Saturday, June 28, 2014

Amy Records: And She's Mine

Here’s a single by The Guess Who that I bet the majority of you have never heard. The group was officially known first as Chad Allen and the Reflections and then as Chad Allen and the Expressions. In order to trick Canadian disc jockeys into thinking that their 1965 single “Shakin’ All Over” was recorded by a British band, Quality Records in Canada listed the artist name as “Guess Who?” on the promotional pressings for their first hit. The American pressings on Scepter followed suit, but the album listed both “Chad Allen and The Expressions” and “The Guess Who?”

The confusion of the artist’s name caused the band to rebrand as “The Guess Who?” and later as “The Guess Who.” With Quality not having an arm in the US, the band’s first five US singles were issued on Scepter, the next two were issued on Amy Records, and one followed on Fontana Records. In 1968, the band signed an international contract with RCA and the rest is history as a string of hits followed.

I bought my copy of “And She’s Mine,” the band’s first release on Amy Records, at a flea market in 1971. I probably paid 25¢ for the single; about 20 years ago, it was valued at $20.00 – so I got my money’s worth.

Released in the US in September 1966, the single and its corresponding Canadian album, “It’s Time,” were released after Chad Allen had left the band. Burton Cummings had already joined The Guess Who in 1965 and shared vocal duties with Allen, but assumed the lead vocal role in 1966 following Allen’s departure.

Similar in sound to the new American band, The Monkees, “And She’s Mine’s” Canadian release in August predated the first Monkees’ single, “Last Train to Clarksville” – so there was no overt influence from the lower 48 on this particular recording. “And She’s Mine” is a pop hit written by lead guitarist Randy Bachman and features Chad Allen singing lead. The song was not a huge success in Canada, as it peaked at #32. In the US, the single failed to make it to the charts – a true bubbling under record.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Amy Records: Is He Really Mine?

In Britain, they call American R&B releases that never reached mainstream prominence as “Northern Soul” records. One of those Northern Soul artists that recorded for Amy Records in the US was Shirley Matthews. A Canadian by birth, Matthews was discovered in 1963 and was whisked to New York City to record some sides for Atlantic.

While her first single failed to chart in the US, “Big-Town Boy” was a Top 10 hit in Canada. All in all, Matthews released two singles for Atlantic and two for Amy Records. “Is He Really Mine?” is our selected recording today. While not the “A” side, “Is He Really Mine?” was the flip of her first single on Amy: “(He Makes Me Feel) So Pretty.” The single was released in September 1964.

Matthews’ four singles failed to chart in the US, but they remain popular among the UK Northern Soul crowd and the records are often sought after by collectors. Although she won a Juno Award for Artist of the Year of 1964 in Canada, she was little known elsewhere.

Matthews left the music business upon her marriage to Jim Vedder in 1967. She was president and CEO of a chain of racquet and fitness clubs in Canada prior to her 2013 death.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Amy Records: It's Alright

Adam Faith had two number one hits, eight additional Top 5 hits, one further Top 10 hit, and five other Top 15 hits. In total, Faith had a total of 22 Top 40 records; however, these figures are not for the United States, but rather Faith’s native UK.

In America, he only had two records to chart – both in 1965. “It’s Alright” peaked at #31 and its follow-up, “Talk about Love,” placed dismally at #97. Both records were issued on Amy Records and neither song, which were penned by Chris Andrews, charted in the UK.

Although a teen idol in his home country, he failed to be able to make this transition across the Atlantic Ocean. Faith was backed by The Roulettes on “It’s Alright” and it’s similarity to recordings featuring John Lennon and The Beatles and The Dave Clark Five may have helped get him his only American Top 40 hit. Since it charted in the 30s, I have selected it as our Thirty Something Thursday disc from Amy Records.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Amy Records: (Ghost) Riders In The Sky

Depending on when you were born, your memory of “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky” may be formed from the version by Vaughn Monroe, The Ramrods, or Outlaws. Today, we feature the instrumental version on Amy Records by The Ramrods.

This instrumental features a variety of sound effects and guitar reverb that add to the song’s mystique. It was the highest charting song for The Ramrods and “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky” peaked at #30 on the Hot 100 in 1961.

The Ramrods consisted of a brother and sister, Richard and Claire Lane, who respectfully played tenor sax and drums. The Lanes were joined by their cousin, Eugene Mooro, and friend, Vincent B. Lee, who both played guitar.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Amy Records: When She Touches Me

Our next selection from Amy Records is one that most folk haven’t heard – an R&B number by Mighty Sam McClain. “When She Touches Me (Nothing Else Matters)” never charted, but it is a fantastic song. McClain got his musical start in 1948 when he began singing gospel music as a five-year old boy. Although he’s never had a hit, he’s still performing today.

Mighty Sam was brought to Amy Records through his relationship to record producer, promoter, and disc jockey – Papa Don Schroeder. In addition to Mighty Sam, Schroder brought a number of R&B acts to Bell and its subsidiary Amy. One of those acts came through Mighty Sam: James and Bobby Purify who had the Top 10 hit for Bell, “I’m You’re Puppet.”

I hope you’ll enjoy your first listen to this little known Amy release from 1967 - “When She Touches Me (Nothing Else Matters).”

Monday, June 23, 2014

Amy Records: Working In The Coal Mine

Not long ago, I featured Devo’s remake of Lee Dorsey’s classic hit of “Working in the Coalmine.” Written by New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint, Dorsey took “Working in the Coalmine” to the #8 slot on the charts and it became the most popular record on Amy Records. In addition to its success on the Hot 100, “Working in the Coalmine” peaked at #5 on the R&B chart.

Part of the production of the song was the use of an authentic pick axe as a percussive instrument. Allan Toussaint was all over this 1966 recording. Not only did he write the tune, he arranged the song and co-produced the single with Marshall Sehorn – his business partner in Tou-Sea Productions and Marsaint Music. “Lord, I’m so tired. How long can this go on?” Oh, about 2 minutes and 45 seconds. Enjoy this classic from Amy Records.

In addition to being used in several motion pictures, Lee Dorsey’s hit was also used in a 1991 Blaupunkt Audio commercial. Here’s the ad.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Amy Records: Midnight Mary

During the fourth week of the month, we feature a specific American record label. Some of these have been small independents or subsidiary labels of a major label. Today, we begin a week long look at Amy Records – a subsidiary of Bell Records. Formed in 1960, the label primarily produced singles, as their artists’ albums mostly were issued on the Bell imprint, but a handful of albums on Amy were released.

Bell was founded by Arthur Shimkin who started the children’s label Golden Records in 1948. If you were like me, I had several of the yellow plastic Golden Records that had the label printed into the plastic. Similar to Golden Records, the early Bell and Amy releases were pressed in polystyrene that was injected into the mold.

In addition, most of these early releases had the label printed directly to the plastic. This proved problematic, as the record’s info generally rubbed off over time. Some of these polystyrene releases had actual paper labels, but that proved problematic as well, as the labels were prone to come unglued from the record.

When other pressing facilities were contracted to press Amy releases, these issues were often pressed in vinyl with typical paper labels. Later in their history, Bell and Amy singles were pressed in polystyrene with typical paper labels and were similar to releases on Columbia and Epic.

In 1961, Larry Uttal of Madison Records purchased Bell and its subsidiary labels of Amy and Mala. He continued to run the labels until Columbia Pictures bought Bell in 1969. Columbia Pictures discontinued all of Bell’s subsidiaries and folded these into the Bell imprint. Eventually Bell was merged with Columbia Pictures’ legacy labels to become Arista in 1974.

This week, we’ll feature four songs that you will remember and three you probably won’t as we look at this little remembered label from our past. Since there were a limited number of Amy releases, Amy had very few hits. One of those is one of my favorite songs from the early 1960s: Joey Powers’ “Midnight Mary.”

Although Powers had previously signed with Nu-Clear, ABC-Paramount, and RCA with no success, Paul Simon heard one of Powers’ demos of “Midnight Mary” and urged Larry Uttal to sign the young singer.

“Midnight Mary” was originally intended for the Everly Brothers, but the Everlys passed on the song. Released in November 1963, the song propelled up to the #10 spot in early 1964. It was also #7 on the Adult Contemporary chart. “Midnight Mary” was the first top 10 release for Amy.

Envisioning greater success for the singer, Amy brought Powers back into the studio to record an album. Powers’ LP, also named “Midnight Mary,” was the third of only 13 albums to be released on the Amy label. Unfortunately for Powers, Beatlemania and the British Invasion hit the charts and he became a distant memory and a true one hit wonder.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Lake: Time Bomb

Do you remember Lake’s “Time Bomb”   today’s bubbling under hit from 1978?  I certainly do, even though it only had a brief run on radio. I even purchased their self-titled debut album that included “Time Bomb” as well as several other great tunes.

While not totally progressive and not totally pop, this primarily German band with a Scottish lead singer straddled the genre fence. James Hopkins-Harrison was the Scot with the high pitched vocals.

“Time Bomb” was the band’s only song to chart in America – and it had a poor showing in the US as it only made it to #83. The album fared worse by charting at #92. The band cut several albums for Columbia and were later moved to a CBS subsidiary label, Caribou Records.

Wracked with personnel changes and a lousy US tour schedule, Lake was doomed to never have the success here as they did on the European continent. With their progressive/pop sound, they toured America with three unlikely candidates: Lynyrd Skynyrd, Black Oak Arkansas, and Neil Young. Well, that was certainly a kiss of death wasn’t it? They would have been better teamed with Styx or Kansas, but alas that did not happen.

The band originally called it quits in 1986 and this failure put Hopkins-Harrison in a depressive state that was inadequately tempered by heavy drug use that led to his demise in 1991. The band later reformed in 2005. Their most recent album was released in February 2014. See if you remember Lake’s “Time Bomb.”

Friday, June 20, 2014

Françoise Hardy: Le Temps de L'amour

For our Feminine Friday’s feature, we head across the pond to France with a 1962 recording by singer/actress Françoise Hardy. As far as I know, “Le Temps de L'amour” (“The Time for Love”) was not released as a single in the US. In Hardy’s native France, the song was issued as one of four selections on her second EP release.

“Le Temps de L'amour” was released in the UK on Pye Records in 1964 as the flipside of her single “Et Même.” Unfortunately, neither song charted on the British charts. Although recorded in 1962, it has a sound reminiscent of 1964 - as the music had changed by then and it shows that Hardy’s recording was ahead of its time.

Hardy also had the opportunity of being immortalized by Bob Dylan. In his poem “Some Other Kinds of Songs” on the reverse cover of “Another Side of Bob Dylan,” Mr. Zimmerman mentions the young French star by name.

In addition, the photo shoot for the cover of Dylan’s “Bringing it all Back Home” had originally contained her EP “J'suis D'accord” on the floor with other records. Unfortunately when the cover was cropped, her release never made it to the cover. It can be seen, however, in several outtakes from the photo session.

Even having some help by Bob Dylan did not propel the young star onto the US charts and she is better known for her acting in the US than she is for her singing talents.

The lyrics for “Le Temps de L'amour” have been translated into English as follows:

It is the time of love,
The time of friends and adventure.
As the time comes and goes,
One thinks of nothing in spite of one's wounds.
Because the time of love
It's long and it's short,
It lasts forever, one remembers it.

At twenty, we tell ourselves that we rule the world,
And that all the blue sky will be in our eyes forever.

It is the time of love,
The time of friends and adventure.
As the time comes and goes,
We think of nothing in spite of our wounds.
For the time of love
It fills your heart
With so much warmth and happiness.
One fine day it's love and the heart beats faster,
For life follows its course
And one is totally happy to be in love.

It is the time of love,
The time of friends and adventure.
When the time comes and goes,
One thinks of nothing in spite of one's wounds.
For the time of love
It's long and it's short,
It lasts forever, one remembers it.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Gerry Goffin Takes A Giant Step

I just caught it on the news that legendary songwriter Gerry Goffin passed away today at the age of 75. Goffin and his then wife, Carole King, were one of the several successful songwriting teams to craft their talents at the famous Brill Building in New York.

Some of the more famous Goffin/King Top 5 compositions include the following:

  • “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” – a #1 record for the Shirrells
  • “Take Good Care of My Baby” – a #1 hit for Bobby Vee
  • “The Loco Motion” – #1 for both Little Eva and Grand Funk and #3 for Kylie Minogue
  • “Go Away Little Girl” – #1 for both Steve Lawrence and Donny Osmond
  • “Pleasant Valley Sunday” – #3 for The Monkees
  • “One Fine Day” – #5 for The Chiffons
  • “Up on the Roof” – #5 for The Drifters

In addition, Goffin cowrote the following Top 5 hits with other songsmiths:
  • “Run to Him” (with Jack Keller) – #2 for Bobby Vee
  • “I’ve got to us my Imagination” (with Barry Goldberg) – #4 for Gladys Knight and the Pips
  • “Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)” (with Michael Masser) – #1 for Diana Ross
  • “Saving All My Love for You” (with Michael Masser) – #1 for Whitney Houston

In thinking of a fitting song for the passing of such a great songwriter, and there were several Goffin compositions I considered. My original choices were Tony Orlando’s “Halfway to Paradise,” Gene McDaniels’ “Point of No Return,” Betty Everett’s “I Can’t Hear You No More,” and Dusty Springfield’s “Don’t Forget about Me.”

All were contenders, but I pulled an album cut/flipside by The Monkees as being more indicative of the music I normally feature. As the flipside to The Monkees’ first single “Last Train to Clarksville,” “Take a Giant Step” was a fairly popular flipside that got some airplay in 1966 – although it failed to chart.

We'll miss your giant talents Mr. Goffin, Rest in Peace.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Vala Cupp: Cold, Cold Feeling

Today, I’ve decided to revamp the Tuesday feature to Bluesday Tuesday. For our first selection in this new category, I’ve decided on a singer who was not very well known during her lifetime, and who unfortunately ended her own life on Halloween 2005 at the age of 51. Her name was Vala Cupp and she cut her blues teeth by touring with the legendary bluesman John Lee Hooker for 15 years.

When Hooker retired from touring, Cupp set out on her own using Austin, Texas as her new home base. Like many other struggling, but talented musicians, she supplemented her income with a variety of day jobs. Unfortunately, I never heard of her during her lifetime and only recently discovered her by accident. It was a pleasant find.

For the first selection in this new category, I have a live recording of Vala Cupp doing a live version of Albert Collins’ “Cold, Cold Feeling.” Recorded on June 10, 1990, Cupp sang this rendition during John Lee Hooker’s set of the Chicago Blues Festival. Backed by the King Snakes, this is a great recording that showcases her unbelievable talent. It’s too bad she never gained the fame that was equal to her incredible voice.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Casey Kasem: The End of Our Road

While his health has been failing, the world lost a broadcast legend yesterday when Casey Kasem passed away at the age of 82. In addition to being the voice of “Shaggy” on Scooby-Doo, Kasem was best known for his role of initiating and hosting American Top 40. I first got familiar with Kasem and his show by listening to his broadcast on WKEE in Huntington, WV in the mid 1970s.

Although I worked in radio for 20 years, I never had the opportunity of working for a station that hosted AT 40. It was a sign of honor in a market to be the American Top 40 affiliate. Casey hosted the show from July 4, 1970 to August 6, 1988. While he went on to host other shows after that, he returned to AT 40 from March 28, 1998 to January 3, 2004.

When American Top 40 debuted on Independence Day 1970, Kasem only had eight affiliates. The first record that he played was Marvin Gaye’s “The End of Our Road.” Gaye’s remake of Gladys Knight and the Pips’ 1968 hit peaked at 40. It was Kasem’s first record on the show and would be the first record he would play the following week as it stalled again at 40 before dropping off the chart.

The title of this Marvin Gaye single is a fitting end to a life that touched so many. It’s “The End of Our Road.” Rest in Peace, Casey; Rest in Peace.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Winstons: Color Him Father

For Father’s Day, The Winston’s 1969 hit “Color Him Father” seems appropriate. The song is about a young boy’s step-father who married his widowed mother and the man with the “big wide grin” took her seven children as his own. The song is sung by Richard Lewis Spencer who also played tenor sax in The Winstons. Spencer, who wrote the tune, won the Grammy in 1970 for “Color Him Father” as the Best R&B Song.

“Color Him Father” charted at #7 on the Hot 100 and #2 on the R&B chart. Selling over a million copies, the Recording Industry Association of America certified “Color Him Father” as a gold record. Unfortunately, “Color Him Father” was the band’s only hit recording; however, the flip side, “Amen, Brother,” is known as being one of the most sampled recordings in history. Previous to their own recording career, The Winstons served as the backup band for The Impressions.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

West Virginia: Muswell Hillbilly

Probably the artists with the least experience with West Virginia that we are featuring this week are The Kinks. When the “Muswell Hillbillies” was released in 1971, I’m not sure the band had ever been to West Virginia because the band had been prevented from touring in the US for a number of years. This didn’t stop Ray Davies from whining “I'm a Muswell hillbilly boy, but my heart lies in old West Virginia.”

Muswell Hill, in the north of London, was the home of Ray and Dave Davies and is where The Kinks were formed. While the song mentions New Orleans, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and the Black Hills of South Dakota, it is inextricably linked to West Virginia . . . and of course Muswell Hill.

Although not released as a single, “Muswell Hillbilly” ended up being one of the more popular tunes on this unlikely and poor performing album. While in the US it only made it to #100 on the Top 200 Albums Chart, it failed to register on the British charts. It was the first in a series of concept albums by the band. While these LPs, released in the US on RCA, provided some of Ray Davies’ best writing, they were largely ignored by the public.

Friday, June 13, 2014

West Virginia: Green Rolling Hills

While I do not usually repeat songs, I will when there are different versions of the same tune even if they were recorded by the same artist. Back in 2010, I featured Emmylou Harris and Mary Black’s live duet of “Green Rolling Hills (of West Virginia).” Since I said it all before, I won’t belabor the point of the song’s history and my attraction to it.

For today’s Feminine Friday feature during our Second Week Special on West Virginia, I go back to Emmylou Harris’ original 1978 recording of the song from her album “Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town.” I bought this LP when I was living in Ashland, KY but attending school and working in West Virginia – just a few short miles away.

One other memory of the song was something an old girlfriend had told me. She had come to West Virginia to work and after a few years left for New England. When she heard this song, she had to return because she missed the “Green Rolling Hills of West Virginia.” I certainly can understand that.

On this version, Fayssoux Starling (now McLean) sang the duet with Emmylou. Different than the acoustic version with Mary Black, Harris’ original recording has a deciding electric country feel; however, that is offset by the fiddles provided by Ricky Skaggs – although one of the fiddles may have been a viola as Skaggs is credited as playing both fiddle and viola on the album.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

West Virginia: Crooked Road

Although Chris Knight is from a Western Kentucky mining town, his song “Crooked Road” is about mining in Logan County, West Virginia and the tragedies that often affect the families of miners. Knight understands mining as he was a mine reclamation inspector and had worked for the Kentucky Department of Mining.

“Crooked Road” is also about getting away from the past – which means leaving Logan and its associated tragedies behind. Exiting West Virginia is difficult – I know, I’ve lived here a long time. Even when I go away, I keep coming back.

I’m sure of Knight’s affinity for Logan – but there are a lot of nice people there. I worked in downtown Logan during the summer of 1976 and have had an association with that part of West Virginia since 1975.

“Crooked Road” appears on Knight’s 2008 CD “Heart of Stone” and was co-written with Dan Baird who produced it and played a number of instruments on the recording – although “Crooked Road” only features Knight on acoustic guitar and vocals.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

West Virginia: Berkeley Springs

Today’s Wordless Wednesday selection was written by Canadian guitarist David Essig and was arranged and recorded by another Canadian guitarist, Don Ross. Written about the seat of Morgan County, West Virginia in the Eastern Panhandle, “Berkeley Springs” is a beautiful finger style guitar instrumental.

I’ve been to Berkeley Springs once in 2011 to pay homage to the graves of my grandfather’s cousins who lived and died in this beautiful setting. Berkeley Springs is actually the name of the post office, but has become the de facto name for the town that is actually incorporated at Bath, WV.

“Berkeley Springs” can be found on Ross’ 1999 CD Passion Session. I just love Ross’ use of the harmonics on this tune. I hope you enjoy it as well.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

West Virginia: Rockin' Roll Baby

Day Three of our look at songs about West Virginia takes us back to the fall of 1973 with The Stylistics’ “Rockin’ Roll Baby.” I was a college freshman when I first heard this recording. It was just after we had a guest speaker on campus from Bluefield, West Virginia.

When I heard this song, I pointed it out to a friend of mine that this new song mentioned Bluefield, but he discounted it thinking that I had mistaken what was said due to our recent guest. He was wrong, as the lyrics declare that the “Rockin’ Roll Baby” was “born in a theater in Bluefield, West Virginia.”

This example of the Philadelphia soul sound was penned by producer Thom Bell and his writing partner “Linda Creed.” “Rockin’ Roll Baby” was a triple chart hit, but its performance on the adult contemporary chart didn’t do as well, as it only charted at #44. On the Hot 100, it peaked at #14, but its best performance was on the R&B charts where it finished at #3.

Monday, June 9, 2014

West Virginia: The Men in Sago Mine

With day two of our look at West Virginia songs, today’s selection is song written and performed by Chapmanville native Jeff Ellis. I remember hearing Ellis perform “The Men in Sago Mine” on West Virginia Public Radio’s Mountain Stage back in 2008. Ellis wrote the song while he and his reserve unit were stationed in Kuwait as part of Iraqi Operation Freedom.

According to Ellis, he printed off three stories regarding the 2006 Sago Mine Disaster in Upsher County, West Virginia. By synthesizing what he was reading six thousand miles from the disaster, “The Men in the Sago Mine” was born. Ellis released the song on his 2008 CD “Covering the Distance.”

The tragedy of the disaster rocked the world as it was incorrectly reported that all 13 trapped miners had survived. Unfortunately, only one man, Randal L. McCloy, Jr., survived the ordeal. The remaining twelve succumbed to gas and smoke awaiting a rescue that didn’t come soon enough. As mentioned in the song, then Governor Joe Manchin was propelled into the national spotlight during the ordeal. The disaster occurred during the beginning of his second year in office.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

West Virginia: Shadows in the Moonlight

Now that I am back in West Virginia, I have planned to feature songs that have a reference to the state as our Second Week Feature. I did the same thing last May for my return to Kentucky after 32 years in West Virginia. Today’s selection is Tommy Shaw’s “Shadows in the Moonlight.”

It has a little bit of everything as I transition back to West Virginia, as the male protagonist is from West Virginia, the female protagonist is from Kentucky, and the song speaks of crossing the Big Sandy River. I crossed both the Big and Little Sandy Rivers for the last time (for a while) ten days ago.

You may recognize Tommy Shaw’s name from the band Styx where he served as the lead guitarist. Shaw was actually the first rock star that I had the opportunity to meet backstage at a Styx show in Charleston, WV in 1981. “Shadows in the Moonlight” comes from Shaw’s 2011 bluegrass CD “The Great Divide.”

The author, Ron Hill, Tommy Shaw, & Gary "Music" Miller

Written by Shaw and former Pure Prairie League member Gary Burr, the outcome of “Shadows in the Moonlight” is unresolved. What happened when the pistol was discharged? Who was shot? While it isn’t clear, it sounds as though the father was the one who was shot in the altercation as the hope of forgiveness is desired in the days to come.

Besides lead vocals, Shaw contributes mandolin and resonator guitar. Sam Bush is also on mandolin and I think his leads are the first ones on the cut while Shaw probably has the single note lead later in the song. One of my favorite Dobro® players, Rob Ickes, is prominently featured as well as Stuart Duncan on fiddle. Rounding out the track are Brad Davis on guitar, Chris Brown on drums, and Byron House on bass.

You may notice that during the next seven days there will be an absence of several of the better known songs about West Virginia. This is because I’ve already featured these in the past.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Cream: Politician (Live)

Not counting Cream’s two live albums and “Best of Cream” that were posthumously released after the band’s breakup, “Goodbye Cream” is often cited as the band’s last hurrah. The release featured three studio tracks and three live tracks from their “Farewell” tour that began in October 1968. The album was released in February 1969, which was four months after Cream disbanded.

“Politician,” one of the live cuts, was recorded at the Los Angeles Forum on October 19. The song originally appeared as a studio track on the double LP “Wheels of Fire” in 1968. While it is not usually the case, I prefer the live version to the studio rendition that was recorded months earlier.

It is apparent that Cream honed their skills on this song while on the road, as Jack Bruce’s bass and vocals, Eric Clapton’s guitar, and Ginger Baker’s drums are all impeccable. The bass in the right channel while the guitar is mostly mixed to the left. “Politician’s” kicks show what master musicians can do with a piece of art like this. Bruce and Clapton are tight on their unison playing as well.

“Politician” was penned by Jack Bruce and lyricist Pete Brown who co-wrote a number of songs with members of Cream. Not released as a single either as a studio or live track, “Politician” is just one of the many great album cuts from the catalog of Cream.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Fleetwood Mac: Rhiannon

For our Feminine Friday feature, we turn to the song that put Stevie Nicks on the musical map with the masses. While sometimes referred to as a song about a Welsh witch, Nicks was inspired to write “Rhiannon” after reading Mary Leader’s Triad. Leader’s character Rhiannon was loosely based on the Welsh legend.

On the US singles, the song was titled as “Rhiannon (Will You Ever Win),” but only carried the non-parenthetical title on the LP. “Rhiannon” appears on the second self-titled “Fleetwood Mac” album that was released in 1975.

I remembered that I purchased the album in early 1976 at the Sundry Store in Grayson, KY as they had the cheapest album prices of the three stores that sold records in town. The album charted in the US at #1 and was certified five times platinum. The single peaked at #11 in 1976.

In addition to Stevie Nicks lead vocals, Christine McVie and Lindsey Buckingham sang backup on the choruses. I had the opportunity of seeing Nicks in concert in 1982 and was amazed how many times she changed outfits during the show. She even had a tent set up on stage to accommodate her large wardrobe. It was a good show, but I thought that this detracted from the entire presentation.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Doobie Brothers: Another Park, Another Sunday

Back in 1974, The Doobie Brothers released their fourth album, “What Were Once Vices are Now Habits.” The debut single from the album, “Another Park, Another Sunday,” is one of my favorite songs by The Doobies. Because it only peaked at #32, “Another Park, Another Sunday” fits our Thirty Something Thursday feature.

One of my attractions to this Tom Johnston composition about the loss of a girlfriend was the sound of the guitars. At the time, I wasn’t sure how they achieved this sound. This was before the popularity of phase shifters and chorus effects and it never dawned on me that the guitars were run through a Leslie rotating speaker.

At the beginning, the Leslie is set on the slow speed, but later in the tune, it is played at the fast setting. In the past few months, I got a chance to appreciate Leslie speakers as a friend of mine, Steve Hoffman, inherited one and I had the opportunity to watch him rebuild it. He was a braver man that I would have been for tackling this project which also had him work on the guts of a Hammond organ as well.

While you can get similar effects with phase shifters and chorus pedals, nothing quite matches the sound of an old school Leslie. In addition to the Leslie, listen for the occasional guitar harmonics that adds another flavor to the song. This is no doubt one of the best windows down, cruising songs.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Eric Clapton: Peaches and Diesel

For our Wordless Wednesday selection, I’ve chosen a 1977 instrumental by Eric Clapton from his triple platinum album “Slowhand.” “Peaches and Diesel,” which has often been compared to its A side “Wonderful Tonight,” was composed by Clapton and Albhy Galuten. Galuten, whose only contribution to “Slowhand” was the coauthoring of “Peaches and Diesel,” is best known as a producer of a number of artists including Clapton’s label mates, The Bee Gees.

While I’ve read some speculation on the source of the unusual title of the song, it has nothing to do with Duane Allman. It has been theorized that the title represents Allman’s infamous “eat a peach” phrase that inspired a postmortem album title and the cause of his death – a collision with a truck – presumably diesel fueled.

The term, although rather obscure, is used to describe the bouquet of certain wines. Unfortunately, I could not find a description of what a peaches and diesel fragrance represents. I can only imagine, while I may be wrong, that it is possibly a fruity bouquet that lingers heavily – much like diesel fuel hangs in the air long after it is spilled. What do I know about wine anyway?

Whatever it represents, “Peaches and Diesel” was the final cut on the “Slowhand” album. Enjoy.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Al Green Twofer

He’s a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame and is adept at both soul and gospel music – Al Green. Last week when I was contemplating a label to feature, Hi Records out of Memphis was on my radar; however, because of the lack of depth of the label, I was unable to come up with a satisfactory list of seven records that I hadn’t already featured.

I had already featured numbers by Al Green, Ann Peebles, Syl Johnson, and a few others – so I was strapped on what I could select. Since Al Green had 14 Top 40 releases, his material was still untapped and there were several of his tunes that I hadn’t already discussed in the past. So for this Twofer Tuesday, I present two selections from Al Green.

Tired of Being Alone

Although “Tired of Being Alone” only peaked at 11 on the pop charts, it was a Top 10 R&B record and Al Green’s first gold single. In addition while some of his previous recordings were R&B hits, it took 10 singles for Green to make it into the Top 40.

The 1971 version was actually the second version of “Tired of Being Alone” to be recorded by Hi. Green had recorded it in 1969 and had intended to release it at that time; however, some problems in the recording process caused the 1969 version to be shelved and to never see the light of day

I’m Still In Love With You

Four singles later, Al Green had his second #1 soul hit with 1972’s “I’m Still in Love with You.” It also was a #3 hit record on the Hot 100 and received enough Adult Contemporary airplay to chart at #33.

It was Green’s second of his four triple crossovers. The others were “Let’s Stay Together,” “You Ought to be with Me,” and “Sha-La-La (Make Me Happy).” Al Green helped define soul music in the 70s and his music should be required listening of everyone.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Van Morrison: Bright Side of the Road

Tonight, I was watching the 1996 movie “Michael” starring John Travolta, which is a rather unorthodox presentation of Michael the Archangel making his final trip to the earth. I wasn’t familiar with the movie, but it had an interesting premise. It is well worth watching and it has some of Hollywood’s best including Andie MacDowell, William Hurt, Jean Stapleton, Bob Hoskins, and Teri Garr.

During the end of the movie and over the credits, the producers chose a Van Morrison tune from 1979. “Bright Side of the Road” was the lead cut from Morrison’s album “Into the Music.” Although released as a single, the song failed to make it into the Hot 100 – rather peaking at 110.

“Bright Side of the Road” features Van Morrison on guitar, vocals, and harmonica. It also features piano, a rhythm section, horns, backup vocals, tabla, and violin. Toni Marcus initially plays the violin pizzicato and it almost sounds like a banjo. She later bows it as a lead instrument. The backup vocals were provided by Katie Kissoon – half of the duo of Mac and Katie Kissoon. You can’t be sad when you listen to the “Bright Side of the Road.”