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 Sunday evening.....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 9/9/18.....

(Next posting:  Sunday evening, September 23, 2018)

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.  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 Elektric 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 its members bassist Stanley Clarke, Brazilian vocalist Flora Purim and ubiquitous jazz-scene percussionist Airto Moreira.  In 1986 Corea formed his first Elektric Band that carried through to 1991, and then he and saxophonist Eric Marienthal spun off to form Elektric 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 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.  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/Y_V6y1ZCg_8

 

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 8/26/18.....

Summer’s still here and the time is right for rock fest tunes in Building A Mixtery…Here are ten songs by artists that were part of signature festivals in the late ‘60s/early ‘70s: Atlantic City Pop Festival, Woodstock, Altamont, Isle of Wight and Watkins Glen…

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 represent 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.  This might be tough sledding for you to listen to, but flashback to sixteen and enjoy one of the earliest of moog and space explorations. https://youtu.be/7gqnu__c8vk

 

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 and rootsy and might well fit in with today’s public radio stations, those that still traffic in Americana, folksingers and occasional blues belters.  The band performed a lot in the late ‘60s at Bill Graham’s Fillmore West alongside now household names like Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.  After Mother Earth’s debut album in 1968, the band moved to Nashville and toured and recorded out of there. That lasted until 1977 though by that time Nelson had already started a solo career, hewing to the ballsy, full-throated attack of the much better known Janis Joplin.  Notable footnote:  Boz Scaggs was a member of Mother Earth when the band recorded their 1969 album Make A Joyful Noise.  https://youtu.be/Ns2qEVkhJfo

 

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 back then.  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.  https://youtu.be/WMaa7TCBiKQ

 

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—yes, 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 actual playbill.  https://youtu.be/9IqAGrdOTNc

 

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.  https://youtu.be/6PkzX4xDJtE  

 

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 and Jack Casady on rumbling bass, and the two individuals 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.  This is the studio version of the song.  https://youtu.be/0q8fRDQ0S3I 

 

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 more than touched by an Angel—in fact, he was knifed and pool cued—and so he went to the join the real ones in heaven right then and there.  https://youtu.be/gtJp350jtmY

 

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, Texas-born 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 already securely in his cult.  Now and again, 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.”  https://youtu.be/MDWb5u1hehI

 

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 thirteen members—eight 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.  https://youtu.be/UXTWbkfwjiE 

 

10. Grateful Dead – Appeared at the July 28, 1973 Summer Jam At Watkins Glen – “Wharf Rat” from the second live double album entitled Grateful Deadbut 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 when) not to spend my mini-vacations following the band around the country.  I 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.  https://youtu.be/l_pH-RWHLyo

 

 

 

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Posted 8/12/18.....

THIS MIX AIN'T NUTHIN' BUT THE BLUES...

1. Blues for T.J. – Larry Carlton…..Throughout the mid-‘70s and early ‘80s Carlton was revered by the rock cognoscenti because of his countless “sessions player” appearances on many major artists’ signature albums, including four of Steely Dan’s and five of Joni Mitchell’s.  Carlton’s solo album Friends, coming five years after his solo debut on Warner Brothers, featured this intoxicating instrumental tune backed by the acclaimed L.A.-based rhythm section of Jeff Porcaro on drums and Abraham Laboriel on bass.  “Blues for T.J.” melds grit with sweet technique, as Carlton digs deep into the blues with guest B.B. King riffin’ along for the ride. The tune is not low-down-and-dirty (in the style of our blues forefathers) but sweet and stinging, showing off Carlton’s finesse and feeling in this realm.  https://youtu.be/NtXiPSSr2ys

 

2. ‘Fore Day Rider – Jay McShann .....Blues, jump & swing were McShann’s thing.  He was a pianist and bandleader born in Oklahoma in 1916 who moved to Kansas City in his early twenties and formed a big band which at one point counted Charlie Parker as a member.  McShann’s career ebbed a bit after the 1940s but perked back up in the 1970s (his appeal at that point was based on his 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” which can kinda transport you into a smoky old blues club, somewhere on a Saturday night.  https://youtu.be/-ao2_u3sFLY

 

3. 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 a 1969 album from the artist.  It is 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/cWEwYNBZt30

 

4. Fire – Etta James.....The song listed here comes from an incendiary collection of soul scorchers and blues tunes all performed by James in the mid-to-late 1960s.  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 and 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

 

5. She’s Tuff – The Fabulous Thunderbirds.....This four-man outfit formed in 1974 and later became the house band at Antone’s in Austin, Texas, but also religiously and 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/ywzPSNHqCTM

 

6. 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—not trivial—note:  Cray can be spotted in the John 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/VVB6jDaCxGI  

 

7. 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/vp0R2pepvd0

 

8. You Got Me Hummin’ – Cold Blood.....Pint-sized vocalist Lydia Pense has been compared to Janis Joplin with regard to her intensity and her raw and rippin’ vocal delivery, and in fact Joplin was the one who referred this at-the-time fledgling band to San Francisco promoter and rock club entrepreneur Bill Graham, who ended up signing them to his Fillmore record label.  “You Got Me Humming” from the band’s 1969 self-titled debut album is a blistering, flat-out funked-up phenom, first popularized three years earlier by ‘60s rhythm & blues singers Sam & Dave.  https://youtu.be/_quMD61F43I

 

9. 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

 

10. The Sky Is Falling – James Cotton.....Cotton is one of the legendary American blues masters who is in that prized circle of key influencers, inspiring 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 (1970) the rock quotient is increased a bit compared to most of his other 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 leadoff track on the album and has those key moments you hope for in a blues-rock record—band sailin’; harp wailin’.  https://youtu.be/yOt0KjLZHjo

 

 

 

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Posted 7/29/18.....

Ten tunes including alt-pop, folk, older-era Fleetwood Mac, jazz and Johnny Cash…

1. When I Die (live)– The Waifs.....A joyous performance captured live at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, and included on a 2005 CD compilation entitled Telluride Bluegrass Festival: Thirty Years.  Aussie sisters Vicki and Donna Simpson started the band back in 1992 and the group built up a fervent following from constant touring, via their emphasis of going after gigs at folk and bluegrass festivals all over the United States and Canada.  (sound quality, meh…but the spirit of the sisters shines) https://youtu.be/-iI1GVE5RlQ

 

2. The Sweet Part Of The City – The Hold Steady.....The band formed in 2004 in New York City, though some key members have strong roots in Minneapolis.  The Hold Steady has a heartland rock sound tinged with alternative, though this tune is actually a bit more reminiscent of the Stones from their Exile On Main Street era.  “The Sweet Part Of The City” is the leadoff track from the band’s fifth studio album Heaven is Whenever (2010).  https://youtu.be/Q1ZPD7hwnoQ

 

3. Morning Rain – Fleetwood Mac.....This track is from the 1971 album Future Games and features a line-up consisting of guitarist Bob Welch along with Danny Kirwan, Christine McVie, and mainstays Mick Fleetwood and John McVie.  This band has weathered many personnel changes through the years; they formed in Britain in 1967 as a blues rock band (with Peter Green), then edged into classic rock with Welch and Kirwan, and ultimately became a million-selling behemoth in 1975 with personnel switch-outs that brought them vocalist Stevie Nicks and guitarist Lindsey Buckingham.  Currently, of course, Lindsey is out and two new members have been shoehorned in—ex-Petty guitarist Mike Campbell and ex-Crowded House member Neil Finn. https://youtu.be/O1HoLcWkU98

 

4. Dog Days Are Over – Florence + The Machine.....The band formed in England in 2007, propelled by the BBC taking the new group a bit under wing.  They played major UK festivals and topped British charts, but didn’t really dent the USA until 2009 when their full-length debut album Lungs was released. Stateside in 2009 they hopped on David Letterman and then hit Saturday Night Live, Ellen DeGeneres and The MTV Video Music Awards the following year.  Florence cites the Jefferson Airplane’s lead vocalist Grace Slick as an inspiration, and critics have compared her to the Kates (Bush and Nash); her songs really cut their own swath in popular music, and Lungs especially was heralded by critics for its unique song structures, lyrics and passionate performances.  https://youtu.be/9kWec4VlXMk

 

5. Best Western – John Scofield.....Guitarist Scofield has a lot of “jazz cred” having played through the years with the likes of Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, the Gary Burton Quartet, Billy Cobham & George Duke, and many more.  On this track from his 1984 Electric Outlet album, he plays beautifully on a fairly soothing mid-tempo jazz excursion that is fascinating—even for wary ears that only infrequently approach this idiom.  https://youtu.be/dS2EYCh5WoI

 

6. Dead Man’s Will – Calexico and Iron & Wine.....An interesting and fulfilling collaboration between art & film school grad Sam Beam (he IS Iron & Wine) and Tucson’s Calexico, a band steeped in the American Southwest and particularly inspired by Ennio Morricone (the composer for spaghetti westerns such as Fistful of Dollars which were directed by Sergio Leone).  Iron & Wine is indie folk-pop with hushed vocals and a literary sophistication; on this In The Reins album from 2005, the collaboration with Calexico brings more muscle, more edge, and many more musical colors to the party (trumpets, vibraphone, and pedal steel, in particular).  https://youtu.be/rbY1Vau_yt0

 

7. Winterlight – Roman Candle.....Roman Candle is a quintet of indie rockers who are alt-country with the accent on “alt.” Brothers Skip and Logan Matheny anchor this Chapel Hill, NC unit that blends a rock ‘n’ roll sensibility (in songwriting and production) with country music, topped with tinges of alternative. This is just a killer track, and it first was on a 2002 release entitled Says Pop;all of the tunes on that record were later reworked with another producer, and the album was rereleased in 2006 under the title The Wee Hours Revue.  https://youtu.be/JnxmlrmXh84

 

8. One – Johnny Cash.....Cash’s career is eons long and legendary, of course.  This cover of the U2 classic comes from one of a series of six recordings that Cash did in the period between 1994 and 2002 with producer Rick Rubin, a noted rock & hip-hop producer.  These American Recordings were largely stripped-down acoustic affairs which lent great weight and resonance to the proceedings.  This particular tune comes from 2000’s American III: Solitary Man, and it’s just 68-year-old Cash and his acoustic guitar.  The stark reading makes this song a memorable addition to The Man in Black’s legacy of great works, and it’s hard to fathom that any other artist could approach this particular song and pull it off in the way that he does.  https://youtu.be/CGrR-7_OBpA

 

9. It Can Be Beautiful (Sometimes) – World Party.....Welsh-born Karl Wallinger IS World Party—the multi-instrumentalist was a member of Mike Scott’s Waterboys in 1984-1985, but then left to carve out a solo career under the World Party moniker.  The first two albums are both commendable, yet the second album—Goodbye Jumbo—is the gem of the two.  The particular track listed here is from the first record, though, 1987’s Private Revolution.  World Party creates sonic tapestries to back up some very sound songwriting, and on this song, the chimes and trumpets are aswirl and amazing.  Wallinger’s voice, too, is a vital instrument in the process; he’s been compared to Mick Jagger, but I hear some solo album-era Robbie Robertson in there as well.  https://youtu.be/ULtIOuu2Pdg

 

10. Too Many People – Glen Hansard.....Hansard is a singer-songwriter and guitarist who founded the Irish rock band The Frames in 1990, appeared the next year in the Alan Parker film The Commitments, and later on comprised half of the successful duo The Swell Season (which sprang from the on-screen musical partnership portrayed in the acclaimed 2006 film Once).  The song “Too Many People” comes from the album The Cake Sale, a charity album recorded in 2006 by a group of Irish and international musicians to raise funds for the charity Oxfam Ireland’s Make Trade Fair campaign.  https://youtu.be/zA9-JzfDvHg

 

 

 

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Posted 7/15/18.....

Ten tunes including a cinematic instrumental, some outlier music, folk, classic ‘60s R&B/soul and more…

1. Hardscrabble Elegy – Dickon Hinchliffe…..This is a sweet and tender instrumental from 2010’s Winter’s Bone, a sometimes brutal, evocative movie about tribal and family fealty in Appalachia.  The film is notable for the star-making turn of the then 20-year-old lead actress Jennifer Lawrence.  The song, written by British multi-instrumentalist and indie soundtrack contributor Dickon Hinchliffe (a founding member of the English indie rock band Tindersticks), is all acoustic guitar and plaintive fiddle…sweeeethttps://youtu.be/uJ9g8Y9czVY

 

2. All I Want To Know – The Magnetic Fields.....This and other songs by New York singer/songwriter Stephin Merritt (this time out, with his band the Magnetic Fields) may be an acquired taste, but the acquisition is worth it.  He writes wryly, and the end results are quirky and winning.  “All I Want To Know” hails from the 2003 film Pieces of April, a very cool little alt-comedy/drama with Katie Holmes and Patricia Clarkson.  Note that the Magnetic Fields just stopped in Pittsburgh recently, playing the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland on two consecutive nights (6/19 & 6/20) as part of an only-three-cities tour that chronicled the fifty years of Merritt’s life with one song per year.  The band played songs 1-25 the first night and songs 26-50 the next.  https://youtu.be/o7vT14NnkCc

 

3. Stop This Train – John Mayer.....From Mayer’s 2006 album Continuum.....“Stop This Train” doesn’t have a loco motion; it is a gentle shuffle of rumination, a piercingly honest and heartfelt look at aging and the fervent wish to halt its hurtling pace.  The chorus of the song is an appeal to anyone who will heed it: “Stop this train / I want to get off and go home again / I can’t take the speed it’s movin’ in / I know I can’t, but honestly won’t someone stop this train.”  The latter lyrics shift slightly toward the end of the song, as Mayer’s father weighs in with sage advice about the inevitable rush of time.  Poignant and very possibly lump-in-the-throat material.  https://youtu.be/2UiX4dUUjWc

 

4. Talk Walk Drive – Julia Fordham.....Beautiful British songstress Fordham has a distinctive, full-throated voice which she employs in rich sonic settings that are a far cry from formula.  The ballad “Talk Walk Drive” comes from her 1991 album Swept, and although wide public acclaim has long escaped her, she’s a “find” for any mix tape or playlist.  For music fans who like to dig deep into album credits (where you can find ‘em), the listing of contributing musicians on Swept is impressive.  There are several sidemen and sidewomen that really help bring the sheen and the spark to this album’s songs, including guitarists Dean Parks (Steely Dan), David Rhodes (Peter Gabriel) and Dominic Miller (Sting); keyboardists David Sancious (early Bruce) and Larry Klein (Joni Mitchell); bassist Pino Palladino (The Who); and background vocalist Valerie Carter (Jackson Browne/James Taylor).  https://youtu.be/KDWGwnea9f4

 

5. Terra Pura – Gabin.....A very nice slice of electronica and—refreshingly—it is not too cool and cerebral; instead, it is a quite engaging piece of music.  Gabin is actually a duo, a collaboration between two Italian musicians: Fillippo Cary, a prominent DJ from Rome and its large-venue “chill rooms,” and jazz bassist Max Battini.  The sound on “Terra Pura”—on Gabin’s 2002 self-titled release—is lush, sensuous, and textured.  Sipping something at a sidewalk table late one night at a Parisian café just might be the optimum environment in which to sample this one... https://youtu.be/VT-CnL42YTc

 

6. The First Song – Band of Horses.....This Northwest indie rock group puts forth music that seems a cross between Neil Young’s Crazy Horse and more recent rockers like The Shins and My Morning Jacket.  Ben Bridwell’s lead vocals are reminiscent of Neil Young, but perhaps Jon Anderson as well (the latter was the longtime front man for the classic prog-rock band Yes).  Bridwell’s reverb-soaked voice is set amidst chiming and churning tunes that are rhythmically dense and delicious.  The song listed here is from the band’s first full-length album entitled Everything All The Time which was released in 2006.  https://youtu.be/7OB5-J7M9wI

 

7. While You See A Chance – Steve Winwood.....From Winwood’s second solo album Arc of a Diver released in 1980.....The song became a Top Ten hit in the USA in April of 1981, and FM radio was all over it as well.  The lyrics spin a positive message of survival and dedication to task, and Winwood handles all vocal tracks and plays all of the instruments—acoustic & electric guitars, bass, drums, percussion, keyboards, and synthesizers.  Oh, and he also produced, engineered and mixed the album (WTF, Steve—no time to do the album cover design too?)  https://youtu.be/rufFzG1WWcM

 

8. Hands Across The Water – Kieran Kane.....Better known in traditionalist country circles as one-half of the O’Kanes duo who were active in the mid-to-late 1980s, Kieran Kane came ‘round to this interesting alt-country approach that features banjo and baritone sax. This track, from 2009’s Somewhere Beyond The Roses, is elegant and moving; his baritone sax player and singing partner is Deanna Varagona, who had previously played in the Nashville band Lambchop.  https://youtu.be/ipXHuI6ggSk

 

9. Please Don’t Leave Me – The Chambers Brothers.....George, Willie, Lester and Joe Chambers were all part of a sharecropping family in Missouri, and first formed a group back in 1954.  They were schooled—“churched”, really—in blues, folk and gospel in the local Baptist choir and in the mid 1950s relocated to Los Angeles.  It took about ten years and an eventual move to New York City for career combustion to kick in.  Their first record was released in 1965, but it was really 1967’s The Time Has Come that put them on the map and on the radio.  A tune from that album, “Time Has Come Today,” is an eleven-minute mix of soul and psychedelia that became a mainstay in those heady days of early FM radio ascendance.  The track listed here, “Please Don’t Leave Me,” is from that same 1967 album and it is a more traditional rhythm & blues and soul tune, featuring a finger-poppin’ feel and a great blend of brotherly voices.  https://youtu.be/gAwX1SdCjZs

 

10. Both Sides Now – Joni Mitchell.....This is a poignant performance of a song that was first recorded by Mitchell for her 1969 Clouds album.  She returned to it thirty-one years later to record it anew—older, wiser, and having travelled many, many more miles through love and its landmines. The song is from Mitchell’s 2000 release Both Sides Now, and it is just amazing to hear this treatment of it, now backed by an accomplished and intuitive orchestra.  Especially now, Mitchell’s voice conveys many truths; her impeccable phrasing is world-weary...melancholic...and masterful. https://youtu.be/7cBf0olE9Yc

 

 

 

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Posted 7/1/18.....

It’s a dream mix (in musicasaurus’ opinion, of course)…

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 Romney reminded me a while back that I was on the school’s concert committee, and was pestering the living shit out of our teacher-advisor to let us book this brand new band called the Allman Brothers—for just $3,000.  To gain student support I talked my way onto the public address system one morning before classes, and there I 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 eventually nixed my idea—and we ended up with the Jaggerz instead.  https://youtu.be/LaQjcbo4kUg

 

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 straying, but bringing 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 on this album and is the producer of the record as well.  https://youtu.be/bHd-_UCe7UE

 

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 new label 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 right up there with the others.  https://youtu.be/E4WImvKo5I8

 

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 1970s, 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 of the Oysterband.  https://youtu.be/rmdZ7YyfU_o

 

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 1970s 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 11th.  https://youtu.be/gYCTXzOTnXg

 

6. Dreams – The Cranberries.....In 1990 at the age of nineteen, Irish lass Dolores O’Riordan answered a band’s advertisement for a new lead singer; she then lingered and 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 (“Dreams” is from that record).  The album 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 the track “Linger” before the Brits opened their ears to this delectable blend of jangly, dreamy pop music.  It is Dolores’ voice that is the band’s linchpin.  She’s great on record and (used to be) electrifyin’ live—O’Riordan passed away in January of this year at the age of 46.  https://youtu.be/kwijvxRTmlQ

 

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 album was essentially one of transition, away from the major George influence to the more jam-based exploratory predilections of Barre and Payne. https://youtu.be/ImqIqQsVs30

 

8. Dreaming Of Places – Grasshopper Takeover.....This Omaha pop-rock three-piece band reportedly 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 and 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 is a mid-tempo excursion that is pretty and pretty damn infectious.  https://youtu.be/4kd8jBZDvEk 

 

9. Dreamville – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.....Petty had 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 a themed album entitled The Last DJ.  With songs like “Money Becomes King” and the title track, Petty seemed to be pondering modern life where corporate avarice was running rampant, radio stations were further restricting playlists, and musical expression was increasingly stifled, gagged & bound.  “Dreamville” from that record, though, is a pretty and contemplative piece, a mid-tempo ballad about being young during 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

 

10. Lost in the Dream – The War on Drugs…..Principal songwriter, vocalist and guitarist Adam Granduciel (born in Dover, Massachusetts in 1979) started tinkering quite young, and by junior high was immersed in the guitar and in the rudiments of the recording process, squirreled away in his bedroom at every opportunity.  At the age of 26 in Philly he encountered a like-minded soul named Kurt Vile, and the two of them launched the indie-rock band War on Drugs in 2005.  Their debut album Wagonwheel Blues hit in 2008 and Vile then left to carve his own path as Kurt Vile & The Violators.  Granduciel continued on with WOD, issued another album in 2011 (Slave Ambient), and in 2014 came out with Lost in the Dream,which Rolling Stone said “finds Granduciel tugging looser on the fabric of heartland rock” compared to the band’s two earlier efforts, and the magazine also noted that “Granduciel’s vocals, with their Dylan-esque elocution and Lindsey Buckingham-worthy yen, have grown more robust with lyrical heft.” With influences including Bob Dylan, Nick Drake, and Neil Young, and songwriting that sometimes brings forth touches of Springsteen, Petty, The Waterboys, Dire Straits and early-‘80s Roxy Music, Granduciel is bringing forth these days some majestic work, all with an intriguing contemporary feel courtesy of the warm, rich sounds he cobbles together and captures while in the producer’s chair.  https://youtu.be/K3HqnHUohOo

 

 

 

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Posted 6/17/18.....

TEN TUNES FOR YOUR EXPLORATION…Dreamy, spacey, luscious, lush, folky, funky—lil bit of everything…

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.  The downbeat yet very appealing “Lose You” 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.  https://youtu.be/OdLPePKLx4E

 

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…Like a lot of the material produced by this band, “Beauxsong” 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, and snagged a live performance slot of this song on Echoe’s Livingroom Concert Series.  Here is the studio version of “Beauxsong” … https://youtu.be/16wjSKu8b-0  

 

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 and 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 dubbed this duo America’s own Swell Season because of the music’s beautiful restraint and hushed, mesmerizing vocal blends, but things didn’t go so swell for them as the end of 2012 rolled around.  Those damn “irreconcilable differences” led to an official split of White and Williams in 2014.  https://youtu.be/uz6-SKGCrnQ

 

4.) Work To Make It Work – Robert Palmer.....Crank this one up.  The opening to this tune is like some kind of 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 overall; Lowell George and the rest of Little Feat provide solid backing the whole album through.  https://youtu.be/L1Uqq0QE7mA

 

5.) The Man In Love – Nick Lowe.....Lowe is a singer-songwriter and producer who’s travelled the musical miles as solo driver, carpool coordinator, and shotgun-seat producer.  He’s been in formative bands such as the rockabilly-leanin’ Rockpile (with Dave Edmunds) and in gloriously-regarded one-offs like the sole album from the cult superstar concoction Little Village (with Ry Cooder and John Hiatt).  Lowe also helmed as producer some pivotal releases across genres including Elvis Costello’s My Aim Is True and Armed Forces, Graham Parker & The Rumour’s Howlin’ Wind, UK punk band The Damned’s Damned Damned Damned (my circuitry didn’t stick there, don’t worry), step father-in-law Johnny Cash’s Rockabilly Blue, and John Hiatt’s Riding With the King.  The song included here, “The Man In Love,” is from Lowe’s 2007 solo album At My Age.  https://youtu.be/DdjPfGGxMSQ

 

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 feeding frenzy that began with 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 is 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. https://youtu.be/Hjlu3K-VnGM

 

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 there’s a chorus that repeats “You...There’s only room for you...in your world of two…”  https://youtu.be/ErcKR1zKiGM

 

8.) Chalkhills and Children – XTC.....This British band formed in the mid-late 1970s 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.  The track “Chalkhills and Children” comes from the double album Oranges and Lemons released in 1989, and it is crystalline and layered with harmonies—intelligent, quirky, lush and luscious.  https://youtu.be/OYU4CE2WQmA

 

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.  https://youtu.be/F44LtKJ_O5c

 

10.) The Kingdom – Icehouse.....Australia’s Icehouse never really “broke big” in the United States.  They were most prominent and active in the 1980s, yet listening to this particular track today doesn’t necessarily evoke ‘80s 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 electric 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 not settle in with you nearly as well.  https://youtu.be/P_n5CoTQQ0U

 

 

 

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Posted 6/3/18.....

From 31 years ago…in 1987…ten songs that leapt out of their respective artist’s new albums and made their mark on musicaurus…

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 had 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.  https://youtu.be/TKKcNjvxhns

 

2.) 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 and 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 further down the line, he died at the age of 53.  https://youtu.be/80USYpvvF1M

 

3.) 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 1980s.  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 80s ballad that holds up very well, overwhelmingly due to the passion in the bluesy, ballsy delivery from Moyet.  https://youtu.be/e5oSrmYZZtM

 

4.) 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!  https://youtu.be/8jsUAfDa_nA

 

5.) 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 1970s, 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.  https://youtu.be/ys9g6wNSesA

 

6.) 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, of course, but back then Def Leppard crouched and sprang onto the USA Hit Lists, holding on tight for a string of six straight Top Twenty songs, all from Hysteria.  https://youtu.be/vUXJEoa1yR4

 

7.) 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 already 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.  https://youtu.be/mJXZFo3kTiY

 

8.) 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 great blend of alternative & pop, and it's made to be played LOUD. https://youtu.be/Xmf5ct3rOSc

 

9.) Memphis In The Meantime – John Hiatt.....Hiatt’s first record came out in 1974, and this prolific singer/songwriter kept churning out albums to great acclaim from critics, yet he never seemed able to spark any momentum with the masses.  Though other artists covered his songs—Bonnie Raitt, Ronnie Milsap, Iggy Pop, Bob Dylan, and even Three Dog Night—Hiatt remained under the radar in terms of his own output all the way up to his 1987 release Bring The Family.  This VERY fine album was cut in just four days, and it features a quartet of seasoned players: Hiatt on guitar and vocals, Ry Cooder on lead guitar, Nick Lowe on bass, and Jim Keltner on drums.  There are a number of outstanding tracks on Bring The Family including the classic ballad “Have A Little Faith In Me,” but it’s “Memphis In The Meantime”—the album’s lead-off track—that is a full-on groove, blending rock ‘n’ roll with country swagger and a shot of rhythm & blues.  https://youtu.be/eaqH3HqhWls

 

10.) Sweet Child O’ Mine – Guns N’ Roses.....Derailed by a bad Axl in their later years, 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 word-of-mouth and industry buzz.  Then the band fired up their debut album in 1987, Appetite For Destruction, and surprisingly it languished for almost a year.  MTV then 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 the on-and-offstage antics 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 run-up to rock stardom.  https://youtu.be/BFKHBX7yhGc

 

 

 

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Posted 5/20/18.....

Ten tunes…most uptempo and sporting guitars…enjoy. 

1.) Room 335 – Larry Carlton.....Carlton first loped into the lobes of rock ‘n’ rollers’ consciousnesses as a session guitar player who cropped up on 1970s 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 ‘70s and early ‘80s.  https://youtu.be/PeXIWyhB4F8

 

2.) 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.)  https://youtu.be/ME2eMQafdiI

 

3.) Dreams – Buddy Miles Express.....Written and first recorded in 1969 by the Allman Brothers Band, drummer Buddy Miles took a whack at it and really funked  it up, lending it a soul-satisfyin’ arrangement that included 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 1960s and 1970s is quite impressive: Touring with Wilson Pickett; joining the band Electric Flag which 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 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.  https://youtu.be/WbM1OgzMEEs

 

4.) Goodnight, California – Kathleen Edwards.....A hushed opening on this song leads within the first sixty seconds to a Neil Young-styled “roll out” groove by this Canadian singer/songwriter.  The last half of this six-minute track (from Edwards’ 2008 Asking For Flowers release) is a full-on lovely layering of sustained guitar accents, organ, harmonica and unobtrusive strings.  Edwards must be seen “live” to be fully appreciated, as that is her strong suit.  I know I’m diverging here from strict audio-mix musings to more of a DVDiscussion, but you should check out the Farm Aid 20thAnniversary Concert DVD and Edwards’ band’s incredible performance of the song “Independent Thief.”  That track alone is worth the price of the disc.  https://youtu.be/k7ieTAbZGdw

 

5.) 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 media through the years, and often that’s just some talented individuals who bring their egos and 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 a touchstone rock record (this 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.  https://youtu.be/SRwFAAkkYm4

 

6.) Lost In The Supermarket – The Clash.....London Calling (1979) was the third album from UK punk innovators The Clash, and it creatively leapt head and shoulders above their two preceding releases, cutting a punk-edged swath through reggae territory, rockabilly, hard rock, and even lounge jazz.  Politically charged, musically adventurous, and rebellious as hell, The Clash were often called “the only band that matters” (though this phrase actually started out as their record company’s suggested promotional slogan). This particular London Calling track bears some cool anti-materialistic lyrics as well: “I’m all lost in the supermarket / I can no longer shop happily / I came in here for that special offer / A guaranteed personality.”  https://youtu.be/FwNVTYwFXS0

 

7.) While My Guitar Gently Weeps (live) – Eric Clapton & Friends.....Graffiti on the walls all 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 in concert is always in fine form, whether providing stinging, fluid leads in rock band situations, or holding himself masterly in check for traditional blues outings.  A little 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 in November 2002 (for theater and DVD release) at the Royal Albert Hall.  On this song 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 an upwardly spiraling guitar solo of breathtaking beauty.  https://youtu.be/CrTMc2i6Lzc

 

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 ‘70s as “teacher” to some up and coming guitarists including Steve Vai and Kirk Hammett, and eventually was off and 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.  https://youtu.be/dMKRoWTKJ5Y

 

9.) Broken English – Marianne Faithfull.....British-born Faithfull was well known in the 1960s as the longtime paramour of Mick Jagger, but in the States was better known for her 1964 pop-chart success “As Tears Go By.”  In the 1970s she split with Jagger and delved into drug use; in 1979 she surfaced in the music world once again with a bold new album entitled Broken English. Her voice was an octave lower, but the praise couldn’t have been higher for this new direction; this turned out to be a great career jumpstart and a galvanic reemergence.  https://youtu.be/blH0DJ0pg-Q

 

10.) 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 master class on wringing sweet sighs and war cries out of an earthbound instrument that plumbs 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 is 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 still shares with the world.  https://youtu.be/xiOPvOBd8IA

 

 

 

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PLEASE NOTE!  Musicasaurus.com is on the run this part of the month, so there are no new posts until Sunday evening, May 20th in this BUILDING A MIXTERY section...

 

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Posted 4/22/18.....

(Next posting:  Sunday evening, May 20, 2018)

Ten tunes…one of funk, another punk, one blues—all sorts of hues.

1. A Little Love Song – Jukka Tolonen Trio.....A disarmingly simple tune executed with aplomb by this little-known Finnish jazz guitarist who is a master of his domain—in this case, acoustic picking and rhythmic thrust (though his plugged-in works are equally exciting).  “A Little Love Song” is culled from Tolonen’s 1998 album Last Mohican; sit back and enjoy the purity of the recording and the great interplay of guitar-bass-drums.  https://youtu.be/8uyHYvJbwoQ

 

2. I Met Him On A Sunday – Laura Nyro and LaBelle.....A gifted singer/songwriter and daughter of a jazz trumpeter, Nyro started writing songs at the age of eight.  In 1967 at the age of twenty she released 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 the Fifth Dimension, “And When I Die” from Blood, Sweat & Tears, “Eli’s Comin’” by Three Dog Night, and more.....The short, sweet track “I Met Him On A Sunday” 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 LaBelle’s harmonies weaving in and around Nyro’s sailing soprano.  https://youtu.be/BhM7x3o75DQ

 

3. The Deed and the Dollar – Shooter Jennings.....The son of Waylon pays his respects to Dad and Country, while pulling in different influences and exerting different emphases from album to album.  “The Deed and the Dollar” has the pedal steel, the worship-of-a-woman theme, and thus country cred to spare; it’s from the Jennings album Family Man from March 2012.  https://youtu.be/e0-Fe0RkbHA

 

4. 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 tributes.  https://youtu.be/jLb50f-1tJ4

 

5. Who’ll Stop The Rain – Creedence Clearwater Revival.....Fogerty was an early adopter of the Rickenbacker sound, and he also reportedly liked the “chimey” sound that his amp provided. CCR seemed to have about 1,001 hit songs all over 1960s radio, most of them not more than a couple of minutes long and lot of them memorable (especially those featuring the guitar in question). The track listed here is from CCR’s 1970 release Cosmo’s Factory.  https://youtu.be/DZmKhHG9RD0

 

6. Alchemy – Richard Lloyd.....This man’s talent and rock credentials are enough to give you the CBGBs. Along with Tom Verlaine, Lloyd was a guitarist in the band Television, a staple in that New York City’s Bowery club that was both haven and incubator to the punk scene in the mid-late ‘70s (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 the Elektra Records release Alchemy.  https://youtu.be/zxQlKMvpQmo

 

7. Young Blood – Rickie Lee Jones.....Jones’ self-titled first album in 1979 was a stirring and exhilarating debut.  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 soon 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 artists. (p.s.  Check out “Night Train” from Jones’ debut album as well...It’s a heart-melter and a thing of beauty.)  Here’s “Young Blood” https://youtu.be/GdKqICmMCvI

 

8. 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.  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 (in The States) to 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.  https://youtu.be/iMAdNZaf7zc

 

9. Highway – Eliza Gilkyson....L.A.-born Gilkyson came from a musical family and since the late 1980s has produced a largely unheralded but solid catalogue of folk/alt-country music (after an initial dip into the New Age pool).  “Highway” is a song from Gilkyson’s 2000 album, her first for independent folk label Red House entitled Hard Times in Babylon.  Her sound strays not too far from the likes of Rosanne Cash and/or Patty Griffin; lyrically, she’s a notch above a lot of this style of singer-songwriter.  https://youtu.be/TW0T9Nn4SVs

 

10. Help The Poor – Robben Ford.....I saw Ford live in a great little club by the name of Graffiti, near the Oakland and 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 with Ford; this song is one of the best introductions to his clean, sharp guitar lines and imaginative soloing.  https://youtu.be/bvUcWbiSnrk

 

 

 

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Posted 4/8/18.....

Ten songs makin’ up quite the varied mix:  A mellow jazz flautist with a veteran violinist, a Motown soul queen out on her own, a mid-tempo solo slice from a ‘70s rock/rhythm & blues band lead singer, a Brit folk-rocker, a punk-fueled high priestess, and more…

1. Mellow Yellow– Herbie Mann (with Stephane Grappelli).....This swinging instrumental cover of Donovan’s late-1960s hit record hails from Mann’s 1974 album London Underground,a showcase album featuring British musicians teaming up with the musically adventurous Brooklyn-born jazz flautist.  The addition of Grappelli sumptuously sweetens this tune, and it hearkens back to the unique sound once performed by Grappelli and guitarist Django Reinhardt in Paris of the 1930s-1940s, and their Quintette du Hot Club de France.  https://youtu.be/qC_fxmkNvY0

 

2. You’ve Got Me For Company – Martha Reeves.....Reeves launched a solo career after her few years of fame as leader of the Vandellas in the immensely popular stable of Motown performers in the 1960’s.  For her first self-titled solo album in 1974 she teamed up with lush producer Richard Perry (“lush” is a comment on his production style, not on his drinking habits) and birthed a great-sounding record which proves to be a fine showcase for Reeves’ soulful vocals.  The mid-tempo track listed here for the mix was co-written by Billy Preston; elsewhere on the record is a top-notch cover of Van Morrison’s “Wild Night.”  https://youtu.be/33hUgWH73gk

 

3. Wastin’ Time – Peter Wolf.....For those who partied heartily during the ‘70s & early ‘80s and liked their rock music fueled with funk, R & B sass and wailing harmonica, the J. Geils Band filled that bill.  Wolf was the lead singer of that outfit, and though he’s traveled miles from Geils he still hews to the rock and the blues, as evidenced by this mid-tempo tune from Wolf’s fourth solo album Long Linewhich was released in 1996.  It has some nice harmonica accents and some gorgeous keyboard flourishes, and it’s gracefully propelled aloft by Wolf’s passionate, world-weary vocals.  https://youtu.be/8jPiJtxua8s

 

4. Francesca – Richard Thompson.....The song kicks off with a driving, almost ska type of beat, with punching horns and English folk-rocker Thompson’s rhythmic strumming and lamenting vocals: “Who shook the stars from her eyes / Who took the shine, made water out of wine, and left her alone in the world”...This Brit with the caustic wit has a penchant for biting, twisted tales of love gone bad, and couches it all in sizzling guitar work, both rhythm & lead.  “Francesca” is taken from Thompson’s 2007 release Sweet Warrior.  https://youtu.be/72lTT5fi1WU

 

5. Dream of Life – Patti Smith.....This song is one of the more mainstream rock pieces from Patti, and it appears on her 1988 album of the same name.  Smith is a rock icon who was at the forefront of late 1970s punk in NYC, along with Talking Heads, Television and other bands on the scene.  She’s a writer and poetess as well as a memoirist; her best-selling books include Just Kids (2010), which traces the close relationship between Smith and controversial American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, and 2015’s M Train, reviewed by New York Times book reviewer Michiko Kakutani who said Smith “is remarkably attuned to the sound and sorcery of words, and her prose here is both lyrical and radiantly pictorial. Like her famous black-and-white Polaroid photos (some of which are scattered throughout the book), the chapters of “M Train” are magic lantern slides, jumping, free-associatively, between the present and the past, and from subject to subject.”  https://youtu.be/pN3QxxxxVJQ

 

6. You and I – Dennis Wilson.....This is the Beach Boy that should have STAYED on the beach—he perished by drowning in 1983, after mixing alcohol with diving.  Wilson was one of the founding members of the group, and was the brother of band members Brian and Carl.  His one solo effort, Pacific Ocean Blue,was released to critical acclaim in 1977 and was out of print for a number of years before resurfacing in a deluxe Sony Legacy treatment in 2008.  The song “You and I” from the aforementioned album sounds like a Beach Boys tune, but better—the harmonies are superb (courtesy of brother Carl, fellow Beach Boy Bruce Johnston, and Dean Torrence of the surf duo Jan & Dean), yet it’s the lead vocal by Dennis which is especiallycaptivating—rich, full-bodied, and very soulful.  https://youtu.be/2BgCvyCyqXg

 

7. Like A Tumbleweed In Eden – Chris Robinson & The New Earth Mud.....The front man for the Black Crowes produced a solo project album in 2004 (This Magnificent Distance) which is quite simply miles ahead of the Crowe’s best material.  I stumbled upon four tracks from it recently, and each is different and compelling in its own way.  This is great, and surprising, classic rock—the songwriting is strong; the vocals ebb and flow with a naturalness that totally serves the material, and the musicianship is first-rate.  Excellent stuff.  https://youtu.be/EHvjwjT_8dw

 

8. Circles – The Downtown Fiction.....This Fairfax, Virginia emo band formed in 2008 and collected fans first on MySpace before mustering an introductory EP and a subsequent releases; they also scored a slot on the annual Warped Tour for the summer of 2010. Their alt-pop sound is quite engaging and melodic; “Circles” is from the EP (extended play release) entitled Pineapple,which came out in December 2011.  “When I’m writing songs, I draw from what I grew up listening to,” said lead singer/guitarist Cameron Leahy in a 2011 interview with e-publication The Aquarian Weekly.  “The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Beach Boys.  When I was around 12 or 13 I started playing guitar, and I discovered bands like Blink-182, Green Day and The Foo Fighters. I like that new blend of classic rock and pop punk.”  https://youtu.be/f27hLI6F5NU

 

9. Salt Water Sound – Zero 7.....The equation here is Two = Zero Seven: The two are English producers Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker, and they started out as production “gophers” in a London recording studio, becoming absolute sponges in pursuit of learning that craft.  Throughout the 1990s they sharpened their skills, eventually branching out to record under the “Zero 7” moniker around 1999.  The albums are a mix of arresting electronica, funk, acid jazz and soul, and there’s usually a per-album balance of vocal turns by world music guest vocalists alternating with hypnotic instrumentals.  “Salt Water Sound” is from the band’s first full-length album entitled Simple Things(2001). https://youtu.be/TgUkSfDbyVI

 

10. Black Water Child – Fionn Regan.....Regan is an Irish-born singer-songwriter whose vocal style begs comparison to Damien Rice.  The album from which this track emanates is The End of History,released in 2006 and recorded by Regan in an unused stone barn in England, “live” to a portable recorder.  Some of the tracks are sleepy, but “Black Water Child” is an uplifting trot of a tune that features Regan’s fine voice and his up-front-in-the-mix acoustic strumming.  https://youtu.be/IHUVwOP_Y7Y

 

 

 

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Posted 3/25/18.....

Ten songs all over the block—Beatles, blues, alternative-rock, Americana and more.

1. If I Needed Someone – The Beatles.....Lead and rhythm guitarist George Harrison was an experimenter extraordinaire in the early 1960s, bringing instruments like the sitar to rock fans’ ears through his contributions to the Fab Four, but he also played the Rickenbacker (a type of guitar, for the uninitiated) which is deftly deployed here.  “If I Needed Someone” was on the band’s 1965 album Rubber Soul over in England, but here in The States we had to wait until 1966’s Yesterday And Today album to see that tune officially on a Beatles record.  (So…the Beatles’ official studio recordings still at this point cannot be found on YouTube due to licensing issues, so musicasaurus.com’s less than satisfying option here is to provide you a link to an individual playing a Rickenbacker along to “If I Needed Someone” by The Beatles, which is playing in the background on the guy’s stereo.  Bait and (big) switch.)  https://youtu.be/B6Ie7x4K7Co

 

2. Blood And Roses – The Smithereens.....This is a hypnotic and head-bobbin’ example of The Smithereens’ sound, which has that 1980s punk-like swagger with enough rock-bottom melody, though, to leaven it.  The name of the group stems from cartoon character Yosemite Sam’s signature expression "Varmint, I'm a-gonna blow you to smithereens!"  The band has had a neat brush with fortuitous moments through its career—the album from which this track came, 1986’s Especially For You, was reportedly one of Kurt Cobain’s favorites; a cut from it landed on a Miami Vice episode and a track or two leapt onto MTV; and the band even appeared (as themselves) in the low-budget, schlocky Troma film Class of Nuke ‘Em High, playing during an indoor beach party scene.  https://youtu.be/VzSqsoCMl7g    

 

3. You’ve Been In Love Too Long – Bonnie Raitt…..This was Bonnie’s lead-off track to her album Takin’ My Time which she released in 1973.  The song is pretty instantly fetching because you’ve plunged into a nice stream of rhythm and blues with a rock edge, and that’s what Raitt did to this 1965 hit from Motown’s Martha Reeves and The Vandellas.  Takin’ My Time was Raitt’s third, and reportedly she started out with Little Feat’s Lowell George as producer, but they clashed largely because they were so joined at the hip as friends.  George played slide, though, and the rest of the cast was pretty impressive—other Little Feat members, percussionist Milt Holland, the band Orleans’ founder John Hall, drummer Jim Keltner, Taj Mahal on harmonica and vocals, and Van Dyke Parks on keyboards and vocals (okay, admittedly this last bit of info has only thrilled those who are ancient; people who, long ago, used to furrow their brows while studying album liner notes and musician credits).  https://youtu.be/Q43Je3ay2xY

 

4. 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 twenty-something 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 comes from the band’s second album entitled We Are The Tide, released in 2011.  https://youtu.be/PfZKwjPjlW8   

 

5. Rock & Roll Woman – Buffalo Springfield…..Buffalo Springfield was my favorite band at the tender age of 14—I cut out black & white pictures of the band from teen music magazines like 16 and Tiger Beat, and pinned them up on a bulletin board in my bedroom as my cheap-ass plastic stereo spun out gold in the form of songs like Stephen Stills’ “Bluebird” and Neil Young’s “Mr. Soul,” and especially “Rock & Roll Woman.”  The album yielding these memorable songs was the band’s second release, Buffalo Springfield Again, which came out in November 1967.  I was lucky enough to see the band live in concert that same month, when our YMCA boys club got tickets to a “shower of stars” show at Pittsburgh’s Penn Theater on Wednesday, November 22.  The headliner was The Beach Boys, and in addition to Buffalo Springfield, the Strawberry Alarm Clock and a horrible comedy duo called the Pickle Brothers were on the bill.  The show was emceed by KDKA-AM’s Clark Race, and tickets started at just $2.50—but they went all the way up to a whopping $5.50 for the best seats in the house.  We were in the next to last row in an upper balcony, but riveted throughout.  https://youtu.be/8ZmlHSJ30wM

 

6. Be Still My Heart – Peter Bradley Adams…..There’s something about this song…It’s a bit of country/pop that is quietly insistent and gets under your skin with its loping beauty.  I first discovered it on a compilation CD, the Nashville Indie Spotlight 2014, but I believe a slightly altered, slower version is available on an actual Peter Bradley Adams album.  I’m a fan of the former.  Adams has several things going for him here: An understated and breathy vocal style that really serves this particular song, and smart and luscious production on the tune which gives it a gossamer groove that is sweetly addictive.  https://youtu.be/kbjnF8gHGDU

 

7. The Hard Way – James Hunter…..British musician and singer James Hunter was born in 1962, and in some way seems to be frozen in that time period.  On albums and in concert Hunter kicks out some powerful, polished performances, and some of it seems to hearken back to the pre-Beatles era rhythm & blues music.  I happened to catch Hunter in Pittsburgh not too many years ago playing as part of the free summer lineup of musical acts at South Park, and the crowd, though sparse, was electrified by the smooth, insistent soul-blues-funk that flowed out from Hunter’s tight ensemble…“The Hard Way” is the title track from Hunter’s fourth album, released in 2008.  https://youtu.be/Yyp6NqwaBcw

 

8. Johnny Come Lately – Steve Earle…..This song is a rollicking Country-meets-Celtic romp with a political message—sounds like a prescription for a mishmash, but it turned out to be quite a nice meld.  Steve Earle was out with his third album by 1988, and unlike his first which was predominantly country twang, this one, Copperhead Road, sported a rock edge which gained him respect from FM station programmers and also won him new fans across the country from consistent “rock radio” airplay of the title track.  “Johnny Come Lately” is the song, though, that musicasaurus.com keeps revisiting.  Chalk it up to my love for most situations where Irish music meets rock ‘n’ roll, but in this case credit must also go to The Pogues, who guested on the tune with tin whistles, bodhrans, banjos and more.  With the help of these Emerald Isle punkers, Earle pulls off a grin-inducing winner.  https://youtu.be/TJhNAfzwwfc

 

9. The Boy With The Thorn In His Side – The Smiths.....Johnny Marr was the guitar marvel behind the more flamboyant, witty (and cranky) lead singer/songwriter Morrissey, and they were an audaciously talented duo.  “The Boy With The Thorn In His Side” comes from The Smiths’ third album The Queen Is Dead (1986), and the song is reportedly a swipe at a recalcitrant British music industry who apparently took too long to recognize and reward the band with acclaim and airplay.  https://youtu.be/FUsMxUjk-zQ

 

10. Are You Down – Lucinda Williams…..Originally from Lake Charles, Louisiana, Williams spent time in L.A. and Nashville as well, and from early on wasn’t the most prolific cranker-outer of albums.  She released two largely overlooked recordings in 1979 and 1980, and it wasn’t until 1988 that she birthed her third album, the self-titled Lucinda Williams.  This one was followed by 1992’s Sweet Old World and then 1998’s Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, the latter record the one that netted both critical praise and significant over-the-counter sales.  Three years after Car Wheels—which is still perhaps the best blend of this artist’s penchant for rock, blues, country and folk—Williams released the more downbeat and intimate album Essence.  It’s an album to sink into, though, especially with the five-and-a-half minute track “Are You Down,” which is a gorgeous slow ride of slinky, sultry blues...and nuance…and atmospheric organ work and guitar shadings…it’s all there.  Whoa.  https://youtu.be/ncD78Pr7Jis

 

 

 

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Posted 3/11/18.....

FIFTY YEARS AGO     

(egads!)….Ten tunes from the way way back machine: 1968.  

                                                                                                                                      

1. 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 In Search Of The Lost Chord album 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 song 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/oToyFvGYKH8

 

2. Fresh Garbage – Spirit.....This Los Angeles band formed in 1967 and the members brought to it a wide variety of influences and styles—jazz, psychedelic, classical, rock ‘n’ roll, blues and more.  The band also featured two distinctive lead vocalists in Jay Ferguson and Randy California; the latter was a bit of a wunderkind, having played guitar at the age of 15 in New York City with Jimi Hendrix, before the legendary musician went off to London to form the Experience in 1966.  The track “Fresh Garbage” is from Spirit’s eponymous debut albumTheir four albums released between 1968 and 1970—Spirit, The Family That Plays Together, Clear, and Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus—contain some of the most innovative music of that late-Sixties time period, much of it holding up to today’s discerning ears.  https://youtu.be/BWBwXc-ppe8   

 

3. Lather – Jefferson Airplane…..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 then 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 and Jack Casady on rumbling bass, and the two who shared vocal leads and harmonies, Grace Slick and Marty Balin, were a dynamic pairing.  The Airplane was downright sloppy at times during live performances, but when they DID lock into oneness it was mesmerizing.  “Lather” comes from the album Crown of Creation.  https://youtu.be/vSYJ5rqUNJQ

 

4. Wichita Lineman – Glen Campell…..Campbell was incredibly popular in the ‘60s-into-the-‘70s time period 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 countless others.  The song included here comes from Campbell’s album of the same name.  https://youtu.be/foZBLbo9Hlw  

 

5. Light My Fire – José Feliciano.....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' 1967 hit "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 his Feliciano! album) stands the test of time and is a classic, soul-stirring reinvention.  https://youtu.be/rKn446XQ3G0

 

6. Baby’s Callin’ Me Home – Steve Miller Band.....This smooth, bluesy piece of pop is from the Steve Miller Band’s 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. Down So Low – Tracy Nelson And Mother Earth…..Mother Earth came together in San Francisco in 1967, and featured a fireball of a front woman, the Wisconsin born and bred 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 and occasional blues belters.  The band performed a lot in the late ‘60s at Bill Graham’s Fillmore West alongside eventual better-knowns such as Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.  After their debut album Living With The Animals came out in 1968, the band moved to Nashville and toured and recorded out of there.  They hung together until 1977, though by that time Nelson had already started a solo career, hewing to the ballsy, full-throated attack she had honed with the group.  (Notable footnote:  Boz Scaggs was briefly a member of Mother Earth when the band recorded their 1969 album Make A Joyful Noise.)  https://youtu.be/Ns2qEVkhJfo

 

8. 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 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—Getz no better than that.  https://youtu.be/2uQ4bYtJq3Y  

 

9. Sunny—The Electric Flag.....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 a tour de force.  The Flag’s version comes from the band’s self-titled second album.  https://youtu.be/WVe7nDfbj5c

 

10. 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 debut album entitled 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/bq4bponfj2E   

 

 

 

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Posted 2/25/18.....

1979

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 and 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 in the late ‘70s 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.  https://youtu.be/poL04UBmcEk

 

2. Creation Dream – Bruck Cockburn.....Canadian Cockburn—it’s pronounced “Co-burn”, so any nostalgic 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 1970s.  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.  https://youtu.be/2jRj8LrjlAo

 

3. Young Blood – Rickie Lee Jones.....The album from which this track emanates was a stirring and exhilarating self-titled debut that took a lot of people by surprise.  Her unique vocal style and songwriting—reflecting a finger-snapping brew of folk, rhythm & blues, and jazz—had everyone at Warner Brothers Records harboring closely-held hopes that success would surely follow.  The 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.)  https://youtu.be/sCx0f4HWwSY

 

4. A Message To You Rudy – The Specials.....English band The Specials brought a blend of ska, reggae and new wave to the forefront of American audiences in 1979, which sprang out 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 your favorite corner café with ear buds in and not succumb to happy, twitching limbs.  https://youtu.be/ZS9m6E1qG2E  

 

5. Dance Away – Roxy Music.....Manifesto, Roxy Music’s seventh album, came almost four years after the release of the band’s sixth one entitled Viva!Manifesto seemed to shed in large part some of the art rock influences of the earlier records, 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.  https://youtu.be/7lLcZPhTvFE

 

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 here with a nice mix of electric guitar, keyboards and synthesizers; this is especially nice to pop into a playlist that might be set for summertime consumption, top down and cruise-control nixed for a heavy foot on the pedal.  https://youtu.be/mwGzt6sV6yg

 

7. Accidents Will Happen – Elvis Costello & The Attractions.....Costello’s third album released this particular year of 1979—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.  https://youtu.be/BVf2ATFkH7I

 

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 were new wave-y, the next one reggae-based, and the one after that “jump blues” (blues & swing combined).  “It’s Different For Girls” hails from Jackson’s pop/punk-ish second album entitled I’m The Man, and it’s a bit of mid-tempo philosophizin’ about the sexes.  https://youtu.be/Hl5NKt8r_ME

 

9. Lost In The Supermarket – The Clash.....London Calling was the third album from UK punk innovators The Clash and it creatively leapt head & shoulders above their two preceding releases, cutting a punk-edged swath through reggae territory, rockabilly, hard rock, and even lounge jazz.  Politically charged, musically adventurous, and rebellious as hell, The Clash were often called “the only band that matters” (though this phrase actually started out as their record company’s suggested promotional slogan).  This particular London Calling track takes a nice lyrical swipe at consumerism:  “I’m all lost in the supermarket / I can no longer shop happily / I came in here for that special offer / A guaranteed personality.”  https://youtu.be/FwNVTYwFXS0

 

10. Broken English – Marianne Faithfull.....British-born Faithfull was well known in the 1960s as the longtime paramour of Mick Jagger, but in the States was better known for her 1964 pop-chart success “As Tears Go By”.  In the 1970s she split with Mick and delved into drug use; in 1979 she surfaced in the music world once again with a bold new album entitled Broken English.  Her voice was an octave lower, but the praise couldn’t have been higher for this new direction.  The album and its title song amounted to a great career jumpstart and a galvanic reemergence.  https://youtu.be/blH0DJ0pg-Q

 

 

 

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Posted 2/11/18.....

Sacrilege!  Musicasaurus is on the run, so the usual ten-tune post has become three, this time out.  From artists I’ll wager you’ve never heard of, this trio of songs represents richly-produced, infectious pop music at its finest.  All three are hook-laden and will earworm their ways into your head and heart.  Enjoy…

1. Flamin’ Angel – David Mead…..Mead spent years in Nashville after his parents filled his childhood with moves throughout the southern states, and he was an early achiever in music, latching on to his first guitar at the age of 13.  His style is melodic and memorable, owing to influences like The Beatles but also The Police and Rufus Wainwright.  He has logged road miles in support of a number of artists through the years such as John Mayer, Fountains of Wayne, Joe Jackson and others.  Music publications like Mojo and Paste have touted his work, the former calling him “a major tunesmith” and the latter labeling him “one of the best solo crooners such Jeff Buckley.”  “Flamin’ Angel” is the lead-off track to his 2001 release on RCA Records, Mine And Yours.  https://youtu.be/W9PQbkXfk70

 

2. Kidding Ourselves – Stabilo…..This Canadian outfit got together in 1999 and produced some indie releases before embracing a larger label deal with record company EMI Canada.  I honestly forget how I was first exposed to the band’s music, but I was definitely hooked by a few songs from this 2006 release entitled Happiness and Disaster, which was their second album for EMI Canada—and as far as I know, their last release ever.  The band originally went by the name Stabilo Boss, which was a brand of highlighter that they reportedly used early on during the initial process of jotting down potential band names.  Success eluded them in the USA, but across Canada particularly in the middle of the 2000s Stabilo was embraced by radio stations and discerning fans who liked their pop music “smart.”  https://youtu.be/m47msn9s8pI

 

3. Throw Down Your Weapons – Caleb…..Musicasaurus.com’s favorite song of this small sampling of three largely undiscovered pop gems is this one by Caleb (full name Caleb Heineman).  Sometimes a songwriter brings forth a tune that ends up being the signature slice of an album because of the serendipitous convergence of songwriting + assembled musicians + the touch of a pop-savvy producer.  On this album, Caleb’s a star in his own right, with credits including bass, drums and drum programming, E-Bow, guitar, loops, organ, percussion, piano, electric sitar and synthesizer.  And a couple of his recording studio bandmates are notable as well—Gerry Leonard on guitar (session player, and Bowie guitarist on that artist’s Heathen and Reality tours) and Tony Levin (tall, bald, and a wonder on the electric bass, Chapman Stick and upright bass; also a longtime musical sidekick of Peter Gabriel)…Searching the internet, one can’t find too much on Caleb these days.  I believe he is still in his old haunts of New York City working somewhere in sound production, and trotting out occasional homemade solo efforts.  His one major-label bid for recognition—this album, 2001’s Fear of Success—sold poorly.  Unfortunately, it turns out he had nothing to fear.  https://youtu.be/SG8SteX7y9Q

 

 

 

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Posted 1/29/18.....

This mix is served up Southern style…

1. Dreams – Allman Brothers Band.....This classic Allmans tune was, for me, the highlight of their self-titled debut album which hit record stores in 1969.  And damn it, just thinking back on that particular year when I was in high school irks me to no end.  Allow me to explain: One of my Butler (PA) Senior High School classmates Chris Romney reminded me a few years back that I was on the school’s concert committee in ‘69, and I was pestering the living shit out of our teacher-advisor to approve the booking of 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.”  Ultimately the concert committee’s teacher-advisor nixed my idea, saying “Nobody knows who they are”—and we ended up with the Jaggerz instead.  https://youtu.be/53Zy37aNV_g

 

2. Come And Go Blues – Allman Brothers Band.....The band had only been together for a couple of years when tragedy struck.  The group suffered the loss of two key members—Gregg’s older brother and group founder Duane in 1971 and then bassist Berry Oakley in 1972.  The band soldiered on and by the time their Brothers And Sisters album was released in 1973, it sported new members Lamar Williams on bass and 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 best 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 and slide guitar accents.  https://youtu.be/f6MnyHR_PsY  

 

3. 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 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 branded the outfit through a phonetic pun using his first initial and last name).  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.  What you don’t hear here in Sea Level (on this track) is Randall Bramblett, who adds another level to the band through melodic, soft yet gritty vocals.  Bramblett is on display (ear wise) on the next listing in this mix, but first here’s “On the Wing:”  https://youtu.be/selH42b7vKk 

 

4. 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.  Bramblett is a Georgia-born multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter who had spun out two solo albums before joining Sea Level, but it was with the latter band that he really first garnered recognition.  He went on to tour and/or record with rockers Greg Allman, Robbie Robertson, Steve Winwood and was the flautist and sax player with Traffic when they mustered up a reunion tour in the early 1990s.  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 is 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, Bramblett deserves fuller exploration of his very worthwhile solo outings.  https://youtu.be/xcd-0Ev0SDw

 

5. Tuscumbian Lover – Pete Carr.....This tune comes from Carr’s 1976 release Not A Word On It, and the song hooks you immediately with Carr’s deliciously doled out s-l-o-w blues, both nimble and fluid.  About three minutes in, the song revs up to allow Carr some Allman-esque soloing, especially in the last thirty seconds or so.  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, but Carr preferred production and session playing, so he headed off at the age of 20 to Muscle Shoals, Alabama where he put about a thousand notches on his belt with a wide variety of artists.  Carr played with the esteemed Muscle Shoals studio rhythm section all through the 1970s on songs by Wilson Pickett, Aretha, Rod Stewart (“Tonight’s the Night”), Paul Simon (“Kodachrome”), Bob Seger (that’s Carr and his signature sweet guitar tone opening “Main Street”), and a whole lot more.  https://youtu.be/wMMs652fwY4  

 

6. Poison Whiskey – Lynyrd Skynyrd.....The seeds of Skynyrd started in Jacksonville, Florida as early as 1964, but by 1973 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 gave wing to “Free Bird” to land on rock FM stations across the land.  It is 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 Droners 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.  https://youtu.be/vG4n9wdv7TA  

 

7. Don’t Misunderstand Me – The Rossington-Collins Band…..In October 1977 Lynyrd Skynyrd was flying to a show in Baton Rouge from Greenville, South Carolina and their charted Convair CV-240 crashed over Mississippi near the town of Gillsville.  From the ashes, four of the surviving members—Gary Rossington, Allen Collins, Leon Wilkeson and Billy Powell—formed The Rossington-Collins Band in 1979 and released their first album Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere in 1980.  Not wanting to tread Skynyrd waters so that no one would consider this the band reborn, Rossington-Collins added the former .38-Special back-up singer Dale Krantz to the line-up.  Though the band powered through material that was similarly Southern charged, Krant’s vocals lent it an edge with a style and delivery that seemed to, at times, meld Janis Joplin and Cold Blood’s Lydia Pense.  On “Don’t Misunderstood Me,” vocals are shared between Krantz and singer/guitarist Barry Lee Harwood, an Atlanta-based musician who had contributed to a couple of Skynryd albums earlier on.  The song was a sort of a hit on FM radio stations nationwide, with Skynyrd fans embracing these phoenixes who had risen in their new band setting.  https://youtu.be/scnVJFp2ERs

 

 

8.  “Lucy Was In Trouble” and “That’s All Right” -- Wet Willie…..Jimmy Hall—vocalist, harmonica & sax wielder—puts the wet in Willie.  He’s smooth, sometimes raucous, and lets his pent-up passion spill out in a bluesy, almost R & B fashion.  At some point after leaving the band, Hall connected with Jeff Beck and the singer showed up on Beck’s 1985 release Flash.  There are two tracks here that musicasaurus.com would like you to sample from Hall’s Wet Willie days; one shows Hall in great form in this studio recording of “Lucy Was In Trouble” from the band's 1974 release Keep On Smilin’, and the other track worth a mention is a raw live-in-concert performance from 1973’s Drippin Wet album.  “Lucy”  https://youtu.be/dP8vzyRxZsc >>> “That’s All Right”  https://youtu.be/eR-0yPHT0Vo

 

9. Take the Highway -- The Marshall Tucker Band…..The opening to this song transfixed me the first time I heard it back in the early ‘70s, partially because I was plain hungry to find Southern rock bands that could stand toe to toe with the Allman Brothers.  I am not saying that Marshall managed that at all, but their sound was captivating on its own terms with the blend of electric and acoustic guitars, pedal steel, keyboards and flute.  They stretched boundaries a bit, too, with some country twang and some instrumental jam passages tossed into their rockers and ballads.  The band hailed from South Carolina and were reportedly named for a local Spartanburg blind piano tuner.  They rode FM radio success starting in 1972 with the release of their self-titled debut (from which this track is taken), and even with various members dropping away through the decades, the band still tours.  Candidly, though, just one original member is with ‘em—vocalist Doug Gray.  After Doug departs, they may have to resort to calling up an original roadie’s nephew.  https://youtu.be/SOSLbeG-Who

 

10. Longshot -- Henry Paul Band…..I have met a few stars in my time, particularly because of working in the music business from 1976-2007, and on a few occasions I have had the chance to actually hang out with one of them—but never ‘til 4am in a hotel room, until my night with Henry Paul. 

Okay, that sounds…incriminating?!!  But to be clear, this particular hangout was really more like “a post-concert lounging”—mixed company, mixed drinks, and everyone crammed into a couple of joined-room suites celebrating (uh, not so vociferously as we neared 4am, though) a pretty incredible evening of music that we all just had on the waters of the Three Rivers of Pittsburgh. 

It was the summer of 1980, and my employer National Record Mart (at the time, a multi-state “player” in the retail record outlet business) was hosting a store managers’ convention at a decent Pittsburgh hotel.  Part of the entertainment for the store managers was an evening on board a touristy steamer on the Monongahela River, and it was a hot, starry July night when the Henry Paul Band delivered a sizzling set of country rock to the captive record retailers. 

Back in the hotel around 11pm, people gravitated toward friends and peer partyers and splintered off in all directions, but a core group found its way to the band’s suites, and the conviviality continued on…

The evening was largely that energizing to us all because the group was one of the tightest rock outfits a lot of us had ever seen—especially up that close.  Singer/rhythm guitarist Paul had spent formative years with The Outlaws, one of the pillars of the Southern sound, and his new band seemed born of the same fury and finesse.  The song included here, “Long Shot,” is from the band’s 1980 release Feel The Heat, and it is full of urgent, chiming guitars and some real rock crunch here and there.  All these years later it may be largely aural nostalgia feeding my pleasure centers here, and that’s okay.  These reflections back to right time, right place are sure sweet to savor…  https://youtu.be/5rD5B_kbzOM

 

 

 

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Posted 1/15/18.....

  V I O L I N S... 

featuring this sweeping, soaring, occasionally stabbing instrument in songs ranging from classical to Celtic to prog-rock to da bluez…

1. Angele Dubeau & La Pieta – “I Giorni” from Ludovico Einaudi, Portrait (2015).....Dubeau is a Canadian violinist who’s pretty well renowned for some sweet excursions on this instrument.  Here she covers Italian pianist/composer Ludovico Einaudi, who trafficked in minimalism but who also had an ear for pop and other influences.  The song listed here is a beautiful piece; hearing it on Classical 89.3 WQED one morning while driving to work, I just had to reach out to the station's program director Bryan Sejvar to find out who the artist was, and since then I’ve sunk into and willingly succumbed to the rest of the CD.  https://youtu.be/RF6PBLJNkME

 

2. Don “Sugarcane” Harris with The Mothers of Invention –“Directly From My Heart to You” from The Mothers’ album Weasels Ripped My Flesh (1970).....This was straight ahead blues-rock Zappa, integrated into the usual zany and expertly executed hodgepodge of other tunes on this album that sports a surreal, provocative album cover illustration by Neon Park.  Park was an American illustrator who is best known in the small but fervent and smug circle of Little Feat fans who treasure his album artwork on that band’s output through the ‘70s.  Harris, who also gigged with John Mayall, blues legend John Lee Hooker, and others, plays violin and sings on this gritty, tear-out-your-soul tune originally recorded and performed by Little Richard.  https://youtu.be/z6bCRqEA_NI

 

3. Eileen Ivers – “March Up Fifth” from Crossing The Bridge (1999).....The violin, in my book, is often best in the hand of the Irish.  Though Ivers was born in New York City, she had parents born in the Emerald Isle and first fiddled about musically at the age of nine.  She may be best known for getting in on the early side of Riverdance, the Irish stage phenomenon launched in 1995 in Dublin by dancer Michael Flatley, a show that still percolates today through small theaters across the globe.  In the track selected here, Ivers shows that it's her rock ‘n’ roll heart that pumps her Irish blood.  https://youtu.be/HRQqEfP-W80

 

4. Stéphane Grappelli – “Oriental Shuffle” from Young Django (1980).....Frenchman Grappelli (1908-1997) mustered a forty-year recording career out of his virtuosity from the mid-‘50s through the mid-‘90s.  To historians and fan-atics, Grappelli is revered most for his 1930s collaborations with Gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt who together founded the Quintette du Hot Club de France in 1934.  By the time the ‘70s and ‘80s rolled around, Grappelli had played on hundreds of recordings including those of Duke Ellington, Paul Simon, Oscar Peterson, David Grisman, Yo Yo Ma, and Toots Thielemans—even on a Pink Floyd record, 1975’s Wish You Were Here, where his handiwork is heard in the title track (but only in the 2011 Experience and Immersion editions of that album).  The track listed here, “Oriental Shuffle,” made its first recorded appearance on 1955’s Le Jazz Hot, a Grappelli and Reinhardt record.  The version that musicasaurus.com has chosen for you here is from 1980, and Grappelli is backed up by guitarists Larry Coryell and Philip Catherine, and bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen.  At a certain juncture Grappelli edges out the ensemble, and for the listener, this sweetens the senses like some celestial caress for the remaining two minutes of the tune.  https://youtu.be/BLEVbX8cDSM

 

5. Darlingside – “God of Loss” from Birds Say (2015).....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/folk series of shows at the prestigious Carnegie Lecture Hall which adjoins the Carnegie Museums of Art & Natural History.  Their music is hard to categorize; it’s indie-folk with wisps of classical, but includes other weavings as well.  These four Williams College alumni started out as a choral unit, but now play bass, violin, guitar, cello and kick drum while blending all four voices clustered around a single, self-standing microphone.  Mesmerizing stuff…Here, they were recorded live in 2014 by Audiotree, an entity who produces studio sessions and live-streaming concerts and more, and bills itself as “a multi-faceted artist discovery platform.”  https://youtu.be/bAtPeX6Xuxo

 

6. Jean-Luc Ponty – “The Gardens of Babylon” from Imaginary Voyage (1976).....Classically trained French 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 through his own group-led efforts in 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 jazz fans but the in-the-know rock ‘n’ rollers as well.  Some of the shows I saw from that period—in Pittsburgh venues like the Stanley Theatre and the Syria Mosque—were absolutely transcendent.  (I don’t know if you would glean the same high praise from jazz purists and classic rock die-hards, but for those of us who populated the realm in between—and who didn’t draw boundaries—these Ponty albums and concerts were revelations.)  https://youtu.be/R2ENEnxZQL0

 

7. Dickon Hinchliffe – “Hardscrabble Elegy” from the movie soundtrack Winter’s Bone (2010).....This song is a sweet and tender instrumental from a sometimes brutal, evocative 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.  https://youtu.be/uJ9g8Y9czVY

 

8. Black Violin – “Stereotypes” from the album of the same name (2015).....Black Violin is a contemporary duo of hip-hop artists from Florida who are classically trained on their instruments—Kev Marcus on violin and Wil B. on viola.  They have been merging beats & rhythms with classical music and making waves since 2004, and the song listed here is from their third album Stereotypes, their major label debut.  On October 13, 2017 as part of their Classical Boom tour the duo played the Byham Theater in Pittsburgh, and Post-Gazette reviewer Jeremy Reynolds said in a post-concert piece that their Pitt stop included two shows—a sold-out evening concert, and a matinee performance that day for school children.  About the latter, Reynolds wrote, “The matinee featured the music of Bruno Mars and Imagine Dragons alongside Bach and more. Marcus performed on an electric violin, and both musicians were heavily amplified to mix with DJ SPS and their drummer Nat Stokes…The pair’s joy is infectious—they kept up a steady banter throughout the 90-minute performance, inviting the audience to take photos and videos, sing along and dance…The musicians spoke to the crowd about thinking outside the box and how classical music had provided them a means to see the world on their own terms.”  https://youtu.be/WYerKidQGcc

 

9. Jerry Goodman with multi-instrumentalist Tristan Des Pres – “When We Were Children” from Altered States (2000)…..This is kind of a new age bop-a-long that has spirit, spunk, and pluck.  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 and sound effects for major players in the videogame industry.  The star of this recorded selection for the Altered States album, however, is American violinist Jerry Goodman.  Hailing from Chicago, Goodman played with a cult-level prog-rock band called The Flock all the way through their brief 1960’s career, and then played with guitarist John McLaughlin’s formidable jazz-rock unit Mahavishnu Orchestra, and later on, both Shadowfax and The Dixie Dregs.  On “ When We Were Children,” 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 fusion-fed instrumentalist.  https://youtu.be/yR8SkEejGCA

 

10. Billy Oskay and Mícheál Ó Domhnaill – “The Cricket’s Wicket” from Nightnoise (1984).....New Yorker Oskay and Irish guitarist Mícheál Ó Domhnaill met in 1983 and together crafted a blend of Irish, jazz and classical music.  They also probably then suffered the “New Age” music tag that was applied by critics to a wide swatch of meditative works that floated out to consumers beginning in the 1980s, with the rise—in some circles—of Windham Hill, the record label that scooped up a number of these easy-on-the-ears musicians & recordings.  Oskay and Ó Domhnaill, though, perfected a style that is harmonic and hypnotic, beating back criticism through their instrumental expertise and excellent patient pacing.  “The Cricket’s Wicket” is piano, violin, viola, acoustic guitar and harmonium—oh, and the cricket chirps in at the song’s conclusion.  This dreamy Celtic piece cries out for loud volume on a traditional stereo set-up—so ear budders, please dust off that system that probably lays fallow in your living room.  https://youtu.be/sjHG55c0H04

 

 

 

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Posted 1/1/18.....

Fairly safe in saying that we ALL like to give the gift of time to someone very special, as often as we can…and so what if you gave that certain someone a themed playlist of songs with “time” in the title?  I’d say, HIGH TIME.

1. Time Is On My Side – The Rolling Stones.....This Jerry Ragovoy composition was originally recorded by jazz trombonist Kai Winding & his Orchestra in 1963.  A year later, another composer fleshed out the lyrics and presented the song to American soul and R & B singer Irma Thomas—and it’s this version that the Stones recorded for their 1964 album entitled 12 x 5.  The track became the Stones’ first Top Ten single in America, and it was also the song that the Stones’ covered in their very first Ed Sullivan Show appearance on American television.  https://youtu.be/Ge7FdUa2nwc

 

2. Nick Of Time – Bonnie Raitt.....This is the title track of Raitt’s 1989 album which was chronologically her tenth, and a full 18 years after her initial release.  Widespread success came along slowly for this blues-infused slide guitarist and singer, but Nick of Time—produced by Don Was—thrust her into the Public Eye (er...Ear) to an unprecedented level.  Nick of Time won the 1990 Grammy for Album of the Year, and this title track is a genuinely moving song about the passage of time and finding that “Life gets mighty precious when there’s less of it to waste”...  https://youtu.be/1az0S7z_3LI

 

3. Too Much Time – Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band.....This MAY be one of a handful of audibly digestible songs—on a mass consumption level, at least—that Beefheart (b. 1941 - d. 2010) ever produced.  The rest of his musical output is quirky to the extreme, challenging for his musicians and ultimately his listeners as well.  But he was also tremendously influential by way of the sonic stews he created in the late 1960s through early 1980s, a calculated mix-and-mashing of deep-down blues, free jazz, and rock ‘n’ roll, all fronted by his bizzaro vocal bark.  This track is from Beefheart’s 1972 album Clear Spot; the song may be his album producer’s vision of a rare stab at the mainstream, perhaps—but it has just enough Beefheart to skew it, which keeps it interesting.  https://youtu.be/xzn5c3qn648

 

4. Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? – Chicago Transit Authority.....I’m sure I just scored “points” with the Rock History Illuminati (wherever They may be), because I listed Chicago Transit Authority as the artist, and not simply Chicago...The band formed in the Windy City in 1967, and under the tutelage of Columbia Records producer James William Guercio produced a double-album debut in 1969 as Chicago Transit Authority.  Before the release of the band’s second album, the real Chicago Transit Authority (yes, the city’s transportation department) objected to their name being used, and so Chicago was born.  This track is a snappy, horn-driven piece of pop-rock that’s truly representative of this band’s early (and pioneering) efforts to convincingly combine jazz influenced arrangements with the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll.  https://youtu.be/PatbEOx21rE

 

5. Right In Time – Lucinda Williams.....Ye Gods, it’s hot in here—this song should be called “Lucinda On A Hot Tin Roof.”  This track from 1998’s Car Wheels On A Gravel Road is keenly produced and sizzles in its depiction of a woman who longs for her lover’s touch.  Hailing from Lake Charles, Louisiana, Williams is a roots-rock treasure with a great vocal style all of her own, and some of the best songwriting around.  https://youtu.be/RARUdBxCrVs

 

6. So Little Time To Fly – Spirit.....This Los Angeles band formed in 1967 and the members brought to it a wide variety of influences and styles—jazz, psychedelic, classical, rock ‘n’ roll, blues and more.  The band also featured two distinctive lead vocalists in Jay Ferguson and Randy California; the latter also was a gifted guitarist who almost was drafted by Hendrix at one point to go to London to help form the Jimi Hendrix Experience.  That fell through—but only because California was 15 years old at the time, and wasn’t allowed to go...The track “So Little Time To Fly” is from Spirit’s third studio recording Clear, and it features California on lead vocals amidst his typically inventive guitar work.  The four albums between 1968 and 1970—Spirit, The Family That Plays Together, Clear, and Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus—sport some of the best innovative band work of that late sixties time period, much of it “holding up” to today’s discerning ears.  https://youtu.be/lyrEo_xk2q4

 

7. Man Out Of Time – Elvis Costello & the Attractions.....A screech and a rave-up kicks off and then also completes this song, and in between is a literate, lyrically fine Costello ballad that I could somehow see Springsteen and the E Street Band covering (it could be the Bittan-like piano and the overall grandeur of the tune).  “Man Out Of Time” comes from Costello’s seventh album Imperial Bedroom, which is flush with complex but always engaging pop and near-Tin-Pan-Alley type of arrangements.  https://youtu.be/5X3npaRnjsg

 

8. Out Of Time – Sam Phillips.....Sam (real first name: Leslie) Phillips is a singer/songwriter from Glendale, California who started her musical career in Christian music in 1984.  Her first secular release came in 1988 with the album The Indescribable Wow, from which this track is taken...Her voice has a tad of “sixties girl group” in it, and/or a touch of Cyndi Lauper, but her songwriting has depth, her lyrics have bite, and her arrangements and overall album production are first rate.  https://youtu.be/fyQ4GSkgsLo

 

9. Time Stand Still – Rush.....Truth be told, I am not a huge Rush fan though I did see the 2009 buddy comedy I Love You, Man, and I would have gladly gone to that concert with Paul Rudd and Jason Segel.  What drew me initially to this tune was the chorus cameo by Aimee Mann, who adds a nice slice of harmony on top of Geddy Lee’s distinctive tenor.  With repeated listenings, I found a true integrity in the stops-pulled-out approach to this driving, rhythmic tune and the unabashedly honest lyrics about the fleeting nature of our lives…The song hails from the band’s twelfth studio album Hold Your Fire, released in 1987.  https://youtu.be/dpxT-L_mv1o

 

10. Memphis In The Meantime – John Hiatt.....Hiatt’s first record came out in 1974, and this prolific singer/songwriter kept churning out albums to great acclaim from critics, yet he never seemed able to spark any momentum with the masses.  Though other artists covered his songs—Bonnie Raitt, Ronnie Milsap, Iggy Pop, Bob Dylan, and even Three Dog Night—Hiatt remained under the radar in terms of his own output all the way up to his 1987 release Bring The Family.  This VERY fine album was cut in just four days, and it features a quartet of seasoned players:  Hiatt on guitar and vocals, Ry Cooder on lead guitar, Nick Lowe on bass, and Jim Keltner on drums.  There are a number of outstanding tracks on Bring The Family including the classic ballad “Have A Little Faith In Me,” but it’s “Memphis In The Meantime”—the album’s lead-off track—that is a full-on groove, blending rock ‘n’ roll with country swagger and some rhythm & blues.  https://youtu.be/eaqH3HqhWls

 

 

 

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Posted 12/4/17.....

Various Artists’ mix.....OBSCURITIES.  Less than household names—a dollop or two from each decade since the ‘60s.

1. From the 1960s… Buzzin’ Fly -- Tim Buckley.....from Happy Sad (1969).....Back in the 1960s and early 1970s Tim Buckley was the tenor of the times, but his followers were few (but fervent).  He was an angelically voiced troubadour who started out primarily as a folkie on his first couple of albums, and by Happy Sad--his third--he had eased into incorporating some jazz flavorings and freeform touches.  “Buzzin’ Fly” from this particular album flits and floats for a full six minutes, buoyed by vibraphonist David Friedman and Buckley’s unbridled soaring...The singer-songwriter perished at an early age (28) due to a drug overdose; the son he had sired--Jeff--found a musical calling of his own in the 1990s, but also died young in an accidental drowning at the age of 30.  https://youtu.be/yUmK7rgiMM4  

 

2. From the 1970s… Shake The Devil -- Tommy Bolin.....from the album Private Eyes, the artist’s second solo release (1976).....Guitarist Bolin never made it into “The 27 Club”, that illustrious group of here-and-goners like Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix who all died at the age of 27.  Bolin died two years before that magic, tragic age--but like ¾ of the aforementioned 27ers, he too ambled into The Next Life courtesy of an overdose.  “Shake The Devil” is a flat-out classic rocker, but it is Tommy’s tone that sustains interest and illustrates his economy of style--always the right note, not always in a flurry; and when he DOES unleash, it is all the more powerful because of what’s come before (listen to the too-short, rip-roaring fadeout at song’s end).  Bolin’s other works are worth checking into as well; though he stinted (to just average results) in a few James Gang and Deep Purple albums, he excelled on his two solo albums and as guest guitarist on a couple of jazz-rock recordings--Billy Cobham’s Spectrum and Alphonse Mouzon’s Mind Transplant.  https://youtu.be/IB4gWLHsMo8  

 

3. From the 1970s… Your Face On Someone Else -- Mallard.....From 1976’s In A Different Climate, the band’s second and final album.....Mallard consisted of the very talented players in Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band, who were by various reports hard schooled by the Captain while under his wing.  Dismayed by the autocratic atmosphere and disappointed with the latest Beefheart release Unconditionally Guaranteed, Bill Harkleroad, Mark Boston and Art Tripp III left the Magic Band and formed Mallard in 1974. The band initially added keyboardist John “Rabbit” Bundrick and vocalist Sam Galpin, and continued in the vein of sophisticated and edgy art rock.  The track “Your Face On Someone Else” is from Mallard’s second and final album In A Different Climate, and showcases shifting time signatures and sterling musicianship, aided by the gravelly vocals of Galpin.  The lyrics on this one are intriguing as well:  “I saw your face on someone else today / I should have turned and walked away / But like a child I just had to stop and stare / Your face is strange when you’re not there.”  https://youtu.be/g30-13KDiTU

 

4. From the 1970s… Swept Away -- Steve Hunter.....from the artist’s 1977 solo album of the same name.....Hunter might be mistakenly branded as just a classic rock guitarist, having recorded & toured in the early 1970s with both Alice Cooper and Lou Reed.  He did excel in that category, mind you, via a career highpoint as one of the two passionate powerhouses on Reed’s live Rock N Roll Animal album from 1974.  Three years after, though, Hunter released a deliciously diverse debut album on the Atco label which included two instrumental masterworks—a full frontal assault on The Byrd’s “Eight Miles High” and sailing, wailing cover of The Beach Boys’ “Sail On Sailor”.  The crowning achievement on record, however, was the title tune “Swept Away”.  This track reveals Hunter to be an astonishing guitar talent full of flourish and imagination, deploying power chords, nimble accents, achingly lovely sustain--it’s all there, and is better appreciated at a loud volume and, like a great novel, by repeat visits.  https://youtu.be/e95MkDHsYYs   

 

5. From the 1980s… Annie’s Tellin’ Me -- Tom Verlaine.....from Flashlight, the artist’s 5th solo outing (1987).....Verlaine was the principal singer-songwriter and one of two punk-fueled guitarists in the legendary band Television, which found a safe harbor and creative melting-pot setting in New York City’s revered CBGB club in the mid-to-late 1970s.  This musical haven hosted the rise and rippling out of pioneering new wave acts from that era, including The Patti Smith Group,Talking Heads, The Ramones, Blondie and more...Television was notable for its interlocking guitars, an incredible weave that complemented Verlaine’s vocals which are hard to pin down--there’s some Lou Reed in there, some punkish quavering, and at times almost an integrated yelp or two.  Regardless of your penchant and position on Verlaine’s voice, the songs themselves and the guitar work are exemplary.  There are some standout tracks from Television, but musicasaurus.com leans toward Verlaine’s solo output for the truly stirring stuff.  Let “Annie’s Tellin’ Me” unfurl for you, and take delight in the propulsive swing of this guitar-driven and hook-laden blast of energy.  https://youtu.be/fXishMjR17A  

 

6. From the 1980s… Bound By The Beauty -- Jane Siberry.....from the artist’s album of the same name, released in 1989.....Canadian singer-songwriter Siberry may remind some folks of British chanteuse Kate Bush in terms of vocal range and quirky, riveting songwriting.  Her style is a smart blend of pop with hints of folk, jazz and chamber music, and even a touch of operatic fervor.  “Bound By The Beauty” is one of her most accessible, irrepressible tunes and a minute or so into it, the multi-tracked harmonies kick into the song’s chorus, a song-shift passage that stays with the listener long afterward.  In a 1999 interview on web mag Perfect Sound Forever, Siberry answers a question of interview Ian Grey in relation to spirituality in her work.  Siberry says “There's nothing I can say like, ‘My parents were Buddhists’ or whatever. The first church is nature. That's the first thing I ever trusted spiritually that was of a design far beyond my understanding.”  And this is certainly evidenced in “Bound By The Beauty”, where Siberry rolls through her lyrical paean to our physical world:  “I'm bound by the fire
/ I'm bound by the beauty / I'm bound by desire / I'm bound by the duty / I'm coming back in 500 years / And the first thing I'm gonna do / When I get back here / Is to see these things I love / And they'd better be here, better be here / Better be here. / And first I'm going to find a forest / And stand there in the trees / And kiss the fragrant forest floor / And lie down in the leaves / And listen to the birds sing / The sweetest sound you'll hear...”  https://youtu.be/QoXL_JEXGKc

 

7. From the 1990s… Lester’s Methadone Clinic -- Sonia Dada.....from A Day At The Beach (1995).....Sonia Dada is a Chicago-based band that straddles funk, pop-rock, soul and R & B, and this cauldron of stuff culminates in unique and fetching output like “Lester’s Methadone Clinic”, a tale told from the point of view of a user who cherishes the chance to nestle into this safety net:  “Down at Lester’s Methadone Clinic / Gotta be down for you to be in it / It may take you the rest of your days / To get away from the warmth of an opiated haze / Down at Lester’s Methadone Clinic / Indoor plumbing is just the beginning / They’ve got the psycho analytic devices / Gonna blow the blues off your shoes and eradicate your vices...”  All of this lyric spin is rooted in finger-snapping funk, with swirling doo-wop inspired vocal parts from the band’s three singers, jazzy piano stabs and a subtle percussive bedrock.  With their myriad of influences and musical stew approach, Sonia Dada sounds blessedly unlike a lot of the fodder trotted out as “recommended” by streaming services and iTunes, who seem to pad their queues based on attractive formulas versus wide-ranging individualism.  http://youtu.be/OUJI9Uwb3fo

 

8. From the 1990s… Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) -- Angelique Kidjo.....from her 1998 release Oremi..... It was through a local public radio station that I first heard this supercharged reinvention back in 1998, and actually I was happy for Jimi, thinkin’ he’d found just the right soul still here among us to attempt this cover.  Kidjo is truly a musician of the world, hailing from West Africa’s republic of Benin and forging many pathways to musical collaborations well beyond her borders.  I saw her headline at a small club in Pittsburgh called Rosebud some years ago and she was electrifying, a musical ambassador with a melting pot song list, full of spirit and spunk at the microphone.  Over the years Kidjo has recorded, performed and/or toured with artists as diverse as The Dave Matthews Band, Alicia Keys, Branford Marsalis, Peter Gabriel, The Kronos Quartet, Santana, John Legend, Bono, Philip Glass, and Josh Groban...For those of us who revere the work of Hendrix, we are lucky that Kidjo had the daring and the chops to take on one of his gold standards and actually produce a classic of her own.  https://youtu.be/NOZTvzks1YY

 

9. From the 2000s… Come -- New Invisible Joy.....from Pale Blue Day, the band’s 2000 debut....Pittsburgh-based New Invisible Joy had been playing the regional circuit for a few years before their 2000 recording debut, and they amassed admirers with a sound unlike most others plying their trade in the ‘burgh at the time—the ethereal, soaring vocals of John Schisler meshing easily with Edgy guitarist Mike Gaydos.  Comparisons to Radiohead and U2 accompanied the band’s live and recorded exploits, and some major record labels were sniffing them out especially during the early and mid 2000s.  There are a few YouTube clips available now that give you a sense of the band’s onstage focus and precision, though most I saw are audience-member recording quality only.  “Come” is a typically arresting, atmospheric effort from the band, which floats like a butterfly (on Schisler’s vocals) and then stings like a B (for “Britpop”) effects-filled guitar.  Excellent stuff—we should charge any of these previously hovering record labels with criminal negligence in terms of not signing up one of Pittsburgh’s most innovative and appealing indie bands.  https://youtu.be/77UpUEvDBY0

 

10. From the 2000s… Little Black Sandals -- Sia.....from her 4th solo effort Some People Have Real Problems (2008).....The opening :30 seconds is sweet, coy and inviting, and then a sultry voice slides into play…Australian-born Sia, last name Furler, is best known (in some circles) for her singing gigs starting around 2001 with Zero 7, a British duo successful in the melding of dreamy pop, electronica, lounge and trip hop.  She continually makes her way around the upper stratosphere of adventurous musical collaborators like Eminem, Beck, Flo Rida, Jamiroquai, Rihanna, and more, and has released six solo albums between 1997 and present day.  On “Little Black Sandals”, Sia embraces a well-written, well- produced pop song that should rightfully have been in a hundred thousand ear buds across the land, if there were any justice; her voice is remarkable in a sensual sonic setting like this.  https://youtu.be/KetgdMXQPcQ  

 

 

 

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Posted 12/4/17.....

1994 ...

Last time in BUILDING A MIXTERY we featured songs from 1967, which delighted some readers and left others aghast (those who actually remembered those selections as “new”—whew!).  So let’s jump ahead here at least a couple of decades to plumb the early 1990s, because that was another time period of great musical innovation and artistry—enjoy.

1. Come As You Are (live) – Nirvana.....from MTV Unplugged In New York.....This live-in-the-studio recording for MTV is available on both CD and DVD, and it captures the band studiously avoiding their most popular songs in favor of “deeper cuts” and covers of the Meat Puppets, the Vaselines, and Bowie.  MTV Unplugged In New York was the band’s first album to be released after Kurt Cobain’s suicide.  He was only 27 years old at the time of his death, making him a member of Rock’s extinguished—er, distinguished—“27 Club.”  https://youtu.be/eGqBM_r932s

 

2. Hallelujah – Jeff Buckley.....from the album Grace.....Like father, like son…In 1997 singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley died unexpectedly at the age of 30, and his musician father passed away twenty-two years earlier at the age of 28.  Both were tragic losses in terms of their musical output still to come; both were song sirens with amazing vocal ranges (predominantly tenor).  Buckley’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah” is a gift, and there are at least two other standout tracks on this one and only studio album from his living years, “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over” and “Last Goodbye”.  https://youtu.be/y8AWFf7EAc4

 

3. Better Man – Pearl Jam.....from Vitalogy.....This was Pearl Jam’s third studio album, and they were churning out edgy punk-inspired experimental stuff that sacrificed none of the onslaught approach of the first two records.  Other notable tracks on this 1994 release included “Nothingman,” “Corduroy” and “Spin The Black Circle.”  On the local (Pittsburgh) front:  Pearl Jam had first burst into SW Pennsylvania two years before this album’s release as part of the travelling musical freak show called Lollapalooza (Star Lake Amphitheatre, 8/16/92).  They slew the audience with tracks from their 1991 debut album Ten, and a blistering cover of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley.”  https://youtu.be/hbpUfWz-rlc

 

4. Wild Night – John Mellencamp.....from Dance Naked.....This was Mellencamp’s 13th album, and commercially he was on the wane after a spectacular run of hits and popularity with heartland audiences throughout the 1980s.  On Dance Naked, eclectic American-born singer-songwriter Meshell Ndegeocello joined him on this cover of Van Morrison’s rollicking original from the latter’s 1971 album Tupelo Honey.  https://youtu.be/1aoywIHLqbs

 

5. Selling The Drama – Live.....from Throwing Copper.....Early on in their high school days of playing together, this band from York, Pennsylvania once went by the name Body Odor Boys, so the name change may have been one of their first conscious (or unconscious) steps toward career sustainability.  A great “live” band, Live played famed music club CBGB in New York City’s East Village early on, and hooked up with Jerry Harrison of Talking Heads as producer for an EP of theirs that was soon followed by a full-sized debut entitled Mental Jewelry (1991).  This first record plus some savvy television bookings and festival appearances paved the way for Throwing Copper in 1994, which threw off hits that rock radio stations eagerly plucked for their playlists such as “I Alone” and the irrepressible “Lightning Crashes.”  Musicasaurus.com’s pick of that litter, though, is “Selling The Drama.”  https://youtu.be/5Y1nSnWU_GI  

 

6. Loser – Beck.....from Mellow Gold.....This album was Beck’s third, and his first for a major label as a result of a bidding war over this nonsensical, hypnotic bit of rap ‘n’ roll.  Today, Beck is revered as a grand experimenter of styles and tones; back in 1994, Robert Christgau (veteran music critic of NYC’s Village Voice) had this to say about the lad and the album that bore “Loser:”  “He's a folkie-punk version of, well, the Young Bob Dylan, except that he also loves hooks enough to cast his net wider than the Young David Johansen, finding them everywhere from an electric sitar to an illicitly taped tirade from a ‘Vietnam vet playin' air guitar’ downstairs.  Full of fun and loaded with 'tude, he doesn't care what you think of him and makes you love it, right down to the nose-thumbing bummer dirges that close each side.  Proving how cool you are by making an album that sounds like shit is easy.  Proving how cool you are by making an album that comes this close to sounding like shit is damn hard—unless you're damn talented.”  https://youtu.be/YgSPaXgAdzE

 

7. Ants Marching – Dave Matthews Band.....from Under The Table And Dreaming.....1994 was the recording debut of the Dave Matthews Band, and also the first year they graced Pittsburgh, appearing on a festival bill at Star Lake Amphitheatre on August 21, 1994.  They were part of the H.O.R.D.E. (Horizons of Rock Developing Everywhere) Festival founded by Blues Traveler principal John Popper in 1992; Popper also played harmonica on DMB’s Under The Table And Dreaming (on the track “What Would You Say”).  “Ants Marching” is pretty much still the band’s signature tune, and explores a familiar theme—ALL of us are tromping through our daily lives busy as hell, suppressing and holding in mental check the things that are really of value and importance:  “And all the little ants are marching / Red and black antennae waving / They all do it the same / They all do it the same way” (it’s a wonder more of us don’t commit insecticide).  https://youtu.be/nE5p3acSloM

 

8. Fell On Black Days – Soundgarden.....from Superunknown.....This album was the Seattle band’s bludgeoning and quite tuneful fourth release, the one that brought them widespread acclaim critically and commercially.  It was dense and delicious, sounding as if the crew of Zeppelin had decided to steer toward sky’s-the-limit alternative rock.  Other key tracks on Superunknown:  “Black Hole Sun” and “Spoonman.”  https://youtu.be/ySzrJ4GRF7s

 

 

NOTE!  Both #9 and #10 rounding out our list here are noteworthy Pittsburgh-area debuts in this year of 1994—one was chock-full of tribal seasonings, and the other became a seasonal favorite.

9. Send Me On My Way – Rusted Root.....from When I Woke..... This band formed in Pittsburgh in 1990 and independently released the album Cruel Sun in 1992, then signing with major label Mercury Records for the recording and subsequent release of a fan favorite and financial windfall, 1994’s When I Woke.  These days, Root is reconstituted with three of its original members still intact (Michael Glabicki, Liz Berlin and Patrick Norman), and the band’s most recent album is 2012’s The Movement though they’re said to be working on a new release for 2018.  In April of this year, Glabicki had this to say about the success of “Send Me On My Way” in an interview conducted with the Charleston Daily (Charleston, South Carolina): “I was very low key about it.  Many in my circle in Pittsburgh knew right away it would be a hit song.  Songs have a way of attracting people to them like magnets.  Whether it is the record label, promotions, radio, movie soundtracks or television, the avenue it finds the listener varies, but when it does, it has a profound effect.”  https://youtu.be/IGMabBGydC0

10. Joy To The World – B.E. Taylor.....from B.E. Taylor Christmas.....Reportedly the idea for this all-holiday music release was the prior teaming-up of Western PA rockers B.E. Taylor and Donnie Iris on a made-for-radio Christmas cover of “Silent Night.”  This song was a keenly produced rock rearrangement, and Taylor spun this idea into 1994’s twelve-track B.E. Taylor Christmas album, an immediate regional hit on radio and on fans’ seasonal gift lists.  The album then spawned a holiday concert in Wheeling, West Virginia in 1996, leading to an annual tradition of rockin’ ‘round the Christmas tree in multiple nights at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Hall, as well as one-nighters in a host of other cities.  B.E. Taylor Christmas is a refreshing realignment of holiday classics, infused as much with the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll as the spirit of the season.  Taylor passed away in August 2016 and so quite sincerely we say, God rest that merry, gentle man…  This version of “Joy To The World” is actually a live one, recorded in December 2009 at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Hall: https://youtu.be/AxzZMIYurLc

 

 

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Posted 11/20/17.....

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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