sweet Soul Dream – World Party.....This beautiful ballad is from perhaps World Party’s best record, Goodbye Jumbo, which was released in 1990.  World Party auteur Karl Wallinger (he’s a one-man band) was weaned on Revolver-era Beatles and Motown, and he artfully incorporates these influences into pure pop nuggets like this particular track.  “Sweet Soul Dream” is immediately fetching, and repeated listenings are richer yet.  https://youtu.be/ilkSdtO0fdE

 

5. Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of These) – Eurythmics.....The English duo of Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart absolutely ruled the 1980s.  They were part of a batch of British synth-pop performers rising up early in the decade, and Stewart’s songwriting and production coupled with Lennox’s powerful voice guaranteed that they’d outlive that pack.  This particular track (from the album of the same name) was # 2 in the UK and # 1 in the United States when it was released in the Spring of 1983.  MTV was still in its infancy at that point (having been “born” late in the summer of 1981), and the Eurythmics’ androgynous video of “Sweet Dreams” immeasurably boosted the band’s popularity.  https://youtu.be/qeMFqkcPYcg

 

6. Dreams Be Dreams – Jack Johnson.....Hawaiian champion surfer and singer/songwriter Johnson partially parrots Buffett and channels Dave Matthews in a laidback and successful groove all of his own.  His debut album Brushfire Fairytales was a huge record in 2001, beginning a streak of platinum-level sales resulting from the audio embrace of twentysomethings and college kids all across the country.  Johnson also delved below his normal fan base with 2006’s Sing-A-Longs and Lullabies for the Film Curious George, which made him Top Banana with the kid crowd as well…The track “Dreams Be Dreams” comes from Johnson’s 2003 release On And On.  https://youtu.be/7ePIeUQ4BSU

 

7. Dreams – Yonder Mountain String Band.....By the time this Colorado jamgrass band issued the album from which this track came—1999’s The Shout—they were into their eleventh year as a unit, and had released ten albums overall, more than half of them live recordings.  The track here is a lopin’ along kinda song, reminiscent of some of the Grateful Dead’s shufflin’ tunes with perhaps a whiff of Neil Young circa Harvest.  YMSB is basically banjo, mandolin, guitar, bass and harmonica—and their live shows are best, as scores of jamgrass festival-goers would attest.  https://youtu.be/Hgxr60KfD1U

 

8. Your Wildest Dreams – Moody Blues.....This band of Brits formed in 1964 and for the first few years were rhythm & blues based, but after personnel changes brought John Lodge and Justin Hayward into the fold in 1966, the group changed directions.  In 1967, their record label Decca—desiring to promote its new stereo sound technology to the English masses—came up with the idea of recording a “rock version” of Dvorak’s New World Symphony.  The Moodies and their producer put the kybosh on that concept right before recording started, but they stayed somewhat on course to create a wonderful mix of classical music and rock ‘n’ roll—1967’s Days of Future Passed.  This mix of orchestral sweep and British rock synched up perfectly with the emerging preferences of young music fans for more psychedelic and trippy music, and the Moodies carried this banner for many years to follow...The track listed here, “Your Wildest Dreams”, is from their 1986 release The Other Side of Life.  https://youtu.be/kmmPFrkuPq0

 

 

 

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Musicasaurus.com has clawed out some vacation time, so the next fresh posting will be on Monday, September 19th ….Please return then!

 

 

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Posted 8/22/16.....

M I X   F O R   T H E   N E W   H O M E...

A mix for those on the move, or those who have moved:  A heartwarming housewarming present...

1. Bring It On Home – Little Big Town.....A country music quartet of two men and two women, Little Big Town came together as one in Nashville in 1998.  It wasn’t until their second album The Road To Here (2005) that they truly garnered success with two consecutive Top Ten country hits, including the track listed here.  All four band members swap on lead vocals and/or blend in various lead and harmony combinations, and the music isn’t pure country (damn strait!); on a few of the album’s tracks, like one entitled “Bones”, they put a kind of Fleetwood Mac feel over that pedal steel.  https://youtu.be/8l4AC5rUSUo 

 

           

2. Can't Find My Way Home (live) – Eric Clapton & Steve Winwood.....When this pairing came together for a full concert performance in February 2008, it was the first time in 40 years and luckily preservation efforts included a CD and DVD, Live From Madison Square Garden.  The set list included “Presence Of The Lord,” “Had To Cry Today,” and the song listed here for the mix, “Can’t Find My Way Home.”  These live Blind Faith renditions joined other career signposts from the duo, including material from solo Clapton releases, Traffic albums, and the one-and-only Derek & The Dominos studio release.  https://youtu.be/_U9f0vy3iDM

 

                       

3. Homeless – Paul Simon.....One of the first major US artists to immerse themselves quite publicly in the music of South Africa, Simon teamed up with some high-profile musicians from that country to record Graceland, his much-praised melting pot achievement from 1986.  The song “Homeless” features Ladysmith Black Mambazo, a male choral group who found Graceland to be their ticket to international recognition; their performance on this song is hushed, intricate and spellbinding.  https://youtu.be/x__kcVB1DxU 

 

4. A House Is Not A Home – Stan Getz…..I have my father to thank for me getting into Getz.  Around my parent’s house when I was a wee one, our stereo console in the living room was littered with my mom’s 45 RPMs and show tune albums, but I eventually uncovered a few Ella Fitzgerald albums in the bottom of the bookcase that my father had stored there for safekeeping—and there were some Stan Getz records there as well.  It wasn’t until years later that I fully surrendered to the warm sound of this brilliant player…“A House Is Not A Home” hails from Stan Getz’s 1968 album What The World Needs Now: Stan Getz Plays Bacharach and David.  The song was originally written for and recorded by Dionne Warwick for a film of the same name in 1964, but in this case please go with my suggestion for the sax man’s instrumental version—it Getz no better than that.  https://youtu.be/90Dj2gHWcZ8

 

5. Night Ride Home – Joni Mitchell.....This is the title tune of Mitchell’s 14th album from 1991, and once again this innovative folk-jazz songstress spins a tantalizing web of lyrical confession and sonic splendor.  “Night Rode Home” features the artist’s rhythmic acoustic strumming, some subtle pedal steel accompaniment, and the song-long sound of crickets capping off this tale of a moonlit drive one night in Hawaii:  “I love the man beside me / We love the open road / No phones till Friday / Far from the undertow / Far from the overload.”  https://youtu.be/GlCVJ1Adewg

 

6. Long Walk Home – Bruce Springsteen.....The 2007 album Magic was Springsteen’s return to full E Street backing, his first since 2002’s The Rising (with interim departures into a more spare solo album and then a Pete Seeger tribute record).  Magic is a decent Bruce/E Street Band record with a few standout tracks like this one; it just isn’t in the same league with heavy hitters like Born To Run, and The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle.  The latter albums have a long and storied shelf life, and deservedly so; Magic proves that The Boss just can’t pull a rabbit out of his hat at every turn.  https://youtu.be/iywFZqtPlhU

         

7. When Will You Come Back Home? – Ryan Adams & The Cardinals.....Prolific singer-songwriter Adams routinely releases albums in abundance, with at least one a year since 1999, and sometimes two in a given twelve-month period.  In 2005, Adams teamed up with new back-up band The Cardinals to produce the double album Cold Roses, hailed as a return to Adams’ more overt country-rock leanings.  “When Will You Come Back Home” is one of 18 tracks on this double-record set that sensibly strayed from the more experimental leanings of Adams’ past few works.  https://youtu.be/kPKuYl-0abc

 

8. Bring It On Home to Me – Sam Cooke.....Raised in Chicago, Illinois, soul singer-songwriter Cooke had a string of classic late 1950s and early 1960s Top Forty hits—a lot of them his own compositions—including “Another Saturday Night”, “Cupid”, “You Send Me”, Having A Party”, A Change Is Gonna Come”, “Only Sixteen”, “Twistin’ The Night Away”, “Meet Me At Mary’s Place” and many more.  The song listed here is taken from a compilation album of Cooke’s successful singles during the stretch 1957 through 1962.  It is one of his greatest works, and has been covered by a slew of folks including Lennon and McCartney (separately), The Animals, Rod Stewart, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Van Morrison, Aretha, and The Dixie Chicks.  https://youtu.be/Dl5usKhGz60

 

9. Home – Barenaked Ladies.....This sly & cerebral party band from Canada achieved a wave of USA fan fervor in the 1990s, as their constant touring and legendary live shows—featuring the sharp, between-song wit & witticisms of frontmen Steven Page and Ed Robertson—brought them converts galore.  Their career apex seemed to be 1998’s Stunt album which contained the radio hit “One Week”, but the band had sewed these seeds from years before, with the aforementioned touring and cult-building compositions like “Brian Wilson” and “If I Had A $1,000,000”...“Home” is a sweet straight-ahead ballad from the Ladies’ seventh studio record Barenaked Ladies Are Me (2006).  https://youtu.be/ayYGYZCRHvo

 

10. Homesick Son – Boo Hewerdine.....Folk-pop singer-songwriter Hewerdine is a Brit who’s been flying well below the radar of widespread fame since the late 1980s.  Critics lined up to praise Hewerdine’s 1989 teaming with Texan Darden Smith on an album called Evidence, and the track “All I Want Is Everything” was a great tune that got passed around amongst the critics and the more perceptive members of the public.  After releasing Evidence, Hewerdine continued along in a solo vein with his acoustic guitar and records released fairly consistently through the 2000s.  “Homesick Son” is a calming mix-closer here, taken from the artist’s 1999 album Thanksgiving(Ugh, there is no current YouTube video for this, nor can I locate it in iTunes at the moment, so no link from me for this one...Seek elsewhere and Ye shall find, I hope and pray.)

 

 

 

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Posted 8/8/16.....

THE ANGELS MIX.....Who’s watchin’ over you?  If you feel a presence, or just need a friend to feel the same, then add to this starter-mix of ten songs that are heavenly in one way or another...

1. Of Angels and Angles – The Decemberists.....To state the obvious, pretty much everything’s gone niche and everyone’s the better for it (meaning the end-user music consumer).  We used to be more in that mass consumption mode, led and fed by mass media.  Now with the net we get our satiation from a million musical directions, and skittering about out there in the musical maw are The Decemberists.  This Portland, Oregon band formed in the year 2000 and proved to be fetchingly peculiar; they ably wield the accordion, guitar and Hammond organ, and blend alternative flourishes with British folk, often spinning tales that reveal a deep appreciation of world history obscurities... “Of Angels and Angles” comes from the group’s 2005 release Picaresque.  http://youtu.be/pTwh01MLSjY

 

2. Seven Spanish Angels – Ray Charles.....This song hails from Charles’ 1984 album Friendship, which exemplified the artist’s 1980s output of country-pop records and his collaborations in that realm.  The album was produced by Nashville behind-the-boards wiz Billy Shirrell, and this track is a choir-filled, sweet pedal steel treat with Willie Nelson on co-vocals.  Other country artists joined Charles in this clean and crisp string-backed outing including, on various tunes, Merle Haggard, The Oak Ridge Boys, Chet Atkins & George Jones, and Hank Williams, Jr.  http://youtu.be/h1g36CXfQ00

 

3. Angel To Be – The Subdudes.....This largely acoustic band is a hefty stew of influences, with Cajun spices and bubblings-up of R&B, the blues, gospel, funk and more...The group first recorded as a unit in their native N’awlins in 1989, but they’ve also guested on songs recorded by Joni Mitchell, Shawn Colvin and Rosanne Cash.  The track listed here is from the group’s third release Annunciation (1994), and it sports a sprightly accordion, bright harmonies, and fine acoustic pickin’--perfect for roots music fans (particularly of the head-bobbin’, hand-clappin’ variety).  http://youtu.be/Uyjo6ZScoOM

 

4. Angel – Rod Stewart.....Musicasaurus.com could certainly have gone right to the master, and placed Hendrix’s 1971 posthumously-released original recording here in the mix, but the chance to showcase “early Rod Stewart” in an exquisite cover version was too tempting...This “Angel” comes from Stewart’s 1972 album Never A Dull Moment, and it’s successful as an intuitive cover and an overhaul, with great production on the track and the singer’s trademark rasp ‘n’ roll vocals.  Stewart was in his prime during this time period, after releasing arguably his most satisfying and sustaining album Every Picture Tells A Story, just one year prior... http://youtu.be/xngpn52hUbU

 

5. (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes – Elvis Costello.....1978 was a fertile year for first albums by some of the “new wave”, including The Police, The Cars, Devo, Midnight Oil, Dire Straits and others.  In that lot appeared a checkerboard album cover with a Buddy Holly-lookin’ Brit in the center named Elvis Costello.  Musicasaurus.com’s elder community will remember dropping the needle on Side Two of My Aim Is True, where cymbals crashed, guitars chimed, and an edgy pop vocal erupted with the words “Oh I used to be disgusted / Now I try to be amused. / But since their wings have got rusted / you know, the angels wanna wear my red shoes.”...Costello’s been a mainstay of cool, from early punkish snarling to becoming Diana Krall’s darling; the guy’s simply an abundant, tireless talent.  http://youtu.be/Ab_IO-SlK5w

 

6. Sent By Angels – Arc Angels.....A powerhouse blues-infused rock band that raised its flag and staked its claim just once—isn’t it a pity.  We’ve all picked up on “supergroup” combinations being touted by the press through the years, and often that’s just some talented individuals who bring their egos & styles into the melting pot but don’t subsume them—and the result is not the sum of its parts.  This foursome—comprised of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Double Trouble rhythm section of bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris Layton, overlain with searing guitarists Charlie Sexton and Doyle Bramhall II—managed to forge a real band and produce this one touchstone rock record (the 1992 self-titled release).  On the album and CD liner notes, the band’s dedication reads:  “...to our friend, Stevie Ray Vaughan.  We miss you.”  Vaughan died in a helicopter crash after an amphitheatre performance outside of East Troy, Wisconsin in 1990.  http://youtu.be/0cVS_aqCRQI

 

7. She Talks To Angels – Black Crowes.....The Crowes, like Pearl Jam and a few other unconventional rockers, have a great and deserved reputation as a live band, so musicasaurus.com seeks out those opportunities when the Crowes do an occasional Pittsburgh-area fly-by.  On album, some of the material is less than gripping, but certain songs hit the mark including this one from the band’s 1990 debut album Shake Your Money Maker.  The tracks that originally resonated on Money Maker--at least to the earliest adopters and the radio stations--included “Jealous Again” and the Otis Redding cover “Hard To Handle”, but musicasaurus.com leans heavily toward this longer, more sweeping track and other more mid-tempo Stones-like tunes that rolled out later on, like “Thorn In My Pride”.  http://youtu.be/2on6tBOU4AA

 

8. Angels Walk – Paul Westerberg.....Westerberg led the influential Minneapolis punk band The Replacements from 1979 until their disbandment in 1991.  He released his first solo album in 1993, and the next was one that followed three years afterward entitled Eventually, from which this particular track is taken...The album doesn’t proffer punk; Westerberg left that largely behind with The Replacements, and instead crafted a path toward solid, still slightly-skewed songs that were a mix of Rolling Stones-style rockers (with an alternative edge & attitude) and non-cloying ballads.  Other notable tracks on Eventually, in addition to “Angels Walk”, include “Good Day”, “Love Untold”, and “Time Flies Tomorrow”.  http://youtu.be/Wv-jKnJRcjg

 

9. Angel From Montgomery (live) – Bonnie Raitt.....Singer-songwriter and blues-rock guitarist Raitt’s been around since the early 1970s and has had fits & starts of widespread acclaim, including her first major brush with the masses over 1989’s Nick Of Time, a record that ended up netting three Grammys including Album of the Year.  By 2012 she’d released her sixteenth studio album Slipstream, though for this particular Angel mix, musicasaurus.com hearkened back to Raitt’s 1995 double-live record called Road Tested.  Recorded in 1995 over various nights in Portland, Oregon and Oakland, California, the album pretty much amounted to a Raitt retrospective with very special guests.  Part of the lovely appeal of this version of John Prine’s classic “Angel From Montgomery”--besides Raitt’s masterful reading--is her peer-group chorus on background vocals, all lending a hand (and voice) to raise the stakes on this evocative closing number:  Jackson Browne, Bryan Adams and Kim Wilson of The Fabulous Thunderbirds.  https://youtu.be/0Z5R_9TTv0c

 

10. Fallen Angel - Robbie Robertson.....This is the admirable solo debut from one of the lead architects of The Band, coming eleven years after the breakup of the original group...Robertson didn’t fully tread back to Band turf with this 1987 eponymous release.  Instead it features a hearty assortment of song styles, some of which do capture the old unit’s grandeur and all of them blessed by the deft atmospheric touches of album producer Daniel Lanois, who had also helmed some landmark albums by U2 and Peter Gabriel.  The track listed here, the album’s opener, in fact featured Gabriel on accompanying vocals and it’s a song very much in his vein.  “Fallen Angel” is hypnotic and even lump-in-throat material, as it is a quite beautifully written and produced ode to one of The Band’s fallen comrades, multi-instrumentalist & songwriter Richard Manuel who left this world after drugs and depression in a 1986 suicide.  http://youtu.be/0MGXnMLESEA

 

 

 

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Posted 7/25/16.....

1973...The Vietnam War draws to a close...Roe v. Wade becomes the law of the land...Nixon’s secret Oval Office tapes come to light, and Watergate becomes his Waterloo...and I was straddling semesters at the end of my sophomore year and the beginning of my junior year, in college.  This was a time when new albums frenzily traded hands in dormitory and/or college apartment life, and music fueled us in most aspects of our lives...Here are ten tunes from brand new albums released that year, which will put you firmly on the path toward creating your own perfect mix from 1973:

1. Had I Known You Better Then – Hall & Oates.....Musicasaurus.com is old enough (that’s been firmly established, I think) to remember the joy of putting the needle down on Side One of an album, once the shrink-wrap was torn from the cover and the album was gently released from its sleeve into one cupped hand, fingers & thumb positioned such that not a single oily digit-print got onto the platter...This song from 1973’s Abandoned Luncheonette was Side One/Track Two, and while never a Hall & Oates hit, it is a pure pop breeze that captures the essence of this Philly-bred blue-eyed soul duo.  It has those distinctly different yet eminently compatible lead voices, weaving harmonies, and sophisticated musicianship; the perfect blend of rock sensibilities and rhythm & blues.  This album also contained the classic “She’s Gone” (Side One/Track Four of this platter, if you’re waxing nostalgic) which as a pop single--re-released a couple of years after Abandoned Luncheonette came out--broke the band into wider circles of acclaim and eventually boosted the album to platinum sales status.     http://youtu.be/SN6HcuhDfIg

 

2. Poison Whiskey -- Lynyrd Skynyrd.....The seeds of Skynyrd started in Jacksonville, Florida as early as 1964, but by ’73 they had their line-up solidified and a new band name courtesy of their disciplinarian high-school Phys-Ed teacher Leonard Skinner...“Poison Whiskey” is a little over 3 minutes of Southern-style rock ‘n’ roll with lovely layers of guitar, and organ courtesy of musician/producer Al Kooper.  The latter had signed the band and literally put them on the road to success--on the heels of this debut album, Pronounced 'lĕh-'nérd 'skin-'nérd, the group garnered the opening-act slot on The Who’s Quadrophenia tour of the U.S.....And yes, this is also the album that foisted “Free Bird” upon the land.  It’s likely sacrilegious to say this, but musicasaurus.com has long been burned out on that tune, and part of it is guilt by association--there were way too many Stoners and Burned-Outs orbiting my social circles in the 70s, most of them ineloquent and unconvincing champions of the song who merely threw this on the pedestal while ignoring Skynyrd’s finer, tighter tunes.     http://youtu.be/X6IMe_ITAXo

 

3. If You Want Me To Stay -- Sly & The Family Stone.....Fresh was the album, the band’s sixth studio release, and this was the centerpiece song that rode the airwaves into the Top Twenty in 1973...Sly and band were enormously successful starting around the beginning of 1968 with a series of groundbreaking radio hits including “Dance To The Music”, “Everyday People”, “Stand”, “I Want To Take You Higher”, “Hot Fun In The Summertime”, and more.  The songs were an amalgam of rock, soul, funk, and (tinges of) gospel and psychedelic; the band was the first prominent interracially mixed group and the albums often sported songs that dealt with race, inequality, the need for common ground and understanding--all put forth on a music bed of irresistible energy...Through the first part of the ‘70s, however, reportedly drugs and friction took their toll; by ’73 Sly had largely rolled away his Stone and they gathered no mas, though the bandleader pushed on with remnants and session people.     http://youtu.be/kbV_e0TJnEM

 

4. What Is Hip? – Tower Of Power.....When Rock Music experimentation was in full flower in the mid-to-late 1960s--galvanized by The Beatles, bongs and other societal shoves--one of the pathways artists more fully explored was the addition of horns to the more traditional guitar-bass-drums line-up.  Musicasaurus.com fondly recalls one-hit wonders like “Vehicle” by Ides Of March and “One Fine Morning” by Lighthouse from that era, and of course the first albums of eventual mainstays Chicago Transit Authority (shortened to “Chicago” after their 1969 debut album) and Blood, Sweat & Tears...But it was in 1973 when a friend of mine put the needle down on Tower Of Power’s “What Is Hip?”--and that song exploded out of the speakers with killer crisp precision and breathless stop-and-start syncopation, like some musical high-speed chase that whizzed by my ears, tugging me by my rhythm stick.  This high-velocity funk ‘n’ roll comes from their third studio album named after the band.     http://youtu.be/bnUFVyt1dHQ

 

5. Ooh La La -- Faces.....Small Faces, a British rock band formed in ’65 who had a decent chart-climber in the U.S. called “Itchycoo Park”, lost their charismatic lead singer Steve Marriott in 1969 when he left to form Humble Pie.  With Marriott checking out, the talented remainders welcomed in two new members and the adjusted, amped-up band renamed itself simply Faces; original members Ian McLagan (keyboards), Ronnie Lane (guitar) and Kenney Jones (drums) were joined by newcomers Ronnie Wood (guitar) and Rod Stewart (vocals), and this unit kicked out four ballsy, gravelly-throated rock ‘n’ roll albums in its brief time together (’69-’73).  “Ooh La La”, the self-titled track from their fourth and last studio album, is sung by Ronnie Wood instead of reliably raspy Rod, and the song is the better for it--it’s an enduring little nugget from that era.  (postscript:  Stewart went on to a huge solo career, no duh...Wood glommed onto The Rolling Stones in ’75, replacing Mick Taylor...Lane recorded a memorable album in ’77 with The Who’s Pete Townshend entitled Rough Mix...and Jones replaced dearly-departed drummer Keith Moon in The Who in ‘79).     http://youtu.be/1_xwnb3cymc

 

6. Panama Red - New Riders Of The Purple Sage.....Born of a close association with The Grateful Dead, the New Riders originated in San Francisco and cobbled together a sound influenced by San Fran’s psychedelic music scene but firmly rooted in traditional country music.  NRPS had shifting members of The Dead in their ranks early on, especially Jerry Garcia contributing pedal steel, and Deadheads who can still mentally function today might recall the New Riders opening up for The Dead on a ton of their 1970 and 1971 tour dates... “Panama Red” comes from the band’s fourth album The Adventures Of Panama Red, and--no surprise--Deadheads and/or chronic stoners were in lung-filled love with this song:  “Panama Red, Panama Red / He’ll steal your woman, then he’ll rob your head / Panama Red, Panama Red / On his white horse Mescalito / He come breezin’ through town / I’ll bet your woman’s up in bed with / ol’ Panama Red”...     http://youtu.be/BAnobEWC7v8

 

7. Avenging Annie -- Andy Pratt.....Boston-born Pratt was a singer-songwriter and Harvard English grad whose voice was a bit unusual, and whose songs were off kilter and wildly fascinating (he may have been the male Fiona Apple of that era, in terms of talent, audacity, and idiosyncrasy).  In this fertile period of the early 1970s this self-titled, second album by Pratt was a real find, and the absolute gem was the lead-off track “Avenging Annie”, a song reportedly based on Woody Guthrie’s “Ballad of Pretty Boy Floyd” and featuring an amazing lead vocal of astonishing range, sung by Pratt in the first-person character narrative of a woman outlaw (you read right)...The artist toured a bit in support of this album and “Avenging Annie” snuck into the Billboard Magazine Hot One Hundred, but the Pratt fall was coming--his record label dropped him, and though he continued recording elsewhere, he never again broke through to the masses nor topped this 1973 artistic achievement.     http://youtu.be/M0W_RQMxQzI

 

8. All The Way From Memphis -- Mott The Hoople.....This British band named for a 1966 novel about a con man working with circus freaks (sounds like rock ‘n’ roll to me) released their first album in 1969, but it took the band’s ardent supporter David Bowie to propel their stature a bit.  As the story goes, the band was close to breaking up after four albums, stymied by lack of record sales.  Fan Bowie stepped in and gave them the song “All The Young Dudes”, as well as offered to produce their next album--and wham, glam, thank you, fan, the reenergized Mott hit the jackpot with a worldwide hit song and a generally strong embrace of their new direction on the subsequently released All The Young Dudes album...“All The Way From Memphis” hails from the band’s 1973 album Mott and, like “Dudes” (the song), its strongest assets are vocalist Ian Hunter and guitarist Mick Ralphs--what they each bring to the tune really defines the appeal of this band.     http://youtu.be/ubBpu3MHmtM

 

9. Sufficiently Breathless -- Captain Beyond.....An admission here:  Musicasaurus.com loved listening to this particular track from their self-titled second album, but I kinda got stuck there and rarely went beyond...The band had formed in Los Angeles in 1971 and the members had individually surfaced out of other groups including early-phase Deep Purple, Johnny Winter’s band, and the psychedelic, cheesy-heavy Iron Butterfly.  This roster rollout may not exactly be the encouragement you need to make the leap to listen, but the track is an unheralded ‘70s-era classic with clean, crisp production; a memorable chorus; and a nice mix of acoustic & electric guitar work and vocal harmonies.     http://youtu.be/4ya9_SQCEro

 

10. Happiness Is Just Around The Bend -- Brian Auger And The Oblivion Express.....Musicasaurus.com first came across British jazz-rock keyboardist Auger in 1968 while in tenth grade, when trips to the local record store were an every weekend occurrence.  That year, Auger had released Definitely What! (a trio recording) and also Streetnoise, a double album with a Nina Simone-like incendiary Caucasian singer named Julie Driscoll...By 1973, Driscoll had departed and Auger had formed his adventurous jazz-rock ensemble Oblivion Express, achieving wider commercial success while keeping the critics appeased as well.  “Happiness Is Just Around The Bend” from 1973’s Closer To It! may be Auger’s most identifiable accomplishment in terms of songwriting; soul group The Main Ingredient disco-fied the tune a bit, and included their funky, strings-swollen version of it on their 1974 release Euphrates River.     http://youtu.be/U3MlEw8V6f0

 

 

 

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Posted 7/11/16.....

VARIOUS ARTISTS MIX.....Ten tunes from a mix originally recorded on March 11, 2011.

1. Boy Lilikoi Jónsi..... Jón Þór Birgisson (Jónsi) is the vocalist/guitarist for Iceland’s ambient export Sigur Rós, who at this point have been a band for about a decade.  There oughtta be a picture of the group under “ethereal” in dictionary.com--the music is full of space, savagery and beauty.  Lead singer Jónsi rose up from Rós to debut his first sans-Sigur album Go in 2010, and “Boy Lilikoi” (from that record) traverses much the same terrain--fetching falsetto, strings, muscle and majesty.  Musicasaurus.com caught the full band at a Byham Theatre/Pittsburgh concert-tour stop in March 2003, and posted a while back in this website that the band was “cool and elegant...mixing fury and finesse” and the concert itself a “devastatingly beautiful evening of crushing volume and captivating soundscapes.”  (Musicasaurus.com loves self-referential quotes; it balloons my importance--sadly, only to me.)   http://youtu.be/UBgPmw3JCN4

 

2. We Don’t Need Love Songs – Fitz & The Tantrums.....An L.A.-based indie band with a heart full of soul...Touring brought a lot of fans to the altar early on after the band had formed in 2008, and their debut studio EP (stands for “extended play”; less songs than a full album) came out on an indie label in 2009.  On this particular EP--Songs For A Break-up, Volume I, from which this track is taken--and on subsequent releases, one can hear the deep influence of Motown and/or Stax Records with more than a dollop of pop-soul blends a la Style Council and others of that ilk...There’s a cool band appearance worth checking out on the program Live From Daryl’s House, which is a web-only site sporting episodes of different invited guests singing and playing with Daryl Hall, one-half of the legendary blue-eyed soul duo Hall & Oates.  Great production values, and each episode’s musical performances are videotaped in Daryl’s basement recording studio.  (The link to “We Don’t Need Love Songs”:   http://youtu.be/6uOh_OSejQU ..... The link to Live From Daryl’s House to view Fitz and company do other material)   http://www.livefromdarylshouse.com/currentep.html?ep_id=48

 

3. Northern Star – Ollabelle.....Musicasaurus.com has touted this under-appreciated band before...The group’s roots are in NYC, and they had an organic birth around 2001-2002 in bar jam sessions that drew upon influences including gospel, very old soul, traditional folk and dusted-off blues...Their live performances and recorded efforts are both revelatory--the band’s five members are all adept at lead-vocal turns, and the depth of musical talent brought forth to bear on their original songs and old roots material is wayyy impressive (and soul satisfyin’).  One of the band’s two female founders is Levon Helm’s daughter Amy, though all are skilled players and their usual song-to-song arsenal includes acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards, bass, drums, mandolin, accordion, dobro and mandola (ancestor to the mandolin).... “Northern Star” (voiced by Amy) comes from the band’s second studio album from 2006 entitled Riverside Battle Songs.    (no YouTube clip of the studio version is available, at least thus far; this one is live in a club:   http://youtu.be/s0piI-dKiJ4 

 

4. Reasons For Waiting – Jethro Tull.....Tull’s album Stand Up stood out for me--when it hit the record stores in 1969 I was a sixteen-year-old music sponge, devouring the new sounds that were cascading their way across the pond from England.  That year of 1969 brought a lot to our shores, including Abbey Road from The Beatles, Led Zeppelin’s first and second albums, Cream’s Goodbye and Blind Faith’s one and only, The Who’s Tommy, Jeff Beck Group’s Beck-Ola, and more.  The Tull album was decidedly different from much else out there; wild-eyed, high-stepping lead singer & flautist Ian Anderson and his mates were unafraid to venture forth from their previous blues-based rock to more tantalizing turf, leavening their still firmly-rooted rock sound with a mix of classical, Celtic, and English folk.  “Reasons For Waiting” is a mid-tempo, string-enhanced ballad with Anderson’s pleasing baritone and gentle acoustic guitar and flute; other highlights from the album include the blistering “Nothing Is Easy” and the fine instrumental “Bourée" which is based on a work by Johann Sebastian Bach.   http://youtu.be/iybAyDFrhhI

 

5. Regarding Steven – Blues Traveler.....A tight blues-jam unit that I’ve seen at festivals through the years, fronted by showstopper John Popper, a towering force as harmonica wielder and lead vocalist...Blues Traveler breached Pop Radio playlists a few times in the 1990s with songs “But Anyway” and “Run-Around”, and they’re largely revered by the jam-band crowd for none-too-chintzy set lengths and improvisational lift-offs during song performances. “Regarding Steven” is a mid-tempo slice with a slinky, sweet harmonica solo; this studio track is taken from the 2002 compilation Travelogue: Blues Traveler Classics, though the song first appeared as one of five tunes on a CD single release coinciding with the arrival of the band’s 1994 album Four...Two quick trivia (trivial?) notes:  1) Popper and his band were the genesis of the live music festival called H.O.R.D.E. (Horizons Of Rock Developing Everywhere) which hit amphitheatres to solid success from 1992-1998.  2) He and the group also dressed up as an Amish band, playing their hit song “But Anyway” as the closing credits rolled on the destined-not-to-be-a-classic Farrelly Brothers film Kingpin (though the film did sport some amazing work by bowler Bill Murray’s hair).   http://youtu.be/TO4vkujoIUU

 

6. All The Stones – Blitzen Trapper.....Indie folk-band Blitzen Trapper formed in 2000 in Portland, Oregon, and has an eclectic, easy-goin’ acoustic aura. They went indie on releasing their first three albums (2003 through 2007) before being picked up by Seattle-based label Sub Pop.  “All The Stones” is actually a track only available on an iTunes CD compilation called Patagonia Music / Volume 1, eleven tracks from a variety of non-profit conscious artists including, among others, Bonnie Raitt, the Zac Brown Band, Jack Johnson and Abigail Washburn.  Patagonia is a California-headquartered outdoor clothing company who initiated this line of CDs to benefit artist-selected environmental causes; Blitzen Trapper’s contribution here benefits Oregon’s SOLV, a non-profit that encourages active integration of volunteers, conservation groups, corporations and governmental entities in restoration efforts and in environmental oversight.   http://youtu.be/KQpCE6JKadY

 

7. Voodoo Woman - Lonnie Liston Smith.....By the mid-1970s, a number of jazz musicians who had schooled with trumpeter Miles Davis in the late 1960s/early 1970s were branching out and taking wing, like Joe Zawinul forming Weather Report and Chick Corea launching Return To Forever.  One of the other musicians who also took the cues from Davis in the latter’s turn toward electric jazz and fusion was Lonnie Liston Smith, an accomplished jazz pianist and electric keyboardist who went the post-Davis route of jazz fusion with his ensemble Lonnie Liston Smith and The Cosmic Echoes. “Voodoo Woman” from this group’s third album Expansions (1974) is prettily parked midway between innocuous smooth jazz and sophisticated fusion.  It’s a spacey, dreamy 4-and-a-half minutes of soft fusion, with funk underpinnings and sprightly flute & electronic keyboards that will lull you with its loveliness.   http://youtu.be/N7E9_unIBPo

 

8. Violin - Amos Lee.....This Philly-born singer-songwriter went from schoolteacher and bartender to full-time musician, aided by Norah Jones who had heard his work and enlisted him as her opening act for a 2004 tour.  It’s hard to dissect Lee, but he’s a melding of influences like 1970s singer-songwriters in the vein of Bill Withers and some folkies as well, and he’s been labeled by some as “the male Norah Jones”--soulful, with superior songwriting.  He’s also had a sort of organic build to his career, touring as an opener for an impressive list of artists (Lucinda Williams, Elvis Costello, Dylan, Dave Matthews, Paul Simon and others) as well as getting some track traction through television (live appearances on Letterman; songs featured in Grey’s Anatomy and Parenthood)...“Violin” is a gorgeous bit of country-folk and comes off his fourth studio release, 2011’s Mission Bell.   http://youtu.be/I5raMzavYgE

 

9. A Long Walk - Jill Scott.....Like Amos Lee, vocalist Scott is a Philadelphian who turned from plans to teach toward a life in music.  Her full recording career blossomed with 2000’s Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1, though she’d been a local spoken-word artist prior to that, as well as contributed to an album by The Roots and toured Canada in the cast of Rent.  What strikes musicasaurus.com is the suppleness of her voice, as evidenced by this track from the then 28-year-old’s debut album...Two other points of interest: 1) Scott appears on a Chris Botti DVD entitled Chris Botti Live With Orchestra & Special Guests, and she performs just one number with Botti and his band--but it’s Billie Holiday’s “Good Morning Heartache” and Scott just pulverizes any single doubt about her passion and vocal prowess; 2) Scott dips a bit into acting as well, and she appeared as Mma Ramotswe in The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, the BBC-produced series based on the Alexander McCall Smith novels.  The pilot episode debuted on HBO in the States in 2009, and ran for six more episodes before falling to the ax due to low ratings.   http://youtu.be/w0wTVNMj960

 

10. Waiting On A Friend - The Rolling Stones.....Some Jagger-Richards’ songs are jagged and rich, like “Gimme Shelter” and “Midnight Rambler”; others are a warm embrace like the track listed here, a mid-tempo gem from 1981’s Tattoo You...Upon release, still-in-its-infancy MTV embraced the video which featured Jagger hangin’ with a friend (Peter Tosh) while waiting on a friend (Keith Richards), and the track itself includes special guests like session player par excellence Nicky Hopkins on piano, and jazz legend Sonny Rollins on the sax solo...It’s a head-healthy nuzzling of nostalgia, and it feels and sounds especially great when turned up to 11.   http://youtu.be/QerKQxCuOaI

 

 

 

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Posted 6/27/16.....

SUGGESTIONS FOR A SOUNDTRACK MIX...

Below is my current Top Ten list of soundtrack selections from various films (and one television program).  These are songs that can stand alone as enjoyable additions to many a mix or playlist, but of course they are especially evocative when experienced in scenes from a film that expertly synch up sound AND vision for major emotional impact...Enjoy!

1. Barbershop – Angelo Badalamenti & David Lynch.....Angelo Badalamenti is an American composer who has served Mr. Lynch well in providing the soundtracks to films such as Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive, as well as the music for one of television’s landmark twisted tales, Twin Peaks.  This bit of barbershop appears on the 2007 compilation album Twin Peaks Music: Season Two Music & More.  http://youtu.be/vlObsiUYOec

 

2. De Usuahia a la Quiaca – Gustavo Santaolalla.....This song hails from the soundtrack to The Motorcycle Diaries, a 2004 film about the early years of Che Guevara that features Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal in the lead role.  Composer and musician Santaolalla weaves a wonderful spell with this one, using as his sonic centerpiece a charango, a small stringed instrument of the lute family that is usually featured in traditional Andean music.  It’s a captivating piece of work.  http://youtu.be/Zh2GgCFR2dw

 

3. Purple Rain – Prince.....And lo, the reign came in 1984 as Prince’s popular film and soundtrack album both hit that same year.  Purple Rain (the album) was a mix of the sacred and the sexily sublime, and is perhaps Prince’s most perfect melding of rock and rhythm & blues. The title track is almost 9 minutes in length, and ends with some searing guitar followed by sweeping strings that amp up the majesty of this near-gospel rock classic.  http://youtu.be/qmKvUeIz44w

 

4. All I Want To Know -- The Magnetic Fields (featuring Stephin Merritt).....This and other songs by New York singer/songwriter Stephin Merritt may be an acquired taste, but the acquisition is worth it.  He writes wryly, intelligently; his songs are lyrically quirky and winning.  “All I Want To Know” (ascribed to one of Merritt’s bands The Magnetic Fields) comes from the 2003 soundtrack to the film Pieces of April, a very cool little alt-comedy/drama with Katie Holmes and Patricia Clarkson, among others.  http://youtu.be/OnP8jd_R87E

 

5. Hardscrabble Elegy -- Dickon Hinchliffe.....This song is a sweet and tender instrumental from a sometimes brutal, evocative 2010 movie entitled Winter’s Bone.  Featuring Jennifer Lawrence in her first widely praised performance, this independent film is about tribal and family fealty in Appalachia.  Appropriately, the song is predominantly acoustic guitar plus plaintive violin—stately, mournful, and mesmerizing.  Its composer, violinist Hinchliffe, spent a lot of years with eclectic British Band Tindersticks, who churned out music more in the style of dour chamber pop with hints of Leonard Cohen.  http://youtu.be/HjXcAmxZ_l0

 

6. Falling Slowly – Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová.....Prior to the success of the 2006 film Once--a story of two struggling musicians in Dublin, Ireland--Glen Hansard was perhaps best known in cult circles for his small role in Alan Parker’s classic 1991 film The Commitments.  He’s also been the leader of Irish band The Frames since their inception in 1990…Success for Hansard and his Once partner Czech musician Irglová led to accolades including a 2007 Independent Spirit Award for best foreign film, and this hauntingly beautiful song from the film’s soundtrack won that same year’s Academy Award for Best Original Song.  http://youtu.be/yzQ9VrnNQLQ

 

7. The Rider Song -- Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds.....Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, both members of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, collaborated to conjure up this arresting soundtrack to the 2005 western The Proposition, starring Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone, Emily Watson, Danny Huston and John Hurt.  The film’s setting is the rough-and-ready Australian outback of the 1880s, and Cave (who also wrote the screenplay) lovingly wraps his mournful baritone around this ballad that is perfectly matched to this bleak and bloody film.  Even as a standalone track, it’s still quite riveting.  http://youtu.be/SAQDJ1uaX0w

 

8. The Closing Of The Year (main theme) - The musical cast of Toys, and Wendy & Lisa.....Director Barry Levinson trotted out the fantasy film Toys in 1992, and it starred Robin Williams, Joan Cusack, Michael Gambon and LL Cool J.  The movie centered on a toy company whose management turns over with the death of the founder, and the good toys & the bad toys eventually enter into battle...The accompanying soundtrack album was produced by British musician/producer Trevor Horn, and for the track listed here, he enlisted Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman (two Prince disciples who were part of His Purpleness’ reign from 1983 through 1986).  The original song, co-written by Horn, is full of gorgeous Christmas-themed orchestral splendor.  It unfolds slowly at first, with Wendy & Lisa then joined by children’s voices and a kicked-in percussive second half that ultimately wraps up in a mellow-tone fadeout.  It’s a pure slice of joy that would tuck nicely into a seasonal December mix as well.  http://youtu.be/VzSf5DuAO2I

 

9. Building The Barn -- Maurice Jarre.....This synthesizer-driven instrumental hails from a key scene in the 1985 Peter Weir film Witness, when Harrison Ford’s character Detective John Book assists members of an Amish community in the construction of a new barn.  As the music builds, so goes the building, and it’s a perfect emotional match-up of sound and vision.  Jarre (1924-2009) was a French composer who is best remembered for film scores including Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago, but it is his ‘80s output that musicasaurus.com particularly warms to, as he ventured more into electronic scores like the ones for Witness and The Year of Living Dangerously.  http://youtu.be/iw28_kQK1FA

 

10. The Long Road -- Eddie Vedder and Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn.....This is a rapturous tune from the 1996 album entitled Dead Man Walking: Music From And Inspired By The Motion Picture.  “The Long Road” is a hypnotic aural experience, with famous Pakistani singer Kahn—international “poster boy” for Qawwali, the devotional music of the Sufis—joining Vedder on vocals. The song is buoyed by an enticing weave of harmonium and tabla, two instruments that are popular throughout certain regions in Pakistan and India.  “Dead Man Walking: Music From And Inspired By The Motion Picture” contains only four songs from the 1995 Tim Robbins-directed film, and “The Long Road” is one of them.  The other eight tunes were coaxed into contribution by the director, who actively solicited a number of socially conscious artists for song donations to this particular album.  The artists who came through for Robbins include Springsteen, Johnny Cash, Steve Earle, Patti Smith and Tom Waits.  http://youtu.be/_x_ZNwjoWHs

 

 

 

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Posted 6/13/16.....

The following ten tunes are from a mix entitled “Get Your Kicks on Mix Sixty-Six,” a compilation from…hold for the number…FIFTY YEARS AGO!  I was just embarking on my teens back then, and these are the sounds that surrounded me on transistor radios, my parent’s home console stereo, the cheap plastic turntable I had in my bedroom, and over the public address system at the city swimming pool.

1. Sunshine Superman – Donovan.....from the album of the same name...The opening riffs of this quirky, semi-psychedelic love song kind of conjure up images of television’s Hullabaloo and Shindig go-go dancers.  The track is anchored by the earnestness of Scottish folk-pop singer Donovan, who trafficked largely in songs exhibiting child-like wonder and flower power.  https://youtu.be/NCQ0LmZkSjQ

 

2. I Want You – Bob Dylan.....from the album Blonde On Blonde...Recorded in Nashville (save for one track), Blonde On Blonde was Dylan’s seventh studio album and featured players like Robbie Robertson (of Dylan’s back-up group The Hawks--soon to become, on their own, The Band) and keyboardist Al Kooper.  Ranked by Rolling Stone as the # 9 greatest album of all time (in their 2003 fashioned list of the Top 500), this double-record also sported the classics “Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35” (better known by its oft-repeated lyric “Everybody must get stoned”) and the ballad “Just Like A Woman.”  https://youtu.be/xzA1KDxKXZw

 

3. Sunny Afternoon– The Kinks.....from the album Face To Face...This was reportedly the first Kinks album to contain all original compositions by Ray Davies, chief pilot & tale spinner of the band...It’s kind of a deceptively simple “music hall” singalong, but the subject matter, like The Beatles’ “Taxman”, centers on the onerous progressive tax situation in Britain at the time.  https://youtu.be/VLs09J_x6-c

 

4. Homeward Bound – Simon & Garfunkel.....from the album Parsley, Sage, Rosemary And Thyme...This duo in the span of just six years (1964-1970) created a lot of lasting triumphs, including the song listed here.  The album was their third, and their first to reflect the duo’s full control in the studio.  For those of a certain age Parsley Sage was all the rage, on college campuses from sea to shining sea.  https://youtu.be/7z9wd9bS1FM

 

5. California Dreamin’ – The Mamas & The Papas.....from the album If You Can Believe Your Eyes And Ears...A signature Sixties song, summing up the Southern California sound and allure like no other, full of electrified folk and a dazzling blend of four voices...The band produced three albums and reigned for two full years with hit after hit, but there was dysfunction--including a Mama makin’ moves on the wrong Papa--and sadly, all dat harmony became disharmony.  https://youtu.be/N-aK6JnyFmk

 

6. Uptight (Everything’s Alright) – Stevie Wonder.....from the album Up-Tight...Blind since shortly after birth, Wonder channeled his inner visions into a string of musical masterpieces beginning in 1962...His first album on Motown’s Tamla label came out when Wonder was all of eleven, and he produced the track listed here--for his fifth studio recording--at the ripe old age of fifteen.  https://youtu.be/wDbyOLzEyfk

 

7. Paint It Black– The Rolling Stones.....from the album Aftermath...This album was the Stones’ sixth American release, and the first to be comprised of all original Jagger-Richards material; all previous releases sported at least 50% cover tunes including their tips of the hat to old blues masters and early rockers like Chuck Berry...“Paint It Black” features some great drummer wattage, and sinewy sitar from multi-instrumentalist band member Brian Jones.  https://youtu.be/u6d8eKvegLI

 

8. Cherry Cherry -- Neil Diamond.....from the album The Feel of Neil Diamond...“Cherry, Cherry” became an established hit before Diamond pushed out his 1966 debut album, and he went on to an illustrious career of chart-topping records and sold-out concert appearances that lasted for decades.  Early on, Diamond was a songwriter in NYC’s famous Brill Building, and he first tasted commercial success via his compositions that were covered by The Monkees—tunes like “I’m A Believer” and “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You.”  https://youtu.be/pcMT81vxYLE

 

9. Gloria -- Shadows of Knight.....from the album Gloria...The original was done by Van Morrison while fronting a band called Them, but it was the Windy City’s Shadows of Knight that managed to blanket AM Radio playlists with this blues-hued, garage-style rocker.  The band was very much in step with the sound of the British Invasion groups including The Stones and The Yardbirds.  https://youtu.be/NdAezc-RX-o

 

10. Reach Out I’ll Be There -- The Four Tops.....from the album Reach Out...This Motown production was a 1966 # 1 single in advance of this chockfull o’ hits collection which also contained “Standing In The Shadows Of Love” and “Bernadette”.  The original guys hung together for decades after the Sixties, and lead singer Levi Stubbs was the band’s baritone benchmark who also provided the voice for mean green plant Audrey in the 1986 soundtrack to the Frank Oz musical Little Shop Of Horrors.  https://youtu.be/KnDm3qr1Knk

 

 

 

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Posted 5/30/16.....

A VARIOUS ARTISTS’ MIX…

1. Spanish Harlem – Laura Nyro and LaBelle.....A gifted singer/songwriter and daughter of a jazz trumpeter, Nyro started writing songs at the age of eight.  At twenty, she issued her debut album More Than A New Discovery, which served to perk up other performers to her songwriting craft.  Her tunes filled the radio airwaves as covered by a host of others:  “Stoney End” by Streisand, “Wedding Bell Blues” by Fifth Dimension, “And When I Die” by Blood, Sweat & Tears, “Eli’s Comin’” by Three Dog Night, and more...The track “Spanish Harlem” is from the 1971 album Gonna Take A Miracle that Nyro recorded with LaBelle (i.e., Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx, and Sarah Dash).  The album is an evocative masterpiece of Motown, rhythm & blues and Doo Wop, with heavenly harmonies weaving in and around Nyro’s sailing soprano.  https://youtu.be/xb6db0UM0nY

 

2. Banks Of Marble (live) -- Leo Kottke & Iris DeMent.....Georgia-born Kottke is an accomplished six-and-twelve-string guitar picker who melds blues, folk and jazz in his compositions, and he has a number of solo recordings that span from 1969 to the present.  Arkansas-born DeMent is a country & folk singer-songwriter who has released albums of her own as well, and she’s dueted with musicians including bluegrass titan Ralph Stanley, Steve Earle, and John Prine...“Banks Of Marble” is a live performance from 2006’s A Prairie Home Companion: Duets, an album of songs originally broadcast on the long running, widely-acclaimed radio program A Prairie Home Companion.  The show is distributed by American Public Media and has consistently aired on a slew of public radio stations (with only slight gaps/departures) since 1974.  There is currently no YouTube clip available, so you’ll have to glean all you can from this iTunes tidbit:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/banks-of-marble/id214620853?i=214621002

 

3. Set The Fire To The Third Bar -- Snow Patrol featuring Martha Wainwright.....Snow Patrol is a Scottish band (like a mating of Coldplay and U2) who released their first album in 1998.  By 2006 they had sonically conquered the U.K. and made major inroads in America as well.  The song listed here is from their 2006 release Eyes Open, and it features the talented singin’-songwritin’ daughter of Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle, Martha Wainwright, on co-vocals.  It’s a great pop-alternative rock ballad that ramps up appropriately on the anthemic choruses.  https://youtu.be/bfa9yxCpWoA

 

4. In The Sun (live) - Michael Stipe with Coldplay.....This track is from a 2005 Austin City Limits performance of R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe with Coldplay, and is taken from a six-song EP (“extended play” record) entitled In The Sun.  The EP was released in 2006 exclusively through the iTunes Store, and its sales benefited the victims of Hurricane Katrina.  All six songs on the EP are versions of “In The Sun”, with Stipe in collaboration with a) Chris Martin, b) Coldplay, or c) the song’s originator, singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur.  The version listed here is the best of the six; it’s live, lyrically moving, and very well performed and produced.  https://youtu.be/N8-hU4UiJOA

 

5. When Something Is Wrong With My Baby - Patti LaBelle & Travis Tritt.....Credentials are flyin’ all over this one:  a) The song was co-written by Isaac Hayes of “Shaft” fame; b) It was a 1967 chart-topping hit for the electrifying soul duo Sam & Dave; and c) It was covered with reverence and unrestrained passion by Patti LaBelle & Travis Tritt in 1994.  Their version of this classic tune comes from a high-concept album entitled Rhythm Country & Blues, an eleven-song experiment that in each case marries a prominent soul singer with an established country music star, in the hopes that each collaboration collapses mistaken impressions of barriers between the genres...Not all of the pairings on this album work--“high concept” sometimes just means someone was high when they thought of the concept--but on this track, Tritt is a real fit and jells well with LaBelle, who takes this tune to an incredible climax with her laser-like precision on the emotional core of the song...Amazing stuff.  http://youtu.be/an2fuoSUUOA

 

6. What If The World Stops Turning -- Mindy Smith with Buddy Miller....This is a country rock gem that veers toward pop music, delivered with poise and purity by Long Island-born singer-songwriter Mindy Smith.  She shares the track with longtime Nashville music-man-about-town Buddy Miller, who guests on guitar and co-lead vocals.  Miller’s impressive resume includes lead guitar stints with Emmylou Harris’ Spyboy band and with Robert Plant on some of the latter’s outings (a record and tour with Alison Krauss in 2008, and Band of Joy in 2010/2011).  Smith had first perked up the ears of musicasaurus.com with the stunning gospel-rock song “Come To Jesus” from her 2004 debut album One Moment More.  The track listed here is no less compelling, just a bit breezier in style and execution; it hails from Smith’s second album, 2006’s Long Island Shores.  http://youtu.be/Xl2ElNMfyO4

 

7. Fairytale of New York -- The Pogues with Kirsty MacColl.....from The Pogues’ 1988 release If I Should Fall From Grace Of God...In seasonal song polls in the U.K. and Ireland, this bit of Celtic sweep & grandeur consistently ranks as one of the best Christmas songs of all time.  Matters not the time of year, however, to soak this in as one of the best Pogues songs ever written & recorded.  The band’s frontman Shane MacGowan co-wrote the tune and provides the distinctively Irish--perhaps even pub-fueled--lead male vocal.  British-born singer-songwriter MacColl was called upon to do the duet after Pogues member Cait O’Riordan left the band before this particular song could be finished.  The tune concerns a drunken Irish immigrant in New York City, and it’s not typical Christmas fare as it contains references to drugs and alcohol, and features a vituperative exchange between the male and female characters--ahhh, but that’s just part of the overall majesty of this skewed and beautiful piece of work, which also features a wonderful string arrangement throughout...Enjoy.  http://youtu.be/wjEIP6otc4Y

 

8. Windfall – Son Volt.....In 1993 famed alt-country band Uncle Tupelo split up, and two of the principals veered off in different directions to form their own units—Jeff Tweedy went on to Wilco, and Jay Farrar formed Son Volt.  The latter band’s debut album Trace came out in 1995 and proved to be a reliably intoxicating mix of roots rock, country & folk.  One song, “Drown,” became an emphasis tune on college and rock radio; the other album track listed here for the mix, though, is a pretty fiddle-filled thing, with Farrar’s characteristically pleasing, slightly melancholic approach to vocals.  https://youtu.be/ZNTQ2DuJKtU

 

9. That’s Just What You Are -- Aimee Mann with Chris Difford & Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze.....Please excuse musicasaurus.com from barking out orders here, but you need to “Mann” up!  Aimee is an underachiever solely in terms of widespread commercial success; she has a great knack for churning out quality alternative-pop songs that are lyrically arresting and melodic as hell... “That’s Just What You Are” is a perky pop masterpiece from Mann’s second solo album I’m With Stupid, which hit the stores in November 1995.  Difford & Tilbrook, the dynamic duo behind the British band Squeeze, provide instrumental assistance and harmony vocals.  https://youtu.be/ArXL7uEQsEg

 

10. Both Sides Now -- Clannad & Paul Young.....Though this cover of the Joni Mitchell classic was released in 1991, the production on it has just a touch of an ‘80s sheen, but not near enough to mar the beautifully matched vocals of Clannad’s lead singer Máire Ní Bhraonáin (aka Maire Brennan) and English singer-songwriter Paul Young.  The two came together for this soundtrack submission to the 1991 film Switch, starring Ellen Barkin and Jimmy Smits; the song also appears on Clannad’s greatest hits compilation from 1994 entitled The Best Of Clannad: In A Lifetime.  The band is an Eire national treasure and their recorded works span the early 1970s through the late 1990s; they mix it up and traverse a few genres, including traditional Irish, New Age, folk, and rock…Paul Young was a twenty-something English heartthrob in the early-mid 1980s and scored a lot in the U.K. (talking about hit songs here) as well as in the United States with “Come Back And Stay” (1983) and “Everytime You Go Away” (1984), the latter a cover of the Hall & Oates composition.  He is a paragon of blue-eyed soul, and through the ‘80s and early ‘90s he wrapped his exquisite voice around a number of other classics, notably “Oh Girl” by the Chi-Lites and “What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted” by Jimmy Ruffin.  https://youtu.be/ffUng9bK4zg

 

 

 

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A VARIOUS ARTISTS' MIX.....

Posted 5/16/16.....

1. The Perfect Crime #2 -- The Decemberists.....Another adventurous exercise from this Portland, Oregon band whose members coalesced in the year 2000 and then somehow embraced quite varied styles to carve out a single unique identity.  The sound is hard to reign in for adequate description, but in the lengths of some songs and in the general songwriting approach, one can hear strains of British folk outfits & artists such as Traffic, Richard Thompson, and Fairport Convention.  Sprinkle in some classic or prog-rock and especially some alternative leanings, and you have The Decemberists; the song listed here has been nabbed from their 2006 release The Crane Wife.  https://youtu.be/5lxVrfQiiuE

 

2. Burn One Down—Ben Harper.....Yah mon, he’s talking ‘bout what you tink he is...This puff piece is from Harper’s second album Fight For Your Mind released in 1995.  The album overall was an expansion of musical directions from his earlier debut, and Harper’s since honed a style that includes blues, folk, rock and reggae.  While popular outside the United States from his earliest days, Ben didn’t break on through to the other side until his relentless touring finally paid off… https://youtu.be/7nXH_6o-X7U

 

3. Joy -- The Sundays.....This four-piece unit from England developed cult followings on both sides of the Atlantic in the early-mid 1990s.  Their alternative-based approach featured pristine lead female vocals and instrumentation that was ringing and chiming, though none of that led to chart climbing.  Critics gave their output a lofty review, but overall embrace was largely askew...“Joy” is taken from the band’s 1990 debut album Reading, Writing And Arithmetic.  The track floats and flutters with vocalist Harriet Wheeler and guitarist David Gavurin playing off each other quite well; musicasaurus.com also recommends checking out the band’s cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses” from their album Blind, which followed two years after their initial release.  https://youtu.be/mwEakHWFiSU

 

4. Tried So Hard -- The Flying Burrito Brothers.....The song listed here is from an album that musicasaurus.com has mentioned in the past--the 1971 self-titled third release from this formative country rock band that had just emerged from a significant personnel change.  Gram Parsons had left to go solo, and so the Burritos served up new singer-songwriter and guitarist Rick Roberts (if the latter’s name doesn’t spark recognition, you may know him as the voice of country rock band Firefall from later in the 70s, and radio hits like “You Are The Woman”, “Strange Way”, and “Just Remember I Love You”).  Roberts brought a lot to the game on this 1971 Burrito platter; it stands as probably the best arranged and most masterfully executed work by the band in their entire patchwork personnel existence.  https://youtu.be/ZXTgV-V3xBA

 

5. Where Does The Good Go -- Tegan & Sara.....Canadian twin sisters Tegan and Sara Quin (born in Calgary in September 1980) had talent and timing on their side, first winning a hometown music competition in 1998 and subsequently being scooped up for Sarah McLachlan’s Lilith Fair tour that same year.  Their music alternately straddles and blends folk and alternative, and the tune listed here is, from its very opening, a compelling example of their magical mix of girlish twin-vocal leads & harmonies and their musical heft.  The song, from 2004’s So Jealous release, sounds a little similar to something that Tom Petty might have written--an intriguing, purposefully “loping” type of opening that draws you in, followed by an explosion of anthemic hooks and chorus.  A great tune to be played loud; turn the twins up all the way to eleven.  https://youtu.be/8RDdmfWsrsw

 

6. Talk Of The Town -- The Pretenders.....This band ripped open a seam in the early 80s alternative rock scene with their audacious 1980 debut, introducing a hard-charging, empowered female lead singer and the three Englishmen she had in tow.  The band had formed in 1978; leader and singer-songwriter Chrissie Hynde was originally from Akron, Ohio, but had relocated to London--several times, in fact--starting in 1973.  The Pretenders were a pure powerhouse, fueled by Hynde’s sharply-pointed lyrics in service to keenly-crafted songs that had hooks galore amid a brash and balls-out approach to the musicianship.  “Talk Of The Town” first appeared on an EP (an “extended play” record with only a few tracks, versus a full album) in March 1981, and then was also added to the Pretenders’ next official album release--Pretenders II--which followed in August of that same year.  https://youtu.be/UuRKjHQDv90

 

7. Time Bomb -- Dave Matthews Band.....As this tune opens aided by a somewhat hushed musical background, Matthews is quietly confessional, singing “I’m a ticking time bomb / Waiting to blow my top / No one would ever know / Not until I blew up”.  The song then winds to an ending that has Dave in a rave, screaming “Baby when I get home / Help me pick up the pieces / You can hammer in the final nail / I want to believe in Jesus”.  In between all of this, the song is an examination of faith, frustration, and a thirst for answers.  We have none by song’s end...perhaps this tune, though, first stirred in Matthews’ mind out of the 2008 death of treasured friend and bandmate LeRoi Moore, the DMB’s saxophonist who died from wounds received in an ATV accident.  This lyrically and musically explosive piece appeared the year after Moore’s death, on 2009’s Big Whiskey & The GrooGrux King.  https://youtu.be/3gg8EQXV0e0

 

 

8. Homeless Man -- Blue Highway.....Any self-respecting “Various Artists” mix cries out for at least a touch of bluegrass, and Blue Highway’s reverence for the idiom and its stellar musicianship clinched the deal.  The five members of this Tennessee-based bluegrass group had gigged around the genre for a few years before coming together in 1995 to produce their first band record, It’s A Long, Long Road.  The song included in this particular mix is from a much later record, 2008’s From The Window Of A Train.  It features a plaintive vocal, banjo and dobro (of course!!) and is one of a couple of tunes on this particular record that speaks out about the issues behind war & politics:  “They took a simple country boy / And taught him how to use a gun / After four long years in service / Two tours in Vietnam / The country that he served so well / Doesn’t seem to give a damn / That he’s a homeless man.”  https://youtu.be/ichFXDTH2AQ

 

9. Come And Go Blues -- Allman Brothers Band.....The band had formed in 1969 and had suffered the loss of two key members in 1971 and 1972, Gregg’s older brother & group founder Duane and bassist Berry Oakley, respectively.  When the Allmans’ fifth album Brothers And Sisters came out in 1973, it sported new band members Lamar Williams on bass and the versatile instrumentalist Chuck Leavell, who added discipline and sprightly keyboard flourishes to the band’s overall sound.  “Come And Go Blues” (from that album) is a one of the band’s straight-ahead rock, blues, and jazz blends, with a brief-but-beautiful cascading opening, and then arresting bluesy vocals from Gregg topped by great keyboard & slide guitar accents.  (Editor’s note:  Made to be played loud, for full appreciation of the song’s arrangement and its depths of instrumentation.)  https://youtu.be/f6MnyHR_PsY

 

10. Faithful—Meshell Ndegeocello.....Born in ’68 in Berlin and raised in the D.C. area, Ndegeocello is an artist who taps deep into a personal wellspring to bring forth a hypnotic mix of soul, funk, rock, rhythm & blues, hip hop and more...“Faithful” unspools; it’s a lovely bit of unfolding from the artist’s third record Bitter, released in 1999.  This album, like her others, never brought widespread recognition, though she once danced up to the edge of fame courtesy of co-vocals on John Mellencamp’s 1994 hit-single cover version of Van Morrison’s “Wild Night.”  http://youtu.be/b6fKp89kmok

 

 

 

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Posted 5/2/16.....

BLUES MIX.....The following is my current Top Ten of blues tunes with a twist: The firm criterion is that they needed to have the word “blues” in the title; I wasn’t hell-bent that the tune itself be PURE blues, however...

So a few of these selections leap the traditional boundaries here—but all are worthy of planting high on the playlist. 

Use these ten selections to springboard into your own lovingly-crafted mix of the blues and related hues.  You’ll note that the mix starts and ends with a couple of “kings” of the blues...

1. I’ve Got The Same Old Blues -- Freddie King.....Part of the appeal of digging into bluesmen like Freddie King--who spun out a mix of Texas-style AND Chicago blues in the late 1950s through the early 1970s--is to find out who their mentors and eventual disciples were...King early on revered the likes of Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Howlin’ Wolf and T-Bone Walker; his own recorded works subsequently inspired--among others--Stevie Ray Vaughan and guitar-slinging sibling Jimmie Vaughan, Jerry Garcia, Eric Clapton, and formative Brit guitarist and Fleetwood Mac-founder Peter Green...“I’ve Got The Same Old Blues”, written by JJ Cale, comes from King’s release Burglar, which came out in 1974 (two years before his death at the age of 42).  https://youtu.be/gDKCs8uqcAQ

 

2. Fishin’ Blues -- Taj Mahal.....The original version of this song comes from Taj Mahal’s 1969 studio release Giant Step/De Ole Folks At Home, but actually the version listed here I’ve plucked from a killer live album entitled The Real Thing which came out in 1971.  This latter album also contained a joyous 9-minute instrumental called "Ain't Gwine to Whistle Dixie (Any Mo')", which like the rest of the record featured the swinging, organic, and beautifully “loose” playing of supporting musicians including John Hall (later of the band Orleans) on guitar, and accomplished jazz player Howard Johnson on tuba and baritone sax.  Taj is a multi-instrumentalist (blues harp, harmonica, National steel-bodied guitar) and in his songwriting and cover-song selections successfully melds the blues with African and Caribbean influences.  https://youtu.be/JPF485guOH0

 

3. New Walkin’ Blues - Paul Butterfield’s Better Days.....One of the formative Chicago Caucasian blues masters from the 1960s, harmonica wielding Butterfield first fronted The Butterfield Blues Band (’65-’71) before departing to create two masterpiece recordings with his Better Days ensemble--Paul Butterfield’s Better Days and follow-up It All Comes Back, both released in 1973.  This group somehow plumbed the depths of authentic blues and managed to create powerful songs that are timeless because of the level of musicianship, the material, and the track engineering/production.  True gems.  (“New Walkin’ Blues”--a Robert Johnson composition--is the leadoff track from the album Paul Butterfield’s Better Days.)  https://youtu.be/km6JPmQAglI

 

4. I Gotta Right To Sing The Blues -- Toots Thielemans with Beth Hart.....This one is more blues inflected than straight blues, with jazz and swing as part of the thing...Belgium-born Thielemans is a harmonica virtuoso; born in 1922, he has played with the top legends of jazz over the many decades and has veered a bit into jazz tributaries as well.  “I Gotta Right To Sing The Blues” is from his 2006 release One More From The Road which features the songs of Harold Arlen and guest vocalists on key tracks.  Los Angeles blues rocker Beth Hart lends her pipes to a pleasing treatment of this classic which has also been covered by Billie Holiday, Sinatra, Lena Horne, Satchmo and many more.  https://youtu.be/7RpxRYWBGMw

 

5. Statesboro Blues - Allman Brothers Band.....For musicasaurus.com readers of a certain age, this leadoff track is the first song we soaked in as our turntables spun the brand new Allman Brothers Band album At Fillmore East in July of 1971.  All these years later, the effect is the same--there’s sizzlin’ slide from Duane Allman and--speaking of the whole album here--it’s one of the tightest rock-band workouts ever captured in a live setting.  It brims over with energy, road experience, discipline, and intuitive playing; the musical boundaries blend into a magical amalgam of blues and rock, and even some adventurous jazz.  This crew, all in their twenties, were at the absolute peak of their prowess; Duane Allman, however, died in a motorcycle accident just 3 months after this double-live album was released.  He was 24.  https://youtu.be/dWy3Q30Cn2A

 

6. She Left Me With These Blues -- Billy Price.....New Jersey born Billy Price (real name William Pollak) settled in Pittsburgh in the mid 1970s, and was known on the national stage in the ’72-’76 time period as the lead singer for guitarist Roy Buchanan’s band.  Price provided vocals on one studio release and one live album in the Buchanan canon, 1974’s That’s What I Am Here For and 1975’s Live Stock. He currently balances his university media relations career at Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute with his unceasing passion for live performance, appearing mostly regionally and occasionally overseas... “She Left Me With These Blues” hails from his 2006 East End Avenue release.  https://youtu.be/s0MznE8GU5o

 

7. Senor Blues -- Judy Roberts.....Looks like musicasaurus.com definitely hopped the boundary on this one--it’s more cool jazz in the vein of a tamed Return To Forever than really representative of the blues.  But this Horace Silver composition in the hands of Roberts is a pleasant flashback to the “Quiet Storm” radio format that was born in the mid-70s--“adult contemporary” music that found its source points in a slow and soulful blend of rhythm & blues and jazz.  Chicago-based keyboard player and singer Roberts hits a groove here that is very well sustained by sensuous sonic touches and a cool, crisp execution; the tune comes from the artist’s 1980 release The Other World.  https://youtu.be/qu12ywnB-pc

 

8. Runnin’ Blues -- Boz Scaggs & Band.....Out of the chute this Scaggs tune is brassy and bold, and sets the tone for this rollicking & rolling bit of the blues...Scaggs’ first blip on our radar screen was as an early member of the Steve Miller Band, but he always had a penchant for the blues and especially blue-eyed soul.  On his first solo record in ’69 Scaggs covered the Chicago blues artist Fenton Robinson via an extended jam called “Loan Me A Dime”; this song famously featured 22-year-old guest guitarist Duane Allman.  On his third solo outing Boz Scaggs & Band the artist stretched out a bit in song styles, but it’s clearly this tune on which Boz hews to the blues--it really swings, with great rhythm and high-class brass.  https://youtu.be/mNSjOZJ1nOI

 

9. All Blues - Julie Driscoll / Brian Auger & The Trinity -- This British band covered Miles Davis’ 1959 composition “All Blues” on their 1969 double-album Streetnoise, and it’s a marvel on several levels--the musicianship of the quartet featuring Auger on piano, but especially in the startling range of vocalist Driscoll.  She takes pure possession of this bluesy vamp--alternately purring, growling and soaring--and she infuses this tune with way more than a feeling; it’s an incredible vocal tour de force.  https://youtu.be/fT5kStOBH1U

 

10. I’ll Play The Blues For You -- Albert King.....Mississippi-born guitarist King came to prominence in the mid-Sixties with a move to Memphis, Tennessee and some groundbreaking releases on the Stax record label (the song included here is the title track of a 1972 Stax release by King).  His weapon of choice was a Gibson Flying V, and a stinging, soulful tone that he peeled off always in service to the song.  His work along the way influenced an incredible number of musicians including Clapton, Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Joe Walsh, Derek Trucks, Warren Haynes, and more...Although King popularized for the masses the tune “Born Under A Bad Sign” via an album he released in 1967, it’s this 7-minute-plus “I’ll Play The Blues For You” that stands head and shoulders above the rest.  King on guitar is alternately smooth and slicing, and the icing on the cake is the backing support from members of the Bar-Kays and the Memphis Horns.  https://youtu.be/6SP5JHLqXM8

 

 

 

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Posted 4/18/16.....

A Various Artists' Mix....​

1. Birimbau – Christian Sievert & Jukka Tolonen.....This is simply the sound of two guitars, yet it’s a masterful mix of two talents from the Nordic  countries.  Sievert is a Dane—no, a great Dane—who is a virtuoso on acoustic guitar and concentrates on Brazilian jazz, including flamenco and samba.  Tolonen hails from Finland, and he is a jazz fusion player who can scorch with speed and precision.  Together, the two have created a uniquely compelling mix; the intertwining leads and the ebb and flow are near-astonishing...“Birimbau” comes from a multi-artist compilation album entitled A Taste of Brazil, released in 2006.  https://youtu.be/6CHj9nrBaEs

 

2. Mandolin Rain -- Bruce Hornsby.....Hornsby’s a Williamsburg, VA born and raised multiple-threat musician--singer-songwriter, pianist and accordionist--and he first burst into fame with his band The Range via their debut album The Way It Is, released in ’86.  In addition to fashioning his own accessible yet compelling mix of rock, bluegrass and jazz, Hornsby has guested on many peers’ records as well as dabbled with The Dead in the Jerry Garcia days, principally between 1988 and 1995...“Mandolin Rain” comes from Bruce Hornsby & The Range’s debut release.  https://youtu.be/bDgOwX72fLI

 

3. There Is A Light That Never Goes Out -- The Smiths.....English alternative rock band The Smiths were an exciting and refreshing additive to the overall 1980s music scene, with muscular, jangly alt-pop instrumentation beneath the melancholic wordplay of lead singer Morrissey.  The lyrics by wordsmith Morrissey always seemed to skew toward gloom and doom, but were often at the same time amusing because of their audacity; evidence these lyrics from the track listed here:  “And if a double-decker bus / crashes into us / To die by your side / Is such a heavenly way to die / And if a ten-ton truck / Kills the both of us / To die by your side / Well, the pleasure, the privilege is mine.”  The beauty of The Smiths was that these lyrics sailed above a shimmering sound-bed of excellent guitar work and savvy pop constructs, provided by group co-founder Johnny Marr...“There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” comes from the band’s third album The Queen Is Dead (1986).  https://youtu.be/n-cD4oLk_D0

 

4. Glenn Phillips – The Pipes Are Calling.....Often when musicasaurus.com is in a mellow mood and strategizing for mix candidates, some kind of recently chanced-upon instrumental then rears its head—and that happened back in September 2001 with guitarist Glenn Phillips’ “The Pipes Are Calling”.  The track opens gently with pipe organ and soon, an electric guitar seemingly possessed by bagpipes; from there the song majestically builds to a pipe-and-drum-style mighty march that’ll seem quite cinematic to some.  Phillips has been around since the 1970s, and is an artists’ artist (meaning, in this instance, having tremendous talent but never cracking through to commercial success).  He’s electric and eclectic, and has a solo catalogue worth surfing through...The Pipes Are Calling” comes from Phillips’ 1996 album Walking Through Walls.  https://youtu.be/EPkHpzi5yOI

 

5. Smoking Gun -- The Robert Cray Band.....This first-person tale of a jealous lover was Cray’s breakthrough-to-radio song, and he never again pierced through to such a level, but instead has built a solid career in the blues-rock arena, playing and recording with artists such as John Lee Hooker, Eric Clapton and others.  The song “Smoking Gun” hails from Cray’s 5th studio album entitled Strong Persuader (1986), a consistently fine effort anchored by his emotive, stinging fret work and his soulful, supple voice…One trivia--or trivial--note:  Cray can be spotted in the Belushi film National Lampoon’s Animal House, as the bass player in the house party scene that features Otis Day & The Knights.  https://youtu.be/2gQEDwjhaDE

 

6. The Clash – Charlie Don’t Surf.....One of musicasaurus.com’s favorite Clash tunes…If you only know this British band through the radio-exposed “Rockin’ The Casbah” or “Should I Stay Or Should I Go”, know that The Clash were a foursome that fiercely and consistently pushed musical boundaries, and they created melting pots of great grandeur including this softer-edged and insinuating bit of a beauty, “Charlie Don’t Surf”.  The song hails from the 1980 triple-album set Sandinista! and was named after a phrase uttered in the 1979 film Apocalypse Now by Robert Duvall’s war-happy, wave-riding American army general character that reminds his troops that “Charlie don’t surf.”   http://youtu.be/h788GoKMT-4

 

       

7. Marvin Gaye – Distant Lover.....Musicasaurus.com has his college roommate Gene to thank for this one: In 1973 I entered my junior year at PSU’s main campus in State College, having just transferred from a smaller liberal arts/teacher’s college in Clarion, PA.  I had elected to go into the dorms as a way to transition to the new and larger pool, and Gene and I were a good fit—I had brought along my Acoustic Research turntable and speakers, and he then brought out his cool CTI-label jazz albums and R&B collections to place on my platter, including Gaye’s Let’s Get It On album which I grew to love.  This song in particular shows the genius of Gaye—swirling (practically trance-inducing) multi-tracked vocals and sophisticated song arrangements, and above it all, Gaye’s pleading, pleasing and impassioned tenor.  Let’s Get It On had followed Gaye’s career-defining What’s Going On album by two years, and it contained Gaye’s frankly inviting come-on & radio hit “Sexual Healing”, but “Distant Lover” is equally fine and often underappreciated as a milestone gem.   http://youtu.be/RTAj3fHH14U

 

8. Frank Sinatra – Witchcraft.....“Those fingers in my hair / That sly come hither stare / That strips my conscience bare / It’s witchcraft”—croon led to swoon in ’57 when Sinatra first released this Nelson Riddle-arranged composition as a single; it then appeared on a compilation album of Sinatra’s Capitol years’ output of singles and B-sides entitled All The Way (1961).  The Chairman of the Board dawned on me early in life.  He was a big deal around my parents’ house in the late ‘50s along with Ella Fitzgerald and Stan Getz.  Like any self-respecting pre-teen though, my musical compass pointed toward peers not parents, and it wasn’t until much later that I found, and gave in to, The Voice.  Turned up to ten, “Witchcraft” is musicasaurus.com’s ultimate Sinatra “authority song”--it’s hard to surpass the amazing phrasing and vocal command of this gifted interpreter of modern pop music.  http://youtu.be/LIZIBm2QGaM

 

                       

9. When I Think Of You - Janet Jackson.....The album Control from which this track is taken is the one that sent Jackson’s career into the stratosphere in ‘86.  It ended up yielding five Top Five singles on Billboard magazine’s Hot 100 chart, and the recording process for this album was like her emancipation proclamation—she had severed ties with husband James DeBarge and father-and-manager Joseph Jackson, and immediately teamed up with new producers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and a new business manager (editorial aside:  When I think of Jackson, though, it’s not her music that first comes to mind.  I always hearken back to her September 22, 1998 date at Star Lake, and how her artist rider—the part of the contract that spells out the artist’s wants & needs—had a stipulation in it that was somewhat out of the ordinary.  In the rider, we were instructed to provide a brand new toilet seat for the bathroom in her dressing room—and it had to have the factory seal still wrapped around it.  I’m guessing that this is something that may have run in the family).  https://youtu.be/EaleKN9GQ54

 

10. Third Eye Blind – I Want You.....This San Franciscan alternative-rock band formed in the early 1990s and by 1996, its songwriting duo of Stefan Jenkins (vocalist) and Kevin Cadogan (guitarist) secured a label deal with Elektra Records.  The band’s 1997 self-titled debut was full of swagger, hooks, alternative-music flourishes and great pop instincts, and terrestrial radio glommed onto the track “Semi-Charmed Life” which became a rip-snorting success (as much as any song about crystal meth could, I imagine).  The track from this debut record that really mesmerizes, however, is “I Want You”, which is not one of the three or four that entered various rock radio playlists upon the album’s release.  It’s more like an album deep cut that has to be sought out and savored (though reportedly the tune was an ongoing fan favorite of the band’s onstage repertoire).  The song is awash in nice production touches and atmosphere, and Jenkins’ vocals are his characteristic slightly sped-up mix of “rock and hip-hop”.  The lyrics are somewhat inscrutable and dark (like the background chorus that implores “Send me all your vampires”), and somehow this all adds up to a bewitching listening experience...Enjoy.  https://youtu.be/puKWMnfO1RU

 

 

 

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Posted 3/21/16.....

Bruce Springsteen once sang “Cover Me”—and other musicians have, including those who participated in a 1984 tribute album entitled “Cover Me: Songs by Springsteen” which featured The Patti Smith Group, The Hollies, Johnny Cash, Greg Kihn, and others…Below are covers of mostly well-known tunes by a wide variety of artists—pretty much all are respectful of the source, though those with the quirky spins of reinvention are especially noteworthy…

 

1. Sweet Child O’ Mine -- The Aluminum Group does Guns N’ Roses.....Slowed to a meditative pace, this cover is a cool reinvention that will likely piss off Axl and Slash worshippers, but it supplies grandeur in a chamber pop setting and the result is quite lush and lovely...This Chicago band led by brothers John and Frank Navin originally trekked in hardcore circles under another band name, but then in 1995 indulged their love of 1960s pop schmaltz to form The Aluminum Group, releasing the album Wonder Boy from which this track is taken...The original version of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” comes from Guns N’ Roses searing debut album Appetite For Destruction, released in 1987.   https://youtu.be/vNktzEYQlO0

 

 

2. Tears Of A Clown -- The English Beat does Smokey Robinson.....The original recording of this song by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles appeared on their 1967 album Make It Happen.  The tune was co-written by Stevie Wonder (with his producer of the moment) and Wonder handed it over to Robinson for lyrics.  Robinson reportedly thought the music very “circus-like”, and came up with the clown theme...Enter the English Beat.  The band had formed in Birmingham, England in 1978, a multi-racial musician mix that delivered great soundscapes of blended ska, reggae, punk and soul.  This guaranteed limb-twitchin’ cover version of the Smokey tune comes from The English Beat’s 1983 compilation album What Is Beat?   https://youtu.be/SjnYRD2vm8E

 

 

3. You Got The Silver -- Crooked Still does The Rolling Stones.....If you’re a deeply-entrenched Stones’ fan, you might raise an eyebrow on this one--it’s a bluegrass and folk-fueled treatment of Keith Richards’ original composition that The Rolling Stones included on their 1969 album Let It Bleed...Musically this reproduction is fairly reverent throughout, but it hits some new high marks via fiddle and banjo, and especially the emotive phrasing and pacing of female lead singer Aoife O’Donovan...Crooked Still formed in 2001 in the Boston area, and released their first album in 2005; the track listed here comes from their 2010 release Some Strange Country.   https://youtu.be/HvqFEQMyBEI

 

 

4. We Can Work It Out -- Stevie Wonder does The Beatles.....Beatles’ fans are purists; they don’t like people messin’ with the legacy, here there or anywhere.  But then along comes a Wonder of a revamp, a tune that takes the original’s melodic energy and retools it for a spin through Funkville (complete with multi-tracked backing vocals that add punch and panache).  The original Beatles recording is from 1966’s Yesterday...And Today album; Wonder’s reworking of the tune followed four years later, and appeared on his Signed, Sealed And Delivered release.   https://youtu.be/cl3dN1L1XQE

 

 

5. I Melt With You -- Nouvelle Vague does Modern English.....This band’s name in French translates to “new wave”--and that about sums ‘em up.  The group is the brainchild of two French musicians Marc Collin and Olivier Libaux, who album-to-album take on new and returning female singers who cover--in ‘60s bossa nova style--various punk and post-punk classics.  The group’s recorded works to this point include deft & delicious treatments of songs by The Clash, Joy Division, The Undertones, Depeche Mode, XTC, The Cure, Dead Kennedys and many more...“I Melt With You”, a song originally performed by the British band Modern English and included on their 1982 release After The Snow, is here given the bossa nova make-ova.  Like most of Nouvelle Vague’s material, it soars on its own strengths as well as pays quirky reverence to the past.  The tune comes from Nouvelle Vaugue’s very first album, a self-titled release that came out in 2004.   https://youtu.be/Dmtk8TPGkUM

 

 

6. Sunny—The Electric Flag does Bobby Hebb.....This song, from Bobby Hebb’s 1966 album of the same name, was a huge radio hit upon release that year.  Amazingly, it became a smash across three national radio formats--Pop, Rhythm & Blues, and Country & Western.  The tune’s since been covered by a number of leading artists--Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Stevie Wonder, Wes Montgomery, The Four Seasons, Marvin Gaye and many others--but for my money it’s the “Sunny” as performed by The Electric Flag.  Drummer and vocalist Buddy Miles, supported by the stellar jazz, blues & soul musicians within this fine 1960s ensemble, injects the tune with unbridled passion that borders on tour de force.  The Flag’s version included in this covers mix comes from their self-titled second album released in 1968.   https://youtu.be/IOBKXtNp77A

 

 

7. Wild Night -- Martha Reeves does Van Morrison.....Reeves romped high on the Pop and R & B charts in the 1960s as part of the Motown stable of acts and as leader of her girl group The Vandellas.  They scored big with “(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave”, “Nowhere To Run”, and “Dancing In The Street” in that breadbasket of talent that was Motown.  When the label left Detroit for L.A. in 1973, Reeves parted ways with the company and went solo in ’74 with a self-titled release produced by then in-demand producer Richard Perry.  It was on this record that Reeves covered Van Morrison’s “Wild Night”, and she wrapped her fiery pipes all around it, laying her fuel-injected funk on top of the bedrock rock ‘n’ roll...Morrison’s original version appeared on his very fine 1971 release Tupelo Honey.   https://youtu.be/XRmxCvN-H_Y

 

   

8. I Need Love -- Luka Bloom does LL Cool J.....This artist started out in his native Ireland performing under his given name Barry Moore, and he's also kid brother to revered Irish singer-songwriter Christy Moore, a founding member of seminal Irish-folk band Planxty.  After three albums the younger Moore moved to America in 1987 and adopted the stage name Luka Bloom; the first name was taken from Suzanne Vega’s hit single from that same year, and the last name from the character in James Joyce’s Ulysses...In 1992 Bloom released his third album The Acoustic Motorbike, which contained this mesmerizing cover of an LL Cool J song.  It is a wondrous Celtic take on what was perhaps the first ever rap ballad, released by LL on his 1987 Bigger And Deffer album.  Here, the hushed and earnest vocals by Bloom and the song’s beautifully understated arrangement carry this song to new heights of romantic expression.  https://youtu.be/P-KSyxya-64

 

 

9. Light My Fire -- José Feliciano does The Doors.....Born in Puerto Rico and raised in Spanish Harlem, aspiring singer-songwriter Feliciano produced both English and Spanish language albums in the mid-1960s until suddenly in '68, he clambered into the limelight and scorched the national airwaves with his electrifying cover of The Doors' "Light My Fire".  That was Feliciano's "fifteen minutes"--he never again reached a similar pinnacle of critical and public acclaim, but this song (from 1968's Feliciano! album) truly stands the test of time and is a classic, soul-stirring reinvention...The original "Light My Fire" appeared on The Door's self-titled debut released in 1967.   https://youtu.be/Fnf9PJWwPZ0

 

 

10. Papa Was A Rolling Stone - David Lindley & El Rayo-X do The Temptations.....The original version of this song as performed and recorded by The Temptations appeared on their 1972 album All Directions, and it’s a magnum-sized opus clocking in at over 12 minutes in length.  It was pared down to a more manageable 7 minutes to garner hit-radio play for The Temps, and in the cover version by Lindley included in this mix, the song settles in at just 5...Lindley’s a master of all things with strings--guitar, banjo, lap steel, mandolin, bouzouki, oud and others--and he’s also got a lively spirit in the recording studio, fashioning songs (with his band El Rayo-X) like this one that brim over with rhythm and joie de vivre. This “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” appears on Lindley’s 1988 album entitled Very Greasy.   https://youtu.be/bitNeEaYqt8

 

 

 

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Posted 3/7/16.....

Various Artists Mix...originally recorded February 25, 2011.

1. Angel – Jimi Hendrix.....Hendrix cranked out “Angel” before he, alas, joined the angels in 1970.  He’s been more prolific in the Afterlife than most living musicians, too; it’s as if he took his Strat to the stratosphere and amped up his output from a heavenly perch.  This track is from 1970’s Cry Love, the first posthumous release of finished or nearly finished studio songs from this guitar god.  Cry Love was the beginning of the great wave of unearthed recordings from the Hendrix Estate (his license-holding minions back here on Earth).  “Angel”, incidentally, was covered quite well by rocker Rod Stewart on his 1972 album Never A Dull Moment—which was long before Rod turned from “mod” to “plod” and began wheezing out those Great American Songbook recordings for old people with fading discriminating tastes and one foot in the grave.  (There is, unbelievably, not a Hendrix performance of “Angel” on YouTube, so….   https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/angel/id344803075?i=344803437

 

2. Beds Are Burning – Midnight Oil.....Midnight Oil is an Australian band that successfully mixed politics & song—not always a winning combination when it comes to sales & success.  Front and center in the band was 7’-tall and shiny-domed Peter Garrett, who joined in 1975 as lead vocalist while the band name was morphing to Midnight Oil.  Champions of aboriginal rights, the band also became involved in a number of other timely and tempestuous issues such as apartheid, corporate pollution, workers’ rights, and mining.  They also aligned with organizations and causes such as Greenpeace and the Tibet Council...“Beds Are Burning” is from 1987’s Diesel and Dust, a great rock record that catapulted them to worldwide fame, earning them a fervent following based on Garrett’s vehement vocals, the activist themes, and real muscle behind the music.  https://youtu.be/ejorQVy3m8E

 

3. Exil (Da Rib) – Idir & Geoffrey Oryema.....Algerian-born Idir had some localized success in the 1970s with Kabyle music (i.e., the music of the Kabyle people, the largest Algerian ethnic community populated by Berbers, the indigenous peoples of North Africa west of the Nile Valley).  Geoffrey Oryema is a Ugandan musician who broke beyond his country’s borders via Peter Gabriel’s record company Real World, which issued the first three of Oryema’s albums.  The song “Exil (Da Rib)” is a captivating collaboration between these two exiled musicians who now reside in France.  The song is sung in their native languages and it is a seamless twisting and tying together of musical cultures; a spirited, percussive workout that hits you with its rhythm stick.  The song hails from Idir’s 1999 album Identites, which features a host of world music collaborators like Oryema, Manu Chao, and many others.  https://youtu.be/NeBZt6GrAuY

 

4. Elevator Love Letter – Stars.....Canadian group Stars’ shining lights are the principal vocalists Amy Millan and Torquil Campbell.  Originally from Toronto, this indie-rock-and-pop band migrated to New York City and then up into Montreal, where they reached the apex of the local indie scene upon the release of their debut album in 2001.  The album Heart followed in 2003, and it is an unpretentious mix of electro-pop and soft, insinuating melodies (the track listed here is taken from that record).  Millan’s unforced and mellow magic is arguably the standout strength of the band.  https://youtu.be/xU7KGcrD_gc

 

5. Can We Still Be Friends? – Todd Rundgren.....Pop-auteur Rundgren’s first foray of any consequence was in The Nazz, a late-1960s American group who formed and then followed the musical paths of the British Invasion.  In 1972 his audience grew exponentially in terms of his solo career with the release of the double album Something/Anything, ¾ of which was ALL Rundgren—he had sung every vocal part, played every instrument, and produced the entire record.  That album contained such hits as “I Saw The Light” and “Hello, It’s Me” (the latter a do-over by Rundgren from his Nazz days).  In 1978, Rundgren released the record from which this track is taken, Hermit of Mink Hollow.  Like Something/Anything, this album was entirely Rundgren on vocals, instruments, and studio production, and it also balanced his by-now-anticipated idiosyncratic exercises with his pure pop instincts and tender ballads...p.s. “Can We Still Be Friends” was covered by British singer Robert Palmer one year later when he palmed the piece for his upcoming album Secrets.  https://youtu.be/jI_oBXzLNmw

 

6. (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes – Hem.....Ahem, what is THIS?  A lounge version of an Elvis Costello classic?  Actually, it is a quite respectable cover of this tune from Hem, a folk assemblage from the New York area who traffics in traditional American music—meaning, traditional sounding songs played with traditional instruments (no studio tricks, no sampling, etc.).  On this track, lead songstress Sally Ellyson laments and lazes her way through, while banjo, slide guitar, and cymbals & brushes lilt alongside...The track is from a 2002 tribute album entitled Almost You: The Songs of Elvis Costello, and in addition to Hem, this album features Okkervil River, Mendoza Line, Matt Pond PA, and others of the indie ilk.  https://youtu.be/GSddDfQ5l7k

 

7. Farther Along – The Byrds.....The 1971-era Byrds (Roger McGuinn, Gene Parsons, Clarence White and Skip Battin) tackle this traditional gospel tune written back in 1911, and they acquit themselves nicely.  If you’re a cinematic listener, visions of baptisms by the river and long-bearded men—hats-in-hand and in their Sunday Best—might very well come to mind.  The early 1970s incarnation of the Byrds could convincingly rock, but they also mixed in some fine mandolin and accomplished bluegrass pickin’ as well.  On this track from the 1971 album of the same name, they very authentically replicate the work of their folk forefathers.  https://youtu.be/5mgX7C5kqiU

 

8. Rocket Summer – Alison Brown.....Banjo virtuoso Brown, as usual, shares the predominant spotlight with her fine pianist John Burr, and on this track from 2009’s The Company You Keep, you’ll also hear some fine fiddling and vivacious violin.  All together, the first-class musicians on this record create an enticing all-instrumental whirlpool of sorta jazz, kinda bluegrass, and almost folk, expertly performed (a great band to see “live” as well, if you’ve ever the chance.)  https://youtu.be/ptVUK75c-IQ

 

9. Have A Little Faith In Me – John Hiatt.....John Hiatt’s beautiful ballad comes from his career highpoint Bring The Family.  By 1987, Hiatt had just emerged from a particularly challenging stretch.  After his 1985 album Warming Up To the Ice Age, he’d been dropped by Geffen Records—his third label, at that point—and his personal trials were many, including the loss of his second wife and battles with the bottle.  The year 1987 brought him strength and resolve—and also to A&M records, where his rootsy turn toward authentic and masterful blends of rock-folk-country-and-blues brought him his first-ever charting album.  He’d also had “dream team” support on this, his 8th record:  Ry Cooder on guitar, Nick Lowe on bass, and Jim Keltner on drums...“Have A Little Faith In Me” has been covered by a number of other artists through the years, including Joe Cocker, Delbert McClinton, Joe Cocker and—oh, my heavens—Mandy Moore.  I would love to hear Saturday Night Live’s Nick the Lounge Singer attempt it, too; would you Murray down to that stoned soul picnic?  https://youtu.be/8UkKTlzyLhQ

 

10. Isobel – Bjork.....Bjork is one of the greatest of Iceland’s musical exports, and she has carved out her career through tireless pursuits to marry technology with her avant garde approach to songwriting and execution.  In her earlier years she vocally fronted the Icelandic rock band The Sugarcubes, but it’s her solo career that is particularly noteworthy for its genre bending and convention upending...“Isobel” is from Bjork’s second album entitled Post, released in 1995.  https://youtu.be/S1QtZqCiP7s

 

 

 

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Posted 2/22/16.....

Various Artists mix.....Originally recorded March 6, 2007.

1. Sooner Or Later – Chris Hillman.....Hillman is an incredibly influential musician who in the 1960s and 1970s helped create the template for “country rock”.  In his earliest years of performing, this guitarist/mandolin player embarked on bluegrass but then alighted with the Byrds in time for their mid-‘60’s classics “Turn! Turn! Turn!”, “Eight Miles High”, and “So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star”.  He stayed with the band through 1968’s seminal album Sweetheart of The Rodeo (with Gram Parsons), flew the coop for The Flying Burrito Brothers (1968-1971) and Stephen Stills’ Manassas (1972-1973), and then moved on to the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band and a more country-based career thereafter...This track is from Hillman’s 1998 album Like A Hurricane.  https://youtu.be/nifFlfD_LIU?list=PLgaVTWI8OELK3PkaB7HPUCgpeLE2OslP4

 

2. Twisted Layer – Virgil Shaw.....This six-string guitar strummer was in a band called Dieselhead from the San Francisco Bay area circa 1989, and then spun off to a solo career with moody, atmospheric tunes in the alt-country vein.  He’s got the voice for it—he’s been likened to Gram Parsons in that regard—and on this track from his 2000 solo release Quad Cities, there are nice little production touches that give it a bit of alt-skewed icing.  https://youtu.be/iFt59D_DzlU

 

3. The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore – Jules Shear.....Born in Pittsburgh in 1952, pop rocker Shear moved to L.A. in the mid-1970s and has had a career characterized by blips of success within various areas of the music business.  Although some of his solo releases from the early 1990s were critically acclaimed, they never engendered widespread fame; some of Shear’s songs, though, did strike a chord with the public through other artists—Cyndi Lauper had a hit with Shear’s “All Through The Night”, and the Bangles covered his tune “If She Knew What She Wants”.  Shear also waded into MTV back in 1989, becoming the host of the first 13 episodes of the music channel’s program MTV Unplugged...The track listed here—a cover of The Walker Brothers’ 1966 chart-topper—is from Shear’s 1994 release Healing Bones.  This album and 1992’s The Great Puzzle both have some gems to be mined by pop-rock fans who want to dig past the usual pop pablum.  https://youtu.be/2Cpoxb7PX7o

 

4. Take Off And Land – Manu Katche.....This artist is an accomplished drummer who has toured and recorded with a number of top-level talents including Sting, Peter Gabriel, Joni Mitchell, Jeff Beck, Afro Celt Sound System, Robbie Robertson, Joe Satriani, and Tears For Fears, to name a few.  Katche edged into band leader territory in the 2000s and recorded his EMC debut Neighbourhood in 2006 (from which this track is taken).  It’s an accessible form of jazz, with stellar ensemble playing fueled by Katche’s punctuating drum style.  The album also features trumpeter Tomasz Stanko and saxophonist Jan Garbarek.  https://youtu.be/qKdbrcOVGm8

 

5. Don’t Forget About Me – Nanci Griffith.....Texas native Griffith has always seemed to largely straddle the worlds of folk & country to the degree that runaway success has eluded her in both realms.  She has a pure and clear singing voice (perfect for a kindergarten teacher, a career she once considered), and her songwriting is filled with characters in story settings concerning the themes of love and loss.  This track is taken from Griffith’s tenth album, Flyer, a folk album with some rock fingerprints on it, courtesy of guest spots from Adam Duritz of the Counting Crows and Mark Knopfler (ex-Dire Straits).  A fine record.  https://youtu.be/6Y-WuxDj-94

 

6. All My Sorrow – Lindsey Buckingham.....Guitarist/singer Buckingham is most famous for his membership—with soul mate Stevie Nicks—in the mega-successful Fleetwood Mac of 1975 and beyond.  He brought pure pop power to the Mac—great production instincts, an ear for arrangements, and fingers-on-the-frets finesse.  Buckingham’s solo efforts, while inconsistent in the songwriting department, all contain at least a few gems of rich, layered and complex songs that have that surefire production sheen and superior sound.  “All My Sorrow” comes from the 1992 Buckingham solo album Out of the Cradle.  https://youtu.be/k98h6Q5SV9o

 

7. When The Stars Go Blue – Ryan Adams.....Adams is a prolific singer-songwriter and guitarist who doesn’t hearken to boundaries in studio recordings OR in live settings.  He writes intriguing songs that sprout from his passion for country legends like Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard, but he also integrates his garage rock bent and punk leanings into the mix to create some quite arresting listening experiences.  Born in 1974 in Jacksonville, North Carolina and a songwriter since the age of 15, Adams formed the alt-country band Whiskeytown in 1994, but by the year 2000 the band was asunder and Adams was off and running on a solo career.  The song “When The Stars Go Blue” (later covered by The Coors with special guest Bono) is from Adams’ major-label debut Gold, released in 2001.  https://youtu.be/rT0cndgd1kM

 

8. Falling Slowly – The Frames.....Prior to 2008, band leader Glen Hansard was perhaps best known in cult (and perhaps even wider) circles for his small role in Alan Parker’s classic 1991 film The Commitments.  He’s also been a bandleader since the 1990 formation of The Frames in Dublin, Ireland.  They’re a great live band of intensity and directness, and some of their best songs have that “from a whisper to a wail” quality…One of Hansard’s side-band projects in the mid-to-late 2000’s was The Swell Season, featuring Czech singer/songwriter Marketa Irglova.  On the Swell Season’s debut album that came out in 2006, “Falling Slowly” was one of the featured songs and eventually went on to win an Oscar for Best Original Song from the Hansard and Irglova film Once.  The version of “Falling Slowly” listed here, though, was recorded by The Frames a few months after Swell Season’s debut, and it is culled from The Frames 2007 release The Cost—an album that solidly showcases their in-concert charisma, as the whole record was recorded live in the studio over a ten-day time period.  https://youtu.be/jPXkSQIba1Y

 

9. Keep On Moving – UB40.....From humble beginnings, this British band became synonymous with soothing pop-driven reggae songs that charted in their native UK and eventually the U.S. as well.  These multiracial working class kids banded together in 1978, taking their group name from a British unemployment benefits form.  Their earliest material was political in nature, and then five years into their career the band released Labour of Love—from which this tune is taken—a collection of reggae covers also including Neil Diamond’s “Red, Red Wine”, and the classic “Many Rivers To Cross”.  https://youtu.be/uOQ8AHCe-XU

 

10. Blue Moon – Mark Isham (with Tanita Tikaram).....Mark Isham straddles more than a few musical pursuits—solo trumpeter, prolific film-and-television composer, and a touring sideman of the first caliber.  In 1983 he released his solo debut Vapor Drawings on the prestigious New Age record label Windham Hill and also scored his first film, Disney’s Never Cry Wolf.  He has also toured and/or recorded with jazz greats like Pharoah Sanders and Charles Lloyd, and rock luminaries such as Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, the Rolling Stones, Suzanne Vega, XTC and Springsteen.  His few solo records are amazing, and in addition to trumpet, Isham adroitly programs and incorporates synthesizers into his work.  The song “Blue Moon”—guest sung by Tanita Tikaram—is from Isham’s 1990 self-titled album.  Nominated twice before for a Grammy in the category of Best New Age Performance, Isham was finally ushered in through this release.  https://youtu.be/5dBRvC-gqiI

 

 

 

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Posted 2/8/16.....

A mix made while marking “time”….

1. Time – Pink Floyd.....This track is from the band’s eighth studio Dark Side Of The Moon, released in March of 1973.  For those of you who are chart-obsessed, Dark Side was on Billboard Magazine’s album-sales chart in the “Top 200” for more than 14 years straight after its initial release, and it has sold more than 50 million copies worldwide.  This album spills its saucerful of secrets without the slightest Floydian slip.  https://youtu.be/JwYX52BP2Sk

 

2. Time Out of Mind – Steely Dan.....“Tonight when I chase the dragon, the water will change to cherry wine”—this is the usual lyrical esoterica put forth by The Dan, but it’s also musically crisp, catchy, and of course full of their signature accents and whip-smart jazz shadings.  The song is taken from their 1980 release Gaucho.  https://youtu.be/iYIv_dyhezs

 

3. Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More – Allman Brothers Band.....This song is from 1972’s Eat A Peach album, the band’s fourth overall record and their first without an Allman Brother—specifically Duane, who died in a motorcycle accident the year before its release.  Contrary to some popular mythological musings about the death of Duane, the 24-year-old guitarist was killed when plowing into a flatbed lumber truck—not a truck full of peaches.  The album title reportedly comes from Duane’s response to an interviewer who asked “How are you helping the revolution?”  Duane’s answer:  “There ain’t no revolution, only evolution, but every time I’m in Georgia I eat a peach for peace.”  https://youtu.be/vE3zhu9ROjo

 

4. Comes A Time – Neil Young.....This is a feel-good, fiddle-fueled country rock song with the beautiful harmony of Nicolette Larson layered on top.  It’s also the title track of this tenth album from Young which came out in 1978, almost six-and-a-half years after the release of Harvest.  The latter album was similarly country-tinged and predominantly acoustic, and like its successor was a Top Ten album for this Canadian conundrum.  https://youtu.be/xsWrmJjD2eY

 

5. The Last Time – Dwight Yoakam.....The best cover versions are reinventions, not replicas.  This Stones cover by Yoakam, from the artist’s seventh studio album entitled Under The Covers (1997), is indeed one of the former.  Roll away the Stones—nasal twang rules.  https://youtu.be/PRUUpThF0WM

 

6. Time Loves A Hero – Little Feat.....By 1977, Lowell George—Feat founder, guitarist, and principal songwriter since 1969—was deeper into drug use and somewhat directionless.  Thus guitarist Paul Barrere and keyboardist Billy Payne stepped in, and on 1977’s Time Loves A Hero, they continued with the band’s recent shift toward jazzier jams and touches of fusion.  When George finally tired of Barrere & Payne putting that one Feat before the other, he declared the band to be “broken up” in 1979 and left for a solo career.  The track referenced here, Time Loves A Hero, is a mid-tempo piece of polished funk with the usual stellar production, a solid anchoring by bassist Kenny Gradney and drummer Richie Hayward, and keyboard flourishes aplenty by Payne.  https://youtu.be/C1b2B3yYNDU

 

7. Not A Second Time – The Beatles.....You’ll find this song on TWO Beatles’ albums, should you want to try hard enough.  The song first appeared in 1963 on the band’s second UK album entitled With The Beatles, and then reappeared (as did most of the other songs from that album) on the band’s second American release, Meet The Beatles.  The latter, released in the United States in January 1964, was the one that changed lives; for most Americans, this was their real introduction to (and induction into!) Beatlemania.  This was the record that was plopped down on parents’ living room hi-fi consoles and on teenagers’ plastic record players all across the country—and a month later, the Fab Four debuted on national television via the Ed Sullivan show.  https://youtu.be/aDn3YV0C6x4

 

8. A Matter Of Time – Los Lobos.....The band first formed in East Los Angeles in 1973, and has perfected through the years a rich blend of rock, blues, country, Tex Mex, rhythm & blues, authentic Spanish & Mexican music, and more.  They put in THEIR 10,000 hours in bars, at wedding receptions, and in any other place that would have them.  Finally in 1984 they released their critically-acclaimed debut album How Will The Wolf Survive? which contains this track (side bar:  Check out their 2004 CD/DVD package entitled Live At The Fillmore, in order to get a taste of the band in their natural element; the band is at its very best in live performance.)  https://youtu.be/vdfuPQnQNm8

 

9. The Times They Are A-Changin’ – Bob Dylan.....“Come senators, congressmen / Please heed the call / Don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall / For he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled / There’s a battle outside and it’s ragin’ / It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls / For the times they are a-changin’.”  Pretty freakin’ prescient, don’t you agree?  However, Dylan’s actually referring here NOT to budget impasses and polarized, paralyzing politicians, but instead to the rising, resounding wave of Civil Rights awareness.  This track from Dylan’s 1964 release of the same name is perhaps the first “anthem of change” that a lot of Americans heard back in the early-to-mid-sixties, and the timing was surely right, for the times they were a-changin’.  https://youtu.be/_P3-AFGGvks

 

10. Come Down In Time – Elton John.....This absolutely beautiful ballad is from Elton’s “kind of a concept album” on the great American West entitled Tumbleweed Connection (1970).  This was Elton’s third release, after Empty Sky (1969) and Elton John (1970). The songs on Tumbleweed Connection—with all lyrics by Bernie Taupin—were a mix of country, blues, and pop, and were very cinematic in nature.  Most were also adorned by very sensible and song-serving string arrangements by veteran British arranger and conductor Paul Buckmaster.  https://youtu.be/lzYgHQluatY

 

 

 

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Posted 1/25/16.....

Songs from ’79….These were on my cassette mixes that year, and ran the gamut of power pop to R&B to classic rock…Enjoy.

1. You Can’t Be Too Strong – Graham Parker & The Rumour.....English pub rocker Parker had a bit of Van Morrison’s voice, but with a sneer and attitude.  The song remains today a politically charged work because it deals frankly with abortion, and is well articulated in poetic yet disturbing lyrics.  The album from which this tune emanates is Squeezing Out Sparks, and the title comes from a few lines within this song...Parker’s signing to a different American label two years before—Mercury Records—presaged a couple of other English singer/songwriters to whom he is often compared: Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson.  https://youtu.be/3fsFy3M5jg0

 

2. She’s Tuff – The Fabulous Thunderbirds.....From their self-titled debut album.....The band formed in 1974 and later became the house band at Antone’s in Austin, Texas, but also religiously & relentlessly toured the country for many years, hitting the bars and brandishing the blues.  Lead vocalist Kim Wilson mouthed a mean harp, and Stevie Ray Vaughan’s brother Jimmy wielded rhythm guitar; widespread success eluded them until 1986’s Tuff Enuff album, and an MTV video of “She’s Tuff” from this album helped cement their success.  https://youtu.be/KPNifLxDSnI

 

3. Rock With You – Michael Jackson.....From Off The Wall, Jackson’s critically and commercially successful fifth solo album.....This tune entered and clung tenaciously to the airwaves of pop rock radio all across the country.  For those of us who may have heard it 1,000 times too many—in the background in retail stores or in passing on car radios, etc.—it seriously bears revisiting.  It’s a gorgeous and gloriously produced song with unobtrusive, tasteful strings and layered harmonies & hand claps.  Quincy Jones produced the album and then journeyed along with Jackson to Thriller, just three years down the road...Pop, rhythm & blues, rock, and post-disco:  Michael really had a nose for this stuff, back then.  https://youtu.be/5X-Mrc2l1d0

 

4. The Very Thing That Makes You Rich (Makes Me Poor) – Ry Cooder.....Ry Cooder has always kind of lived outside the boundaries of conventional music making, and always has championed roots music above all else.  He started out as a session player, and his slide guitar appears on a variety of late 60s/early 70s records by Captain Beefheart, Little Feat, Taj Mahal, Randy Newman, and even the Stones (on Let It Bleed and Sticky Fingers).  Cooder has a cauldron that he pulls from, and he covers a number of styles—rock, folk, blues, R & B, Tex Mex, Hawaiian, gospel and soul.  This track is from Cooder’s album Bop Till You Drop, which was the very first major-label rock album to be recorded digitally.  The sound is pristine, clear, and captivating.  https://youtu.be/OTJ3RQSa1PU

 

5. Girls Talk – Dave Edmunds.....This track is from the album Repeat When Necessary, cut at the exact same time as Nick Lowe’s album Labour of Lust.  The personnel on the two albums was identical—all members of the UK band Rockpile.  Though “Girls Talk” is a cover of an Elvis Costello song, Edmunds populated the album with a lot of songs that cleaved to the rock and roll traditions of the 1950s and early 1960s.  https://youtu.be/TTkhBuNdMgY

 

6. Bartender’s Blues – George Jones (with James Taylor).....Country music legend Jones released an album in this year of 1979 that featured a number of other musicians helping out in duet pairings and harmonies.  My Very Special Guests featured, among others, Waylon, Willie, Emmylou Harris, Mavis & Pop Staples, Linda Ronstadt, Elvis Costello and James Taylor.  Jones’ voice is black velvet; he’s a wonderful warbler, and Taylor’s harmony on this track is the coup de grace.  https://youtu.be/CTFXRIY6-fE

 

7. A Fool For Your Stockings – ZZ Top.....From a somewhat underrated album entitled Deguello, this track is not a full-tilt boogie (if you’re still lookin’ for some tush).  Instead it’s a deep-bottomed, deliciously doled-out track that oozes the blues.  Guitarist Billy Gibbons lopes out his leads, and the song is a well-worn groove that deepens with each listen.  https://youtu.be/Uv4B0xK8rNs

 

8. I Wanna Be Your Lover – Prince.....This track is from Prince’s self-titled debut album, and his falsetto is funkin’ fantastic.  It’s a dance tune, true; the song gives little hint that this Artist Then Known As Prince would a) produce something as groundbreaking as Purple Rain in a few short years, and b) soon thereafter become a symbol of....of....well, just become a symbol, period.  Of course these days, he’s takin’ names again.  (Note:  There is no readily available YouTube clip available with the original version of the song, so here’s a snippet from iTunes:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/i-wanna-be-your-lover-single/id322848495?i=322848510

 

9. Life During Wartime –Talking Heads.....Follow the recipe:  Take spunk...add a dash of punk...and leaven with funk.  You’ll then have “Life During Wartime”, a tune from Talking Heads’ third album Fear of Music.  This track is dense and driving, and its lyrics reflect the unease that exists in facing some of the threats of this modern age:  “This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco / This ain’t no fooling around / No time for dancing, or lovey-dovey / I ain’t got time for that now”.....I’ll take this mode of messaging over the talking heads on cable TV every day of the week.  https://youtu.be/DblvhECdws0

 

10. Leather Jacket – Mick Taylor.....Mick was most noted for being with Mick—and Keith, of course—in the 1969-1972 period Stones, who were at that time rolling out impressive, successive blockbusters like Let It Bleed, Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out, Sticky Fingers, and Exile on Main Street.  Taylor’s guitar work was exemplary, but some say he got musically restless as well as tired of the partying lifestyle of his band of brothers, and so slipped away to other pursuits in 1975.  In 1979, he released his first solo album (self-titled), and “Leather Jacket” is the stand-out track from the pack.  https://youtu.be/YGnkAHXO87k

 

 

 

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Posted 1/11/16.....

A Various Artists' mix originally recorded...oh, a while back.

1. I Want You (She’s So Heavy) – The Beatles.....The last song on side one of The Beatles’ 1969 album Abbey Road, and reportedly one of the last songs to be mixed in the studio with all four Beatles’ present & accounted for...It’s a Lennon composition almost eight minutes in length, both bluesy and ballsy; it’s got repeating motifs both lyrically and musically, but it’s spellbinding.  Lennon uses a Moog synthesizer for the sounds of wind & white noise that are near the end of this abruptly concluding track.  https://youtu.be/34FFAD6JnDA

 

2. Pour Que l’Amour Me Quitte – Camille .....Trolling over various music websites, I came upon this compelling ballad sung by French pop star Camille Dalmais (who goes only by “Camille”).  The song comes from her second solo album Le Fil (2005), and features her soft vocal caress above some acoustic picking.  The year before this album’s release, Camille gained some fans via a collaboration that resulted in the album Nouvelle Vague, a record filled with bossa nova covers of punk & new wave.  This latter album included treatments of The Clash’s “Guns of Brixton,” Modern English’s “I Melt With You,” Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” and even The Dead Kennedy’s “Too Drunk Too **** ”—an interesting artistic approach to say the least.  https://youtu.be/dNGsgMbHB4w

 

3. Sarah – Thin Lizzy.....Thin Lizzy was an Irish twin-guitar-attack rock band who reigned in the 1970s with black bandleader, bassist and lead singer Phil Lynott, and guitarists through the years that included an incendiary blues-blaster named Gary Moore...The band is most noted for their Seventies’ heavy but ho-hum hits like “The Boys Are Back In Town” and “Jailbreak,” but digging deeper into their canon reveals some underplayed treats like the tune listed here.  “Sarah” comes from Lizzy’s ninth studio album Black Rose: A Rock Legend released in 1979, and it had Moore back in the line-up with longstanding guitarist Scott Gorham.  Lynott wrote this tuneful tidbit in honor of his then newborn daughter—and just seven years afterward died at the age of 36 due to “systems failure” (i.e., ye olde rock and roll lifestyle drug dependencies).  https://youtu.be/Vd2kcZXFU_c

 

4. Karen’s Song – Andy Pratt.....Boston singer-songwriter Pratt had an FM underground hit in the 1970s with “Avenging Annie,” an outlaw-on-the-run tale unique for its first-person female perspective as sung by Pratt, well-suited to the task with his higher-register vocal style...Here on “Karen’s Song”—from Pratt’s second album, 1976’s Resolution—he plays it straight with a chugging rocker, finely-produced and featuring crisp guitar work from Pratt’s ax-slinger sideman Mark Doyle.  https://youtu.be/I4aO3YwolLw

 

5. #41 – Dave Matthews Band.....DMB formed in Charlottesville, Virginia in 1991, with South African Matthews pulling together a crack band of musicians to forge a genre-collapsing, mind-expanding mix of jam band music, jazz, pop, and Third World rhythms...“#41” comes from the band’s second major label album Crash, which hit record store shelves in 1996 and announced to the world other future fan favorites such as “So Much To Say”, “Two Step”, and “Tripping Billies.”  https://youtu.be/inpokiZv9vc

 

6. Wait – Sarah McLachlan.....McLachlan, Canadian songstress and empress of Lilith Fair, was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1968 and by the age of twenty had produced her first album, 1988’s Touch.  By the early 1990s she was picking up fans stateside as well, and in 1993 issued her breakthrough third album Fumbling Toward Ecstasy, from which this track is taken...McLachlan first appeared at the Pittsburgh amphitheatre (then called Star Lake) in a great 1995 double-bill with The Chieftains, and two years later forged The Lilith Fair—a touring celebration of women singer-songwriters—which went on to adorn the cover of Time Magazine and achieve a total-tour gross of approximately $16 million dollars.  https://youtu.be/bjWgulEtNKM

 

7. Dynamite Steps – The Twilight Singers.....This band was originally a side project of the Afghan Whig’s auteur Greg Dulli, and the song tapped for this particular mix is the title tune from their 2011 release (their fifth one since 2000)...It takes almost seven minutes for this spell to fully unfold; it’s dreamy, spacey, hypnotic—patience is required and rewarded, especially upon repeat visits.  https://youtu.be/_AvlFzkD4uI?list=PLx1TTNZ42GQJcujyxp1FulaycS324EQTv

 

8. Murray – Pete Yorn.....Another contemporary artist, Yorn was born in 1974 in New Jersey, and nicely balances pop and alternative music with a rocker’s sensibility.  The track listed here is from his debut album Musicforthemorningafter which hit stores in 2001...Yorn does get around, having leaped into his music career after penning the original score for the soundtrack of the Farrelly Brothers’ 2000 film Me Myself & Irene, and he also collaborated with actress/singer Scarlett Johansson on their duo release Break Up in 2009.  https://youtu.be/iykKeINthgQ

 

9. Turn – New Order.....This synth-pop, new wave band emanated from the ashes of Joy Division, a legendary late Seventies British band whose troubled lead singer Ian Curtis took his own life in 1980. The three remaining members formed New Order that same year, and abridged their sound a bit toward dance and electronica after delving into the vibrant New York City club scene in the very early 1980s...The song “Turn” comes from New Order’s 2005 release Waiting For The Sirens’ Call, and it’s quite the accessible pop tune; as such, it might not appeal to longstanding devotees of the band’s earliest days.  https://youtu.be/KmmDElWGbYg

 

10. Out Of The Cold – Amos Lee.....Acoustic funker Lee is loose and laidback, and a good churner-outer of memorable tunes that occasionally call to mind James Taylor with a bit more soul...The song “Out Of The Cold” stems from his fourth album Mission Bell (2010).  I saw Lee warm up for Lucinda Williams on a Pittsburgh outdoor tour stop in July of 2011, and he was audience-friendly, focused and fantastic, with a band behind him that added much to the material.  The album Mission Bell, produced by Calexico’s Joey Burns, has Lucinda as a guest as well as Calexico and Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam; it’s other standout tracks include “Violin” and “Learned A Lot.”  https://youtu.be/O3AEDcbFkoY

 

 

 

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Posted 12/28/15.....

An all-instrumental mix originally put together about four years back…

1. Peaches En Regalia – Frank Zappa.....The mother of all zippy, trippy, psychedelic-circus tunes, “Peaches En Regalia” is a fun and frenetic piece of jazz fusion infused with a rock ‘n’ roll playfulness—you can ruminate on that a while, or just consider it indescribably delicious.  The track hails from Zappa’s 1969 solo album Hot Rats, which also sports one of the coolest album covers coming out of the ‘60s.  It’s an infrared photo of Miss Christine of the L.A. groupie band GTOs, rising up only to eye level out of an empty lily pond at an abandoned house somewhere in Beverly Hills.  https://youtu.be/zprYyWMcUGY

 

2. When We Were Children – Tristan Des Pres (featuring Jerry Goodman).....This is kind of a new age bop-a-long that has spirit, spunk, and pluck.  “When We Were Children” comes from Tristan Des Pres’ 2000 album Altered States.  Des Pres is a French multi-instrumentalist—playing keyboards, guitar, bass and drums on this particular album—and for over twenty years has also composed and produced music & sound effects for major players in the videogame industry.  The star of this piece, however, is Jerry Goodman.  His violin zips along with great tone and a lyric sweetness, and near the end, the song ramps up to a breakaway stretch that features excellent speedster bow-work from this former Mahavishnu Orchestra player.  https://youtu.be/o3w-mPEiIP8

 

3. Love Thing – Joe Satriani.....A well-paced, sweetly sizzlin’ rock ballad from Satriani’s 1998 album Crystal Planet...He’s got a wah-wah-wonderful way with a guitar, and this tune is quite a pretty piece as well as a nice entrée into the Satriani songbook.  This ax slinger’s been at it since his first solo record in 1986, and peppered throughout his catalogue are nirvanic nuggets like this one—mid-tempo melodies that showcase his mastery, imagination and precision.  https://youtu.be/PDPZj6w2dkM

 

4. Serenade To A Cuckoo – Jethro Tull.....This song was originally written and recorded by American jazz multi-instrumentalist Rahsaan Roland Kirk, ending up on his 1964 album I Talk With The Spirits.  For rock fans, though, this is really more of a Tull tale:  “Serenade To A Cuckoo” was reportedly the first song that Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson learned to play on flute, and the band recorded the track for their 1968 debut album This Was.  Anderson also adopted a bit of Kirk’s distinctive flute-playing style—the practice of humming, and even a bit of mild muttering, while playing the instrument.  https://youtu.be/4VRKNKGMXh0

 

5. First Winter At Plymouth Colony – Sumner McKane.....Atmospheric beyond belief, this is “mind on vacation” music; lovely, evocative and—best of all—unpredictable.  McKane is Maine-based, in his late 30s, and describes himself as “composer, multi-instrumentalist and filmmaker.”  Indeed, this cinematic track from 2008’s What A Great Place To Be helped bring that CD to # 2 in the annual “Top Twenty Essential CDs” list as ranked by NPR’s ambient music program Echoes.  John Diliberto, that program’s longtime host, said that “McKane's landscapes are tinged in ambient atmospheres and pulled by an undertow of psychedelia that makes them some of the most unassumingly mind-bending music of the decade.”  https://youtu.be/q4eW1rdylq0

 

6. Journey With The Breeze – Pete Carr.....“Journey With The Breeze” comes from Carr’s 1975 release Not A Word On It, and the song hooks you immediately with a rocked-out reggae-like beat, and Carr’s nimble and fluid lead lines.  True, there are some flute fluttering interludes with synthesized strings, but when the Carr starts up again and peals off some irresistible Allmans-style guitar, things get back on the right road, right away.  Speaking of the Allmans:  Carr was in the band Hour Glass with Duane and Gregg Allman in 1968, right before that group went asunder; the siblings then reconvened a year later to form the Allman Brothers Band, and asked Carr to join them.  He passed on the opportunity—and the “second chair” guitar slot went to Dickey Betts.  https://youtu.be/Aqsy8R4v6Us

 

7. Praise – Aaron Parks.....This song by the jazz pianist & composer Aaron Parks is from the album Invisible Cinema, released in 2008.  The album is an accomplished set, delivered by this piano/guitar/bass/drums foursome with finesse; this song is quite simply one beautiful piece of music.  https://youtu.be/Td2ptRuVA18

 

8. If I’d Know’d Then What I Knows Now, Boy I’d Tell You What! – Black Red Black.....A finger-snappin’, finely-fueled jazz tune by a rollickin’ three-piece band.  The trio is composed of two African American musicians—one on trumpet and the other on drums—and a Caucasian keyboard player named Red Young, hence the name Black Red Black.  The band hails from Austin, Texas and the song listed here was part of the Austin Music Office’s ninth annual CD compilation to promote tourism and stoke appreciation for Austin’s music scene on a national level.  You can also access it from Black Red Black’s own eponymous CD that was released in 2011.  https://youtu.be/CboOWVsF2g4?list=PLUSRfoOcUe4YdEMcT2hwRyUMs-kPQGawb

 

9. Homeward Strut – Tommy Bolin.....When a talented rocker shuffles off to Rock ‘n Roll Heaven, there’s usually some serious mining going on back here on Earth.  Guitarist Bolin, like Hendrix, died very prematurely and didn’t fulfill his promise (he died in 1976 at the age of 25).  Enter guitarist and producer Greg Hampton, who has overseen Bolin’s from-the-crypt releases and newly-culled recordings including the 2011 album Teaser Deluxe, which features various outtakes from the very same studio sessions that culminated in Bolin’s original Teaser LP in 1975.  “Homeward Strut” is different here; it’s a tight rocker like the original, but the playing and the arrangement are somehow more loose and liberating.  One thing’s a constant—that galvanizing guitar.  In his short lifetime, Bolin played in settings and scenarios that called for blues, near-heavy metal, reggae, jazz fusion, and more—and all were handled with aplomb, and a killer sense of how much to showboat and how much to hold back, in order to make every note count.  https://youtu.be/zIQk3p7eZOM

 

10. Green Onions – Booker T. & the M.G.’s.....This is the most identifiable classic by this veteran group of studio musicians who, as the Stax Records label house band, backed up a lot of rhythm & blues artists recording in Memphis in the 1960s.  M.G’s guitarist Steve Cropper and bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn also appeared years later in the Blues Brothers Band—circa 1978—performing behind group leaders “Joliet Jake and Elwood Blues” (Saturday Night Live’s John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd).  The track originally hails from the band’s 1962 debut album named for the tune, but the video clip here is a nicely nostalgic edit of various actors and actresses dancing to their hearts’ content.  https://youtu.be/OQgftmOeK_c

 

 

 

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Posted 12/14/15.....

A mix tape, this time…Side one of a UDXL II / C90 cassette from September 1980…Kinda heavy on the power pop, with a few classic rockers in the midst.

1.) Never Wanna Leave You – Pat Benatar.....A rollicking rocker from Benatar’s second album Crimes Of Passion, released in 1980...Benetar’s success was fueled by MTV and her powerful lead vocals, but she also had a secret weapon in husband/guitarist Neil Giraldo, who provided strong leads and ripe, rousing shadings and accents (listen closely to this particular track)...Benatar had her start in musical theatre and operatic training, but veered toward rock and snatched the crown as one of the most popular rock artists in the 1980s.  https://youtu.be/0YsESk6qLb0

 

2.) Cheap Date – Tommy Tutone.....This 4-piece band from Willits, California had their biggest brush with fame with “867-5309/Jenny,” which was on their 1981 breakthrough album Tommy Tutone 2.  Their debut record from the year prior was also a solid effort, though, and this particular track mashes up some reggae, new wave, and heartland rock, all in one brew.  Parting shot of trivia:  To clear up any misconceptions about this band, I wanted to point out that there was no “Tommy Tutone” in the group; there was a lead singer named Tommy Heath.  (I know, fascinating stuff—but you know, there are just too many people still walking around today that think Jethro Tull is a really cool guy.)  https://youtu.be/-D2jkbALMdA

 

3.) Gone – Jerry Williams.....This Dallas/Fort Worth singer-songwriter released an album on Warner Brothers in 1979 entitled Gone, and this title track is a real find, literally.  The album’s long out of print, but YouTube currently has the video, which is the album’s cover plus the full song.  It’s a catchy funk-rock tune, and would sound right at home on a Stevie Wonder record from the 1970s, like Talking Book or Innervisions.  Also known as Jerry Lynn Williams, this artist wrote songs that were picked up and popularized by other artists, like Delbert McClinton (“Givin’ It Up For Your Love”) and Eric Clapton (“Running On Faith,” “Pretending,” and “Forever Man”).  https://youtu.be/IyQQgXoADFM

 

4.) Modern Times – Code Blue.....Code Blue was a Los Angeles band that got together around 1978, after lead guitarist Dean Chamberlain had just left The Motels (before the latter had their breakout hit “Only The Lonely”).  Code Blue’s self-titled debut record was released in 1980, and it’s in the style of The Romantics and similar ‘80s outfits that pushed out pop music that had a bit of punk spirit and brashness to the bashing.  https://youtu.be/IJ6xwN4fONs

 

5.) Up The Neck – The Pretenders.....The Pretenders—3 Brit boys and the girl from Akron, Ohio—burst on the London scene in 1980 with their Sire Records self-titled debut, from which this song is taken.  It’s one of many strong tracks on the album, and Hynde is a force of nature.  Her earlier stint with Britain’s music magazine NME may have sharpened her lyric writing, because she wields a whip-smart vocabulary along with major attitude.  “Up The Neck” is a killer cut fueled by the spirit of punk, James Honeyman-Scott’s guitar, and vocals from the lass with the sass.  https://youtu.be/D4H46Rp_z1w

 

6.) Radioland – Sumner.....This rock band formed in L.A. in 1978, and existed just long enough to have one album released—their self-titled debut on Asylum Records in 1980.  The song is anthem-like, and manages to straddle ‘80s new wave and arena rock quite nicely.  The song was also picked up by Nicolette Larson, who recorded it as the title track of her third Warner Brothers album (released in 1980 as well).  https://youtu.be/Daq0V47PvzE

 

7.) Ah! Leah! – Donnie Iris.....Pittsburgh’s pride Donnie Iris (real name: Dominic Ierace) hailed from Ellwood City, PA and first grabbed nationwide attention with The Jaggerz in 1970, singing lead on the hit record “The Rapper.”  After the Jaggerz disbanded six years later, Iris hitched up with Wild Cherry for a stretch, and then ended up going solo with some musician friends in a band he dubbed Donnie Iris and The Cruisers.  The band’s debut album Back On The Streets was released in 1980, and “Ah! Leah!” became a Midwest, then a national FM hit.  Iris’ star burned bright on the national stage for the next few years, with widespread touring and a successful second release in 1981 called King Cool.  https://youtu.be/YH5Arbm47IQ

 

8.) One In A Million – The Brains.....This Atlanta, Georgia new wave-ish band scored a sort-of-a-hit called “Money Changes Everything” from their self-titled 1980 debut, but that track went on to much bigger things when later covered by Cyndi Lauper.  The track listed here, “One In A Million,” is from the band’s second full-length album entitled Electronic Eden; it’s got that ‘80s power pop sheen to it, and a vocal—from keyboardist and front man Tom Gray—that is somewhat reminiscent of Lou Reed.  https://youtu.be/_AR7sshxA2g

 

9.) Precious To Me – Phil Seymour.....Seymour was most visible as a member of the Dwight Twilley Band from 1975-1978, and then he moved on to a solo career, staying in that early-Beatles-meets-power-pop zone.  “Precious To Me” comes from Seymour’s 1980 self-titled debut, and it charted a bit but never launched him fully into wider acceptance.  In the critics’ corner, though, Phil Seymour (the album) is regarded as somewhat of a pop milestone.  https://youtu.be/LPDQhE3isik

 

10.) London Calling – The Clash.....This is the title track of the incendiary 1979 double-album release from “the only band that matters” (originally that tag-line was from the record company, but it appropriately caught on with fans and critics alike).  London Calling was released in 1979, and with its incredible melding of rock, punk, ska, reggae, blues, rockabilly, and more, it inspired not only The Clash’s musician peers but a generation of bands and fans that followed.  The Clash was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003, one year after the unexpected and sadly premature passing of Joe Strummer at the age of 50.  https://youtu.be/EfK-WX2pa8c

 

 

 

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Posted 11/30/15.....

Various Artists Mix…originally cobbled together and committed to compact disc in 2012.

1. Giving Me A Chance – Gotye.....This tune is the handiwork of Belgian-Australian Gotye (an alias for Wally De Backer, and his platform for smart and appealing electronic-pop music that he produces outside of his Australian pop band The Basics).  The sound here is reminiscent of the lush layering sometimes employed by Peter Gabriel and Sting on their solo releases, and the track itself comes from Gotye’s 2011 album Making Mirrors.  https://youtu.be/0u8ZfqjT8-I

 

2. Dig Down Deep – Marc Cohn.....Cohn, born in Cleveland in 1959, drew upon musical influences like Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell and Jackson Browne as he started to make his musical way.  His work is characterized by soulful, sometimes gospel-tinged songs that capture the essence of these Seventies singer-songwriters.  In 2010 he paid tribute by cutting cover versions of some of his Seventies’ favorites, which all ended up on an album subsequently released as “Listening Booth: 1970.”  The track listed here, “Dig Down Deep” is from Cohn’s 1991 self-titled debut that also featured the FM favorite “Walking In Memphis.”  https://youtu.be/omAXZCPDMCI

 

3. Here Comes The Rain Again – Miles To Dayton.....This relatively new band from the Long Island area cites, and draws upon, a number of influences including Van Morrison, Martin Sexton, Natalie Merchant, CSNY, Damien Rice, Stevie Wonder, Johann Sebastian Bach, and Dave Matthews.  Their music, then, is an amalgam of rock, folk, classical and other styles with violin an integral part of the mix.  Two of the principals are Krista Preddice on vocals, and husband Jonathan Preddice as chief songwriter, guitarist, cellist, accordionist and trumpeter.  The song listed here is a cover of the Eurythmics’ tune, slowed down just a bit, but it’s every bit as bewitching as the original. It is the only cover tune on Miles To Dayton’s 2007 release Rise; all the other songs on the record are originals by the band.  https://youtu.be/ru4BOquTrqU

 

4. Chelsea Morning – Joni Mitchell.....Mitchell reportedly wrote this song while living in the Chelsea neighborhood of NYC and watching the morning sun roll in and through the stained-glass mobile hanging in her window...Stemming from Mitchell’s 1969 album Clouds, the tune has been covered through the years by artists such as Fairport Convention, Jennifer Warnes, Judy Collins and Neil Diamond.  Also, Bill and Hillary Clinton were sufficiently inspired by Judy Collins’ 1969 version of the song to bestow half of its title upon their newborn daughter in 1980.  https://youtu.be/DXe95iTtci0

 

5. I Scare Myself – Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks.....If Hicks and his Licks are usually in your Top Picks, then you tend to like quirky, honest, and acoustic-based artists that don’t fall easily into categorization...In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Hicks brought to college campuses and clubs across the country a freewheelin’ style of music sometimes called “hippie acoustic swing.”  He’s an acquired taste, for sure—but tracks like “I Scare Myself”, as they’re newly unearthed by the uninitiated, really seem to bring him new converts.  This song is a nearly six-minute piece which luxuriates in its playful vocal harmonies, acoustic strumming, and sweeping, sighing violin; it comes from Hicks’ 1972 album Striking It Rich.  https://youtu.be/2wBPIcZpFIk

 

6. Mirage – Santana.....Santana is a band that’s been around (in some incarnation or another) for over 48 years, having sprung to life in the San Francisco Bay area just in time for the psychedelic mid-late Sixties.  After putting out three albums, the band lost a few original members and then took others on...For their sixth album—1974’s Borboletta—the band continued their excursions into the jazzier shades & extensions of Latin music, and softened the rock edges considerably.  “Mirage” from this record does have guitarist-bandleader Carlos’ signature sustain and the usual top-notch audio quality; it’s also more of a “radio friendly” tune than most of the other tracks on this free reign record.  https://youtu.be/5qpP2Nt3zxs

 

7. On My Mind Tonight – Difford & Tilbrook.....Steely Dan has their Becker and Fagen; Squeeze has Difford & Tilbrook, the driving creative forces behind this UK band that first formed in 1975.  The song listed here is from the one and only album that they ever produced together outside of Squeeze—the self-titled Difford & Tilbrook, released in the middle of a three-year band hiatus (1982-1985).  “On My Mind Tonight” is a song that deepens the listener’s appreciation with each subsequent visit; there’s simply so much there in the songwriting and execution that it’s really worth the search when scouring for non-formulaic power-pop bliss.  https://youtu.be/mMKdC4WWivw?list=PLBA3A6960A36CB422

 

8. The Boys Of Summer – Don Henley.....This is one of those songs that was ubiquitous on FM Rock Radio in ’84, and it’s from Henley’s second solo release Building The Perfect Beast.  “The Boys Of Summer” was co-written by Henley and Tom Petty’s lead guitarist Mike Campbell, who initially wrote it for Petty & The Heartbreakers’ album Southern Accents.  Feeling that it didn’t quite fit that upcoming record, Petty passed—and so Campbell then punted to Henley, who then wrote lyrics of longing & letting go of the past.  The song includes the killer lines “Out on the road today, I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac / A little voice inside my head said ‘Don’t look back; you can never look back.’ ”  https://youtu.be/g6z_NfTe6SI

 

9. Sun Touch – Herbie Hancock.....Master keyboardist Hancock has for decades immersed himself in jazz and fusion, and collaborative projects that have helped obliterate the boundaries between set genres of music (the aforementioned jazz and fusion, but also rock, hip-hop, and classical).  He is primarily known for his time spent with jazz legend Miles Davis, and also for his subsequent 1970s fusion period with landmark releases such as Head Hunters from 1973.  “Sun Touch” is a tune taken from his 1975 release entitled Man-Child and it’s a spacey, synth-driven piece with deeper currents of sophistication and precision that belie the surface noodlings.  Good cobweb-clearing music for ears open to aural exploration.  https://youtu.be/G60zO0BgW1s

 

10. Sister – The Black Keys.....This track chugs along with fabulous force, a foot-twitchin’ rock stomp by this Akron, Ohio duo.  They debuted about thirteen years back with their release The Big Come Up, and have since mined the blues-rock vein for all its worth (arguably with a bit more muscle than most).  “Sister” is a song from the Keys’ 2011 album—their seventh—entitled El Camino.  https://youtu.be/rte-rerBZe4

 

 

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Posted 11/16/15.....

Musicasaurus.com was struggling with this opening paragraph.  Because this mix covers a wide variety of tunes, is this collection of ten tunes a mishmash?  Naw, because dictionary.com defines that as a “confused mess”.  Let’s go with potpourri, as that aforementioned on-line word source defines that one as “a musical medley”.  Much better.  Kindler, gentler.  Enjoy...

1. 4 on 6 -- Lee Ritenour.....Musicasaurus.com doesn’t usually traffic in the type of jazz that is fairly universally defined as “lite”--i.e., somewhat sprightly but lacking bite (the kind you might hear boxed in with strangers while looking up at ascending or descending floor numbers)...I do have a soft spot, though, for Lee Ritenour.  I first became aware of him in the mid-late ‘70s when I worked as a merchandiser for Warner-Elektra-Atlantic Corporation, and Ritenour--early in his career here--was releasing some jazz-rock tunes amid the fluff (from fairly solid albums like 1977’s Captain Fingers and 1979’s Feel The Night)...The song listed here is a Wes Montgomery cover from Ritenour’s tribute album to the revered jazz guitarist, 1992’s Wes Bound.  Yeah, you’re on the elevator with this one, but it’s a sweet ride featuring fluid and soft-toned lead guitar, punchy horn accents, and some enticing organ.  https://youtu.be/uUpQIldHiIE?list=PLkOutwvzqOIuwDvYM_orn_CLJBhhx_UQp

 

2. Curs In The Weeds -- Horse Feathers.....This is beautiful bit of Americana from Portland, Oregon.  The song comes from the band’s second album House With No Home, released in 2008 and sporting the talents of singer-songwriter Justin Ringle and accomplice orchestrator of strings and things, Peter Broderick.  It’s certain to call to mind Bon Iver, Damien Rice and other contemplative alternative-folk artists. House With No Home was released on the terrifically-titled, small independent record label called Kill Rock Stars, which since the early 1990s has been champion of and home to a number of way-under-the-radar, off-mainstream talents from that Oregon and Washington state area.     http://youtu.be/uv_q7X35u4I

 

3. What A Number -- Inara George.....George is the daughter of Little Feat founding member Lowell George, and thus comes from good musical stock (though her father passed away when she was but five years old).  She grew up in Los Angeles county’s Topanga Canyon which was renowned in the late 1960s and early 1970s as a hotbed of then-emerging talent like adventurous rock band Spirit, Neil Young, Canned Heat, and Emmylou Harris, among others.  Instead of following in the Feat steps of her father’s blues, funk, and rock & roll, George first gravitated toward theatre and then a musical palette of alternative, pop and folk.  “What A Number” has been plucked from the artist’s initial solo album All Rise which was released in 2005.  The year afterward, George teamed up with keyboardist-songwriter Greg Kurstin to form--and start recording as--the electro-pop duo The Bird and the Bee.     http://youtu.be/NG3VM4fOM8Y

 

4. Bruises - Chairlift.....Tech titan Apple Inc. has used a number of new artists’ songs over the last decade or so to promote their products in television ads, and in most cases, this linkage led to a subsequent and most immediate $pike in the particular artist’s career (Feist with “1234” from 2007, but also the Ting Tings, Jet, The Vines, and other fortunate souls)...The track listed here is a zippy, altogether infectious slice of synth-pop, and it stems from the band’s 2008 debut entitled Does You Inspire You; each song on the album is a rich stew of the past (1980s), present (contemporary flavors) and future (spacey spicings)...Originally from Boulder, Colorado, the trio comprising Chairlift then moved to New York City where the big Apple took note of their debut in the Fall of 2008, serendipitously plucking “Bruises” for the company’s upcoming iPod nano television ad.     http://youtu.be/4uHkrKg29d0

 

5. This Must Be The Place (Naïve Melody) - Talking Heads.....This song from the band’s fifth studio album Speaking In Tongues (1983) is doubly insinuating--the lyrics suggest a love song though it is not all spelled out; the music subtly yet surefootedly weaves its way into your pleasure centers...The year after Speaking In Tongues hit the record stores, the Heads’ concert film Stop Making Sense (helmed by filmmaker Jonathan Demme) arrived in theatres, and there the band’s fans were treated to a live version of “This Must Be The Place”, one of the many highlights of this landmark capture of the group’s polished, deliciously quirky power.  During this particular song, lead singer David Byrne dances and toys with a self-standing floor lamp, likely inspired by Fred Astaire’s similar yet more mesmerizing moves with a coat-rack in the 1951 MGM musical Royal Wedding.     The Talking Heads link:     http://youtu.be/HldHtBxNK6k     The Fred Astaire link:     http://youtu.be/VqMI441t2f0

 

6. Last Call -- Jukka Tolonen.....Tolonen is far from a household name, unless your household’s in Helsinki.  This electric guitarist from Finland has a technician’s craft and imagination to spare, and he unleashes it in somewhat different settings; his best works include instrumental tracks like this one from the jazz-rock-flavored album Big Time, released sometime between 1994-1998 (on-line accounts of this differ)...“Last Call” is a great rock song; it’s got polished production with the bass & drums “up” in the mix a bit, and there’s some breathy flute accents as well, but it’s really Tolonen’s show all the way.  The sounds he wrings out of his guitar are astounding; at times he might even skirt heavy metal, but mostly his fingers foment fusion.  Great stuff.   https://youtu.be/7Dj8vex9gwo

 

7. Hollywood -- Kasey Chambers.....At the time of her third album’s release in 2004--Wayward Angel, from which this track is taken--Chambers was 28 years old and already a major star Down Under.  She’d grown up literally on the land with parents who were hunters and trappers and country music lovers, who picked & sang ‘round the campfires under Australian night skies...Wayward Angel furthered her inroads with American audiences courtesy of Adult Album Alternative (triple-A) stations across the country, as well as occasional touring (at one point opening up for Lucinda Williams).  “Hollywood” is a soft and enveloping little gem; Chambers’ little-girl voice evidences big passion, and the acoustic accompaniment (with lightly chiming guitar work) is simple yet sublime.     http://youtu.be/LvXh88EiO-0

 

8. Hate To See You Go -- Randall Bramblett.....Musicasaurus.com is bettin’ you don’t know the over-under on Bramblett:  He’s an overachiever who’s underappreciated...This Georgia-born multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter first garnered recognition as a member of the mid-1970s Southern-rock fusion band Sea Level, which also included former Allman Brothers Band members Lamar Williams (bassist), Jaimoe (drummer), and Chuck Leavell (keyboardist and Sea Level’s namesake & bandleader).  Bramblett had spun out two solo albums before arriving at Sea Level, and after that band’s dissolution he later toured and/or recorded with rock legends including Gregg Allman, Robbie Robertson, Steve Winwood, and Traffic (in the latter’s early 1990s reunion period).  His solo output picked up again in the late 1990s and continued on through the next decade...“Hate To See You Go” comes from the artist’s 2006 release Rich Someday, and it’s a great place to start for the uninitiated:  Bramblett’s soulful voice and folk-rock-blues is better than a lot of other pliers of this trade, and while these others might have scored more handily over the years with radio play and recognition, Bramblett deserves fuller exploration of his very worthwhile solo outings.  https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/hate-to-see-you-go/id508976329?i=508976341

 

9. Lights Out -- Santogold.....Philadelphia-bred Santi White is an African American singer-songwriter who recorded her first eponymous album in 2008 in a duo setting with musician/producer John Hill.  Singer White has been likened to M.I.A., but largely in the sense of approach rather than musical style, as the two women are both multicultural females who blend almost disparate genres of music to create exciting new sounds.  To gain more exposure for their initial release in 2008, the duo Santogold hopped on dates as the show opener for artists including Coldplay, Jay-Z, Bjork, M.I.A. and Beastie Boys.  In early 2009, Santogold changed their name by a single letter--Santogold to Santigold--to avoid a potential lawsuit from a producer plying a sci-fi/wrestling film entitled Santo Gold’s Blood Circus...The track included here, “Lights Out”, is from Santogold’s debut.  It’s a perfect pop pastiche of dub, rock, hip-hop and ‘80s new wave, guaranteed to get under your skin (and travel to your tappin’ toes and nodding head).     http://youtu.be/-RA_M33fQxo

 

10. My Girl -- Otis Redding.....The song listed here is a triple threat--co-written by Smokey Robinson, forever branded as a chart-topping hit by The Temptations, and then exquisitely covered by the incomparable Otis Redding.  This version of “My Girl” comes from an extremely solid collection of Redding powerhouse covers that also includes “Wonderful World” (written by Sam Cooke and popularized by Herman’s Hermits), “A Change Is Gonna Come” (another song by Cooke), and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (from The Rolling Stones).  The latter three—along with “My Girl”—reside on Redding’s 1966 album Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul.  This was also the album that sported the Redding-penned composition “Respect” which later gained stratospheric recognition through a sizzling ’67 cover by Otis admirer Aretha Franklin.     http://youtu.be/0iPtG_O8w8g

 

 

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There is no posting for Monday, November 2...but please come back in a fortnight--on Monday, November 16th--and you'll see something new. Thanks...

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Posted 10/19/15.....

I worked in a record store as a clerk at one point in my life—and it always drove me NUTS when a customer would come up to the front counter and say, “Do you have that song?  You know, the one with the word ‘love’ in the title?”  I would almost pull a Jack Black from the movie High Fidelity, and harass their ass outta the store—but I didn’t.  I patiently coaxed out more details, and sometimes would hit the mark and make the sale…In honor of the confusion that will forever exist in this world when one is trying to find love, here are ten songs with “love” in the title…Enjoy.

1. Lovesong – Adele.....Ain’t nothin’ like the real thing—British-born Adele has sold a ka-zillion albums, and deservedly so.  She’s a powerhouse talent who honed her craft, chose songs wisely, and poured her heart & soul into the proceedings.  As a result, she found fame, wide acclaim, and at the milestone mark of the age of 21, found herself truly rolling in the deep…cash.  “Lovesong” is from Adele’s sophomore effort entitled 21, released in the early part of 2011. http://youtu.be/5f1D9kHogq0

 

2. If I Find Love Dolorean.....This Oregon-based band has that “hushed vocal” approach to folk-rock and originally gigged around Portland in the early 2000s, appropriately accompanying poetry readings in some of their club circuit endeavors.  This tune from the 2011 album The Unfazed is pleasantly unfolding folk; with a confessional slant to his lyrics, lead singer Al James croons about wishin’ & hopin’ to find that elusive thing called love.  The backing is all plaintive fiddle and piano, and the ending a swirl of strings before wrapping up with one last mournful fiddle bow slide.  No studio version on YouTube currently, so try this snippet from iTunes:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/if-i-find-love/id679519050?i=679519098

 

3. Lovely To See You Moody Blues.....This is about as hard-chargin’ as this British band gets, but it is beautifully cushioned (as a lot of their material is) in soft, soaring guitars & vocals.  The song hails from their fourth album On The Threshold of A Dream which was released in 1969.  Predominantly popular in the late 1960s through early 1970s, the band found a winning formula in orchestral rock--strings and mellotron sonically applied to their soft rock tendencies. http://youtu.be/3T62FDHh56A

 

4. Who’s Making Love Johnnie Taylor.....This is a funky slab of pop and rhythm & blues that starts with a Wilson Pickett-like scream and from there shadows Sam & Dave.  Vocalist Taylor benefitted greatly from his association with Memphis, Tennessee-based Stax Records (home of artists like Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, and the Staple Singers) and the label’s trademark sound that featured crisp horns and muscular backing from accomplished studio house band Booker T. & The M.G.’s.  “Who’s Making Love” was a Top Five single for Taylor in the summer of ’68, and comes from the album of the same name released that year as well. http://youtu.be/3RueCun_Bh8

 

5. Love Struck Baby Stevie Ray Vaughan....Vaughan’s a six-string note bender and a set-ablaze blender of Blues and Rock ‘n’ Roll.  This Texan’s riffs ring in the brain and seize the soul; his live performances are legendary and his recorded works are some of the most emotionally powerful pieces in all of Rock.  “Love Struck Baby” comes from his debut album Texas Flood, which hit the record stores in the summer of 1983.  Vaughan was initially helped into the biz by a couple of championing guardian angels including Jackson Browne and shrewd, successful label producer/talent scout John Hammond Sr. (discoverer of and advocate for Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen).  Vaughan’s recording career alas only lasted about seven years; he died in a helicopter crash leaving an amphitheatre post-performance in 1990. http://youtu.be/6q82Xbb10e4

 

6. Lovely Rita The Beatles.....This is one of the peppy tunes from their classic 1967 game-changer, of course.  It’s a McCartney song all the way, though credited to Lennon-McCartney as were all of John and Paul’s individual and collaborative works in the context of The Beatles.  Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was also another of the Beatles’ albums that fans fanatically pored over a couple of years later when the “Paul is Dead” myth really took flight in 1969.  The gist of it:  Paul had perished in a car accident.  He blew his mind out in a car (the song “A Day In The Life” reveals) on Wednesday morning at five o’clock (saith the song “She’s Leaving Home”), and as a result of this hushed up, carefully covered up calamity, a convincing look-alike imposter stepped in to take Paul’s place in the band.  “Lovely Rita”, so goes the lore, was the meter maid that Paul spied when driving, which caused him to crash.  https://youtu.be/Se5JLYKQfDU

 

7. Gonna Make You Love Me Ryan Adams.....Alt-country rocker Adams released his second album Gold in September 2001, and it is one of this idiosyncratic artist’s best.  “Gonna Make You Love Me” is an under-three-minute rocker that is right at home on this particular release, as Adams was plumbing a bit more rock ‘n’ roll than he’d done on his first recording the year before.  Gold also sported the opening tune “New York, New York”, which had a quite-naturally amplified embrace based on 9/11 which rocked our collective world just two weeks before the release of this album. http://youtu.be/25Cg8yKdX44  

 

8. You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away Eddie Vedder.....In 2001 a movie came out of Hollywood starring Sean Penn as a father with developmental disabilities who is fighting to retain parental rights to his seven-year-old daughter.  This heart-tugging (some say cloying) film I Am Sam featured a soundtrack of all Beatles’ songs covered by a variety of artists handpicked by Penn.  The actor’s brother Michael and Aimee Mann (Michael’s wife) crooned a faithful rendition of “Two Of Us”, and other artists on the album included Rufus Wainwright (“Across The Universe”), The Wallflowers (“I’m Looking Through You”), Sarah McLachlan (“Blackbird”), and many more.  Musicasaurus.com’s favorite (next to the Penn-Mann collaboration) is Pearl Jam’s Vedder, backed by just acoustic guitar and harmonica, laying claim to Lennon on one of the best Beatles’ tunes ever written. http://youtu.be/1jPIB8yQoC4

 

9. Love Is Just A Dream (Tatazela) Juluka.....As a white teen in the apartheid-gripped South Africa of the late 1960s, Clegg dared to form an interracially mixed band with black friend Sipho Mchunu.  Juluka tred carefully at first in this stifling political hotbed, but word of mouth and successful tours outside of South Africa brought many fans to the fore.  A full album debut didn’t occur until 1979, and by 1986 the band had split due to Mchunu’s decision to return to farm & family... “Love Is Just A Dream (Tatazela)” comes from the band’s one reunion album, 1997’s Crocodile Love, and it’s a hypnotic blend of native South African styles such as maskanda and mbaqanga, injected with a bit of rock and folk.  Great infectious fun, made to be played loud. http://youtu.be/kvohZWSMUVQ  

 

10. Love Resurrection – Alison Moyet.....She’d be called a contralto if she had turned toward classical or opera, but instead Moyet (pronounced moy-yay) initially steered her powerful pipes toward blues and punk in the pubs, circa the late 1970s.  In 1982 she teamed up with ex-Depeche Mode member Vince Clark to form the synthpop duo Yazoo (called simply Yaz in the USA).  They had a mild stateside hit in the synth-dappled ballad “Only You”, but Moyet moved on to a solo career soon afterward.  “Love Resurrection” comes from the artist’s debut solo album Alf (1984), and it’s a treasured nugget of that era--yep, got those synthesizers and a smidgeon of Eighties excess, but Moyet surmounts with a full-throated, passionate lead vocal and her own layered harmonies behind.  Moyer had found her moorings. http://youtu.be/AcbzDDXiefg

 

 

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Posted 10/5/15.....

Various Artists’ Mix.....Originally recorded April 5, 2003

This mix is a smattering of this and that.  It comes out of the chute with European Jazz-Rock then eases into Canadian Folk which is butt-up against Prog Rock which then spills into 70s Pop Rock...An audio voyage with twists & turns that you shouldn’t wait to navigate.

1. Dancer -- Nils Petter Molvaer.....A 2005 spacey odyssey, courtesy of the adventurous Norwegian trumpeter Molvaer...This almost 8-minute track features up-in-the-mix percussion, loops, electronics, keyboards, ethereal electric guitar and Molvaer’s floating dream trumpet, which all add up to quite a nice ride through the cosmos.  The song hails from Molvaer’s release ER, and it is inventive and genre-exploding; it ain’t necessarily jazz, nor third world nor classical nor rock, and it collapses all of those boundaries in exquisite fashion.  https://youtu.be/a2eY7Gyx1LA

 

2. Matapedia -- Kate & Anna McGarrigle.....In the mid-to-late 1970s the Canadian McGarrigle Sisters were worshipped widely through the provinces but pretty much confined to cults in the USA, even though the sisters gained traction--and a subsequent record company deal--courtesy of American pop-rock star Linda Ronstadt.  The latter had borrowed their classic composition Heart Like A Wheel as the title track of her 1974 blockbuster release, and through this exposure the McGarrigles got their shot on major label Warner Brothers Records...Aside from golden-throated folk tunes like this one from the 1996 album of the same name, the duo also produced musical progenies--well Kate did, anyway--in the form of Rufus and Martha Wainwright.  The latter were “co-produced” by renowned folksinger Loudon Wainwright III.  https://youtu.be/I8q9GeHUp2w

 

3. Always & Never - Coheed & Cambria.....Talk about being taken out of context:  I snagged this very pleasant prog-rock ballad from Coheed & Cambria’s third full-length album which is actually the fourth installment (the way the band counts it) in a five-part science fiction opus centering on key characters Coheed & Cambria, whose offspring may hold the fate of the universe.  The album, released in 2005, is entitled Good Apollo I’m Burning Star IV, Volume 1:  From Fear Through The Eyes of Madness.  If you plunge in further to their mythmaking music, you’ll find Coheed & Cambria wields a sharp mix of alternative, prog-rock and metal; here, on “Always & Never”, you’ll get a taste of the band’s prowess on the lighter side.  https://youtu.be/cx8g7B2H96M

 

4. High On A Mountain -- Seals & Crofts.....This track stems from the duo’s third LP Year Of Sunday released in 1971.  This album was the forerunner to the more successful Summer Breeze, a record that boosted them into Pop Radio heights for the next three or four years with plucked singles (from various albums) such as “Summer Breeze”, “Diamond Girl”, “We May Never Pass This Way (Again)” and “Get Closer”...Here though, musicasaurus.com has pulled a deeper cut from the S & C archives that beautifully illustrates their polished soft-rock sound.  It’s a well-produced and well-played example of early 70s rock and the songcraft and ingenuity within that format.  https://youtu.be/ZL0sm2kUsmA?list=RDZL0sm2kUsmA

 

5. Stars All Seem To Weep -- Beth Orton.....Born in England in 1970, singer-songwriter Orton teamed up at various points with electro-pop purveyors such as William Orbit and The Chemical Brothers, all the while retaining her folk music leanings...Her first works as a solo artist came in 1996 with an EP and then a full album, the latter entitled Trailer Park.  The song listed here is from her Central Reservation record which followed three years afterward; this tune in particular retains a bit of electro-pop though the album overall drifted away from such influences to reemphasize her folk instincts.  Blessed with a clear and strong voice, Orton is a savvy songwriter and arranger as well.  https://youtu.be/ntr5FGZejK4

 

6. My Brave Face -- Paul McCartney.....Though musicasaurus.com is a committed Beatles fan, some of the solo works of the Fab Four have eluded my microscope.  Having chanced upon McCartney’s Flowers In The Dirt in 1989 was good fortune for me, if only for this tune that was co-written and produced by Declan MacManus, otherwise known as Elvis Costello.  The song is sharper than a number of “normal” solo-McCartney offerings, and pops out of the speakers with spunk and an edge...Four of the thirteen tracks on the album were co-written by Macca and MacManus (McCartney and Costello), and all are interesting collaborations but “My Brave Face” is the top of the pop.  https://youtu.be/vOrHCD0d6aY

 

7. Fire -- Etta James.....The song listed here comes from an incendiary collection of soul scorchers & blues tunes all performed by James in the mid-to-late 1960’s.  At the time, she was sort of a “blues queen in residence” at the famed Muscle Shoals, Alabama recording studio, and her powerful vocal performances were backed by crack house musicians (editor’s note:  Uh, that’s “crack house musicians”, not “crack house musicians”)...The compilation, entitled Tell Mama - The Complete Muscle Shoals Collection, was released in 2001 on the Geffen record label.  On iTunes, you’ll find this album contains 22 classic performances from James during this particularly fertile and unfettered period of her largely troubled life.  On this song in particular, the brass and background singer sass add a nice dimension, but every song on the album is rooted by that deep and passionate wellspring of a voice that courageously cried the blues.  https://youtu.be/CPLRam7zREU

 

8. Number One -- Manu Katche.....At the outset, this tune purrs into being...It’s a beautiful concoction and “conversation” between the major instruments at play:  Piano, tenor sax and percussion.  This intuitive group of jazz musicians includes Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek and Polish pianist Marcin Wasilewski, and under the guidance of team leader Katche the result is a fascinating and extremely accessible jazz tune, melodic yet not quite mainstream...Katche, born in France of West African descent, is known in rock circles as having backed up certain innovative artists on multiple recordings and tours including those of Peter Gabriel and Sting.  Katche also excels in the jazz world as evidenced by this mix selection; it’s from his 2006 ECM-label release Neighbourhood.  https://youtu.be/k6wsNIl8ktk

 

9. Missing -- Beck.....This persistent indie artist is such a wonderful sonic adventurer.  He’s perpetually hard to pigeonhole, and each release has gems in store for the curious traveler who stays on course with Beck’s album releases.....“Missing” starts out with a sinewy beat (with nice wood block percussion and acoustic guitar) that for an instant seems like the start of an alternative spin on “The Girl from Ipanema”(!).  Sitar-like strings soon slide into play, though, and above it all is a very warm and occasionally layered Beck vocal.  Atmosphere abounds...great stuff.  The song hails from the artist’s Guero album, which saw the light of day in March of 2005.  https://youtu.be/HOnGa9Ya-1Q

 

10. Since We’ve Been Wrong -- The Mars Volta.....A mid-tempo bit of magic, “Since We’ve Been Wrong” starts out as a warm weaving of acoustic and electric guitars (some of the latter a bit similar to the fretwork from the band Yes, or perhaps Genesis).   The tune is a gently insistent prog-rock ballad, with the winsome voice of lead singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala and the guitar atmospherics provided by frequent guest John Frusciante (best known for his role and membership periods in Red Hot Chili Peppers).  This tune, and in fact ALL of 2006’s Octahedron album, is not very typical of The Mars Volta’s previous output, which was frenzied, thrashing and envelope-pushing.  Here, though, is a side of the band that you may want to explore further based on this quite interesting Volta-on-less-voltage approach.  https://youtu.be/D4s8Sgm58Ek

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________

Posted 9/21/15.....

Various Artists’ Mix.....Originally recorded April 5, 2003.

1. Ramp Of Death – Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks.....Malkmus is the man behind alternative band Pavement, bold indie rockers from California who reigned at the “cognoscenti cult level” throughout the 1990s.  Band member tensions began running exceedingly high by 1999, and soon Pavement fissured and cracked apart, Malkmus then rounding up a new set of bandmates he called The Jicks...On “Ramp Of Death”, from The Jicks’ 2003 release Pig Lib, Malkmus has fashioned a nice slice of quirky pop that reveals deeper pleasures with each listen.  It’s heartfelt and unpredictable, and Malkmus’ decidedly non-mainstream lead vocals are winning.  It’s also a great respite from the “been here, heard that” kind of time-honored yet tired material that terrestrial radio continually force-feeds those mired in the muck of old listening habits.   https://youtu.be/qI7q23b-8y8

 

2. Cherish The Moment Phil Keaggy.....Keaggy was and is a brilliant guitarist that wields his instrument as an extension of his fertile imagination and his faith...He started out in the late 1960s helming a rock trio from Youngstown, Ohio called Glass Harp, and then felt the calling to go deeper into Christian music.  “Cherish The Moment” is taken from Keaggy’s 1982 Sparrow-label solo album entitled Play Thru Me, and the last portion of this five-minute song is an instrumental passage that clearly illustrates Keaggy’s inborn fire and finesse.  In that closing minute-and-a-half, his guitar alternately sings, soothes, swoops and sails, buoying the listener along through some breathtaking passages--it is quite the journey.   https://youtu.be/Ug2XUgOIpJ8

 

3. The Wanderer Marc Broussard.....Broussard is a soulful, Louisiana-born singer-songwriter who sounds as if the Reverend Al Green seized him up at birth and baptized his vocal chords...The song listed here is not the purest example of Broussard’s soul leanings, but the tune does showcase a voice that exudes undeniable power & passion; the man must have a very rich vein of rhythm & blues, layered down deep...“The Wanderer” comes from Broussard’s 2004 release Carencro.   https://youtu.be/zB8TPYEUFjc

 

4. I Can See For Miles The Who.....This song from 1967 appeared on the album The Who Sell Out.  Back then when it hit our turntables for the first time, it stunned as a scorching assault, with bashes-full of drumming by the late Keith Moon and power-chord slashes extraordinaire by guitarist Pete Townshend...I never got to see The Who perform this live--does it count that I saw a number of late 1960s area bands in Western Pennsylvania pummel out respectable covers of this?  In particular, a band that’s now lost to the local mists of time named Freeport played this tune at open-air rock festivals I attended in the late 60s; even in the hands of local poser units, the song still killed. https://youtu.be/kb5mRBMZbYo

 

5. Johnny Appleseed Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros.....Strummer and Mick Jones were the essence of The Clash (’76-’86), the take-no-prisoners English punk rock band that seethed over injustice in its many forms, while firing up an incredibly kinetic mix of musical styles that won them legions of followers, especially with their career highpoints London Calling and Sandinista!  After the crash and burn of The Clash, Strummer eventually banded together with new unit The Mescaleros to produce three great albums between 1999-2003, never losing his adventurous spirit nor his willingness to explore, and then integrate, music from other parts of the world.  The song listed here from the band’s 2001 album Global A Go Go is a thing of joy—funky in a world-beat-meets-Celtic kind of way, and above that passionate fray there’s that voice, in all its perfect imperfection.   https://youtu.be/4IbMiqIdeME

 

6. Hand In My Pocket Alanis Morissette.....Canadian Morissette stormed into our consciousnesses back in 1995.  She’d been a bit of a Britney at first, becoming a dance-pop phenomenon in the Great White North before she had turned 18.  Then in a fortuitous move, she left Ottawa and met up with producer-songwriter Glen Ballard in Toronto to collaborate on her third album, Jagged Little Pill.  The song “You Oughta Know” from that album was the first single released and the first song that caught fire in the USA, but the loose and shufflin’ “Hand In My Pocket” is musicasaurus.com’s favorite track off the album.  In 1996 Alanis set out on an 18-month tour that brought her to Pittsburgh’s Star Lake Amphitheatre where she sold out the venue at 23,000 tickets.  She never hit those heavenly heights again with subsequent album releases, but she did at least get to play God in Kevin Smith’s 1999 film Dogma (which ironically featured a scene filmed on the little lake at Star Lake, which is nestled on the right-hand side as you drive down the four-lane roadway entrance toward the parking lots).   https://youtu.be/LQ8D5Ihe4hg

 

7. Rock Steady No Doubt.....If you’re dismissive or just plain disinterested in this band, you should park your ‘tude and give this song a chance.  It’s a bewitching number from their 2001 album of the same name, and it is also unlike a lot of their other material.  The band ended up with a number of outside producer-collaborators on this record, and electronic keyboard sound effects reigned (reportedly described by the band’s bass player as a lot of “Devo-y bleeps and Star Wars noises”).  That sonic approach is really what adds to the appeal of this mid-tempo dub-style tune, and lead singer Gwen Stefani’s intuitive vocals polish it all off–simply mesmerizing.   https://youtu.be/mBUWEvm8Dzs?list=PLDR4FX1maAeeCriPC5tgaxfp5X2PM1-W-

 

8. You’re Gonna Work It Out B. E. Taylor.....Taylor is a Western Pennsylvania treasure who struck national gold in 1984 with his song “Vitamin L” from the band’s 1983 release Love Won The Fight.  Since the early 1990s, Taylor’s been trafficking in holiday music with a deeply-satisfying twist:  He and his band tour each November and December, playing to packed theatres in this region and beyond, and the music primarily consists of reworked Christmas classics that have been given a rock ‘n’ roll overhaul.  This approach is walking the tightrope, of course, but the band really pulls it off, preserving--even improving upon--the spirit of the original Christmas classics, injecting them with creative, far-from-clichéd arrangements and excellent musicianship...The song included here for this mix is a non-holiday tune from Taylor’s past, taken from the album Try Love from 2005.  Like the holiday material Taylor tackles today, “You’re Gonna Work It Out” elicits passion and pleasure in the listener largely because of the golden pipes of the man at the microphone.   https://youtu.be/_twMnVhyx3c

 

9. Little Something Corporate.....I first came upon Something Corporate in the early 2000s, through the playlist pleadings of my oldest daughter (then a teen) who wanted to expose me to a band she’d begun championing to her local peer network.  The band had formed in Orange County, California in 1998 and the song listed here stems from their extended-play release entitled Audioboxer, which came out in 2001 (the band also jumped on the Warped Tour line-up the following year, and so played the amphitheatre in Pittsburgh where I worked at the time).  Fronted by pianist, chief songwriter and vocalist Andrew McMahon, this alternative band has great pop sensibilities that they blend with melodic, roaring guitars and piano accents.   https://youtu.be/1T_hdSUTsro

 

10. Talkin’ Bout A Revolution – Tracy Chapman.....Cleveland-born Chapman bubbled up to commercial & critical success via the song “Fast Car”, which was on her eponymous debut album released in 1988.  That song is Springsteen-like in sentiment, about a life bottled up by circumstances, with perhaps a ray of hope (or at least acceptance) on down the road.  “Talkin’ Bout A Revolution” is also from her ’88 debut, and though it didn’t speed up the charts like “Fast Car,” it was the song (in demo form) that first got her noticed by eventual signer Elektra Records.  Sample lyrics:  “While they’re standing in the welfare lines / Crying at the doorsteps of those armies of salvation / Wasting time in the unemployment lines / Sitting around waiting for a promotion / Poor people gonna rise up / And get their share...Finally the tables are starting to turn / Talkin’ bout a revolution.”   https://youtu.be/_gS8yzymivo

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________

Posted 9/7/15.....

THE MOST-MELLOW MIX.....Here are ten tunes from a February 29, 2004 CD mix that will settle your soul.  Put in the ear buds, avoid any housecleaning or yard work, and just sit with a chilled glass of something or other, with no agenda other than losing yourself for a little while.

1. My Wife with Champagne Shoulders – Mark Isham.....With about the coolest title of an instrumental ever, this song is a sweeping, tone-setting kickoff to this most-mellow mix...Here multi-instrumentalist Isham creates a soft tapestry of strings over classical guitar, with gently recurring emotional swells that keep the listener under Isham’s enticing spell.  “My Wife with Champagne Shoulders” comes from the artist’s 1988 album Castalia, a bold New Age-Classical-Jazz amalgam that shows Isham’s strengths as composer and musician alongside guest contributors including David Torn, Patrick O’Hearn, Peter Maunu, Paul McCandless and Terry Bozzio.  https://youtu.be/5nuue-QqogE

 

2. Falling Mindy Smith.....Smith’s song is a straight ahead pop ballad that is gently rooted in country and folk.  Her voice is quite beautiful, and hints of a power not fully tapped.  Though this particular song from 2004’s One Moment More is soothing and mix-appropriate, it’s actually not Smith’s best work--that would be the riveting track “Come To Jesus” from the same album.  On the latter, Smith lends passionate, powerful vocals to a gospel-rock number that churns up a nice head of steam near its conclusion (perhaps having a pastor for an adoptive parent helped Smith chart this course toward conviction and excellent execution).  https://youtu.be/f7pR0_KvlTc

 

3. Roxanne – George Michael.....Michael has redefined this tune by stripping the reggae-pop feel of The Police and slowing this to a sensual, jazz-cushioned excursion into Coolsville.  His vocals perfectly suit the sweet and polished jazz accompaniment, and it’s all the more remarkable because an approach such as this could have easily veered into schmaltz or even parody.  It’s a fine line that Michael has walked here and he has done it with ease, aided by that voice...“Roxanne” hails from the artist’s 1999 release Songs From The Last Century.  https://youtu.be/tJeaN3LuziQ

 

4. Voices In The Sky – Moody Blues.....Musicasaurus.com often prefers the softer side of the Moody Blues to their faster material, which isn’t as convincingly captivating...The track listed here is from the Moody’s 1968 album In Search Of The Lost Chord, and is a beautiful and billowy tune featuring flute, mellotron and tablas.  The more well-known track from this album is actually “Legend Of A Mind”, the one inspired by our 1960s psychedelic shaman, Mr. Leary (sample lyrics:  “Timothy Leary’s dead / No, no, no, no, He’s outside, looking in”)...  https://youtu.be/IPEMZteFjWc

 

5. Cannonball – Damien Rice.....Irishman Rice spins a nice web of acoustic guitars on this selection from his 2003 release O.  Rice is instrumental in the success of this album, playing at times a guitar, bass guitar, drums, percussion, and clarinet.  His voice is the standout, though; he is one of the most interesting “new” singer-songwriters to emerge in years.  His songs wrest you from all of Life’s concerns and put you square in the moment, the better to appreciate the spellbinding intimacy of his work.  Sample lyrics from “Cannonball”:  “Stones taught me to fly / Love taught me to lie / Life taught me to die / So it’s not hard to fall / When you float like a cannonball.”  https://youtu.be/3yqM--IMkX4

 

6. Brass Buttons – Gram Parsons.....Parsons labeled his songwriting as “American Cosmic Music” to try and deflect handy yet limiting tags like “country music”.  He was able to masterfully blend country with rock, blues and folk, which engaged listeners of all stripes in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  Parsons stinted with The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers back then, and moved on to a tragically brief solo career which yielded an album called GP in ‘73, and a second one entitled Grievous Angel--from which this track is taken--released posthumously in 1974.  For these two solo turns, Parsons partnered up on a number of tracks with Emmylou Harris on vocals; “Brass Buttons” is one of the ones with Parsons alone, a beautiful country-rock ballad with sweet pedal steel.  https://youtu.be/ctZpejVICco

 

7. Danger – The Waifs.....The Waifs are a folk-rock band from Down Under fronted by vocalist sisters Vikki Simpson Thorn and Donna Simpson, and they’re popular on the folk festival circuit and on some Triple A (Adult Album Alternative) radio stations here in America...They formed in 1992 and released their third album Sink Or Swim in 2000; “Danger” comes from that particular release.  (If you’d like to branch out here to another medium, check out The Waifs’ performance of a different, yet equally compelling song on a concert DVD entitled Telluride Bluegrass Festival / 30 Years.  (No current clip on YouTube of “Danger,” so take this small sample from iTunes:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/danger/id84987444?i=84987005

 

8. Her Town Too – James Taylor.....This song, from the artist’s tenth studio recording Dad Loves His Work (1981), sports an appealing vocal blend of Taylor + guest artist J.D. Souther who sings harmony (and who also co-wrote the tune).  Taylor can, to these ears, be a bit yawn inducing on some of his recordings through the years, but this tune is lyrically and musically a milestone bit of mellow.  The subject matter deals with a woman now coping with a broken marriage, and likely refers to the split that was soon to occur between Taylor and then-wife Carly Simon.  Another source says the song instead refers to Betsy Asher, the just-divorced wife of Taylor’s record producer Peter Asher.  Either way, as the lyrics say, “She gets the house and the garden / He gets the boys in the band”...  https://youtu.be/I9zEHFynDsE

 

9. Will I See You In Heaven – The Jayhawks.....This Minneapolis unit formed in 1985, and carved a path and cultivated fans based on country music influences as well as genre-busting songwriters such as Gram Parsons and Bob Dylan...“Will I See You In Heaven” comes from the band’s seventh album Rainy Day Music, which still featured founders Gary Louris and Marc Perlman; another key founding member Mark Olson had departed the band in 1995. The pacing of this love song is beautifully done, and the dual-lead vocals are heart tugging.  https://youtu.be/-bljeHuUXBM

 

10. The Sea – Morcheeba.....British trio Morcheeba--a mix of funk, leisurely-paced fusion, electronica and DJ scratching--came together in 1995 when brothers Paul and Ross Godfrey happened upon female vocalist Skye Edwards at a party.  Their second album Big Calm (1998) was a slight shift from their original trip-hop to more pop, and the track listed here, “The Sea”, garnered strong airplay in the UK.  It’s a sultry, swinging, string-laden tune that is a perfect melding of jazz and easy funk; get out the cocktail glasses, clink & sip, and enjoy the trip.  https://youtu.be/VnCS25z18pI

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________

Posted 8/24/15.....

Colleague and friend Rick Sebak reached out to me last week, and said that he might consider putting some “pie songs” together for this August 24th edition of BUILDING A MIXTERY…Needless to say, I took advantage of this offer from a true talent and a local/regional/national treasure!  And as you will see in his introductory note below, Rick has something splendid cooked up for ALL of us this Tuesday evening, August 25th:

My two new PBS programs are premiering nationwide on Tuesday night: A FEW GOOD PIE PLACES at 8 pm and A FEW GREAT BAKERIES at 9.  As a regular reader of the Mixtery, I wondered if you would let me put together a list of PIE SONGS (there are many) and maybe a few BAKERIES numbers (not so many unless you include various products made in bakeries) too?

In my mixtape prime, I probably would have made a 90-minute tape with PIES on one side and BAKED GOODS on the other side, but just making this list and hearing a few of these classics has been a remarkably tasty adventure.

A Set of Songs Celebrating Sweetness & Fruity Filling, sometimes Literal, sometimes Metaphorical!

SIDE ONE: PIES

1. “American Pie” Don McLean (1971) – I remember loving this song the first time I heard it.  Of course I had no idea what the lyrics were about, but I figured I’d someday know what “drove my Chevy to the levee” meant.

The song always makes me think of my first hitchhiking trip in France.  1973.  En route from Lyon to Nimes for a bullfight, I was picked up by a guy in a Citroen Deux Chevaux and this song was blasting from his tiny car radio.  Found out he was a priest in the local village!  We both talked about how much we loved its sound.  It’s one of several songs here that may have nothing to do with pie per se.

Loaded lyric: “Helter skelter in a summer swelter / The birds (Byrds?) flew off with a fallout shelter”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAsV5-Hv-7U  (Can this video with lyrics really have been viewed 38 million times on YouTube?!  No pictures.)

 

2. “Honey Pie” by the Beatles (1968) – I assume Paul McCartney is behind this ditty, but I’ve always loved his old-timey-sounding tunes.  Here the object of his affection isn’t an actual pie, but a British-born Hollywood actress/singer whom he calls “Honey Pie.”  I can’t say for certain if he knew her before she became famous (“Come back to me”) or if he’s just fantasizing about a movie star (“Now the thought of meeting you makes me weak in the knees”?) or both.

Timeless lyric:  “I’m in love but I’m lazy.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTuOAPE-LOo

 

3.  "Huckleberry Pie" Ada Jones & Walter Van Brunt (1912)…on cylinder U.S. Everlasting 1422 – My friend Mark Pomocki, a photographer and historian here in Pittsburgh, posted this great goofy pie song on my Facebook page in early August.  It is a beauty, a novelty song from 1912, now in the Library of Congress collection, and the sound is amazingly good!  Public domain!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5RvJp-C8BTE

Another version at http://www.loc.gov/jukebox/recordings/detail/id/5025/ (this time performed by Billy Murray & Ada Jones!)

Crusty lyric:  “Add kerosene and gasoline and make a sauce with Vaseline.”

 

4. “Country Pie” Bob Dylan (1969) – Oh me, oh my.  Probably my favorite on the list.  Simple, country Dylan.  No subtext.  Just flavors!

Wise words:  “Little Jack Horner got nothing on me.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTo4ileSUPA

 

5.  “Shoo-FlyPie & Apple Pandowdy” by Stan Kenton Orchestra with June Christy vocal (1946) – When you start reading about these pie songs, there’s often some question as to whether they’re all really about sex.  That seems especially pertinent in this old pop chestnut.  3 different versions of this song charted in 1946, but this one may be the keeper.

Outrageous lyric:  “I never get enough of that wonderful stuff!”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iW1jfXAfSXM

 

 

6. “Cherry Pie” by Sade (1984) – Isn’t it about time for a new Sade album?  She’s said to be “famously reclusive” but she made some memorable music.  This song is a great break-up lament, but she doesn’t sound weak or despondent.  It makes me want to find my old Sade CDs and listen to them all.

Smooth lyric: “You gave me your soul / For at least a day”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Py3qW5HAg8U

 

7. “Sweet Potato Pie”by James Taylor (1988) – I’ve always had a soft spot for James Taylor.  I like his soft sort of folk rock.  I’m not sure if this is about the pie or a woman named “Sweet Potato Pie,” but it’s OK.  Ray Charles covered it in his later years, although I think the Taylor versions are much better.

Odd lyric: “Because she belonged to Freddy / And he was bad”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wh60VmEOpCU

 

 

8.   “Eep, Ipe, Wanna Piece of Pie” by Fats Waller (1935)  - Why do I love this loosey-goosey nonsense number?  Not sure, but it’s a lovable sloppy sort of song, and in my original proposal to PBS, I mentioned that we might name the pie show “Eep, Ipe, Wanna Piece of Pie.”  Never happened.  As Fats says at the end: Skip it!

Self-referential lyric: “Sounds like double-talk”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=caUvQ8t_Kw8

 

9. “Apple, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie” by Jay & The Techniques (1966) – I remember when this song was a Top 40 hit, but I have no idea what it’s about.  A game?  A nursery rhyme?  What do these fruits and this pie have to do with chasing the woman that Jay is singing to?  Catchy pop stalker song?

Scary lyric: “I’ll find you anywhere you go.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5njDmUMhfa0

 

10.  “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” by The 4 Tops (1965) – The first line of this song was more catchy than its chorus.  And again it’s just a term of endearment rather than a crusty treat that seems to be the point of the song, but it’s a Motown classic that includes there word “Pie” in its title.  That’s enough to get it on this list for a mixtape!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3bksUSPB4c

 

SIDE TWO:  BAKED GOODS

1. “MacArthur Park” by Richard Harris (1968) – Why do we have bakeries?  Primarily, I think, because someone left the cake out in the rain, and we made need another quickly!  This may be the most famous cake song of all time.  Big and bloated, poetically pretentious and frequently parodied, but everybody knows it.  Or everybody of a certain age does.

Sticky lyric: “All the sweet cream icing flowing down”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRwYQgk05DY

 

2. “Chocolate Cake” by Crowded House (1991) – I always have my iPod on Shuffle Songs, and this came on last night as I was driving home.  A cake song!  And a good one.  From my favorite Australian band.  It’s about all sorts of things, but the chorus asks the eternal question,”Can I have another piece of chocolate cake?”

Eternal lyric: “Andy Warhol must be laughing in his grave.” (in Bethel Park!)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMgU5B2TZIA

 

 

3. “If I Knew You were Coming I’d’ve Baked A Cake” by Eileen Barton (1950) – Apparently this was a new expression created by the writers of this song, and it’s still a lively little novelty number.  (I honestly thought it was older.)  Bob Merrill who gets credit on the song also wrote “How Much Is That Doggie In The Window,” another 1950s classic.  I’m trying to think if I know another place where we use that double contraction: “I’d’ve.”

Lovable lyric: “I don’t know where you came from / Cause I don’t know where you’ve been.”

https://youtu.be/f1gfZwejPv8

 

4. “C Is For Cookie” by Cookie Monster (1971) – Written by Joe Raposo, this Sesame Street classic was released on vinyl in 1971 but didn’t appear on the TV show until March 1972, back when the children’s classic show was a PBS exclusive.  In an on-line comment, one fan of this song and Cookie Monster’s rendition says that it was highly influential: “The Cookie Monster is a true pioneer of death metal. Without his unique vocal approach we wouldn't have bands like Cannibal Corpse, Deicide, Lamb of God and Dethklok. What an inspiration he is!”  Give it another listen.

Profound lyric:  “Cookie cookie cookie / Starts with C.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ye8mB6VsUHw

 

5. “Real Girls Eat Cake” by The Janoskians (2014) – I found this while looking for cake songs on the internet.  The band Cake makes looking for songs about the baked kind a bit difficult.  But I persevered and found this young ska-ish tune by a very popular, silly “YouTube comedy group” from Melbourne, Australia (also home to Crowded House—see above.)  Raunchy but fun.  And more recent than all of the others.

Unrestrained lyric: “I got a stiffy from all your awkward dance moves.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBjJ89A6p7Q

 

 

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Posted 8/10/15.....

Back in 2002 I burned a couple of good ones.  In the 1970s that phrase (in some instances) had a certain connotation, but here I’m referring to two specific CD mixes that I made:  THE SEVENTIES, Volumes One and Two.

Both of these mixes spanned the specific time period 1970 through 1979.  I had hoped with each of them to capture something of the width & breath of the music that permeated that decade.  Below I've listed two songs per year, pulled from those mixes.  These are the ingredients for your own rock & roll stew; go forward (or in some cases, flash back) and fashion your own ’70-’79 playlist that you think clearly defines the Seventies…

 

  1970   

Uncle John’s Band / Grateful Dead, from Workingman’s Dead.....Somebody or something woke the Dead:  The band gave in to an astral shift of sorts and moved more toward American roots music, away from the dark star voyages of their earliest psychedelic works.

That’s The Way / Led Zeppelin, from Led Zeppelin III.....This is Zep in a mellow mood, but it’s still a magical mystical tour de force.  (If you want to cross over to another medium, check out the “live in concert” version of this song from Zeppelin’s self-titled DVD release from 2003, captured in an Earls Court concert performance from 1975.)

 

  1971  

Rock & Roll Stew / Traffic, from The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys.....A landmark album from this British band, it was Traffic’s fifth released in the USA (and sixth overall).  It had the eleven-minute-plus title track which became a favorite of late-night FM Radio deejays (for cigarette & bathroom breaks), and it had the atmospheric rocker listed here which was voiced by percussionist Jim Capaldi.  

Hot ‘Lanta / The Allman Brothers Band, from At Fillmore East.....Even now after 40-plus years, it is still hard to find a live album that can top the Allmans’ At Fillmore East.  “Hot ‘Lanta” (an instrumental paean to Atlanta, Georgia) originally opened Side Three of this classic two-album set that captured these early-twenty-something musicians in their finest hour, unleashing an ass-kicking combination of rock, blues, and jazz that all coalesced into, truly, “one for the time capsule.”

 

  1972  

Jackie Wilson Said (I’m In Heaven When You Smile) / Van Morrison, from St. Dominic’s Preview.....The summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college, I remember this song bursting from my first pair of Acoustic Research speakers in my bedroom.  This is a sizzlin’ track with crisp, driving horns and Morrison’s vocals that rip into the rhythm & blues.  The song’s a tribute to one of Morrison’s idols, the late 1950s-early 1960s R & B/soul singer Jackie Wilson, dubbed “Mr. Excitement” for his live stage shows full of spins and splits and dance-move dips—actually, the complete antithesis of Mr. Morrison onstage.

You Got It Bad Girl / Stevie Wonder, from Talking Book.....This album is truly a thing of Wonder.  The artist’s albums before this release only hinted at what was to come—socio-political messaging, adult examinations of Life and Love, and incredible musicianship which leaped over barriers and seamlessly brought together the rhythm & blues and rock ‘n’ roll audiences.

 

  1973  

Incident On 57th Street / Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band, from The Wild, The Innocent And The E Street Shuffle.....This song was the opening track on Side One of the artist’s second album (his first with the E Street Band).  I saw Springsteen in February 1975 while in college at Penn State, and this was the very first song he played that night—on a darkened stage with two far-apart single spotlights, one illuminating a female violin player, and the other on Bruce alone at the other end of the stage, standing before a single floor-stand microphone.

Spain / Chick Corea & Return To Forever, from Light As A Feather.....No self-respecting account of 1970s musical achievements would be complete without mention of Chick Corea, the American-born jazz keyboardist who practically jumpstarted jazz fusion with this electric (and electrifying) album.  His Return To Forever band included Stanley Clarke on acoustic/electric bass and Brazilian singer-siren Flora Purim.

 

  1974  

Rock & Roll Doctor / Little Feat, from Feats Don’t Fail Me Now...No one held my feet to the fire to add this band to the Seventies mix-elements list.  “Rock & Roll Doctor” hails from the band’s fourth studio album, and is characteristically a smartly produced bit of rock and funk, southern style.  Massaging the Feat on several of the album’s tracks are Bonnie Raitt and Emmylou Harris on background vocals.

Fountain Of Sorrow / Jackson Browne, from Late For The Sky.....In 2004 when Bruce Springsteen handled Browne’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he sent these wise words out from the podium:  “In Seventies post-Vietnam America, there was no album that captured the fall from Eden, the long slow afterburn of the Sixties, its heartbreak, its disappointments, its spent possibilities, better than Jackson’s masterpiece Late For The Sky.”

 

  1975  

She’s A Woman / Jeff Beck, from Blow By Blow.....This song is a cover of a Beatles’ tune, from the jazz-rock, all instrumental album that Jeff Beck put forth mid-decade with the able assistance of Beatles’ producer George Martin...In a 2011 issue of Rolling Stone magazine, in an article about the Hundred Greatest Guitarists (a poll of guitarists of all stripes plus a few rock writers), Tom Petty’s ax man Mike Campbell said this:  “When he got into his fusion phase, the cover of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers’ on Blow by Blow got me immediately.  The tone was so pure and delicate.  It’s like there was a vocalist singing, but there was a guitarist making all of the notes.  I saw him last year at a casino in San Diego, and the guitar was the voice...There is a spirituality and confidence in him, a commitment to being great.  After I saw that show, I went home and started practicing.”

Tangled Up In Blue / Bob Dylan, from Blood On The Tracks.....Back in ’75 my circle of friends (at college and on the homefront) were ravenous devourers of all types of new music.  Though Dylan loomed large with critics and the cognoscenti, some of us (due to the sheer volume of listening options) sort of lost sight of him, quite honestly, until Blood On The Tracks.  “Tangled Up In Blue” was the song that personally turned me around; I didn’t start genuflecting at the turntable, but the artist did then creep more into my consciousness, and I stayed tuned to future efforts as well as dipped my ears earnestly backward to his earlier works. 

 

  1976  

Main Street / Bob Seger, from Night Moves.....Seger was a road-schooled Midwest classic rocker who undeniably struck major chords with concert fans and FM radio alike.  The album Night Moves was a great distillation of Seger’s appeal—a voice born for rock ‘n’ roll, genuine passion, great production and a killer back-up band.

The Gardens Of Babylon / Jean-Luc Ponty, from Imaginary Voyage.....Classically trained violinist Ponty was initially inspired by idols Miles Davis and John Coltrane, but then veered into work with Frank Zappa and The Mahavishnu Orchestra, ending up a cult favorite of jazz-rock enthusiasts especially through his recorded works from the mid-late 1970s and early 1980s.  In concert back then—with a commanding group of musicians in tow--he was one of the few performers who drew not only the jazz crowd but the in-the-know rock ‘n’ rollers as well, who prided themselves on stretching their musical boundaries.  Some of the shows I saw from that period—in Pittsburgh venues like the Stanley Theatre and the Syria Mosque—were transcendent.

 

  1977  

Second Hand News / Fleetwood Mac, from Rumours.....When musicasaurus.com was compiling this group of influential Seventies’ recordings, Fleetwood Mac kept knocking on the door.  Here was a band that started out of England in 1967, recorded nine albums over the next seven years, and then founder Mick Fleetwood fortuitously fostered a paradigm shift in personnel in 1974—he invited into the fold a California couple, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks.  Starting in 1975, the band became the absolute biggest Mac, their albums scarfed up by an insatiable Public.  The feasting wasn’t any empty-calorie exercise, either—the band absolutely delivered in songwriting, artistic execution, sound engineering and album production.

Solsbury Hill / Peter Gabriel, from Peter Gabriel.....I worked and clerked in a record store back in the 1975-1977 era, and a ton of discounted early Genesis albums like Nursery Cryme and Foxtrot crossed the cash register.  I never really perked up to the wizardry & wonder of Peter Gabriel, though, until he started his slew of solo efforts beginning in ’77.  The song “Solsbury Hill” became an “in-store play” favorite at the record store, and it sparked a devotion close to flat-out worship (especially in terms of seeking him out in live concert settings).  On a Friday evening in September 2012, musicasaurus.com rumbled its bones all the way to Philadelphia to catch Gabriel’s Back To Front Tour, in which he—and longtime touring-band mates Tony Levin, David Rhodes, and Manu Katche, among others—replicated with polish and passion the entire 1986 So album from start to finish.  “Solsbury Hill”, from Gabriel’s first solo album, made its way into the evening’s setlist early on, with other captivating works including “Come Talk To Me”, “Digging In The Dirt”, and “Family Snapshot”—and an awesome, acoustically-driven “Shock The Monkey”. 

 

  1978  

Is This Love? / Bob Marley & The Wailers, from Kaya.....Jamaican music messiah Marley largely began his ascent with 1973’s Catch A Fire, which fueled the flames of his fandom and also anchored a long association with record company Island Records.  Though 1978’s Kaya was a bit of a letdown from the previous year’s release Exodus, it contained this gorgeous track, one of the artist’s most enduring songs...Marley’s last concert before his premature death at the age of 36 was at Pittsburgh’s Stanley Theatre (now the Benedum Center) on September 23, 1980.

Lawyers, Guns & Money / Warren Zevon, from Excitable Boy.....Zevon’s included in this Seventies round-up not because of widespread fame (though “Werewolves of London” put him there, ever so briefly), but because his skewed and skilled songwriting leapt out of the pack of Southern California singer-songwriters of that era, and his song lyrics were wonderfully wry.  Musicasaurus.com should really lay down a Zevon-only mix of his best tunes, and—with a nod to an album by 1960s rock band Spirit—perhaps entitle the collection The Twelve Dream Songs of Dr. Sardonic.

 

  1979  

I Zimbra / Talking Heads, from Fear Of Music.....This largely instrumental track (with purposely indecipherable lyrics that are meant to propel, and nothing more) kicked off Side One of Talking Heads’ third album, which was produced by ex-Roxy Music contributor Brian Eno.  This slice of African textures melded with this NYC band’s quirky punk-funk is an invitation to dance, to give it up to rhythm.  The song seems so universal in appeal that I can somehow see heads starting to bob and limbs starting to twitch, in settings as varied as kindergarten classes, twenty-somethings’ clubs, and old folks’ homes; this tune truly crosses the boundaries of time and tastes.

Night Train / Rickie Lee Jones, from Rickie Lee Jones.....I was working in that last year of the decade as a record label field merchandiser (definition: a poster stapler-upper) for the group of labels consisting of Atlantic Records, Elektra/Asylum, and Warner Brothers.  The latter had two major releases that year that they deemed a priority for my in-store record displays—Van Halen’s debut album, and this one by Rickie Lee Jones.  The song “Chuck E.’s In Love” bounced happily all over the airwaves back then, but it only hinted at the depth of this record.  Jones’ supple soprano, her sometimes suite-like approach to songwriting, her cast of song characters, her creative vision in arrangements and execution--the blend of all of this was truly mesmerizing.  “Night Train” is one of musicasaurus.com’s favorite songs from this decade or any other; it’s that magical and moving.

 

 

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Posted 7/27/15.....

Various Artists’ Mix.....originally recorded February 5, 2012.

1. Young Trees—Richard Walters.....This is a song that will make your heart swell--with sweet melancholy.  That’s the effect that British singer-songwriter Walters has on this opening track to his self-released EP entitled Young Trees, which came out in December 2011.  I believe it’s a combination of things here:  Walters’ lovely higher-register voice (think “lovechild of Jeff Buckley and Damien Rice”), the sensitive string backing which totally bewitches, and lyrics that are painfully real yet just a bit inscrutable.  This is easy to surrender to...unsettling but quite beautiful...mournful and magical.  https://youtu.be/S2j-cEstx9c

 

2. To The Island—Jo Jo Gunne.....I’ve always had a soft spot for the 1960s L.A. band Spirit, who were quite a mixing bowl of talent & song styles--rock, pop, psychedelic, and even classical in some of their few instrumental works.  One of the two lead vocalists in Spirit was Jay Ferguson, who went on in 1971 to form a more commercially straight ahead rock band called Jo Jo Gunne (named after a late ‘50s Chuck Berry song).  “To The Island” is a rocker from the band’s third album Jumpin’ The Gunne and it has that early ‘70s style and production (a little Joe Walsh-like in texture), buoyed by Ferguson’s lead vocal and some great guitar flourishes along the path.  https://youtu.be/JZFv0gWTgQ8?list=PLIgu1puLJYfDM0qZictpEZArZJ6cJulEM

 

3. Pale Blue—The Byrds.....When recording 1971’s Byrdmaniax album, the band was a couple of years into the finest of its post-original line-ups, including founding lead singer-guitarist Roger McGuinn, lead guitarist Clarence White and drummer-singer Gene Parsons.  If you plumb the old reviews from that time, the record was dissed as too tampered with, in terms of added strings and other heavy-handed touches, but having seen this line-up live during one of their college tours at the time, I can attest to some absolutely smokin’ nights on stage.  This exquisite version of “Pale Blue” is a bonus track from the original Byrdmaniax album that was included with its remastered re-release in 2000—and in its stripped-down form (sans the syrupy weight of the original song’s layered production), it more suitably reflects the group’s musical prowess and McGuinn’s & White’s very fine pickin’.  https://youtu.be/BoVNX-D2e80

 

4. If I Should Fall From Grace With God—The Pogues.....Here’s a wee taste of fine Celtic music, powered by punk playin’ and vocals that are slurred and spit forth—perfect for adding to a playlist labeled, say, “Irish Bar, 3am.”  The Pogues were wildly popular particularly in the 1980s, and combined their punk ethos with tin whistles and accordions.  Their spirited and spirits-fueled lead singer Shane McGowan left the band in 1991, but he was in his glory here for the 1988 release of If I Should Fall From Grace With God.  The album also included McGowan’s classic vocal—with guest Kirsty MacColl—on the Christmas tune that’s become a favorite of hipsters far and wide:  “Fairytale of New York.”  https://youtu.be/hp15C-CU5fY

 

5. Life Goes On—The Kinks.....By the time the Kinks’ released the album Sleepwalker in 1977, they were some 13 career years and 15 albums down the stretch, having wowed America out of the chute with three Top Ten singles back-to-back in late ’64 and early ’65:  “You Really Got Me”, “All Day And All Of The Night”, and “Tired Of Waiting For You”.  In the early-to-mid 1970s, they seemed to over indulge in their vaudeville-like British music hall influences, releasing some rather uninspired concept albums.  But then came Sleepwalker, and they began to rock harder while still retaining the whimsy and wonderful lyrics of singer-guitarist Ray Davies.  Not all of the album is transcendent but certain tracks jump to the fore and pleasingly insinuate themselves, like “Juke Box Music”, “Stormy Sky”, and the track singled out for this mix, “Life Goes On”.  The latter, if you listen closely, has the deepest of delights courtesy of the band’s secret weapon, gifted guitarist (and Ray’s kid brother) Dave Davies.  https://youtu.be/z7eg30GvV9E

 

6. Big Sky—Abra Moore.....I can’t remember when I first stumbled upon this Austin-based artist, but I ended up wanting to hear a lot more Moore.  This song is a stand-out track from her 2004 release Everything Changed, and it’s quite simply a killer pop-rock song with full-bodied production and pedal-to-the-metal joie de vivre:  “You say you’re tired of this circus life / tired of the freaks and the colored lights / come on, come on the night is young / it’s too late to change your mind, you can’t turn back now / so high, so high just you and me and the big sky...”  https://youtu.be/vwedYihLkI0

 

7. Stop On By—Rufus.....One of the most talented musical ensembles of the 1970s and early 1980s, the interracial band Rufus defied easy categorization because they successfully straddled the world of rhythm & blues and rock, laced with funk and soul.  On several fronts they excelled—the musical sophistication at the heart of the band, the songwriting, and the seemingly boundless talents of lead vocalist Chaka Khan.  The track listed here is their cover of a Bobby Womack song, taken from Rufus’ third studio album entitled Rufusized.  A few other key albums of theirs—1977’s Ask Rufus and 1978’s Street Player—truly belong in the pantheon of great American music (musicasaurus.com doesn’t usually hurl such superlatives down from the mountain top, so of course ready your grain of salt, but do take time to explore this band—especially the two aforementioned albums—and delights will unfold.)  https://youtu.be/mlNMmBUI_Is

 

8. The Girl From Ipanema—Astrud Gilberto, Joao Gilberto & Stan Getz.....This very early version of the song is synonymous with bossa nova, samba, and the Sixties, and it comes from the one of the most famous and bestselling jazz albums of all time, 1963’s Getz/Gilberto.  Over the past almost-five decades, the tune has almost been cocktail-hour’ed to death in cafes and clubs around the globe, trod on by myriad musical lounge lizards and various kings & queens of schmaltz.  Hearkening back to this definitive ‘63 version brings a new appreciation for the cool sophistication of this worldwide classic...The players:  Stan Getz on tenor sax, and Brazilians Joao Gilberto on acoustic guitar & vocals, Antonio Carlos Jobim on piano, and Astrud Gilberto on vocals.  The latter is the wife of singer-guitarist Joao, and before the recording session for this song, reportedly she had never sung outside of her home.  https://youtu.be/weGbfo3vm-4

 

9. Place To BeNick Drake.....A talented yet tortured artist, Nick Drake was a British musician & singer-songwriter from the late 1960s/early 1970s who flitted around the then-bright-burning flame of Fairport Convention, one of the most renowned bands of the English folk-rock movement.  Drake’s recording career lasted for just three albums over four years, before depression and mental strife quite possibly took his life (he passed away in 1974 from an overdose of antidepressants).  Of the three albums that Drake produced between 1969 and 1972, the latter year’s Pink Moon was the pinnacle (“Place To Be” comes from that record).  Pink Moon is essentially just Drake’s voice and his acoustic guitar, with a touch of piano on only a few of the eleven total tracks; it’s a very spare recording, and a thing of stark beauty.  https://youtu.be/T9kHJduya7Y

 

10. Heights Of Diamond—Adam Haworth Stephens.....A member of the not-widely-known San Francisco duo Two Gallants, Stephens did a solo turn with 2010’s We Live On Cliffs, from which this track is taken.  You can tag this as introspective indie-folk; some comparisons have been made to Dylan in terms of sound and sentiment, and it’s resplendent in its blend of acoustic guitar and piano, and lead male and harmony female vocals.  The album was released on the Saddle Creek record label, whose roster includes (or at one time included) Bright Eyes, Rilo Kiley, The Faint, and Tokyo Police Club.  https://youtu.be/0CWkc4uKWZg

 

 

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Posted 7/13/15.....

Below are 10 tracks from an original mix from October 30, 2005, in which I centered on “places”…I wanted to provide this nice sampling to get you to a place where you’re inspired to complete your own…

1. Mexico—James Taylor.....How sweet this is, and it’ll be loved by you--yes, this line doubles as a sly reference to the white-bread hit that Taylor had from this 1975 album, but it’s this particular pop gem that is truly the standout track.  Gorilla was the artist’s sixth release and didn’t have the depth of confessional classics that appeared on his albums from ’70-’71 (Sweet Baby James and Mud Slide Slim And The Blue Horizon).  Nonetheless there was that amazing tenor and solid musicianship, and on this song some additional sterling harmony assistance from then-wife Carly Simon as well as David Crosby & Graham Nash.  https://youtu.be/VQnHAb_6sOs

 

2. Louisiana 1927—Aaron Neville.....This tune is on Neville’s second major label solo release entitled Warm Your Heart which came out in 1991.  He is most famous for his 1966 chart topper “Tell It Like It Is,” an oldies staple, and apart from solo work he resides largely within his “family band” the Neville Brothers...Here, his cover version of a Randy Newman song is remarkably poignant, with full orchestra in beautiful restraint atop Neville’s fluttering vocal style.  It was picked for the “places” mix because of its lovely evocation of time AND place--the 1927 Great Mississippi Flood, which left over 700,000 homeless in the states of Louisiana and Mississippi.  https://youtu.be/EyfvnM4Grik

 

3. Willesden To Cricklewood -- Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros.....Strummer was an instrumental member of the British band The Clash, who were famous through the mid-70’s and early ‘80’s for boundary-and-button pushing--i.e., political outrage and fiery attacks funneled into a quite startling and innovative blend of punk, hard rock, reggae, dub and rockabilly...When The Clash disbanded in 1986, Strummer largely sat on the sidelines with regard to consistent recording efforts, however in 1999 he assembled a new band called the Mescaleros.  Their style was a bit of The Clash but not as in-yo-face angry; it was more fueled by funk with dashes of reggae, third-world music, jazz and hip-hop.  “Willesden To Cricklewood”, from the band’s 1999 debut Rock Art And The X-Ray Style, is a slow and meditative look back at Life, in terms of the narrator’s stroll through a section of London where changes in the social fabric had weaved their way into being...As always, Strummer’s voice is a marvel, whether spitting out righteous venom with The Clash or--as in this piece--casting a softer spell through his solo work.  https://youtu.be/VWCq9Deoq_4

 

4. Mainstreet -- Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band.....Seger’s ballad lived long & prospered on FM Radio in the mid-late ‘70’s, and this song about a “long lovely dancer in a little club downtown” holds up surprisingly well.  A classic American rock ‘n’ roll singer-songwriter who toured relentlessly--thus fanning the flames and enflaming more fans--Seger fully deserved his 1976 breakthrough from regional worship to full nation embrace.  This came about via his ninth studio album Night Moves, from which this track is taken.  The song hearkens back to Seger’s childhood, and the main street in his hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan.  NOTE! Start at the 23:42 mark to get to Main Street:  https://youtu.be/jrIbHCSLBlI

 

5. Mozambique -- Bob Dylan with Emmylou Harris.....Musicasaurus.com has never been a huge Dylan fan; although his influence cannot be denied, his singing style cannot in a lot of cases be abided (read further, if your outrage over this sacrilege can be suppressed).  There have been moments of true brilliance in form, content and vocal delivery, however, and for me “Mozambique” is a peak.  In 1976, Dylan teamed up with NYC musical theatre director Jacques Levy on the lyrics and singer-songwriter Emmylou Harris on the mike to create the hodgepodge album ultimately entitled Desire.  “Mozambique” is a sunny (for Dylan, anyway) paean to this Southeast African country’s beaches and alluring atmosphere, and Harris’ accompanying vocal and Scarlet Rivera’s violin enhance this appealing and deliciously-paced performance.  https://youtu.be/BYywEVzyVLI

 

6. Spain -- Chick Corea & Return To Forever.....There have been a few incarnations of the band Return To Forever, and this was the very first—group founder Chick Corea on keyboards; Stanley Clarke on bass; Joe Farrell on sax & flute; Flora Purim providing the wordless, soaring vocals; and Purim’s husband Airto Moreira on all manner of percussion.  The album from which this track was taken was technically Return To Forever’s second, entitled Light As A Feather (1973).  “Spain” is arguably RTF’s signature song, covered by the occasional jazz band through the years in clubs, theatres, and in high school and college performances.  The tune largely defies description:  I can say that it is a 10-minute marvel of Latin-tinged jazz, the sum of electric piano + flute + bass + percussion + handclaps + wordless vocals + chorus shout-outs.  Intoxicating and invigorating…  https://youtu.be/a_OEJ0wqt2g

 

7. Penny Lane -- The Beatles.....”In Penny Lane there is a barber showing photographs / Of every head he’s had the pleasure to have known / And all the people that come and go / Stop and say hello”.  This is a pop masterpiece that fits snugly into the “Places” mix and gives it proper heft (I mentally alighted there in ’67 and I think I’ve never left)...Both a physical street in McCartney’s hometown of Liverpool and a state of mind, “Penny Lane” is yet another transcendent work from The Fab Four and their producer George Martin, who unleashed this first as a 45 RPM single to American radio stations in February ’67 (with the other side consisting of “Strawberry Fields Forever”).  The song was then added to the American release of the album Magical Mystery Tour, which hit The States at the end of that year.  https://youtu.be/fZBcJGphTEE

 

8. Colorado -- The Flying Burrito Brothers.....If your Burrito diet consists of only the classic line-up with Gram Parsons from albums one and two, you’re missing a nice slice of the aftermath here...“Colorado” comes from the band’s third record, the 1971 self-titled release that picked up singer-songwriter/guitarist Rick Roberts after the departure of Parsons.  To the ears of musicsaurus.com, this is the most musically expansive and best Burritos effort, holding lush, lovely mid-tempo tunes like the Dylan cover “To Ramona” and the Rick Roberts/Chris Hillman-penned “All Alone” and “Four Days Of Rain”.  The track listed here is a beautiful ballad of longing for home, rapturously rendered by Roberts and aided by plaintive pedal steel.  https://youtu.be/_XaYob-gMSI

 

9. California -- Low.....Husband-and-wife Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker are the core of this “slowcore” band that formed in Duluth, Minnesota in 1993.  Their longstanding minimalist approach to songwriting and hushed harmonies--in the alternative pop vein--helped them cobble together a following through almost annual releases beginning in 1994.  Ten years down the road they turned toward a new producer that steered them toward more sonic depth, whic resulted in an album--2005’s The Great Destroyer--that captured their essence yet fleshed out the sound via the more full-bodied approach.  “California” is from this album, and it’s a great textured piece with the Sparkhawk-Parker vocal blend and a commanding grunge-lite approach to the guitars and overall production.  https://youtu.be/Ac3sq5s_7q4

 

10. Avalon -- Roxy Music.....This is the later-period Roxy, with svelte lead singer Bryan Ferry leading the band through an atmospheric ballad that obliquely references the mythical isle of Avalon--or perhaps not.  The lyrics seem to linger on a dance that leads to trance, and the transporting of one’s mind to new realms in the process... “Avalon” comes from the band’s eighth (and last) studio recording of the same name, released in 1982.  Still present in the band at that time were mainstays Ferry, saxophonist Andy MacKay and guitarist Phil Manzanera, and also on this bewitching track (ethereally floating above Ferry) was vocalist Yanick Etienne, who went on to appear on future solo efforts by the Roxy leader.  https://youtu.be/bpA_5a0miWk

 

 

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Posted 6/29/15.....

Various Artists Mix…..originally recorded January 25, 2006.

1. Rewind – Goldspot.....This NYC indie band got their initial break--a dent in the consciousness of avid NPR listeners--through a key public radio station’s embrace.  Santa Monica’s KCRW championed their sound right around the time of their first album’s release (2005’s Tally Of The Yes Men).  Singer-songwriter/band leader Siddhartha Khosla had been raised on Middle Eastern music but skillfully wove in strands of alternative rock to forge his band’s alluring sound...There are other standout cuts on Tally as well:  Dip your ears into “Motorcade” or “Cusp”, or both.  https://youtu.be/gnvvmIynd2I

 

2. Urban Strut – Steve Hunter.....This is an instrumental classic-rock strut; nothin’ fancy, just a well-produced track that features Hunter’s guitar up front in the mix, rip-roarin’ its way through.  Hunter has done session and tour work for a number of artists through the years (most notably Lou Reed and Alice Cooper), in addition to occasional solo recordings.  This particular track comes from a 1988 sampler CD entitled Guitar Speak, released by Miles Copeland’s I.R.S label on its subsidiary No Speak.  This series of all-instrumental releases from No Speak featured a number of rock guitarists--most renowned, a few unheralded--and was apparently Copeland’s answer to the late ‘80’s popularity of la-de-da New Age music; “No Speak eats New Age for breakfast” was one of his quotes upon the launch of this specialized line from the I.R.S. brand.  https://youtu.be/c1wVXU0dE-0

 

3. Staple It Together – Jack Johnson.....Johnson stayed true to form for his third album, 2005’s In Between Dreams, from which this track is taken...The album sports more of his signature blend of champion-level chill, easy funk, and feel-good folk.  Born in Hawaii, he excelled in the surf before staking claim in pop music’s turf, winning millions of college-age fans via his first few records beginning in 2001.  “Staple It Together” is one of the more uptempo songs on In Between Dreams, though his calling card is more mellow, moderate fare.  https://youtu.be/SSueAIkvBto

 

4. Grits Ain’t Groceries – Little Milton.....Mississippi born Milton was an African American soul, blues, and R & B musician whose first commercial break came from legendary Sun Records producer Sam Phillips, but Milton achieved his widest success after joining up with Chess Records subsidiary Checker Records in the mid-1960s...“Grits Ain’t Groceries” hails from that time period, and is also the title tune of Milton’s 1969 album.  It’s a kick-ass rhythm & blues song, punched up by horns and some gritty, lived-the-life blues belting by Milton.  There are great opening lyrics as well that set the song in motion:  “If I don’t love you baby, grits ain’t groceries, eggs ain’t poultry, and Mona Lisa was a man”...  https://youtu.be/4DaaJ4EPYwI

 

5. Music For Gong Gong – Osibisa.....Fresh out of high school in 1971, I remember spotting this album in the indie record store bins, and being captivated by the cover--an illustration of an insect-winged elephant by British artist/designer Roger Dean, who soon went on to greater fame for his fantasy-style covers of albums by Yes, Asia, Uriah Heep and many more...“Music for Gong Gong” is an instrumental, highly-percussive track from Osibisa’s 1971 self-titled debut.  This band of African and Caribbean musicians formed in London in 1969, and were one of the first groups to truly fuse together rock, R & B, and jazz with their native countries’ rhythms and textures; count them as one the earliest bands bringing awareness to the emergence of “world music”.  https://youtu.be/IALpmwOm8Vs

 

6. Golden Years – Bowie.....This track hails from Bowie’s 1976 release Station To Station, recorded in Los Angeles in allegedly coke-fueled sessions of the non-soda variety.  The album itself is a significant bridge between Bowie’s Young Americans release from the year before, and the beginning of his Eno-driven Berlin period which started with 1977’s Low album...“Golden Years” was a Top Five radio hit on both sides of the pond, and was reportedly written for, but rebuffed by, Elvis Presley (now knowing this, you might be able to imagine The King doing this song as you listen to bits of Bowie’s vocalizations).  https://youtu.be/HRD0ghlFSgk

 

7. Rise Up – Parachute Club.....A tune from the 1980s, an anthem of empowerment with a whiff of synth, grounded (and propelled) by an infectious world beat...Parachute Club were truly all about the ‘80s, forming in Toronto in 1982 and disbanding in 1989.  Their 1983 eponymous debut, from which this track is taken, was produced by Daniel Lanois (who went on to helm production chores for albums by U2, Dylan, Emmylou Harris and many others).  Parachute Club was notable in that their music centered on the personal and the political to reflect changing social mores; they also, early on, incorporated reggae and soca (Afro-Caribbean music) into their musical stew.  https://youtu.be/akzW5EzPXDM

 

8. You Don’t Move Me – Keith Richards.....Richards had two stints without Stones, in 1988 and 1992, when he both recorded and toured with a band he assembled called The X-Pensive Winos.  The Winos included Richards, drummer Steve Jordan, Southern California session guitarist Waddy Wachtel, keyboardist Ivan Neville (son of Aaron, of the Neville Brothers) and Charley Drayton on bass... “You Don’t Move Me”, from the Winos’ 1988 release Talk Is Cheap, is a perfect slice of gritty rock ‘n’ roll--no frills, just great steeped-in-Stones guitar chords, rhythmic slashes, and the characteristic (and beloved) off-kilter vocals by Richards.  https://youtu.be/fDHYUgSYLuU

 

9. Tuesday Morning – The Pogues.....Irish freewheeling band The Pogues formed in London in 1982, and until 1991 featured the quite charismatic  (and alcohol addled) lead singer Shane MacGowan.  After the departure of MacGowan, The Pogues briefly took on former Clash singer Joe Strummer, and then longtime band member Spider Stacy stepped up to the mike for the band’s 1993 album Waiting For Herb.  “Tuesday Morning” comes from this Herb release; the song was the last one by the band to make Britain’s Top Twenty, but also was the group’s most successful single internationally.  https://youtu.be/gPPscelHVhA

 

10. Blue Bell Knoll – Cocteau Twins.....The Twins’ sound is spacey and ethereal—almost celestial—and this title track from the group’s 1988 release is a great starting point, if you’d like to dip into a mesmerizing mix of hovering and haunting guitar work, tape loops and drum machines, and soaring wordless vocals.  The Twins (actually a threesome) formed in 1979 in their native Scotland, and amassed a body of work through the 1980s and early 1990s that has many fine celestial seasonings, anchored by the almost operatic vocalist Elizabeth Fraser.  https://youtu.be/2oespMmWnDo?list=PLte9j7iQQHjE4JAeMSzeZy5g0PwvhKMYt

 

 

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Posted 6/15/15.....

Luck comes and goes…For some, if it wasn’t for bad luck, they’d have no luck at all…Yet others seem to have a nice long run of only the good stuff rainin’ down…Here are ten tunes all about “luck”:

1. A Lucky Guy – Rickie Lee Jones (from the artist’s second studio album Pirates, released in 1981)…..Pirates came two year’s after Jones’ startling self-titled debut album that had “Chuck E.’s in Love” on it.  This second release pushed all sorts of boundaries in its cinematic storytelling and musical arrangements, and some of the songs seem to center on the breakup of Jones’ recent relationship with singer Tom Waits.  https://youtu.be/ccdDB0qMdZw

 

2. Born Under A Bad Sign – Robben Ford (from Ford’s 1988 release Talk To Your Daughter)…..Ford is an explosive guitar talent, amazingly still a cult figure even today.  He and his recent touring band (a keyboardist, drummer and bassist) played The Rex Theater in Pittsburgh this past April, and it was eclectic and electric, with Ford frettin’ over the blues, jazz and rock in various combinations.  He’s played in the past with ensembles like Tom Scott’s L.A. Express and jazz fusion band The Yellowjackets, recorded with Joni Mitchell, and toured with Miles Davis.  I like him best when he hews to the blues.  https://youtu.be/Gx6ztc8wbWk

 

3. Four Leaf Clover – Abra Moore (from the 1997 album Strangest Places)…..Here is a find for you:  An Austin, Texas-based female singer-songwriter who writes great pop songs that are far from formulaic—she mixes styles, blending in an alternative sensibility with folk-rock leanings, topped off by that caress of a voice, and really perceptive (and atmospheric) production touches.  “Four Leaf Clover” was a mini-hit in Midwest radio markets back in ’97, and landed on VH-1 and MTV2 for a spell as well.  https://youtu.be/6Dr0p9e8LKc

 

4. Bad Luck Situation – Johnny Winter (from the artist’s album Saints & Sinners, released in 1974)…..It took until his fifth album—1973’s Still Alive And Well—for this Texas-born blues singer/guitar slinger to really dent the Collective Rock Consciousness.  The follow-up to that popular album was Saints & Sinners, which critics seemed to like but the public a bit less so…In addition to “Bad Luck Situation” (an energizing rocker flaunting the artist’s yowl and the guitar’s growl), the album also contains some Winterized covers of the Rolling Stones (“Stray Cat Blues”), ‘50s rocker Larry Williams (“Bony Moronie”) and Van Morrison (“Feedback On Highway 101”, a song written by Van for his 1973 Hard Nose The Highway album—but it never made it on there.  Winter’s cover may be the only recorded version of this tune, thus far.)  https://youtu.be/sPtxU4Rf66U

 

5. Dice – Finley Quaye (from Much More Than Much Love, 2004)…..Quaye is Scottish-born, and in the late ‘90s in NYC he started up a recording career that unfortunately never clawed out substantial success in the States.  He has a reggae-tinged aura about him, and a smooth and soulful voice, and on THIS particular track—written by Quaye with the song’s producer William Orbit and alternative-folkie Beth Orton—he really shines.  Great backup from Orton as well, and Orbit’s production sheen is non-cloying and clean. The song was a minor hit due to its inclusion on a soundtrack CD from the then-popular Fox television series The OC.  https://youtu.be/5vlBBURMe0E

 

6. I’m Lucky – Joan Armatrading (from her 1981 album Walk Under Ladders)…..British singer-songwriter Armatrading started recording in the early 1970s and was principally folky for a while, serving up songs like 1976’s “Love And Affection.”  Musicasaurus.com feels fortunate, though, to have stumbled upon “I’m Lucky” back in 1981, because it is a full bodied, sonically rich slice of ‘80s music produced by famed U2 producer Steve Lillywhite and powered by Armatrading.  Reviewer Dave Connolly of AllMusic.com has noted on that site that Armatrading has “a wonderfully expressive voice that can capture the shades between song and speech like a sweeter version of Ian Anderson.”  Hear for thyself:  https://youtu.be/K5AM1F09714

 

7. Win Or Lose – Paul Butterfield’s Better Days (from this particular collective’s second studio recording, It All Comes Back, released in 1973)…..Butterfield is a blue blood—of the aristocracy of “blues greats”—who worshipped Muddy Waters and the genre’s other forefathers while pushing out some really passionate blues recordings of his own, in a variety of settings, throughout the 1960s and 1970s.  Although I treasure Butterfield’s late ‘60s blues treats, I tend to gravitate to the two recordings he did with his assembled band Better Days in 1972-1973, in which the music is a bit more expansive to include folk and roots music influences.  And luckily, “Win Or Lose” still has the man’s trademark harmonica at the forefront, peeling off some powerful mouth music as he barrels through this blues-rock gem.  https://youtu.be/DelH28uVlnU?list=PLqKLqpH9zSqzlRdUWeuHNjXLRKaIcGB51

 

8. Whisper Me Luck – Paul Westerberg (from the soundtrack to the animated feature Open Season, a film from 2006)…..Westerberg was with the cult-favorite Minneapolis alternative band The Replacements throughout the 1980s, then peeled off for a solo career and at some point along the way got hooked up to do several songs for the family-oriented animated feature Open Season.  The song is similar to Westerberg’s solo-album fare, which run the gamut of smart & poppy alternative rockers and free-of-cliché ballads.  https://youtu.be/MMELtOdi3cI?list=PLciXU-Xsjjgl_2L4xvgEsbTkLbzckGjcL

 

9. Everytime I Roll The Dice – Delbert McClinton (from his 1992 album Never Been Rocked Enough)…..McClinton’s a Lubbock, Texas native with a bit of a raspy Southern twang to his voice, and he always surrounds himself on record and on tours with crackerjack musicians that deliver punched-up and provocative blues numbers, most of which are—as one would hope—toe tappers and head bobbers.  He MAY be best known out of the usual blues circles for his 1980 crossover hit “Giving It Up For Your Love” which climbed to #8 on Billboard Magazine’s Hot One Hundred chart.  https://youtu.be/FNd0OMUPMR4?list=RDFNd0OMUPMR4

 

10. Luck Of The Draw – Bonnie Raitt (from the album of the same name—the artist’ eleventh—released in 1991)…..Raitt was pretty much a buried treasure—in terms of mass awareness—from her 1971 self-titled debut album through 1986’s Nine Lives—and then came 1989’s Nick Of Time.  The title track received substantial pop station airplay, as did another track entitled “Have A Heart.”  With the album Luck Of The Draw that followed, Raitt eclipsed her own recent wave of success and sold a ton more albums based on hit-bound album tracks like “Something To Talk About” and “I Can’t Make You Love Me”…The “Luck Of The Draw” track was not as commercial; it’s a fairly hypnotic affair with some mesmerizing background vocals that wash in on the choruses.  https://youtu.be/qOqGGPfKYy4

 

 

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Posted 6/1/15.....

Southern California Mix...originally recorded July 29, 2009.

Most of these tracks are from the fertile wellspring that was the Southern California music scene of the 1970’s—singer-songwriters often backed by a close-knit community of amazing musicians who revolved around each other’s releases, and en masse delivered to all of us a lasting library of recorded achievements.  I have in large part avoided the more famous denizens here in favor of the more obscure but no less talented ones.

1. Ooh Child – Valerie Carter (from her 1977 solo debut, Just A Stone’s Throw Away).....Carter had an avid supporter in the form of Feat founder Lowell George, who first heard of the young woman while she sang with the L.A. country-folk outfit Howdy Moon in the early-mid 1970’s.  George not only produced her debut, but also squired her into other meaningful orbits including those of James Taylor and Jackson Browne (with whom she later toured as a key back-up singer)...“Ooh Child” is a song from 1970 first recorded by Windy City soul band The Five Stairsteps.  The song’s since been covered by Laura Nyro, Beth Orton, Nina Simone and many more, but in musicasaurus.com’s book, the definitive version is Carter’s--your spine and the back of your neck are in for pleasure ripples galore, as Carter wails and wraps her essence completely around this tune.  https://youtu.be/pxcU4OfdTfg

 

2. Tell Me – Terence Boylan (from the artist’s 1980 album Suzy).....Singer-songwriter Boylan attended Bard College and played Greenwich Village clubs in NYC before permanently migrating west to the L.A. area, where he issued a killer second album in ’77 that sported great players and production (the latter was influenced by his Bard mates Donald Fagan and Walter Becker; Fagan, in fact, played on the ’77 release).  Suzy had a similar line-up of Southern California greats--Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Larry Carlton, and Eagle Don Felder on guitar; and also Don Henley and Timothy B. Schmit on vocals--and this track in particular is just a great polished pop number (featuring Schmit on harmony vocal).  https://youtu.be/MG57XtJa6eo

 

3. Mexico – Souther-Hillman-Furay Band (from the trio’s Trouble In Paradise, released in 1975).....The song is a John David (J.D.) Souther composition, and your ears may hear Eagles--it’s got that easy-goin’ country-tinged flow with similar-sounding and soothing harmonies behind Souther’s lead vocals.  The three principals in this band--Souther, Chris Hillman, and Richie Furay--were urged into their musical partnership by record mogul David Geffen, but the band crumbled after this second album (trouble in paradise, indeed).  The three did have amazing credentials, though--Souther had written songs adopted by The Eagles and Linda Ronstadt; Hillman had just come out of The Flying Burrito Brothers after playing with The Byrds; and Furay had previously played with The Buffalo Springfield and then Poco.  This was a great convergence of SoCal talent, but this particular triumvirate was not meant to be.  https://youtu.be/ZM6RoZtNwf0

 

4. Bye Bye Love – David Lindley (from Lindley’s 1981 album El Rayo-X).....This talented slide guitarist is best known as “prime side man” to Jackson Browne, on tours and in the studio, and thus he’s an essential ingredient of some of Browne’s finest efforts including Late For The Sky, The Pretender, and Running On Empty.  Lindley’s solo efforts are quirky wonders that feature a blend of rock ‘n’ roll, reggae, blues, Cajun, zydeco and more; here, he covers the Boudleaux & Felice Bryant composition “Bye Bye Love” in a genre-busting version of the 1958 Everly Brothers hit.  https://youtu.be/HEoc0gr-J4w

 

5. Lonely Boy – Andrew Gold (from the album What’s Wrong With This Picture, 1976).....For whatever reason, Gold wasn’t on my radar very much back in the mid-1970’s when he hit it big with this one particular chart-topping song.  I’ve since learned that this multi-instrumentalist was instrumental in a few of Linda Ronstadt’s pivotal records like Heart Like A Wheel and Prisoner In Disguise, and he also contributed to works by James Taylor, J.D. Souther, Carly Simon and Loudon Wainwright III...Though “Lonely Boy” was played to death by soft-rock radio back in the 1970’s, some distance between the years gives it a freshness to these ears.  (p.s.  Gold was the perpetrator of the song “Thank You For Being A Friend”, a snippet of which eternally adorned the opening of the successful television program Golden Girls.)  https://youtu.be/0kbgjmmr5vw

 

6. Lotta Love – Nicolette Larson (from this artist’s 1978 debut Nicolette).....I fell in love with Larson when this album was released, mostly because I had 25 life-sized cardboard figures of her at my apartment.  (Lest you think me some kind of perv, let me ‘splain:  In 1978 I was a Warner Brothers Records’ field merchandiser, and my job was to cover a ton of Western PA record stores with new-album display materials--including the aforementioned Larson cardboard stand-ups)...“Lotta Love” from Larson was a solid radio hit upon release, and the song’s writer Neil Young had already employed Larson on his own Comes A Time album released that very year (one of musicasaurus.com’s favorite Neil Young records).  In addition to good looks, youthful exuberance, and sex appeal, Larson had a strong set of pipes and she shines on this great little pop gem.  https://youtu.be/pCx8U6XOT8c

 

7. Return Of The Grievous Angel – Gram Parsons (from the album Grievous Angel, 1974).....I’ve thought lately about doing a playlist/mix with the theme of “duos” or “duets”.  This song would top the list, because of the harmonic convergence of vocalists Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris.  With repeated listenings, this song sets up shop deep within you; in under 4 ½ minutes, it builds its own mythology of Life On The Road, full of passion, sweep and majesty.  Parsons utilized players par excellence including pedal steel player James Burton, fiddler Byron Berline, and pianist Glen D. Hardin (among others), and the resulting song has become, in a way, a kind of torchlight for aspiring alternative-country artists over the last almost-four decades. https://youtu.be/1PytxPaU6k4

 

8. You’re Only Lonely – J.D. Souther (from the solo album of the same name, released in 1979).....This song was crafted and crooned in the ‘70’s, but it would sound right at home on a Roy Orbison record from the late-50’s/early-60’s.  Souther was a SoCal singer-songwriter who had tunes scooped up by The Eagles--“Best Of My Love”, “New Kid In Town”, and “Heartache Tonight” among them--but “You’re Only Lonely” was the only hit record he had on his own.  (Postscript:  Souther turned to some acting opportunities in the late ‘80’s, and had a small recurring role in the television program thirtysomething.)  https://youtu.be/UJZhC-xEOuQ

 

9. Someone To Lay Down Beside Me – Karla Bonoff (from the artist’s self-titled debut in 1977).....Bonoff was part of the Los Angeles 1970’s scene, slugging it out at the famed singer-songwriter haven the Troubadour.  Before she even set about recording her own works, three of her songs were picked up by compadre Linda Ronstadt for the latter’s 1976 Hasten Down The Wind album—“Lose Again”, “If He’s Ever Near”, and “Someone To Lay Down Beside Me”.  Bonoff’s self-titled debut came out the following year and also featured the latter tune; the overall album featured support from Ronstadt as well as California constants Leland Sklar, Russ Kunkel, Waddy Wachtel, Don Henley, and J.D. Souther.  https://youtu.be/Rdy9KQ4_B6E

 

10. Hot Summer Nights – Walter Egan (from the 1978 album Not Shy).....Egan was in the D.C. area in the late ‘60’s / early ‘70’s around the same time as other striving regional musicians were plying their trade, including Nils Lofgren & Grin, Roy Buchanan, and Emmylou Harris.  Egan and Harris went westward to Los Angeles, and eventually his area appearances (including one at the famed Troubadour in West Hollywood) led to a recording contract.  Egan’s musician friends Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham became highly involved in both of his first two albums on Columbia, Fundamental Roll and Not Shy.  “Hot Summer Nights” is a great example of Egan’s infectious Southern California pop ‘n’ roll, with background vocal assistance from Nicks, and both production duties & sweet lead guitar lines provided by Buckingham.  https://youtu.be/45-CrpU5y5I

 

 

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Posted 5/18/15.....

Get Your Kicks on Mix Sixty-Six...

1966 was the summer before the Summer of Love...before Sgt. Pepper’s...and before the true floodgates of the younger generation’s music opened up in full flower.  But these eleven songs were indeed some of the best that floated out over the airwaves that year, over transistor radios on the beach and kitchen clock radios at home…

1. Sloop John B.—The Beach Boys.....from the album Pet Sounds...This is classic early Beach Boys, a seafaring tale with wondrous harmonies where, just shy of the two-minute mark, high-throated Brian and Carl Wilson swoop in with angelic abandon.  The album from which it came--a landmark rock & pop record in the realm of composition, arrangement, and execution--was one that Paul McCartney cited as raising the bar, and the Beatles took up that gauntlet and produced Sgt. Pepper’s one year afterward.  https://youtu.be/nSAoEf1Ib58

 

2. Dirty Water—The Standells.....from the album of the same name...The band was a one-hit wonder, but what a one hit it was--“Dirty Water” was a deliciously endearing, searing, semi-sneering piece of “garage rock” that populated many a playlist in ’66.  The Standells were from L.A., but the song was all about Boston and the banks of the River Charles:  “That’s where you’ll find me / Along with lovers, muggers and thieves”... https://youtu.be/4JLNnXgQeqU?list=RD4JLNnXgQeqU

 

3. Hold On, I’m Comin’—Sam & Dave.....from the album Hold On, I’m Comin’...This duo delivered gospel-fired soul music, and did so through the famous Stax studio and record label (Atlantic Records’ subsidiary based in Memphis, TN).  House musicians Booker T. and The M.G.’s and the Mar-Key Horns gave their soul support, and producers Isaac Hayes and David Porter were the songwriting team who fed them hit after eventual hit including “Soul Man”, “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby”, and “I Thank You”.  https://youtu.be/AREppyQf5uw

 

4. 5D (Fifth Dimension)—The Byrds.....from the album Fifth Dimension...Helmed by Rickenbacker rocker Roger McGuinn, the Byrds chimed in with their near-perfect blend of British Invasion and electrified American folk music in the mid 1960’s.  This song in particular has swagger and majesty, a cosmic love song with soaring harmonies aided by band members David Crosby and Gene Clark.  https://youtu.be/D5XuMWRHGU8?list=RDD5XuMWRHGU8

 

5. (We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet—The Blues McGoos.....from the album Psychedelic Lollipop...This time-capsule tune has perfectly cheesy organ and Sixties-style psychedelic guitar work, all adding up to a rollicking, raucous one-hit wonder that radio stations played to death.  The Blues McGoos hailed from the Bronx and paid their dues in various Greenwich Village clubs through the early ‘60s; this, their debut album, also contained a notable cover of the J.D. Loudermilk classic “Tobacco Road.”  https://youtu.be/TV5LCmzUOEQ

 

6. 96 Tears—? Mark & The Mysterians.....from the band’s debut album of the same name…Michigan-born Mexican American Rudy Martinez legally changed his name to ? after joining his brother’s band, and no question he’s produced an enduring garage rock / early punk classic in “96 Tears”.  Note that it’s a Vox organ that swirls at the opening and is peppered throughout...The tune became de rigueur for Sixties bands in basements and attics everywhere, and in recent years, some of the band including ? reformed to appear in a PBS-related oldies one-hit wonder type of program.  https://youtu.be/R7uC5m-IRns

 

7. It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World—James Brown .....from the album of the same name...Brown’s albums from around that stretch of time usually consisted of an anchor charting tune, with a backfill of singles shoehorned in before release...The Godfather Of Soul really shines on this string-laden funk ballad; it’s full of Papa James Screech and high drama, and the song became a # 1 Rhythm & Blues hit and a Top Ten charter in the Pops realm.  https://youtu.be/QCdc1YW001Q

 

8. Pushin’ Too Hard—The Seeds.....from the album The Seeds...A song that was embraced into Radio and caressed by Critics, “Pushin’ Too Hard” has long since been labeled as one of the formative Sixties tunes that led and bled into punk...In fact, the tune was included on the much-revered collection of gestating punk performances, 1972's Nuggets: The Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968.  https://youtu.be/IReb27tFqMg

 

9. Secret Agent Man—Johnny Rivers.....from the album And I Know You Wanna Dance...Born John Henry Ramistella in NYC and raised in Baton Rouge, the artist later rechristened Johnny Rivers moved to Los Angeles in 1961, and eventually took up residence at a new music club called the Whiskey a Go-Go.  Rivers’ popularity endured through the latter part of the ‘60’s into the early ‘70’s, and his specialty was convincingly covering other artists’ material like Chuck Berry’s “Memphis”, Willie Dixon’s “Seventh Son”, and The Four Tops’ “Baby I Need Your Lovin’”...The tune listed here started out as a minute-long theme song for the 1965 television program Secret Agent (starring English actor Patrick McGoohan); there were so many inquiries from viewers about the theme song that Rivers then stretched the tune to a full-length single, and “Secret Agent Man” hit the Top Five across the USA in 1966.  https://youtu.be/6iaR3WO71j4

 

10. Devil With A Blue Dress/Good Golly Miss Molly—Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels.....from the album Breakout...!!! – A truly soulful, rasp ‘n’ roll white singer from Detroit who sounds, in retrospect, like the love child of Bob Seger and James Brown...Ryder and his Wheels rolled out some passionate, live-sounding classics over a couple-year period in the Sixties, including the song listed here (once a Springsteen favorite for his own concert encores) and others like “Jenny Take A Ride” and “Sock It To Me Baby”.  https://youtu.be/RAClxmXqX0M

 

 

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Posted 5/4/15.....

M I X   F O R   T H E   N E W   H O M E . . .

Ten tunes for those on the move, or those who have moved:  A heartwarming housewarming present...

1. Won't Be Coming Home – Golden Smog.....Golden Smog floats above the landscape of more serious alt-country purveyors, a cool collaboration that first came together as a side project by like-minded Minneapolis musicians in the late 1980’s.  Membership in Smog has largely consisted of musicians from Soul Asylum (Dan Murphy; occasionally Dave Pirner), The Jayhawks (Gary Louris), Wilco (Marc Perlman; occasionally Jeff Tweedy), and The Replacements (Chris Mars).  Somewhat loose and laid back, Smog can leave you agog, though, when they hit a certain stride and become the sum of their parts.  “Won’t Be Coming Home” is a track from the band’s outstanding 1995 album Down By The Old Mainstream.  https://youtu.be/q5YYHLAnc7E

 

2. She's Leaving Home – Larry Coryell.....Coryell was a jazz-rock rabble-rouser who blew minds and blew right past boundaries in the 1960s.  Through the decades he’s bounced between aggressive electric spazzed-out jazz, and intimate, more accessible acoustic exercises.  And, he’s got a list of albums a mile long—over 70 records since his debut album Lady Coryell in 1968...This cover of the Beatles’ classic from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is a thing of beauty, and it’s just Coryell alone on guitar.  It is taken from his 2004 release Tricycles, a trio effort which also features ex-Pat Metheny Band collaborators Paul Wertico on drums and Mark Egan on bass.  https://youtu.be/kUjixPNrRuE

 

3. Subterranean Homesick Alien – Radiohead.....This British alternative rock band formed in Oxford, England in 1989, and through the years has amassed great critic cred as well as an ever-widening fan base.  “Subterranean Homesick Alien” comes from the band’s third album OK Computer, released in 1997.  Ten years later, in one of the group’s gutsier moves, they independently issued their seventh album In Rainbows on-line only, without benefit of a record label.  They did so as a digital download, and didn’t set a price for the transaction—they asked the fans to pay only what they felt it was worth.  The on-line sale began in October and ended in December when the physical versions (album and CDs) were just being released; to this day, there are varying accounts as to how $ucce$$ful this on-line name-your-price promotion really was for the band.  https://youtu.be/d1tQFX_9ct0

 

4. It Takes More Than a Hammer and Nails To Make a House a Home – Jesse Winchester.....Louisiana-born singer-songwriter Winchester skirted his country’s call to action in the Vietnam era, and so in 1967 this draft dodger became a Montreal lodger, eventually gaining Canadian citizenship.  That move didn’t necessarily sully his name but might have crimped his fame; due to his inability to tour the States, Winchester couldn’t build upon the generally good reviews of his album releases through the late 1960s and mid-1970s, until President Carter granted him amnesty in 1977...The track listed here comes from Winchester’s fourth album Let The Rough Side Drag.  His expressive voice and songwriting call to mind—not entirely, mind you—a mix of James Taylor and Lyle Lovett, and one of his better-known and commonly covered compositions is “The Brand New Tennessee Waltz”.  https://youtu.be/ppIFL_SrPAc

 

5. On The Way Home (live) – Neil Young.....It took 36 years for this oft-bootlegged recording from a Toronto engagement to surface officially from the Young archives.  Live At Massey Hall 1971 features Neil as the loner on just acoustic guitar & piano, and it bears a great mix of songs from his just released After The Gold Rush album (1970) and his comin’-down-the-pike Harvest record (1972)Two Buffalo Springfield songs, both penned by Young, bookend this live Massey Hall recording and “On The Way Home” leads things off.  The original version of this tune can be found on Buffalo Springfield’s third and final album Last Time Around which was released in 1968.  https://youtu.be/kE5szi9Z4V0

 

6. Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody's Home – Etta James.....African American singer James was most popular in the 1960s as a soulful interpreter of songs, some of which, like her 1961 version of “At Last”, have become classics.  Later in the decade she spun out rhythm & blues belters like “Tell Mama” (covered by Savoy Brown on 1971’s Street Corner Talking) and “I’d Rather Go Blind”, which Rod Stewart took a turn on for his 1972 album Never A Dull Moment...“Breaking Up Somebody’s Home” (sometimes also labeled “Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody’s Home”) is from James’ Seven Year Itch album, which was released in 1989 during one of this troubled singer’s career resurgences.  https://youtu.be/ZVs64VpIhXU

 

7. Miles From Our Home – Cowboy Junkies.....This family affair alt-country band populated by siblings hails from Canada, and they popped into public consciousness and onto critics’ lists beginning in the 1990s.  They have a sound tailor made for Adult Alternative radio and in a live setting, the band’s performances really ratchet up the impact of their sometimes sleepy-sounding studio efforts.  The tune listed here is the title track from the Junkies’ 1998 album; lead vocalist Margo Timmins (the lone sister sibling) floats above this nicely sustaining slice of alternative-meets-country rock.  https://youtu.be/agd6WaqMqd0?list=RDagd6WaqMqd0

 

8. Home Town – Joe Jackson.....In 1979 Jackson started out as a New Waver, but his talent and predilection for passionately mining new styles led him into jazz, swing, rhythm & blues, and even classical music through subsequent recordings.  After his new wave had subsided, Jackson began lapping those other musical shores but then with his eighth album—1986’s Big World—he returned to rock, albeit with a few flavors lingering from his musical past.  It’s interesting to note that Big World (which includes the track listed here) was recorded in front of a live audience at NYC’s Roundabout Theatre—but there’s not a clap nor a crowd utterance to be heard on the entire record.  Jackson wanted to achieve a live recording’s spontaneity, and to let the band speak for itself—literally.  So the invited audience was instructed well in advance to sit quiet through every single song...“Home Town” is one of musicasaurus.com’s favorite tracks about the meaning of home. https://youtu.be/o4ru-yrlM7s?list=RDo4ru-yrlM7s

 

9. When I Came Home From The Party – The Clientele.....I first came upon these indie-pop purveyors with 2005’s Strange Geometry, the album from which this track is taken.  The band formed in London in 1999 and released a number of singles that were eventually spun into an album compilation in 2000, followed by their first full-fledged album The Violet Hour in 2003.  Strong reviews and critical buzz followed these efforts but mass acceptance never materialized, which is a shame--the music sounds a little like mid-tempo R.E.M. filtered through 1960s American pop.  There’s a literate approach to the lyrics, a nice chiming-guitar production sheen, and beautiful string arrangements capped by soothing vocals that have that bit of Brit inflection.  https://youtu.be/sd7jAqI4zhk

 

10. Long Way Home – Enter the Haggis.....This tune is from Enter the Haggis’ third album Soapbox Heroes released in 2006.  This five-piece Toronto unit blends Celtic influences with rock and world fusion, and above the swirl the lead vocals sound a bit like the Gin Blossom’s Robin Wilson.  “Long Way Home” is a straightforward ballad with bookending bagpipes, though other material on the record like “The Apothecary” pick up the pace yet don’t abandon the Celtic thrust (there’s a nicely-wielded tin whistle in this latter track).  The band is named after the traditional Scottish dish haggis, which is a pudding made of sheep’s organs--the heart, liver and lungs (editor’s note:  I’ve sampled the band’s music, but avoided dining on the organ harvesting).  There is currently no studio version on YouTube, so for a small taste of the recorded version of the song, go to:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/long-way-home/id885598211?i=885598227

 

 

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Posted 4/20/15.....

Variety Mix.....Originally recorded March 26, 2011.

1. In The Eye Of The Storm – Michael Franks.....California native Franks was the consummate smooth pop-jazz balladeer in the mid-to-late 1970’s and early 1980’s who, on the generally-embracing FM radio stations of the era, gained a nice foothold with his “Popsicle Toes” in 1976.  The track listed here is from Franks’ second Warner Brothers’ release Sleeping Gypsy (1977).  His formula:  A smooth cocktail-hour voice with serious jazz backing, Brazilian flavors and strings that all jelled to become a perfectly-sophisticated “lite bite” for the musical cognoscenti and open-minded rock fans as well.  He had wry & sly lyrics and sumptuous production on his records, and stellar players including—on this particular release—Larry Carlton on guitar, Joe Sample on keyboards, and David Sanborn and Michael Brecker on saxophones.  https://youtu.be/Px7rD9Y3kic

 

2. Brand New Cadillac – The Clash.....The Clash, the fearless punk-rock foursome formed in London in 1976, was comprised of a lead guitarist, a bass player, a drummer, and a Strummer.  The latter was a joe who was a vocalist from the “Spit and Snarl” school of rock, and the band itself was dynamic, irrepressible, and musically quite adventurous.  They blended political messaging with punk, ska, rock, reggae, rap and third world beats to produce an inspirational stew that ended up musically feeding a number of questing alt-bands, both peers and progeny...“Brand New Cadillac” is from The Clash’s landmark double-album London Calling, released in 1979.  https://youtu.be/SYVLxLvdhpY

 

3. Carry Me Ohio – Sun Kil Moon.....You need to just give in to this long flow-of-a-song; it’s six-and-a-half minutes of chiming guitar, a melodic alt-drone that features guitarist/singer-songwriter Mark Kozelek and his distinctive vocal style & world view.  The latter two are on excellent display in this tune from Sun Kil Moon’s first release, 2003’s Ghosts Of The Great Highway.  Kozelek formed this Bay Area band in 2002 after disbanding Red House Painters, another group who only managed to cultivate cult worship instead of mass embrace.  No matter the setting, Kozelek’s always trafficked in deep confessional outpourings, largely in an atmospheric ballad format and mixed with the occasional unorthodox cover of another artist’s material such as The Cars’ “All Mixed Up” and some Bon Scott-era AC/DC, Yes, and John Denver selections.  https://youtu.be/AKRA7weVyLs

 

4. ‘Fore Day Rider – Jay McShann .....Blues, jump & swing were McShann’s thing.  He was a pianist & bandleader born in Oklahoma in 1916 who moved to Kansas City in his early twenties, then forming a big band which at one point counted Charlie Parker as a member.  McShann’s career ebbed a bit after the 1940’s but perked back up in the 1970’s (his appeal at that point was based on jazz circuit appearances as a much-in-demand pianist/singer).  I first found McShann while leafing through the “M” section of a record store in the mid-‘80s, happening upon his 1978 release called The Last Of The Blue Devils.  This particular album included tune treasures like “ ’Tain’t Nobody’s Bizness If I Do”, Count Basie’s “Jumpin’ At The Woodside”, “Kansas City” (the Leiber-Stoller classic), and the track listed here, “’Fore Day Rider”, a nice head-bobber if you imagine yourself in a legit, smoky old blues club somewhere on a Saturday night.  https://youtu.be/-ao2_u3sFLY

 

5. Use To Be A Cop – Drive-By Truckers.....This song is a groove from start to finish—and what flows through it is the heart of rock ‘n’ roll, Southern-style.  The Drive-By Truckers first largely lassoed in fans & critics with 2001’s Southern Rock Opera, a concept double album set below the Mason-Dixon and exploring Southern Rock history via a young musician’s odyssey, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s legacy, and more...The Drive-By Truckers formed in Athens, Georgia in 1996, and since then, band members have come & gone except for mainstays Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood.  “Used To Be A Cop”, from the band’s 2011 release Go-Go Boots, is a first-person narrative of a former police officer who’s had bad luck, and is bad luck; the song’s driven by multiple guitars in sinister parallel patterns, and has drumming that’s pure whack-attack.  This is one great propulsive pleasure.  https://youtu.be/HyBMwMmHZi4

 

6. Summer Song – Yellowjackets.....“Summer Song” is a collaboration between this crisp and tuneful jazz-fusion band and guest star Bobby McFerrin (oft recognized in jazz circles as the el supremo of wordless vocals).  The track hails from the 1995 release Dreamland, which was the Yellowjackets’ twelfth album.  Notably, the criminally underappreciated guitarist Robben Ford was an original member of this group when it issued its R&B-oriented debut in 1981 (Ford then departed the band two years later).  Over the span of their currently 34-year career the Yellowjackets had only a few personnel shifts, and gradually moved from R&B more into jazz.  They are not for all tastes, but within their expansive catalogue these Yellowjackets do have some buzzworthy tunes.  https://youtu.be/9ml4HfK51bE

 

7. Fences– Phoenix.....This band from Paris, France formed in 1995 and after a bit of “feeling their way” arrived at a fetching formula of rock & pop laced with electronica and dance music.  Their fourth album, from which this track is taken, was entitled Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (2009), and it pushed the band onto many more fan playlists there and abroad (p.s. If you have a slavish desire to tie your daily satisfactions to “celebrity news updates”, then—in case this eluded you—Phoenix’s lead singer Thomas Mars is husband to filmmaker Sophia Coppola, and they’ve collaborated to produce kids as well as film scores).  https://youtu.be/CFqmvInhGYQ

 

8. King Of The World – Angelfish.....This Scottish band evolved from an earlier incarnation called Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie, and both bands had as an active member the sultry redhead Shirley Manson.  In the former, Manson was not as much in the limelight with keyboards & background vocals, but in Angelfish she wriggled into the spotlight as front woman and lead vocalist.  “King Of The World” is an uptempo alt-rock tune from Angelfish’s one and only album (their eponymous debut) which hit record stores in 1994.  One of the band’s videos was featured on MTV’s then-alternative music preview show called 120 Minutes, and Manson was spotted by American musician/producer Butch Vig and a couple of his peer producers, all who were contemplating forming a band.  The call went out to Manson, and she eventually teamed up with the three to form the alt-rock band Garbage in 1995.  (Editor’s note:  If she ever toured Pittsburgh, I think I’d fall even further under Manson’s spell, which just might plunge musicasaurus.com into helter-skelter postings.)  https://youtu.be/2VdpmYN8kOI

 

9. Down In Hollywood – Ry Cooder.....On “Down In Hollywood”, we get to hear the Pro and the Khan:  Ry Cooder, already a 16-year veteran musician when he cut this tune in 1979, teamed up here with R&B songstress Chaka Khan to deliver a slinky, rhythm-section-fueled and truly “funkmospheric” treat.  The song is from Cooder’s Warner Brothers release Bop Till You Drop, released in 1979 as the first digitally recorded major label album.  The song never abandons the slow and sizzlin’ funk, and also features a half-spoken/half-sung approach by Cooder, as well as a couple of quick “downtown street-character interludes” (as Stevie Wonder had done in his song, “Living For The City” from the 1973 album Innervisions)https://youtu.be/ZgE0ck-tI7M

 

10. This Old Dark Machine – James Vincent McMorrow.....Irish balladeer McMorrow is a contemporary singer-songwriter who holed up in a cottage on the coast of his native land to produce his 2010 debut Early In The Morning.  This Fleet Foxes-sounding song from that album is a mix of harmony vocals, acoustic guitar, and piano that is sweet and satisfying.  Reportedly McMurrow is a fan of 1970s artists who wield similar approaches to songcraft and instruments, like Joni Mitchell—but he bows to current artists like Sufjan Stevens as well.  https://youtu.be/X4Bs4k5i5BQ

 

 

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Posted 4/6/15.....

Various Artists' Mix.....Originally recorded July 8, 2006.

1. Asleep – The Smiths.....This is one of The Smith’s B-sides, originally released as the flipside of the band’s 1985 single “The Boy With The Thorn In His Side”.  Sometimes a bit of a cranky crooner, lead singer Morrissey floats above some wind wisps and melodic piano (versus the band’s usual jangling guitars) for this strangely calming tune about a better world waiting for someone who’s had just about enough.  The song was eventually captured for an album when the band released their collection of B-sides & singles, Louder Than Bombs, issued in 1987.  https://youtu.be/vy0NySCmuFU?list=RDvy0NySCmuFU

 

2. Meltdown – Lisa Gerrard.....Getting lost in a film is a wondrous experience, sometimes expertly aided & abetted by a haunting theme that an intuitive director chooses to layer into the proceedings...Gerrard was ½ of the ambient, ethereal and otherworldly Australian music duo Dead Can Dance from 1984 through 1998, and soon after partnered with Pieter Bourke for a number of film scores, including one for director Michael Mann’s 1999 film with Russell Crowe, The Insider.  This is an evocative moody slice from that soundtrack featuring Gerrard’s intriguing wordless vocals...Great atmospheric stuff.  https://youtu.be/o9qCEEy2XcU?list=RDo9qCEEy2XcU

 

3. Maiden Voyage – Brian Auger.....This tune was written and originally recorded by jazz keyboardist & composer Herbie Hancock for his 1965 album of the same name, and the personnel on this landmark recording consisted of Hancock, Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), Ron Carter (bass), Tony Williams (drums), and guest George Coleman (sax).  The version of the song included in this mix is from British-born keyboardist Brian Auger, who hews to the jazz but gives the tune a bit of rock muscle as well.  From Brian Auger & The Trinity’s 1970 release Befour, this “Maiden Voyage” features lilting chord work from guitarist Gary Boyle and heavenly Hammond B-3 from bandleader Auger.  https://youtu.be/Z9NpaIQSKgM

 

4. Rebellion (Lies) – Arcade Fire.....In 2004, Montreal unit Arcade Fire sparked instant devotion with their first full-length release Funeral, featuring the anthem “Wake Up”.  That song smacked me in the breastbone on first listen, which came via the public address system (pre-concert) at U2’s October 22, 2005 Vertigo Tour show in Pittsburgh, and this led me to “Rebellion (Lies).”  Arcade Fire has keenly bottled up both energy & passion in music that is unique and life-affirming; it is a stirring blend of post-punk, pop, baroque and more.  https://youtu.be/MQvZ4N1RfS8

 

5. Portions For Foxes – Rilo Kiley.....Alt queen Jenny Lewis and fellow musician Blake Sennett formed the band Rilo Kiley in Los Angeles in 1998, and combined a lot of influences to craft a sound dappled with folk, country music, torch songs, alternative & pop.  The song “Portion For Foxes” stems from the group’s third album entitled More Adventurous.  Lewis started out her pursuit of the arts in acting—in pre-teen-and-teen guest stints in television shows and in a few films—but graduated to musical performer full-time with the advent of Rilo Kiley.  https://youtu.be/qtNV3pOqcjI

 

6. Crazy – Gnarls Barkley.....This song seized the collective consciousness of music lovers in 2006, especially fans of savvy pop, sampling, and soulful vocals.  “Crazy” came from the collaboration of artist/producer Danger Mouse and soul singer Cee-Lo Green; it comes from Gnarls Barkley’s album St. Elsewhere, released in 2006.  (Note that Danger Mouse was the mastermind behind the internet-sprung Grey Album—the 2004 bootleg mash-up of The Beatles’ White Album and Jay-Z’s Black Album.)  https://youtu.be/bd2B6SjMh_w

 

7. Didjital Vibrations – Jamiroquai.....Though this band sports a dazzling soul singer in the form of frontman Jayson Kay (a.k.a. J.K.), Jamiroquai also occasionally cuts some fetching instrumentals such as this one.  The band formed in London in 1992, and their style is a mix of house music and classic soul.  “Didjital Vibrations”—a slow funk with slinky bass, synthesizers, and the Australian instrument didgeridoo (a.k.a. didjeridu)—comes off their third album, 1996’s Traveling Without Moving.  This is the album that also contained the band’s worldwide smash “Virtual Insanity”.  https://youtu.be/wDtByjb0hQY?list=RDwDtByjb0hQY

 

8. Drift Away – Dobie Gray.....Many years down the road, this pop song still sounds fresh.  Texas-born Gray was an African American singer who followed his muse to Los Angeles in the early 1960’s, and navigated a career that veered from soul to pop to country through the next decade-and-a-half.  “Drift Away” hails from Gray’s 1973 album of the same name; it’s been covered by a number of others through the years, including Rod Stewart, Humble Pie, Ike & Tina Turner, and in more modern days (circa 2003) by Uncle Kracker, with Gray actually guesting on the last verse of the song.  https://youtu.be/hPGCwMr9k70

 

9. Bring It On Home – Little Big Town.....A country music quartet of two men and two women, Little Big Town came together as one in Nashville in 1998.  It wasn’t until their second album The Road To Here (2005) that they truly garnered success with two consecutive Top Ten country hits, including the track listed here...All four band members swap on lead vocals and/or blend in various lead and harmony combinations, and the music isn’t pure country (damn strait!); on a few of the album’s tracks, like one entitled “Bones”, they put a kind of Fleetwood Mac feel over that pedal steel.  https://youtu.be/8l4AC5rUSUo

 

10. My Sky At Twilight – Peter Maunu.....Call it New Age if you wish, but Maunu is a bit more than meets the ear, here...The electronics-based ballad “My Sky At Twilight” comes from the only solo album yet recorded by this majestic guitarist, 1990’s Warm Sound In A Gray Field (on the Narada label).  Maunu has contributed to film scores (including Food, Inc.) as well as done session work on recordings by Jean-Luc Ponty, Bobby McFerrin, The Commodores, and Mark Isham (the trumpeter/composer whose overall synth-laden, cinematic approach is similar indeed).  Isham and Maunu actually recorded together with additional musician Patrick O’Hearn in the early 1980s unit called Group 87, a trio that trafficked in hard-to-pigeonhole progressive music—electronics and new age, with sprinklings of jazz fusion, all part of some satisfying (if occasionally sleepy) instrumental explorations.  https://youtu.be/vQJvXan2qIM

 

 

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Posted 3/23/15.....

Musicasaurus.com pulls one out of the tar pits...The following is the first side of a cassette mix tape, recorded in September 1980 as I was just about to head out on a solo road trip to Toronto from Pittsburgh. 

The tape was a Maxell UDXL II / C90, with 45 minutes on each side on which to record songs.  For those too young to comprehend, my process was placing the album with the chosen song on a turntable, setting the cassette deck on “pause”, putting the needle down on the album where the particular track began, hitting the “pause” button again on the ready-to-record cassette machine, and wa-LAH—the mix master was on his way.

S I D E   O N E – UDXL II / C90 Cassette – recorded September 1980

1. Baobab Sunset – Manu Dibango.....Cameroon-born saxophonist Manu Dibango provides a simmering stew of Afro-funk fusion that is understated, sweeping and majestic.  The tune unfolds like an open road—no jarring speed bumps; just all natural grooves and a wide & beautiful vista out ahead.  The arrangement and execution of this seven-minute song is peerless; it’s bass, drums, rhythm guitar, piano, and percussion, with Dibango on a soothing soprano sax, marimba, and synthesizer...The song is from this artist’s 1976 album Afrovision.  https://youtu.be/H3o7Vb8MkF0

 

2. Sailing – Christopher Cross.....Released at the very end of 1979, Cross’ self-titled debut album hit in big in the 1981 Grammy Awards, cleaning up five of the statuettes including Best New Artist, and Record, Song, and Album of the Year.  Yes, the Grammys pretty much remain just as lame today, dispensing disproportional favor on the Manufactured and the Mass Appeal.  But back in 1979, I have to admit, a couple of Cross’ songs struck a chord when they were freshly spun—the song listed here, and another track from the same album entitled “Ride Like The Wind.”  https://youtu.be/yyYhZ9HH8cI

 

3. I Think It’s Going To Work Out Fine – Ry Cooder.....Cooder’s been on the margins forever, as a session player and a conscientious musical preservationist in his many recorded works.  The song listed here is from his 1979 Warner/Reprise release Bop Till You Drop, notably the first major-label album to be recorded digitally.  “I Think It’s Going To Work Out Fine” is an instrumental reworking of an Ike & Tina Turner tune; the overall album is a classic, and includes lesser-known, high quality songs from the 1950s & 1960s, such as the early-‘60s cover of an Elvis Presley hit, “Little Sister.” https://youtu.be/_oYzxkfzJZ0

 

4. Friend Of The Devil – Grateful Dead.....This is a classic tune from American Beauty, one of two landmark albums that this San Francisco tribal unit put out in 1970 (the other one was Workingman’s Dead).  The song was written by Jerry Garcia, John Dawson (of New Riders of the Purple Sage) and longtime Dead lyricist Robert Hunter.  On record it has been covered by the likes of Lyle Lovett, Loggins & Messina, and Counting Crows; in concert, both Dylan and Tom Petty have reeled this one out. https://youtu.be/b9SKxL9CnW0

 

5. Name Of The Game – Abba.....This is the first and only time an ABBA song has graced a mix of mine.  Between 1978 and 1980 I worked for Warner-Elektra-Atlantic Corp., the distribution arm of the three aforementioned labels, and ABBA was a powerhouse for Atlantic in those years so it was indeed top of mind and stuck in my mind (ABBA has that kind of addictive allure, I’m afraid).  No further apologies—the song is a delicious confection, appearing on the band’s 1978 release (their fifth) entitled The Album. https://youtu.be/uc6-kL78w6k

 

6. She’s Leaving Home – The Beatles.....This is the next to last track on side one of 1967’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band—which dinosaur-ish readers most assuredly know.  Reportedly this was largely a McCartney-penned tune, ripped from the headlines of a missing young woman; Lennon added the chorus which was sung from the parents’ point of view:  “We gave her most of our lives; we gave her everything money can buy...”  https://youtu.be/4Rqj43vjU-A

 

7. Witchi-Tai-To – Jan Garbarek-Bobo Stenson Quartet.....This thing of beauty hails from Norway, and a recording studio nestled there in Oslo, where through the years a lot of similar soundscapes were recorded for the jazz label ECM.  The tune is from the 1974 album of the same name, and is in my Top Ten for Eternity (should I live that long).  It is a superbly played and recorded composition, and the four musicians (on sax, piano, bass & drums) are masterful in eliciting from the listener a wide range of emotions.  It may not be for every taste, but you’ll be better (and broadened) by the experience…  There is no current YouTube clip available of this pivotal studio recording of “Witchi-Tai-To”, so just sample the snippet on iTunes:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/witchi-tai-to/id203656719?i=203656739

 

8. Tell Me – Terence Boylan.....At Bard, Buffalo-born Boylan ran into fellow students Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, and the two soon-to-be Steely Dan chiefs produced Boylan’s first solo album Alias Boona, released in 1969.  After Boylan moved to California, he was picked up by Asylum Records (label home of Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, and others), and he pushed out his second album—this one self-titled—in 1977.  “Tell Me,” is a pretty ballad from Boylan’s third record Suzy, also on Asylum and released in 1980.  Like Boylan’s second, this one featured a number of Southern California musicians, including three of the Eagles, Steely-then-Doobie guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, and session guitar ace Larry Carlton.  https://youtu.be/MG57XtJa6eo?list=PLduhTzbNHZNsmXUZtR28YSAUYJkyo2HTZ

 

9. Trader – The Beach Boys.....The years 1971-1973 were experimental for The Boys, who began incorporating rock and suite-like textures into their music, stepping away from their former Weltanschauung of surf, sand, and sun.  “Trader,” from the 1973 album Holland, was written and voiced by Carl Wilson, and it is a lovely, loping tune about interlopers—the traders and explorers who find new lands and push out the current populace.  The song is really rich in the ebb & flow “wash” of the beautiful background harmonies; that alone is worth the price of admission.  https://youtu.be/u3udOtr6U84

 

10. Autumn Breeze – Terje Rypdal.....Norwegian jazz guitarist and composer Rypdal is one of those rare talents that is truly channeling something from the asteroid belt, and fortunately for us, he’s putting it all on record.  The song “Autumn Breeze” is from his 1976 ECM release After The Rain, and with the exception of the female wordless vocals, the album is ALL Rypdal—he’s on acoustic and electric guitars, synthesizer, piano, soprano sax, flute, bells, and tubular bells (move over, Mike Oldfield).  This is amazing stuff, and the songs are a potpourri of intense, innovative melodies—and on electric guitar, Rypdal rips!  There is no current YouTube clip available of this studio recording of “Autumn Breeze”, so just sample the snippet on iTunes:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/autumn-breeze/id272149453?i=272149574

 

 

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Posted 3/9/15.....

A “Various Artists” Mix…

1. Tuscumbian Lover – Pete Carr.....From the opening riffs to the measured magic of the rest of this tune, Carr proves to be a guitar hero’s dream...He predominated in the 1970’s, adding his session playing talents to pivotal records by other artists such as Bob Seger (“Main Street”), Rod Stewart (“Tonight’s The Night”), and Paul Simon (“Kodachrome”).  Carr was an innovative and much sought-after engineer and producer as well.  In 1975 and 1978, he released his only two instrumental rock albums, and they are gems; “Tuscumbian Lover” is the first track off his first solo album entitled Not A Word On It.  http://youtu.be/wMMs652fwY4

 

2. Half Moon – Blind Pilot.....A folk-pop unit from Portland, Oregon led by guitarist/singer-songwriter Israel Nebekes, Blind Pilot in a live setting really delivers; they emanate sheer joy in performing together, and the songs come alive with a captivating combination of acoustic guitar, upright bass, organ, vibes, dulcimer and banjo.  This track comes from the band’s second album entitled We Are The Tide, released in 2011.  http://youtu.be/Qsb4HDVklog

 

3. Call – Joseph Arthur.....This singer-songwriter’s specialty is intelligent and atmospheric pop.  He hails from Cleveland, Ohio, and was first discovered by Peter Gabriel in the mid-1990’s and then immediately signed to Gabriel’s record label Real World...Arthur’s playful, tuneful, and smart; his songs sometimes evoke a mild melancholia, and the orchestrated arrangements are far from formulaic.  The song “Call” comes from Arthur’s 2011 release The Graduation Ceremony.  http://youtu.be/uAmMZRoEK8Q

 

4. The Bringdown – Bob Schneider......Austin-based Schneider flies a bit under the radar but by all rights should be soaring, and on everybody’s screens...“The Bringdown”—from Schneider’s 2009 album Lovely Creatures—is a slinky, slightly-jazzy slide ‘n’ strut.  His vocals are appealing; his guitar accents well placed.  Schneider weaves together country, folk and rock, and couples a 1970’s singer-songwriter feel with indie-alternative flourishes.  http://youtu.be/YVY_5GuvCV8

 

5. Dissatisfied – Fleetwood Mac....This band has had a long history of recordings—starting in 1968—and this is a nice shot out of the canon.  The Mac majorly changed members through the years between ’68 and ‘75, the only real constants being rhythm masters Mick Fleetwood (drums) and John McVie (bass)...This tune is taken from the band’s 1973 album Penguin, and the real drivers within the unit at that time were Christine McVie (keyboards, vocals) and Bob Welch (guitars, vocals).  Christine sings lead on this one, and as usual, she delivers a great pop-rock song that’s full of atmosphere.  (Parting tidbit about Penguin:  Vocalist Dave Walker was also in the band at this juncture, having just completed a 3-album tenure with Savoy Brown—Street Corner Talking, Hellbound Train, and Lion’s Share.)  http://youtu.be/OAulmGsiN_k?list=PLWnVxuqvY7JhFtuMY4UuDg2K5RBpJ06Bw

 

6. Natural Thing – Poi Dog Pondering.....“I wantcha, gotta have ya”—an insistent female voice kicks off Poi Dog Pondering’s “Natural Thing” and this Hawaii-to-Austin-to Chicago bunch of rovers then dish out a lovely and soulful Superfly-meets-Staples Singers kind of vibe.  Lead Ponderer Frank Orrall lets the groove just keep flowing in an R & B cauldron of bass, piano, percussion, vibes, and flute & strings, doing a call-and-response with the female lead that permeates and punctuates the tune.  “Natural Thing” comes from the band’s 1999 album of the same name…The video clip here is from a December 2011 concert in Chicago:  http://youtu.be/OxbgVildKT8?list=RDOxbgVildKT8

 

7. So Nice (Summer Samba) – Astrud Gilberto and Walter Wanderley Trio.....Gilberto is the soothing samba mama from the 1964 worldwide hit “The Girl From Ipanema”, a craze-inducing classic that was culled from Getz/Gilberto, a milestone collaboration that included Astrud Gilberto, her musician-husband Joao Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim, and saxophonist Stan Getz...Two years afterward Astrud released an album with Brazilian organist-arranger Walter Wanderley and his trio, and this album—A Certain Smile, A Certain Sadness—failed to produce a song that achieved world dominance like “Ipanema.”  It is, however, a very fine release of bossa nova and samba selections.  http://youtu.be/gh-5SyBn4fY

 

8. Swallowed By The Cracks – David and David.....This doubling of Daves had their collective 15 minutes of fame in 1986 with the release of the album Boomtown, featuring the FM hit “Welcome To the Boomtown”, an L.A.-based tale of excess and lifestyles of the rich & shameless.  “Swallowed By The Cracks” is another solid pop-rock tune from that album...The Daves were Baerwald and Ricketts:  The former went on to a solo career kept way above life support by adult alternative stations across the country, as well as by TV and film score work; the latter largely disappeared from the musical horizon.  http://youtu.be/9hiiJSWoFnk

 

9. You – Nils Lofgren.....This is a tune from Lofgren’s 12th solo album released in 1992 entitled Crooked Line.  The song is a quick folkie shuffle with some fine Nils pickin’ and harmonies & harmonica supplied by Neil Young.  For those who need schoolin’, Nils was—at the age of 17—hired by Young to play guitar and piano on the latter’s classic 1972 release After The Gold Rush.  Since 1984, Lofgren has been part of Springsteen’s E Street Band for albums and tours…There is no present studio-version clip on YouTube, so just sample this lil bit from iTunes (you’ll see it’s from a compilation album called Favorites: 1990-2005, but it first appeared on 1992’s Crooked Line):  https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/you/id162591232?i=162591634

 

10. Ain’t That Peculiar – Martha Reeves.....This 1965 Motown classic, originally performed by Marvin Gaye, was covered by Reeves on her first solo album in 1974.  Martha Reeves (the album) was released on MCA Records, since Reeves had angrily departed Motown after the label decided to move its operations from Detroit to L.A....The fine, high-gloss production of Reeves’ solo debut was overseen by prominent record producer/arranger Richard Perry.  http://youtu.be/W0jQziXoHkM

 

 

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Posted 2/23/15.....

In one of the other sections of this website— the one called A DAY IN THE LIFE—there are reminiscences from folks who ventured off to the landmark rock events of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.  Here in BUILDING A MIXTERY are ten tunes by artists that helped fill those bills…

1. Lothar And The Hand People – Appeared at the August 1-3, 1969 Atlantic City Pop Festival – “Space Hymn” from the 1969 album of the same name…..They were the opening act of the festival, a psychedelic rock band and one of the first to popularize the use of the theremin and the Moog synthesizer.  In fact, the band’s moniker starts off with the nickname of their theremin, and the Hand People are the five male band members.  They formed in Denver in 1965 and relocated to New York in 1966.  They only produced two albums in their short career; I had the second and final one, and I remember being entranced by the album cover because, of course, I was sixteen and they had long hair and spacey music—a perfect prescription for a young lad in the late ‘60s trying to find his own place on the planet.  (Studio version):  http://youtu.be/9oVz9qTtRBU

 

2. Tracy Nelson And Mother Earth – Appeared at the August 1-3, 1969 Atlantic City Pop Festival – “Down So Low” from their 1968 debut album Living With The Animals…..Mother Earth came together in San Francisco in 1967, and featured a Wisconsin transplant fireball of a front woman, Tracy Nelson.  The music was bluesy & rootsy, and might well fit in to today’s public radio playlists, the ones that traffic still in Americana, folksingers and occasional blues belters.  The band performed a lot in the late ‘60s at Bill Graham’s Fillmore West alongside better knowns such as Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.  After their debut album in 1968, the band moved to Nashville and toured and recorded out of there, lasting until 1977—though Nelson had already started a solo career by that time, hewing to the ballsy, full-throated attack of the much better known Janis Joplin.  Notable footnote:  Boz Scaggs was a member when the band recorded their 1969 album Make A Joyful Noise.  (This is a live version of “Down So Low”, but not from Atlantic City Pop):  http://youtu.be/Qm3T4YdYLoA

 

3.The Keef Hartley Band – Appeared at the August 15-17, 1969 Woodstock Music & Art Fair – “The Time Is Near” from the group’s third album of the same name (1970)…..Hartley was a Englishman who emerged early in the ‘60s rock scene, starting out as a drummer in Rory Storm and the Hurricanes (replacing Ringo Starr, who was exiting for The Beatles).  Hartley also played with fellow Brit John Mayall for a spell, and then cobbled together a band of his own which produced a not-quite-timeless mix of blues, rock and jazz—but it was adventurous and fresh to the ears.  The Keef Hartley Band had its moment in the sun at Woodstock, landing a slot between John Sebastian and The Incredible String Band on Saturday afternoon’s line-up.  (The link is to their studio recording of the title track of The Time Is Near):  http://youtu.be/SIm_uYzdcsA

 

4. Bert Sommer – Appeared at the August 15-17, 1969 Woodstock Music & Art Fair – “Jennifer” from the artist’s 1968 release The Road To Travel…..Folk singer Sommer was strumming around the edges of success in the late ‘60s, for a brief time a member of New York baroque pop band The Left Banke.  The latter had a hit with “Walk Away Renée” in 1967, but Bert was not on this particular pop gem.  His circling around the scene eventually netted him a Friday evening man-and-his-guitar slot on the Woodstock line-up—Sommer luckier than others—and he reportedly garnered a decent audience reaction from the still-fresh-in-the-experience crowd of several hundred thousand.  After Woodstock, Sommers was cast in the original Broadway production of famed flowerchild musical Hair, and reportedly it was his head o’ hair on the playbill—you can decide for yourself, as you watch this clip from his Woodstock Festival appearance:  http://youtu.be/pB1pV8zRVaw

 

5. Tim Hardin – Appeared at the August 15-17, 1969 Woodstock Music & Art Fair – “If I Were A Carpenter” from Tim Hardin 2, released in 1967…..Hardin was a late ‘60s/early ‘70s American folk singer-songwriter who had a troubled personal life—a stint in Vietnam led to a monkey on his back—but he also produced at least two very memorable tunes:  “If I Were A Carpenter” (covered by scores of other artists including Dylan & The Band, Bobby Darin, The Four Tops, and Robert Plant), and “Reason To Believe” (indelibly crooned by Rod Stewart, and part of Rod’s 1971 album Every Picture Tells A Story)…Like Bert Sommer, Hardin netted a Friday evening slot at Woodstock—but back to that monkey.  Heroin claimed him in 1980, about seven years after his last record was released.  (The link takes you to Hardin’s performance at Woodstock):  http://youtu.be/93f7vSt70hM

 

6. Jefferson Airplane – Appeared at the December 6, 1969 Altamont Speedway Free Festival – “Lather” from the group’s fourth album, 1968’s Crown Of Creation…..This San Francisco psychedelic rock band formed in 1965 and dotted the festival landscape throughout the late ‘60s, appearing at Monterey Pop, Isle of Wight, Woodstock AND Altamont.  Grace Slick replaced original female lead singer Signe Toly Anderson in 1966 and the band soared to great success on the new FM radio playlists and on AM radio “hit countdowns” as well.  Their albums were spotty in terms of great material, but the musicianship was stellar with Jorma Kaukonen on guitar, Jack Casady on rumbling bass, and the two who shared vocal leads and harmonies, Grace Slick and Marty Balin.  The Airplane was downright sloppy at times during live performances, but when they DID lock into oneness it was mesmerizing.  (The following clip is from a 1968 appearance on The Smothers Brothers CBS comedy/variety show):  http://youtu.be/RVstafKZDYY

 

7. The Rolling Stones – Appeared at the December 6, 1969 Altamont Speedway Free Festival – “Under My Thumb” from the group’s sixth American album, 1966’s Aftermath…..This song is killer—or at least it was for Meredith Hunter, a troubled fan in front of the stage who had the misfortune of brandishing a gun around a pack of Hells Angels security.  Hunter was knifed by an Angel, and went to the join the real ones in heaven right then and there.  (The following link takes you to footage of “Under My Thumb” played live at Altamont):  http://youtu.be/7mZdvFSiWQI

 

8. Shawn Phillips – Appeared at the August 26-30, 1970 Isle Of Wight Festival – “The Ballad Of Casey Deis” from the artist’s album Second Contribution (1971)…..Far from a  household name, Texan Phillips got his start aiding Donovan in the latter’s fifteen minutes of fame with ‘60s chart successes including “Mellow Yellow” and “Sunshine Superman”.  Phillips then spun into a long but commercially hollow stretch of solo albums, largely unheralded except for those securely in his cult.  Here and there, there are nuggets to appreciate; a few are invaded by funkified horns like “Do You Wonder” from the 1975 album of the same name, but his stock in trade reflective numbers make deeper impressions, like “The Ballad Of Casey Deis”…  http://youtu.be/rlgYap8IQlY

 

9. Lighthouse – Appeared at the August 26-30, 1970 Isle Of Wight Festival – “One Fine Morning” from the band’s album of the same name, released in 1971…..Lighthouse, at least in commercial terms, was a one-hit wonder from Canada who got swallowed up in the ‘60s by their similar-sounding mates to the south—the USA’s Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago Transit Authority.  The group formed in Toronto in 1968 with the idea of melding rock, jazz and classical music, and initially sported 13 members—8 of ‘em on horns or strings, and the remaining five holding down the traditional positions of guitarist, bassist, keyboard player, drummer and vocalist.  The band played a few festivals in that late ‘60s time period including Newport and Monterey, and even pulled a bit of a coup at Isle Of Wight—they were the only other artist besides the electrifying Hendrix who were asked to perform a second night, an honor not achieved by other more prominent bands including Miles Davis, The Who and The Doors.  (Here is a link to their one and only American Top Forty hit from 1971, “One Fine Morning):  http://youtu.be/pvVN_KRriTM

 

10. Grateful Dead – Appeared at the July 28, 1973 Summer Jam At Watkins Glen – “Wharf Rat” from the second live double album entitled Grateful Dead but commonly called Skull and Roses (1971)…..I respect the Dead but concentrate on the living, and by that I mean having a life.  Unlike a few others in my wider circle of peers and compatriots, I made a decision way back not to spend my mini-vacations following the band around the country, and later also whisked away all thought of ever combing through archives and song catacombs to possess their every audio indulgence.  That said, I do love certain tracks by the band that feature Jerry prominently; to me, Garcia’s the cherry on top.  This version of “Wharf Rat”, again, is from the second live Dead album released in 1971, but they definitely played it at Watkins Glen as well… http://youtu.be/RmT_4RQ0ANU

 

 

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Posted 2/9/15.....

Do I Make You Horny, Baby?......A mix originally recorded May 23, 2004.

Here is a collection of songs all containing glorious horn parts, and the mix’s title is taken from a phrase oft-uttered by moviedom’s international man of mystery, Austin Powers...

1. Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is – Chicago.....A song from the late 1960’s period of this once cutting-edge band...They broke new ground in combining electric guitar & solid rock rhythms with a power brass section and jazz-laced horn arrangements—quite a breakthrough back in 1969.  This is from the band’s self-titled debut album Chicago Transit Authority (they dropped the “Transit Authority” portion of the band’s name from all subsequent albums, due to protests from the city of Chicago’s real transit authority).   http://youtu.be/DkwyBNSaTNQ?list=PL8uwggFrKoX6Ecpzkm4YOkOMOj9v-mZVf

 

2. Wonder Wonder – Femi Kuti.....Afro-beat artist Femi Kuti, son of the pioneering Nigerian musician Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, released his self-titled debut album in 1995, from which this track is taken...It’s a rollicking tune about African unity peppered with sprightly horns; funk and jazz stirred into an appealing sonic stew.  Kuti’s debut was widely heralded across Africa and Europe, but it was some years later before American audiences began to catch up with him (helped out by high critical praise from the likes of The New Yorker and Rolling Stone magazine in the late 1990’s, and an opening slot on a Jane’s Addiction U.S. tour shortly thereafter).   http://youtu.be/uph_hnTCNdw

 

3. Runnin’ Blue – Boz Scaggs & Band.....Silk Degrees was the hugely successful 1976 album that brought Scaggs scads of airplay and fame, but prior to that record, he had been producing some incredibly rich material since his solo career began in 1969 with his self-titled debut on Atlantic Records...The track listed here, “Runnin’ Blue”, is actually from Scaggs’ third album of blue-eyed soul entitled Boz Scaggs & Band (released in 1971).  It’s a track that sounds just as fresh now, forty-four years down the line—great R & B fused with big-band swing...Enjoy!  http://youtu.be/mNSjOZJ1nOI

 

4. Funky Broadway – Wilson Pickett.....This African American soul artist was nicknamed “Wicked” Pickett for a reason—his hellacious scorching vocal style accompanied by a fantastic bed of funk led to songs that skittered across the top of the pop and R&B charts for a lot of the mid-late 1960’s and early 1970’s...“Funky Broadway” is from the artist’s 1967 release The Sound of Wilson Pickett.  This song has one of the most infectious horn riffs ever, and it is a can’t-sit-still, limb-twitchin’ masterpiece.  (p.s.  Reportedly the “Broadway” that Pickett sings about refers to Broadway Road in Phoenix, Arizona—an African American neighborhood, not the Broadway of NYC.)   http://youtu.be/yIuJH3qroDY

 

5. Always There – Ronnie Laws.....Ronnie Laws, the younger brother of jazz flautist Hubert Laws, didn’t follow his older sibling into the jazz world; instead, he delved into a more rhythm & blues-based approach to his instrument (the tenor saxophone)...Arguably the best Laws record is his 1975 debut Pressure Sensitive, from which this track is taken.  “Always There” is a pleasing bit of pop-funk that’s a pleasant head-nodder; it’s straight-ahead melodic blowing—not too challenging, but at the same time it has a decent-enough distance from the smooth jazz that used to haunt elevators.  http://youtu.be/ANhb-svKimY

 

6. You Got Me Humming– Cold Blood.....A propulsive funk number from pint-sized Lydia Pense and her band Cold Blood, from their 1969 self-titled debut album...Pense has been compared to Janis Joplin with regard to her intensity and raw & rippin’ vocal delivery, and in fact Joplin was the one who referred the fledgling band to San Francisco promoter and rock club entrepreneur Bill Graham, who ended up signing them to his own Fillmore record label.  “You Got Me Humming” is a blistering, flat-out funked-up phenom, first popularized by the R&B stars Sam & Dave in 1966.   http://youtu.be/Y2mzaL_U1lc

 

7. Wakafrika – Manu Dibango.....Cameroon saxophonist Dibango, active in recording since the 1950’s, had a bit of an American hit in the early 1970’s with a song called “Soul Makossa”...The track listed here, “Wakafrika”, is a nearly five-minute instrumental culled from the album of the same name released in 1994.  This particular album also has guest-star appearances by Peter Gabriel (on a cover of “Biko”), Ladysmith Black Mambazo, King Sunny Ade, and Youssou N’Dour.   http://youtu.be/FESNnK6GjLA

 

  

8. Living In America – James Brown.....This is a great tune from the Good Gawd(!)Father of Soul...This 1960’s icon largely resurfaced in 1985 with a sinewy pop song that appeared on Brown’s 1986 album Gravity (as well as in the film Rocky IV, another sly try by Stallone to perpetuate his movie meal ticket)... “Living In America” brought Brown back to the Top Ten of the pop charts after a number of years of just-simmering success; in the 1960’s, though, this Hardest Working Man in Show Business was ensconced on the song charts with huge crossover hits including “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag”, “I Got You (I Feel Good)”, and more...   http://youtu.be/c5BL4RNFr58

 

9. What Is Hip? – Tower Of Power.....This is an incredible performance that captures the broiling funk of a tightly-rehearsed and highly skilled set of players...Oakland, California-based Tower of Power were in that swirl of late 1960’s/early 1970’s Bay-area bands, but it wasn’t until their third release—1973’s self-titled album—that the band really broke through to national consciousness.  In addition to the riveting workout listed here, the album also included the band’s highest-charting single “So Very Hard To Go.”   http://youtu.be/oAatPPEaZDA

 

10. Sing A Song – Earth, Wind & Fire.....From the double album Gratitude released in 1975, “Sing A Song” is a typically catchy & crisply-delivered bit of pop funk from this legendary Los Angeles band who first formed in 1969...Gratitude was the band’s seventh release, and the first to document the band’s prowess live in concert.  “Sing A Song” is one of the studio selections sandwiched into this live album, along with the equally hypnotic “Can’t Hide Love”...  http://youtu.be/HBpsOu8jyU8

 

 

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Posted 1/26/15.....

Girls! Girls! Girls!.....A mix dedicated to the ladies.....and no, you won’t find that Motley Crue-titled song on here; the inspiration actually comes from a campy 1962 Elvis Presley movie of the same name.

1. Angie – The Rolling Stones.....A song from Goats Head Soup, the Stones’ album chronologically sandwiched between the band’s Exile On Main Street (1972) and It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (1974).  The Stones’ album output by 1973 was staggering (a word which we could also apply to Keith Richards during that timeframe).  1973 was the tenth year in a row that the band had released at least an album a year, beginning with their 1964 debut with the teen-titillating title of The Rolling Stones (England’s Newest Hit Makers)...Goats Head Soup is a fairly dark record overall with songs like “Dancing With Mr. D” and “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)”; the track “Angie” was on every FM radio playlist back then, and stands as one of the Stones’ best bittersweet ballads.   http://youtu.be/K5_EBAzIPJM

 

2. Amie – Damien Rice.....One of the simple yet sweeping tunes from Irishman Rice’s 2003 debut album O, which is a masterful work among the multitude of folk singer-songwriter releases...Rice’s formula is emotionally stirring—voice & acoustic guitar gently nudging these tunes along, with sensitive orchestration that’s in a word “swell”, pulling you along by the heartstrings...Irish singer/songwriter Lisa Hannigan joins Rice as vocal partner on some of the other fine tracks on this record.   http://youtu.be/X2kX1FIsI8o

 

3. Sandy...official title: Fourth of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) – Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band.....In 1973 Springsteen released his second album The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle, which was sweeping in its ambition and evocative as hell.  There was poetry and pageantry and a sense of purpose in both the suite-like song arrangements and the band’s execution of Springsteen’s vision.  His vocals alternately hushed and then growl-yowl in the style of Van Morrison, Springsteen also lyrically captured the themes of life on the city streets of dreams...Springsteen’s whispered, impassioned plea to Sandy is that she join him in leaving this place where “this pier lights our carnival life forever”, and eventually he confesses “This boardwalk life for me is through / You know you ought to quit this scene too”.   http://youtu.be/KgFHM8HMbWQ

 

4. Christina – Patty Griffin.....Her voice alto and her bent alternative, Griffin has a clear, insistent singing style that is pretty and pretty forceful...This alt-folk rocker played around Boston in the mid-1990’s and her unadorned demo became her debut album on A&M in 1996, followed by Flaming Red, a more fleshed-out and mesmerizing album released in 1998.  “Christina” comes from this great collection of tunes from Flaming Red (which also includes the track “One Big Love”, subsequently recorded by Emmylou Harris).   http://youtu.be/6DvTvPWJG4M

 

5. Dolores – Freedy Johnston.....Kansas-born singer/songwriter Johnson had a well-deserved brush with fame in the early-mid 1990’s with some highly regarded albums that were critics’ and fans’ favorites.  With some concentrated FM airplay on adult alternative stations at the time, Johnston pervaded public consciousness with tunes from his 1994 album A Perfect World like “Bad Reputation” (not the Joan Jett song) and the track listed here.  A witty, insightful writer and style blender who clawed out his own unique voice, alt-folk rocker Johnston is one that deserved more than the Warholian fifteen minutes he was accorded... Couldn’t find a studio version on YouTube, so here’s a link to iTunes:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/dolores/id300954001?i=300954184

 

6. Evangeline – The Band with Emmylou Harris.....This song is from the soundtrack to The Last Waltz, the farewell concert by The Band filmed on Thanksgiving Day, November 25th, 1976 at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom...Two songs from the movie—The Band with The Staple Singers on “The Weight”, and The Band with Emmylou Harris performing “Evangeline”—were actually filmed after the concert on a soundstage at M-G-M Studios in Culver City.  According to The Last Waltz’s CD soundtrack notes, Harris had been invited to participate in the Thanksgiving Winterland concert but was unavailable due to a touring conflict.  “At M-G-M” the liner notes continue, “Harris shimmered like an Appalachian angel in an ice-blue chorister’s gown, her voice radiating chastity and sensuality in equal measure”...The performance of “Evangeline” is a highlight of the film (lo, there are many), and thankfully the song lives on as well in the soundtrack’s CD boxed set which was released (along with the DVD) in 2002.   http://youtu.be/QOAT0AocD1c

 

7. Lola – The Kinks.....The early 1960’s British Invasion brought the Kinks’ music to America, and the first big hit off their 1964 self-titled debut album was “You Really Got Me”.  As the latter song suggests, the band could really come up with some killer chords and memorable rock riffs, which they certainly repeated here with “Lola”, a song from the band’s 1970 release Lola Versus Powerman and The Money-Go-Round, Part One.  Yep, this song is pretty Kinky; it’s the story of a man who meets a transvestite in a Soho club, and at first encounter he wonders aloud “Well I’m not dumb but I can’t understand / Why she walked like a woman and talked like a man / Oh my Lola”....Besides bearing one of the most famous opening riffs in Rock, the song was also included in Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and—perhaps the ultimate accolade—Weird Al Yankovic paid tribute on his 1985 album Dare To Be Stupid, by way of “Yoda” (“y-o-d-a, Yoda; yo yo yo yo Yoda”).   http://youtu.be/LemG0cvc4oU

8. Angelene – PJ Harvey.....British born Polly Jean Harvey has released a string of idiosyncratic, challenging alternative-rock records throughout the 1990s, with intelligent not always cogent lyrics and (earlier in the ‘90’s) an off-beat theatrical approach to performing...Her third album, 1995’s To Bring You My Love, is the one that brought her some significant Stateside buzz with the help of a key track (“Down By The Water”) that resonated on college radio and MTV...Three years later Harvey released Is This Desire?, the album from which “Angelene” is taken.   http://youtu.be/_f7CWCZIqvY

 

9. Roxanne – The Police.....This is the song that I first remember blasting out of record-store speakers in Pittsburgh in 1978, with store clerks and customers alike stopping in their tracks.  Punk was in flower, but here was a new mesmerizing mix of punk, plus pop, plus reggae—with Sting’s signature voice soaring over the propulsive sonic attack.  The Police were three gifted instrumentalists—secretly more steeped in jazz—who had jumped onto the late 1970’s new wave band wagon with abandon; “Roxanne” is an arresting piece of work from The Police’s debut album Outlandos d’Amour.   http://youtu.be/JnsNBGXsUlQ

 

10. Jane – Barenaked Ladies.....Toronto musicians Ed Robertson and Steven Page started out as an acoustic duo in the late 1980’s, opening shows on college campuses for headlining comedy groups—which may explain the origin of their winning “in concert” formula of solid rock-pop songs mixed with comedic commentary in between.  The full band came together in 1990 and recorded their debut album Gordon in 1992; this first record contains the Ladies’ well known and well regarded songs “If I Had A Million Dollars” and “Brian Wilson”.  It wasn’t until 1998 that this Canadian band really broke big in the USA, a result of constant touring and a smash hit in the form of “One Week” from BNL’s album Stunt...The track listed here, “Jane”, is actually from an earlier record, 1994’s Maybe You Should Drive.   http://youtu.be/B0AayVP5w9s

 

 

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Posted 1/12/15.....

Instead of the usual ten tunes from a variety of musicians/songwriters, this time musicasaurus.com is posting songs from three specific artists mentioned in the DAY IN THE LIFE section of this website.  The story there is about the Calliope Concert Series in Pittsburgh.  Go ahead and sample these savory bits that represent just part of this nonprofit organization’s 2014/2015 season line-up—music from The Duhks, Danny Schmidt, and Darlingside.

The Duhks (Calliope Concert Series; Saturday, October 18, 2014 at Carnegie Lecture Hall)

Annabel…  http://youtu.be/bkviU7EKtG8

Mists of Down Below…  http://youtu.be/VYdk_TcCeW8

Mighty Storm… Studio version: http://youtu.be/0qlyJpWdpZ0   Live version: http://youtu.be/dxHCM8j_HQ

Danny Schmidt (Calliope Concert Series; Saturday, November 1, 2014 at Carnegie Lecture Hall; opening act)

This Too Shall Pass  http://youtu.be/rYqDq4ojyHg

Buckets Of Rain (Dylan cover)  http://youtu.be/CvtWS6q1HyA

Stained Glass http://youtu.be/B7lTPyoHA5w

Darlingside (Calliope Concert Series; Saturday, November 1, 2014 at Carnegie Lecture Hall; headliner)

The God Of Loss (live) http://youtu.be/bAtPeX6Xuxo

The Catbird Seat  http://youtu.be/VbGApkKOSGk

Blow The House Down  http://youtu.be/RL66zoOMsyA

Sweet And Low (live) http://youtu.be/toYfFVi_QPE

 

 

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Posted 12/29/14.....

Usually there are ten songs offered here in BUILDING A MIXTERY, but this time I’ll give you nine on which to dine—and you can add one of your own to top it all off.  The common thread this time out?  Guitars…

1.) Valentine – Nils Lofgren.....Best known for his piano work on Neil Young’s 1970 album After The Gold Rush, and then his long association with Bruce Springsteen as a member of the E Street Band, Lofgren has produced an occasional solo album through the years as well.  These solo efforts are admittedly spotty in terms of consistently engaging songwriting, but there are a few standout tracks that are able to coalesce a guitar-hero workout with emotional gravitas...“Valentine” is from Lofgren’s 1991 album Silver Lining, and his closing guitar solo—the last two full minutes of this piece—will keep lifting you up to finally ricochet along the pleasure centers of your brain.  (p.s.  Bruce is on background vocals on this one.)  http://youtu.be/JpRCTcr-vT8

 

2.) Too Many Ways To Fall – Arc Angels.....A powerhouse rock band that raised its flag and staked its claim just once—isn’t it a pity.  We’ve all picked up on “supergroup” combinations being touted by the press through the years, and often that’s just some talented individuals who bring their egos & styles into the melting pot but don’t subsume them—and the result is not the sum of its parts.  This foursome—comprised of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Double Trouble rhythm section of bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris Layton, overlain with compelling guitarists Charlie Sexton and Doyle Bramhall II—managed to forge a real band and produce this one touchstone rock record (the 1992 self-titled release).  This is churning, get-the-hell-outta-the-way rock infused with the blues, and there’s no question that as a seamless and searing band, these four reach the core.  http://youtu.be/i4wnHLtwR8o

 

3.) Room 335 – Larry Carlton.....Carlton first loped into the lobes of rock ‘n’ rollers’ consciousnesses as a session guitar player who cropped up on 1970’s albums like Joni Mitchell’s Court & Spark, Linda Ronstadt’s Don’t Cry Now, Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall, and others...It was his blistering solo on Steely Dan’s “Daddy Don’t Live in That New York City No More” (Katy Lied; 1975) and especially his pickin’ for posterity on “Kid Charlemagne” (The Royal Scam; 1976) that brought him wide acclaim in hero-worship circles...“Room 335” (named after Carlton’s private recording studio near Burbank, California) is from his self-titled first major-label release that came out in 1978—and it exemplifies the fluid, rhythmic rock approach that Carlton cornered back then in the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s.  http://youtu.be/zHfbqnWm6HY

 

4.) Alchemy – Richard Lloyd.....This man’s talent and his rock cred is enough to give you the CBGBs.  Along with Tom Verlaine, Lloyd was a guitarist in the band Television, a staple in that aforementioned NYC Bowery club that was both haven & incubator to the punk scene in the mid-late ‘70’s (other fledgling bands that found a home there included Patti Smith, the Ramones, Blondie and Talking Heads).  Television split in 1978, and Lloyd—renowned for his angular, propulsive guitar style—moved on to a stop-and-start solo career beginning the very next year with Alchemy, his first solo release (on Elektra Records).  http://youtu.be/wXC-AaI20J8?list=PLBGlx8CYVTQjbmYvQYfnOTAi2c0EwcIVS

 

5.) Help The Poor – Robben Ford.....I saw Ford live in a great little club by the name of Graffiti, near the Oakland & Bloomfield sections of Pittsburgh.  It was a good ten years after his 1988 blues-rock classic Talk To Your Daughter had been released, and I was hoping for that album’s “Help The Poor” to bubble up on the set list—but no such luck.  I got the chance to meet him after the show, and when I brought up this “missing” song, Ford smiled and said “I get tired of playing certain songs, and that’s currently one of them.  On stage I’m much more into my newer material because that’s what excites me.”  I say to you, go back to ’88 and push “play”—this song is one of the best introductions to Ford’s clean, sharp guitar lines and ingenious soloing. http://youtu.be/XGzibVH-YCA

 

6.) While My Guitar Gently Weeps (live) – Eric Clapton & Friends.....Graffiti around London once proclaimed “Clapton is God”, but since my current insurance excludes lightning bolts, I’m just goin’ with “ascendant to the throne”. Clapton is always in fine form, whether providing stinging, fluid leads in rock band situations, or holding himself masterly in check for traditional blues outings.  While I was initially formulating this nine-song guitar mix a while back I happened to be watching Martin Scorsese’s documentary on the life of George Harrison, and this prompted me to revisit another fine film—the time-capsule tribute called Concert For George, recorded for eventual theatre-and-DVD release in November 2002 at the Royal Albert Hall.  On this track from the companion-to-the-film compact disc, ringleader Clapton tows his fine all-star assemblage (including Paul McCartney & Ringo Starr) right along with him, ascending to the heavens with a precious parting gift for George—this incendiary version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, which ends in a spiraling-upward guitar solo of breathtaking beauty.  http://youtu.be/rj4J6i_vw0w

 

7.) Last Call – Jukka Tolonen.....Tolonen is far from a household name, unless your household’s in Helsinki.  This electric guitarist from Finland has a technician’s craft and imagination to spare, and he unleashes it in somewhat different settings; his best works include instrumental tracks like this one from the jazz-rock-flavored album Big Time, released sometime between 1994-1998 (on-line accounts of this differ)...“Last Call” is a great rock song; it’s got polished production with the bass & drums “up” in the mix a bit, and there’s some breathy flute accents as well, but it’s really Tolonen’s show all the way.  The sounds he wrings out of his guitar are astounding; at times he might even skirt heavy metal, but mostly his fingers foment fusion.  Great stuff. http://youtu.be/7Dj8vex9gwo

 

8.) Cool # 9 – Joe Satriani.....New York state’s Satriani delved into guitar at in his early teens, after hearing the sounds that Hendrix could coax out of his instrument.  He spent some time in the late ‘70’s as “teacher” to some up and coming guitarists including Steve Vai and Kirk Hammett, and eventually was off & running with a solo career around 1986.  He then started churning out some rock-solid albums in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s which really helped wake up the public—and guitar mags & fanzines—to his unique talents.  The track listed here hails from Satriani’s 1995 self-titled release, and it features this virtuosic performer in league with Andy Fairweather Low (rhythm guitar), Nathan East (bass), and Manu Katche (drums).  The result is crisp, crunchy instrumental rock that really kicks because of the production and the consummate master musicians.  http://youtu.be/o2fExyjlG7Q

 

9.) Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers – Jeff Beck.....You don’t have to be a guitar zealot to love this track; you just have to allow yourself the time and space to sink into this almost-six-minute masterclass on wringing sweet sighs and war whoops out of the musical cosmos.  Beck is King, and this track (which he dedicated to Roy Buchanan) is from his 1975 jazz-rock masterpiece Blow By Blow.  If you have not experienced this song before, it’s an eye (and ear) opener to the possibilities of making the soul sing through music—in this case, through a guitarist of unlimited gifts which fortunately for us he shares with the world.  http://youtu.be/IriEq4H1XSU

 

 

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Posted 12/15/14.....

1987…a music mix reflecting career highpoints and noteworthy debuts throughout that year…

1.) If I Had A Boat – Lyle Lovett.....This charming mystical slice graced the album Pontiac, the second release from this Texan that twisted up his country roots and nourished them—and us—with folk, blues, swing and pop.  The song’s lyrics perhaps reflect a bit of his family horse ranch upbringing:  And if I had a boat / I'd go out on the ocean / And if I had a pony / I'd ride him on my boat/ And we could all together/ Go out on the ocean/ Me upon my pony on my boat”...A couple of parting trivia notes here, especially for those casual followers who don’t exactly covet Lovett:  1) This singer-songwriter had his film acting debut in director Robert Altman’s 1992 movie The Player...and 2) There was a 1993 merging of Lyle and The Smile—in a surprise move, Lovett married actress Julia Roberts just 3 weeks after they’d met.  The union lasted a mere 21 months; no children, but Lyle was indeed husband and fodder—the tabloids took him to a whole new level of fame.  Gotta Lovett!  http://youtu.be/hpM8FjO4Vko

 

2.) Sign Your Name – Terence Trent D’Arby.....Manhattan-born Terence Trent D’Arby moved to London after serving in the US Army, and his musical career kicked into gear in the UK with his 1987 debut The Hardline According to Terence Trent D’Arby.  The very self-confident D’Arby had written and performed most all of his debut, and was widely quoted as claiming that Hardline was the best album to be released since The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s in 1967—uh-huh, yeah, right.  Still, the record did well in the UK and a year after its release, the track “Wishing Well” hit Number One on the charts in the USA.  The song listed here—“Sign Your Name”—followed in its footsteps to a stateside position of Number Five...D’Arby’s debut IS a great soul-and-funk record, a distillation of his influences including Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and James Brown.  No studio cut version is available on YouTube, so here it is “live”:  http://youtu.be/3YmAGxc95QM?list=RD3YmAGxc95QM

 

3.) Touch Of Grey – Grateful Dead.....This was the Dead’s moment in the sun, in terms of a song reaching the mainstream pop charts.  It was in fact the band’s only Top Forty hit, and it also served to sate the Deadheads since it essentially captured in a studio setting the real style & tone of the live concerts...To those who spurn or ignore the Dead, this is the album to check out; in addition to “Touch of Grey”, In The Dark contains other scintillating selections like “When Push Comes To Shove”, “West L.A. Fadeaway” and “Black Muddy River”...Garcia is in fine form here, on guitar and vocals; this was also the time, however, when he was occasionally “goin’ down the road feelin’ bad”—and just 8 years farther down the line, he died at the age of 53.  http://youtu.be/nCYbRmSlW-M

 

4.) Weak In The Presence Of Beauty – Alison Moyet.....British-born singer Moyet has a robust, blues-worthy voice and started gaining fans with the band Yazoo (called “Yaz” in the USA) in the early 1980’s.  The latter band may be remembered for one of their typical synth-driven songs which happened to make a few alt-rock playlists back then:  “Only You”...Moyet then moved on to a solo career in 1983, and her first decent stateside success came four years later with the release of 1987’s Raindancing album.  “Weak in the Presence of Beauty” from that particular record is a great 80’s ballad that holds up very well, overwhelmingly due to the passion in the bluesy, ballsy delivery from Moyet.  Could not locate a studio version clip on YouTube, so…  https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/weak-in-the-presence-of-beauty/id424197284?i=424197331

 

5.) Cherry Bomb – John Mellencamp.....Indiana native Mellencamp headed to NYC at the age of 24 in an effort to break into the music business.  From an early age he was a real scrapper, and spent years in the somewhat torturous trenches of the music business with forced-upon-him “identity crises”.  His first manager insisted that Mellencamp go on record as Johnny Cougar (1976).  The artist then jettisoned “Johnny” to become John Cougar (1979-1982).  Then with growing success and the release of his 1983 album Uh-huh, Mellencamp felt confident enough to tack his real last name on the back of that Cougar, and finally four years later dropped the catty stance altogether.  1987’s The Lonesome Jubilee, from the newly-rechristened John Mellencamp, is a clean-sounding, uncluttered and compelling mix of classic rock and Appalachian folk & country; the album leans heavily on a sprightly combination of fiddle, accordion and acoustic guitar—check it out!  http://youtu.be/KF0gsbQKhD8

 

6.) Kiss And Tell – Bryan Ferry.....Ferry might well be called “The Synthesizer Bunny” for his strong and consistent output of solo releases—especially during the 1970’s, while helming his full-time band Roxy Music.  His solo work is characterized by his cool romantic croonings and a musical palette dominated by synthesizers, guitars and insistent bass—all nudging the listener toward the nearest dancefloor...1987’s Bete Noire was co-produced by Madonna confederate Patrick Leonard, who also co-wrote a number of the tracks.  Also contributing to the record on select tracks:  Guitarists David Gilmour (Pink Floyd) and Johnny Marr (The Smiths).  “Kiss and Tell” is an impossible-to-resist dance tune, but it’s not merely that—the song is slickly produced, churning and hypnotic, and masterfully straddles the line between dance pop and alternative music.  http://youtu.be/dA2rI6HGb6E

 

7.) Hysteria – Def Leppard.....British band Def Leppard formed in 1977, and wove into their sonic assault the musical styles of some of their mentors—T Rex, Queen, Mott The Hoople, Zeppelin, and other such masters then on the British scene.  The ingredients on their climb to success included timing (MTV was nascent, attentive, and loved the Lep); touring (in their homeland as well as in the States), and tutelage (for 1983’s Pyromania, and again for 1987’s Hysteria, these pop-metal thoroughbreds turned to a Mutt---Lange, that is).  Revered music producer Lange proved invaluable in helping to craft the “mighty sonic sheen” that is the hallmark of the two aforementioned albums.  Pop charts today don’t mean diddly-squat, but back then Def Leppard crouched & sprang onto the USA Hit Lists, holding on tight for a string of six straight Top Twenty songs—all from Hysteria.  http://youtu.be/3SluRyO4EA4

 

8.) Hey Jack Kerouac – 10,000 Maniacs.....The band formed in 1981 in Jamestown, New York, cobbled together by co-founders Natalie Merchant (vocals) and John Lombardo (guitar).  Their major-label debut on Elektra Records was released in 1985, and shortly thereafter Lombardo left the band.  Carrying on as a quintet, the group released another record in 1987—and this one was the nexus for Natalie and band.  In My Tribe had fine production from Peter Asher (who had helmed popular albums by James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt) and the socially-driven songs on the album resonated with the group’s increasing fan base, especially those on college campuses.  Radio stations and MTV fully embraced this outing as well, and In My Tribe bounded up the Billboard Magazine pop charts and nestled there for well over a year...Two postscripts about fame, fortune and fate:  1) Natalie departed the band in 1993, embarking on a string of strong solo releases through the rest of that decade.  The Maniacs who were left (would that have made it 9,999?) decided to soldier on with different personnel, one of whom was returning co-founder Lombardo...2) Another founding Maniacs member Robert Buck—lead guitarist and co-writer with Merchant of “Hey Jack Kerouac” and “What’s the Matter Here” from In My Tribe—passed away in 2000 at the age of 42.  http://youtu.be/4CusTZa-XLc

 

9.) Just Like Heaven – The Cure.....British band The Cure formed in 1976, all ghoulish-lookin’ and goth-like; you should check out their early stuff (black lipstick optional).  Their first album came out in 1979, and they reigned over the British pop charts for years to come.  Their first real stateside success came with 1987’s Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, from which this track emanates (it was the band’s first Top Forty hit in the USA).  This period of the late 1980s turned out to be a pivotal stretch for the band—they had pierced mainstream consciousness outside of the UK, become popular on the concert circuit, and proved inspirational to a new wave of similar-styled bands.  The ringing, rousing “Just Like Heaven” shows off the band’s expert blending of alternative and pop, and it’s made to be played LOUD.  http://youtu.be/RS_ux2H473I

 

10.) Sweet Child O’ Mine – Guns N’ Roses.....Derailed in their later years by a bad Axl, Guns N’ Roses in the beginning was a band that mattered.  They first rolled out of Los Angeles slowly in 1985-1986, touring heavily and generating a bit of word-of-mouth and industry buzz.  Then the band fired up a debut album in 1987—Appetite For Destruction—and surprisingly, it languished for almost a year.  MTV added “Welcome To the Jungle” and on its heels “Sweet Child O’ Mine”, and this sent Guns a-blazing into massive popularity and notoriety (the latter due in equal parts to the raw, almost vicious hard rock of the album, AND to the on-stage-and-off exploits of the band—in particular, lead singer Axl Rose).  “Sweet Child O’ Mine” especially paved the way to their firestorm of success.  It had relentless MTV play, that killer riff from Slash, and Axl’s unique screech-and-howl approach that sounded so deliciously demented and liberating that you just knew they couldn’t be denied a riotous rocket launch to the Top.  http://youtu.be/P-AYAv0IoWI

 

 

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Posted 12/1/14.....

Various Artists Mix...originally recorded February 25, 2011.

1.) Lose You – Pete Yorn.....Not too long out of Syracuse University, Yorn headed to L.A. in 2000 where he began to write music for film & television.  One of his compositions from the Farrelly Brothers film soundtrack Me, Myself & Irene filtered into some modern rock radio playlists, which led to his signing with Columbia Records...This downbeat yet very appealing track is from Yorn’s 2011 debut Musicforthemorningafter, an album showcasing his blend of alternative-skewed pop songwriting, nicely brought to form through a combination of guitar-bass-drums, and occasional piano & strings.   http://youtu.be/qybWqKATTSg

 

2.) Beauxsong – The Mandrake Project.....This is a tune you might imagine hipsters of all ages playing some Sunday morning over their lattes and New York Times.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that—like a lot of the material produced by this Pittsburgh band, it is an instrumental exploration, a soothing swarm of lush textures and varied instruments (in this particular case, violin and electric piano) that take off on short solos that puzzle-fit perfectly rather than detract from the enveloping, hypnotic wash...The Mandrake Project is a musical collective first formed by ringleader Kirk Salopek in Pittsburgh in 2002.  They pull inspiration and ideas from prog-rock, jam, jazz, and electronic & ambient works as well.  A year-and-a-half or so after the release of their 2007 album A Miraculous Container, they got on the radar of John Diliberto, host of the nationally syndicated radio show Echoes.  This led to a live performance on Echoe’s Livingroom Concert Series and the track listed here—“Beauxsong”—was then included (in the live version) on the CD release Still Echoes, the 15th anniversary Echoes Livingroom Concert Series CD.  Here is a sample from the studio recording A Miraculous Container, from iTunes:   https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/beauxsong/id468270014?i=468270022

 

3.) Poison & Wine – The Civil Wars.....Folk-rock-and-pop duo John Paul White and Joy Williams comprise The Civil Wars, who first pricked up ears & picked up fans via a digital album entitled Live at Eddie’s Attic in 2009.  Two years afterward, their first full-length studio album Barton Hollow was released.  If you like amazing harmonies woven into the purest of tapestries—and you like your relationships on the rocks—you’ll love this particular track from that album.  Some critics have dubbed this duo America’s own Swell Season.   http://youtu.be/WfzRlcnq_c0

 

4.) Work To Make It Work – Robert Palmer.....Crank this one up.  The opening to this tune is like a funky chain gang chant, with vocalist Palmer layering his own harmonies over top of his lead.  The song kicks in with Palmer’s always passionate blue-eyed-soul testifyin’, and crisp horns nip at the chorus...“Work To Make It Work” is a song from British-born Palmer’s second album called Pressure Drop (1975), and the album is quite a Feat—Lowell George and the rest of that fabulously funky outfit provide solid backing the whole album through.   http://youtu.be/L1Uqq0QE7mA

 

5.) Turn Me On (the Clint Mansell remix) – The Shins.....This Albuquerque, New Mexico band formed in 1997, but essentially shot into orbit—and into thousands and thousands more “Generation Y” ears and iPods—courtesy of the 2004 film Garden State (editor’s aside:  Is it too much to hope for, that one day Natalie Portman might say “Musicasaurus will change your life!”??).....This tune was originally on the Shins’ 2007 release Wincing The Night Away.  In the hands of Clint Mansell (ex-member of England’s Pop Will Eat Itself, remix master and film scorer), the song became more of an instrumental, a sprightly alt-rock tune with military march-like insistence.  This remix landed on Causes 1, a multi-artist benefit album released on Waxploitation Records in support of Doctors Without Borders, Human Rights Watch, and Oxfam America.   Here is a YouTube clip of their original album-track version (sans Clint Mansell):   http://youtu.be/bIRmyfKOAfM … and then a snippet of the Mansell remix version from the Causes 1 benefit album from iTunes:   https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/turn-on-me-clint-mansell-remix/id268613357?i=268614825

 

6.) Miles Away – Fleetwood Mac.....This track is from the Bob Welch-era Fleetwood Mac—1971 through 1974—when this American guitarist contributed mightily to the band’s repertoire prior to the general public’s feeding frenzy for the Big Mac (the Buckingham & Nicks era, beginning in 1975).  At its best, the Welch incarnation of the band adds driving rock and wily, weaving lead-guitar lines over the band’s longstanding solid rhythm section of John McVie and Mick Fleetwood...“Miles Away” is from the 1973 album Mystery To Me, and it’s a perfect “deep cut” (like that album’s other highlight, “Hypnotized”) that is a sheer pleasure to hear on any self-respecting terrestrial or extraterrestrial radio station.   http://youtu.be/_65rBoOQ14E?list=PLWnVxuqvY7JgSkxKD-c1hUAu0ps3AJ-cg

 

7.) World Of Two – Cake.....The recipe for Cake:  Take alternative rock and sprinkle it liberally with bits of other genres; add in lyrics that are laden with sarcasm, non sequiturs and pop-culture nuggets; and then top it off with the sometimes spoken, sometimes sung vocalizations of frontman John McCrea...The band formed in 1992 in Sacramento, and by 1995-1996 were topping college and commercial alternative station charts with songs from two of their most recent albums:  Motorcade of Generosity and Fashion Nugget...The song “World of Two” from 2001’s Comfort Eagle release is a clever and catchy alt-ballad with a slight circus feel—something akin to sleigh bells show up amidst the usual guitar-bass-keyboards combination—and a chorus that repeats “You...There’s only room for You...in your World of Two…”   http://youtu.be/T1t4apRKUl0

 

8.) Chalkhills and Children – XTC.....This British band formed in the mid-late 1970’s and early on had that herky-jerky edge of new wave.  That wave gave way to more ambitious explorations into pure pop, rendered on record through superior arrangements and production.  Chief songwriters Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding channel bands like The Beatles (circa their most adventurous periods), The Kinks and The Beach Boys to produce sonic concoctions that are almost CDC-level infectious...This track comes from the double album Oranges and Lemons released in 1989, and it’s crystalline and layered with harmonies—intelligent, quirky, lush and luscious.   http://youtu.be/D0dXZfcw34Q

 

9.) Bring Me My Queen – Abigail Washburn.....What a gem.  Singer-songwriter and banjo player Washburn has produced in this one lone tune a beautiful alt-folk classic, crafted with intelligence and performed with quiet assurance.  This is a small triumph of composition, arrangement, execution, and production.  Washburn’s vocals are occasionally gravelly and hushed, but always “spot on” to serve the song.  Through her instrument, and in her song arrangements, she is bold in her steps to artfully incorporate a wide range of influences—folk, rock, jazz, bluegrass and blues, and also mixing into this melting pot some touches from the British Isles, the Far East, and beyond...“Bring Me My Queen” hails from Washburn’s 2011 release City of Refuge.   http://youtu.be/a32i_iC3LBQ

 

10.) The Kingdom – Icehouse.....Australia’s Icehouse never really “broke big” in the United States.  They were most prominent and active in the 1980’s, yet listening to this particular track today doesn’t necessarily evoke the 80’s excesses; it still sounds fairly fresh and not locked into that decade.  “The Kingdom” is a nice little slice from Icehouse’s 1987 release Man of Colours, and features the warm Paul Carrack-like voice of lead singer Iva Davies; the electronic guitar accents are quite appealing as well.  Caveat:  I’m only recommending this particular track, mind you; the rest of the band’s output may unpleasantly flash you back about 25 years or so.   http://youtu.be/gNlTgnli2TA?list=RDgNlTgnli2TA

 

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There are no new postings for 11/17/14 on musicasaurus.com....Earthbound considerations took me away.  New postings will return for the regular every-two-week schedule on Monday, December 1st.  Please return then!

 

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Posted 11/3/14.....

It’s a dream theme...A mix originally recorded May 16, 2010…Ten tunes, with one to grow on that mirrors the first…

1. Dreams – Allman Brothers Band.....The classic Allmans tune that was a signature song on their 1969 self-titled debut album.  And damn it, that’s IT for this first-song “recap”, because I’m kinda irked right now.  Allow me to explain:  One of my Butler (PA) Senior High School classmates Chris reminded me recently that I was on the school’s concert committee, and was pestering the living sh*t out of our teacher-advisor to let me book this brand new band called the Allman Brothers—for just $3,000.  To gain student support, I talked my way onto the morning public address system, and there gave an impassioned plea to the student body, saying things like “Ya know, this is NOT the Osmond Brothers we’re talking about here; it’s the Allman Brothers.”  The concert committee’s teacher-advisor nixed my idea anyway—and we ended up with the Jaggerz instead.  (Now excuse me for a moment while I further internalize this, and beat my head against the living room wall:  I coulda seen Duane –BOP! – I coulda seen Duane – POW! – I coulda seen Duane – BAM! ...There...I don’t feel any better about it now, but puttin’ the hurt on my head is at least a partial distraction.)  http://youtu.be/b8OR-nIqEzw

 

2. Dreams Come True – Marcia Ball, Angela Strehli & Lou Ann Barton.....This trio of Austin treasures teamed up for a “dream” album of Texas roadhouse rhythm & blues, and cut to cut, it’s a loose and inspired gem...This track is the title cut from the record, which was released in 1990.  Each of these ladies brings a lot to the game—Ball with her barrelhouse piano style; Strehli not strayin’, but bringin’ in a bit of rock bluster to her blues; and Barton a pure gas with her sensuality and sass.  Dr. John leads the studio band of veteran Texas musicians, and is producer on the record as well.  No current YouTube clip of this available, so…https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/dreams-come-true/id567035541?i=567035670

 

3. Put Your Dreams Away (For Another Day)– Frank Sinatra.....From Sinatra’s Sinatra, an album released in 1963...Sinatra had signed to Reprise Records ‘round about then and, witnessing his former record labels Columbia and Capitol doling out “hits” packages of his older material, he then re-recorded versions of twelve of his favorite songs for Reprise.  The resulting album, arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle, sported classics such as “Witchcraft”, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, and “Young at Heart”; the track listed here is lesser known, but let’s be frank—it’s good.   (The YouTube clip is from a compilation album that followed Sinatra’s Sinatra, but it’s the exact same version)  http://youtu.be/vBPLs9ns-q4

 

4. Street Of Dreams – Oysterband.....Oysterband formed in England in 1981, and the band members pooled, and pulled in, influences from English folk music of the 1970’s, polishing it with a punkish edge...For their first few years they toured relentlessly and self-released some records, but it was their first commercial album from 1987, Step Outside, that brought them full and countrywide acclaim.  The band is a talented lot, masterminding a mix of accordion, trumpet, and cello with the requisite guitar-bass-drums.  This particular track is from Oysterband’s ninth commercial release issued in 1999, Here I Stand.  One can detect shades of the Moody Blues mixed with the Pogues; the album is good overall, but “Street of Dreams” may be the pearl from the Oysterband.  http://youtu.be/Wp8vwI18ObU

 

5. Boulevard Of Broken Dreams – Green Day.....This trio bashed out a blistering debut record called Dookie in 1994, and successfully brought to a new generation’s ears the spirit of late 1970’s punk.  Drawing upon that spirit, they in turn influenced a number of up-and-coming bands who were themselves plunging into all the permutations of punk music...Green Day’s 2004 album American Idiot, from which this track is taken, is a true modern day rock opera that was a surprise success; the group modeled their opus after bands like The Who (Tommy) and Husker Du (Zen Arcade), but Green Day put a post-911 spin on this record that resonated resoundingly with the public.  It laid bare some of the anger, depression, loss of faith, and bewilderment of living in America after that fateful September 11thhttp://youtu.be/Soa3gO7tL-c

 

6. Dreams – The Cranberries.....At the age of nineteen, Irish lass Dolores O’Riordan answered a band’s advertisement for a new lead singer; she lingered, and then latched on for the ride...With a producer that had previously worked with The Smiths and Morrissey, the band crafted and released their debut album Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We in the Spring of 1993.  The record was initially sluggish on the English charts; it took a Summer and a Fall of touring in America as an opening act, plus MTV’s embrace of “Linger” (heavin’ it into heavy rotation) before the Brits opened their ears to this delectable blend of jangly, dreamy pop music.  It’s Dolores’ voice that is the band’s linchpin—she’s great on record, and electrifyin’ live.  http://youtu.be/BTigUlRQlzY

 

7. All That You Dream – Little Feat.....Wherever I tread in my many musical journeys, I always rely on my Feat.  This band captures the essence of southern-styled rhythm & blues and rock ‘n’ roll; they’re gritty, adventurous, and their songwriting and execution are peerless...This track hails from the band’s 1975 album The Last Record Album, and the record’s title was prescient:  The reining, driving force of the band, Lowell George, was becoming increasingly distant and uninvolved, and the band had resolved to put other Feats forward—specifically second guitarist Paul Barrere and keyboardist Billy Payne.  This record was essentially one of transition, away from the major George influence to the more jam-based exploratory predilections of Barre and Payne.  http://youtu.be/VYR1yUa7e_k

 

8. Dreaming Of Places – Grasshopper Takeover.....This Omaha pop-rock three-piece band got their name from a vision that vocalist Curtis Grubb had while flattened from a hunting accident in his home state of Nebraska.  As he lay on the ground, eyes closed and ears roaring & ringing, he suddenly popped open his orbs to witness a swirling black mass in the sky—and then he passed out.  When he came to, he wondered if he had seen the start of a grasshopper invasion of Earth...Debuting in 1997, the band issued a self-titled release that subsequently set the stage for a number of appealing pop-rock explorations.  The track listed here is actually from a 2007 compilation record of band B-sides called, appropriately enough, GTO B-sides and Grubb Solos; it’s a mid-tempo excursion that’s pretty, and pretty damn infectious.  No current YouTube clip available, so…https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/dreaming-of-places/id212594223?i=212594232

 

9. Dreamville – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.....Petty’s always been on the battle lines with regard to artists’ rights, starting over three decades ago when his record company at the time wanted to raise the list price of his upcoming album Hard Promises from the standard $8.98 to $9.98.  Petty threatened not to release the record at all, and then vowed to make the title $8.98 if it was released at the higher price.  The record company capitulated, and the album eventually hit the stores with the name Hard Promises instead...Flash forward a couple of decades, and Petty was at it again in 2002, releasing his “themed album” entitled The Last DJ.  With songs like “Money Becomes King” and the title track “The Last DJ”, Petty was pondering modern life where corporate avarice was running rampant, radio stations were further restricting playlists, and musical expression was increasingly stifled, gagged & bound...This track “Dreamville” is a pretty and contemplative piece, though, a mid-tempo ballad about being young in the 1950’s and 1960’s—living the small town life, buying guitar strings at the local music store, and listening to the radio where, as the song says, “there was rock ‘n’ roll across the dial.”  http://youtu.be/JkY876Wp21A

 

10. I’ve Got Dreams To Remember – Angelique Kidjo…..The daughter of South African singer and civil rights activist Miriam Makeba, Kidjo mixes up African, European and American pop music to great effect.  On her 2010 album Oyo—from which this classic Otis Redding song is taken—Kidjo pays tribute to some of her idols, including Redding, James Brown and Aretha Franklin.  “I’ve Got Dreams To Remember” has been covered by a number of other artists including Toots and the Maytals and Delbert McClinton, but it is Kidjo’s version that is the most arresting of the pack.  http://youtu.be/qDTJW1Orw7Q

 

11. Dreams – Buddy Miles Express.....This “Dream Theme” mix now comes full circle with a cover version of the very first song.  Drummer Buddy Miles really funked this up, though, and he did so through a soul-satisfyin’ arrangement complete with a sizzling horn section.  The track hails from the Buddy Miles Express’ 1970 album Them Changes...Miles is certainly not a household name, but his odyssey through the 1960’s and 1970’s is quite impressive:  Touring with Wilson Pickett...joining the band The Electric Flag which then debuted at 1967’s Monterey Pop Festival...forming his own band, the Buddy Miles Express...playing with Hendrix on the guitar wizard’s 1968 Electric Ladyland album and then joining Jimi’s Band of Gypsys in 1970...playing and recording with both John McLaughlin and Carlos Santana...and THEN—talk about raisin’ your profile—he was the singer in the Claymation (clay-model animated) California Raisins television commercials in 1986, which led to two albums and a Christmas special (I’m tempted to write something here about the fruits of his success, but I’m not going there).  http://youtu.be/omNPPv6mhJY

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________

Posted 10/20/14.....

1979.....ten tunes from a mix originally recorded in February 2011.

The year 1979 was a pivotal year for me.  I was deep into my duties as Western Pennsylvania’s field merchandising specialist—okay, yes, “Poster Boy”—for Warner-Elektra-Atlantic (WEA) Corporation, the multi-label distribution company.  Tons of new releases were coming out each week—and not just on the WEA-associated labels, but from ALL of the very flu$h and vibrant music companies who were having a “record year” of profits and were churning out exciting new bands left and right. 

With this mix, I tried to encapsulate all that was happening musically back then, in the space of those 12 months...I think it’s QUITE the rock ‘n’ roll stew.  Boomers—crank it up and come back with me.  Youngsters—discover these artists & album tracks for perhaps the very first time...

1. Cracking Up – Nick Lowe.....Lowe is a singer/songwriter who first flourished in the English atmosphere of pub rock when it was morphing and moving over toward punk & new wave...This particular track was included on Lowe’s album Labour of Lust, better known for containing his charting song “Cruel To Be Kind.”  The other players on the album were members of Rockpile, a band that he and Dave Edmunds fronted in and around that period of time.  Lowe was also an in-demand producer and helmed the first five Elvis Costello & The Attractions albums.  http://youtu.be/nczyaexIbSw

 

2. Creation Dream – Bruck Cockburn.....Canadian Cockburn—it’s pronounced “Co-burn”, so any leftover Beavis & Butthead fans who are web-surfing with us today can just stop the snickering right now—has produced some great somewhat-under-the-radar albums starting in the early 1970’s.  He’s a folk rocker with a clean, vibrant guitar style, and the album from which “Creation Dream” comes—Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws—is a great blend of folk, Christian mysticism and Third World music.  http://youtu.be/EAnqi54Ax4E

 

3. Young Blood – Rickie Lee Jones.....This was a stirring and exhilarating self-titled debut from Jones.  Her unique vocal style and songwriting—reflecting a refreshing brew of folk, rhythm & blues, and jazz—had everyone at Warner Brothers Records harboring closely-held hopes that success would surely follow.  This album indeed was critically acclaimed and commercially successful, and on subsequent releases Jones followed her muse with little or no regard for expectations from fans or the record company—but that’s kinda what we hope for, from our artists.  (p.s.  Check out “Night Train” from Jones’ debut album as well...It’s a heart melter and a thing of beauty.)  http://youtu.be/fvC6-_G1fng

 

4. A Message To You Rudy – The Specials.....English band The Specials brought a blend of ska, reggae & new wave to the forefront of American audiences in 1979, part of England’s 2-Tone movement...This is the lead-off track from The Special’s self-titled debut, and I defy you to sit in front of the speakers without happy, twitching limbs.  http://youtu.be/IbqiCxEIeEo

 

5. Dance Away – Roxy Music.....Manifesto, Roxy Music’s seventh album, came almost four years after the release of # 6, Viva!.....Manifesto seemed to shed in large part some of the art rock influences of the earlier LP’s, and the songs ferried more toward the lead singer’s penchant for soul-pop and disco-pop.  This track is percolating punk-drizzled pop at its best, with great guitar shadings by Phil Manzanera.  http://youtu.be/SeV2Lq5t_WY

 

6. Driver’s Seat – Sniff ‘n’ The Tears.....Formed in 1978, Sniff ‘n’ The Tears released their first album Fickle Heart the following year, and then the fickle finger of fate not only decreed that the best song on this record become a major radio hit, but become the band’s ONLY hit as well...The band gets into gear with a nice mix of electric guitar, keyboards and synthesizers; this is perfect for summertime consumption, top down and cruising the highways & by-ways.  http://youtu.be/9SCzVEUlqqA

 

7. Accidents Will Happen – Elvis Costello & The Attractions.....Costello’s third album released this particular year—Armed Forces—was a departure from the first two only in that the production of the album was a bit more polished in its pop presentations...This track is superlative; it’s got the Elvis urgency, and the song’s ending is awash in shimmering harmonies and layered guitars.  Breathtaking.  http://youtu.be/K8JkB-OR7H4

 

8. It’s Different For Girls – Joe Jackson.....Rather early in his career, Jackson was labeled a musical chameleon because his albums, one after the other, kept veering into new territory—the first two new wave-y, the next reggae-based, the one after that “jump blues” (blues & swing combined)...“It’s Different For Girls” hails from Jackson’s second album I’m The Man, and it’s a bit of mid-tempo pop/punk philosophizin’ about the sexes.  http://youtu.be/5ymfb3RxSfk

 

9. Lost In The Supermarket – The Clash.....London Calling was the third album from UK punk innovators The Clash, and it creatively leapt head