Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Black Keys: Tighten Up

Today’s post was totally unplanned. As I was beginning to write the post for today last night, I saw the new Subaru commercial and it had an infectious tune by The Black Keys that was synchronized to the video. The Black Keys from Akron, Ohio are garage-rock duo of Dan Auerbach (guitars, keyboards, and vocals) and Patrick Carney (drums and percussion).

“Tighten Up,” not to be confused with the Archie Bell and the Drells song of the same name, was released in May as the single. It was the only tune on their sixth LP “Brothers” that was produced by Danger Mouse who produced their former album “Attack & Release” from 2008.

The “Brothers” album was released on Nonesuch Records, which had formerly been dedicated as Elektra Records’ classical music label. This is far from the classical and baroque recordings that Nonesuch had released in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Well, you know what I say – “If it ain’t baroque, don’t fix it.”

Live on Leno


To do the song live, The Black Keys must hire musicians to approximate the recorded versions of their tunes. A keyboardist and bassist join Auerbach and Carney on stage for the Leno show on July 20, 2010. That crazy looking guitar played by Auerbach is a Supro Martinique that was made by Valco.

Valco was partly founded by Louis Dopyera who, along with his brothers, started the Dobro company in 1928 to compete with their former employer the National Guitar Company. Valco later acquired the National brand name and was producing guitars and amps under the Valco, National, and Supro brand names.



Music Video


Here is a humorous clip that replaced the original music video that had a dinosaur hand puppet mouthing the words.



Subaru Commercial



Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mason Proffit: Two Hangmen

I can’t tell you when I first heard of the Midwestern country-rock ensemble Mason Proffit, but I am sure that it was after they disbanded in 1973. In 1975, I became aware of their two principal members – The Talbot Bros. (Terry and John Michael) with the acquisition of their first album after Mason Proffit. This album was recorded to fulfill the band's contract with Warners.

The duo’s LP was one of my favorites and I became familiar with their work; however, I could never find their first album “Wanted . . . Mason Proffit” that was released on Happy Tiger Records. The Happy Tiger imprint was wholly owned by the Flying Tiger Freight Line and was in business from 1969 to 1971. Mason Proffit recorded two LPs for Happy Tiger, one for Ampex Records, and two new albums for Warner Brothers. Warners later re-released the first two Happy Tiger releases in 1974 as “Come and Gone.”

On a trip to Salem, Virginia where my band was booked for the weekend in 1986, I finally found a copy of “Wanted . . . Mason Proffit.” Early Saturday morning, I headed out to nearby downtown Roanoke and found a vintage records store.

That day I walked away with two other collectibles: Dave Mason’s “Alone Together” in vomit-tone colored vinyl on Blue Thumb and John and Yoko’s “Unfinished Music No. 2 – Life with the Lions” on Zapple Records. By the way, the best cut on the Lennon/Ono LP was titled “Two Minutes of Silence” – which, as you may guess, was two minutes of silence.

Mason Proffit gained notoriety throughout the US by touring with “up-and-coming” acts like John Denver, the Doobie Brothers, Mac Davis, and Steely Dan. Their first album produced the regional hit “Two Hangmen.”



Terry Talbot claims that the song was banned by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC); however, having studied broadcasting law, I have never encountered a reference to the FCC banning any single record release. Although in the Pacifica case, the FCC cited and fined WBAI New York after airing a George Carlin record in the middle of the afternoon.

I am guessing that individual programmers self-censored this tune during the political charged arena of 1969. One other reason it didn’t become a national hit was because Happy Tiger wasn’t a major player in the music promotional world.



Lyrics

As I rode into Tombstone on my horse,
    his name was Mack

I saw what I’ll relate to you,
    going on behind my back

It seems the folks were up-in-arms,
    a man now had to die

For believing things that didn’t fit,
    the laws they'd set aside

The man’s name was “I’m a Freak”;
    the best that could see

He was the executioner,
    a hangman just like me

I guess he’d seen loopholes
    from working with his rope

He’d hung the wrong man many times,
    so now he turned to hope

He talked to all the people
    from his scaffold in the square

He told them of the things he found,
    but they didn’t seem to care

He said the laws were obsolete,
    a change they should demand

But the people only walked away,
    he couldn't understand

The marshal’s name was “Uncle Sam,”
    he said he’d right this wrong

He’d make the hangman shut his mouth,
    if it took him all day long

He finally arrested Freak,
    and then he sent for me

To hang a fellow hangman,
    from a fellow hangman’s tree

It didn’t take them long to try him
    in their court of law

He was guilty then of “thinking,”
    a crime much worse than all

They sentenced him to die,
    so his seed of thought can’t spread

And infect the little children,
    that’s what the law had said

So the hangin’ day came ‘round,
    and he walked up to the noose

I pulled the lever,
    but before he fell I cut him lose

They called it a conspiracy,
    and that I had to die

So to close our mouths and kill our minds,
    they hung us side-by-side


And now we’re two hangmen, hangin’ from a tree
That don’t bother me, at all
Two hangmen, hangin’ from a tree
That don’t bother me, at all


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Elliott Murphy: Eva Braun

Elliott Murphy is a modern day folksinger that I came to know through his second album “Lost Generation.” I purchased the LP in 1978 at a Pittsburgh store whose name that escapes me. It was located in the former loft that once housed The Free People’s Store on Meyran Avenue in Oakland. The store continued with the low album prices that its forerunner had been known to offer.

While the album was anything but free, it was at a significant discount. Its cover featured an angelic looking Murphy with stylized rays emanating from his cranium. The effect was created by photographing Murphy in front of an opened parachute that was back lit. It produced a neat result.



One of the songs on this LP from 1975 was the politically charged, historically relevant, and possibly prophetic “Eva Braun.” The song was composed by Murphy in 1972 while he was staying in Munich. While there is an inference to the Munich massacre of 1972 where 11 Israeli Olympians were killed by Palestinian terrorists and a reference to the fascist ideology of Ezra Pound, it primarily concentrates on Munich's checkered past. This includes National Socialism’s rise to power in Munich, the Dachau concentration camp 10 miles distant, and of course Hitler’s love interest Eva Braun who was born in the Bavarian capital.

Fräulein Braun caught up in the furor over Der Führer 


The song also alludes to the myth that Hitler escaped to Argentina. When Murphy performed the song in Munich in 1972, it was obviously not well received. The point of the story is that Murphy feared that history would repeat itself. This is evident with the lyric, “And someday soon I fear they'll sing his song again.” Here’s a live acoustic rendition of the tune recorded in 1974 by Murphy and his band.



Lyrics

Well the ghost of Adolph Hitler stands inside your shoes
Sings you fascist blues in the moonlight
Just a leather lullaby keeps baby dry
Helps to keep the third world off the airplanes
And you know I've watched you panic
And you think I'm going to watch you die
Send you black stockings made in Dachau
Cause the jokes that they are telling
They all seem much too sad
Every Sunday morning you've been had
And no one's listening

And you can dance from Munich to Berlin
And you can scream at the scene and ask Ezra Pound, well what were you doing
And his eyes at night were chilling
And his words were oh so thrilling
And someday soon I fear they'll sing his song again

You know the ladies don't go to market
When the brown shirts march through town
And your neighbors can’t be found in the morning
And there's a story being told
There's a man with a mustache growing senile and old
Screaming orders into the jungles of Argentina

And you know I've watched you panic
And you think I'm going to watch you die
Send you black stockings made in Dachau
Cause the jokes that they are telling
They all seem much too sad
Just like Eva Braun and her home movies in the mountains

And you can dance from Munich to Berlin
And you can scream at the scene and ask Ezra Pound, well what was he doing
But his eyes at night were chilling
And his words were oh so thrilling
And someday soon I fear they'll sing that song again




Monday, September 27, 2010

Noa Johannesson: Roxanne

I don’t know what caused me to find this video last week, but I stumbled upon Noa Johannesson of Jonkoping, Sweden doing a fantastic cover of the Police’s first hit “Roxanne.” At the time he made this recording, Noa was 15 years old – he’s 18 now.

He plays guitar, bass, drums, and does all of the vocals. I wish I had this kid’s talent when I was 15 – heck, I wish I had it now at a much, er – seasoned age. I was blown away by this recording at first play and thought it would make a wonderful cover version for Monday.



The Police Original


Most American’s introduction to the Police and the vocals of Sting came about in late 1978 when their first hit single was released from their LP “Outlandos d'Amour.” While the band had released the “Fall Out” single in the UK a year earlier, it was not picked up by an American label.

At the beginning of the song, you hear a discordant piano followed by Sting laughing – both were mistakes that were kept in the mix. While the tape was rolling, Sting accidentally sat on a piano keyboard which resulted in the laugh.

The song was written in a seedy Parisian hotel where Sting observed the ladies of the night outside his window. The name Roxanne was inspired by the lead character in Cyrano de Bergerac. A poster for the play was hanging in the hotel’s lobby. The song was originally written with a bossa nova rhythm, but Stuart Copeland changed it up to a tango. The song charted at 12 in the UK and peaked at 32 in the US.



Sunday, September 26, 2010

Richie Furay: I Am Sure

Happy Anniversary!

It was a rainy afternoon one year ago today; and in my boredom, I decided to do what I had contemplated for several months and that is to create a music blog. For about six weeks, I had been sharing music on Facebook and giving bits and snippets of facts about the songs and the musicians.

Except for twelve days that I was on vacation or just too busy to write a daily post, I’ve kept up with the blog nearly every day. That’s an average of only one missed day per month; a record that I think is pretty good at this juncture.

It was three weeks before I started counting stats on the site, but at that time I am certain there were few visits in those early days of September and October 2009. Since then, I’ve picked up a number of visitors.

While I won’t bore you with all of the stats (I’ll do that in about a month and half when I hit 400 posts), I will give the highlights. I started with no followers, but picked up 14 in the past 12 months. There have been 7,847 unique visitors that contributed towards a total of 16,060 page views.

As far as page views, the highest charting daily post (which I never thought would be equaled) had been the 200th post segment on “The Prescription is More Cowbell.” That writ garnered 143 page views on April 14. The nearest competitors, however, hovered just over the 100 mark. It was the clear leader until yesterday's Saturday Album feature of “Buffalo Springfield Again” peaked at 162 page views and usurped the top position.

In fact, yesterday was the clear winner in all categories. It picked up 70 visits and tied with Livingston Taylor's "Tell Jesus to Come to My House" from last Sunday with 67 unique visitors. The previous leader in both categories was the Marshall Tucker Band's debut album on July 31 with 69 visits and 64 unique visitors.

Traffic to this site is largely coming via search engines that constitute 54% of the visitors. Referring sites like Facebook provide 35% of the visits and 11% come to the site directly via typing in the address.

Folks from 94 countries have been to “Reading Between the Grooves.” Africa is the least represented continent. North America (including Central America and the Caribbean) provides the greatest number of daily visitors. Europe has the largest percentage of represented countries. All but four European countries produced visitors.

Now on to the Show this is it . . .

To wrap up my week of Buffalo Springfield related music, I thought I might provide something from one of Richie Furay’s Christian albums. Guitarist Al Perkins led Richie to Christ back during the Souther, Hillman, Furay Band days in the mid 1970s. In addition to his varied musical pursuits, Richie has been the pastor of Calvary Chapel in Broomfield, Colorado since 1982 when he and his wife Nancy started the congregation that originally met in Boulder.

Coincidentally, the first concert I ever attended featured Richie Furay as a member of Poco. It was at the Syria Mosque in Pittsburgh and occurred a few weeks before I went away to Kentucky for my freshman year of college in 1973. It was a great show.

In 2006, I reintroduced myself to Richie's music when I downloaded his "I am Sure" CD after reading an article about him. I was searching for Christian rock music and stumbled on his story after reading one about Roger McGuinn. I had no idea that Richie was a Christian let alone that he was involved in localized ministry. I found the CD very refreshing, but I kept being drawn to the title cut.

I attempted to learn the song, but have yet to perform it as I need to have several more musicians involved to do it justice. Finding time and a place to practice makes it difficult – but, we are moving to a new house in a month and there I will have a dedicated music room and be will be able to set up my keyboards, sequencer, and drum machine and this may allow me to do this song alone in the future. Additionally, I've had to drop it a fourth from G to D, as I cannot hit those Richie Furay high notes.

Enough about me, I love this cut and Rusty Young’s lap steel makes it shine. Since it was not available on YouTube, I uploaded it – I hope Richie doesn’t mind. It may get him a few more sales after it is heard. I hope you’ve enjoyed this week of Buffalo Springfield related music and I am anxious to hear about their performance in a month. Thanks to my old buddy Stuart Shepard from “Focus on the Family” who inspired this week’s worth of music.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Buffalo Springfield Again

Of their three original albums, by far the best album by Buffalo Springfield was their second: “Buffalo Springfield Again.” I think that this is the only time I’ve featured an album that I don’t actually own; however, I have heard it over and over so often that I am very intimate with it. I can’t tell you why I never bothered to buy it, but it was probably one of those “I’ll get it eventually” situations that never occurred. Maybe I can pick up a reason from “Mr. Soul.”

Although it is their best, the turmoil in the band, especially with the increased absence of Neil Young, shines through. Like the final album, “Last Time Around,” there are cuts that feature only portions of the band and others that are basically solo recordings by one member. Despite that and a lack of continuity in production, it features the best of their efforts. The album was produced by members of the band with the exception of the two Neil Young solo cuts “Expecting to Fly” and “Broken Arrow” that were produced by Jack Nitzche.

Rock and Roll Woman


There are three songs that shine on this LP: “Rock and Roll Woman,” “Mr. Soul” and “Bluebird.” Although not credited, it has been widely rumored that “Rock and Roll Woman” was co-written by David Crosby and that he participated as an uncredited back-up vocalist on the cut. I’ve never been a fan of tremolo guitar; however, it works well on this tune. Session musician Doug Hastings adds guitar on this track. Stephen Stills sings lead and also plays the organ.



Mr. Soul


Featured on Tuesday as an acoustic version, Neil Young’s “Mr. Soul” opens the album and was the first song recorded for the LP. The original tracks were recorded at Atlantic Studios in New York in January 1967 with overdubs occurring in April. Although not issued as a single, it was a minor radio hit for the band getting airplay in a number of markets.



Bluebird


“Bluebird” is an example of a song written in several movements as Stephen Stills has been known to do at times (i.e., “Suite Judy Blue Eyes”); however, a longer version of “Bluebird” from the compilation album “Buffalo Springfield Revisited” is the preferred version and the one that got more AOR (album oriented radio) airplay. Like “Suite Judy Blue Eyes,” the song is about Still’s ex-girlfriend Judy Collins.

Bruce Palmer is absent from this recording and session musician Bobby West plays bass. The frailing banjo is performed by folksinger Charlie Chin.



The Entire Album


Here’s a YouTube playlist featuring the album in its entirety.





Friday, September 24, 2010

Buffalo Springfield: Questions

There are times when songs evolve into something else or become a medley with another tune. With today’s Friday First tune, we again celebrate the reunion of Buffalo Springfield happening in October with a Stephen Still’s song from the “Last Time Around” album.

The song “Questions” would later emerge as the reprise of the Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young song “Carry On” from the most excellent LP "Deja Vu." Today we feature both.









Thursday, September 23, 2010

Buffalo Springfield: For What It's Worth

Our TV Thursday tune during this Buffalo Springfield week happens to be their best known recording. As how it fits our daily theme, “For What It’s Worth” was utilized in both the commercial and trailer for Oliver Stone’s “Born on the Fourth of July” from 1989.

This Stephen Stills’ composition has come to epitomize the turmoil of the late 1960s that included racial and political unrest and the Vietnam War. Stills wrote the song in October 1966 when he witnessed police brutality during a gathering of people who were protesting the closing of a West Hollywood night club.

It was recorded in December 1966 and the title came about when Stills presented a copy of the song to Atlantic Records’ president Ahmet Ertegün by saying something to the effect of “I have this song, for what it’s worth.” Ultimately, this influenced the song's name – a title that had no relation to the song’s lyrics.



Released as a single in January 1967, the song did so well that ATCO re-released the band’s first LP and replaced the song “Baby Don’t Scold Me” with “For What it’s Worth” by March 1967. The single peaked at #7 and was certified gold for selling over a million copies. Here’s an abbreviated performance from the Smothers Brothers’ Show.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Pickin' Up The Pieces of Buffalo Springfield

Due to increased legal problems with bassist Bruce Palmer’s drug usage that led to his eventual deportation to his homeland of Canada in early 1967, Buffalo Springfield employed a number of substitutes to fill his shoes. Disguised as a Canadian businessman, Palmer reentered the States and rejoined the band in May 1967. His continued drug usage and a second deportation in January 1968 resulted in the band officially firing Palmer and replacing him with studio engineer Jim Messina.

Dewey Martin, Jim Messina, Neil Young, Richie Furay, & Stephen Stills

On May 5, 1968, Buffalo Springfield performed their last concert in Long Beach, California. One final album was required for the band to fulfill their contract with Atlantic Records’ subsidiary ATCO. Richie Furay and Jim Messina began compiling tracks that had been recorded over the previous year into their final LP: “Last Time Around.” While the album bears the Buffalo Springfield name, not one single track contains all five members of the band.

Bruce Palmer appears on half of the tracks; however he is neither credited nor is he depicted on the cover. In fact, the album’s cover was contrived – it contained a photo of Stephen Stills, Jim Messina, Richie Furay, and Dewey Martin that was overlaid with one of Neil Young from another session. In the pre-Photo Shop days, the art department at ATCO did an excellent job in melding the two photographs and the unsuspecting public was unaware that any photographic magic had occurred.



Despite the lack of continuity in the sessions and consistency of personnel, I will have to applaud Furay and Messina for a job well done. While the second LP is my favorite, I feel "Last Time Around" is far superior to their debut LP (sans "For What it's Worth") and comes in at a close second.

The final cut on the LP was a Richie Furay composition that contained 3/5 of the lineup of Poco that would rise like a phoenix from the ashes of Buffalo Springfield. “Kind Woman” included members Richie Furay on guitar and lead vocals and Jim Messina on vocals. Pedal steel guitarist Rusty Young was included on the cut along with session bassist Richard Davis and a pair of unknown and uncredited session musicians on piano and drums.

Kind Woman




Poco: Pickin’ Up the Pieces


Following the demise of Buffalo Springfield, Furay, Messina, and Rusty Young joined forces with bassist Randy Meisner and drummer George Grantham to form Poco. The band was signed to Epic Records and in a trade off like two sports teams, Epic traded Graham Nash who just left the Hollies to Atlantic Records for Richie Furay – in an effort to work out each individual’s contracts with their original label. Nash would join former Buffalo Springfield guitarist Stephen Stills in the newly formed Crosby, Stills, and Nash.

The debut album for Poco and its title cut, “Pickin’ Up the Pieces,” was inspired by Furay’s and Messina’s efforts to pick up the pieces of Buffalo Springfield and move on to another band and a new genre of country rock.



Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Neil Young: Mr. Soul

It’s day two of Buffalo Springfield week featuring a little wooden music from Neil Young. I first heard “Mr. Soul” on an ATCO Records sampler album: “The Super Groups.” The song was the opening cut from the band’s second LP: “Buffalo Springfield Again.” I’ll be featuring this album on Saturday – as it is their best.



Although Neil’s solo version with acoustic guitar and harmonica is slower than the original, in some respects I like it as much if not better than the Buffalo Springfield release from 1967. I’ll feature the original with the album at the end of the week.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Richie Furay Band: Buffalo Springfield Medley

Last week, Stuart Shepard, a friend of mine from college sent me a link to an article about the upcoming reunion of the original Buffalo Springfield. They will be performing at a live benefit for the Bridge School in Hillsdale, California on October 23 and 24.

Since Bruce Palmer and Dewey Martin are both deceased, Rick Rosas and Joe Vitale will play bass and drums respectively. Original members Stephen Stills, Neil Young, and Richie Furay will reform for the first time since the band split in 1968.

In light of this reunion, it is only fitting for me to feature Buffalo Springfield related music all week long. Expect something related to the band through. Named for the Ohio based Buffalo Springfield [Steam] Roller Company, the band only released three albums; however, their influence extended into groups like Crosby, Stills, and Nash; Poco; Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young; Loggins and Messina; Souther, Hillman, and Furay; and the Stills-Young Band.



Today’s Monday Cover selection has the Richie Furay Band with a medley of Buffalo Springfield songs: “Flying on the Ground is Wrong,” “Do I Have to Come Right Out and Say It,” and “Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing.”

The three songs, all written by Neil Young, were originally sung by Richie Furay and came from the band’s self-titled debut album. Furay was chosen to sing lead on Young’s compositions as the album’s producers deemed Young’s voice as “too weird.”



The Original Buffalo Springfield Versions








Sunday, September 19, 2010

Livingston Taylor: Tell Jesus To Come To My House

Today, Reading Between the Grooves finalizes its look at the famous Taylor family. Of the performing Taylors, the only one I’ve seen in concert was Livingston – who is the next to the youngest of the siblings.

I saw Livingston in 1978 at the Huntington, West Virginia Civic Center where he opened for Linda Rondstat during her “Living in the USA” tour. I bought my tickets at the last minute and a young lady I worked with at the McDonalds in South Point, Ohio attended the show with me.


While the tickets were marked obstructed view, they were not as bad as expected. We got to see the right side of the stage without any problem. Livingston’s performance that was in support of his “Three Way Mirror” album was impeccable.

In contrast, Rondstat had the stage presence of a throw rug or wisk broom or some other inanimate object. The only saving grace was her producer Peter Asher (boy, I am naming him a lot lately) was on stage playing tambourine and singing backup. He was quite animated and I enjoyed seeing him as part of the show.

Oh yeah, back to Livingston Taylor. Today’s Spiritual Sunday number is a live performance with Liv playing keyboards and doing an excellent job at that. The studio version of “Tell Jesus to come to my House” is an A Capella arrangement that features Livingston backed by the group Take 6. It is really a great version; however, it is not available on YouTube – so we must utilize this live rendition instead. Enjoy.





Saturday, September 18, 2010

James Taylor (album)

In 1968 Peter Asher (ex. Peter & Gordon), who was employed as the A&R (artist & repertoire) Director of the Beatles’ owned Apple Records label, received some demo tapes of a young James Taylor who was living in London at the time. Asher played the tapes for Paul McCartney and they both agreed to sign Taylor as the first American artist to the new Apple Record label.



Recorded in 1968, the self-titled album was the fourth album release on the label and was the only one to date that wasn’t a Beatles’ group or solo recording. It was preceded by George Harrison’s “Wonderwall Music”, “The Beatles” also known as “the White Album,” and John & Yoko’s “Unfinished Music #1: Two Virgins.”




Something in the Way She Moves


I bought my copy used at a flea market in North Versailles, PA in 1971. Although not the first release to do so, Taylor’s LP linked the songs together. This provides continuity in listening, but is a disc jockey’s nightmare. One of my favorite songs on the LP and one that Taylor would re-record for Warner Brothers is “Something in the Way She Moves.” The opening line was a springboard of inspiration for George Harrison to write “Something,” which borrows the first line of Taylor’s song.



Carolina in My Mind


The LP’s one single “Carolina in My Mind” was issued twice in the US. The song was the seventh single on the Apple label and initially charted at #118 in 1969. The song featured Beatles Paul McCartney on bass and backing vocals and George Harrison on backing vocals. Taylor and Asher also provided additional background vocal tracks.

It was re-released in 1970 to capitalize on the success of Taylor’s second LP and first for Warner Brothers – “Sweet Baby James” and its hit single “Fire and Rain.” The tactic worked to some degree as the song charted the second time at #67; however, despite an increase in sales, its sales performance would not put it in the category of being a hit record. Like with “Something in the Way She Moves,” Warners had Taylor re-record the song for his 1976 greatest hits album.



Greensleeves & Something’s Wrong


This recording is more indicative of Taylor’s later recordings. Richard Hewson who provided the string arrangements to the album personally played the oboe and bassoon on this song. Personally, I believe the use of the double reeds accentuates the entire arrangement.



Rainy Day Man


Co-written with Zach Weisner, this song was originally recorded by James Taylor’s band The Flying Machine in 1966. The cover, which is surprisingly close to the Flying Machine’s version, predated the original’s release which did not occur until 1971. Euphoria Records released this collection of old records once Taylor’s reputation as artist was on solid footing.



Although the first James Taylor album is not nearly as well known as some of his subsequent albums, it is worth having in your collection. It is available on CD, having been the second CD release from the reconstituted Apple Records in 1991.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Carol King: You've Got A Friend

As we wind down this week of Taylor music, James Taylor’s biggest hit record was “You’ve Got A Friend.” Written and recorded by Carol King on her best selling LP from 1971 “Tapestry,” her version is our Friday First selection.



From the album “Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon,” James Taylor’s rendition of the song featuring Carol King on piano was Taylor’s only number one record. Ironically, it was not the first cover recorded of the song. Dusty Springfield recorded the song earlier in the year; however, because of contractual issues with Atlantic Records, the LP was not released until 1999.

“You’ve Got A Friend” was awarded two Grammy awards. The Best Male Pop Vocal Recording was presented to Taylor and Song of the Year went to King.



Tomorrow’s Album Saturday feature will be James Taylor’s first LP on Apple Records and the Spiritual Sunday selection will conclude our look at this musical family with a recording by Livingston Taylor.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Taylor Family

On this TV Thursday, we feature two Taylor family recordings from the small screen. The first, from a Tomorrow Show broadcast in 1981, features the Taylor siblings singing James Taylor’s “Shower the People.”

The siblings are arranged in ascending order of age from left to right starting with Hugh, Livingston, Kate, James, and Alex. As stated yesterday, Alex died in 1993. Brother Hugh, the youngest, did not pursue a musical career on the level of his four siblings. He currently runs an Inn on Martha’s Vineyard. James, Kate, and Livingston still perform.



The second feature has James and his and Carly Simon’s daughter Sally singing “You Can Close Your Eyes.” James originally performed the song on his “Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon” album from 1971. I believe the original featured backing vocals by Kate Taylor, Carole King, and Joni Mitchell.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Alex Taylor: Catch Me When I Fall

Probably the most soulful of the Taylor family, the eldest sibling Alex had a propensity for the blues, rhythm and blues, and southern rock. His style was quite different from his folky siblings James, Kate, and Livingston. Besides a penchant for a grittier style, Alex was also known for his over consumption of alcohol which led to his untimely death in 1993.

Alex Taylor apparently downed nearly a fifth of vodka, layed his head on a desk and stopped breathing. This occurred at King Snake Records Studios in Sanford, Florida. Although he was resuscitated, he never regained consciousness and died about a week later. At the time of his demise, Taylor was working on his seventh LP. His son James was the inspiration for James Taylor’s song “Sweet Baby James.”

“Catch Me When I Fall” was from his 1989 release of “Voodoo in Me” – his fifth album. Of all of the Taylors, his vocal style was unique as this cut demonstrates.



Brother Livingston Reminisces about Alex




Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Kate Taylor: Red Tailed Hawk

As stated yesterday, this week I am featuring the famous Taylor family with North Carolina roots.

 Oops, wrong Taylor family from North Carolina

Sister Kate Taylor, who is the third in birth order of the family, is featured with two versions of the song “Red Tailed Hawk.” The first, which is my favorite of the two, features guitarist Billy Derby adding slide and harmonics to the tune. This version was recorded live in April 2008 on “Backstage with Barry Nolan.” While there are several drop-outs in the audio, it is a superior rendition.



The second example is an overall better recording, but Derby’s playing is not as animated on this version from July 2009. This rendition was filmed at the Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard.



Life in the Taylor Family

In two segments of “Living Legends Music,” brother Livingston Taylor discusses how growing up in the Taylor family shaped the lives of he and his siblings.





Monday, September 13, 2010

Ben Taylor Band: Time Of The Season

Here’s a rather interesting version of the classic hit by the Zombies from 1969. This Monday cover was performed by the Ben Taylor Band. Taylor is the son of James Taylor and Carly Simon. Although he looks and sounds like his famous father, he has distanced himself from his parent’s musical style. “Time of the Season” was recorded and released in 2003 on his album “Famous among the Barns.” The song gained prominence as the opening song in the 2008 movie “Prom Night.” This is not your father’s version of this song, but I like it because it is radically different.



I decided early this morning to do an all Taylor week on Reading Between the Grooves. So we’ll be hearing from Kate, Alex, Hugh, James, Livingston, and Sally Taylor as well.

The Original by the Zombies



Recorded in 1967, but released in 1968 following the band’s breakup, “Time of the Season” was one of the better known singles in the band’s career. Featuring vocals by Colin Blunstone and the fantastic keyboard work by Rod Argent, the song was from their LP “Odyssey and Oracle.” Released in the US on the CBS subsidiary label of Date Records, it was a #3 hit in the US and a #1 record in Canada. The single did not chart in the UK.



Sunday, September 12, 2010

Mavis Staples: In Times Like These

The music world has been all a buzz this week concerning the new releases by Robert Plant and Mavis Staples. The new CD by Mavis Staples called “You’re Not Alone” is in the gospel style that her family has been making famous since the 1950s. At 71, she proves that age does not matter when you have the talent to back up your performance.

While our Spiritual Sunday selection is not from the new album, it comes from the 2004 release “Have a Little Faith.” The song “In Times Like These,” is not the slow grooveless hymn of the same name, but rather a newer song written by producer Jim Tulilo and guitarist LeRoy Marinell. Marinell, by the way, also co-wrote “Werewolves of London” with Warren Zevon and Waddy Wachtell.” “Aaahoo,” this song grooves.



Lyrics


In times like these
We need to be strong
We need to carry on
We need to get along hold on
And right what's wrong

In times like these
We need to find a way
To make a better day
Keep my feet on the ground turning 'round
Come what may

Everybody
Everybody needs someone they can lean on
Everybody needs to lean on someone
(Everybody) everybody
(Everybody) everybody needs someone they can lean on
Everybody needs to lean on someone now

In times like these
There's no one not to care, no
There's no one anywhere
Who doesn't feel it in their hearts
Gotta make a new start ya'll

In times like these
Let the world understand
Together hand in hand
Every woman child and man
United we stand

Everybody (everybody)
Everybody (everybody) needs someone they can lean on
Everybody needs to lean on someone
Everybody (everybody)
Everybody (everybody) needs someone they can lean on
Everybody needs to lean on someone

Everybody needs something
Everybody needs someone
Everybody has a friend of friend who knew a friend of a friend who’s got a friend of a friend

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Four by Simon and Garfunkel - Remembering

Nine years ago today, I was sitting alone in my office when my wife Pam called me on the phone to tell me that a plane just crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center. In innocent unbelief I thought for sure that it was an accident when she shrieked that another plane crashed into the second tower. I knew at that moment we were under attack.

As the day progressed we learned of the other two planes and their fates. It will be a day I will never forget. Shortly after the first three planes crashed, I received an email from a cousin in England who expressed his condolences. He mentioned that terrorism was a frequent occurrence in his nation’s capital and he could empathize with those of us across the Atlantic. So shaken by the events of the day, I canceled my evening class as did most of my fellow instructors. What could one say in the midst of the day’s chaos?

Today, I wanted to do something a little different in honor of those who perished at Ground Zero, the Pentagon, in Shanksville, PA, and in the war on terrorism. The spirit of America has often been found in the music of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. So today, I present four songs that hopefully tell the story of our United States as only Paul and Art can. Without further commentary, let us never forget.

America





American Tune




Homeward Bound





The Sound of Silence






Friday, September 10, 2010

Red Rubber Ball

Today’s Friday First selection is really a misnomer as the hit version was recorded prior to the versions released by the songwriters. In 1966, The Cyrkle had a number 2 hit with “Red Rubber Ball,” a song penned by Paul Simon and Bruce Woodley of the Seekers. Paul Simon offered the song to The Cyrkle when they were opening for Simon & Garfunkel’s 1966 tour.

The Seekers Version


Recorded for their 1966 LP “Georgy Girl,” the Seekers’ version of the tune was recorded the same year as The Cyrkle’s rendition. Woodley and Paul Simon co-wrote the tune when Simon was visiting England in 1965. Woodley sings lead on the Seekers’ recording.



Simon and Garfunkel


While Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel never recorded a studio version of “Red Rubber Ball,” a live recording was captured at Lincoln Center in 1967.



The Cyrkle


Originally named the Rhondells, this college band from Easton, Pennsylvania came to the attention of Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein. It was John Lennon who provided the spelling of their new name – The Cyrkle. In 1966, the band had the opportunity to open fourteen shows for The Beatles at the same time their biggest hit “Red Rubber Ball” was climbing the charts.

It was one of my favorite tunes of my sixth grade year and I remember singing it with my friends on the school playground at Green Valley Elementary School. Cool memories from 44 years ago.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

ZZ Top: Blue Jean Blues

The year 1975 witnessed the release of the hybrid live/studio LP by ZZ Top named “Fandango.” The album produced one hit single “Tush”; however, since this is TV Thursday, I am featuring “Blue Jean Blues.” This Tuesday a rerun of the TV show “Bones” featured this song as well as ZZ Top vocalist/guitarist Billy Gibbons in the recurring role as Angela Montenegro’s father.



The author and Billy Gibbons in 1986

The show is where Dr. Jack Hodgins is planning to marry Gibbons’ daughter and Hodgins mistakenly asks Gibbons’ for Angela’s hand in marriage. The discourse goes as follows:

Hodgins: So, you’re a Texan. I mean a real Texan, guitars and hot rods, so I figure I should come down here and ask you for Angela’s hand in marriage. As a sign of respect.

Gibbons: If Angela finds out that you, a man, came down here asking me, another man, for my permission for her hand or any of her other lovely body parts, there will be consequences. You and I’ll both be dead.

Hodgins: Good advice. You got any more?

Gibbons: Yeah, Always play in the key of G demolished.

Hodgins: I…don’t know what that means.

Gibbons: Well, if you do, you do.

Gibbons: I got cars, I got guitars, and I got guns. Take care of my daughter and you'll only see the business end of the cars and guitars.
The author at the business end of one of those cars - 1982




Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Beatles By Others

There were several artists in the 1960s that had hits with Lennon/McCartney credited compositions that were either not recorded by the Beatles or were not released as Beatles' singles. Today, I feature three of these artists: Peter and Gordon, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, and The Silkie.

Peter & Gordon: World Without Love


“World without Love” was one of four Paul McCartney compositions recorded by Peter Asher and Gordon Waller. At the time, Paul was dating Peter’s sister Jane Asher and specifically wrote the songs for the British invasion duo. As with their arrangement with publisher Northern Songs, most songs written by either John Lennon or Paul McCartney were automatically credited as Lennon/McCartney compositions despite the input or lack thereof of one of the songwriting duo.



While “World without Love” predated Paul's relationship with the Asher family and had been offered initially to Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, it quickly became a number one hit single for Peter and Gordon in the US and UK. Other McCartney songs released as singles for the duo included “Nobody I Know,” “I Don’t Want to See you Again,” and “Woman.” The latter was credited to Bernard Webb as an experiment to see if Peter and Gordon could have a hit with a McCartney song without it bearing his name. They could and did.

Peter & Gordon live in Beckley, WV in 1965

Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas: Bad To Me


From Liverpool, Billy J. Kramer shared management with The Beatles under the auspices of Brian Epstein. While Kramer’s band the Coasters were lackluster in their live performances, Epstien hired a Manchester based band the Dakotas to perform as his backup. Signed under a separate contract, the recordings in the UK were listed as “Billy J. Kramer with the Dakotas.” Since the Dakotas had no separate US contract, the labels on Kramer’s releases on Imperial Records have the artist as “Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas.”

Kramer and company recorded a number of Lennon/McCartney compositions including “Do You Want to Know A Secret,” “Bad to Me,” “I’ll Call Your Name,” “I’ll Keep You Satisfied,” and “From a Window.” “Bad to Me,” penned by John Lennon, charted at #9 in the US as the flip to “Little Children” which peaked at #7.



The Silkie: You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away


Unlike the previous two examples which were not released by The Beatles, The Silkie’s version of “You’ve got to hide your Love Away” was a song the Fab Four would release on their “Help” soundtrack. The Silkie, another Epstein managed group, were recording in the same studio as The Beatles and received some additional help from their friends.

The Beatles gave The Silkie, known as Britain's answer to Peter, Paul and Mary, the opportunity to release the song as a single. Additionally, three Beatles participated in the recording. Paul played guitar, George provided percussion by tapping on his guitar, and John produced the single. The result – the song peaked at #28 in the UK but was a top 10 hit in the US.






Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tony Rice & Norman Blake: New River Train

In case you were wondering where I’ve been, I took a little time off for the Labor Day holiday. Apparently my notice that I was taking a vacation did not post; however, that is beside the point and I am back in the watershed of the New River and thought I would honor my return a traditional song that celebrates this region.

Tony Rice and Norman Blake perform a duet on an old song that celebrates the Chesapeake and Ohio run from Clifton Forge, VA to Huntington, WV – the New River Train. While only a portion of the original run travels the New River in West Virginia, it also follows the Greenbrier River, Kanawha River, the ancient Teays River Valley, and the Guyandotte River into Huntington, WV. The ride through the New River Gorge is simply breathtaking – especially in the fall.



Amtrack normally does a fall run of the New River Train that starts at Huntington and terminates at Hinton. Travelers can board at Huntington, St. Albans, or Montgomery and will have the opportunity to travel the entire length of the Gorge. Typically, National Park Service personnel will provide insight to the various aspects of the history, geology, flora, and fauna of the New River Gorge.

The trip takes you through the “dries” where the water of the New River has been diverted from the Hawk’s Nest Dam through an underground tunnel to a hydroelectric plant at Gauley Bridge near where the New and Gauley Rivers join to become the Kanawha.

The tour guides will recount the perilous journey of Mary Draper Ingles who escaped from her Shawnee captors in the 1750s and returned home to Draper’s Meadows, Virginia within forty days of her escape. She traversed nearly 600 miles traveling the banks of the Ohio, Kanawha, and New Rivers to make her way home.

Other spots of interest in the Gorge include the New River Gorge Bridge (the world's third longest steel arch span), various abandoned collieries, and makeshift towns such as Thurmond, WV which reportedly had the longest running poker game in history. It is a trip of great historical significance and is somewhat different than the trip I took in 1984 when Amtrack instituted the service.

At that time, the run went from Montgomery, WV and traveled to White Sulphur Springs to the Historic Greenbrier Resort which was still in control of the CSX. It is now in private hands. That trip took you through the Big Bend Tunnel – the sister to the retired Great Bend Tunnel of John Henry fame. It was an interesting trip. If you ever get a chance, take a ride on the “New River Train.”

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Three by Jay Ferguson

Most people will remember Jay Ferguson’s limited hit run in the late 1970s; however, Jay’s musical career stretched back into the 1960s. For several decades, Ferguson was a part of the Los Angeles music scene.

Born as John Arden Ferguson, Jay studied classical piano as a child and then took up the banjo in the early 1960s. In the mid '60s, Ferguson joined Randy California, Ed Cassidy, Mark Andes, and John Locke as lead vocalist and percussionist in the LA rock ensemble which later became known as Spirit.

Spirit possessed an interesting dynamic – as lead guitarist Randy California (real name Randy Wolfe) was the step-son of drummer Ed Cassidy. Cassidy was perhaps the oldest musician in a rock band during the period. Cassidy was born in 1923 and had been a professional musician since 1937 – ten years before Ferguson was born. The band’s original lineup produced several albums but only one Top 40 hit.

Spirit: “I Got a Line on You”


While Jay Ferguson was the band’s lead vocalist, he is often credited as singing lead on the band’s only bona fide hit; however, Randy California actually sang the lead and Ferguson supplied back-up and harmony vocals on “I Got a Line on You.” Nonetheless, he is in there in the vocal mix.

From the 1969 LP “The Family that Plays Together,” “I Got a Line on You” was released in November 1968 two months prior to the album’s release. It charted at #25.



Jo Jo Gunne: “Run, Run, Run”


In 1971, Jay Ferguson and Mark Andes left Spirit to form Jo Jo Gunne. Mark’s brother Matt was the guitarist and I remember them doing “Run, Run, Run” on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert and Matt Andes was playing the slide part on a Danelectro Guitarlin – the guitar with the mandolin range. The slide guitar screams on this one. Jay Ferguson handles the lead vocals. “Run, Run, Run” peaked at #27 in 1972.



Jay Ferguson: “Thunder Island”


Encouraged by producer Bill Szymczyk to get back into the studio and begin recording new material, Ferguson had two hit singles. The first of these, “Thunder Island,” peaked at #9 in January 1978. Ferguson's second hit “Shakedown Cruise” paled by comparison by only charting at #31 during summer 1979. Jay released five commercially available albums during his solo career and an additional live LP that was only released to radio. Since that time, he has been involved in writing and scoring TV and film music.