Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Dominoes: Sixty Minute Man

Well, it has finally occurred. I have reached my sixtieth birthday. I don’t remember the nature of my conversation with my boss two weeks ago, but it may have been because we opted to take the elevator rather than climbing four flights of stairs. I made the comment, “Well it’s not like I’m sixty or anything.” Immediately, the cold slap of reality hit me and I said – well, I won’t be able to say that in two weeks. Yes, time has a way of catching up to us. I’m just glad I’m here. My father and grandfather never made it to being 50 let alone 60.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been debating on what to play on this auspicious occasion. The only song with 60 in its title, of which I am aware, was the 1951 R&B hit by The Dominoes “Sixty Minute Man.” It is an important recording in musical history as it vies as being one of the recordings that was responsible for the creation of rock ‘n roll.

While there is much debate on which song holds those honors, there are dozens of tunes that have been considered in hindsight. I tend to lean towards Jackie Brensten’s “Rocket 88,” but that’s my personal choice. “Sixty Minute Man” was recorded three months earlier on December 30, 1950 and was released in May of the next year.

While some consider it a novelty record, “Sixty Minute Man” did quite well on the charts holding the number one slot on the R&B charts for 14 weeks. It crossed over to the pop charts where it peaked at #17. Additionally, “Sixty Minute Man” was 1951’s “Song of the Year.” It also has made it to the soundtracks to several major motion pictures. Quite impressive,

Written by The Dominoes’ manager and pianist Billy Ward and his talent agent partner, Rose Marks. The song features the lead vocals of the quartet’s bass singer Bill Brown. In addition to Brown, The Dominoes consisted of Charlie White, Joe Lamont, and Clyde McPhatter, who later sang lead with The Drifters. McPhatter adds the woo hoos and the falsetto parts. Good stuff, but released before my birth some sixty years ago today.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Charades of Deep Purple: Black Night

I never thought that I would say that I liked a cover of a Deep Purple song better than the original, but see if you agree my assessment of todays “Charades of Deep Purple” selection. Released in 2013, the metal band Monument recorded “Black Night.” The original was Deep Purple’s highest charting single in the UK; however, it failed to chart in the US, as it was lost in the shuffle of the band switching from Tetragrammaton Records to Warner Brothers.

The single was released for the sole purpose of honoring the late Jon Lord who passed away the previous year. All proceeds were donated to Lord’s favorite charity The Sunflower Jam. Since it was tribute to Lord and Monument didn’t have a keyboardist, they enlisted the talents of Bob Katsionis – the from Firewind to tickle the plastics.

I especially like the twin guitar leads on this version of the tune and the delay at the end of the song.  Great stuff. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Charades of Deep Purple: Highway Star

“Machine Head,” the album that launched Deep Purple into being the major influence on metal music, was released during the spring of 1972 and it changed rock history. When you dropped the needle on the vinyl, the first tune that emanated from your speakers was “Highway Star.” This up-tempo rocker was written as a fluke when a reporter asked Ritchie Blackmore how the band composed its material.

Blackmore picked up his acoustic guitar and began noodling some Bach inspired runs and vocalist Ian Gillan began singing – improvising the lyrics on the spot. Deep Purple worked on the tune and played it for the very first time that evening at a gig in Portsmouth, England. The rest is history.

Today’s “Charades of Deep Purple” cut includes former Purple member Glenn Hughes on lead vocals and bass, Steve Vai shining on guitar, and Chad Smith pounding the drums. While Hughes had performed the tune live with Deep Purple, his tenure with the band began 15 months after the release of “Machine Head.”

This version of “Highway Star” was a bonus track on the 40th anniversary tribute to “Machine Head” called “Re-Machined: A Tribute to Deep Purple's Machine Head.” A live version of “Highway Star” by Chickenfoot appeared as one of the CD’s regular tracks.

Although not credited as one of the main players on the cut, I would be remiss not to mention the keyboardist who channeled the late Jon Lord, who died a few months before this album was released in September 2012. Lachy Doley overdubbed the organ parts and played his Hammond M-3 organ through a Marshall amp much like Lord did with his Hammond C-3. It’s too bad he didn’t get full credit on this cut as the organ is part of the glue that holds it together.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Charades of Deep Purple: Child in Time

The Deep Purple song “Child in Time” has evolved over the years from its beginning as an It’s a Beautiful Day’s instrumental “Bombay Calling” to our current “Charades of Deep Purple” rendition by Stary Olsa. Hailing from Belarus, Stary Olsa (who are named for a Belarusian stream) typically play medieval music from the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania – a rather large territory that included parts of a number current Eastern European countries.

When not doing songs from antiquity, Stary Olsa also tries their hands at a number of rock songs from a variety of genres. One of those is Deep Purple’s “Child in Time,” which originally appeared on their LP “In Rock.” What I find interesting is the instrumentation. “Child in Time” features the following members of the band and their respective instruments:

  • Alieś Čumakoŭ on vocals and gusli (an Eastern European zither).
  • Maryja Šaryj on fipple flute and shawm.
  • Illia Kublicki on lute and cittern.
  • Zmicier Sasnoŭski on Belarusian bagpipes.
  • Siarhiej Tapčeŭski on bass drum.
  • Aliaksiej Vojciech on dumbek.

What I am particularly amazed by is the clarity of the gusli. It is basically a scaled down zither which uses the fingers and thumb of the left hand to dampen strings to play certain chords much like the chord buttons on an autoharp. This is truly an ancestor of the modern autoharp.

I hope you like this unusual arrangement of this classic Deep Purple tune.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Charades of Deep Purple: Smoke on the Water

For our third installment of “Charades of Deep Purple,” here’s a really different version of “Smoke on the Water.” While I think most every teenage rock band has learned this song, none do it quite the way that Surath Godfrey and Victor Chen have recorded this song. This is a brilliant blues tinged version that features the slide guitar and backup vocals of Chen and the lead vocals and percussive guitar by Godfrey.

I don’t know much about these artists, but they make their home in Singapore. While this is not a studio quality recording, that isn’t important – the arrangement is. There is one notable mistake in the lyrics – Godfrey sings “Montfort” instead of “Montreaux.” I can forgive that. This is a nice change of pace for this rock classic that originally appeared on Deep Purple’s “Machine Head” LP.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Charades of Deep Purple: Strange Kind of Woman

It’s day two of our look at Deep Purple covers that I call “Charades of Deep Purple.” During this week, we’ll be listening to covers that amazingly sound close to the original recordings as well new arrangements of these classic Deep Purple cuts. Originally appearing the US version of the “Fireball” album, “Strange Kind of Woman” was always one of my favorite cuts.

While I found several good versions of “Strange Kind of Woman,” I opted to go with a different arrangement by Richie Kotzen. Kotzen has been a member of Poison and Mr. Big. He is currently with The Winery Dogs. Also to Kotzen’s credit are his solo recordings – 21 albums in all.

His unique version of “Strange Kind of Woman,” however, is found on the compilation: “Black Night: Deep Purple Tribute According to New York” that was released in 1997. It’s a nice take on the original with Kotzen’s own mark on the tune. To hear the original, see my post from 2010 “Deep Purple before Smoke on the Water.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Charades of Deep Purple: Wring That Neck

I had quite a few positive comments regarding my last month’s Second Week Special, “Rolling Clones” – a look at covers of Rolling Stones’ tunes. I’ve decided to do it again with another great rock group: Deep Purple. As a play on the title of their debut LP “Shades of Deep Purple,” I’ve decided to call it “Charades of Deep Purple.”

For the first post, I have a version of “Wring that Neck” – an instrumental that was found on the Deep Purple’s second LP, “The Book of Taliesyn.” Those of us who owned the original US release on Tetragrammaton Records know the song as “Hard Road.” The name change came from the execs at Tetragrammaton who thought that “Wring that Neck” was a little violent for American tastes. I always thought that the neck it referred to was Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar neck.

For today’s feature, here’s The Kings of Cerveza, an Austrian rock band that does a yeoman’s job in recreating this very difficult tune. While not as good as the original studio version, doing this song live and as good as The Kings of Cerveza have done it is a credit to their talent. Hats off go to keyboardist Dietmar Gamperl and guitarist Reini Schöpf who do an excellent job of respectfully emulating Jon Lord and Ritchie Blackmore.

If you want to hear another interesting take on “Wring that Neck,” check out my post from 2011 where I featured It’s A Beautiful Day’s interpretation. They named it “Don and Dewey” and the post explains the source of the name and the reason for this very unique version of “Wring that Neck.”