Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Marshall Tucker Band

In 1973, producer and musical entrepreneur Don Kirshner left ABC’s “In Concert” to begin his own syndicated TV show “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert.” The show aired during the middle of the week following the 11:00 news and provided prerecorded live concerts for 90 minutes. I remember watching the second episode of the show on October 2, 1973 with a number of my fellow students at Kentucky Christian College in the common room of Jones Hall.

This late week night addition to the TV offerings wreaked havoc with my college class taking routine. For my freshman year, my brother John “helped” me construct my schedule for my first year. He decided that I needed to take all of my classes in the morning starting with 7:30 am courses. His reasoning was that I could have the afternoon to myself. It was quite the struggle staying up and watching great shows like “Rock Concert.”

The October 2nd show was the second episode of the first season. The show consisted in part of a September 10, 1973 Macon, Georgia concert featuring the Allman Brothers, Wet Willie, and the Marshall Tucker Band. Other performances by Larry Graham, Martin Mull, and Todd Rundren rounded out the evening. While I had never heard of Wet Willie and Marshall Tucker before this show, one particular song caught my attention – “Can’t You See.” Here’s the live version from the show.

I loved this song and “Take the Highway.” Within a month, I bought the album from the DJ Record Shop in Grayson – one of only three local outlets that were selling records in the small city of 4,000. The others were Ralph’s and the Sundry Store. It was my first album I had purchased in Grayson. I had gotten to be pretty good friends with the owner as I had bought my first mandolin from him in September of that year.

The use of the flute on this song got me interested in learning the instrument which I was able to do in 1975 with the help of Patty Williams. I later bought my own in 1979 from Joe Dobbs at the Fret and Fiddle in West Huntington, WV. I get it out occasionally and I am well aware of my own limitations on this instrument.

I did get to use it on a recording in 1995; I played flute one of the cuts from Dr. Charles Polk’s “Just a Little Prayer” CD. I ran it through a digital delay to get a Tim Weisberg type effect. That’s the close as I have been to playing it in public.

In 1983, I had the chance to meet the band at Concord College during a concert appearance. They opened for the Greg Allman Band during that show.

Sitting/Kneeling: Doug Gray, Jim Owston of WCIR, & Toy Caldwell
Standing: Bob Spencer of WCIR, Concord Staffer, George McCorkle,
Paul Riddle, Ronnie Godfrey, Franklin Wilkie, Jerry Eubanks, & Concord Staffer.
Photo by Taunya L. Jones

Here’s a YouTube playlist of their entire debut album with the exception of the final cut, “AB’s Song” which is not currently available on YouTube.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Scott English Brandy/Mandy

Well, let’s just get this out there in the open: 1. I am not a Barry Manilow fan, and 2. I am not a Scott English fan either. Now that I got this off my chest, the purpose of including these two artists on Friday Firsts is because one song that they both recorded under different titles has its place musical history. This is a unique situation and I am not certain how often something like this has occurred – if ever. It also shows that I can be objective as well as subjective when it comes to music.

In 1971, Scott English recorded a song that he and Richard Kerr had penned. “Brandy” did well in the UK charting at #12, but was a stateside flop. The single was release in North America on the Janus label and It was the original recording of a song Barry Manilow would take to #1 in 1974 as “Mandy.”

Too much Brandy

A year after English’s dismal American chart action, another group named the Looking Glass released their #1 hit wonder – “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl). While the song only shared the name of the female lead in the song, it would have implications for English & Kerr’s composition.

Brandy is distilled into Mandy

In 1974, Arista Records owner Clive Davis suggested to Barry Manilow that he record the Kerr/English composition. Manilow agreed; however, feeling that the title was too similar to the 1972 hit by the Looking Glass, he changed the title to “Mandy.” The song became his first number one record as well as his first gold single. While he had originally recorded a version that was similar to Scott English’s release, he and producer Ron Dante thought that it would be better to be recorded as a ballad – and the rest as they say is history.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Chuck Owston: Home Fried Blues

“Home fries and a cup of coffee” – part of the late night fare at Scotty’s Diner on Penn Avenue near the Pittsburgh/Wilkinsburg city/borough line. I didn’t get up to Pittsburgh very often during my undergraduate years of 1976-1978, but during the times I did, Scotty’s Diner was often visited after midnight to get my fix of fried potatoes and a cup of Joe. During that period of time, my brother Chuck wrote a piece for his band Fannin Street named “Blues for Scotty’s Diner.” Scotty's was a favorite hangout for musicians.

When his “Mysterious Ladies & Midnight Queens” album was released in 1978, the song was rechristened “Home Fried Blues.” The album has become somewhat of a collector’s item as it somehow has gotten categorized as psychedelic-folk, although that is somewhat of a misnomer for this song collection. I’ve have also seen the LP sell on eBay for $60, $90, and $100. To think I used to give it away to my friends – I wish I had a bunch of copies today.

“Home Fried Blues” was dedicated to Tom Waits because it was his influence that helped create this tune. The song was larger life than being a Fannin Street favorite and its inclusion on the “Mysterious Ladies & Midnight Queens” album.

 Photo stolen from The American Roadside

In 1993, Chuck was approached by Rick Sebak about using the song in his forthcoming PBS video about diners. “Pennsylvania Diners and Other Roadside Restaurants” aired originally in October 1993 and features “Home Fried Blues” over the closing credits of the show.

It is for this reason, that “Home Fried Blues” is today’s TV Thursday song. That and today is my brother Chuck’s birthday. Happy Birthday brother – your present is to be featured on this blog. Think of the promotional value and the much greater worth it has beyond mere gifts.  Besides music, our family is notorious for being “cheap” towards one another.

 Bassist Nick Brack 1951-2003

The song features Chuck on vocals, me on Wurlitzer electric piano, the late Nick Brack on bass, and Howard “HB” Bennett on drums. The album was recorded at Asterik Studios in Pittsburgh during the second half of 1977 and was subsequently released on Nite Owl Records. I also had the honor of taking the cover photo.

Well, my time is up today  - “The clock on the wall has chromium wings. I never saw time fly, though I’ve seen some pretty strange things.”

 Image stolen from The American Roadside

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Jean Michel Jarre: Rendezvous II

French composer and multi-instrumentalist Jean Michel Jarre has been wowing live audiences for over 35 years by combining sight and sound. Using an array of electronic instruments, Jarre often performs while being backed by a full orchestra and choir. In addition, light shows and media projection behind Jarre set the stage for the music he is performing.

It is also not uncommon for this classically trained and influenced musician to have fireworks occurring during his concerts. I imagine the crowd responses of awe are not unlike the crowds that witnessed Tchaikovsky’s first performance in 1882 of the “1812 Overture” with actual cannon fire.

The highlight of “Rendezvous II” comes at 3:52 in the video when Jarre plays the laser harp. This invention, which is Jarre’s signature instrument, combines sight and sound. The individual notes are programmable via a MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) as each light stream represents an individual pitch that is controlled by breaking the beam of light. Other aspects such as vibrato can be added and controlled by the varying the point of where the break occurs in the beam.

He also uses analog cymbals which may be either miked or set as triggers to an electronic percussion device. The round object in the foreground is a Roland HandSonic Electronic Hand Percussion instrument that can be programmed for a number of sounds to the various areas on the instrument. Roland makes various models of the HandSonic that differ in the number of available trigger pads.

The HandSonic also has a light beam as well that allows the percussionist to mimic sounds that are variable like mallets on a ride cymbal. I had a chance to fool with one of these two years ago thanks to Ron Keller who backs Beth Patterson. It is a great little instrument. I’d love to have one and a laser harp – but don’t know where I would use either one these days.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Episode 300 - Peter, Paul, & Mary: Puff The Magic Dragon

It is my 300th episode of “Reading Before the Grooves” and today I am retracing my musical steps back to the first 45 rpm record that I ever owned. In fact it was my first serious record, although I did receive a number of 78s with my Mickey Mouse® record player that I got for Christmas in 1961.

When I used the terminology “Mickey Mouse,” it is not denigrating – it was an actual brand record player that had a picture of the famous mouse – actually, it was the “Mickey Mouse Club®” brand record player that was made by the Lionel Toy Company. It had two speeds 45 & 78. This was before the later plastic models and the even later close and play type turntables. Mine was the real thing – genuine chipboard. My, I loved that record player.

Those first records were 78s on with the Golden Records imprint – not on a paper label, but the blue and silver label was printed directly on the record itself. The only one I remember is the Three Stooges doing “Wreck the Halls with Boughs of Holly.” I may have to feature this at Christmas time – it may qualify as my first record – at least the first one I can remember.

The first single and first serious record I received about a year later. Peter, Paul, and Mary’s “Puff the Magic Dragon” had just been recorded and released in late 1962 and I asked my brother Chuck to buy me the single for my 7th birthday – which occurred about five weeks following my father’s death. In the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas break when Chuck came back home from college, he remembered that all I did was sit in front of that Mickey Mouse® record player – playing that song over and over and over.

I don’t remember any of this with the exception of asking for the record and knowing all of the lyrics of the song. As a seven-year old, there was one line that Peter Yarrow sung that puzzled me. It was “and frolicked in the ‘ottomiss’ in a land called Honalee.” What and the heck was an “ottomiss” anyway?  And peradventure, how does one frolic in it?  It was years later that I realized that the mystery words were actually “autumn mist.” Hmm, misunderstood song lyrics – now, that’s a topic for a future Wednesday post.

In my time of grief, I found solace in this sad song of coming of age, and of course there was my Mickey Mouse® record player. Come to think of it, and I hadn’t planned this, but tomorrow would have been my dad’s 97th birthday had he lived – but, he never made it to 50 – pity.

I didn't have a good picture of my dad playing guitar, so I made one

Through him, I gained the love of music and the gadgets that go with it. We were the only house on our street (perhaps in the entire neighborhood) with a reel-to-reel deck in the late 50s. Dad played numerous instruments and had a wide variety of musical tastes – so I guess he continues to live on in me and the rest of his progeny here in this “land called Honalee.”

RBTG’s 300th Post Retrospect

Like I had reported with the 100th and 200th posts, I took a look backward on how we are doing visitor wise. I began this blog on September 26, 2009, but did not start monitoring the visits until October 16, 2009. Since that time, we have had the following:

Unique Visitors5,378
Times Visited6,703
Number of Pages Viewed11,503
People Visiting 200+ Times366
People Visiting 101-200 Times105
People Visiting 51-100 Times99
People Visiting 26-50 Times76
Number of Visitor Countries Represented88
Percentage of Visitors Referred from Search Engines55.76%
Percentage of Visitors Referred from Other Sites31.54%
Percentage of Visitors via Direct Access12.79%

Without much promotion and largely based on my own views about music, it really amazes me that so many have found these pages – even once. By the time I started counting, I had one declared follower. There has been incremental growth in the number of followers as well. At 100 posts, there were four. By 200, seven were following. Today, there are 12. While the numbers of declared followers are relatively low, the number of people visiting this blog remains higher than I ever expected.

The Top Ten Charts

As one would find in music trade magazines, I have prepared some Top Ten Charts for "Between the Grooves."

The Top Ten Visitor Countries

It is interesting to note that visitors from nearly every European country have visited “Reading Between the Grooves.” The smaller countries such as Andorra, Gibraltar, Malta, Monaco, San Marino, SMOM, and the Vatican are not tallied in the results. Too bad, I was hoping that the Pope was a regular visitor; but alas, we'll never know. Those which are counted included every country except Albania, Lichtenstein, Moldova, Montenegro, and Svalbard.

The same countries made the Top 10 at the 200th anniversary; however, the order changed somewhat.

1United States4,087
2United Kingdom480
10The Netherlands76

The Top Ten Pages via Direct Access

While most people (1,222) have visited the home page for “Reading Between the Grooves,” others enter distinct pages through page specific links and via search engine returns. These are the top ten pages bypassing the home page entering the site through a specific daily post. The list is very similar to the one at the 200th anniversary post with only two additions: The Moody Blues and Walter Egan.

The Top Days by Total Visits

This chart represents the days that encountered the most visits and the content that was featured on those particular days. Only three of these were in the Top 10 at the 200th post anniversary: Elvis, Springsteen, and the Byrds. Three of the additions were posts made during the last two weeks.  

The Top Days by New Visitors

This chart represents the days that encountered the most visits by first time visitors and the content that was featured on those particular days. While the #1 song remained the same since the 200th episode, every other position was replaced. Four of the top ten are from the last two weeks.

I want to take this time to thank all of you for your support of this site and the encouragement to keep going forward. Thanks again for Reading Between the Grooves.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tempest: Let's Live For Today

My brother Chuck called me a few weeks ago and told me about Tempest’s remake of The Grass Roots hit, “Let’s Live for Today.” This rendition of the 1967 classic recording features Tempest founder and Olso, Norway native Lief Sorbye on vocals, flute, and mando-guitar.

This single, from the 2010 CD “Another Dawn,” is available in traditional black vinyl and red/black splatter vinyl.

The Grass Roots hit

Featuring Rob Grill on bass and vocals, The Grass Roots version charted in 1967 for a reformed version of the band. This classic lineup of the band was originally known as The 13th Floor and were offered the opportunity to take up where P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri’s original band had left off by using their name. Adding additional vocals is Warren Entner, who provided the classic 1-2-3-4.

Enter later went on to manage Faith No More and Quiet Riot. Lead guitarist Creed Bratton currently plays the character of Creed Bratton on “The Office.” Drummer Rick Coonce is a retired Canadian child protective service worker. Grill is back in a reformed version of The Grass Roots and is still performing today.

The Rokes with the real original

Most Americans don’t realize that the hit version of the song itself was a cover of an original release by the British band The Rokes. “Let’s Live for Today” was a hit record in Italy for The Rokes in 1967 – the only country where they had a following.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Rick Springfield: Speak To The Sky

Our Spiritual Sunday selection takes us back to 1971 when Rick Springfield recorded his first solo single, “Speak to the Sky.” Released in the US in 1972 by Capitol Records, this simple song about prayer from Springfield’s “Beginnings” LP did well as a top 20 hit charting at #14. The debut album by this Australian heartthrob did well by peaking at #35 on Billboard’s Top 200 Albums Chart. The song has a skiffle feel to it and could have been recorded by Lonnie Donegan.

Live Version

His next three albums failed to chart and his flailing musical career was put on hold for an acting position as Dr. Noah Drake on “General Hospital.” The success as an actor and his large following of female soap opera viewers primed him for a return to music with the smash hit “Jessie’s Girl” in 1981.

Rick Springfield & the Author in 1986


Speak to the sky whenever things go wrong
And you'll know you're not talking to the air, to the air
And the world will look better from up there

Speak to the sky 'cos things can get you down
And you'll know when you're talking to the Lord, to the Lord
The world will look better than before

And if I stumble and it seems that I am blind
Or if the road I'm on seems awful hard to find
And though my conversation doesn't always rhyme
I always try to find some time - to

Speak to the sky and tell you how I feel
And you know sometimes what I say ain't right, it's alright
'Cos I speak to the sky every night

And if I stumble and it seems that I am blind
Or if the road I'm on seems awful hard to find
And though my conversation doesn't always rhyme
I always try to find some time - to

Speak to the sky and tell you how I feel
And you know sometimes what I say ain't right, it's alright
'Cos I speak to the sky every night

Speak to the sky whenever things go wrong
And you'll know you're not talking to the air, to the air
And the world will look better from up there
And the world will look better from up there
And the world will look better from up there

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Carole King: Tapestry

Back in 1976, a fellow college student, Phil Haas, was needing some cash for his upcoming wedding. He offered me the deal of a lifetime – to buy his AKAI reel to reel deck. The price was $125 and it included dozens of tapes and a set of headphones. His brother had purchased the machine when he was stationed in Vietnam and the machine was set up for both US and international configurations and included its own amplifier.

Of the tapes, there were some pre-recorded reels including Carole Kings’ “Tapestry.” I cannot point to a single commercially released reel-to-reel tape as my first, as there were about ten included in the package. Being one the several, “Tapestry” will represent my many firsts such as first album, first purchased album, first commercially released cassette, first commercial 8-track, and first purchased single. The only thing that is missing is my first single – and that comes this Tuesday with my 300th post.

“Tapesty” is Carole King’s best album bar none and it was certified “Diamond” by the Recording Industry Association of America for an excess of 10 million copies sold in the US. It was number one for 15 weeks – the longest at number one for any female artist, the longest charting album by any female solo artist, and the fifth longest charting album overall. Worldwide, it sold over 25 million copies. In 1972, the album received four Grammys: “Album of the Year,” “Best Female Pop Vocal Performance,” “Record of the Year” for “It’s Too Late,” and “Song of the Year” for “You’ve Got A Friend.”

The album produced two double-sided hits: “It’s Too Late”/”I Feel the Earth Move” at #1 and “So Far Away”/”Smackwater Jack” at #14. To honor these hits, I am featuring the two flipped hit records – which are my two favorite cuts off this legendary LP.

The Entire Album

I’ve included a YouTube playlist of the album (sans “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” The studio version of this classic Aretha Franklin hit was not available on YouTube. By the way, I still have the reel-to-reel deck and it works fine after all of these years. It doesn’t get much use, but there are occasions when I need an R-2-R deck and I have it. As for Phil Haas, he and Bev his wife write a weekly column on family relationships for Standard Publishing’s The Lookout. They do a fine job and have excellent advice.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Neil Young: Lotta Love

Back in December 1978, I started working at WAMX in Ashland, Kentucky as a part-time announcer. Since I was already working in the market under my real name, I used the name Jay Andrews for the year-and-a-half brief tenure at this Eastern Kentucky powerhouse at 93.7 mHz. In that first month, one of the songs I remember playing quite frequently on the air was the smash hit by Nicolette Larson “Lotta Love.”

Few people at that time released that this song was penned by Neil Young and both his and her renditions of the tune were released by Warner Brothers on the same day in November 1978. Neil’s “Comes a Time” album was issued on the Warners subsidiary Reprise. Although there is not a studio version from that album available on YouTube, here is a live interpretation performed by Neil in the same spirit.

Nicolette Larson Version

The connection between Larson and Neil Young began when Nicolette sang back-up on Young’s “Stars ‘N Bars” album. While driving Larson home following a session, Neil popped in a demo cassette of “Lotta Love” and told her that if she wanted to record the song it was hers to do. She did.

Although the LP “Nicolette” was released the same day as Young’s LP, Warners held back on the single release until they were sure that Young was not going to release "Lotta Love" himself as a single. The label did not want to have two artists competing over the same song. When satisfied that Young was not going to release a “Lotta Love” single, Nicolette’s version was released and topped the Hot 100 at #8 in February 1979. The song was produced by Doobie Brother’s producer, Ted Templeton.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Joshua Radin: No Envy, No Fear

As I was watching one of my favorite episodes (“Double Trouble in the Panhandle”) of one of my favorite TV shows (Bones) this week, the song they played at the episode’s end caught my eye, er – ear. When the case is finally solved, the song playing in the background was Joshua Radin’s “No Envy, No Fear.” Even though it was the third time that I watched this episode, I never noticed the tune before – it was the mandolin that caused me to seek out its name.

So popular is this suburban Cleveland, Ohio native’s music with TV producers, no less than 23 different TV shows have showcased Radin’s songs a record 47 times. “No Envy, No Fear” has also been heard on “One Hill Tree” and “Castle.” In addition to aural appearances on TV, ten motion pictures featured 11 versions of his songs and four ads utilized Radin’s compositions. The life of the songwriter is good.

When we last left our heroes . . .

As mentioned earlier, this Bone’s episode is my favorite. It has Booth and Brennan going undercover at a circus to ferret out the circumstances behind the mysterious death of conjoined circus performers. Using the name Buck and Wanda Moosejaw, one of the running gags in show is when they are introduced. On several occasions, the response is “Moosejaw, is that Native American?” To which Booth (Buck) answers, “No, we’re Canadian” with all the pride he can muster.

Since Booth had served in Special Forces, he had developed excellent knife throwing skills. Brennan goes beyond the call of duty and serves as his lovely assistant and nearly target. Booth and Brennan – er – Buck and Wanda metamorphosize into "Boris and Natasha and their Russian Knives of Death." Boris and Natasha? Only those of a sufficient age would respond, “Moose un Squirrel, vat about Mr. Big un Fearless Leader?”

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Slide Guitar Through A Leslie Rotating Speaker

If there was any time since 1994 that I missed being in radio it was this morning. As I was planning today’s post, I was uncertain of what to do until I stumbled upon Todd Rundgren’s “Something / Anything” LP and remembered his 1971 hit “I Saw the Light.”

Todd’s slide guitar part sounded surprisingly like George Harrison’s tonality, as the guitar was being amplified through a Leslie rotating speaker. Rundgren plays all of the instruments, does all the vocals, and recorded the entire double album in his living room studio.

This in turn reminded me of Sheryl Crow’s 2005 song “Light in Your Eyes,” which always sounded to me like a Todd Rundgren/George Harrison ripoff. They lyrics are similar to both “I Saw the Light” and “My Sweet Lord” and the guitar was obviously influenced by the quiet Beatle as Crow herself has admitted.

I believe John Shanks plays slide on this cut, but the album’s liner notes are not clear on this. Neither is it clear that he or whomever is using a Leslie. Since the seventies, chorus effects have all but replaced the bulky, low wattage, and mechanically problematic Leslie rotating speaker; however, there is nothing like the sound of the real thing.

Next , it was obvious that George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” from 1970 would be the logical choice to follow “Light in Your Eyes.” The ending chord on Crow’s “Light in Your Eyes” is a Bm and the beginning chord on “My Sweet Lord” is a F#m. It makes a nice mix if you can start the second song as the first ends as the two together create a Bm9.

To round out the set, I included Badfinger’s “Day After Day” at the beginning. This 1972 classic features George Harrison and Pete Ham simultaneously playing the slide leads through a Leslie speaker. Incidentally, part of Badfinger’s “Straight Up” LP was produced by George Harrison (as was this cut) and part of it was produced by Todd Rundgren. Everything is relative.

What about the connection to radio? Over the years, I typically dedicated an hour or two a week to a thematic oldies show. Much like pulls up songs of a similar vein, I would often play songs that either had a similar lyrical theme or had something in common musically – much like today’s post. I decided on stringing the songs together.

In fact, when I played the songs in the intended order and tightly segued the songs together, they worked well as four song unit. Unfortunately with a YouTube playlist, this is lost with the dead air between cuts. For those that want to hear these tunes in order, I have included the four as part playlist.

Badfinger: “Day After Day”
Todd Rundgren: “I Saw the Light”
Sheryl Crow: “The Light In Your Eyes”
George Harrison: “My Sweet Lord”

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Richard Thompson: Who Knows Where The Time Goes?

Richard Thompson, who is one of the most under-rated guitarists and performers, interprets the best known tune penned by his former Fairport Convention band-mate Sandy Denny. “Who Knows Where the Time Goes?” was best known among non-Fairport fans in the US by Judy Collins 1968 rendition of the tune and her album of the same name. Collins version appeared prior to the Fairport release.

Today’s Traditional Tuesday featured video is just Richard, his guitar, and his unmistakable tone on accompaniment leads. Richard’s tuning had me baffled on this one and I had to break out my trusty Ibanez acoustic-electric to discern what he was doing. He dropped the A string to a G and the low E string to a C. Listen as the wizard of the six strings pay homage to one of the world’s greatest songsmiths, Sandy Denny.

Original Recording by The Strawbs

The original recording of “Who Knows Where the Time Goes?” was recorded by Sandy Denny and the Strawbs in 1967 and was not commercially available outside of Denmark until the album “All Our Own Work” was released in Britain in 1973. I bought the import that year and it is a different rendition of what would become the Fairport classic.

The Classic Fairport Rendition

The third Fairport Convention LP “Unhalfbricking” featured the classic version of Sandy Denny singing her own song. Released in 1969, this version features the tasty guitar licks of a younger Richard Thompson in the right speaker. It has always been one of my favorite songs. It is one of the last recordings of drummer Martin Lamble who was killed in an motorway accident prior to the album’s release.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Chris Isaak: Solitary Man

When I think of Neil Diamond, I think of my first tenure at Marshall University (1978-1980) as a student and graduate assistant in the speech department. One of my professors, Dr. A. Craig Monroe was the biggest Neil Diamond fan and he had an affinity for Diamond’s lyrics and often tried to relate concepts to Neil’s songs.

Craig Monroe was anomaly – he was an expert in interpersonal communication – yet he was admittedly very poor when it came to interpersonal relationships of his own. In many ways, he was a solitary man. The last time I spoke to him was in 1989 when I was re-entering graduate school and weighing a number of options. At that time he was the chair of the speech department.

Craig wanted to write a book about communication according to Neil Diamond. I don’t think he ever did; his lists of accomplishments do not mention such a tome. Craig died on New Year's Eve 2008.

For today’s Monday cover, Chris Isaak does “Solitary Man” a song originally done in 1966 by Neil Diamond when he recorded for the Bang record label. Isaak released the song as a single in 1993 for the album “San Francisco Days.” The single failed to chart. This particular version came from a September 2005 performance on “Soundstage.”

Neil Diamond’s Original

Originally released in 1966 as Diamond’s debut single, the song failed to make it to the top 40 and only charted at #55. When Neil signed to Uni Records, “Solitary Man” was rereleased in 1970 and charted at #21.

Live Neil Diamond’s Live Version in 1971

In the 1970s, Neil altered the lyrics from “When Sue came along, loved me strong that’s what I thought. Me and Sue, that died too” to “When you came along, loved me strong that’s what I thought. Me and you, that died too.” He used this on his double platinum “Hot August Night” live album from 1972.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Roy Buchanan: The Messiah Will Come Again

I became familiar with this LP and song when WDVE featured the album in its entirety in 1972. I taped the album and it became one of my favorite albums of the year. Roy Buchanan’s technique is borrowed from his early training as a lap steel guitarist which he imitated on his Fender Telecaster that he nicknamed “Nancy.”

Although mostly an instrumental, the song includes the following recitation by Roy.

Just a smile, just a glance
The prince of darkness,
he just walked past
There’s been a lot of people,
they've had lot to say
But this time,
I'm gonna tell it my way.

There was a town.
It was strange little town,
They called “The World”
It was a lonely, lonely little town-
'Til one day a stranger appeared
And their hearts rejoiced,
And the sad little town was happy again
But there were some that doubted;
They disbelieved so they mocked him
And the stranger, he went away

Now the sad little town that was sad yesterday
Is a lot sadder today . . .
I walked in a lot of places,
that I never should have been
But I know that the Messiah,
He will come again

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Goodbye Cream

Many moons ago in 1971, I received my first Cream LP as a gift – it was their official final album – released posthumously after their November 1968 disbanding. Following the break-up, Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker continued together to form Blind Faith. Even though “Goodbye Cream” was their final album, ATCO (in the US) and Polydor (in the UK) continued to milk the Cream cash cow with “Best of Cream” (US only), “Live Cream,” and “Live Cream, Volume II.”

Although I had been familiar with Cream’s better known hits as “Sunshine of Your Love” and “White Room,” the album became a stepping stone for me owning some of their other LPs: “Fresh Cream” (the UK import with “Spoonful” instead of “I Feel Free”), “Disraeli Gears,” “Wheels of Fire,” “Live Cream,” the “Savage Seven Soundtrack,” and the “I Feel Free” single. All worth having with the exception of the “Savage Seven” LP.

I’m So Glad

One of my favorite tunes opens the album – Skip James’ “I’m So Glad.” This song originally appeared on “Fresh Cream” and the live version here was recorded at the Los Angeles Forum on October 19, 1968.

I had performed this song myself a couple of times with a band that was primarily made of members of the “Red Star Rockets,” but was called “City Chicken” for the two gigs that I played with them at the Mercer County (WV) Peace Rally and at the Nicholas County Fair – both occurring during the summer of 1989.

Me on keyboards with City Chicken. 
Al Smith (bass) & Don Steck (Guitar) can be seen


The album’s only single was a song cowritten by Eric Clapton and George Harrison who appears on the album as L’Angelo Misterioso playing the Beatlesque (of course) rhythm guitar. The unusual title came from Clapton’s misreading of George Harrison’s handwritten notes of the chord progressions. The section for the song’s bridge had BRIDGE scrawled on the top of the page – Clapton thinking that it was the title and that it said BADGE.

In the US, ATCO releases of the album and single failed to credit Harrison and his publishing concern Harrisongs. In addition to Clapton and Harrison, the song features the other two members of Cream: Jack Bruce on bass and backing vocals and Ginger Baker on drums. Producer Felix Pappalardi (later of Mountain) adds Mellotron and Piano to the tune. Of course, Clapton is on guitar and sings the lead.

What A Bringdown

Although Ginger Baker penned this tune, Eric sings lead and is joined on harmony vocals by Ginger and back-up vocals by Jack and Felix. Although the bass guitar sounds typical of Jack Bruce’s style, it is actually Felix Pappalardi playing his Gibson EB-1 (violin bass). Jack adds piano and organ and of couse Eric is on rhythm, lead, and slide guitars. If you listen closely, you can hear Ginger playing tubular bells at intricate moments in the song.

The song has one of the more interesting rhythms of any Cream song as the time signature varies from 5/4 to 3/4 time.

The Entire LP

After 1972, this album was not available in the US for a number of years as the Cream recordings were transferred from ATCO to Polydor when they began operations in the US. To compete with existing ATCO product that was available as cutouts, the first several Polydor North American Cream releases were repacked material under new names, song placement, and artwork. The first two Polydor (America) issues were named “Heavy Cream” and “Off the Top.”

My copy of “Goodbye Cream” was a cutout with a hold drilled into the upper right hand corner. Unfortunately, when the hole was drilled, the accompanying poster had shifted to that corner and the hole can be found as four holes near the poster’s center – the price for cheap music. Here’s a YouTube playlist with the album in order.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Paul Carrack: Love Will Keep Us Alive

Typically, I feature a first recording of a song, but today – the first recording was the hit and the feature song, recorded by one of the authors, came a decade later. So rather than a first recording, it is an alternate recording. The song was finally released by Paul Carrack on his “Greatest Hits – The Story So Far” album in 2006.

The Eagles’ Hit Version

Paul Carrack wrote this song along with Jim Capaldi (ex Traffic), and Peter Vale. It was originally intended for a band that Carrack, Timothy B. Schmidt, and Don Felder were organizing. The project never came to fruition. When the Eagles reunited for their “Hell Freezes Over” album and tour, the band performed and recorded “Love Will Keep Us Alive.” While the song was never released as a single in the U.S., it received considerable adult contemporary airplay where it charted at #1. The song never charted on Billboard’s Hot 100.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ace: How Long

Day four of our Paul Carrack feature provides a look at a song written and sung by Carrack in the band Ace. In 2009, the song was used in a Breyer’s Ice Cream commercial. From the album “Five-a-Side,” “How Long?” peaked at #3 in both the U.S. and Canada in 1975.

Most believe that the song was written about a cheating spouse or girlfriend; however, Carrack was inspired to write the tune when he learned about Ace’s bass player Terry “Tex” Comer’s cheating on the band by playing with other musicians.

Breyers’ Commercial

When this commercial originally aired, my wife accused me of being like the husband in this commercial. Hmmm. Not me. I would never get caught sneaking ice cream.

Paul Carrack’s 1996 Remake

In 1996, Carrack rerecorded the song and it was released as a single in the U.K. The remake was a top 40 hit at #32; however, it didn’t eclipse the original by Ace which peaked in Britain at #20.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Three by Paul Carrack

As I continue our look at Paul Carrack, today I’m featuring three songs by our feature artist across his career.

Squeeze: Tempted

Paul Carrack joined Squeeze in 1981 replacing Jools Holland on keyboards. While the song failed to chart on any nation’s top 40 charts, it is regarded as one of the band’s best known recordings. It was the second single from their LP “East Side Story.” The song peaked at #41 in the U.K., at #45 in Canada, and at #49 in the U.S.

Despite the low chart success, “Tempted” was a frequent played video on MTV during 1981. Carrack handles lead vocals and can be seen in the video playing a Sequential Circuits Prophet 5 polyphonic synthesizer. Carrack left the band after his only LP appearance on “East Side Story.”

Mike + the Mechanics: The Living Years

This is the highest charting song that features Paul Carrack’s vocals. It was a song written by Mike Rutherford and Scottish composer B.A. Robertson about the deaths of their respective fathers. Carrack, who lost his own father at age 11, was a natural to sing lead on this emotional song. Although Mike + the Mechanics was Genesis’ guitarist Mike Rutherford’s side project, the band achieved three top 10 U.S. singles: “Silent Running” at 6, “All I Need is a Miracle” at 5, and “The Living Years” at #1.

Don’t Shed A Tear

Carrack’s highest charting solo single in the U.S. was his 1987 release of “Don’t Shed a Tear.” While the song only peaked at #60 in the UK, it failed to deliver high chart numbers anywhere in the world with the exception of the States where it landed at the #9 position in February 1988.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Carlene Carter & Paul Carrack: Oh How Happy

Today’s selection is not really a traditional song or arrangement, but one of the vocalists, Carlene Carter, has traditional roots that extend three generations. Her grandmother, Mother Maybelle Carter, was one of the original Carter Family members that included her brother-in-law A.P. Carter and his wife Sara Carter. Sara and Maybelle were also first cousins. In the 50s and 60s, Maybelle and her daughters toured as Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters. One the daughters, June Carter Cash, was Carlene’s mother.

Today’s song originally appeared on Carlene’s 1981 “Blue Nun” album and featured, as it does in this live recording, the vocals and keys of Paul Carrack. “Oh How Happy” was hit for the Shades of Blue in 1966. The song was penned by Edwin Starr. Starr would have a #1 record in 1970 with “War.”

Monday, July 12, 2010

Paul Young (with Paul Carrack): Don't Dream It's Over

A while back, I did a weekly feature on Ronnie Lane and got excellent reviews of the week from a number of folk whose opinions I value greatly. From time to time, I will do this with different individuals that have had varied careers in the field of music. This week I’ll feature the music of Paul Carrack. Paul who? I know that will be the reaction of some, but as the week continues – you’ll realize that you have heard his music. All five of the selections this week will feature Paul in some manner, shape, or form.

As I feature cover songs on Monday, this week is no exception. A couple weeks ago, I utilized a Paul Young song for the cover; and today, I’m returning to his 1991 recording of Crowded House’s smash hit “Don’t Dream It’s Over.” While Young’s recording didn’t chart in the US, it was a top twenty hit in the UK. I know, what does Paul Young have to do with Paul Carrack? The answer, Carrack sings the second lead and backup as well as playing the organ part that Mitchell Froom made famous in the original. For that original recording, see my post from April 29, 2010.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Billy Preston: That's The Way God Planned It

Today’s Spiritual Sunday song comes at the hands (voice and even feet) of one of the few individuals who were known as “the Fifth Beatle”: Billy Preston. Preston originally recorded the single and album “That’s the Way God Planned it” in 1969 for Apple Records.

The album was produced by George Harrison and included a star-studded cast of session musicians that included Preston on keyboards and vocals; Harrison and Eric Clapton on guitars; Keith Richards on bass; Ginger Baker on Drums; and Doris Troy on backing vocals. Today’s cut comes from another star-studded cast that includes Harrison and Clapton, 1971’s “Concert for Bangladesh.”

By the way, Preston’s moniker as the “Fifth Beatle” was afforded him as the credits on the “Get Back” single reads “The Beatles with Billy Preston.” And all of these years you thought Murray the K was the “Fifth Beatle.”

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Pete Townshend: Who Came First

A while back a friend from my youth emailed and asked me who was my favorite group – my reply was – that’s absolutely correct. As with much of my humor, he didn’t get it. The Who probably is my all time favorite band; however, there are many bands that have filled that role over the years. Today’s Saturday LP feature of The Who’s guitarist Pete Townshed’s first solo LP: “Who Came First.”

Pure and Easy - the opening cut from the album

While much of the album is dedicated to his religious pursuits and his mentor Meher Baba. At the time of the album’s release and my purchase of it at the Eastland Shopping Center’s Gimbels, I didn’t know much about Pete’s and his friend Ronnie Lane’s religious leanings. What I learned from the album confused me even more. I bought the LP because it was by Pete and the primary purpose was to listen to his music. Religiously, I am vastly different than Pete and don’t follow his belief system.

The Who had recorded and released 
"Let's See Action" in 1971 - this is Pete's version

This becomes difficult in writing about an album that so embraced his mentor, but I’ll try. Although Baba is referenced in the liner notes, one could listen to the album and only pick up on Pete’s beliefs on the final cut – “Parvadigar” – one of Meher Baba’s prayer. Be that as it may, there are other songs on the album that come from the extinguished Who project “Lifeboat.”

I loved the lyrical content of this tune - 
"I'm sitting in the Sheraton-Gibson playing my Gibson."

While the album is good, it’s not great – but still worth mentioning for the few songs that make a difference. I remember playing this album to death – perhaps that’s why I can only become excited about some of the songs, but not all of them. In 2010, the album lacks a unifying sound and that may be due to its various influences. If you are a Who fan, you already have this album. If not, most of the cuts are available on YouTube for you to peruse and make a judgment. To its benefit, the album is well produced - a quality you would expect from Pete Townshend.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Move: Do Ya

Sometimes artists fail to have a hit with a record under one band will later bring that song out of hibernation to become the hit version. This occurred with Jeff Lynne composition that was a smash hit for ELO in 1977. The Move, which was the precursor to the Electric Light Orchestra, recorded “Do Ya” for a British maxi-single that shared the flip side of “California Man” along with “Ella James.” In the US, The Move was a virtually unknown act that had floundered with one album on A&M and two on Capitol.

In 1972, Capitol released the band from their American contract and United Artists picked up the option to sign the band as they had signed their alter ego, the Electric Light Orchestra. United Artists had an impressive ad campaign which I remember seeing in Rolling Stone and Crawdaddy for their final American release while the band was together as The Move. I believe this was the first time I had ever heard of the group.

The album was called “Split Ends” and featured cuts from their final Capitol LP “Message from the County” and the three cuts from the maxi single. To promote the album, UA issued “California Man” backed with “Do Ya.” American radio, having more wisdom than United Artists A & R department, flipped the single and it received a modicum of airplay, but only charted at #93.

The following cut is the remastered original full length studio version that was released on the 2005 version of “Message from the Country.” The original single and LP mixes were faded and eliminated the foolishness at the end of this cut. A good version of the original single and album versions was not available on YouTube. The song was originally titled, “Look Out Baby, There’s a Plane Coming”; however, the band wisely used the hook “Do Ya” instead. Jeff Lynne and Roy Wood both take turns singing the lead on this release.

The Electric Light Orchestra

While ELO was originally construed as a orchestral/rock side project by the Move, the band made the final transition to its new identity in 1972 following the release of the maxi-single in the UK and “Split Ends” in the US.

Jeff Lynne, who is often credited as being the leader of the band, moved up from a co-leadership role with Roy Wood after Wood left the band during the recording of the second album. A concert favorite, ELO pulled “Do Ya” out of the mothballs for their smash 1976 LP “A New World Record.”

Released as the second of the album’s US three singles, “Do Ya” had the least amount of chart action with it peaking at #24 in 1977. It was sandwiched between the better performing “Living Thing” at #13 and “Telephone Line” at #7. In the UK, “Do Ya” was not released as a single with “Rockaria!” being the second single from the album in their homeland.

Live Version ELO Version

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Blondie: One Way Or Another

Usually I have my week planned in advance, but I saw the latest promo for the new TNT show “Rizzoli & Isles” last night and I decided to feature the song utilized in the ad. Debbie Harry and Blondie's “One Way or Another” - the second single from their third LP, “Parallel Lines.”

As the follow-up to the #1 smash “Heart of Glass,” “One Way or Another” was only released as a single in North America. Elsewhere, the song “Sunday Girl” from the same album was its second single. “One Way or Another” peaked at 24 during early 1979.

I remember it well as I had only just started working at Ashland, Kentucky’s WAMX two months previous when this record was released. Ah yes, fond memories of the beginning of my top-40 career.

“Rizolli & Isles,” starring Angie Harmon (ex “Law & Order) and Sasha Alexander (ex “NCIS”), premiers this coming Monday on TNT.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

In Celebration Of The Vibraslap

A while back we featured more cow bell, today we look at another elusive percussive instrument – the vibraslap. I’ve had one of these jewels since the mid 1980s and used it on the B side of the single by The Game – “Twist the Knife.” I’ve also had an opportunity to use it in a Christmas cantata at church. Although I mentioned the vibraslap in a previous post, here’s a more in-depth look at this marvelous instrument. A little vibraslap goes a long way – and today, we celebrate this Latin Percussion® favorite.

The Lemon Pipers – Green Tamborine

Its bubblegum, its psychedelic – its two pop genres in one. I love this record and it has everything – a wild string track, an electric sitar, a triangle, an African drum, tape echo, and of course a vibra slap. It was the only top ten hit for the Lemon Pipers. The song peaked at #1 in February 1968.

Aerosmith - Sweet Emotion

“Sweet Emotion,” Aerosmith’s first hit single, peaked at #36 in 1975 and appeared on the ever popular “Toys in the Attic” LP. The intro of the song is the only place where the vibraslap is used three or four times. The intro is rather interesting as there is an interplay between a bass marimba, two tracks of guitars using a talk box, and of course vibraslap.

Ozzy Osbourne – Crazy Train

Ozzy’s first post Black Sabbath hit was the anthemic 80s rock tune “Crazy Train.” It features the guitar wizardry of the late Randy Rhodes and of course, vibraslap (it is only used once on the intro). The ringtone of “Crazy Train” was certified double platinum because of 25 million downloads. Head of bat, anyone?

Vibraslap Lessons

Of course, I just whet your appetite with a few vibraslap songs. Your mission, if you decide to accept it, is to buy a vibraslap and play it. If you need the basics, see the accompanying videos by Aaron Bland.