Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dan Peek: Lonely People

On Thursday, I mentioned the death of Dan Peek formerly of the band America. He died in his sleep last Sunday. After the release of America’s “Harbor” LP in 1977, Dan left the band to pursue a successful solo career as a contemporary Christian artist.

His first solo LP was “All Things Are Possible”; the single of the same title stayed at the #1 slot on the CCM charts for 13 weeks. It also received a Grammy nomination. In 1986, Peek released his fourth solo LP – “Electro Voice.” On this album, he remade his old America hit, but Christianized the vocals. The single charted at #2 on the CCM charts. It is my pleasure to provide both versions – the first being our Spiritual Sunday selection.

Original America Release

Of the songs that Dan Peek sang lead with America, “Lonely People” charted the highest at #5. His other singles were “Today’s the Day” at #23, “Don’t Cross the River” at #35, and “Woman Tonight” that peaked at #44. “Lonely People” also charted at #1 on the Adult Contemporary charts.

The song was from America’s 1974 album “Holiday.” In an Circus magazine interview Peek said the song was based on the thought of “what would it be like to wake up and not know anybody.” “Holiday” was their first album that employed the famed George Martin as producer. “Tin Man” was the other single from this album.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Doucette: Mama Let Him Play

Back in 1978, I remember hearing [Jerry] Doucette on the radio quite a bit with the title cut from his album “Mama Let Him Play.” A Canadian by birth, Doucette recorded for the Mushroom Records label out of Vancouver, British Columbia. This was the same label that launched the career of Heart two years earlier.

Unfortunately, Doucette never caught on in the US; however, for an unknown his debut chart positions did better than most new artists. Doucette’s “Mama Let Him Play” was a true bubbling under hit with a position on the Hot 100 charts at #72. The album’s 159 ranking on Billboard’s Top 200 Albums charts did well for a first time artist as well; however, Doucette was never ever able to repeat his semi-success in the US.

I never bought either the single or album, as other recordings caught my ear. It reminds me of the music of 1978 – a state of styles in flux. The new wave sound is said to have edged Doucette out of the running for a major hit. Perhaps if this record had been released two or three years earlier it would have performed better. Be that as it may, here’s Doucette with “Mama Let Him Play.”

Friday, July 29, 2011

Iron Butterfly: Iron Butterfly Theme

Anyone who experienced the psychedelic sixties will remember the classic anthem of the era: “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” – the slurred title of a jam that was recorded serendipitously by Iron Butterfly as a studio sound check. The original title was to be “In the Garden of Eden”; however, it was written down as Doug Ingle who, in a stupor, relayed the title as “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” The rest is history. This classic single, which clocked in at 17:05 minutes on the album of the same name, was edited down to 2:52 for the single. It charted in the US at 30 on the Hot 100.

The flipside came from the band’s debut album “Heavy” and this instrumental was titled “Iron Butterfly Theme.” This is a very interesting album that I procured from my brother in the early seventies. I loved the cover especially Doug Ingle’s floating keyboard in front of the giant ear. The album was released in early 1968 and charted at #78.

While this is the LP version of the tune at 4:34, the single edit was at 3:25, but it is unfortunately not available presently on YouTube. Wow man, enjoy.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

RIP: Dan Peek

I saw on Bill Korch’s Facebook page that Dan Peek, formerly of America, passed away on Sunday. He succumbed to heart disease and an enlarged heart. He was found dead in his bed by his wife at their Farmington, Missouri home. His funeral will be held this coming Monday.

Like his partners in America, Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell, Peek was a son of American airman stationed in London and his British wife. The band took its name from the Americana brand of jukeboxes and the fact they were citizens of a country they had rarely visited.

Peek left America in 1977 for a career in contemporary Christian music. Beckley and Bunnell continued as a duo. While Dewey Bunnell sang lead on their first hit “Horse with No Name,” it was the first time we heard the high harmonies of Dan Peek.

This #1 record was their biggest hit spending three weeks at the top of the charts and was certified gold. Their debut album, also a #1 release, was certified platinum. The album spent five weeks at the number one spot. It also serves as our TV Thursday song as it was featured in a Kohl’s commercial for Vera Wang.

Kohl’s Commercial from 2008

Rest in Peace Dan Peek.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sanford-Townsend Band: Smoke From A Distant Fire

Having played in a band by the name of Heart (no – not that Heart) while living in Alabama, keyboardists Ed Sanford and Johnny Townsend reunited in 1974 under a contract with Chappell Music in Los Angeles. In 1976, the Sanford-Townsend Band released their self-titled album. By 1977, the LP’s single “Smoke from a Distant Fire.”

Recorded at the famed Muscle Shoals Studios, the single charted at #9 in 1977 and Warner Brothers Records rush re-issued the album with a new cover and a new title – “Smoke from a Distant Fire.” Their goal was to capitalize on the recent success of the single.

According to Johnny Townsend, the song started out as a fluke. Steven Stewart, a coauthor of the tune, was joking with Sanford and Townsend about writing music. Stewart, who was studying classical guitar at the time, played a riff and made the statement, “Anybody can write that crap.” With that, Townsend and Sanford embellished upon the riff and the rest is, as they say, musical history.

Live Version from the Midnight Special

I had a chance to see the band when they opened for Heart (yes that Heart) at the Huntington Civic Center in 1977. They put on a great show; however, it is unfortunate that they never could recapture their success of their debut single.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Justin Townes Earle: They Killed John Henry

Two Sundays ago I was listening to Mountain Stage on West Virginia Public Radio and one of the songs that featured guest Justin Townes Earle performed was “They Killed John Henry.” From his 2009 CD release, “Midnight at the Movies” Earle reworks the classic story of the sledge hammer wielding John Henry as he beat the steam drill in a contest of strength. The result was the Big Bend Tunnel and the death of the hero of the story.

Justin Townes Earle, the son of Steve Earle, was named in honor of Townes Van Zandt and he keeps the roots tradition alive and well. Today’s Traditional Tuesday selection features Justin on guitar and vocals and Cory Younts on the clawhammer banjo. The cut comes from KEXP in Seattle from 2009.


Well when John Henry died, he lay lookin’ at the sun
He said Lord take me now my work is done, Lord, Lord
ord, take me now my work is done
Yeah, but when they laid him out in that box of pine, boy

They laid that hammer by his side, Lord, Lord

laid that hammer by his side

Yeah Joe Hill, he worked any job he could find, boy

He’d rake your leaves, and pick your vine, Lord, Lord

Rake your leaves, and pick your vine

Yeah and they killed Joe Hill, put a bullet to his name

But that bullet made a martyr of the same, Lord, Lord

That bullet made a martyr of the same

Yeah, and my granddaddy worked his whole damn life,
Well, he never saved a nickel though he tried, Lord, Lord
Never saved a nickel though he tried

And he died in Tennessee but he couldn’t find no rest,
With that long road to Texas lyin’ ahead, Lord Lord,
that long road to Texas lyin’ ahead

Yessir, I ain’t no great man, and Lord I expect to lead
A long life a’workin’ and you’re dead, Lord, Lord
A long life a’workin’ and you’re dead

They killed John Henry, they killed John Henry
They killed John Henry, but they won’t kill me, Lord

They killed John Henry, they killed John Henry

They killed John Henry, but they won’t kill me.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Kaiser Chiefs: Modern Way

I discovered the Kaiser Chiefs by accident a few years ago and have enjoyed their music ever since. Although they have not enjoyed the same success in the US as they have in their native UK, I find many of their songs refreshing. If you read between the lines there, you will get the gist that I don’t like everything they have released – and I don’t; so, I am not ready to drink the Kool-Aid yet.

But the songs I do like, such as today’s “Modern Way” and “Ruby,” I consider masterpieces. I think the bass and the wood block makes this song. The hook in the chorus is also catchy and it is an interesting video. “Modern Way” was the fourth and final single from the band’s debut LP, “Employment”; it peaked on the UK charts at 11. It never placed on Billboard’s Hot 100.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Glory Revealed: By His Wounds

Last week, a friend of mine asked me to play mandolin and sing on the “Glory Revealed” song “By His Wounds” with him tonight. I hadn’t heard this song until last week, and I am impressed with its simple nature as well as the excellent mandolin solos by Jason Hoard on this cut.

While Glory Revealed sounds as though it is the name of the band, it is not – it is the name of the project that features various artists. It was just easier to refer to Mac Powell, Steven Curtis Chapman, Brian Littrell, and Mark Hall by the overall project banner name.

The first verse is sung by Mac Powell of Third Day; Steven Curtis Chapman follows with the second; Mac Powell and Mark Hall of Casting Crowns split both choruses; the third verse has Brian Littrell; and Steven Curtis Chapman to the lead the final verse with Mark Hall contributing the tag.

The “Glory Revealed” CD won the 2008 Dove Award for Special Event Album of the Year and “By His Wounds” won the 2008 Dove Award for the Inspirational Recorded Song of the Year.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Pink Floyd: Cymbaline

I watched a “Biography” episode the other night about Pink Floyd. It was highly interesting and it dealt with all of the problems of the band from the insanity and substance abuse of Syd Barrett to the power mongering of Roger Waters. From tragedies to successes, Pink Floyd’s career was like a roller coaster.

So for the bubbling under song for this week, I am making a stretch by going back to the band’s third album – while they are sounding a little like “A Saucerful of Secrets” on the “Soundtrack from the film More,” they were finally losing the influence of Syd Barrett and becoming their own persona. “More” was my second Pink Floyd album, and although you never hear this early stuff on the radio, some of it is quite good.

“More” is really one of their better early albums and nearly all of the cuts have promise. It was difficult to decide which song to use for today as there were so many choices. I can remember listening to this 1969 release quite often in the early seventies and watching the unusual Tower Records label with each turntable revolution.

I wonder what would have happened had I turned the speed up to 78 RPMs. I might have had a cosmic epiphany. It was their last LP on Tower in the US and on Columbia/EMI in the UK as EMI moved the band to the Harvest imprint worldwide.

The single from “More” was “The Nile Song” – one writer called it “arguably the heaviest song ever recorded by Pink Floyd.” He is probably right on that account. It was a Roger Waters composition and David Gilmour sounds like the cookie monster on the vocals. It’s really not a bad tune, but not ready for primetime here.

For today, I’ve chosen another Waters’ composition “Cymbaline.” It’s a little more subdued and has that omnipresent organ sound toward the middle of the song as Richard Wright put his stamp on this record. Wright comes in during David Gilmour's scat vocal solo.

This album was recorded in the band’s pre synthesizer days and Wright was really a master of making the organ sound ethereal. Unlike other recordings where the organ takes a back seat, it swells and eventually is the song's main instrument.  I really love this LP; however, even though it charted at #153 on the Top 200 Albums chart, it is an album that is really deserved a higher position. Pity.


The path you tread is narrow
And the drop is sheer and very high
The ravens all are watching
From a vantage point nearby
Apprehension creeping
Like a tube train up your spine
Will the tightrope reach the end
Will the final couplet rhyme

And it's high time Cymbaline
It's high time Cymbaline
Please wake me

A butterfly with broken wings
Is falling by your side
The ravens all are closing in
There's nowhere you can hide
Your manager and agent
Are both busy on the phone
Selling colored photographs
To magazines back home

And it's high time Cymbaline
It's high time Cymbaline
Please wake me

The lines converging where you stand
They must have moved the picture plane
The leaves are heavy round your feet
You hear the thunder of the train
Suddenly it strikes you
That they're moving into range
And Doctor Strange
Is always changing size

And it's high time Cymbaline
It's high time Cymbaline
Please wake me

Friday, July 22, 2011

Dave Edmunds: Black Bill

When Dave Edmunds released his first solo single, “I Hear You Knocking,” he chose a non-album cut to round out the single’s flipside. “Black Bill” is reminiscent of blues shuffle sounds of The Bill Black Combo. The only thing missing from this instrumental is the saxophone. It is replaced by Edmunds’ searing guitar leads.

I bought this single shortly after its release in 1971. His LP “Rockpile,” whose name was later was given to Edmund’s band, was not released until 1972. Edmunds plays all of the instruments on this cut – as he does on most of its associated LP.

Since it was a single only release, “Black Bill” was unavailable for thirty years after London Records (the distributor of MAM Records) ceased production of the single in 1971. In 2001, “Black Bill” once became available as a bonus track on the CD of “Rockpile.”

By the way, the “A” side, “I Hear you Knocking,” peaked at #4 – not bad for an initial solo release by an unknown artist on a brand new record label.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Power: Can You Save Me

The other night I watched the TV series “Covert Affairs” for the first time and I heard the theme song and had to find it. I really like this tune and I know some folks won’t understand it and will think I’ve lost my mind, but I have very eclectic tastes – so I don’t think it’s that unusual. If it’s good – then I like it. Well the song is and that is why I was drawn to it.

The beginning of “Can You Save Me” sounds like Enrico Morricone meets Techno Pop meets JPop. Formerly known as Apple Trees and Tangerines, the group recently rebranded as The Power. Their story and identity is a bit clandestine, but what I could discover is that they were originally from Detroit but now make Los Angeles their home. They also were the winners of SESAC’s college battle of the bands in 2010 in Las Vegas.

The Power is also working on a task of writing and recording 52 songs in 52 weeks. What a neat project if you have the time and the money to pursue it. The group is fronted by sister and brother Jax and Seth Anderson.

Jax writes the melodies and the music and Seth takes care of recording the tracks. Besides their big break in winning the battle of the bands contest, the opportunity of the USA TV Network selecting “Can You Save Me” as the theme for a TV show will give this Power duo an even greater audience.

Covert Affairs Opening


When I collapse, will you forget?
When I'm dead and gone, will you regret?
All of the constant, mocking, bitter slang
And pokes when you were so upset
When you grabbed your keys, said you were gone
Helped myself out, passed the gun
And bombed my friends and family I did well
It's just my choices
They were wrong
They were wrong,
They were wrong,
They were wrong,
They were wrong, wrong, wrong,
They were wrong.

Can you save me?
From this nothing I've become
It's just something that I've done
Never meant to cause you worry
Don't you blame me
For this nothing I've become
It's just something that I've done
Never meant to show you my mistakes

When "us" collapse, break bonds, when you forget
All the months we spent on loneliness
Long nights, short days with conversation
That's nothing more than arguments
I'd fix this if I could
I'd change this... you know I would
It's been a long time coming
A long time baby
I’d say that you misunderstood

Can you save me?
From this nothing I've become
It's just something that I've done
Never meant to cause you worry
Don't you blame me
For this nothing I've become
It's just something that I've done
Never meant to show you my mistakes

I don't know, I don't know
I don't know where I am heading
All I can tell is that you're gone!
All I know,
All I know; I've become a disappointment
Sorry if I'm always wrong!

All your perspectives stand
I'm not the same creature that I was back then
A slight touch hitting on its mass
I'm never coming back
Never going back there again

Can you save me?
From this nothing I've become
It's just something that I've done
Never meant to cause you worry
Don't you blame me
For this nothing I've become
It's just something that I've done
Never meant to show you my mistakes.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians: What I Am

Today’s one hit wonder is one of those songs that you either love or you hate. I bought the cassette from the strength of this single – being out of Top 40 radio at the time and unable to procure a free copy, I laid down my money and took my chances – that is until it and a number of other cassettes were stolen out of my car.

Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians had their only Top 40 hit in 1988 with “What I Am.” It charted in the US at #7 on the Hot 100, at #4 on the Modern Rock Tracks, and #9 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks – whatever all that means. Well, I do – but that’s not important. It is an alternative song that has some jazz influences. Very – well – Bohemian; if I might say so myself. I love the guitar lead with the autowah/envelope filter. Really cool.

The album, “Shooting Rubber Bands at the Stars” did quite well too – it charted at #4 on the LP charts and was certified double platinum for in excess of two million copies sold in the US. While it served to be Edie and the New Bohemians only hit, she has spent her time since being Mrs. Paul Simon, and has continued to perform over the years.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Steve Mitowski & Andy Urban: That's The Way

Here’s a little impromptu jam session of an instrumental version of the Led Zeppelin song “That’s the Way.” Steve Mitkowski is playing a new Collins mandolin while Andy Urban of the band Kashmir is on the double neck 12/6 Ovation guitar. This is a nice version of one of Led Zep’s quieter tunes.

I was looking for mandolin music one night and stumbled on this cut by accident. It is a very nice interpretation of the original tune. This was recorded at Mandolin Brothers on Staten Island in New York City.

Led Zeppelin Original

Monday, July 18, 2011

Edgar Winter Group: Free Ride

All weekend long I’ve been singing this song for some reason, but probably because I featured Rick Derringer on Friday. “Free Ride” was the first single from the Edgar Winter Group’s “They Only Come out at Night” LP, which was released during the tail end of 1972. “Free Ride” was written and sung by the band’s bassist, the late Dan Hartman. It peaked at 14 in 1973.

Edgar is featured playing his Hohner clavinet, which he strapped around his neck in live performance. For the wind sounds, Edgar played an ARP 2600 - this classic synth is pictured below.

When the band performed this song live, Hartman played a double-neck guitar/bass and played the opening guitar parts and then switched to the bass when the first verse started. The lead on this single was by Ronnie Montrose who after the release of this album left the band and formed Montrose. He was replaced by Rick Derringer.

What a great tune for a Monday. The original release was somewhat different with different lead guitar part and an overdubbed fuzztone bass during the bridge. I couldn't find the single version on YouTube - so here's the LP version which is what you usually hear on the radio today.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Liberty N' Justice & Robert Fleischman: The Lord's Prayer

While the title and lyrics are obviously the same as the popular religious tune of the same name, this song “The Lord’s Prayer” is an original tune sung by Robert Fleischman. He was a special guest on Liberty N’ Justice’s 2004 album “Welcome to the Revolution.” This same LP featured other well known musicians including Lou Gramm of Foreigner, Phil Collen of Def Leppard, Jack Russell of Great White, Leif Garrett, and others.

For a nearly a year, Robert Fleischman was the vocalist for Journey; however, due to creative differences, he and the band parted ways. He also was picked to be the lead vocalist for Asia – but withdrew his name for consideration after he heard John Wetton sing.

Fleischman does a nice job on this tune and you can see how he has matured as a vocalist since his short stint with Journey.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Nektar: Let It Grow

Until I bought my first album by Nektar, I was under the estimation that they were a German band as they were generally lumped into the German imports at my favorite record stores and stood alongside bands that gained a reputation as experimental. The term used today for this music is Krautrock – which I hope is not pejorative; however, if it is – I’m about 40% German – so hopefully this makes up for it.

While lumped together (on this side of the Atlantic) with bands like Kraftwerk, Amon Düül, Amon Düül II, Tangerine Dream, Faust, and others, Nektar was different. They were more melodic and had better vocals than most of the others (where vocals were present).

Although based in Hamburg, Germany, the band was solely English in their personnel. “Remember the Future,” their fourth LP and the second to be released in the US, was their first album to gain national attention. It was their highest charting album in the US making it to #19 on the album charts. This is pretty amazing as the band was largely unknown in North America and had no discernable hit single to support this recording.

As many were doing by 1973, “Remember the Future” was a concept album. The story is of a visually impaired boy who communicates with a space alien. “Let it Grow” was released as a promotional only single – it is the last cut on the album and one of the best cuts on Nektar’s top release. The guitars on this particular cut remind me of David Gilmour's work with Pink Floyd.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Rick Derringer: Time Warp

Back in 1973, manager Steve Paul created a label imprint originally distributed by Columbia Records named “Blue Sky Records.” Blue Sky was an umbrella label for all of the acts that Paul managed and included Johnny Winter, Edgar Winter, Rick Derringer, Muddy Waters, Steve Perry, and Dan Hartman. By the 1980s, CBS moved the distribution of this label from its Columbia division to Epic where all other CBS specialty labels eventually were housed.

One of the first releases (and perhaps the very first release) from Blue Sky was Rick Derringer’s “All American Boy” album in 1973. The LP’s associated single, “Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo” – a song originally recorded by Johnny Winter when Rick was a member of his band, charted for Derringer in 1974. The song peaked at #23 on the Hot 100.

The instrumental “Time Warp” was the flip to Derringer’s hit and features Rick on a variety of guitars including a Coral Electric Sitar. Prominent in this tune are the excellent bass playing of Kenny Passarelli and the congas and timbales of Joe Lala. Edgar Winter’s organ swells are also worth mentioning. Bill Szymczyk produced the LP – a follow-up to his work as Edgar’s technical director on “They Only Come Out at Night." Rick produced the Edgar Winter LP.  

Szymczyk was known for his production skills on albums by The James Gang, Joe Walsh, The Eagles, The J. Geils Band, Jo Jo Gunne, and others. He also methodically placed cryptic messages in the dead wax on the albums that he produced. While I don’t have this particular album, I did buy the single as a poor, starving college freshman when it was released. Therefore, I can’t tell you Bill’s message on this particular LP. Nonetheless, I remember playing this flip side nearly as much as the hit.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Status Quo: Pictures Of Matchstick Men

TV Thursday takes us back to November 1967 when Status Quo (or as they were known then “The Status Quo”) released “Pictures of Matchstick Men” – their only American hit record. While the record only charted at 12 in the US in 1968, it has become known to an entirely new generation as the music behind the latest Target commercial.

This band is still going strong nearly 50 years after their establishment in 1962; Status Quo contains one original member, lead guitarist Francis Rossi. In addition, guitarist Rick Parfitt, who played on today’s selection, is also with the band. The current line-up has remained fairly consistent since reforming in 1986. No longer with Status Quo are others who performed on the 1967 recording: bassist Alan Lancaster, keyboardist Roy Lynes, and drummer John Coughlin.

The term “matchstick men” came from the artwork of L.S. Lowry who often painted industrial scenes of Northern England with his characterization of the people being termed as “matchstick men and women.” There are actually two versions of the song – the mono single mix and the stereo album mix that appeared on their debut LP titled “Messages from The Status Quo featuring Pictures of Matchstick Men” in the US and “Picturesque Matchstickable: Messages from the Status Quo” in the UK

Besides the orientation (monaural vs. stereophonic), the differences between the single and album mixes can be heard on the single version. The single uses wah-wah pedal on the guitar between the verses and there is a prominent usage of tape flanging. While the flanging is present on the album mix, it is not as discernible.

Single Version: Mono

Album Version: Stereo

Target Commercial

Live Version from 2009

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Korgis: Everybody's Got To Learn Sometime

Today’s one-hit wonder was inspired by the early solo work of John Lennon and was released prior to Lennon’s death in 1980. Sung by the band’s leader, bassist James Warren, who surprisingly resembles Lennon, “Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime” features a koto as well as Stuart Gordon’s electric violin lead. The song peaked in the US at 18 during the last week of 1980. Additionally, the song was a number one record in France and Spain and placed in the top five in the Netherlands, Germany, and the UK.

The song appeared on the band’s second LP “Dumb Waiters”; however, the 1999 CD release features a different version of the song and not the original single mix. The recording also features Andy Davis on guitar and drums and Phil Harrison on keyboards.

1990 Alternate Version

In 1990, the band reformed to re-record the song for release on album that supported the International Hostage Release Project, which was subsequently released in 1991 under the title of the song. The album also featured Pete Townshend, Simple Minds, Tina Turner, Steve Winwood, and a host of other artists. “Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime” was also re-released as a single.

While nearly two dozen other cover versions of “Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime” have been recorded, The Korgis’ 1990 mix is near perfect. See what you think.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Alexei Arkhipovskiy: Balalaika Varna

For this Traditional Tuesday, my brother’s recent interest in our ancient ancestry of the Kievan Rus has blossomed into an awareness of Ukrainian and Russian music. He is in the market for a balalaika – an interesting instrument I fell in love with when I saw Dr. Zhivago as a preteen. The shape alone was a fascination to me.

I bought my balalaika at Steel City Pawn in Braddock, Pennsylvania in about 1977; however, I never spent much time playing it. I think I paid $45.00 for it at the time – a little more than it was probably worth at the time – but I really wanted it.

Recently in our move, I pocketed the bridge and lost between our old house and our new one. Needless to say, I will need to get another bridge before I can fool with it again. I may even refinish the painted neck and use some fretboard ebony stain that I bought to use on my fretless bass a while back.

One would think that a three string instrument tuned E-E-A would have much potential, but you then haven’t heard Alexei Arkhipovskiy yet. By amplifying the balalaika, it comes alive and Arkhipovskiy shows that he is the Russian Paganini. The song featured in today’s video is балалайка Ваня or translated as Balalaika Varna.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Beatles: If I Needed Someone

It's Mélange Monday and today's cut is from the remastered “Rubber Soul” album by The Beatles. On my way to Pennsylvania on Thursday, I decided I needed something to listen to during my trip through central West Virginia where daytime radio is not to my liking. To remedy the situation, I stopped at the Wal-Mart in Summersville, WV to check out their CD selection.

I was really disappointed by the lack of choices – so I decided on getting something by The Beatles – and you can’t go wrong with the Fab Four. Since the US version of “Rubber Soul” was my favorite Beatles’ release, I picked up the CD release – which by the way is identical to the UK release and not the US release. The differences between the two albums represent six songs. While the UK version had 14 cuts and the US version had 12 cuts, you would think the difference would be two songs; however, that is not the case.

Four of the UK songs were taken from “Rubber Soul” and added to “Yesterday and Today” and two songs from the UK version of “Help” were added to the US version of “Rubber Soul” – confused? Good, then we are on the same page. This was not something that was inherent only to Capitol Records in the US; however, they seemed to be the major violator of rearranging the original versions of albums. Perhaps, they should have been known as “Capital” records as such decisions (as with any successful business) was to generate capital. Actually, I prefer the US mix of songs - but that just may be from familiarity. 

It was not unusual to squeeze and extra album or two from a band by eliminating two cuts from a 14 cut album. Secondly, album cuts were often eliminated to add single releases to boost LP sales. In the UK, singles were often eliminated from albums. The American philosophy was to add the single to increase sales and the British philosophy was to sell both albums and singles (as well as EPs or extra plays). While some singles were not on albums, they could be found on EPs. EPs never caught on in the US.

George Harrison with his 1963 fireglow finish Rickenbacker 360/12C

"If I Needed Someone" was one of the cuts that Capitol eliminated from the US version of “Rubber Soul” and placed it on “Yesterday and Today.” It features George Harrison on vocals and an electric 12-string Rickenbacker guitar. At couple points in the song, the 12-string is double tracked. As with all of the cuts on “Rubber Soul,” great harmonies abound. It is one of my favorite George Harrison tunes.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Pacific Gas & Electric: Are You Ready?

I was out of town this weekend and I couldn’t get my 3G connection to work due to a recent virus problem, so I missed my song for yesterday. I figured out that if I only miss one song (which was Saturday), I can have my second year anniversary of this blog coincide with the 700th post – but I can’t miss any more. So I am sneaking in my Spiritual Sunday post, which is also a “one hit wonder,” at the very last moment.

Pacific Gas & Electric only had one Top 40 hit – the spiritually charged “Are You Ready?” The song peaked at #14 on the Hot 100 in 1970 and at #49 on the R&B Singles chart.


There’s rumors of war
Men dying and women crying
If you breathe air, you’ll die
Perhaps you wonder the reason why
But wait! Don’t you worry
A new day is dawning
We’ll catch the sun, and away we’ll fly

Are you ready to sit by His throne?
Are you ready not to be alone?
Someone’s coming to take you home
And if you’re ready, then He’ll carry you home
Are you ready?
Are you ready?

People say that He won’t come
And I don’t know what say you
But if He should, would you be the one?
I’ve got a little question I’d like to ask you
Are you ready to sit by His throne?
Are you ready not to be alone?
Someone’s coming to take you home
And if you’re ready, then He’ll carry you home
Are you ready?
Are you ready?

Brothers and sisters, I have many
Stumbling along to do their thing
Love is a song, it’s better than any
It’s better for music, it’s easy to sing

Are you ready to sit by His throne?
Are you ready not to be alone?
Someone’s coming to take you home
And if you’re ready, then He’ll carry you home
(Yes, I’m ready.)
Are you ready? (Yes, I’m ready.)
Are you ready? (Yes, I’m ready.)
I’ve got to know, yeah (Yes, I’m ready.)
You sound real good (Yes, I’m ready.)
Are you ready? (Yes, I’m ready.)
Gonna be sunshine again (Yes, I’m ready.)
And the flowers growing (Yes, I’m ready.)
Children playing (Yes, I’m ready.)
Gonna be alright (Yes, I’m ready.)
You’ve got to be ready (Yes, I’m ready.)
I know you’re ready (Yes, I’m ready.)
Say it loud one more time (Yes, yes I’m ready.)
Oh, yeah (Yes, yes I’m ready.)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Mike Oldfield: Tubular Bells (Excerpt)

Friday’s flipside comes from 1974 and was the “B” to the more popular “A” side of “Tubular Bells (Now the Original Theme from 'The Exorcist').” While the B side is also named "Tubular Bells (Excerpt)," it is an edit of third movement from the album’s side one. The album’s opening was used for the theme of the Exorcist and was edited by Atlantic Records in the US for the single release.

This edit as well as the whittling down the eight minute segment into the 4:39 single were apparently not approved by Oldfield and the single release for the UK was based on another movement from the album and has more of a traditional flair. Without the association with The Exorcist and the single edit, Oldfield would have largely been unknown in the US.

Although Oldfield was not pleased by the lack of musical control on this side of the Atlantic, the royalties generated by the single charting at #7 and the album at #3 should make up for any lack of artistic control. You may not remember “Tubular Bells (Excerpt),” but it did get some airplay. I remember WAMX in Ashland, KY playing this flip as well as the entire LP on occasion.

The master of ceremonies that introduces the variety of instruments is the late Vivian Stanshall of the Bonzo Dog Band. This post originally had the single edit; however, this has been taken down. We have replaced it with the longer album cut. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Electric Light Orchestra: Mr. Blue Sky

It’s TV Thursday and today’s selection is featured in the latest TV commercial for Glidden Paints. The Electric Light Orchestra was known for releasing records with a great deal of forethought and during the mid 1970s. Not only were the LPs well produced (and often layered with multiple tracks ala Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound”), they appealed to superficial buyers like me who enjoyed getting records on different colored vinyl.

At one time much of the ELO catalog was available on colored vinyl. The album “Out of the Blue” and its single “Mr. Blue Sky” were both released in blue vinyl. Other colored vinyl ELO singles included “Mr. Telephone Line” in green and “Sweet Talkin’ Woman” in purple. I am sure there are others, but those are the ones I remember.

The singles in colored vinyl are much better in quality than United Artists 1970s singles released on black plastic. The black plastic (not vinyl) were susceptible to noise and radio jocks will remember how quickly these records cue burned when cueing the singles up for airplay. The color releases were in actual vinyl and virgin vinyl at that.

Many times record companies would melt down returned records in an effort to cut costs. Often you would find un-melted pieces or filler floating to the playing surface causing bumps and anomalies on the records surface. I don’t know how many records that had been pressed by Capitol with these problems that I had to return. This was not the case with virgin vinyl – especially colored vinyl.

“Mr. Blue Sky” was not that huge of a hit in the United States as it only charted at #35. It fared better in the UK as it was a top 10 hit peaking at #6. One of my favorite parts of this song is the vocoder that is used midway through the tune. Korg developed a keyboard vocoder; however, the technology had been available without a keyboard interface. Much of what sounds like a vocorder on recordings today is actually auto-tune technology.

Glidden Paint Commercial

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Teegarden & Van Winkle: God, Love and Rock & Roll

Just by their name, I always thought Teegarden & Van Winkle were Dutch. Mistake one – they were transplanted Oklahomans who made it in the Detroit music scene. I also thought that they were a much larger band – but they were a two piece augmented by studio musicians. While there was a Teegarden (David ) who played drums and sang, there was no Van Winkle per se. On the album that features today's selection: “Teegarden & Van Winkle with Bruce,” they were augmented by guitarist Mike Bruce.

Skip Knape performed the Van Winkle persona and played organ, bass pedals, and sang. Our one-hit-wonder from 1970, “God, Love, and Rock & Roll” peaked on the Top 40 charts at #22. Teegarden and Knape were also involved in a number of projects related to Bob Seger, with Teegarden joining the Silver Bullet band for four albums. This short lived one-hit-wonder band returned to the studio in 1997 and recorded their “Radioactive” LP.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Norton Buffalo: Hanging Tree

Yesterday, something reminded me of Norton Buffalo’s “Hanging Tree,” my favorite song from his 1977 album, “Lovin’ in the Valley of the Moon.” This is a great album that features the fantastic harmonica work from Steve Miller’s harp player.

Norton as also sings leads and does the voice characterizations. I think this is why I love this song as I have been doing voices since I was a kid. During (and after) my twenty year stint in broadcasting, I often did radio and TV commercials with a variety of voices including Walter Brennan as Norton does twice in this tune.

I don’t think the album was ever released on CD. The vinyl release wasn’t a big seller even though everyone and his brother had heard his work – he just wasn’t a household name. If you can pick this up on vinyl – get it. Providing that you have something to play it.

Sadly, Norton Buffalo succumbed to cancer during the fall of 2009. His talents will be sadly be missed. I dealt ever so slightly with Norton’s talents at

Monday, July 4, 2011

Bread: Mother Freedom

Being that it is Independence Day here in the US, we celebrate our freedom as an independent nation since the declaration of such on July 4, 1776. I had at least two ancestors and possibly two others that served in the Continental Forces during the Revolutionary War. I was trying to find a song that exhibited freedom and it dawned on me that the best selection for today would be “Mother Freedom” by Bread.

Probably their heaviest song, “Mother Freedom” was the lead track of Bread’s “Baby-I’m-A Want You” album released in January 1972. As a single, “Mother Freedom” predated the release of the LP in 1971 and charted only at #37. From us to you, have a Happy 4th of July.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Rory Block: Stand By Me

Today’s Spiritual Sunday song comes from blues singer Rory Block and her version of the spiritual “Stand By Me.” There were actually two songs by this title written in the early part of the twentieth century. They are somewhat similar in construction; however, Rory’s interpretation is of the grittier song of the same name. The other version, which I have performed, has more and varied chording. It is also much slower.

While they both probably share a common origin, they are considered different songs. Rory plays a mean slide guitar on this number.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Journey: Wheel In The Sky

The year was 1977 and Journey had been looking for the addition of a lead vocalist to provide a greater presence to the unit and take them to a higher performance plane. Between the albums “Next” and “Infinity,” Robert Fleischman was hired to be the band’s front man. He lasted nine months before parting ways – some say because of conflicts between his manager, Barry Fey, and Journey’s manager, Herbie Herbert. Others indicate that it was because of irreconcilable musical or personality differences.

Whatever the reason, Fleischman was gone and Steve Perry was hired as his replacement – and “the rest,” as they say, “is history.” The triple platinum “Infinity” album defined a new sound for this San Francisco band which had started as a spinoff of Santana. Journey wasn’t Fleischman’s only near miss, he had joined the band Asia, but left the project citing that John Wetton was a better vocalist than he and they should count on Wetton as being the lead vocalist.

While Fleischman’s voice does not appear on the finished album, he did leave his mark on some of the songs. He contributed to three of the albums ten songs including today’s bubbling under hit “Wheel in the Sky.” This song started as a poem by the wife of Journey’s bassist, Ross Valory. Diane Valory was inspired by a 16th century woodcut entitled “The Vision of Ezekiel.” Rob Fleischman then added to the lyrics and guitarist Neil Schon composed the music.

The author with Neil Schon in 1981; autographed in 1986.

With the addition of Steve Perry’s vocals and Roy Thomas Baker’s vocal layering production techniques, a classic AOR track was born. The album was released on January 20, 1978 with “The Wheel in the Sky” as the LP’s first single. Truly a bubbling under hit, “The Wheel in the Sky” only reached #57 on the US charts.

The LP was notable as it was also the last that drummer Ansley Dunbar had performed with Journey. Although Prairie Prince (of The Tubes) was the band’s initial drummer, Dunbar had been with the group since its first LP. For those who care about such things, Ross Valory used an altered tuning on his bass to provide an even lower end. Instead of using the standard tuning of E-A-D-G, Valory tuned his bass one-fourth lower as B-E-A-D.

Live Version from German Television

Robert Fleischman & Journey Demo of "Wheel"


Winter is here again oh Lord,
Haven't been home in a year or more
I hope she holds on a little longer
Sent a letter on a long summer day
Made of silver, not of clay
Ooh, I've been runnin' down this dusty road

Ooh, the wheel in the sky keeps on turnin'
I don't know where I'll be tomorrow
Wheel in the sky keeps on turnin'

I've been trying to make it home
Got to make it before too long
Ooh, I can't take this very much longer, no
I'm stranded in the sleet and rain
Don't think I'm ever gonna make it home again
The mornin' sun is risin'
It's kissing the day

Ooh, the wheel in the sky keeps on turnin'
I don't know where I'll be tomorrow
Wheel in the sky keeps on turnin'
Whoa . . . My, my, my, my, my... For tomorrow

(Guitar solo)

Oh, the wheel in the sky keeps on turnin'
Oh, I don't know where I'll be tomorrow
Wheel in the sky keeps me yernin'
Oh, I don't know, I don't know

Oh, the wheel in the sky keeps on turnin'
Ooh, I don't know where I'll be tomorrow
Wheel in the sky keeps on turnin'
Ooh, I don't know, I don't know, I don't know-oh-oh
Wheel in the sky keeps on turnin'
Don't know where I'll be tomorrow
Wheel in the sky keeps on turnin'
Oh, the wheel in the sky keeps on turnin'
Wheel in the sky keeps on turnin'

Friday, July 1, 2011

Crosby, Stills, & Nash: Dark Star

For today’s Friday flipside, we have to turn to a live recording as Atlantic Records won’t allow the studio versions of Crosby, Stills, and Nash to be posted on YouTube. “Dark Star” was the “B” side to the 1977 single release of “Just A Song Before I Go” from the “CSN” LP. The “Just A Song Before I Go” single charted at #7 and the “CSN” LP did quite well peaking at #2 on Billboard’s Top 200 Albums Chart.

“Dark Star” received quite a bit of album airplay and I remember groovin’ to it while listening to Charleston, WV’s WVAF while driving 30 miles to a from work every day. This was back before WVAF became V-100 with their top forty and later adult contemporary radio formats.

It is unfortunate that we can’t share the studio version – which was the actual flipside; however, to compensate, here are two live versions of this CSN classic. The first doesn’t show the band; however, it is a little truer to the studio rendition. The second is from a more recent concert and some slight modifications to the arrangement were made to the tune by this performance.