Saturday, March 28, 2015

Kama Sutra: Stone Woman

For our final day looking at Kama Sutra Records, I’ve picked a non-charting, but important selection in the scheme of music history. Today’s Bubbling Under track was a 1971 recording by the significant, but often overlooked, power trio Dust. The band released two LPs for Kama Sutra before disbanding in 1972.

“Stone Woman” was the band’s first single as well as the lead cut from their self-titled debut LP. Neither the single nor the album charted. Although the band originally had three performing members, a keyboardist was added for their second LP “Hard Attack’ that featured the Frank Frazetta painting “Snow Giants” as its cover.

For the debut album, the group consisted of Richie Wise on guitar and vocals, Kenny Aaronson on bass, and drummer Marc Bell. The band also had a non-performing member, Kenny Kerner, who served as lyricist, producer, and manager. Kerner and Wise co-wrote “Stone Woman.” Aaronson, by the way, also played the fantastic slide guitar on “Stone Woman.”

Following the dismemberment of Dust, Kerner and Wise worked in production with Kiss. They were probably enlisted by Neil Bogart, who previously managed Buddah/Kama Sutra and had left to form the first of his two labels: Casablanca Records. Aaronson joined another Kama Sutra act, The Stories, who had a #1 recording with “Brother Louie” in 1973.

Additionally, Aaronson has been featured on various recordings and has toured with numerous acts since “Dust.” In the early to mid 80s, he received equal billing with Sammy Hagar, Neil Schon, and Michael Shrieve in the band HSAS. As for drummer Marc Bell, he took on the persona of Marky Ramone in the Ramones. As you see, there is life after Dust.

Kama Sutra Records: Uneasy Rider

For many of us, the first time we heard Charlie Daniels’ name was when his 1973 tune “Uneasy Rider” hit the airwaves. Basically a narration to an acoustic treatment, Daniels perfectly illustrated the clash of cultures that were still occurring in the South during the Vietnam era.

It wasn’t Daniels’ first single release, but it was the first one to chart. This Kama Sutra single charted at #9 on the pop charts, which is uncanny at the time, but it was a novelty record and typically these do very well, but don’t have longevity. Its performance on the country charts was no doubt hindered by the content, as it only made it to #67. Surprisingly, it even made it to the AC charts where it performed better than with country radio. It peaked at #37.

Having moved to Central Appalachia within months after the release of this record, I noticed “Uneasy Rider’s” influence on local culture, as the recording spawned a number of dives to rebrand as “Dew Drop Inns.” In case you’re wondering, Kama Sutra provided an edit that bleeped out the song’s one offending word.

“Uneasy Rider” was Daniels’ only charting single on Kama Sutra; however, his final LP for the label featured two songs that received some airplay: “The South’s Gonna Do It” and “Long Haired Country Boy” that both made it into the Hot 100; however, the singles were issued by Daniels’ new label – Epic Records. Epic also re-released the “Fire on the Mountain” LP.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Kama Sutra Records: Hello Hello

It’s day five of our feature on Kama Sutra Records and we celebrate this Thursday with a one-hit-wonder by the band Sopwith Camel. Named for the famed British World War I biplane, the band hailed from San Francisco and recorded a total of three albums.

Only the self-titled debut album was issued by Kama Sutra in 1967. Their second LP, “The Miraculous Hump Returns from the Moon” was released by Reprise in 1973 – two years after the band reformed. The third LP, which was recorded in 1973, was not released until 2001. Strange as it seems, Kama Sutra credited the band as “The Sopwith ‘Camel’” on the single releases and “Sopwith Camel” on the album.

The band’s only hit was the 1967 nostalgic sounding “Hello Hello.” Reminiscent of the Vaudeville/Music Hall era, “Hello Hello” was one of several songs that elicited these long forgotten musical styles to make it to popular radio. Others the evoked this nostalgia included The New Vaudeville Band’s “Winchester Cathedral,” Peter and Gordon’s “Lady Godiva,” and Tiny Tim’s “Tiptoe through the Tulips.”

Other popular acts also used a similar style on their albums. Some examples include The Beatles’ “When I’m Sixty-Four,” Cream’s “A Mother’s Lament,” and Arlo Guthrie’s take on “Ukulele Lady” – especially if you find the longer version that was issued on the 1972 “Warner/Reprise Loss Leader” sampler: “The Whole Burbank Catalog.” I’m sure there are many others that I’m forgetting at the moment.

While peaking at #26, “Hello Hello” wasn’t the biggest hit in 1967. It was, however, the first single in the Top 40 by a San Francisco band. Oddly enough, you might occasionally hear it today on oldies radio.
“Would you like some of my tangerines?”

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Kama Sutra Records: The Rapper

I had to make an emergency trip to Western Pennsylvania tonight, so for our look at Kama Sutra Records, I have decided to pick what may have been the only Pittsburgh act on the label: The Jaggerz. Their unusual name came from Pittsburghese slang for any number of plants that have thorns, burrs, and briers and were typically problematic for kids playing in the woods. The localized term is jagger or jagger bush. They may be the only band with a Pittsburghese derived name to have a hit record.

Kama Sutra was the second of three labels who had signed the band and the only one to have charting singles. Three out of four Kama Sutra issued Jaggerz 45s made it to the Hot 100 with one, “The Rapper,” charting at #2 in Billboard at #1 in Record World. It was also certified as a gold record by the RIAA.

With the success of “The Rapper,” you might think that the band released several albums with Kama Sutra. Unfortunately, their only LP with the label was “We Went to Different Schools Together.” The album peaked at #62 and it was the only one their three albums to chart. Despite having a hit single and mid charting album, it was not enough to sustain the group’s contract with Kama Sutra.

The best known alumnus of the band was guitarist/vocalist Dominic Ierace – who would be later known as Donnie Iris. Although much has been made concerning Iris’ membership in Steubenville, Ohio’s “Wild Cherry,” he joined the band it its waning years and only appeared on their final album. Donnie’s greatest fame came with his solo career in the 1980s when his songs became a staple of album radio.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Kama Sutra Records: Have You Seen My Baby?

The Flamin’ Groovies from San Francisco had their own cult following, but unfortunately this proto-punk/blues/rock band never became a household name. Although they lacked the fame they deserved, the Flamin’ Groovies produced some great music. Their 1971 album “Teenage Head” was the final of the two LPs released by Kama Sutra Records. Today’s selection is a single release from their last LP with the label: “Have You Seen My Baby?” Unfortunately, it never made it onto any chart.

Although they had released several singles and EPs, the Flamin’ Groovies would not release another album until picked up by Sire Records in 1976. Albeit they still had a cult following, the Groovies had a modicum of commercial success on their new label. When I think of the Flamin’ Groovies, I picture guitarist/vocalist Cyril Jordan playing his Dan Armstrong “see through guitar.” The same guitar he is pictured playing on “Teenage Head.”

Designed by luthier Armstrong for Ampeg in 1969, these guitars and basses were constructed from clear Plexiglas. Because acrylic was denser than wood, the Dan Armstrong model was a heavier guitar in more ways than one because it sustained like crazy.

In addition, the pickups, manufactured by Bill Lawrence, had a bite that added to the attraction of this unusual see-through instrument. The guitar was designed so various pickups could be interchanged.  Ampeg manufactured these models through the early 1970s and many of the guitar legends of that day had one in their arsenal. In 2006, Ampeg reintroduced the Plexi model for a limited time. Both the originals and the reissues surface on eBay every so often.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Kama Sutra Records: You Didn't Have To Be So Nice

In 1965, I discovered the power of the medium of radio. From that point onward, it drastically affected my life. For twenty years, I worked actively on the air behind the mic and then transitioned to other positions where my skills were used for commercial and half-hour long show production. Today, I teach broadcasting. One of the things I specifically remember about 1965 was the music of The Lovin’ Spoonful.

John Sebastian and company were the second group to sign to Kama Sutra Records and were welcomed with open arms in 1965 by the American and Canadian record buying public. By the way, The Vacels were the first to sign with the label. Remember them? Neither do I, but I am certain that my readers remember The Lovin’ Spoonful.

While the band was primarily American, the inclusion of Canadian lead guitarist Zal Yanovsky secured their popularity across the border. Canadian Content (CanCon) rules required stations to play a majority of programming that involved Canadian artists. With Yanovsky as part of the band, it guaranteed that The Lovin’ Spoonful would be heard in the Great White North.

For their second single with the label, the band released “You Didn’t Have to be so Nice.” It was the sixth single release on Kama Sutra and was from their second album, “Daydream.” According to Brian Wilson, the vocal arrangements would inspire The Beach Boys to write Carl Wilson sung ballad “God Only Knows.”

Unless you actually knew the arrangement of the song, you may have missed that the rhythm instrument is an autoharp. It blends so well in the mix with the hi-hat that you may have not noticed, but it’s there along with some rhythm guitar overdubs. While it doesn’t mimic the sound of the 12-string guitar that Roger McGuinn used with The Byrds, it produced a jangly sound that added to overall flavor of the record.

In 1965, The Lovin’ Spoonful, a brand new act, scored two Top 10 hits for a brand new label, which is a testimony to their overall sound. “You Didn’t Have to be so Nice” peaked at #10 in the US and at #4 in Canada. By the next year, the band scored a number one release, two #2 singles, and two additional Top 10 releases. These accomplishments cemented the overall success of Kama Sutra Records in the 1960s.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Kama Sutra Records: Put Your Hand In The Hand

For our fourth week label feature, I’ve decided upon Kama Sutra Records. With the aid of Art Kass, Kama Sutra Productions entered the recording business in 1964. The label was distributed by MGM Records until it joined with Buddah Records in 1969, which was owned by the same principals.

Although founded in 1967, Buddah began handing the distribution of Kama Sutra and a number of other labels in 1969. The last release with the Kama Sutra imprint was issued in 1976. This week, we’ll look at the 11-year run at this classic independent label.

For our first song on Kama Sutra, we head back to 1971 when the Canadian gospel rock band Ocean released their debut single: “Put Your Hand in the Hand.” Written by fellow Canadian Gene MacLellan, “Put Your Hand in the Hand” was first recorded by another Canadian, Anne Murray, who released the song on her third LP for Capitol, “Honey, Wheat, and Laughter.” Her previous hit single “Snowbird” had also been penned by MacLellan.

Initially, “Put Your Hand in the Hand’ was not released as a single by Anne Murray. Capitol saw the potential for this song, and in late 1970, country artist Beth Moore released the first single featuring the tune. Her version failed to make a dent in the country charts with a dismal showing at #61. Thinking that perhaps Murray could do better, Capitol released Murray’s version of the single in the US, but not in her native Canada. Murray’s stab did worse, as it peaked at #67 on the country charts.

With two failures with MacLellan’s tune, Ocean tried their hand (get the pun) at the tune and had a colossal hit. While it peaked in Canada at #10 on the Yorkville label, “Put Your Hand in the Hand” was a Top 5 hit in the US for Kama Sutra. While it topped the charts in Record World (remember this trade publication?), it additionally charted at #2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and at #4 on the A/C charts. With the exposure of Ocean’s version of the tune, a number of other artists also recorded this now classic.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Wings: Give Ireland Back To The Irish

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! While I only have a modicum of Irish blood in my ancestry, we are all Irish on St. Paddy’s Day. I’m wondering why I’ve never featured Wings’ controversial song “Give Ireland Back to the Irish” until now – so I guess now is the best time. While naturally it was a #1 record in Ireland, it was banned by the British Broadcasting Corporation, but still managed to chart at #16 on the UK charts.

The song was written by Paul and Linda McCartney and recorded by Wings within two days following the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry, Northern Ireland on January 30, 1972.  Due to the controversy in the UK, EMI Records did not want the record released, but Paul McCartney insisted and so it was. In addition to the BBC, Radio Luxembourg also banned it as well as Independent Television Authority in Britain.

In the US, the public did not warm-up to the record as did the public in other countries. When it was released in 1972, it was a single only release – like several of the band’s singles of that era. “Give Ireland Back to the Irish” did not appear on an album until issued as a bonus track on the CD version of Wings’ first LP: “Wild Life.” The flip side, an instrumental version of the same tune, was not included.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Many Shades of Leon Russell: Lady Blue

Being that I’ve enjoyed featuring Leon Russell, I’m adding an extra day onto our Second Week Special: The Many Shades of Leon Russell. Today’s feature is Leon’s final Top-40 hit. During 1974, Shelter Records moved its distribution from Capitol Records to MCA. Our selection, “Lady Blue.” comes from Russell’s second album to be released through MCA – “Will O’ the Wisp.”

“Lady Blue” was the last cut on the album and was first of two single releases from the LP. While “Will O’ the Wisp” wasn’t Leon’s biggest seller, it peaked at #30 and stayed on the album charts for 40 weeks. It also was certified gold in 1976. As a single, “Lady Blue” had a respectable showing at #14 on the pop charts and #13 on the A/C charts.

Like “This Masquerade,” “Lady Blue” shows the ballad side of Leon Russell. Also like “This Masquerade,” George Benson covered “Lady Blue” and released it as single. Unlike Benson’s cover of “This Masquerade,” Benson’s rendition of “Lady Blue” failed to chart in the Hot 100 and had a poor showing at #39 on the R&B chart.

Leon’s original, however, features a very nice arrangement that is laden with major 7th and 11th chords. The memorable alto sax solo was provided by veteran musician Jim Horn who has played on countless recordings over the years. With the timing of the release in 1975 and its subject matter, I would venture to guess that “Lady Blue” was written for and about his new bride: Mary McCreary Russell.

For those like me are obsessed with record labels, there are some versions of the single that has a symbol that is obscured. When Shelter designed their new label for MCA distribution in 1974, the artist placed “(P) 1974 Shelter Records” along the bottom rim. The (P) symbol is the mark for the copyright of the actual recording. When the label blank was used in 1974, this was not problematic; however, when songs were released in subsequent years, the (P) would need to represent the year the recording was copyrighted.

On some issues of the single, the (P) was blacked out and replaced with the appropriate mark © for the copyright of the label’s artwork. In this case, the 1974 designation would be appropriate for as long as the label art was being used. Just a little bit of intellectual property law for those who may care. For those who don’t, just listen to Leon and forget about it.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Many Shades of Leon Russell: Welcome To Hollywood

In 1967, session musicians Leon Russell and Marc Benno joined forces as the Asylum Choir and released one album for Smash Records in 1968. It was a product of its times; however, it never generated enough interest to chart in the Top 200 album chart. Needless to say, neither of the album’s singles (“Welcome to Hollywood” and “Icicle Star Tree”) charted.

“Icicle Star Tree” (also spelled as “Isicle Star Tree” on the 45) was a psychedelic tune that featured Benno on lead vocals and is an interesting song in its own right. I would have featured it for that reason alone, but the album’s first single release, “Welcome to Hollywood,” featured Leon Russell on lead vocals. Since this is a feature on Leon Russell and not Marc Benno, it makes perfect sense to use a song that emphasizes Russell’s vocals. “Welcome to Hollywood,” which is a straight ahead pop song, opens the album as well.

All of the songs on “Look inside the Asylum Choir” were composed by Russell and Benno. Although the album sold poorly, its original cover spurred some controversy, as it depicted a roll of toilet paper. Unlike The Rolling Stones original cover for “Beggar’s Banquet” that featured a dirty bathroom that had been assaulted by the band and wasn’t originally released, the toilet paper cover actually made it to the public and was then pulled.

For a more palatable cover for the times, Smash reissued the album with a psychedelic background featuring pictures of Benno and Russell. The original cover most have had quite a few copies in production as it can be easily found for sale today. There have been several albums that were reissued with a different covers such as The Beatle’s “Yesterday . . . And Today,” Alice Cooper’s “Love it to Death,” “Mom’s Apple Pie,” and Lynryd Skynyrd’s “Street Survivors” that are more difficult to find.

“Look Inside the Asylum Choir” may be one of the few albums with three unique covers. With Leon Russell’s success in the early 1970s, Mercury reissued the album with yet another cover featuring a photo of Russell and Benno. This actually is my favorite version of the album. Although Mercury had discontinued its Smash subsidiary and the cover had the Mercury logo, early pressings of this album still carried the Smash label on the actual discs.

In 1969, the Asylum Choir recorded another album; however, contractual disputes prevented the album’s release until 1971. Once the matter was settled, “Asylum Choir II” was issued by Russell’s Shelter Records’ label. Probably due to Russell’s success at the time, this second Asylum Choir release did much better, as it peaked at #70 on the album charts.

The CD release of “Asylum Choir II” features all but three songs from the band’s first album, including “Welcome to Hollywood,” as bonus tracks. As we wind down this week of the Many Shades of Leon Russell, I have selected “Welcome to Hollywood” – a song that failed to chart as our Saturday Bubbling Under feature.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Many Shades of Leon Russell: Love's Supposed To Be That Way

Today, we feature a song by husband and wife team Leon and Mary Russell. I selected “Love’s Supposed to be that Way,” as it is the only cut on their 1976 “Wedding Album” that was co-written by the couple. As far as the back story, Leon Russell began dating singer Mary McCreary in 1974 and they were married the following year. This is the first of two collaborations before they divorced in 1980. In addition, the couple produced two children.

As for McCreary, she began her career singing in a gospel group, The Heavenly Tomes. This group widened their horizons and styles and became known as Little Sister in the late 1960s. They took the name because one of its members, Vaetta Stewart, was the sister of Sylvester (Stone) and Freddie Stewart of Sly and the Family Stone. Little Sister performed as back-up singers for Sly Stone’s entourage and later recorded a couple of singles on their own for Sly’s Stone Flower Records label.

In 1972, McCreary left Little Sister to focus on a solo career. It was sometime after this that Russell made her acquaintance, and the rest they say is history. The “Wedding Album” was the first release for Russell’s new label, Paradise Records. Earlier that year, Russell and his longtime partner in Shelter Records, Denny Cordell, had irreconcilable differences, and Cordell took sole ownership of the label.

Although it was not a colossal success, the “Wedding Album” did moderately well as it peaked at #34 on the Top 200 Albums chart. This was considerably better than Leon and Mary’s follow-up LP, as “Make Love to the Music” only made it to the 142nd slot. “Love’s Supposed to be that Way” was issued as a flip side of the couple’s single “Rainbow in your Eyes.” Although both songs captured the changes in the music scene of the mid 1970s, neither side charted.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Many Shades of Leon Russell: The Ballad of Mad Dogs & Englishmen

One of several things that increased the visibility of Leon Russell was his impetus in being the music director for Joe Cocker’s “Mad Dogs & Englishmen” tour. Russell assembled the band, which were a veritable who’s who of session and backing musicians. Recorded in March 1970, the corresponding double album was released in August of that same year. Russell played piano and guitar and provided vocals.

A documentary of the tour was filmed in October 1970 and was later released during March 1971. “The Ballad of Mad Dogs & Englishmen,” a somber remembrance of that year’s tour, was recorded by Leon Russell in 1970 for the movie’s closing credits. It is an autobiographical treatment of Leon’s memories of the tour.

The song was issued twice by two different labels. It was released first as a single on A&M and later as an album cut on the album “Leon Russell and The Shelter People” on Shelter Records. Outside of piano and vocal by Russell, the only other instrumentation is the moving string arrangement scored by Nick De Caro.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Many Shades of Leon Russell: If It Wasn't For Bad

When you put two great musicians together, often there is a synergy that produces an output greater than the two musicians can produce individually. That’s what happened when Elton John and Leon Russell teamed up for an album and a tour called “The Union.” Of all of Leon Russell’s projects, it is his second highest charting album at #3. It was only eclipsed by 1972’s “Carney” that peaked at #2.

The signature tune from the album is its opening cut “If It Wasn’t For Bad.” Written by and featuring the lead vocals of Leon Russell, “If It Wasn’t For Bad” was nominated for the “Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals” Grammy. That honor went to Herbie Hancock et al. with their treatment of John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

One thing that confuses me is the track listing which identifies the song as “If It Wasn’t For Bad (featuring Kurt Erwin). “ Erwin’s name is not listed in the credits and I could not find a musician named Kurt Erwin – although there is an account under that name at Sound Cloud. Could this be a joke? Perhaps, it is someone who is using a pseudonym due to contractual arrangements. We may never know, but the important thing is that it features masters of the keyboard Elton John and Leon Russell.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Many Shades of Leon Russell: I Believe To My Soul

For Bluesday Tuesday, here’s what seems like an unlikely pairing of Leon Russell and New Grass Revival. I procured this live album when it came into one of the radio stations where I worked in 1981 as it didn’t fit our format. Being a fan of both Russell and New Grass Revival, it was a perfect addition to my collection and the pairing of the two entities made perfect sense after one listen.

Recorded on May 15, 1980 at Perkins Palace in Pasadena, California, the number I’ve selected was their rendition of the Ray Charles classic “I Believe to My Soul.” Charles’ version of the song was released 20 years previous on the Atlantic Records’ compilation “The Genius Sings the Blues.”

This album features the third incarnation of New Grass Revival that featured Sam Bush (mandolin), Curtis Burch (guitar), Courtney Johnson (banjo), and John Cowan (bass).  Bush, Burch, and Cowan provided back-up vocals to Leon Russell’s lead on “I Believe to My Soul.” On this particular number, Bill Kenner joins the band onstage with acoustic mandolin as Sam Bush is playing a four-string Fender Electric Mandolin (commonly called a Mandocaster); he provides the guitar like leads.

The new Mando-Strat based on the original Fender Electric Mandolin
Fender produced the Fender Electric Mandolin, based on the Stratocaster guitar body, from 1956 to 1976. Beginning in 2013, Fender revived the instrument as the Mando-Strat and once made this classic instrument affordable, as original models of the Fender Electric Mandolin are priced in the $2000+ range. The newer models are available in both 4 and 8-string models while the original was only available as a 4-stringed instrument. Unlike its predecessor, the Mando-Strat, the new instrument is made in Indonesia and not in the good old USA.

This was not the only time Leon Russell and New Grass Revival have joined forces and they make a formidable team. Here’s a video of the same recording, but unfortunately the audio quality is not as good as the above version. However, it gives you a sense of the magic between Leon Russell and New Grass Revival.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Many Shades of Leon Russell: This Masquerade

You may remember the Top 10 hit that George Benson had with “This Masquerade” in 1976. Did you realize that it was a Leon Russell composition that he recorded originally for his “Carney” LP in 1972? Additionally, the song got into the hands of a number of folks that didn’t buy the album but purchased Leon’s highest charting single: “Tightrope.”

I was one of the latter and “This Masquerade” was the flip side of “Tight Rope.” Although the single edit was mixed differently than the album version which is heard here. Instead of the esoteric instrumentation at the song’s beginning lasting 1:22, the single version started directly with Leon’s vocal track.

In addition to George Benson’s hit version, “This Masquerade” was recorded by Helen Reddy, The Carpenters, Shirley Bassey, Willie Nelson, David Sanborn, Robert Goulet, Kenny Rogers, and a host of others. Benson’s hit version won the 1977 Grammy for Record of the Year as well as being nominated for two other Grammy award categories.

Leon’s version also was featured in two movies from 2006: “Bug” and “The Pursuit of Happyness.” This qualifies Leon’s version to also be our Media Mondays’ selection. Of all of Leon’s compositions, “This Masquerade” probably provided him the most income in the form of royalties. Great stuff from 1972.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Many Shades of Leon Russell: Prince of Peace

Last month, I attempted to feature Leon Russell during the second week of the month. Unfortunately after the first two posts, I contracted a dreaded gastrointestinal virus that put me out of commission for three days and in a state of weakness for the remainder of the week. With Leon Russell being the last thing on my mind, I forfeited our feature and planned to resume it in March. We are at that point and I have planned seven days filled with the “Many Shades of Leon Russell.”

Although Russell had be recording for at least a decade as a session musician and had released several recordings with others and had a few non-charting singles on his own, his solo career didn’t really begin until the release of his debut album in 1970.

The working title of this LP was “Can a Blue Man Sing the Whites?”; however, even though the album was advertised under that name, I do not think that it was released under that title. It was the first release for Shelter Records, which at that time was distributed by Blue Thumb Records. Russell’s album was the only one distributed by Blue Thumb before Capitol took over the manufacture and distribution of Leon and Denny Cordell’s label.

For today’s feature, I’ve selected the song “Prince of Peace.” The idea of the song is that you better treat an individual like you want to be treated, because that person might be “the Prince of Peace returning.” Although not a gospel song per se, it does have a spiritual meaning – and hence, I am categorizing it as a Spiritual Sunday selection as well. It’s a perfect addition to our look at the Many Shades of Leon Russell.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Chicago: I'm A Man

Released originally as an album cut from Chicago’s debut LP “Chicago Transit Authority” in 1969, the band’s interpretation of the Spencer Davis Group’s “I’m A Man” finally earned its place in the hearts of Americans with its re-release as B-side in 1971. Because Chicago’s second album was intensely popular, Columbia Records decided to reissue the band’s first single “Questions 67 and 68.”

The first time around in 1969, “Questions 67 and 68” only charted at #71. “Listen” was the single’s original flip side and would return to this status with the issue of “Does Anybody Really Know What Time it Is” released in late 1970. When “Questions 67 and 68” was re-released in 1971, it did considerably better at #24. In addition, radio did the band one better and flipped the single and played “I’m A Man.” It charted as well, but never cracked the Top 40, as it peaked at #49.

The song is unique in that all three lead singers of Chicago each sing a verse in the triplets of verses. Terry Kath sings the first verses, Peter Cetera sings the second in the series, and Robert Lamm rounds out the verses. The album version song also features an extended drum solo by Danny Seraphine. Kath lead guitar and Lamm’s Hammond organ shine on this cut. When not playing their respective horns, Jimmy Pankow, Lee Loughnane, and Walt Parazaider added a variety of percussion.

In addition, Chicago’s debut album was a double album release. This was highly unusual for a yet unknown band to be afforded this opportunity by their record company. The experiment proved quite successful without the help of any hit singles. “Chicago Transit Authority” peaked at #17 in 1969. Although “Questions 67 and 68” had a brief run at success in 1969, it and the other singles from the album (“Does Anybody Really Know What Time it Is” and “Beginnings”) were hits much later.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Episode 1600: The Presidents 5-10-15-20 (25-30 Years of Love)

Today, Reading Between the Grooves celebrates another milestone – our 1600th post. I’ll do a recap in a few minutes, but let’s talk about today’s selection. When I hear the number 1600, my mind typically goes to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and the address of the executive mansion commonly called The White House.

What better way to celebrate post 1600, than to listen to the only hit by The Presidents. Their name wasn’t the only connection to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, as their production company was called White House Productions and the band hailed from our nation’s capital. Produced by Van McCoy (remember “The Hustle”) in 1970, The Presidents scored decently on both the Hot 100 (at #11) and the R&B (at #5) charts with “5-10-15-20 (25-30 Years of Love).

Their only hit was penned by two of the three members of the band: Tony Boyd and Archie Powell. Billy Shorter rounded out the trio. The band would later rebrand as Trilogy and eventually as Anacostia; however, despite the name changes, The Presidents et al. were one-hit wonders. Anacostia continued to record into the 1980s.

RBTG’s 1,600th Post Retrospect

Like I had reported with every other 100th post anniversary, I took a look backward on how we are doing visitor wise. I began this blog on September 26, 2009, but did not start monitoring the visits until October 16, 2009. Currently, we have 95 declared followers of the blog – up from 87 in August 2014. There are many others who have visited frequently without declaring themselves as followers.

As noted with our 1500th post, Google+ remains a major source of new visitors; however, we’ve gained some notoriety in the last six months from Twitter. The hashtag feature works well on both Google+ and Twitter in attracting publicity. Just recently, we had a spike of visitors on February 27, 2015 – this would have occurred the day after we posted Rod Stewart’s “You Wear it Well.”

The cumulative statistics for the blog are listed below:

Unique Visitors173,546
Times Visited195,260
Number of Pages Viewed275,553
People Visiting 200+ Times3,903
People Visiting 101-200 Times1,538
People Visiting 51-100 Times1,363
People Visiting 26-50 Times1,300
Number of Visitor Countries Represented188

The Top Ten Visitor Countries

Since our 1,500th post, two new countries were added to the list: Liechtenstein from Europe and São Tomé and Príncipe off of the coast of Africa. The Top 10 countries remain the same; however, former tenth position Netherlands knocked Spain out of the ninth position.

1United States95,807
2United Kingdom16,550

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

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Bad Company: Good Lovin' Gone Bad

I think it’s been a while since I’ve featured any music from Bad Company. This afternoon, I heard one of their tunes on the radio and I decided I’d feature one of their cuts tonight. Since it’s Thirty Something Thursday, I needed to find a cut that charted between 30 and 39. Luckily, Bad Company had two songs that charted in that range: “Good Lovin’ Gone Bad” that peaked at #36 in 1975 and 1991’s “How About That,” which peaked at #38.

I chose the former, as it is the better known of the two. Written by former Mott the Hoople guitarist Mick Ralphs, “Good Lovin’ Gone Bad” was the first single release from the band’s “Straight Shooter” LP. Of the album’s three singles, it was the second most popular. “Shooting Star,” the second single, failed to chart and the only major hit from the LP was its third release. “Feel Like Making Love” peaked at #10. Whether it be Free, Bad Company, or The Firm; Paul Rodgers vocals are always impeccable.

The Beatles: Cry For A Shadow

“Cry for a Shadow” may be the only recorded composition by George Harrison and John Lennon and one of the few Beatles’ releases featuring Pete Best on drums. It was recorded in Germany in 1961 when The Beatles were working as Tony Sheridan’s back-up band “The Beat Brothers.”

This instrumental was written in the style of The Shadows – England’s premier instrumental band beginning in the 1950s. Although The Shadows served as Cliff Richard back-up band, they also recorded numerous sides as instrumentals featuring the guitar work of Hank Marvin.

The title, “Cry for a Shadow” pays homage to The Shadows, while George Harrison’s lead guitar parts echo Hank Marvin’s style. In additional to Harrison and Best, John Lennon played rhythm guitar and Paul McCartney is on bass and has the only vocal part on the recording – a yell.

The song wasn’t released in the US until 1964 when MGM Records secured the license from Polydor to release it on March 27. It was the flip side to a Tony Sheridan and the Beat Brothers recording of “Why.” On the US release, both sides were credited to The Beatles with Tony Sheridan; however, Sheridan didn’t appear on “Cry for a Shadow.”

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Call it a Landmark or a Milestone, but Orrin Keepnews Crossed Over to the Riverside

You may not recognize his name, but Orrin Keepnews was a mover and a shaker in jazz. Unfortunately, Keepnews passed away on Sunday – one day before his 92nd birthday. In 1953, Keepnews and Bill Grauer founded one of the premier jazz record labels of the decade: Riverside A label that soon gave its rivals, Prestige and Blue Note, a run for the money. At Riverside, Keepnews handled record production while Grauer was in charge of business operations. When Grauer died in 1963, the label quickly folded.

Although Riverside ended in 1964, the label was a jumping off point for artists such as Cannonball Adderley, Theolonious Monk, Bill Evans, Wes Montgomery, and others. Although Riverside had dried up, Keepnews returned to the music business in 1966 with yet another new label: Milestone. By 1972, Fantasy Records acquired Milestone and the masters from Riverside, and Keepnews became Fantasy’s jazz A&R man.

Beginning in 1985, Keepnews launched yet another label: Landmark Records, which eventually was acquired by the Muse in 1993. Over the years, Keepnews was awarded four Grammys: two for production and two for the best liner notes.

In Orrin Keepnews’ honor, we’ll feature a cut from Wes Montgomery’s first album with Riverside. Although Montgomery had recorded two albums for Pacific Jazz, he was not under an exclusive contract with the label. Having heard Montgomery play in an Indianapolis club, Cannonball Adderley insisted that Keepnews sign him to Riverside. Keepnews flew from New York to Indianapolis where he eventually landed at the Missile Blues Club where Montgomery was playing his unique octave runs on the guitar.

In the wee hours of that morning in 1959, Keepnews signed Montgomery to an exclusive contract with Riverside – and the rest is history. Our featured selection is from the “Wes Montgomery Trio” LP: Montgomery’s interpretation of Theolonious Monk’s “Round Midnight” – the first cut on the album – an album produced by Orrin Keepnews.

While Keepnews has crossed over, his impact on jazz will remain indefinitely. Rest in peace.

Live Long and Prosper Leonard Nimoy

On Friday, February 27, 2015, Leonard Nimoy was jettisoned out of the Enterprise into the unknown. Although Nimoy at times was in odds with his Spock persona, he came to embrace the “Star Trek” role for which he was best known. Outside of jamming on the Vulcan lyre with “space hippies,” Nimoy was a recording artist in his own right.

Although best known as a TV star on “Star Trek” and “Mission Impossible,” Nimoy was also a recording artist. It was not unusual for actors in the 1960s to also be bifurcated into the role as musical performers. Nimoy’s recording contract was with Dot Records, which was owned by Paramount – the parent company of Star Trek’s producers’ Paramount Television (formerly known as Desilu Productions).

While none of Nimoy’s recordings were big sellers, I’ve decided to feature his first single release: “A Visit to a Sad Planet” – a recitation (with lots of reverb) over an ethereal backing track. It was released on the 1967 album, “Leonard Nimoy Presents Mr. Spock’s Music from Outer Space.” The album outperformed the single by a considerable amount. The album peaked at #83, while the single only made it to #121.

Although his recording career took a back seat to his acting, it is interesting to hear this recording after all these years. We’ll miss Spock as well as his soul – Leonard Nimoy. Live long and prosper.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Mercury Records: Sunday Will Never Be The Same

I decided to add another post to our Fourth Week Label Special with a classic vocal recording by Spanky & Our Gang. The late 1960s ushered a wave of vocal groups that included The Mamas & the Papas, the New Seekers, The Cowsills, The 5th Dimension, and Spanky & Our Gang. The latter was fronted by Elaine “Spanky” McFarlane and took their name from the original name used for Hal Roach’s Little Rascals shorts – “Our Gang” and one of their lead characters George “Spanky” McFarland.

Their first single and their biggest hit, “Sunday will Never be the Same” was written by Terry Cashman and Gene Pistillli and was previously released on Cashman, Pistilli, and West’s debut album “Bound to Happen” on ABC Records. “Sunday will Never be the Same” was initially offered to The Mamas & the Papas who were signed to ABC’s Dunhill subsidiary.

What was The Mamas & the Papas’ loss became Spanky & Our Gang’s gain. The single put the band on the charts with a Top 10 hit that peaked at #9 in 1967. Spanky & Our Gang would have several additional hits on Mercury, but none would eclipse their debut single – “Sunday will Never be the Same.”