Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Turn to Stone Two-fer from Joe Walsh

Today, it’s a two-fer from Joe Walsh and features both recordings of “Turn to Stone.” Our first Tasty Licks Tuesday track comes from the debut album by Joe Walsh and Barnstorm and is the original recording of the song from 1972.

The song was co-written with bassist Terry Trabrandt, although the credits list the spelling as “Trebrandt.” Trabrandt was a member of an Ann Arbor, Michigan garage band The Rationals and later joined Guardian Angel. Trabrandt died 13 months ago in Florida of a heart attack.

Although Trabrandt didn’t play on this track, his contribution to a song recorded twice by Joe Walsh is noted. Besides Walsh, Barnstorm included Kenny Passarelli on bass, and Joe Vitale on Drums. This is the classic version of the song and is the best known cut on this LP.

1974 Version from “So What’

Over a minute shorter than the original, the remake of “Turn to Stone” is a little less raw than the original.

This version features some of producer Bill Szymczyk’s clients on back-up vocals including Dan Fogelberg and Eagles’ members Don Henley, Glen Frey, and Randy Meisner. Within a year, Walsh was Bernie Leadon’s replacement in the Eagles.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Steely Dan: My Old School

Another Saturday and as always we feature a bubbling under recording. While I have pretty broad definition of this category, it is typically for songs that are fairly well known but did not crack the top forty charts. Sometimes these songs were very popular album cuts. Today’s hit was released as a single from Steely Dan’s 1973 “Countdown to Ecstasy” LP, but “My Old School” only made it to 63 on the charts.

The story is that the song recalls a sheriff’s raid at Bard College located in Annandale on Hudson, New York where Steely Dan members Donald Fagen and Walter Becker were among fifty students who were arrested. Although the charges were dropped, Fagen and Becker held a grudge against the event and immortalized it in song.

The fantastic guitar leads were provided by Jeff “Skunk” Baxter who later joined The Doobie Brothers. These days Baxter chairs a congressional committee on missile defense. No kidding.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Neil Young: Sugar Mountain

Today’s Friday Flipside is a unique tune in that it appeared as a non-album flip of three of Neil Young’s singles. It first appeared as the “B” side of two 1969 singles “The Loner” and “Cinnamon Girl,” It later resurfaced on his #1 single “Heart of Gold” in 1972. “The Loner” failed to chart and “Cinnamon Girl” only made it to 55 on the Hot 100.

Neil Young stated that “Sugar Mountain,” written about his youth in Manitoba, had at one time 126 verses, which he later pared down to four. The version that appeared on all three single releases was recorded live in November 1968 at the Canterbury House in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This version was not released on an album until the 1977 compilation “Decade” was released. It also appears on the CD “Sugar Mountain – Live at Canterbury House 1968.” This concert recording was released in 2008.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Leon Russell: Stranger in a Strange Land

Last week, I caught this particular number by Leon Russell and the Shelter People on an older episode of House, MD. The cut, “Stranger in a Strange Land” kicks off the album of the same name. The cut holds up well today; however, the use of the Moog synthesizer is a little dated as it is used more as a sound effect than an active musical element.

Studio engineer Terry Manning who had recently studied under Robert Moog introduced the instrument to Russell. It is unclear who plays it on the cut as no one is credited to playing it; however, Manning is listed as the Moog programmer.

Despite what you may read that the song was one of the first recordings to employ the instrument, this 1971 selection was far behind others such as the Supremes, The Monkees, The Rolling Stones, Simon and Garfunkel, and The Beatles who predated Russell by three to four years. Even Emerson, Lake, and Palmer’s “Lucky Man,” which utilized the Moog in a more musical fashion, was released the previous year.

Even though the Moog appears to be an afterthought and sound effect, the rest of the song holds up well musically. The guitar is excellent and is probably the late Jesse Ed Davis; however, it could as well be Don Preston who co-wrote the cut with Leon Russell.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Dr. John: Right Place Wrong Time

Known as the “Night Tripper,” Malcolm John "Mac" Rebennack, Jr. is best known for his persona of Dr. John. Rebennack began his career as a guitarist until a gunshot wound made playing the guitar a bit difficult. He then switched to bass until he transferred to his iconic instrument – the piano. Inspired by New Orleans greats Professor Longhair and Allen Toussaint, Dr. John carved out a musical niche for himself while often mixing his stage act with voodoo influenced accents ala Screaming Jay Hawkins.

Dr. John began performing in the 1950s, but had not entered into public view until nearly forty years ago. He is best known for his one hit wonder – “Right Place Wrong Time.” Although known for his keyboard work, Rebennack did not contribute much in the way of keyboards to his best selling LP “In the Right Place.”

Outside of one cut where Dr. John played piano and another where he played organ, Allan Toussaint provided the lion’s share of piano for the album and Art Neville (of the Meters and the Neville Brothers) played the organ. Outside of the vocals, Dr. John played percussion on one of the album’s eleven cuts. The album was produced by New Orleans legend Toussaint.

“In the Right Place” charted in 1973 at 24 on the Top 200 Album Chart and 28 on the R&B Album Charts. Its first of two singles, “Right Place Wrong Time” peaked at #9 and #19 respectively on the Hot 100 and the R&B charts. The follow up single, “Such a Night” only made it to #42 on the Hot 100.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mose Allison: Look Here

From 1964, the jazz piano stylings and unique vocals of Mose Allison are this week’s Tasty Licks Tuesday selection. “Look Here” comes from the LP: “The Word from Mose Allison.” Although The Clash later recorded this song in the 80s, their version cannot compare to the original rendition. I just love the little piano fills and runs that he uses. Most people today are not familiar with his work; however, a generation of musicians, including a number of rockers, has been influenced by this native son of Mississippi. At 84, Mose is still singing and playing. I hope you enjoy this jazz great.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Outkast vs. Queen: Hey . . . We Will Rock You . . . Ya

Here’s a little mashup that I discovered a while back that features Outkast’s “Hey Ya” and Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” It really shows a merging of two styles. In the Outkast portion of the video Andre 3000 is playing all of the parts. Unfortunately, the Queen video is not synched with the music. With that said, musically this is very fresh and worth a listen.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Etta James: At Last

Yesterday, the world lost an R&B legend – Etta James. Her stage name came from the reversal of her actual birth first name of Jamesetta Hawkins. Her light complexion can be attributed to her white father who was thought to be Rudy Wanderone who claimed to be the inspiration for the character Minnesota Fats in the Hustler and began using the moniker Minnesota Fats for his advantage. Her crazy eyebrows came from the torture that women put themselves through by tweezing their eyebrows and then drawing them back – a sense of mid twentieth century kitsch. Her voice was a gift from God.

James had several Top Forty mid-charting hits; however, her greatest chart success was on Billboard’s Rhythm and Blues charts. One of her best known singles was the #2 R&B hit “At Last.” While it was one her two highest charting R&B hits (the other being “All I Could Do but Cry”), “At Last” only charted on the Hot 100 at #47 – making it a perfect selection for our “Bubbling Under” category.

James had a trauma filled life with abuse as a child. Her later life was fraught with drug addiction and run-ins with the law. Even after receiving treatment for her dependencies, James would fall off the wagon and resume her drug usage. She died on Friday from leukemia. It was five days before her 74th birthday.

“At Last,” written in 1941 by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren and recorded by James twenty years later 1961, became her signature song and it received recognition by winning in the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1999. She is immortalized in steel along with Albert King and Bo Diddly at the Willie Dixon Blues Garden next to the immortal Chess Records studios at 2120 South Michigan Avenue in Chicago. James’ hits on the Chess subsidiary Argo Records were recorded at this studio. I took the following photo when I made a pilgrimage to Chess Records in 2006.

Rest in Peace Etta – you’ll be missed.

Live Version from Dancing with the Stars in 2009

Friday, January 20, 2012

Rolling Stones: Play With Fire

Today’s Friday Flipside is credited to that semi prolific songwriter Nanker Phlege. Er, who? No, the Rolling Stones. The Nanker Phelge name was utilized when the entire band was involved in the writing of a particular song.

In most cases, Nanker Phelge’s royalties were split five ways between Mick Jagger, Keith Richard, Brian Jones, Bill Wyman, and Charlie Watts. On two earlier songs, keyboardist/road manager Ian Stewart received one sixth of the royalties with the five band members.

While the writing royalties were split among all members of the band, only Mick Jagger, Keith Richard, and Charlie Watts appear on today’s selection “Play with Fire.” It was the flip of “The Last Time,” which charted at #9. “Play with Fire” barely made it to the Hot 100 by charting at #96.

The single appeared on the 1965 LP “Out of our Heads*” which was the Stones first #1 album in the United States. The US album had only six of its twelve cuts in common with six of the twelve cuts from the British LP of the same name. They also sported different covers.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

HoneyHoney: Little Toy Gun

I caught this song last night on AMC in a promo they have for some of the movies that they are planning to show for the month that feature gunslingers, cops, and cowboys. A perfect song for this promo is HoneyHoney’s “Little Toy Gun.”

Honeyhoney is the duo of Suzanne Santo and Ben Jaffe who are signed to Ironworks Music – an indy label owned by Kiefer Sutherland and Jude Cole. This duo from LA is very eclectic performing the gamut of styles from bluegrass to rock. When Suzanne is not singing lead she also performs on banjo and violin.

I’ve heard the song before last night, but it just caught my ear and I thought – what a perfect TV Thursday song it would make.

Live Acoustic Version and Interview

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Jeff Beck Group: Definitely Maybe

Tasty Licks Tuesday and we take a trip back to 1972 to the Jeff Beck Group’s self-titled LP for a tasty instrumental called “Definitely Maybe.” While it was the band’s fourth album, it was the second to feature the currently lineup of the Jeff Beck Group. Due to its cover, it is often called “the Orange Album.”  The LP was produced by Memphis legend Steve Cropper.

“Definitely Maybe” features Jeff Beck’s guitar (of course), Clive Chaman on bass, Max Middleton – keyboards, and Cozy Powell on Drums. Only lead vocalist Bobby Tench is missing from this track. Since Tench also played guitar and bass, it is unusual that he wasn’t also secured to play on this cut or the rest of the album for that matter.

Live Version for Television

This live cut from TV shows an overdub of Jeff Beck playing the twin guitar parts.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Ben Harper: Picture of Jesus

Ben Harper is joined by The Blind Boys of Alabama in this Spiritual Sunday selection. “Picture of Jesus” actually has a double meaning – one that honors Jesus Christ and the memory of the portrait that hung in his childhood home and one that honors Martin Luther King, Jr. who Harper states that he was a picture of Jesus as well. Since tomorrow is Martin Luther King’s Birthday, I thought I would feature this song today.

Harper is playing a Les Paul TV Special model. The TV Special was a style offered by Gibson from 1955 to 1961 as they believed that the yellow paint allowed the guitar show up better on black and white television. It was definitely less harsh than the pearl white finish that they would later offer on their guitars.

The primary keyboard on this cut is a Wurlitzer electric piano. I had one of these from 1976 through 1987. It was a great little instrument, but I beat it to death. I would love to have another as the action was great. I liked it much better than that of the Rhodes piano which I thought felt mushy.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Uriah Heep: Stealin'

I don’t know what caused me to think about this song yesterday, but for some reason the line “but my life . . . life, life, life, life, life, life, life, life” came to my sick little mind. Our today’s Bubbling Under hit comes from the English hard rock band Uriah Heep and their 1973 single release “Stealin’.” From the band’s seventh album “Sweet Freedom,” “Stealin’” was penned by the band’s keyboardist Ken Hensley and features David Byron on vocals. The song starts with a simple beat by Gary Thain on bass guitar.

The album was the third highest charting LP for the band in the US charting at 33. Higher charting albums included the two previous studio albums: “Demons and Wizards” at 23 and “The Magician’s Birthday.” Both higher charting LPs had covers designed by artist Roger Dean who also did numerous covers for Yes, Greenslade, Budgie, Osibisa, and others.

“Sweet Freedom’s” use of a photo of the band did not seemingly affect sales by not using Dean as the creative designer. The album was certified gold in mid 1974. It was the first album by the band on Warner Brothers in the US as they had previously signed with Mercury in North America.

Their only single to make it (barely) to the Top 40 was “Easy Livin’,” which charted at 39. “Stealin’” was truly a bubbling under hit, as it did receive a modicum of album rock airplay, but the single crash landed at 91 on the Hot 100 charts.

Live Version from 1973

Here’s a live version of the song. It appears that in two spots Dave Byron forgets or changes the lyrics. At one point, he misses the line “wine and women” and later leaves off the majority of the repeats of the word “life.” It is not Byron’s best performance as he is flat numerous times in this video. This goes to show that many bands are better in the studio than they are live; however, there are also exceptions.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Warren Zevon: Roland the Headless Thompson Gunnerf

I was just talking to my brother about “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” the flip to Warren Zevon’s first single “Werewolves of London.” I purchased this single in 1978 as I couldn’t afford the album at the time. I wanted to learn the piano part of “Werewolves of London.”

The song deals with the dark story of a fictitious Norwegian mercenary who fought in the Biafra conflict in Nigeria as well as in the Congo. Wanting Roland dead, another mercenary Van Owen decapitated Roland in a machine gun blast.

Patty Hearst in 1974 with a submachine gun.

The headless copse of Roland hunts down Owen and avenges his own death. The legend has Roland haunting all subsequent conflicts in years together. The Thompson submachine gun was immortalized during prohibition as the weapon of choice of criminals and lawmen alike. This popular .45 caliber automatic weapon shot pistol rounds and was nicknamed the “Tommy Gun.”

Last Live Performance

The song was cowritten with David Lindell who once was a mercenary. The was the last song ever performed in front of an audience by Zevon. It was his final song on the David Letterman Show that only showcased Zevon as guest on October 30, 2002. Zevon succumbed to peritoneal mesothelioma on September 7, 2003. The world lost an excellent songwriter and performer.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Boxer Rebellion: Caught By The Light

I was watching a rerun episode of NCIS last week and this particular song was played at the burial of recurring character Mike Franks. The Boxer Rebellion’s “Caught by the Light” has a haunting sound that fit perfectly with the context of the scene. See the lyrics below, as the song deals with the transition from this world to the next – fitting for a graveside segment.

Formed in London with an international cast, The Boxer Rebellion features two Englishmen, one Australian, and one American. A number of their tunes have shown up on ten American television shows. It is this type of sound in the alternative/indie music genre that I tend to gravitate toward these days. I think it might be the bass heavy guitar sound I like so much. The genre has so much dark texture that I really like anything in this fashion. “Caught by the Light” comes from their third CD “The Cold Still”


Caught by the light aware but asleep
Never as close as the friends that you keep
Drifting away on one final breath
The further you climb, calm silhouette

And takes you along, long, long, long
And takes you along, long, long, long

Far from a world ailing to live
Far from the wreckage you were left in

And the crossing is over where the righteous remain
In the memory it's deeper, survived by a name
The rest is sufficient, a midnight complaint
Left waiting in silence, left only to sleep

It takes you along, long, long, long
And takes you along

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Romeo Void: A Girl In Trouble (Is a Temporary Thing)

It was a colossal hit on MTV; however, Romeo Void’s “A Girl in Trouble (Is a Temporary Thing) did not score too high on the Top 40 charts only peaking at 35. This 1984 single was Romeo Void’s one-hit wonder. This San Francisco band featured Debora Iyall on lead vocals. Ms. Iyall is a member of the Cowlitz Native American tribe. The great saxophone work was provided by Benjamin Bossi.

I swear this song also has a melodica in the mix – it might just be an electronic keyboard sound, but it shows up in the chorus. The production is fantastic on this one and the stereo mix sounds great in headphones. Too bad this wasn’t a bigger hit. Love it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Traffic: Glad/Freedom Rider

Tasty Licks Tuesday and a set of songs that showcase the bass and keyboard work of Steve Winwood, the drums and percussion of the late Jim Capaldi, and the flute and horns of Chris Wood – Traffic’s “Glad” and "Freedom Rider" from 1970. This tasty instrumental opens my favorite Traffic LP, “John Barleycorn Must Die.” It was a return for Traffic after Blind Faith had disbanded.

Not only is it my favorite Traffic LP, it was the band’s most successful album in the US charting at #5. There’s not a bad cut on this album. “Glad,” however, shows some jazz influence on Winwood’s playing. I remember taping this song off WDVE in Pittsburgh and learning Winwood’s lick on my mom’s piano. I hope you enjoy this tune as much as I do. “Glad” merges with “Freedom Rider,” which is also included.

Live Version from Woodstock 1994

Like the original album release, the song segues into “Freedom Rider.” The only original Traffic members on this recording are Winwood on piano and vocals and Capaldi on drums – a role he had moved away from in the later years of Traffic to concentrate on percussion and vocals. I’m not sure who the reed player is, but it is definitely not Chris Wood as he died 11 years early.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Bachman-Turner Overdrive: Blue Collar

Bachman-Turner Overdrive grew out of a failed project called Brave Belt that rejoined former Guess Who members: lead singer Chad Allen and guitarist Randy Bachman. Drummer Robbie Bachman and brother of Randy also joined in the Brave Belt project in support of what originally would have been a solo album for Allen. Because of the work by both Bachman brothers, it ceased being a solo project and morphed into an actual band.

Based out of Winnipeg, Manitoba, the band signed with Reprise Records and began touring – but needed a bassist for the tour and Fred Turner joined the band. When Chad Allen left Brave Belt, Turner took over the lead vocal duties and became an official band member. Tim Bachman, another brother, joined as second guitarist. A new name was suggested by Mercury Records’ staff to give the band a fresh start. Seeing the trucker magazine Overdrive, Randy Bachman suggested Bachman-Turner Overdrive and the initials and they stuck. Both appeared on the cover the band’s first LP released in 1973.

Their first single “Blue Collar” is our bubbling under hit as it only charted at #68 in the US. I love the guitar on this song as Randy Bachman illustrates his versatility. There is the bossa nova feel that he used previously used on the Guess Who’s “Undun.” The octave runs are reminiscent of jazz guitarists Tal Farlow and Wes Montgomery.

Bachman uses a wah-wah pedal in two of the solos. Another solo sounds as though the effect of tape print through was used as the left channel has a solo that is at lower volume and later repeated note-for-note in the right channel. Print through is found on the vocal track of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” I don’t think this is actually print through as the volume is consistent and the placing in the song is exact.

Some of the guitar sounds on “Blue Collar” were reprised for another bubbling under hit by BTO, “Looking out for Number One.” Both are great tunes that didn’t get the recognition worth their due.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Broken Fences: Wait

A few weeks ago, some of my brother’s friends had the opportunity to have a song featured on the Canadian TV show “Flashpoint.” Shown on Ion Television here in the States, the song occurred at a very poignant moment in the show. I have just started watching “Flashpoint” and really like it a lot.

The duo is Morgan Erina and Guy Russo and is known collectively as Broken Fences and the featured song was “Wait.” They are currently based out of Pittsburgh – Guy’s hometown. They have a nice refreshing sound and are definitely worthy of being featured on TV Thursday.

Live Version

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Grateful Dead: Touch of Grey

The Grateful Dead began in 1965 and released 28 singles. Six of these singles charted on the Hot 100, but only one had success on the Top 40 charts – 1987’s “Touch of Grey.” Prior to this single that charted at #9, 1970’s “Truckin’” had been the band’s highest charting single at #64.

The single was unique in that it was pressed in grey colored vinyl and the picture sleeve was actually a folded poster. Because the single would just normally fall out of the sleeve, Arista records shrink wrapped the 45 – and unusual but necessary move. The words “Touch of Grey” only appear once in the lyrics, while the repeating hook line of the song is “I will get by; I will get by; I will get by; I will survive.” Typically a song’s hook line appears as part of the title, but not in this case.

I can’t swear I am a “Dead Head,” but I do like their recordings and I have several of their albums including “Vintage Dead,” “Workingman’s Dead,” “Terrapin Station,” “Reckoning,” and “Dead Set.” I think my favorite is “Dead Set” with “Workingman’s Dead” at a close second.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Wes Montgomery: Four On Six

Its Tasty Licks Tuesday and I go back to the 60s to one of my favorite jazz guitarists – Wes Montgomery and his recording “Four on Six.” The title refers to the time signature of four beats to the measure being played on six strings of the guitar. Wes, born as John Leslie Montgomery, started playing guitar at a relatively late age of 20 being inspired by Charlie Christian’s recordings from the 1940s. He went on to inspire numerous guitarists and most notably George Benson and Pat Matheny.

This live version, much shorter than his commercially available versions of the same song, was recorded for television in 1965. It featured Wes on guitar, Jackie Dougan on drums, Stan Tracey on piano, and Rick Laird on standup bass. Notice where Wes’ fingers have rubbed the finish off of his Gibson guitar. I am not sure what model this is, but it is not the L-5 CES he often played, as there is only one pickup. The quality of this black and white video and the accompanying monaural audio is great.

Original Studio Recording

The original version of this song was released on the 1960 Riverside Records LP: “The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery.” Brothers Percy and Albert Heath handled the rhythm section while Tommy Flanagan tickles the ivories.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Joe Walsh: Life of Illusion

How many pop/rock songs can you name that feature the guitarron? What’s a guitarron you ask? A guitiarron is that big guitar like acoustic bass that is used in Mariachi bands. It’s a fretless instrument that is tuned A D G C E A – which is a fourth lower than a guitar. That big instrument is quite a sight to see.

When Ernie Ball was looking at marketing a new instrument, the company took the inspiration from the guitarron to create the “Earthwood Bass Guitar.” The Earthwood was the first commercially successful acoustic bass guitar – now numerous companies sell similar instruments.

Back to my original question, “How many pop/rock songs can you name that feature the guitarron?” Although there may be several, I can only think of one – Joe Walsh’s “Life of Illusion.” While it only charted at #34 on the Hot 100, this 1981 release was a #1 record on the Mainstream Rock Charts. The song came from Walsh’s LP “There Goes the Neighborhood.”

The Guitarron in its Natural Habitat

I found this unusual but excellent video of the guitarron and the vihuela. I have no idea the name of these strange costumed musicians, but the song is excellent. The vihuela is tuned like the first five strings of a guitar; however, the A, D, and G are tuned an octave higher – much like a high strung guitar missing the low E.