At the risk of sounding twee I will say that in some ways knowing nothing about a band can be a good thing. There are no preconceptions because all you have to gauge the music is the music itself and art work. The music has to stand on its own. This is, perhaps, how it should be but popular music is more than just music, as has been proven many times.
The Rockspurs seem to be New Yorkers (well at least a couple of them are) who signed to English label DJM which had distribution and offices in the US.
Lead vocalist and bassist, Greg Hollister, had been in rock bands "The Silver Caboose" and , "Anthem" who released an album in 1970 and then went on to tour and do sessions in the 70s and 80s. He is currently in the band Marco de Sade.
New Yorker and guitarist Mike Festa ended up playing guitar, in the 80s, for Shakin Stevens. He now lives in Adelaide, Australia and fronts "Mike Festa & Bluesmen".
That's about it on history.
Artwork … make up your mind yourself but, in this age, charges of sexism would be levelled … especially regarding the back sleeve. The hand on the fly is a giveaway. Then again the album is called "Getting Off …", what did you expect?
But, to be fair, the late 70s was littered with hard rock, power pop and pub rock sleeves like this. A sign of the times? We are better than that now? And our music is better also?
The Rockspurs seem to be another rock band jumping on the skinny tie new wave, power pop
phenomena at the end of the 70s.
That said, this album was released in the very early days of new wave rock (in 1979) whilst their first self titled album was released in 1978 (and apparently is more of the same) and, accordingly, the band gets kudos for being earlier than the opportunistic efforts by latter-day "power-pop" bands.
The Rockspurs aren't fully power pop, they aren't frantic and there are quite a few standard hard rock and mainstream rock stylings but they hit enough power pop markers to come in under the banner. They also have strong vocal harmonies, sometimes sounding like power pop if it was done by The Four Seasons.
They are perhaps a bit more on the Greg Kihn (or The Babys) side, with nods to mid 70's Graham Parker.
Jerky hook laden pop with harmonies.
The musicianship is strong and there is a bit of humour and "street" attitude.
Power pop fans will, ultimately, get into this like this as there are a few good power pop songs, and there is that evocative artwork which reflects power pops musical obsessions with girls, love, sex, and good times.
Tracks (best in italics)
Thinkin' About The Good Times – (Gregg Hollister) – a good song though a little underwhelming.
She Can't Get Off – (Michael Festa, Mick Moran) – this one has more new wave stylings though it falls back on standard rock motifs.
Dream Love – (Michael Festa) – hmmm
You're With Me Tonight -(Mick Moran, Richard Tannum) – a hoot of a song with good vocals.
I Wish There Were More To The Story -(Michael Festa) – a pleasant song with some attitude.
Red Light Runner – (Mick Moran) – another good power pop tune.
Night Full Of Rain – (Gregg Hollister, Peter Yellen) – a retreat to 70s rock
I Could Give You It All – (Mick Moran) – quirky power pop but quite mainstream … this is just lazy. They could have committed fully to the sound.
Sabotage – (Gregg Hollister) – Someone said, "And now I will write a power pop song". This is full on new wave power pop. It's obvious and a little funny (with a few punk overtones , "annihilate" is used rather that "destroy" and "anarchy") but it is totally enjoyable.
I have a lot of power pop and I'm not a singular power pop fan … I will tape a couple and sell. But … you never know …
I had no knowledge about this band till now. They weren't on my radar and that's strange because the 80s and the 90s were the decades I spent a lot of time searching out new non-mainstream sounds, especially from the US.
I have high hopes for this. The band are American, look vaguely cowpunk-ish, are on a indie label, and have a cool name.
Cause for concern is that it is 1987, a little after the cowpunk genre had peaked, it was recorded in New Jersey (not that there is anything wrong with that but most cowpunk came from California) and they look quite slick.
The concern is mainly ill founded.
The Brandos are a roots rock band who have their roots in power pop and indie rock from the west coast.
Allmusic: " The gritty, back-to-basics rock & roll of New York's the Brandos has roots in the Seattle scene, but not the one that become famous. Brandos frontman Dave Kincaid once led the Allies, an early-'80s power pop band that won an MTV contest with the video for "Emma Peel." However, the new wave-influenced acts emanating from the EmeraldCity back then received little attention outside of the Pacific Northwest so Kincaid split from the Allies and moved to New York in 1985. While skimming through the Village Voice, Kincaid saw an ad from the group Soul Attack looking for another lead singer. Kincaid joined the band and changed their name to the Brandos. Featuring Kincaid on vocals and guitar, Ed Rupprecht (guitar), Ernie Mendillo (bass, vocals), and Larry Mason (drums), the Brandos released their first album, Honor Among Thieves, on Relativity Records in 1987. The Brandos reaped positive coverage in Rolling Stone and Time; moreover, the video for "Gettysburg" was played often on MTV, a channel that rarely supported artists on indie labels. In 1988, Kincaid was chosen as Best Male Vocalist (Independent Label) at the New York Music Awards. The Brandos also left Relativity that year to sign with Geffen Records. But the Geffen deal was tangled in legal hassles, and the group ended up at RCA Records in 1989. RCA dropped the Brandos after they finished their second LP, Trial by Fire, in 1990. The Brandos' third album, Gunfire at Midnight, was distributed by Germany's SPV Records in 1992. Rupprecht and Mason departed from the band in 1993, replaced by ex-Del Lords members Scott Kempner (guitar) and Frank Funaro (drums). In 1996, Frank Giordano (vocals, guitar) was added to the lineup; the group's fourth LP, Pass the Hat, also appeared that year. Kincaid completed a solo album in 1997 but returned to the Brandos for another LP and gigs in Europe with Bryan Adams, Van Morrison, and Deep Purple"
The band have a following in Europe and have recorded 13 albums. Lead singer and main songwriter Dave Kincaid has also recorded a couple of solo albums.
This debut album would have tickled me back in 1987. Listening to it now I still find it enjoyable though what came after it in roots and Americana has tarnished it a little perhaps.
A lot of the roots rock (and some of the cowpunk) from the 80s sounds quite slick today. At the time though it was anything but. The mainstream 80s, as I have said somewhere else was filled with some of the most dire music ever recorded. The dominant 80s sound ruined everything and was all pervasive. Even rockers and rootsy folkers from the 60s and 70s put out 80s albums that sounded over produced and slick. The only relief was from the US alternative indie scene … roots rockers, hardcore punk, paisley underground, leftover power poppers and any number of other fringe dwellers.
But, even then, the production techniques were against them. And, music is a job and most (well not the hardcore punkers) wanted sales and things couldn't get to dirty.
The ragged edges of the 70s roots rockers were filled out.
There is nothing wrong with this. I loved it then because it was different to the mainstream 80s, had links to American musical traditions and sounded positively confrontational when placed against the 80s mainstream.
But, we would have to wait till the 90s for roots, Americana, rock and roll to start sounding rightfully ragged again.
It is sad because ten years later and all these roots rockers would have the perfect mainstream rock sound and would have made a lot of cash.
Think The Del Lords, The Beat Farmers, The Blasters, True Believers, The Long Ryders, Jason and the Scorchers … and I don't mind thinking these bands as these are all bands I loved in the 80s, and still do.
The Brandos may have jumped on a rootsy bandwagon given their pedigree.
"The Allies had risen out of the ashes of Bighorn, a popular Seattle group that made a big-time, major-label record in 1976 and toured behind arena rockers like REO Speedwagon. After Bighorn tanked in 1979, drummer Adamek switched to guitar and fronted the Allies with newcomer Kincaid. The Allies gigged with abandon around Seattle for quite a spell, but Adamek quit the group after they failed to cash in on the buzz surrounding their self-released debut, and Kincaid called it a day in 1984. He switched coasts to try his luck in a bigger pond – New York City … The Brandos, in short order, David Kincaid had his second brush with greatness by, cynics might claim, hopping on yet another bandwagon. During the mid-80's, numerous American rockers were embracing their ostensible roots: country, folk, blues, and rock 'n' roll played the way God intended – loud and unencumbered. Perhaps these bands were reacting to the fey, synthesized road rock had taken since new wave supplanted disco in the hearts of the fickle public. Regardless, this "American Music" movement spawned acts as illustrious as the Blasters, Los Lobos, Long Ryders, Del Fuegos, and BoDeans, leading eventually to the acoustic-based "Americana" movement that persists to this day … Anyway, David Kincaid's new band, the Brandos (formed with former Allies drummer Larry Mason and members of local New York rockers Soul Attack) unblinkingly embraced this burgeoning genre. The Brandos readily affected the trappings common to bands of this ilk – working-class couture, heroic swagger, and a fetishistic obsession with American history".http://www.randysrodeo.com/pop/allies.php
Their roots rock don't come from a punk, new wave or outsiders background though I think come from Kincaid and a real interest in American musical history (and history generally). Kincaid is sharp and has throaty John Fogerty-like vocals with conviction.
The band combines roots rock, with some hard rock & folk rock. The songs were given big rock productions with a tendency to anthemic sounds with (over) emotion always on display. The sound is very 90's so it amazing to hear this kind of sound in 1987.
The Brandos never spent much time in the sweaty trenches with their genre mates. After this albums release they were on MTV rotation, touring the U.S. and Europe, opening for The Georgia Satellites, INXS, The Cars and The Alarm and being reviewed favourably reviewed by out of touch, well behind the event, old fart magazines like Rolling Stone, Creem and Time (in its music review section). They even won Best Album (Independent Label) for this album at the New York Music Awards (Kincaid won Best Male Vocalist (Independent Label)).
I sound like I'm criticizing the band. I'm not. Well, not entirely. The Brandos have the skills, and there is some very angry writing in there (and befits the American indie underground of the 80s) as well as a couple of well chosen covers (every album should have a couple of covers as far as I'm, concerned).
It may be slick roots rock but is sure would have sounded good in the 80s.
Produced and arranged by Dave Kincaid.
Tracks (best in italics)
Gettysburg – (Creston Funk / Dave Kincaid) – catchy, full sound, sobering subject matter.
A Matter of Survival – (Dave Kincaid) – another catchy song (with a pulsating beat that reminds me a little of "Dont Fear the Reaper" by the Blue Oyster Cult) though there are some old school guitar wankerisms.
Nothing to Fear – (Creston Funk / Dave Kincaid) – …
Honor Among Thieves – (Dave Kincaid) – deliberately slow paced and angry but obscure. I assume it is about 80s greed, banks and the financial crisis at the time.
Strychnine – (Gerald Roslie) – The Sonics magnificent song from 1966. A good version …pity about the production on the 80s drums.
Hard Luck Runner – (Dave Kincaid) – …
In My Dreams – (Creston Funk / Dave Kincaid) – a slow grind.
Walking on the Water – (John Fogerty) – "Walk on the Water" was a song on. Creedence Clearwater Revival's first album from 1968. The track is a remake of "Walking on the Water", a recording released by the band as a single, in 1966, while they were still known as The Golliwogs. He has the right voice for this and sounds a little like Fogerty … and there is nothing wrong with that
Come Home – (Dave Kincaid) – the folk ballad which is given the big treatment … and again a little like Creedence.
Patchy, but with enough good songs in a genre of music I like … I'm keeping it.
Kincaid's solo albums are songs of irish volunteers in the US civil war. Allmusic: "Singer David Kincaid was best known as the frontman of the roots-rock band the Brandos when he took a break from contemporary life and music to join the 116th, a Civil War re-enactment troop. His fascination with history led him to begin researching the obscure traditional songs sung by Irish Union soldiers during the war between the states". http://www.allmusic.com/artist/david-kincaid-mn0001446804
This has been floating around for ages. I had it, I listened to it, I tried to sell it, and somehow it ended back in my "to listen pile".
At the time I thought this sounded too much like Elvis Costello and I found lot of Elvis Costello boring (yes, even the early stuff before he became American) but to be fair I haven't listened to all of Elvis Costello's albums.
It seems I'm not the only one that thinks this.
That The Jags sound like Elvis Costello not that a lot of Elvis Costello music is boring. Every review of the time or subsequently compares The Jags to Costello or The Rumour – some positively and some referring to them as mimics.
Wikipedia: "The Jags were a British rock band formed in North Yorkshire in 1978, composed of Nick Watkinson (vocals), John Alder (guitar/backing vocals), Steve Prudence (bass), firstly Neil Whittaker and then Alex Baird (drums), Michael Cotton (bass/backing vocals) and Patrick O'Toole (piano/keyboard) … They signed to Island Records in July 1978 and initially released a four-track EP … On 8 September 1979, the power pop single "Back of My Hand", written by Watkinson and left-handed guitarist Alder, entered the UK Singles Chart. It had a chart life of 10 weeks and peaked at number 17. "Back of My Hand" was included on their debut album Evening Standards, which was released the following year. Their follow-up single "Woman's World" entered the UK chart on 2 February 1980 at number 75 – dropping out the next week … 1981 saw the release of their second, and what proved to be, final album, No Tie Like a Present. The Jags disbanded in 1982".
There is a massive power pop fan base on line and The Jags first album seems to get reviewed and commented on a lot but a lot of it is just rehash because the band were short lived, a one (small) hit wonder (in England) and didn't really have a big, lasting impact.
Does this mean they are bad?
No, not at all, music is about enjoyment (for us the listener) but for the band some longevity, notoriety or substanital success would have helped pay the bills.
The Jags were a product of their time but it was a good time. Both sides of the Atlantic (but especially the US) were overrun which power pop bands. The Knack, The Romantics, The DBs, Cheap Trick, The Cars, Dwight Twilley, The Vapors, Bram Tchaikovsky . The Nerrves, The Plimsouls.
Strong song writing, nice harmonies, punchy guitars or touches of 12-String Rickenbacker, lyrics about love or love lost make for pretty good toe tapping listening.
I prefer my power pop American because there seems to be more of a tradition to the 60s (as opposed to just trying to sound 60s) and they also like to mix it up a little and experiment in a genre where bands are not known for their experimentation. Power pop bands tended to stick to the formula (a good one though) and only experimented on subsequent albums. Most power pop bands (like the Jags)) did follow up albums in a different styles altogether rather than tweaking power pop by adding to it.
By all accounts The Jags had the live chops but couldn't escape the Costello shadow.
"One positive constant of the band’s early press coverage is the assertion they were one of the most professional, musically tight and entertaining live acts on the U.K. new-wave/punk-pop circuit. Great rock ‘n’ roll lives onstage; by all accounts the Jags were a great live band. It should be also explained to American readers that the U.K. music press has the deserved reputation in some circles as being vicious and just plain arbitrary. Then, as now, they can saddle a band either as a “next big thing” or as unworthy of any attention—and then hammer the public relentlessly with their pontification. By 1979, Costello had been anointed by the U.K. music press as a pop savior, with all others to be seen as unworthy of even attempting his singular style. The Jags were easy targets as industry newcomers". http://www.magnetmagazine.com/2009/07/31/the-jags-power-goes-pop/
Guitarists Watkinson and Alder join on vocal harmonies and recall the young McCartney and Lennon and others but they aren't The Beatles and they lack the new-wave anger of Graham Parker, Elvis Costello or and Jackson which was rewuired.
Power pop died pretty quickly on the UK whilst in America its legs were a little longer, just a little.
As steam ran out of power pop, the band attempted to change their sound a bit. 1981's "No Tie Like The Present", featured a new direction (and some new personnel) but it was overlooked. They toughened up their sound, toning down the keyboards, amping up the guitars, and ending up sounding more like The Clash
I do like Albert Hammond. Check out the other blog entries for biographical details and ruminations.
I've said this before, and I've even used this before but I like it.
When I commented on his 1977 album, "When I Need You" on this blog I said: "This album is straight MOR (middle of the road) and a lot of the cringe worthy elements of male MOR are here. Dramatic lyrics, words laden with meaning, overwrought arrangements and a distinct lack of humour. But, there is something worthwhile going on here…… sincerity and sensitivity. Hammond is like a more sensitive Tom Jones who seduces his listener rather than beats them into submission. The other point of comparison and probably a better one would be 70s era Neil Diamond though without Neil's occasional lapses into pretension".
This album is from 1982 and as I'm about to drop the needle I'm hoping that the 80s mainstream sound, which ruined so many records, isn't prevalent here.
This screams early 80s mainstream. There are funky rhythms, screechy guitars, muted vocals, chorused backing vocals all surrounded in a nice full sound.
This is mainly wretched music.
The record was recorded in Los Angeles with slick sessionmen and the sound is very adult themed rock as you would expect from 1982.
Hammond was always, or seems to be, a generous song writer and here all the tracks bar two are co-writes.
Jennings is a professional songwriter from the US (who worked with Steve Winwood a lot). Lauren Wood is a singer-songwriter from the US. Osborne is a English songwriter who entered the music business at age 15 in the 60s and is most notable fro working with Elton John.
Hammond, from what I have heard, doesn't need a co-writer so any act is him just being generous.
Or maybe he had writer's block?
Either way I think the co-writers have hindered more than helped him. Some of the tunes are just wrong for him.
Hammond doesn't sound like himself a lot. He sounds like any number of other 30 something singers of the time. Robert Palmer, Peter Gabriel, Steve Winwood, Elton John, Joe Cocker, Phil Collins, Donald Fagen, Chris de Burgh , Peter Cetera, Leo Sayer, Kenny Loggins, Neil Diamond … all popular at the time.
And, all ranging from patchy to total rubbish.
Albert Hammond what have you done?
Gibraltarian Hammond hadn't hit the US charts since 1974 (even less in the UK).
I think this was an attempt to re-enter the American market.
The albums title, the inoffensive colourful sleeve for grown ups, the Los Angeles recording, the co-writes with writers popular at the time, the clean soulless production.
But, it failed and I'm happy it did.
Hammond needed a kick for this. It's too calculated.
He is so much better than this.
Tracks (best in italics)
The Light At The End Of The Line – (Hammond – Will Jennings) – quite good lyrically with a good melody but that production and synth … urrgh.
Sweet Defector – (Hammond – Lauren Wood) – total rubbish and the guitar by Richie Zito is awful. (by that I mean the sound … he is a good guitar player)
Rendezvous – (Bruce Springsteen_, the song was originally recorded during Springsteen's "Darkness On The Edge Of Town" sessions in 1977 but it wasn't released, as a live version until 1998 and then as a studio version in 2010. The song was donated to The Greg Kihn Band for their album "With The Naked Eye" (1979). It was also recorded by Gary U.S. Bonds for the Springsteen produced album, "On The Line" (1982). The song is very Springsteen (not surprisingly) though this version has no balls and sounds a little out of place.
Shoot 'Em Up, Shoot 'Em Down – (Hammond – Gary Osborne) – You could hear Elton John doing this circa 1980. Rubbish.
Hero On Parade – (Elton John – Gary Osborne) – Originally the song was called "Sweetheart on Parade. Elton John never released it, but his demo of the song is available. The song in its original version is written for a woman to sing. It may have been intended for Kiki Dee, but she never recorded it. Not surprisingly this is very Elton John but it's not too bad.
Oh, What A Time – (Hammond – Will Jennings) – there is some channelling of John Lennon here … and it works. A great song.
Before You Change The World – (Hammond – Gary Osborne) – so so.
The Right Time – (Hammond – Gary Osborne) – more Elton John (or Billy Joel) but Hammond sings it well let down by the guitar again.
Doe Was The Loving Kind – (Hammond – Will Jennings) – a catchy tune and very much in the Albert Hammond style. Excellent.
Somewhere In America – (Hammond – Will Jennings) – very similar to Supertramp. Lyrically, thematically and by sound. Catchy.
Patchy and probably the worst Hammond album I have heard but there are some great tunes so for the sake of completeness (yet again) … I'm keeping it.
Apart from having a couple of Marc Benno solo albums and a couple of him with Leon Russell, I had no idea who Marc Benno was before pulling this out of the pile behind me.
Marc Benno fans may say "shame on you" but there is no shame in that. Benno isn't a household name and when he had his shot at the big time he was localised to the US and I was a small child in Australia.
But, Benno had a not insubstantial recording career throughout the late 60s and 70s, which seems to have amped up in the 2000s (no doubt due to the cheap recording and pressing available).
Wikipedia's entire entry on Benno is this, "Marc Benno (born July 1, 1947, Dallas, Texas) is an American singer-songwriter and guitarist … Benno was a member of The Asylum Choir with Leon Russell in the late 1960s, and launched a solo career in the early 1970s, with his 1972 effort Ambush being the most commercially successful. He wrote the song "Rock 'n Roll Me Again", which was recorded by the band The System for the soundtrack to the 1985 film Beverly Hills Cop; this soundtrack won a Grammy Award. Benno also worked with musicians such as The Doors, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Rita Coolidge. Benno was the second guitar player on The Doors L.A. Woman alongside Robby Krieger".
What it doesn't say is how he performed in Dallas in the 1960s with Steve Miller, Boz Scaggs, members of the Eagles and ZZ Top before joining Asylum Choir and going solo. He later toured with Rita Coolidge as her lead guitarist, opened for The Byrds at Royal Albert Hall in London, was Lightnin' Hopkins bandleader and lead guitarist, and then formed Marc Benno & The Nightcrawlers, which had a young Stevie Ray Vaughan on guitar.
Texas, 70s, old Afro-Americans … this is heading into white blues territory.
Benno says on his website (http://www.marcbenno.com/interview.php), "My first influences were hits on the radio, and the Cats Caravan Show on WRR radio. WRR played all the real good stuff, like Jimmy Reed, Little Richard and Ray Charles. Their theme song was "Night Train." The daytime radio played hits by the Coasters, the Drifters, and a lot of white artists, from Buddy Holly to Elvis, and whoever had a hit record. These hit makers came to Dallas in 1959, while I was working for my dad in the beer garden at The StateFairMusic Hall. He snuck me in backstage, and my life was never the same. I met Sam Cooks, Paul Anka, and these guys throwing combs out the window to screaming chick fans. The show-biz bug bit me for good right then. It wasn't until I was 16 that I heard "Lightnin'" Hopkins over at a friend's house, and began to get into the blues. At Cains Ballroom in Oklahoma City is the first time I met him and ended up touring with him as 2nd guitarist. Everybody thought I knew him, but it was really Mance Lipscomb that I knew, and I thought Mance was Lightnin Hopkins when I first saw him at San Jacks Café in Austin. Mance gave me my license to play the blues"
He goes on to say, "Well, for years I listened to nothing but the blues. As has been said before, all the Kings, Juniors, Bigs and Littles. Lately, it's been nothing but Chet Baker. He is the most no tricks singer I've ever heard. My favorite unknown guitarist is Lenny Breau. My favorite pianist is Bill Evans. And I like Johnny "Guitar" Watson's Bow Wow CD. I've been playing piano a lot lately and learning classics, like "It Could Happen to You.", "Like Someone in Love', and some contemporary standards. My guitar playing has been used mostly writing originals for my new CD. But definitely Lightnin Hopkins, Jimmie Reed, Albert King, Kenny Burrell and Johnny "Guitar" Watson are my biggest influences. And jazz musicians are incredible. They have unlimited chops. They know their instruments. Of course, the classical masters are an inspiration when I'm relaxing".
Despite sidelines the blues are part of his musical makeup. That's why I approach this album with some trepidation. White blues, when done faithfully to black blues, leaves me a little cold and bored. It can never be as good as the black blues. But, if it is given a new set of clothes and taken out on the arm of the white musician then it can work.
This was Benno's fifth album and third solo album and it was 1972. The blues had gone through it's rock n roll stage, it's acoustic folk stage, its home grown white R&B stage, its British invasion R&B stage, it's heavy electric and acid blues stage and its funky stage.
But, rock blues was still very popular especially with its heavy electric and funk overtones.
Led Zeppelin, Blind Faith, Derek and the Dominos, The Allman Brothers Band, ZZ Top, Mountain, Canned Heat, Cactus, Humple Pie, Sly & the Family Stone, Cold Blood, Ides of March, Leon Russell, Delaney and Bonnie and many others were all doing well..
If you were a serious musician you played the blues.
Benno had his roots in the blues and clearly could play and sing (though his vocals at times aren't forceful enough), write and entertain. It was a no-brainer.
Benno plays the blues on this album in the laid back lazy and funky style as was the style at the time – Clapton solo, JJ Cale.
The problems of 1972 are subsumed into style over content, though the trouble of the times comes through in the mood. Benno has separated the two album sides into two sounds. The first side is pure funk blues and more often than not it does just emulate the Afro-Americans but there are interesting asides – the chuggin saxophone and the slide guitar. The second side is blue eyed soul of the deep soul variety with moody keyboards and white boy bluesy ballads.
The band are tight Mike Utley (keyboards), Carl Radle (bass), Jim Keltner (drums and percussion), Bobby Keys (saxophone). They are tight and you have to be tight to sound this loose.
This album had a lot going for it but only reached #197 in the album charts. That was his highest solo placing.
Benno's solo career did very little., but should have done better.
For me, a little of this goes a long way unless it is really dressed up in new clothes.
Tracks (best in italics)
Poor Boy – (Irvin Benno / Marc Benno ) – a very funky blues workout
Southern Women – even better. Guitar is by legendary native American session guitarist Jesse ed Davis while Benno is on piano. Muscular and fun.
Jive Fade Jive – an instrumental workout that is incredibly funky with some jazz overtones. Wonderful
Hall Street Jive – Slide Guitar by Jesse Ed Davis and a great tune. Some great asides.
Share – Horns by Booker T. Jones on this deep soul ballad. Very familiar but very good.
Donut Man – (Irvin Benno / Marc Benno) – a great reflective ballad, of its time but undeniably mood soaked.
Sunshine Feelin – (Irvin Benno / Marc Benno / Mike Utley) – standard white slow electric blues. The kind I find the most difficult to listen to.
Here to Stay Blues – (Irvin Benno / Marc Benno) – Shared vocals with Bonnie Bramlett. Bramlett has great lungs and this blues works.
Either Way It Happens – Bass – Ray Brown. Low key smouldering jazz blues with some squeaky vocals,
I've said before a little of this goes a long way with me. There is nothing really new here (not even by 1972 standards) but it is done so well … I may just keep this.
Los Indios Tabajaras, in their most famous and longest incarnation, are two brothers from Brazil who play guitar instrumentals (check my other comment for biographical detail).
Their record label played up the exotic foreignness of the music as well as its from a time past beauty. Words like "freshness", "uncluttered", "purity" and "beauty" are always thrown around on the liner notes.
This album begins with a heading "music in all its natural beauty" and ends with "This is tranquilizing music — heady with melody, smooth as velvet, languid without laziness. You're invited to relax with Los Indios Tabajaras and their entrancing potion of beautiful music."
Recorded in New York in 1965 this is easy listening music for those (inevitably older types) who were tired of The Beatles, frat rock and surf music.
Mainly popular in South America Los Indios Tabajaras had broken into the US market in 1963 with a big hit "Maria Elena" (#6 pop, #3 easy listening) and were regular album sellers.
Most people dismiss Los Indios Tabajaras’ lush guitar instrumentals as elevator music, but there is a lot more to them than that. This is not a simple cash in on sounds of the day by a couple of guitar virtuosos. For on thing the virtuosity is not up front and in your face. What Los Indios do is create mood. Song selection, instrumentation, recording and the ears of Los Indios all combine to create a otherworldly, dreamy, relaxed mood. This is chill out music before it existed and it's organic and free range at that.
They did trad or faux trad South American music, classical, pop, and film songs, but, all are subsumed in their musical persona and within their guitar style.
This album, like most of their albums (that I have heard) after they hit it big in the US is a mix of film songs and familiar standards (some of which were pop hits at the time).
For me the music soothes and relaxes. The mix of familiar melodies and thoughtful expression of them massages my brain with its familiarity. Even if you were brought up on
punk music some of these songs are familiar just because they have been around a long time, been covered, been used in ads, in films and they are, errr standards.
This is music to be enjoyed alone.
The music could work for dinner parties though the clang, clatter and chatter would possibly drown out the subtle complexities (yes, subtle complexities) of the harmonics. Six people sitting around, not speaking whilst sipping on liqueurs would be a perfect listening environment … but where are you going to find six people in this age willing to do that?
Well, maybe if I supply the liqueur.
This album could be called, "Los Indios Tabajaras play Frank Sinatra and other songs". I don't know if this was intentional but there are five songs Sinatra did. Of course Sinatra was prolific, very popular and err, sang standards so there is probably nothing in it.
Tracks (best in italics)
Love Is a Many Splendored Thing – (Paul Francis Webster / Sammy Fain) – from the 1955 film of the same name. The song won the Oscar for Best Original Song. The Four Aces went to #1 with it in 1955. Frank Sinatra recorded in 1964. A beautiful version of a beautiful song. The melody is perfect. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_Is_a_Many-Splendored_Thing_(song)
Begin the Beguine – (Cole Porter) – The trad pop jazz standard. Sinatra recorded the song in 1944. Los Indios have increased the Latin in the song and it was always quite Latin. This is a good infectious version. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begin_the_Beguine
The Washington Flowers – (Natalicio Lima) – an original and quite good
Harbour Lights – (Jimmy Kennedy / Hugh Williams) – I have always loved this song though the first time I heard it was in the late 70s on an Elvis Presley album. He recorded it in 1954 though it wasn't released till 1976 (on "Elvis – A Legendary Performer Volume 2"). The song has an otherworldly quality. With lyrics the song is bout a lost love or, rather, love ended by a departure. Without lyrics it still captures that. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harbor_Lights
Lisboa Antigua – (Rômulo Portela / José Galhardo / Amadeu do Vale ) – a #1 for Nelson Riddle's orchestra in 1956 and then used as the theme in the film "Lisbon" (1956). Beautiful https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lisbon_Antigua
The Greatest Story Ever Told – (Alfred Newman) – from the 1965 film of the same name. The title is the "Jesus of Nazareth (Main theme) from the film (I think). As you would from a song about Jesus Christ this is suitably reverential
Check out my other comments for details and background on Mickey Newbury.
You will need something on background because Mickey isn't a household name even though he was extremely influential as a songwriter.
He wrote songs that were covered by Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Kenny Rogers, Andy Williams (!), Johnny Cash, Scott Walker, Ray Charles, Joan Baez, Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette, The Box Tops, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Nick Cave and others. He has been recorded over 1300 times by more than 1000 performers
Musicians know and love him.
The proof is in the covers. But, what is less discernable but is still there amongst the songwriter musicians is when they take his approach to a song when they write.
Newbury writes lyrics that are incredibly personal. His songs are about loss, love and life stripped bare of bravado. The songs are confessional, naked and sincere. Musically, he always seems to be trying to make sure the music reflects the lyrical content in both rhythm and structure. He is not adverse to using studio tricks or sound affects in his music if that will help create the desired mood in the lyrics.
Newbury wasn't the first person to write personal songs in country. Hank Williams made a career of it in the late 40s and early 50s. Newbury wasn't even the only one doing in the late 1960s, Kris Kristofferson, John Hartford, Buck Owens, and others were doing the same.
Newbury was, perhaps, the most fragile and wounded of the new writers but he was also, perhaps, the least wedded to country sounds even though he embraced his country music history.
He brought post Dylan folky ruminations and a gentle pop sensibility to his country music..
For the purpose of this comment I will refer to something I have said in an earlier comment on this blog:
"It is Newbury's subtlety and thoughtfulness (sic) that put him at the forefront of "progressive country". "Progressive Country" roots lie in traditional country, roots music, folk, Americana, regional rock n roll and was largely comprised of younger country songwriters writing country music with naked honesty, which is no mean feet as country music generally is "nakedly honest" (think Hank Williams, Patsy Cline). What they did do was write incredibly personal songs much like their "singer-songwriter" relatives in the pop field with an ear to the past. The other thing they did was sing their own material regardless of the quality of the voice. Consequently, they have put out many albums and are well respected but their songs are often associated with other singers. Think Townes Van Zandt, Danny O'Keefe, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Terry Allen, John Hartford, Billy Joe Shaver, Butch Hancock, Gene Clark, Tom T. Hall, John Prine, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Guy Clark, Dennis Linde, etc. Some of those artists moved into the more up-tempo "outlaw country" whilst the rest continued on and eventually became the spiritual cornerstones of "alt country" in the 80s and 90s".
I don't move away from that but the more Mickey Newbury I listen to the more Newbury impresses me with his instinctual knowledge of American music. He is Americana, country, singer songwriter, folk, progressive country, old timey, pop and even rock at times. There are hints of all that in his style of music.
This was his second album.
Mickey found success in the late 60s as a songwriter. He was among the hottest new songwriters in Nashville at the time with many writing credits (and hits) to his name. He signed to RCA and recorded (and released) an album he was dissatisfied with ("Harlequin Melodies" (1968) ). The record label had their eyes on commerciality and produced the record accordingly. That album is undervalued – it may not have sounded like what he wanted in his mind but it was still beautiful. Mickey negotiated his way out of his contract with RCA, and signed with Mercury Records on the condition that he got total artistic control. For his second album, this album, he left the mainstream Nashville recording establishment and went to the tiny Cinderella Sound studio in a Nashville garage.
And, there , he was allowed to put down the sound in his head. It may not have been Nashville country commercial but you can hear in Mickey's music The Beach Boys (apparently Mickey admired "Pet Sounds"), Simon and Garfunkel, Scott Walker and others.
The 60s was a time of change both musically and socially. The late 60s seemed to be at crisis point, between incredible achievement and age old strife. Man was landing on the moon, people were marching in Chicago, the Vietnam was ongoing, environmental degradation was becoming obvious.
Society was changing and there was new openness of expression in talking about feelings, politics, society.
Mickey was less interested in the big picture than how people communicate with each other in those changing times. In true country fashion though he had his eye on the past. These people and where they come from form a line where their problems are much the same as the problems of those than preceded them.
Thanks to changing times he was, however, able to discuss those problems in a different way to those musicians before him.
This album is a concept album not in a narrative way but by virtue all the songs are similar in tone. A country concept album, think about it. They were miles ahead of where mainstream country is now.
Admittedly, the album is also of its time. There are psych asides (well, it was 1969) and sound effects that would fit on an easy listening album (rain, wind, train whistles, ghosts)
But, the album is visionary. The listener is drawn into the narrators world. One of uncertainty, a dreamlike hallucinatory emotional landscape where heartbreak, loneliness, madness and despair exist all to the sound of wind chimes and rain.
It's as if you are sitting in a s mall country bar, after hours, on a dark, rainy night and listening to the musician unwinding and playing to himself on the stage.
He was backed on these records by Area Code 615, a group that included the cream of Nashville studio musicians—Charlie McCoy, Jerry Kennedy, Wayne Moss, Kenneth Buttrey, and Farrell Morris — much the same crew who had just backed Bob Dylan on his albums Blonde on Blonde (1966), John Wesley Harding (1967) and Nashville Skyline (1969).
Needless to say songs that evoke moods, stretched to lengths that weren't radio-friendly, are a hard sell. Mercury didn't like or didn't understand what they heard, but they released it Whether the record was pushed or not I don't know but there was little in the way of sales. But there was enough there for Newbury to keep recording and he was picked up by a label known for it adventurousness, Elektra.
Jerry Kennedy and Bob Beckham produced though clearly with Mickey had a hand in there. In any event Kennedy worked with a lot of Nashville renegades and is happy to let them express.
This is not country as you know it but is country and it is a highpoint of country singer songwriter
The liner notes by Kris Kristofferson.
Tracks (best in italics)
Write A Song A Song / Angeline – a beautiful song. Like a country version of "Whiter Shade of Pale"
She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye – The song had been recorded by Jerry lee Lewis in 1969 (#2 Country US) . Jerry Lee nails this and probably does it better though Newbury's woman saying "goodbye" has a different vibe and, probably, different reasons for going. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/She_Even_Woke_Me_Up_to_Say_Goodbye
I Don't Think Much About Her No More – Almost otherworldly with its heavenly chorus and asides.
T. Total Tommy – a great song. Bouncy on the surface with some undeniably catchy lyrics. Too low key to be a hit but ….
T Total Tommy took a toke of tea
Black cats backin' up a big oak tree
Tick tocks tickin' out a tune on time
Last words lookin' for a line to rhyme
Saw fishs swimmin' in the sea-saw-sea
But me well I'm only lookin'
33rd Of August / When The Baby In My Lady Gets The Blues – A nine minute song medley. The first part is a narrative disguising the fact that it has something to do with the life of Jesus whilst the second part becomes a slow trad gospel love song. The song messes with your head a little but the mood, and melody is irresistible.
But now I put my dangerous feelings under lock and chain
Guess I killed my violent nature with a smile
Though the demons danced and sung their songs within my fevered brain
Not all my God-like thoughts Lord were defiled
Its the thirty-third of August and I'm finally touchin' down
Eight days from Sunday find me Saturday bound
San Francisco Mable Joy – a young Georgia farm boy goes to the big city, gets lost and finds comfort in the arms of a prostitute. It ends with loss and one of life's cruel jokes. Magnificent and reminiscent of much Kris Kristofferson and Townes Van Zandt. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Francisco_Mabel_Joy
Looks Like Baby's Gone – a low key type blues type with some nice gentle sitar and a "Sunday Mornin Comin Down" feel.
Personnel: Charlie McCoy – harmonica, guitar, bass pedals / Wayne Moss – guitar / Jerry Kennedy – guitar, sitar / Farrell Morris – percussion / Mickey Newbury – vocals, guitar
Rain & train sound effects courtesy of Mystic Moods Orchestra (from the LP: One Stormy Night").
This album is the start of a lose trilogy. Mickey followed this "Frisco Mabel Joy" (1970). The cycle of Cinderella Sound albums ended in 1973 with "Heaven Help The Child". Mickey himself thought of these albums as one piece in concept, theme, music and lyric (though similar elements traverse all his albums). Apparently he said, "“[They] all tie together in my head,” … “Some of the songs refer to the same situation, just looking at it from a four-year difference in time.”
Mickey would help Townes Van Zandt and other songwriters get started in Nashville, he was Townes' "manager" for a while.
It’s hard to explain how popular John Denver was in the 70s, so just accept that he was.
He was everywhere … in the charts, on television, in films and on constant tour around the world.
He is, generally, assumed to be a country act because of the country themes in many of his songs. He didn't, however, fit into the traditional country boxes or even the new country that opened up in the 60s or 70s. Country bravado and strut is not to be found his music. His country is not of the open plains, the honky tonks or of lying women, cheating men or excessive whiskey and gin. It is the of the high mountains, clean air and thoughtful quiet contemplation.
Accordingly, he brought a folk sensibility and folk sensitivity to country which means it is barely what we assume country is, but it still is.
There are elements of country pop, singer-songwriter, and folk in his music, all done to an open gentle semi acoustic sound. If his music doesn't always sound authentically country it does always sound genuinely rustic, albeit quite smooth. It isn’t always evident in the music but it is evident in the lyrics and narratives that Denver was entranced with the American landscape, its native peoples, the flora, fauna of the land and the societal values of a time past.
That is what makes him country.
And, if you don’t accept that opinion, then you can accept the fact that country audiences accepted him.
Wikipedia … "Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr., was born in Roswell, New Mexico, to Lt. Col. Henry John Deutschendorf, Sr., an Air Force officer (who set three speed records in the B-58 Hustler bomber and earned a place in the Air Force Hall of Fame) and Erma Louise Swope. Henry Sr. was of German ancestry, and met and married his "Oklahoma Sweetheart". Denver's Irish Catholic and German maternal grandmother was the one who imbued Denver with his love of music. In his autobiography, Take Me Home, Denver described his life as the eldest son of a family shaped by a stern father who could not show his love for his children. He is also the nephew of singer Dave Deutschendorf of The New Christy Minstrels … At the age of 11, Denver received an acoustic guitar from his grandmother. He learned to play well enough to perform at local clubs by the time he was in college. He adopted the surname "Denver" after the capital of his favorite state, Colorado. He decided to change his name when Randy Sparks, founder of The New Christy Minstrels, suggested that "Deutschendorf" wouldn't fit comfortably on a marquee. Denver studied Architecture at TexasTechUniversity in Lubbock and sang in a folk-music group called "The Alpine Trio" while pursuing architectural studies. He was also a member of Delta Tau Delta Fraternity. Denver dropped out of the Texas Tech School of Engineering in 1963, and moved to Los Angeles, where he sang in folk clubs. In 1965, Denver joined the The Mitchell Trio, replacing founder Chad Mitchell, which later became "Denver, Boise, and Johnson" (John Denver, David Boise, and Michael Johnson)… In 1969, Denver abandoned the band life to pursue a solo career and released his first album for RCA Records: Rhymes & Reasons … "
His fourth album “Poems, Prayers, and Promises” (1971), was a breakthrough for him in the US, thanks in part to the single "Take Me Home, Country Roads", which went to number 2 on the Billboard charts.
After that he followed themes and a style which varied only a little, till the end of his career.
When you are onto something why change?
He recorded nearly 300 songs, of which 200 of them he wrote. His career spanned four decades and his music appeared on a variety of charts, including Country and Western, the Billboard Hot 100, and Adult Contemporary. In the US he had 14 gold and eight platinum albums. He was loved around the world for his music and its message.
Allmusic, "One of the most popular recording artists of the 1970s, country-folk singer/songwriter John Denver's gentle, environmentally conscious music established him among the most beloved entertainers of his era; wholesome and clean-cut, his appeal extended to fans of all ages and backgrounds, and led to parallel careers as both an actor and a humanitarian".
There is something to be admired about this but it doesn't make country, alt country or neo-country heroes.
Gram Parsons, Johnny Cash, Townes Van Zandt and their crossover music with it's pain, despair and ambiguity makes for credible country counter-culture heroes.
But what he lacks in street cred (or is that trail cred?) he makes up with sensitivity, sincerity and a niceness that are wrapped up in an easy sing-a-long-a-bility of his tunes. He has something to say but he doesn't want to offend, he isn't strident or in your face despite the unequivocal nature of some his messages. He wants you to remember a tune and he had the folkies ability to turn words into moods.
Denver's sincerity doesn't extend to analysing his own personal demons in song, well, not directly or in any confessional manner. He had personal demons, but his image was quite separate. And when his image was tarnished, later in his life, by his drinking and associated allegations it seemed that much worse because it wasn’t expected of him.
Of course the truth is everyone has demons and those bits of darkness are hinted at in his earlier solo music.
This solo album (his second major release but third album release) is from Denver's transitional period between folkie and country. He was experimenting with the singer-songwriter style (as were a lot of ex folkies) as well as with rock sounds.
There are moments of darkness here (some which may put off traditional Denver fans) but it works and, importantly, it was a transition from folk that he needed to do. There are originals with bite as well as some well chosen covers which are darker still. But, there also hints of the pretty folk country music and open handed sincerity which would become his forte.
His voice is perhaps a little too sweet for this material (though it would serve his later material perfectly). In singer-songwriter folk we want out vocalists to be a little gruff, a little hoarse, a little lived in and a little raggedy around the edges. We want them world weary. And that's what we got with most. But, Denver has one of the purest voices in music with a natural vibrato and quality that, once heard, is remembered.
So, it is not surprising that his voice and music launched a thousand buskers
I haven't listened to every John Denver album but Denver's earlier solo and Chad Mitchell Trio work needs to be rediscovered or at least heard again. It may not be “up there” with his best but it is certainly worth a look and more interesting than when his work tapered off in the 80s and 90s.
Tracks (best in italics)
Take Me to Tomorrow -a big rock beat (with keyboards up front) on this one with all the familiar late 60s themes …"do you care", "are you happy with your life"
Isabel – More like the John Denver we know though not as effortless as his later stuff.
Follow Me – More Denver we are familiar with though overproduced and with his voice slightly uncertain but haunting.
Forest Lawn – (Tom Paxton) – from Tom Paxton's seventh album, despite the album title, "Tom Paxton 6" (1970) (there was live album in there also). A satirical song on the funeral industry is quite funny and very in the style of the folkie.
Aspenglow – Aspen and glow …very John Denver
Amsterdam – (Jacques Brel, Mort Shuman, Eric Blau) – One of Jacques Brel’s most well known songs originally sung in his French in 1964. There have been a number of English translations. John singing about Dutch prostitutes is odd but he does a good job of it even if his voice isnt gruff or dramatic enough. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amsterdam_(Jacques_Brel_song)
Anthem-Revelation – an up-tempo pop rock song with a religious evangelical vibe.
Sticky Summer Weather – a strange one. Echoes of numerous later Denver songs though with a touch of Phil Ochs about it.
Carolina in My Mind – (James Taylor) – James Taylor's well known song from his self titled debut LP (1968). Denver has pitched this wrong. This would be perfect for his impassioned delivery, instead he gives it too much bounce. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carolina_in_My_Mind
Jimmy Newman – (Tom Paxton) – another track from Tom Paxton's album, "Tom Paxton 6". This is cynical and strident and quite good.
Molly – (Biff Rose) – written by Biff from his LP, "The Thorn In Mrs. Rose's Side " (1968). This is very Biff Rose (with a hint of David Ackles), like a song from a musical stage show. Catchy but very quirky.
Patchy but more good than not … I'm keeping it (perhaps)
John Denver the activist, on wikipedia: "Denver became outspoken in politics in the mid-1970s. He expressed his ecologic interests in the epic 1975 song "Calypso," which is an ode to the exploration ship and team of environmental activist Jacques Cousteau. In 1976, he campaigned for Jimmy Carter, who became a close friend and ally. Denver was a supporter of the Democratic Party and of a number of charitable causes for the environmental movement, the homeless, the poor, the hungry, and the African AIDS crisis. He founded the charitable Windstar Foundation in 1976, to promote sustainable living. His dismay at the Chernobyl disaster led to precedent-setting concerts in parts of communist Asia and Europe … During the 1980s, Denver was critical of the Reagan administration, but he remained active in his campaign against hunger, for which Reagan awarded Denver the Presidential World Without Hunger Award in 1985. Denver's criticism of the conservative politics of the 1980s was expressed in his autobiographical folk-rock ballad "Let Us Begin (What Are We Making Weapons For)." Denver was also critical of the Republican-dominated Congress and American Conservatism of the 1990s. He denounced the National Rifle Association (NRA) as a corrupt political machine that could buy off politicians, and in an open letter to the media, he wrote that he opposed oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Denver had battled to expand the refuge in the 1980s, and he praised President Bill Clinton for his opposition to the proposed drilling. The letter, which he wrote in the midst of the 1996 presidential election, was one of the last he ever wrote. Denver was also on the Board of Governors of the National Space Society for many years"
Denver's second wife, Cassandra Delaney was born in Brisbane and is the younger sister of 70s TV celebrity Delvene Delaney
He was the teen idol. It is hard to explain how popular he was but think of the lunacy about One Direction or Justin Bieber at there most popular and Cassidy was bigger.
The Partridge Family TV show was still rating high on US TV (though they didn't make the Top 30 in 1973) and there albums were selling well (for those not in the know he was one of The Partridge Family, a musical family, on TV and the lead vocalist on record … see my other comments for biographical detail on Cassidy)
The Partridge Family had released eight albums between their first in 1970 and last in 1973. In the US, where they were more popular, one album had gone to #1, three others were Top 10, and another was Top 40. In the UK they had managed one Top 20 and one Top 40.
As a solo act he found more fame in the UK. His first solo album "Cherish" (1972) had gone to US #15 and UK #2 and his second "Rock Me Baby" (1972) went to US #41 whilst in the UK it was #2, Germany #9.
I'm not sure why. Perhaps the Partridge Family wasn't aired on UK TV till later which may explain why there wasn't any momentum behind The Partridge Family albums but there was over the later released solo albums.
Either way this was David's third album.
And, this was the first real David Cassidy recording as he started exploring himself as a vocalist and moving away from the Partridge Family sound.
Cassidy has written and co-written songs but his real forte is as an interpreter of songs.
Cassidy, here, doesn't sound like the Cassidy from the Partridge Albums of the same year (Crossword Puzzle and Bulletin Board) and he is willing to take chances and bare intimate emotions through the music. This is his first singer-songwriter album despite the fact he didn't write most of the tunes.
He wrote only two songs here and admits on the album's liner notes that one of them was primarily someone's else's song. But, if you know this blog you will know that I don't care if someone writes their songs or not as long as they can interpret a song and make it their own or at least give it a different life.
And Cassidy could do that.
His great talent was singing. He may not be technically perfect but he is good enough and he is smart enough to look for the meaning in a song and interpret them through his experiences. Yes, yes it sounds like a wank but it's true. All great interpreters from Sinatra to Presley do it … though I'm not putting Cassidy in with Sinatra or Elvis.
And, importantly, he is smart. There is a lot going on in the music which, he as a big star, could have nixed. Given that, I assume he knew what he was looking for, and he wasn't happy with just a bunch of covers .. and he was just 23 years old.
And for someone you expected big production and up-tempo songs from this is restrained and (more) low key. There is very little electric guitar but lots of piano, congas and vibes. The album is dominated by Michael Omartian's piano though stellar musicians surround him: Ron Tutt, Milt Holland, Emory Gordy, Al Casey, Larry Knetchel, James Burton, John Guerin, Kim Carnes, Michael McDonald, Victor Feldman and many more.
Tracks (best in italics)
Intro – (Michael H. McDonald) – It seems this is the same Michael McDonald that sang backup on several Steely Dan albums in the mid-'70s, joined The Doobie Brothers in 1977 and went solo in 1982. This is as the title suggests an "intro" and sets the mood.
Daydream – (John Sebastian) – A #2US, #2 UK for the Lovin Spoonful in 1966. A great version of a great song
Sing Me – (Tony Romeo) – Romeo was a regular songwriter fro both The Partridge Family and Cassidy. Cassidy says on the liner notes that this is the most personal song ever written for him and it has a quasi gospel feel.
Bali Ha'i – (Oscar Hammerstein II, Richard Rodgers) – a show tune from the 1949 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific. The songs has been done a lot but the big hits were all from 1949. Perry Como (#5US), Bing Crosby (#12US), Peggy Lee (#13US) and Frank Sinatra (#18). Haunting and well sung. A beautiful song and one you could see early 70s Beach Boys doing. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bali_Ha%27i#cite_note-1
Mae – (Gary Montgomery) – Montgomery was a songwriter who had been in the late 60s group Colours. Smouldering, gentle sexuality
Fever – (Eddie Cooley, John Davenport) – Little Willie John's song from 1956 (#24 US, #1 R&N US) though Peggy Lee's version from 1958 (#8 US, #5UK) (with reworked lyrics by Lee herself) is, perhaps, more famous. Elvis Presley released a near identical version to Lee's for his 1960 album, "Elvis is Back". There have been many other versions. Cassidy refers to Peggy Lee's version in the liner notes. Respectable. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fever_(Little_Willie_John_song)
Summer Days – (Tony Romeo) – a remake of a Partridge Family song and a hoot.
The Puppy Song – (Harry Nillson) – A Harry Nilsson song that appeared on his album "Harry" (1969). Nilsson's version is typically quirky. This is less so but only just. The title of the album comes from this song. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Puppy_Song
Some Old Woman- (Shel Silverstein, Bob Gibson) – written by folkie Gibson and country writer (and Dr Hook regular writer) Silverstein this song was originally released on Gibson's 1964 album' "Where I'm Bound". Well sung by Cassidy in an old timey way, err, updated.
Can't Go Home Again – (Dave Ellingson, David Cassidy, Kim Carnes) – a mid-tempo ballad that is laid back but quite dark.
Preyin' on My Mind – (Dave Ellingson, David Cassidy, Kim Carnes) – another catchy one.
Hold on Me – (Michael H. McDonald) – a fitting close. Quite personal and perhaps a comment on fame.
Not that I pay too much notice of what others say because every halfwit has an opinion. Err, yes I do have enough insight to see I'm knocking myself but do you pay any attention to what I say? … (rhetorical question).
The thing I like about Melanie, apart from her voice, is that she is quite versatile and adventurous musically. And that is at odds with the usual descriptions of her in the all the usual music mags, books and forums.
But, you can only pick that up (naturally enough) after listening to a lot of Melanie. The albums should not be listened to in isolation otherwise they seem to be just random aberrations. When they are listened to en masse you see a musical persona appearing beyond the hippie chick with a guitar.
Melanie is quite the musicologist. She can write a very good tune but she also loves a cover. Here, she tackles things she, no doubt, heard as a kid in the 50s, and as a teen in the 60s. And, these two eras she would come back to on other albums. I don't think she is haphazard in her choice of covers or even that they were suggested to her. It seems to me that she has an emotional connection with the songs and something that comes from her youth.
Now, I suppose many singers do this (cover the songs they loved as kids) but Melanie, in a sliding career circa 1975, has to be quite determined to record Broadway standards and 60s girl group songs.
And that is admirable but more admirable is the fact that her versions are not faithful reconstructions of the earlier songs. They have the sprit but not the sound. Some songs you don't even realise what they are until you are half way through them. If you are going to cover it, put a personal stamp on it. Melanie does.
Of course she has surrounded the covers with her own tunes and they are always interesting as Melanie tended to wear her heart on her sleeve and her songs reflected her life at the time.
Melanie and her husband and producer, Peter Schekeryk had, around the time of this album, relocated their family from New Jersey to Tennessee, and, apparently, she felt reinvigorated by her new surroundings. Perhaps that is refected in the albums title.
In any event Melanie does not do a stylistic flip flop. The record may have been recorded in Nashville with country instruments and strings (at times) but it has a New York sensibility and a California feel.
And this is the beauty of Melanie. Within her parameters and her musical world she created interesting and personal music. But, poor sales, and an image of the perennial flower child means her music was overlooked by the mainstream, and then dismissed as the years past (the hard core Melanie fans know otherwise) The joy, now, though, for budding music archaeologists is that there are many Melanie albums waiting to be discovered.
Sunset and Other Beginnings would be Melanie’s final album on Neighborhood Records, which she and Schekeryk started in 1971, and closed down in 1975..
All songs written by Melanie Safka, except where noted.
Tracks (best in italics)
Perceive It – a perfect start and the type of song Melanie does in her sleep. But it works.
Almost Like Being in Love – (Lerner / Loewe) – from the 1947 Broadway musical (and 1954 film) "Brigadoon" this has been updated to a soft rock sound with jazzy asides. As bad as that sounds it works quite well. In 1978, pop country and folk singer Michael Johnson gave the song another makeover that seemingly owes a debt to Melanie’s interpretation (right down to the prominent saxophone) and earned a US #32 hit with it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Almost_Like_Being_in_Love
Loving My Children – more Melanie in her normal style and obviously speaking about something on her mind.
Ol' ManRiver – (Hammerstein II / Kern) – whoa. She turns this on it's head. The drama and sweat is gone and instead we have a bouncing pop country folk tune. I like it. The original is from the 1927 Broadway musical "Show Boat" (and the 1929, 1936 and 1951 film versions, as well as the Show Boat sequence from film, "Till the Clouds Roll By" (1945)) and then subsequently done by everyone including Paul Robeson, Frank Sinatra, Sam Cooke, Sammy Davis, Jr., Al Jolson, Screaming Jay Hawkins, Cilla Black, Ray Charles, Cher, Jim Croce, The Beach Boys, Chet Atkins and Jerry Reed. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ol%27_Man_River
Got My Mojo Working – (Foster) – a 50s R&B song written by Foster but popularised by Muddy Waters in 1957. Conway Twitty (1964), Manfred Mann (1964), The Paul Butterfield Blues Band (1965), The Electric Prunes (1967), Canned Heat (1969), Elvis Presley (1970), J. J. Cale (1972), B. B. King (1977) and others. This version is quite funky and in the country-ish guitar breaks (not the pace) it sounds a little like Elvis' version. Perhaps it's a weird song for a chick to sing. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Got_My_Mojo_Working
Where's the Band – hmmmm, not too bad.
Dream Seller – (Clements) – written by Rod Clements of British folk rock band Lindisfarne who recorded this in 1971 as " Meet Me on the Corner". This one work perfectly for Melanie.
What Do I Keep? – another good Melanie tune with a discussion on yesterdays, todays and tomorrows.
Sandman – the couplet "Go away from my window / Go away from my door" has been used in other songs. It works here
The Sun and the Moon – old school Melanie and a great tune with heavy folkie overtones.
Afraid of the Dark – a nice spare arrangement which sounds like something from a Stephen Sondheim written musical..