Sunday, October 18, 2015

Rolling Clones: Can You Hear Me Knocking

For our final “Rolling Clones” selection we bring you a tune that originally appeared on The Rolling Stones’ “Sticky Fingers” album from 1971 – “Can You Hear Me Knocking.” Today’s remake is from the 2010 Santana release “Guitar Heaven: The Greatest Guitar Classics of All Time” – an album that features some of the best guitar songs and vocals by numerous guests.

I can remember hearing the original of this the first time as I didn’t have the album. One night in 1974, I was recording some music off air from WAMX in Ashland, Kentucky. The station had the greatest selection of album rock courtesy of the jocks’ own record collections. Needless to say, I fell asleep and this was the last cut before the tape ran out. I had no idea the identity of the artist nor did I know the name of the song. Since Google hadn’t been invented, I couldn’t search for it by using the lyrics. When I finally got “Sticky Fingers,” I discovered this long unknown but favorite track.

Instead of guitars by Mick Taylor and Keith Richards and vocals by Mick Jagger, the song features Carlos Santana and Tommy Anthony and vocals by Scott Weiland who fronted the Stone Temple Pilots. While the remake has an impromptu jam, it is different than the one found on the Stones’ recording, which was inspired by Mick Taylor’s improvisation. While I like the original better, this is a very good take on this classic Rolling Stones’ track.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Rolling Clones: Tumblin' Dice

In the late 1970s, Linda Ronstadt was the female vocalist of the era. Beginning in 1975 with the #1 “You’re No Good,” she effortlessly charted with hit after hit.  Besides that, she was easy on the eyes, and that is always a plus for a talented performer of any gender. Her triple platinum, eighth studio album, “Simple Dreams,” produced a number of hit records that were covers of other artists’ material. Beginning in 1977, she charted with Roy Orbison’s “Blue Bayou” (#3), Buddy Holly’s “It’s So Easy” (#5), and Warren Zevon’s “Poor Poor Pitiful Me” (#31).

In 1978, Asylum decided to release two separate promo singles E45479-A “Tumblin’ Dice” and E45479-B “I Never Will Marry” to different radio audiences. Although the traditional “I Never Will Marry” is often erroneously reported as the A-side, the song is clearly identified as the B side in the numbering of both the promotional and commercial singles.

While “I Never Will Marry” didn’t place on the pop charts (and why would it?), this ballad hit #30 on the Adult Contemporary side and made it to the Top Ten on the country charts where it peaked at #8. The actual “A” side, “Tumblin’ Dice,” was the choice of Top 40 radio.

Her remake of this Rolling Stones’ classic garnered airplay and peaked at #32 on the Hot 100. Six years earlier, The Stones had a Top Ten hit with “Tumblin’ Dice” and took this first single from “Exile on Main Street” all the way to #7. In addition to the single’s success in America, Ronstadt’s version charted in Canada at #35. A live version also made it to the soundtrack to the 1978 film “FM.” It is the only cover song in our “Rolling Clones” feature that charted.

According to Ronstadt, Mick Jagger suggested that she add some heavier songs to her repertoire. Since her band was already playing “Tumblin’ Dice” as an instrumental for sound checks, she asked Mick to supply the words and the rest, as they say, is history.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Rolling Clones: Paint It Black

Back in 1972, my brother tripled my record collection by giving me a box of LPs that he had expunged from his very large inventory. One of the albums was the 1967 release of “Winds of Change” by the reformed Animals. Since Eric Burdon and drummer Barry Jenkins were the only remaining members of the Animals who disbanded in 1966, the group was officially christened as “Eric Burdon & the Animals”; however, the album references the band as the “New Animals.”

“Winds of Change” was a new musical direction for Burdon who had moved from blues-based music to psychedelia with a heavy bent. The hit from the LP was “San Franciscan Nights,” which charted at #9. One of the other cuts on the album that caught my ear was Burdon’s rendition of The Rolling Stones’ classic “Paint it Black.” While the Stones hit the #1 position with “Paint it Black,” it was never released as a single by Burdon & the Animals.

In addition to Burdon and Jenkins, the lineup contained the following new members: Vic Briggs on guitar and piano, John Weider with guitar and violin, and Danny McCulloch on bass. During the time of the album’s sessions, Weider broke his wrist and Keith Olsen substituted on some of the album’s cuts.

This nearly six minute (the album has the time wrong at 6:20) rendition of the Stones’ original is not musically perfect. There are some glitches in this version. One, Eric Burdon is no Mick Jagger – his voice is powerful, but his pitch is often erratic. The instrumentation isn’t always together – I guess I am so used to the quantizing that occurs with electronic music, that I expect it with real musicians.

In addition, there is a guitar note at 3:39 that has always bothered me – it was probably intended, but to me, it sounds out of place. Listen closely in the recitation part and you can also hear a 60 cycle hum which was no doubt amp noise – something that was probably not noticeable on vinyl release.

While there are some technical issues and it really is on par with how the band sounded live, I still like this version. The addition of the Weider’s violin and the recitation sets Eric Burdon & the Animals apart from other covers of this tune.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Rolling Clones: Play With Fire

In looking for Rolling Stones covers by other artists, I found an acoustic version of “Play with Fire” by Michelle Branch. While it is one of the better known Stones’ ballads, “Play with Fire” was issued as a flip side to “The Last Side” and received some airplay in its own right. Unlike “The Last Time” that was propelled to the #9 position, the Stones’ version of “Play with Fire” only made it to #96.

Grammy winning Branch recorded “Play with Fire” in 2012, but it is uncertain whether it will appear on her yet unreleased album “West Coast Time.” As it stands, it’s not in the unofficial list of songs for the CD – so chances of making it to the album does not look good. The single is available for free download.

While her version doesn’t sport the harpsichord as found on the original, her version features a number of guitars, percussion, and bass. “Play with Fire” was produced by John Leventhal.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Rolling Clones: Heart of Stone

It is day four of our series “Rolling Clones” and we have a very nice and bluesy rendition of the Stone’s 1964 American hit “Heart of Stone.” Although released on an EP in the UK, it was one of the few Rolling Stones’ hits that was not issued in their homeland as a single release. Today’s rendition comes from The Allman Brothers Band’s final studio album: “Hittin’ the Note” from 2003.

Although it’s the band’s last studio (but not last) album, it was significant in a number of respects. It was the only studio LP not to feature Dickey Betts as he had been relieved of his duties as The Allman Brothers’ primary guitarist. It also marked the return of Warren Haynes and the introduction of Derek Trucks as guitarists.

Derek is the nephew of one of The Allman Brothers’ drummers, Butch Trucks. Listen with headphones as you’ll be able to determine which guitarist is playing. Haynes in the left channel while Derek Trucks is in the right. This is really a nice production feature that extends across the entire album.

Gregg Allman shines on vocals on this classic. Take a listen.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Rolling Clones: You Can't Always Get What You Want

Looking for unique versions of Rolling Stones’ songs has be somewhat of a challenge, but not an impossibility. One that is different from the original recording comes from the 2007 release of the “House M.D. Original Television Soundtrack.” Today’s Rolling Clones’ selection is the Band from TV’s recording of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

Although the song as it appears on the CD was never featured in any episode, the Stones original was referenced several times throughout the length of the series. Hugh Laurie, who also played the lead role of Dr. Gregory House, sings lead as a member of Band from TV. This reggae influenced rendition is missing the choir, the acoustic guitar, and French horn that are characteristics of the original – but this remake has its own character that makes it very, very palatable.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Rolling Clones: Gimme Shelter

As we continue our look at covers of Rolling Stones recordings that I’ve titled as “Rolling Clones,” today’s remake is of global proportions. Playing for Change is an amalgamation of musicians from all over the world who collaborate digitally to release some amazing recordings. Mark Johnson has created the concept and produces the recordings with Enzo Buono. They travel the world recording the various artists using mobile multi-media gear.

The only artist on today’s selecting with whom I am familiar is Taj Mahal. The others, famous or not, I didn’t know – but they are all excellent musicians. Originally, released by The Rolling Stones on their “Let it Bleed” LP in 1969, it has become one of their most popular album cuts. Playing for Change’s 2011 rendition is dedicated to “all of lost, homeless, and forgotten people in this world.”

The players on this rendition included the following:
  • Greg Ellis of Hollywood, CA – hand drums
  • Venkat of Chennai, India – tabla
  • Roberto Luti of Livorno, Italy – slide National steel bodied guitar
  • Washboard Chaz of New Orleans, LA – washboard
  • Roselyn Williams of Kingston, Jamaica – vocals
  • A.S. Ram of Chennai, India – harmonium
  • Sidney Santos of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – electric bass
  • Tamika McClellan of New York City – vocals
  • Mamady Ba Camara of Bamako, Mali – kora mamadou koyate
  • Massamba Diop of Dakar, Senegal – djembe
  • Sherieta Lewis of Kingston, Jamaica -- vocals
  • Courtney “Bam” Diedick of St. Ann, Jamaica – drums
  • Sean “Pow” Diedrick of St. Ann, Jamaica – keyboards
  • Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars of Freetown, Sierra Leone – electric guitar and log
  • Seenu M. of Chennai, India – santoor
  • Taj Mahal of New York City – vocals and harmonica
  • Andrae Carter of Kingston, Jamaica – electric guitar
  • Char of Tokyo, Japan – acoustic guitar.

The Derek Lawrence Statement: I Am The Preacher

While I’ll admit my posts have been sparse during the past six months, but for a number of reasons I’ve had two posts on one day – yesterday and I will have a second one later today. Since today is Pastor Appreciation Day, I thought I might sneak in a song that is fitting for the moment: “I am the Preacher” by the The Derek Lawrence Statement.

As far as I know, this was the first recorded version of the song and it was released two months later by Deep Purple as their fifth American single. Their version of the song was titled “Hallelujah (I am the Preacher). It was written by Roger Greenaway and Roger Cook – two professional songwriters who penned a number of hits during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.

In 1969, Greenaway sent a demo to Derek Lawrence – the producer of the first three Deep Purple albums. Lawrence didn’t think the band would be interested in the song, but he sent it to Ritchie Blackmore anyway. At this time, Deep Purple was seeking another lead singer, another bassist, and unbeknown to Lawrence, another producer.

While Purple’s version failed to chart in the UK, it did poorly in the US by peaking at #108. While Rod Evans was out of the band having been replaced by Ian Gillian, Nick Simper apparently played on this single as Roger Glover had not yet joined the band. Although Derek Lawrence supplied Deep Purple with the demo, they did not utilize his services as producer.

Tony Edwards and John Colleta, managers of the band, are listed as the producers. To my knowledge, it’s the only cut where Edwards and Colleta were cited in this capacity. They are listed on the UK single on Harvest Records, but not on the US version on Tetragrammaton Records. Subsequent recordings have listed the band as producers. You can check out Deep Purple’s version with a number of their other early recordings on this 2010 post of “Deep Purple before Smoke on the Water.”

Although Deep Purple just barely charted with the song, they did not have the first recording of “Hallelujah (I am the Preacher)” – Derek Lawrence used his bevy of studio musicians and vocalists to produce his outstanding single under the name of The Derek Lawrence Statement. Along with its flipside, I believe that this was the only release by The Derek Lawrence Statement; however, the group in various forms recorded under about a half a dozen different names for Lawrence. “I Am the Preacher” was released in May 1969, which was two months before Deep Purple’s rendition.

The powerful vocals of The Derek Lawrence Statement are provided by Larry Steele, Liza Strike, and Tony Wilson. I believe each take a turn at the lead vocals. They are joined by Albert Lee on lead guitar, Harvey Hinsley on rhythm guitar, Chas Hodges on bass, and drummer Micky Burt.

The Derek Lawrence Statement still lives as it has been sampled for four hip-hop recordings. They include Qwel and Meaty Ogre’s “The Fourth Reich of the Rich” from 2006, Dilated Peoples’ “Hallelujah” from 2014, Fel Sweetenberg’s “Tomorrows in the Stars” from 2014, and Brock Berrigan’s “The Preacher” from earlier this year.

Happy Pastor Appreciation Day.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

"Brite Eyes Don't Cry" - Robbin Thompson has Passed

I just heard a few minutes ago that Robbin Thompson passed away yesterday at age of 66. The Virginia rocker has been fighting the dreaded disease for 15 years. Personally, I hadn’t heard of Thompson until I moved to Southern West Virginia in 1981. His fan base was within the Southeast and he had a cult-like following especially in the Commonwealth. For those outside of the region, Virginians tend to view their state as the only commonwealth in the US, but it’s not.*

Although he was born in Boston and reared in Melbourne, Florida, Virginia became his adopted home in 1969 when he began attending Virginia Commonwealth University. In his early years, he fronted Bruce Springsteen’s Steel Mill band for a short period before embarking on a longstanding career as a solo artist and fronting his own ensemble, The Robbin Thompson Band.

Earlier this year, his and Steve Bassett’s song “Sweet Virginia Breeze” was signed into legislation to be one of Virginia’s official popular songs. This song was featured on 1980’s “(two b’s please),” an album that also contained “Candyapple Red” and “Brite Eyes” – his only song to become a minor hit in the US – although it and others were regional hits. We played all three of these selections as album cuts at WCIR-FM, as his popularity had even extended into our region – but not to the north of us.

The album was released regionally on a local label based in Richmond and was picked up by Ovation for national release after selling 200,000 units in Virginia, the Carolinas, and DC. I couldn’t find any chart information on “Brite Eyes” other than it debuted on Billboard’s Radio Play chart at #88 during the fall of 1980.

“Brite eyes don't cry – it’s gonna be alright – you know I hate to see you cry.” Rest in Peace Robbin.

*Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Mariana Islands are also commonwealths.

Rolling Clones: 2000 Light Years From Home

Every so often, I will do a feature on covers. I actually planned to do this Second Week Feature back in 2013, but replaced it with something else. Now time is on my side to look at covers of songs originally recorded by The Rolling Stones. There were so many good and unusual covers of Stones’ selections that I decided to extend it to eight days and start a day early.

In the same vein I used for Buddy Holly covers (“Not My Buddy”), rehashed Beatles’ songs (“Refab Four”), and Byrds’ remakes (“Mocking Byrds”), today I bring you our new feature – “Rolling Clones.” While I had seven songs picked for 2013, I am only using three of those selections, as I found some more interesting alternate versions of Rolling Stones’ hits. Most of the songs will be familiar, but there are possibly three that mainstream folks won’t know. Today, we have one those selections.

The Stones released “2000 Light Years from Home” as the flipside of “She’s a Rainbow” in 1968. The band’s journey into psychedelic music has always been one of my enduring favorite lesser known Stones’ recordings. For today, I found a 2012 remake by Nektar from their cover album “A Spoonful of Time.” I wasn’t aware that the prog rock German based band of Englishmen had reformed, but after a 20 year hiatus, they have been together again since 2001.

The album “A Spoonful of Time” is also known for Nektar’s use of guest musicians on every cut and “2000 Light Years from Home” is no exception. Its guest is Hawkwind’s former keyboardist Simon House. Nothing like using someone accustomed to an ethereal sound to capture the intent of The Stones’ foray into psychedelia. The vocals are supplied by Nektar’s original guitarist/vocalist Roye Albrighton who left the band in 1977, and who returned for the 21st century reformation.

Nektar’s rendition of “2002 Light Years from Home” is nice, but it’s not for the faint of heart. The only thing missing from this remake is the falsetto background vocals that were on the original. Although, I recognized that they were lacking, I did not miss their absence. I always thought they were supplied by Yoko Ono on the original, but alas it was either Mick or Keith as they are only ones credited as backup singers on the Stone’s version.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Jimmy Buffett: Come Monday

I can’t believe that after writing this blog for over six years that I’ve never featured a tune by Jimmy Buffett. Well, let’s rectify that situation with our Thirty Something Thursday selection. “Come Monday” written about a leg of his 1973 summer tour which took him from Los Angeles to San Francisco where he would play his Labor Day show. It continues to be one of eight songs that Buffett plays at every appearance.

“Come Monday” was written about and for Buffett’s then girlfriend Janie who would later become his wife in 1977. While it wasn’t Buffett’s first single release, it was the first to make it into the Top 40. While this second single from his LP “Living and Dying in 3/4 Time” only made it to #30, it was bigger hit on adult contemporary radio where it peaked at #3 in 1974. It also got some country play, but the record stalled at #58 on the C&W charts.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Crosby, Stills, & Nash: Helplessly Hoping

One of my all-time favorite albums is Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s debut LP from 1969. What a great collection of songs that occurred by the chance collaborations of three superstars: David Crosby who took flight from The Byrds, Stephen Stills who was seeking a musical home following the divorce of Buffalo Springfield, and Graham Nash who left the Hollies over creative differences. The result was one of the most enduring marriages of rock music from the sixties forward – and this first album was just a taste – but a very good taste of the wonderful things to come.

A peak into some of the songs gives us some insight into the mind of one of its members: Stephen Stills. Judy Collins had recently broke off her relationship with Stills and nearly a third of the album is his dealing with the loss. The results were “49 Bye-Byes,” “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” and “Helplessly Hoping.” While “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” was a musical magnum opus with its different movements, “Helplessly Hoping” was a lyrical masterpiece with Stills’ painting a series of alliterations into a coherent set of lyrics over a canvas of a song.

While Nash and Crosby supply some guitar to the album’s various tunes and Dallas Taylor was drummer on all cuts except “Marrakesh Express,” the majority of the instrumentation on “Crosby, Stills & Nash” was strictly Stephen Stills. His work as a multi-instrumentalist shines.

But, the band was not known specifically for its instrumentation. Their three part harmonies are their signature . . . and the vocals on “Helplessly Hoping” are just wonderful – it just sends chills up and down my spine when I hear it. “Helplessly Hoping” is sparse by comparison to the other tracks – it’s only the vocals and one finger-style guitar courtesy of its author Stephen Stills.

“They are one person – they are two alone – they are three together – they are for each other.”

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Ray Charles: Mess Around

Having heard today’s Bluesday Tuesday selection a while back, I marked it down for future reference. It is a song that not only predates my life, but my familiarity of the late, great Ray Charles’ recordings. The 1953 single release of “Mess Around” is one of his definitive recordings.

From what I can tell, “Mess Around,” was Ray’s third single release on Atlantic Records and the first of his many early singles to chart. While he wouldn’t chart on the mainstream charts until 1957, “Mess Around” ascended to the #3 position on Billboard’s R&B Chart.

“Mess Around” was written by Ahmet Ertegün, the president of Atlantic Records, under the pseudonym of “Nuggy.” The song drew influence both instrumentally and lyrically from a number of sources as Ertegün borrowed liberally from his predecessors in the blues genre. This is great stuff from Ray.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Dave Grohl: Times Like These

Well, it had been awhile since I’ve had a Wooden Wednesday selection so I thought I’d find an acoustic song to satisfy this craving. While listening to WRLF in Fairmont, WV last night, I heard the Foo Fighters’ 2002 alternative hit “Times like These.” While searching YouTube for it to use as future post, I also found Dave Grohl’s acoustic rendition of this classic. Grohl provides all guitars, keyboards, and vocals on this solo video.

Written in the key of D, it is not in standard Ionian mode, but rather in mixolydian. This is basically a G-scale that uses the D note as the root. In other words, the scale is D-E-F#-G-A-B-C-D. Grohl’s acoustic version was released nearly four years after the Foo Fighter’s original and got a modicum of airplay as well. Nice stuff.