Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Richard Thompson: 1952 Vincent Black Lightning

I took the weekend off to enjoy the Memorial Day holiday and I took liberty from my blog authoring duties. I am back to pick up with at Traditional Tuesday selection. Today, it’s probably one of the better known Richard Thompson songs from his solo career: “1952 Vincent Black Lightning.”

This live recording from the 2006 Cambridge Folk Festival showcases the excellent finger style picking of Thompson. The song is a mini epic that has everything – a red haired beauty, love, crime, death, and a classic motorcycle. The tragic ending of this song is not unlike some of the top forty hits of the 60s – notably The Shangri-Las’ “Leader of the Pack” and J. Frank Wilson’s “Last Date.” I like Thompson’s song better though.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Elton John: Elderberry Wine

Our Friday flipside has the distinction of being the first single release on the newly consolidated MCA Records label. In late 1972, Music Corporation of America decided to consolidate all of their various labels that included the following: (American) Decca, Coral, Vocalion, Uni, MCA Special Products, and I am sure there are a few other labels I may be forgetting at the present. Elton John had been signed to the Uni (short for Universal – one of their other companies).

I remember buying the single in December 1972 at H.L. Greens in McKeesport, PA. They had the cheapest records in the area and I paid my fare on the 64-E bus to go into town to music shop. If I am not mistaken (and I am too lazy to go downstairs to pull my copy and check the matrix numbers), I believe “Elderberry Wine” was intended to be the “A” side, but was abandoned as radio picked “Crocodile Rock” as having more potential.

Both tunes were on Elton’s “Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player.” “Crocodile Rock” hit the top of the charts in the US and the follow-up single, “Daniel,” peaked at #2. The album was certified gold shortly after its release. It currently is triple platinum for 3 million sales.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Pogues: If I Should Fall From The Grace Of God

Formed in London’s King’s Cross section in the 1980s, The Pogues gave rise to a new genre of music that was a clash (pun intended) of Celtic and punk styles. Today’s TV Thursday selection is the title cut from their 1988 album “If I Should Fall from the Grace of God.” It is currently used in the Subaru Forester “Hockey Mom” commercial.

At the time the band recorded “If I Should Fall from the Grace of God,” they were an eight piece that featured the following musicians:
  • Shane MacGowan – vocals and guitar
  • Spider Stacy – tin whistle and vocals
  • James Fearnley – accordion, piano, mandolin, dulcimer, guitar, cello, and percussion
  • Jem Finer – banjo and saxophone
  • Andrew Ranken – drums and vocals
  • Philip Chevron – guitar and mandolin
  • Darryl Hunt – bass, percussion, and vocals
  • Terry Woods (formerly of Steeleye Span) – cittern lute, concertina, strings, banjo, dulcimer, guitar, and vocals

Stereo Version

Released as a single in the UK, the song only charted at #58.

Music Video Version (Mono)

If you can stand to watch Shane MacGowan sing, here’s the music video for “If I Fall from the Grace of God.” He will not become the poster child for dental hygiene any time soon.

The Original Version

Recorded the previous year, The Pogues’ original version of the song was much slower and less intense. It was recorded for the “Straight to Hell” movie soundtrack.

Subaru Forester – Hockey Mom Commercial

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Jeff Healy Band: Angel Eyes

The Jeff Healey Band produced only one Top 40 hit, “Angel Eyes,” which was released in 1989 and headed up the Hot 100 to the number five slot. The song also charted at #7 on the Adult Contemporary chart and 24 on the Mainstream Rock chart.

The song also was re-released in 2008 following Healy’s death and charted at 28 in his native Canada on the Hot Canadian Digital Singles chart. Healy’s live performance also in the 1989 release of “Road House” didn’t hurt the chart performance of “Angel Eyes.” The song was written by John Hiatt.

While this was Healy’s only Top 40 hit, several of his songs charted on the Mainstream Rock chart. They include the following: “I Think I Love You Too Much” at #5, “Full Circle” at #16, “Heart of an Angel” at #20, “I See the Light” at #33, and “How Can a Man Be Strong” at #34. Healy’s only other song to chart in the Hot 100 was “Lost in Your Eyes,” which peaked at 91. Additionally, his interpretation of Freddie King’s “Hideaway” was nominated for best instrumental performance.

Plagued with gentic rentinoblastoma at 8 months of age, Healy was blind before the end of his first year. From early childhood, Jeff learned to play guitar but with it across his lap. He was later discovered by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Albert Collins. At just shy of 23 days from his forty-second birthday, Jeff Healy died of cancer on March 2, 2008.

Live Version from 2006

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Talbot Brothers: Trail Of Tears

One of the saddest but most beautiful songs in my collection comes from catalog of music by Terry and John Michael Talbot. Released on their first album following the breakup of Mason Proffit, “Trail of Tears” tells the story of the removal of members of the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole tribes from the South Eastern US to relocate to the Indian Territories, which is now the state of Oklahoma.

The Trail of Tears was a series of forced marches of these Native American tribes with the relocation often occurring in the very worst of conditions as they were taken from their homes to reservations hundreds of miles away. For the Seminoles, the journey was a thousand miles or more. Many died from disease, starvation, and exposure to the elements on this tear filled journey. One source estimates that 4,000 of the 15,000 relocated Cherokee died en route to what is now Oklahoma.

I first became acquainted with this album and tune with the re-release of the Warner Brothers album on Sparrow Records in 1976. This is absolutely my favorite cut on the entire album and I think what drew me to this song was the acoustic Hawaiian guitar played by David Lindley. An expert multi-instrumentalist, Lindley adds two tracks of Hawaiian guitar to “Trail of Tears.”

David Lindley playing a Weissenborn Hawaiian Guitar

For those unfamiliar with the instrument, the Hawaiian guitar is a six-string guitar with a raised nut. It was the predecessor to the lap steel guitar and the Dobro®.

I can’t swear to it, but Lindley is probably playing a Weissenborn Hawaiian guitar on "Trail of Tears." It is an unusual instrument in that the guitar’s neck is a part of its body. The neck cavity is hollow as well giving the guitar a sweet but haunting tone with natural reverberation. I hope now you can understand my affinity towards this particular cut.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Laszlo: Mr. Sunshine

As you can tell, I am very eclectic in my musical tastes. I like a wide variety of musical styles and I am not sure how I found the artist Laszlo, but I believe I was searching for mandolin music and this particular cut utilizes mandolin. It is a far cry of the mandolin music I might feature on Traditional Tuesdays, but I like it just the same.

Laszlo is a pseudonym for London based music producer Aaron Frederick Wheeler. It is hard to classify this music as it has West African rhythms, jazz, and technopop influences. Laszlo uses four instruments on the intro of “Mr. Sunshine” that are heavily processed to give the tune its unique sound: mandolin, Spanish guitar, piano, and a Rhodes electric piano.

He also utilizes homemade rhythm instruments and taps the side of the mandolin for percussive purposes. As the song swells to the end, a number of other keyboards are added to the mix. I liked “Mr. Sunshine” immediately. Recently the song was animated and the accompanying video adds some additional sound effects. It also has a surprise ending – watch it in full.

Another cut that can be found on YouTube is “Zeitgeist,” which reminds me of Kraftwerk. The CD features three original tunes and three remixes including the following that really exudes technopop stylings. This is the Raga Waltz Remix.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Bruce Cockburn: Closer To The Light

Today’s spiritual Sunday selection comes from the pen and the guitar of Canadian Bruce Cockburn. Cockburn, who embraced Christianity in the 1970s from his former belief of agnosticism, often subtly links theological messages into his music.

Some will immediately see the connection, while others are trapped in the mystery of his imagery. “Closer to the Light” is one of those songs that is not overtly Christian in its lyrical content; however, its spiritual message is there just the same.

The song was one of many written in tribute to the late Mark Heard following his August 1992 passing. The song is obviously about the loss of someone who now has slipped into the darkness of death but is closer to the light. Subtle, but it is understandable as well.

Closer to the Light

There you go
Swimming deeper into mystery
Here I remain
Only seeing where you used to be
Stared at the ceiling
'Til my ears filled up with tears
Never got to know you
Suddenly you're out of here

Gone from mystery into mystery
Gone from daylight into night
Another step deeper into darkness
Closer to the light

Walked outside
Summer moon was nearly down
Mist on the fields
Holy stillness all around
Death's no stranger
No stranger than the life I've seen
Still I cry
Still I begged to get you back again

Gone from mystery into mystery
Gone from daylight into night
Another step deeper into darkness
Closer to the light

Saturday, May 21, 2011

R.E.M. It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

Well, Harold Camping has predicted that today will be “The End of the World as We Know It” as it starts with an earthquake at the International Date Line at 6PM and will move westward to coincide with Christ’s return. The beginning of the end is scheduled to happen progressively at 6PM local time across the world.

This was not the first time that Camping has made such a prediction. He claimed before that this would occur between September 5 and September 27, 1994 – but those days have come and gone. Just like William Miller predicted the same – with three separate dates in 1844 and nothing happened on any of the three; expect similar results today . . . film at eleven. That's five hours past zero hour.

Although Camping has argued that the Bible supports his prophetic stance, he couldn’t be further from the Bible’s teaching on this matter. I am going to venture to say that since Camping has predicted a set day for Christ’s return, it will not happen. How can I make such a bold statement? I’ll use Camping’s argument – “the Bible Guarantees It.” Consider the following passages from the Good Book:

Matthew 25:13 (NASB) [at the conclusion of the parable of the ten virgins]: “Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.”

Mark 13:26 & 32-33 (NASB; emphasis in the translation): “Then they will see THE SON OF MAN COMING IN CLOUDS with great power and glory . . . But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come.”

Luke 12:39-40 (NASB): “But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.”

I Thessalonians 5:1-2 (NASB): “Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.”

II Peter 3:10 (NASB): “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.”

I think it is pretty evident that the Bible plainly concludes that no one knows when Christ’s return is going to occur. It is also depicted as coming as a surprise - Hello!!!!

Additionally, if Jesus himself does not know, how can anyone expect Harold Camping to know? Is Camping a little presumptuous? Do ya think?

Now where did camping get his prophecy? I believe that, instead of the Bible, he had his headphones on and drifted off while listening to his favorite R.E.M. album: “Document.” This 1987 album features today’s bubbling under hit “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine).“

Qualifying as a bubbling under hit, this R.E.M. single only peaked at #69 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. With airplay on album radio, the tune did get as high as 16 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. While R.E.M. may not have been the first alternative rock band, they are certainly one of the first to achieve popularity in this genre of music . . . and this is one of their better known selections.

As far as Camping being inspired by this 1987 hit, just check out the following lyrical passages, and one can argue that R.E.M. might just have been the source of Camping's prophetic inspiration and not the Bible.

The title alone, “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine),” appears to coincide with Camping’s feeling about today – May 21, 2011.

“That’s great it starts with an earthquake . . .”
Camping predicts that the coming of Christ will start with an earthquake.

“Wire in a fire representing seven games . . .”
I’m not sure what this means, but the number of perfection (7) is used, so this must be key to Camping’s prophecy. After all, Revelation is chock full of imagery around the number seven.

“Left of west and coming in a hurry . . .”
Camping’s earthquake starts at the International Date Line – which just happens to be left of the west.

“Save yourselves . . .”
Camping has been evangelistic about this message.

“Dummy with the rapture and the revered and the right.”
Ah – a mention of the Rapture – surely this song is the inspiration. Anyone who attempts to predict this auspicious occasion is certainly not clicking on all 8 cylinders – so it becomes prophetic as Camping has become the dummy in this regard.

“Feeling pretty psyched.”
He is certainly excited about today.

“Six O’Clock – TV hour.”
The prediction has the events occurring at 6PM local time all over the world. It’s not 6AM – but the TV hour – 6PM.

“This means no fear – cavalier.”
The faithful have nothing to be afraid of on May 21.

“Renegade, steer clear.”
The unbeliever will need to fear.

“Birthday party . . .”
The prediction of the date has to be occurring because it is my daughter’s birthday. How did he know this? Well he must be a faithful reader of this blog and had read about it last year. At the beginning of the video, there is a map of West Virginia - perhaps symbolic of a birthday occurring in the Mountain State. In addition, it goes without saying that if Camping knows of the end, then he surely must know everything else as well.

Significant of the end. Need I say any more?

There is more credence to Camping’s prediction coming from the lyrics of today’s bubbling under hit than it does from the Bible, which indicates that the Day of the Lord will be unannounced. Oh by the way, if Camping just happens to be right, don’t look for this blog tomorrow. On second thought, see you on Sunday.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Rolling Stones: Lady Jane

It’s once again time for another Friday Flipside and today’s selection was the “B” portion of a double sided hit for the Rolling Stones. While the “A” side, “Mother’s Little Helper,” a song about dependence, peaked at #8, “Lady Jane” went to 24 on the American charts. I would venture to say that you will probably hear the latter on oldies stations more than you would the former.

As the accompanying TV clip from the Ed Sullivan Show indicates, Brian Jones is playing an electric Appalachian dulcimer while Charlie Watts adds glockenspiel. Both give the song its unique sound.

Stereo Studio Version

Contrary to popular belief that the song deals with the wives of Henry VIII or Lady Jane Grey, it does not. “Lady Jane” appears on the 1966 LP “Aftermath”

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Harry Nilsson: Coconut

Last Thursday on Bones, Mr. Vincent Nigel-Murray was murdered by a sniper’s bullet. Those that watch the show religiously will remember that Mr. Nigel-Murray was the resident expert on everything. The character knew the most amazing (and banal) trivia.

As the staff of the Jeffersonian and Agent Booth were getting ready to load the casket into the hearse, Dr. Lance Sweets reminds everyone that Vincent’s favorite song was “Coconut” by Nilsson. Thus, this number 8 hit from 1972 is our TV Thursday song for this week. Vincent will certainly be missed.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Free: All Right Now

Perhaps one of the quintessential rock recordings was Free’s 1970 one hit wonder “All Right Now.” There were actually two mixes of this song, the single mix and album mix which is not unusual in the music business.

The single mix which was played to death on radio in 1970 features some different guitar parts. It is an almost forgotten version of the song that has been eclipsed by the LP mix which has been available for all of these years while the single mix has faded into oblivion.

From 1970, here is a mono recording of “All Right Now” as the band performed the song on Britain’s “Top of the Pops.” It’s a chance to hear and see the band perform a version that is akin to the single mix of the tune.

Notice that during the verses bassist Andy Fraser is not playing. It is only drummer Simon Kirke and guitarist Paul Kossoff that back up Paul Rodgers’ vocals. During the chorus, Andy Fraser adds his very tasty bass licks.

Cowritten by Fraser and Rodgers, the song was a number 1 hit in 20 countries; however, in the US this A&M release peaked at #4. In 2006 at a special ceremony in London to honor European composers and authors, Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) honored Fraser and Rodgers with a Million-Air Award for three million plays world-wide. Although the single “The Stealer” charted at 49, “All Right Now” was their only US top forty hit.

Contributing to its overall success in the UK, “All Right Now” was released several times; the initial release peaked at #2 in 1970. Follow-up releases occurred in 1973 (#15), 1978 (#11), 1982 (#57), and 1991 (#8).

Stereo Album Mix

From the bands second album, “Fire and Water” here is unedited and original mix of “All Right Now.” The late Paul Kossoff’s use of double tracking the guitar is evident in the stereo mix.

At on brief moment, Kossoff’s timing is off ever so slightly – really it is only nanoseconds. You really have to listen for it and it occurs after the long instrumental part. When the rhythm guitar comes in at about 3:36 in the song, the attack on the guitar in the left channel is slightly behind the right channel guitar.

Most people probably won’t even catch this and it is just so slight of a flaw in an overwhelmingly perfect performance in probably wasn't worth fixing at the time. Depending on the equipment being used, a punch in on the track may not have been possible and rerecording the entire track may have had to occur. Such things can be done with ease and electronically in today's digital environment.

Fraser is also playing piano and organ on this cut. The two keyboard instruments are introduced separately. The piano comes in at 2:26 during the long instrumental break following the solo. At the end of this break, the organ is introduced at 3:30.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Leon Russell: Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms

During the fall of 1973, I was living in Grayson, Kentucky when Leon Russell released his first album under his country alter ego of Hank Wilson. Credited on the album only under his real name as a co-producer, Hank – er – Leon released a country album at the height of his popularity as a rock artist. It was the follow-up to his celebrated 1972 studio album “Carney” and more recently “Leon Live” from early 1973.

The album was a masterpiece that only Leon could tackle – but he could not do this alone, as he assembled his LA band with some of the top Nashville sidemen that included the legendary Charlie McCoy, Pete Drake, and Johnny Gimble to only mention a few of Music City royalty. The only photo of Leon on the album was him playing the guitar with his back to viewer – hence, making the title of the album “Hank Wilson’s Back, Vol. 1” an immediate pun.

The LP was released on Shelter Records, which was partially owned by Russell, Denny Cordell, Carl Radle, Don Preston, and Jesse Ed Davis. Russell and Cordell were the principle owners until 1976 when Cordell took over complete ownership of the brand. “Hank Wilson’s Back, Vol. 1” was released at a time when Shelter Records was transitioning its logo from an inverted Superman “S” on an egg to a scrawled “S” on an egg.

The transition was predicated by a lawsuit brought by DC Comics  against Shelter Records for unlicensed usage of their Superman trademark. In addition, DC is a subsidiary of Warner Communications who also owned Warner Brothers, Atlantic, and the Elektra/Asylum/Nonesuch family of record labels - direct competitors of Capitol Records who were the distributors of the Shelter imprint. As part of the settlement, Shelter agreed to place a black mark over the logo on existing label blanks until a new logo could replace the Superman version.

The 1973 incarnation of Leon Russell was not the only one as this persona. He revived Hank Wilson in 1984 for volume 2, 1988 for volume 3, and in 2001 for volume 4 with the New Grass Revival. The first Hank Wilson LP did fairly well over all charting at 28 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart and at #15 on the country charts. Unlike the previous two Russell albums, it never sold enough copies to be certified as gold.

“Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms” was a Lester Flatt composition and had been recorded by a number of Country and Bluegrass luminaries such as Flatt and Scruggs, Bill Monroe, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, and Buck Owens. Owens version, released two years earlier, peaked at #2 on the country charts. Hank – er – Leon’s version peaked on the Hot 100 at #78 and only climbed to #58 on the country charts. I remember hearing this single quite a bit on the local radio station WGOH during their hours of country music programming during late 1973. Yee Haw!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tri State Corner: Ela Na This

Well today we start our new feature Mélange Monday – featuring a mixture of anything that strikes my fancy – which could be recent discoveries, covers, soundtrack music, hit records, or a variety of other song categories.

Our first feature includes three Greeks, one German, and one Pole – which almost sounds like a beginning of a joke that might include a priest, a rabbi, and a minister. No, it is no joke as this quintet (sans the clerics) is Tri State Corner with their unique use of the Greek bouzouki.

I was looking for bouzouki music as I play the Irish bouzouki and found Tri State Corner by accident – the header on the video “Greek Bouzouki Metal” caught my eye – and eventually my ear. While I do not know this for a certainty, I think the name Tri State Corner is indicative of the three different European states from which the members originate: Greece, Germany, and Poland.

While I studied three years of Koiné Greek in the 1970s, we learned to read and translate and not to speak the language conversationally, although we had to read it aloud to center on pronunciation. This did not help me much in understanding the partial Greek lyrics that make of the chorus of the song. I did pick up two familiar words κόσμο μου (kosmo mou) - my world. The rest was not recognizable to me as 1. my Greek is extremely rusty and 2. Greek has changed considerably in 2000 years.

Enough of me, back to the song. The title – Ela Na This (Ελα να θις) which literally is Come here – this or by interpretation “Come here and see this.” The rest of lyrics, I am told, are “what has happened to my world.” It is interesting how lead singer Lucky weaves English verses to a Greek chorus and make it sound so fitting. Janni plays the fantastic bouzouki parts on this recording. Having been together since 2004, they have already built a following in Europe. Let’s hope they become cross continental.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Deana Carter & Heart: Go Rest High Upon That Mountain

Before I delve into today's post, I want to warn those that steadily follow this blog that I am slightly changing the format of the blog tomorrow. Since the very beginning of my posts in September 2009, I haven't touched the format for Monday's selections and have reserved it for song covers. I am somewhat dispensing of this format and making changing the feature to Mélange Mondays.

With the changes I enacted with Wednesday's, Friday's, and Saturday's features at the beginning of the year, I discovered that I backed myself into a corner on what type of songs I might spotlight on any give day. Since I've never changed Monday's feature, I decided on a mélange of material - in other words, anything that happens to strike my fancy. Tomorrow - 3 Greeks, 1 German, and a Pole in a unique metal band.

Now, on with the show - this is it . . .

I am always looking for interesting songs to feature on “Reading between the Grooves” and I stumbled on this interpretation of the Vince Gill country hit by Deana Carter and Heart. “Go Rest High on that Mountain” comes from the October 31, 2006 airing of Craig Ferguson’s “Late, Late Show.”

I really like their version of Vince Gill’s tune that won Gill a pair of Grammy Awards in 1995 – “Best Country Song” and “Best Male Country Performance.” It is said that Gill started this tune after Keith Whitley died in 1989. Unfortunately, another tragedy inspired Vince to finish the song in 1993. This was the untimely death of Vince's brother Bob who died of a heart attack that year.

Singing lead on the first verse is Deana Carter. She is the daughter of musician Fred Carter, Jr. who passed last year. Carter is best known for her #1 and CMA Song of the Year – “Strawberry Wine.”

Joining carter on stage is Ann and Nancey Wilson of Heart. I’ve had the opportunity to see Heart three times – once in the 70s and twice in the 80s and met with Ann and Nancy backstage twice. It is nice to see Ann Wilson playing flute again – something she did quite frequently in Heart’s early days.

The thing that has me curious about this song is the instrument that Nancy Wilson is playing. It has six strings like a guitar, but it sounds like an Irish bouzouki. It is a solid body with wood styles that remind me of Alembic made instruments in the early 80s. The pickup appears to be a Dan Electro style. For lack of anything better, I am going to take a wild guess and say that it is a solid body electric 6 string domra – with three courses of strings tuned E A D. This guess is largely based on the sound and shape of the instrument.

This song is from Cracker Barrel’s CD/DVD “Songs of the Year” collection from 2006. Nancy Wilson commented that “The idea for this version was to take it to a gospel/acoustic/rock place and really strip it down to the bare bones. This song is built so well it could be done in any style in any era and still feel timeless.”


I know your life
On earth was troubled
And only you could know the pain
You weren't afraid to face the devil
You were no stranger to the rain

Go rest high on that mountain
‘Cause, aon, your work on earth is done
Go to Heaven a shoutin'
Love for the Father and the Son

Oh, how we cried the day you left us
And gathered round your grave to grieve
Wish I could see the angels’ faces
When they hear your sweet voice sing

Go rest high on that mountain
‘Cause, son, your work on earth is done
Go to Heaven a shoutin'
Love for the Father and the Son

Go rest high on that mountain
‘Cause, son, your work on earth is done
Go to Heaven a shoutin'
Love for the Father and the Son

Go to Heaven a shoutin'
Love for the Father and the Son

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Novo Combo: Too Long Gone

Here’s a song that brings back memories of when I was the music director at WCIR-FM in Beckley, WV. Novo Combo had released their second album “The Animation Generation” in 1982 and the single “Too Long Gone.”

While the song was not being heavily promoted across the US, the independent promoters were anxious to get this Polydor release some airplay in the smaller markets. What they really wanted were for the P3 (Parallel 3 or smaller market) stations to add the record and to generate some interest in this tune so they could get some major market airplay.

This song had nearly everything – a great guitar lick – a memorable lyrical hook; however, the record company didn’t have it at the top of their promotional priorities – therefore, whoever the Polygram people were promoting at the time be it John Cougar Mellencamp, the Moody Blues, Def Leppard, or another one of their better known acts, Novo Combo got left behind in a stack of wax.

I don’t have my charts from those years – at least I don’t think I do – so I cannot remember if we added the record or played it unreported in nighttime rotation. Listening to “Too Long Gone” nearly thirty years later, I can’t imagine not adding the record. The song still sounds great after all of these years. While Novo Combo never made it to the big time in Contemporary Hit Radio, they did get a fair amount of airplay on the Album Rock stations.

The lead singer on this cut was Pete Hewlett from Pittsburgh. One of his pre-Novo Combo records was by the Euclid Beach Band and their song about America’s third coast – Lake Erie. “No Surf in Cleveland” was produced by Eric Carmen and I’ll get around to featuring this song as summer gets closer. In addition, Novo Combo's drummer was Mike Shrieve who, as member of Santana, had previously drummed on eight of their albums.

As an addendum, I will have to insert the comments of my longtime friend John Sellards who had never heard this song before. He compared this cut as to sounding like "the Police with an overweight Jon Anderson singing lead." Well, that's pretty descriptive.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Who: Overture from Tommy

Today’s flipside comes from The Who – who? That’s right. While the Assembled Multitude had the hit version of the “Overture from Tommy,” the original by The Who was the opening cut from their famed rock opera “Tommy.” I bought this single shortly after it was released as it featured “See Me, Feel Me” on the “A” side. The single was issued in 1971 – two years after the release of the album.

Although it was the highest charting US single from “Tommy” at #12, “See Me, Feel Me” is probably not the best known tune from the album – that was probably “Pinball Wizard” which peaked in the US at #19 and #4 in the UK. To my knowledge, “See Me, Feel Me” was not released as a single in the UK; its American release was issued with a custom label design as opposed to the typical black labeled (American) Decca releases of the time.

Since I could not find a good quality version of the single mix on YouTube, you will have to settle for the album version which also includes the cut “It’s a Boy.” The single began fading out prior to “It’s a Boy” at about 3:50 into the tune. By the way, the late John Entwistle plays the French horn on this cut.

The Assembled Multitude’s Hit Version

For completeness sake (one of my faults – it is truly a blessing and a curse), I am featuring the hit version of the song that was released as a single by session musicians from Philadelphia. Their version of the “The Overture from Tommy” charted in 1970 at #16. Many of these musicians became the backbone of the orchestra that played on many hits released on Philadelphia International records by notable artists such as the O’Jays, the Stylistics, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, MFSB, and Billy Paul.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Sean Hayes: Powerful Stuff

Sean Hayes’s “Powerful Stuff” is featured in the latest crop of Subaru commercials and the song really grows on you – that is, if you happen to like things growing on you. The song comes from Hayes’ most recent LP: “Run Wolves Run” from 2010. My favorite part of the song is the opening guitar lick. By the way, Sean Hayes is not to be confused with the actor of the same name who played Jack on “Will and Grace.”

Subaru Commercial

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Crazy Elephant: Gimme, Gimme Good Lovin'

It is not always you find a band that had a Top 40 one hit wonder on both sides of the Atlantic. In addition, “Gimme, Gimme Good Lovin’” had the peak chart position of 12 in both the US and the UK. Besides that, it wasn’t a band at all. Crazy Elephant was a contrived studio concoction like The Archies, The Cuff Links, The Ohio Express, and others. The single charted in 1969.

Crazy Elephant was a concoction of bubblegum producers/managers Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz. Not only did their Super K Productions create the fictional Crazy Elephant, it also was the management company of real acts such as the 1910 Fruitgum Company, The Shadows of Knight, and The Music Explosion.

While a touring band was created to support the recordings, studio musicians provided the backing tracks. The lead vocalist was Robert “Bobby” Spencer formerly of the doo-wop group the Cadillacs. Spencer was also one of the co-writers of Millie Small’s hit “My Boy Lollipop.”

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

New Grass Revival: Can't Stop Now

I can’t believe that I haven’t featured New Grass Revival until now, but they perfect for traditional Tuesday especially with one of their better known songs “Can’t Stop Now.” From their second album on a major label “Hold to a Dream,” the band that had taken bluegrass to newest heights had their second highest charting single. “Can’t Stop Now” peaked on the country charts at 44.

Written by Gary Nicholson and Wendy Waldman, “Can’t Stop Now” features the hot licks of mandolinist Sam Bush, guitarist Pat Flynn, and banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck. Of course, a slimmer John Cowan holds down the bottom and provides the excellent lead vocals. I’ve always liked Cowan’s vocals. Take a listen to one of the most underrated acoustic bands of all time.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Gary Moore: Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood

I’ve been thinking about this song for a couple of weeks. In a faculty/staff development session at Mountain State University, my coworker Vanessa Thompson and I burst into an impromptu version of the Animal’s version of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” So, I thought I would find a decent cover of the song – without having to revert to Santa Esmeralda’s disco treatment of the tune.

I stumbled on the late Gary Moore’s version last week and, although it is true to The Animals’ arrangement, it is heavier.

The Animals’ Version

This 1965 single by The Animals was not the original version of the song. It was first recorded during the previous year by Nina Simone – whose version is quite laid back by comparison. Eric Burdon and crew charted at #15 in the US and the single was released on the American version of the album “Animal Tracks,” which was totally different from the original UK album of the same name.

For those who care about such things, keyboardist Alan Price is playing a Vox Continental combo organ; bassist Chas Chandler utilizes a Epiphone Rivoli bass guitar, and guitarist Hilton Valentine is strumming a 1962 Gretsch Tennessean.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Elton John: Abide With Me

You wouldn’t normally think of Elton John when you think of hymns. But you will have to admit that Sir Elton does a wonderful job on this 19th century Anglican hymn. The song was written in 1847 by Scottish Anglican Henry Francis Lyte while he was dying from tuberculosis. It is said that he only lived three weeks following the completion of this composition. This version is from 1997’s “An Evening with Elton John.”

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Kinks: Apeman

Up until The Kings released “Come Dancing” in 1982, the band’s top single in the US was “Lola” which peaked at #9. The follow up single from the LP “Lola versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One,” “Apeman,” didn’t fare as well and missed the Top 40 by five points peaking in 1970 at 45. Therefore by missing the Top 40 charts (in the US), “Apeman” qualifies as our bubbling under hit for this Saturday.

Although it only hit 45 on the US charts, “Apeman” was a success in other countries. In the UK, Australia, and New Zealand the song charted at #5. It hit #9 in Germany and was a top 20 hit in The Netherlands and Canada.

Pseudo Live Version

The unique guitar sound that is found on “Apeman” and “Lola” was a resophonic guitar. I believe it was a National Style O as it is chrome plated. You can check it out in the following video.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Moody Blues: Candle of Life

A little late today due to problems on YouTube, but as they say, it is better late than never.

Today’s flipside reminds me of my sophomore year of high school (1970-1971) as that year was the year of the strikes. The East Allegheny School District in Western Pennsylvania was plagued with three strikes. The custodial and cafeteria staff struck towards the beginning of the year; however, the schools remained open. Towards the middle of the school year, the teachers struck and schools were closed. At the end of the year, the bus drivers struck.

In the infinite wisdom of our school board, the schools were open and classes had been extended to June 30. Because the bus drivers were on strike, the teachers in an act of solidarity did not cross the picket line. Much to my chagrin, my mother required me to go to school until the end of June and drove me to school every day. Things were so bad – that the few of us that did attend (about 30 out 1600 students) wandered the halls the entire day as there was no faculty supervision.

You may be wondering why I connect this song to this memory. During that period in June, I purchased this Moody Blues single from the cutout bin at the local F.W. Woolworths. The A side, “Question” from the album “Question of Balance” was released the previous fall and charted at 21 on the Hot 100. The B side, “Candle of Life,” was from the Moodies’ previous album “To our Children’s Children’s Children.”

I remember liking “Candle of Life” better than “Question” and this song stayed with me throughout this three weeks in June while I wandered the cavernous and deserted hallways of East Allegheny High School in a futile attempt to receive an education. I don’t know about you, but I often connect songs to events in my life. This John Lodge composition is the only song that reminds me specifically of that unusual school year.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Joss Stone: It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World

Today’s song would qualify in several categories. I could have used in on Monday as a cover song as Joss Stone remade this 1966 James Brown hit in 2004. It would also fit as a Friday Flipside as it was the “B” side of her single “Super Duper Love.” Today, however, it is the TV Thursday tune as it is currently being used as the background music for the latest commercial for Chanel Coco Mademoiselle.

While James Brown composed the music, Betty Jean Newsome authored the lyrics based on her own perception of the differences between the sexes. The title, “It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World” capitalized on a movie title from a few years earlier: “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.” Brown’s version charted at #1 on the R&B Charts and #8 on the Hot 100. Being a flipside, Stone’s version did not chart.

Chanel Coco Mademoiselle Commercial

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Neon Philharmonic: Morning Girl

Formed in 1967, The Neon Philharmonic only released two albums and a score of singles between 1969 and 1971. Only one of those charted – our Wednesday One-Hit- Wonder: “Morning Girl.” The Neon Philharmonic's only top forty hit peaked at #17 in 1969. It came from their debut album “The Moth Confesses.”

The group recorded for Warner Brothers’ short lived rebranded label: Warner/7 Arts, and a final single was issued after their break-up in 1972 by TRX Records. By 1975, the two principals, arranger Tupper Saussey and vocalist Don Gant, sold “The Neon Philharmonic” brand name and additional singles were released by musicians who had no connection to the original group.

Enjoy this song while eating a bowl of Cherrios.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Richard Thompson: Blackleg Miner

“Blackleg Miner,” Today’s Traditional Tuesday selection, was written at some point towards the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. It tells the story of scabs who went to work in the coal fields of Northumberland and Durham during the workers’ strike and the violence that had befallen the strikebreakers. The term “Blackleg” was an epithet heaped onto the strikebreakers.

Richard Thompson utilized this tune as part of his live show and subsequent CD – “1000 Years of Popular Music.” The CD takes songs from as early as the 1300s to the late 20th century and provides an education of the great variety of music that has surfaced during the last millennia. It is a little strange when you think that Thompson is singing songs made popular by Abba, Squeeze, Prince, and Britney Spears. A little off topic for Mr. Thompson, but it shows his versatility.

“Blackleg Miner” is more attuned to Thompson’s traditional music days.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Deep Purple: Lalena

Here’s a cover going back to 1969 from Deep Purple’s self-titled third LP. This album is my favorite of the four Tetragrammaton albums by the band; however, I have to admit – my copy is a UK import on Harvest Records. It has the strangest cover of any album by the band as it features a black and white photo of Hieronymus Bosch's painting “The Garden of Earthly Delights.”

My favorite tune on the album is their interpretation of Donovan’s ballad “Lalana” which is pronounced “Laleña .“ Rod Evans voice is just perfect and Ritchie Blackmore’s subtle use of a volume pedal at the end of the tune almost sounds like a sitar. This was the only cover on an album that featured primarily original material by the band. It was also the last album to feature the original lineup of the band.

I realize that I used this tune back last year in a post dealing with the "Deep Purple before Smoke on the Water"; however, I felt that this cut deserved a bit more exposure.

Donovan’s Original Version

Although it wasn’t a hit, Donovan’s original of “Lalena” was my favorite song of his. Here’s his original recoding of the tune.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Wishbone Ash: The King Will Come

Wishbone Ash, a British rock band whose heyday was in the early 70s, is not generally thought of as spiritually impassioned act; however, more than a few of their songs have strong spiritual undertones. Although they are still around as two separate bands and both are recording material, many folks like me remember their early albums. They were one of the pioneers of the twin guitar sound that surfaced throughout the 1970s.

My first encounter with the band was an MCA Special Products release that featured artists such Wishbone Ash, Matthews Southern Comfort, Glass Harp, Chelsea, Jeremiah, and others. The cut on this compilation was the bluesy “Blind Eye” from Wishbone Ash’s debut LP. Today’s feature, “The King will Come,” is from the band's third album – “Argus.” See what you think.


In the fire, the king will come.
Thunder rolls, piper and drum.
Evil sons, overrun,
Count their sins - judgment comes.

The checkerboard of nights and days -
Man will die, man be saved.
The sky will fall, the earth will pray,
When judgment comes to claim its day.
See the word of the prophet
On a stone in his hand.
Poison pen revelation,
Or just a sign in the sand?

The checkerboard of nights and days -
Man will die, man be saved.
The sky will fall, the earth will pray,
When judgment comes to claim its day.
See the word of the prophet
On a stone in his hand.
Poison pen revelation,
Or just a sign in the sand?