Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Jumpin' Gene Simmons: Haunted House

With nearly 20 feet of snow on the ground, it’s hard to believe that it is Halloween 2012. I always like to feature a Halloween related tune on this auspicious occasion that fits in the daily schedule. I’ve hit most of the Halloween one hit wonders, but there are a couple left.

Originally recorded by Johnny Fuller in 1958, Jumpin’ Gene Simmons released his version of
“Haunted House” in 1964. The songs entered the Top 40 charts on August 29, 1964 and ironically Simmons died on the same date 42 years later. It peaked at #11 and was Simmons only Top 40 hit.

Impressed by the rockabilly artist, a young man born Chaim Weitz and who later changed his name to Eugene Klein and then officially to Gene Klein, eventually took Simmons’ name for his own stage persona. Although the Kiss bassist is legally named Gene Klein, he is best known as Gene Simmons.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Ten Years After: Choo Choo Mama

I don’t know about you, but I am warm and dry inside while it is a winter wonderland of 18 inches of wet, heavy snow outside my door. I’ve been out twice today and I’ll think I’ll stay put. What better way to warm up is with a little guitar music from Alvin Lee and his band Ten Years After.

“Choo Choo Mama” was issued as a single from the “Rock & Roll Music to the World” album.  What a driving song – it is just powerful. Leo Lyons and Ric Lee keep the rhythm going while Chick Churchill pounds away on the piano. All this is a perfect backdrop for Alvin Lee, one of the fastest guitarists of rockdom, to lay down some leads that punctuate the holes where he is not singing.

Both the single and album were issued in 1972. It was their eighth studio album and second for their new labels – Chrysalis in the UK and Columbia in the US.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Willis: Smokescreen

Her name is Hayley Willis, but she prefers to perform only under her surname of Willis. Her song “Smokescreen” from the 2003 release of “Come Get Some” is currently being used in the television ad for the Fiat 500 Abarth.

There is not much information concerning the artist on the Internet; however, her own website tells a bit of her story: “Having grown up in West London on a diet of Elvis Presley, Hollywood musicals, nursery rhymes and country music, a fortunate inability to remember other people’s lyrics forced Willis into writing her own songs. Though hugely influenced by female American artists like Barbra Streisand, Ella Fitzgerald and Brenda Lee, she began singing traditional Irish folk songs before discovering 1970s Americana, via Neil Young and The Band, during the 90s. A six year spell working at the eclectic London store, Soul Jazz Records, belatedly introduced her to the world of dance music and electronica, and by the mid 2000s she was releasing records via her own label, Cripple Creek.”

That’s about all I could find about the song “Smokescreen” and Willis in general. The commercial by the way features Catrinel Menghia, a Romanian and not Italian model.

Fiat 500 Abarth Commercial

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Kapp Records: You And I

I hadn’t heard of the power trio Budgie until they released their fourth album, “In for the Kill,” in 1974. I happened to catch the entire album being tracked one evening on Ashland, KY’s WAMX – a radio station I would eventually haunt from 1978-1980. I taped the album in its entirety and no doubt have that cassette somewhere.

By 1974, Kapp recording artists had been transferred over to the MCA label. Their first two albums, “Budgie” and “Squawk,” however, were originally issued on Kapp. The signing of this band to Kapp was a little out of character for their A&R department. They were nothing like any other Kapp artist and would flounder on the charts here in America. In all probability their promotions department had no clue how to market this band.

While the original recording of “Crash Course” (as it appeared on the 45's label) was the single, it failed to chart. The full title was listed on the album as “Crash Course in Brain Surgery.” The shortening of the title was probably necessary to keep music directors from tossing the single without even listening to the cut. The band would later rerecord this same song for “In for the Kill” and that particular version is the one with which most people are familiar. It is also the rendition that influenced Metallica to later cover the song.

A look at the song titles on this first album are intended to shock – as were the titles that appeared on Black Sabbath’s album “Paranoid.” I remember when the Sabbath album came out in 1970 and my brother and I saw it in a K-Mart in Lexington, KY. We chuckled about the titles of songs like “War Pigs,” “Iron Man,” “Electric Funeral,” “Rat Salad,” and “Fairies Wear Boots.” Little did we know that Black Sabbath’s second album would someday be considered a classic and sell over four million copies in the US alone.

The Budgie album, not so much; however, it too had some real unusual titles such as “Guts,” “Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman,” “All Night Petrol,” and “Homicidal Suicidal.” You catch my drift. Unlike the rest of the album and most of their music for that matter, one cut stands above the rest on the first Budgie LP. Although only 1:41 in length, “You and I” is the best cut on the album – but it is not the shortest. That honor goes to “Everything in My Heart” which clocks in at 52 seconds.

Budgie, at that time, consisted of Tony Bourge on guitar and vocals, Ray Phillips on drums and percussion, and Burke Shelley on bass, vocals, and Mellotron. Remember, today’s song is not characteristic of Budgie’s primarily heavy style – but enjoyable for all fans of music everywhere.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Kapp Records: Fireball

In 1958, The Fireballs issued their lone single on the Kapp Record label “I Don’t Know” backed with “Fireball.” “I Don’t Know” included Chuck Tharp on vocals; however, the flip was an instrumental that featured the guitar work of George Tomsco who wrote the tune. While neither side charted, we will concentrate on the “B” side as it led the way for other Fireballs’ instrumentals including “Torquay” which did chart in 1959 at #39.

The single was recorded in Norman Petty’s studio in Clovis, New Mexico. This was the same studio where Buddy Holly and The Crickets recorded their early string of hits. Other artists that recorded with Petty include Roy Orbison, The String-A-Longs, Buddy Knox, Waylon Jennings, and others.

Both songs from this Fireballs’ single were published by Petty’s company, Nor-Va-Jak – a company that was originated to publish the original songs for the Norman Petty Trio that featured Norman Petty, Vi Petty, and Jack Vaughn. Petty originally published the early Holly material as well until Paul McCartney bought the rights for his MPL Music Company. While Petty often credited himself as a co-writer of a number of hits his published, he did not do this with “I Don’t Know” and “Fireball.”

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Kapp Records: Viva Tirado

I don’t think El Chicano’s interpretation of Gerald Wilson’s composition “Viva Tirado” was played much on Pittsburgh radio, but I remember hearing it in 1970. Perhaps it was on WCFL (1000) or WLS (890) out of Chicago or WABC (770) in New York, as I frequently listed to these distant clear channel stations in the evening on our old RCA 1936 Presidential model radio in our basement. I had it connected up to our TV antenna and it could really pull in the distant stations. Although Pittsburgh had great radio, it was always exciting to hear new music from elsewhere. Obviously, this is before Top 40 radio became sterile and homogenized.

Originally named VIP, the band changed its name to support Chicano consciousness movements that were occurring around America, but were no doubt the strongest in Southern California where the band made its home in Los Angeles.

This instrumental was so long that the single was split to parts one and two on the single. It wasn’t the band’s only hit as they had two other singles to chart: “Brown Eyed Girl” at #45 and “Tell Her She’s Lovely” at #40. “Viva Tirado,” however, was their biggest release and it peaked at #28.

Besides the obvious use congas by Andre Baeza, there are several other key elements to this instrumental. The band’s founder Bobby Espinosa provides the critical Hammond organ track for this recording. In addition, Mickey Lespron’s nice octave guitar work conjures up the late Wes Montgomery – only with a Latin feel. Other musicians on the cut include El Chicano’s rhythm section of bassist Freddie Sanchez and drummer John DeLuna.

El Chicano’s sound was somewhat of a departure for Kapp Records, but I am glad they signed them. The popularity of other Latin bands, such as Malo on Warner Brothers and Santana on Columbia may have influenced Kapp to seek out their own representative of this sound that was new to the majority of the American record buying public. Although El Chicano’s personnel has changed, it still performs today. Sadly, “Viva Tirado” is not heard currently on oldies radio.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Kapp Records: Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves

In 1971, the Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour not only put the duo on the TV map, it revived their musical career, as well as invigorating Cher’s own solo career. “Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves” was the first of Cher’s four number one records. It topped the charts in 1971; her other number one hits were “Half Breed” (1973), “Dark Lady” (1974), and “Believe” (1998).

From 1971-72, Cher and Sonny & Cher both recorded for Kapp Records and continued on with the parent label, MCA Records when their plethora of labels were discontinued. Written by Bob Stone, the song was originally titled “Gypsys, Tramps & White Trash”; however, producer Snuff Garrett suggested that the title be changed and the rest is history. I can't imagine "white trash" in the title playing in Peoria, but I can't understand why Honey Boo Boo is so popular either.

This song that switches the protagonist from mother to daughter was an excellent comeback vehicle for Cher. It was Cher’s first Hot 100 hit since 1967’s “Better Sit Down Kids”; however, she released nine singles that failed to chart between 1967 to 1971.

Due to the single’s popularity, Kapp recalled the album originally titled as “Cher” and re-released it as “Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves.” The album was nominated for the “Best Pop Album” Grammy and eventually was certified as platinum for sales in excess of one million copies.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Kapp Records: Needles and Pins

Indy UK label Pye Records had two failed attempts in the 1970s of starting a US label, it spent the decade of the 60s shopping its artists to a variety of US labels. One of their artists, The Searchers, was licensed to Mercury, Liberty, and finally Kapp Records. Like The Beatles, The Searchers started as a Liverpool based skiffle group in the 1950s.

Although their biggest record in the US was the #3 charting cover of The Clover’s “Love Potion No. 9,” The Searchers may be best known stateside for their recording of “Needles and Pins.” It was a #1 record in the UK, South Africa, and Ireland, but only charted at #13 in the US. Despite its mid charting success, it still is a staple of oldies radio. If I had a dollar for every bad joke that was told by a radio jock in reference to their phrasing of “needles and pinza,” I would be a very rich man.

Like “Love Potion No. 9” and many of their other hits, “Needles and Pinza” (sorry I couldn’t resist – and I just gave myself a dollar) was a cover. Jackie DeShannon had the original recording of “Needles and Pins” in 1963, but it had a dismal chart showing in the US only peaking at #83 for the singer originally known as Sharon Lee Myers. Her version is slower, but also uses the “pinza” pronunciation.

Although DeShannon recorded it first, the band first heard it performed live by Cliff Bennett. “Needles and Pins” was co-written by Jack Nitzsche and Sonny Bono – Bono would later become a Kapp recording artist and Cher would release it as a single as well. I particularly like The Searchers use of an electric 12-string guitar as the primary rhythm instrument.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Kapp Records: Our Day Will Come

On occasion the Akron, Ohio based male vocal quartet, The Feilos, would ask female vocalist Ruby Nash to sing with them. When the five were signed to Kapp Records in 1962, A&R chief Allen Stanton rebranded the quintet as Ruby and the Romantics. The name stuck and proved to be a good move by Stanton.

In 1962, songwriters Bob Hilliard and Mort Garson pitched their new tune, “Our Day Will Come,” to Stanton with the hopes that Kapp artist Jack Jones would record the song. Stanton loved the tune, but had a better venue for it – an unknown act he had just signed, “Ruby and the Romantics.” Hilliard and Garson were not pleased, but relented on the condition if the Romantics version of the song was not a hit, then Jones would record it next.

Working with arranger Leroy Kirkland, Stanton had the group record two versions of the song: one as a straight 4/4 arrangement and the other with a bossa nova beat. With the recent popularity of bossa nova, this version seemed the better choice and it was released in December 1962.

This was a gutsy move, as December releases by new artists often got lost in the holiday shuffle and the sea of Christmas music on radio. Stanton’s gamble paid off, however, and “Our Day Will Come” was a #1 record in 1963.

I particularly like the tasteful usage of the Hammond organ as an accompaniment instrument and the vehicle for the song’s lead break along with the group humming the melody. Listen carefully and you will also hear a celeste also being used – sometimes playing notes on the off beat.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Kapp Records: Mr. Dieingly Sad

I had a great deal of fun with my Second Week Special that I decided add another one during the fourth week that deals with releases from smaller record labels. Therefore, I dub it as the Fourth Week Label Feature. By moving away from the daily features, it will allow me to focus on some recordings that might never have appeared on this blog. For this week, I am going to deal with output from Kapp Records.

Started by record company veteran David Kapp in 1954, Jimmy Shelton’s “Limelight” backed with “I Don’t Want to be Alone” was the label’s first single. Thirteen years later, the label was sold to the Music Corporation of America who put Kapp and its Congress Records subsidiary under the management of MCA's Uni Records division.

In 1972, MCA consolidated all of their labels (Decca, Coral, Vocalion, Uni, Kapp, Congress, MCA Special Products, and others) into one label – MCA Records. Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock” was the first MCA Records’ single. To my knowledge, the last single released on the Kapp brand was Budgie’s “Whiskey River,” which was issued in September 1972.

Despite a couple of Budgie albums, Kapp was not a rock label. One of its primary artists was pianist Roger Williams who recorded with the label almost through its entire 18-year life. His success almost set the stage for Kapp Records to be a beautiful music label. In the 1960s, some country artists were added to their roster and Kapp's personality was schizophrenic. Not to mention, they also released the occasional pop, soul, and rock records. Kapp may have been the Sybil of the record industry.

Today’s featured cut is one of the pop recordings: The Critters’ 1967 vocal classic “Mr. Dieingly Sad.” Incorrectly assumed as being a one-hit wonder, The Critters had one other Top 40 hit. In addition to “Mr. Dieingly Sad” charting at #17, 1967's “Don't Let The Rain Fall Down On Me” squeaked in at #39. One other single, “Younger Girl” only charted at #52.

Don Ciccone (no known relation to Madonna) provided the lead vocals on this cut. If there is anything I love about this song, it is the vocal arrangement. The primary instrument on this recording is Ken Gorga's electric bass. There is also a very tasteful but sparse usage of a vibraphone throughout the song.

All that, great stereo separation, and a key change – “Mr. Dieingly Sad” is so smarmy that I love it. The last time I heard it on the radio, which was about two years ago, I wouldn’t let anyone leave the car until the last vibraphone note was chimed. I was so mystifyingly glad to hear it after many years.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Uriah Heep: Sweet Lorraine

Today’s bubbling under hit comes from my senior year in high school. I honestly think that the reason that “Sweet Lorraine” by Uriah Heep didn’t become a hit is that Mercury Records did not know how to promote this band. Uriah Heep had a reputation of being a bit of an underground/hard rock act and record companies were content at allowing these artists to develop their own following with a modicum of album rock airplay.

Heep also had another strike against them in the US market. They were signed to Bronze Records, a small UK independent label which was originally distributed in the UK by Island Records. Island’s presence in the US began in 1972 when Capitol originally distributed the label. Prior to this, Island’s artists were licensed to a variety of labels.

For example, Traffic’s, The Spencer Davis Group’s and Wynder K. Frog’s releases were assigned originally to United Artists; Fairport Convention’s, Cat Steven’s, and Free’s records were licensed to A&M. In the case of Uriah Heep, their albums were issued in the US by Mercury. Since Mercury had no financial interest in Uriah Heep, any sales were gravy and this would also place them at the bottom of the promotional list when competing with Mercury’s home grown artists. That’s my speculation on what happened.

Had “Sweet Lorraine” received more Top 40 airplay, I believe it would have made it to the Top 20; however, that didn’t happen and this song with a strong hook only placed at 91. It appeared on the Uriah Heep’s 1972 release of “The Magician’s Birthday” and may be the album’s strongest cut. The album, which featured a Roger Dean cover, was certified gold in early 1973.

The song has some great qualities – not at least being the lead and backup vocals by David Byron. The wah-wah rhythm guitar effect by Mick Box has a very contemporary 1972 feel – and effect that would resurface during the late 1970s with the disco craze. Lee Kerslake’s drumming and rhythmic kicks are pristine; however, the crowning moments of the song occur with Ken Hensley’s Moog synthesizer effects.

Throughout most of the song, Hensley is using a very simple lick – a low “A” to an “A” an octave higher and back again with a bit of portemento with the mod wheel up about a quarter. The lead is accomplished with two synth overdubs with one in each channel. The entire song is also punctuated by Gary Thain’s bass and Hensley on Hammond organ. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Classics IV: Mary, Mary Row Your Boat

Formed in Jacksonville, Florida in 1965, The Classics were like many of the bands springing up in the US following the 1964 birth of the British Invasion. Taking their name from the Classic brand of drums used by Dennis Yost, the band was primarily a cover band that played instrumentals. Eventually they put Yost up front and hired a touring drummer.

When they finally were signed to Capitol Records for a one single deal, the band had to alter their name as another band was named The Classics. Under Yost’s suggestion, they dropped the article “The” and added the Roman numeral IV to represent the current number of band members. When the band returned to a lineup of five members they were touted as the Classics IV featuring Dennis Yost. Eventually, they became Dennis Yost and the Classics IV.

In 1969, the band released the third of its five Top 40 hits “Traces,” which eventually peaked at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Its flip, “Mary, Mary Row Your Boat” was composed by producer Buddy Buie and guitarist J.R. Cobb and is our Friday Flipside for today.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Edgar Winter Group: Hangin' Around

It’s time for our Thursday Repeats and Threepeats feature – songs that were issued multiple times. Today’s feature, “Hangin’ Around” by The Edgar Winter Group, was issued twice as a single in 1973. I got their “They Only Come Out at Night” album along with George Harrison’s “Living in a Material World” as my high school graduation present from my brother.

He took me to Heads Together in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill district to get the Twofer package. The Harrison album was new and you could buy it and another single album both for a special low price. I picked The Edgar Winter Group LP as it was getting a great deal of airplay at the time. It ended up being one of my favorite albums that year.

A total of four single combinations were lifted from this LP. Of those four, two songs were repeats. The singles were released as follows:

“Frankenstein”/“Hangin’ Around” Epic 5-10945 released on January 10, 1973.

“Frankenstein”/“Undercover Man” Epic 5-10967 released on February 21, 1973.

“Free Ride”/“When it Comes” Epic 5-11024 released on July 12, 1973.

“Hangin’ Around”/ “We All Had a Real Good Time” Epic 5-11069 released on November 14, 1973.

Since I’ve already featured “Frankenstein” in the past, we’ll concentrate on “Hangin’ Around,” which was released in January 1973 as the flip side to “Frankenstein.” That single got off to a rocky start and since CBS was looking at releasing “Hangin’ Round” as a single, “Frankenstein” was re-released with “Undercover Man” as the “B” side. The first iteration did not fare well, but the second release was a #1 single.

The second coming of “Hangin’ Around” failed to make it to the Top 40 charts and peaked at #65. Due to this lackluster performance, the single was flipped and “We All Had a Real Good Time” was pushed, but its failure to chart in the Hot 100 signified that “They Only Come Out at Night” was past its promotional prime.

Although not released as a new single in the US, Epic released “We All Had a Real Good Time” as a new single paired with “Autumn” elsewhere in the world. “Autumn” is probably my favorite cut on the album. “Hangin’ Around” was co-written by Edgar Winter and bassist Dan Hartman. Edgar sings lead on this track.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Greg Guidry: Goin' Down

While its different musically, the beginning of Greg Guidry’s one hit wonder “Goin’ Down” with the electric piano and bass reminds me of The Alan Parsons Project’s “Wouldn’t Want to Be Like You.” That is where the similarities end, as it is a fairly typical pop song. I like the limited use of the vibra-slap in the intro.

This 1982 hit charted at #17 and came from his album “Over the Line.” Guidry had an untimely end – his charred body was found in his car in his garage. His death was determined to be a suicide.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pat Martino: Blue Bossa

One thing with this blog is that I have made some long lasting friendships with some folks that had made some visits in the past. It appears that the strongest of these relationships are centered on a post that I made back in 2009 about Harry Abraham and his radio show on WHAM in Rochester, NY. One of these friends is Stu Weissman who lives in New York State. Stu has been a constant friend and has been an inspiration during my lung illnesses of late.

Not only has Stu proved to be a good long distance friend, he is an excellent guitarist – I’ve heard some of his recordings and he is one talented dude. The other night, Stu mentioned an artist in an email that I had not thought about in several decades and that person is guitarist Pat Martino.

I don’t believe I’ve ever owned any of Martino’s albums – which is sad, but I am familiar with his work from doing a jazz radio program in the 1970s. Since I subscribed to Guitar Player magazine for a number of years, I also had read their interviews with this jazz guitar master.

I think the reason I lost track of Pat Martino is related to a brain aneurysm that he suffered in 1980 and the resulting surgery left him unable to remember how to play the guitar. Suffering from general amnesia as well, it was through the persistence of friends and by using his old recordings as a guide that allowed Pat to return to the music business in 1987.

Today’s Tasty Licks Tuesday selection comes from Pat’s 1997 album “Cream.” “Blue Bossa” was composed by jazz trumpeter Kenny Dorham and which was first recorded by Joe Henderson in 1963. The song draws upon George Shearing’s “Lullaby of Birdland” for the opening riff. Martino’s interpretation shows his talent as well as that of his backing musicians. Enjoy.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Bryan Ferry: The In Crowd

Here’s a song I’ve come to know and like from its recent usage in a Designer Shoe Warehouse (DSW) commercial. Today’s Media Monday feature is Bryan Ferry’s version of the 60s hit that was made famous by both Dobie Gray and The Ramsey Lewis Trio: “The In Crowd.” Prior to it being featured in the commercial, I doubt if I had ever heard Ferry’s version of the song.

Even though it charted at #13 in the UK, the single failed to chart in the US and suffered the fate of most of Ferry’s and his band Roxy Music’s recordings in the States. Very few of his recordings charted in the Hot 100 and included Roxy Music’s “Love is the Drug” at #30, “Dance Away” at #44, and “Over You” at #80. Ferry’s solo recordings to chart were “Kiss and Tell” at #31 and “Heart on my Sleeve” at #86.

The song starts with a Fender Rhodes that uses a stereo tremolo effect. This effect was produced through the Leslie Model 60 Speaker System and should not be confused with their rotating feature cabinet used often in combination with Hammond organs. 

Ferry’s version of this 60s classic is a bit unusual, but I like it. It was released in 1974 and was from his second solo album, “Another Time, Another Place.” If you listen closely, Ferry’s vocals on this cut sound similar to a style made famous several years later by The B-52s

DSW Commercial

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Rock Mandolin: Going To California

As we wrap up this week’s feature of rock mandolin, I had a choice of two songs from “Led Zeppelin IV”: “Battle of Evermore” and “Going to California.” While I like Sandy Denny’s participation on the former, I believe that the mandolin parts on “Going to California” are better. While Jimmy Page played mandolin on “Battle of Evermore,” it is bassist John Paul Jones that lends his mandolin talents to “Going to California.” Since the mandolin belonged to him, it is only fitting the Jones be featured.

Early pictures of Jones show him playing a no-name mandolin; however, he later purchased a Fender acoustic when the band went on tour in America supporting “Led Zeppelin IV” in 1972.While I don't think it is one, it looks similar to the construction found with Hofner mandolins; however, Hofners typically sported curved teardrop shaped F-holes. This one doesn't.  Since that time, Jones has owned a plethora of mandolins.

Today, Jones sports an unusual triple necked mando configuration that has mandolin, octave mandolin, and 8-string bass mandobass necks. Typically, mandobasses only sport four strings, but this instrument is set up like an 8-string electric bass with octave strings in the courses with bass strings. The Mason Brothers produced this odd beauty.

It is also noteworthy to mention that Jimmy Page is using a double dropped D tuning on his acoustic guitar. From low to high, this tuning is DADGBD. I’ve used this on occasion and it is nice cross between standard tuning (EADGBE) and open D (DADF#AD). It allows a certain amount of standard guitar technique with a high drone and the low bass note. It is perfect for songs that are primarily in D like “Going to California.”  By the way, John Bonham does not appear on this cut.

This is the last in our seven-day series for the second week of the month. I hoped you liked this thematic set. Next month, we’ll look at the electric 12-string guitar as a featured instrument. I have a number of cuts already planned.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Rock Mandolin: Losing My Religion

Charting at #4 on Billboard’s Hot 100, R.E.M.’s “Losing my Religion” came about when guitarist Peter Buck was fooling around with a mandolin. The title is a Southern expression that can be equated with anger that gets out of hand.

The single appeared on R.E.M.’s 1991 “Out of Time” album. While it did very well in the US, it was only a top 20 hit in Canada, the UK, and Australia. Warner Brothers, however, didn’t believe in the song for a single release – but the band failed to relent. To test the waters, Warners pushed the song to college radio, alternative, and AOR stations before promoting it to Top 40. It appears that their fears were unfounded.

Live Version

Buck, by the way, plays a Flatiron F-style mandolin in this live video from 1995.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Rock Mandolin: Boat On A River

Styx’s 1979 album “Cornerstone” included “Boat on a River” – which was out of character for the band. Even more out of character was the fact that A&M released the song as a single. It never peaked in the US or the UK, but was the highest charting Styx single in Germany peaking at #5.

The style as well as the instrumentation is what is out of character. First of all, Tommy Shaw is singing lead and not Dennis DeYoung –who sings harmonies on this cut and plays accordion. Shaw has traded his guitar for a mandolin and an autoharp. Chuck Panozzo is playing a double bass which he bows during the song’s intro. John Panozzo lays back by only playing his bass drum and a tambourine. James Young adds the acoustic guitar.

It appears that Shaw is playing an Epiphone A-style mandolin; however, later in his career he is seen playing an old Gibson A-style, a Flatiron F-style, and an Ovation guitar shaped mandolin. “All roads lead to Tranquility Base where the frown on my face disappears.”

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Rock Mandolin: Sylvan Song/Dream Of The Archer

Today’s mandolin selection is a live version of “Sylvan Song/Dream of the Archer,” which originally appeared on Heart’s “Little Queen” album from 1977. This live version features Nancy Wilson and Howard Leese on mandolins. Nancy is playing an F5 style that has no name on the headstock and Howard sports an Ovation model. The

The original recording may have had three mandolinists on it, but I don’t know for sure if all three individuals (Nancy Wilson, Roger Fisher, and Howard Leese) credited with playing mandolin on the album were on this particular song in those roles. Fisher co-wrote “Sylvan Song” with Nancy Wilson and “Dream of the Archer” with Ann and Nancy Wilson. I saw the band in early summer 1977 and I think only Roger Fisher and Nancy Wilson played mandolins on this tune live. Howard Leese was probably playing keyboards.

Studio Version

It sounds like there are only two mandolins on this song, but there is a third in the mix as the song progresses toward the end.  My guess is that Fisher and Nancy Wilson played the main parts and Howard Leese added the rhythm parts at the end.  Very nice indeed.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Rock Mandolin: Holiday Inn

Today’s song is the one that gave me the idea for this feature. Recently, I made a trip to Pennsylvania and since my FM radio is not working, I bought some used CDs for the journey. One of those was my favorite Elton John album, “Madman across the Water.”

While the album produced the hits “Tiny Dancer” and “Levon,” my favorite cut is the title cut. As I listened to the album, I was reminded of a great cut that features the mandolin of Davey Johnstone: “Holiday Inn.”

“Madman across the Water” was Elton John’s first album to feature Davey Johnstone and he became a regular in John’s lineup ever since. Although he has worked with numerous other artists and released a solo album, “Smiling Face” and an instrumental duet LP with John Jorgenson named “Crop Circles”; he is best known as John’s guitarist (and on a few select tracks, his mandolinist).

In addition to playing the fine mandolin parts on “Holiday Inn,” Johnstone is also playing sitar; however, I am having a difficult time picking it out in the mix. Toward the end, Johnstone plays two mandolin parts – one in the left channel and one in the right. Absolutely beautiful.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Rock Mandolin: Maggie May

Most people would have assumed that today’s example of rock mandolin would have been the first that I would have played. Had it not been for the particular influence of “Love in Vain,” then Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May” would have been my first choice. When you mention mandolin in rock songs, it tends to be the selection that first comes to people’s minds.

The song was not intended to be the hit, as Tim Hardin’s “Reason to Believe” was selected to be the “A” side; however, disc jockeys across the world began flipping the single and playing “Maggie May.” “Reason to Believe” only charted in the US, but did poorly at #62.

“Maggie May,” however, did much better and was a number one record in the US and UK. It also was a Top 5 record in The Netherlands, Switzerland, and Ireland. In the US, the single was certified gold. Both “Reason to Believe” and “Maggie May” appear on the platinum certified “Every Picture Tells a Story.”

“Maggie May” was co-authored by Stewart and guitarist Martin Quittenton. They collaborated on two other songs, “You Wear it Well” and “Farewell.” The unforgettable mandolin part is credited on the album as “The mandolin was played by the mandolin player in Lindisfarne. The name slips my mind.” Because there were two mandolin players in Lindisfarne, people generally think of Simon Cowe – the guy with the wild hair.

Unfortunately, it was not Cowe, but rather Ray Jackson who lent his talents to this recording, “Mandolin Wind,” and “Farewell.” With “Maggie May’s” chart performance, it may be the best known of all of the rock tunes featuring mandolin.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Rock Mandolin: Love In Vain

Since today starts out the second week of the month, we start a new week long thematic set called the Second Week Special. Each month we’ll feature a series of recordings that have something in common. It may be instrumentation, album design, record labels, style of music, songwriters, or anything else that can be stretched into seven days. Today begins a week-long special that features rock mandolin – one of my favorite instruments.

During September 1973, I spied an inexpensive A-style Mayfair mandolin in a store in Grayson, KY. Besides being the town's only official record store, DJ Record Shop also sold a limited number of instruments, strings, and picks. The mandolin cost me $42.00 and I had it for nearly three years until I sold it to a friend for $42.00.

Author in 1974 with his first mandolin

My second was an Ibanez 552 – a copy of Jethro Burns' Gibson A5 – I still have it, and it remains one of my key instruments. Even though it only cost $110 in 1976, it is a beautiful instrument with good tone. I purchased this instrument at the Pied Piper in Huntington, West Virginia when they were located in a very small storefront on Fourth Avenue.

Author in 2007 with current mandolin

What got me interested in the mandolin was a recording by The Rolling Stones. Appearing on their “Let it Bleed” LP, “Love in Vain” was a Robert Johnson composition that was interpreted in a country-rock vein through the influence of Gram Parsons. Two instruments created that feel – slide guitar played by Mick Taylor and mandolin added by sideman Ry Cooder.

I first heard this recording in 1972 when Jim Roach on Pittsburgh’s WDVE played it during a three-hour long feature of The Rolling Stones’ best recordings. At the time, I didn’t have this album and was only familiar with three cuts: “Gimme Shelter,” “Midnight Rambler,” and “Monkey Man.” When I heard Ry’s playing on “Love in Vain,” I knew I wanted a mandolin and within a year, I had one.

On the original US pressings of “Let it Bleed,” “Love in Vain” was credited to one of Johnson’s pseudonyms: “Woody Payne.” Later copies corrected this and credited the song as authored by Robert Johnson. When The Stones used a blues song, they made sure they credited to the composer – even if it was their own arrangement. This is unlike Led Zeppelin who often passed off old blues numbers as their own – Superhype Music indeed.

Ry Cooder’s mandolin begins after the first verse. You can see why I was attracted to this instrument. This was the song that started it all. “The blue light was my baby and the red light was my mind.” Enjoy.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Guess Who: Running Back to Saskatoon

While it was a Top 10 record in Canada for good reasons, The Guess Who’s “Running Back to Saskatoon” only broke the US Hot 100 and charted at #96. I always liked this tune. Somewhere I got a handful of yellow promo copies of RCA Records from the early 70s.

I think F.W. Woolworths sold these in a packet of five in a plastic wrapper for 50¢ or so. RCA must have sold these promo copies rather than to melt them down for new recordings. If I remember correctly, I got The Guess Who single of “Albert Flasher” and several Nilsson 45s.

Anyway, back to the song. We as Americans are so superficial sometimes, that a song that revels in the attributes of (little known to us) locations such as Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and the other Canadian cities would not fly on American radio. The other Saskatchewan locations referenced in the lyrics by Burton Cummings include Moose Jaw, Broadview, and Moosomin. He also mentions the Alberta towns of Medicine Hat and Red Deer, and Terrance, in British Columbia.

When I started doing my genealogical research, I learned about some of these locations as I found relatives in Moose Jaw, Red Deer, and Medicine Hat; however, none lived in Saskatoon to my knowledge. When you read about these Prairie Provinces, you get a sense of sacrifices of the early settlers in this region and the hardships that they endured.

Championing Saskatoon in their lyrics are Cummings and his coauthor guitarist Kurt Winter. Saskatoon, by the way, is the largest city in Saskatchewan – larger that the capital of Regina (where more of my family resides).

The single was an edited version from The Guess Who’s first live album “Live at the Paramount.” The album was recorded at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle on May 22, 1972.

The RCA engineers did an excellent job of taking 6:52 album cut down to 3:27 edit – with listeners not knowing any better.  The edit removes all of Cummings’ spoken word introduction, but also his harmonica playing during songs intro proper. Both are found in the video below.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Chicago: Where Do We Go From Here

In 1970, Chicago released its second album simply titled “Chicago,” but it would be later known as “Chicago II.” The album produced three top 10 singles: “25 or 6 to 4,” “Make me Smile,” and “Colour my World.” This double album was considered the breakthrough for the band. It also started a series of albums with similar cover designs – this one was the silver album and it represented the shortened form of the band’s original name of The Chicago Transit Authority.

Today’s Friday Flipside was the “B” side to “25 or 6 to 4.” I purchased this single during the summer of 1970 after I returned from a trip to – where else – Chicago. I heard the record on my trip and I purchased it with two other singles: Sugarloaf’s “Green Eyed Lady” and Status Quo’s “Down the Dustpipe.” I amused myself on the trip from Chicago to Pittsburgh by listening to my little blue transistor radio – where I heard these songs.

While the “A” side charted at #4, its flip “Where Do We Go From Here” was the first contribution to the band from bassist Peter Cetera. Cetera, who would later become the band’s lead vocalist, also sang lead on this number. There is a grammatical faux pas in the title – it is a question, but is missing a question mark on both the single and the notation on the album. The title is fitting for its place on the album as the last song on side 4.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Tarney/Spencer Band: No Time To Lose

Today’s feature is a brand new category – Thursday's Repeats and Threepeats. Every Thursday, we’ll look at songs that were released more than one time as a single. This includes songs that were B-sides and later were released as an A-side. Today’s feature is the Tarney/Spencer Band’s “No Time to Lose.”

Originally from Australia, Alan Tarney and Trevor Spencer immigrated to the UK during the Vietnam era and eventually became members of Cliff Richard’s backing band. Tarney and Spencer branched out on their own in 1975 and released three albums. In 1979, “No Time to Run” was issued from their final LP “Run for your Life.”

While the song garnered some airplay on album rock stations, it only peaked at #84. In 1981, MTV starved for videos found the video for “No Time to Lose” and put it into rotation. Because of this, the album and the single were being sought by a new audience. Both had been out of print, but A&M Records re-released the single in September 1981. The second time around, it charted at #74.

In addition, the “Run for your Life” album was issued with multiple covers. A number of artists during the late 70s and early 80s had albums that had several cover variations. Some that I remember include Split Enz’s “True Colors,” Hall & Oates’ “Voices,” Genesis’ “Abacab,” and Amy Grant’s “Unguarded.”

“Run for your Life” had four cover variations. Three of these had foil lettering in green, gold, and red. A fourth variation had textured foil in silver. I bought my copy from a cut-out bin in Hills’ Department Store in Ashland, KY. My cover has the red foil, which appears to be the most common variation.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Jonathan Edwards: Sunshine

Going back to 1971, Jonathan Edwards’ one-hit wonder that might not have happened. Because a studio engineer accidentally erased a song titled “Please Find Me” which was slated for release on Edwards’ self-titled debut album, Edwards recorded a new song, “Sunshine,” as a replacement track.

The lyrics comprise a clandestine anti-war message that most people will not recognize because of its subtlety. The song broke out of Edwards’ hometown of Boston as an album cut and was eventually released as a single which peaked at #4 in January 1972.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Stephen Stills: Old Times Good Times

There is no denying that Stephen Stills is an excellent guitarist, keyboardist, bassist, and vocalist. On his albums as well as the albums by Crosby, Stills, and Nash, he was often placed in roles other than that of lead guitarist. Let that talent take a backseat to others with whom only a superlative could describe and you have a product that is par excellence.

On his self-titled solo album, Stills is joined by a number of other great musicians. On the song “Old Times Good Times,” the lead guitar duties were relegated to none other than Jimi Hendrix. In addition, Booker T. Jones of Booker T. and the MGs plays the fantastic organ runs.

Released in late 1970, the album peaked at #3 on Billboard’s Top 200 Albums chart. The album was recorded at Island Studios in London and includes a star-studded cast of players. Although “Old Times Good Times” was not a single from the album, its inclusion of Hendrix and Jones on their respective instruments make it a perfect Tasty Licks Tuesday selection.

The album is dedicated to the late James Marshall Hendrix who died nearly two months to the day before the album was released.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Elvis Costello: Watching The Detectives

The other night I was watching one of the new shows based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s character Sherlock Holmes. Near the end of the pilot episode of “Elementary,” they played Elvis Costello’s “Watching the Detectives.” Not only does this instance of the song qualify for our new category of Media Mondays, but it has been used for the PBS show “History Detectives” – I show that I love, but rarely get to see as I am vetoed by others in the household.

Costello was inspired to write the song after listening to The Clash’s debut album, although “Watching the Detectives” sounds nothing like The Clash. The song’s story line is about a woman who is uninterested in her lover because she is more interested in the detective show she’s watching on TV. Its simple and sparse reggae beat makes the song.

Recorded in 1976 on Costello’s debut album, “My Aim is True,” “Watching the Detectives” was released as the LP’s fourth single in 1977. While the song peaked in the UK at #15, its poor performance in the US can be identified by its peak position at #108.

Other musicians on the recording included drummer Steve Goulding and bassist Andrew Bodnar from Graham Parker’s The Rumor. Steve Nieve overdubbed the keyboard parts later.