JACKIE DeSHANNON – Put a Little Love in Your Heart – (Imperial) – 1969

Jackie DeShannon - Put A Litt Love in Your Heart

Check out my other blog entry for background on the talented Jackie DeShannon.

This chick could do anything.

She could write, play, sing, perform and was easy on the eye and yet big time success in the music industry had eluded her since the early 1960s. There was a hiccup (a major one) in 1965 when she recorded Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "What the World Needs Now Is Love", which led to regular appearances on television and went to # 7 on the US charts. She decided, though, to concentrate on song writing whilst still continued putting out albums and singles.

1969 proved to be the year when everything came together.

Her recording of "What the World Needs Now Is Love" was being used in the 1969 box office hit film "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice" and she wrote recorded and released as a single, "Put a Little Love in Your Heart".

It went to #4 in the charts in the US and was a hit around the world (#1 South Africa, #12 Canada)

Much has been written about the song. It was a hit then and has been covered many times since. As Jackie has said, "A lot of people still know that song. It came out at a time when we were all trying to make things better in this world. Everybody was sort of pulling together. I believe around that time I put together a show. I did the Copa in New York and some other major places. I did quite a lot of touring with that song. I went to a lot of places where I would just ask people off the street, or if I was doing a show and I was early, I would ask someone that was setting up tables, "Have you ever heard the song 'Put a Little Love In Your Heart'?" And they'd always say, 'Oh, yeah.' I think it's been recorded by over 60 artists. Mahalia Jackson did a great job on it. Annie Lennox and Al Green weren't too bad either. I'm thrilled with everyone that recorded the song. It was in a Smart Balance commercial for the last two years. Someone called me and told me it was done on American Idol. It's definitely the gift that keeps on giving".


But, what is clear is that the song was just one song on the album. This is borne out by the fact that all the songs (most of) are written by DeShannon in collaboration with Randy Myers (her younger brother) and Jimmy Holiday. This was a collaborative effort.  Jackie goes on to say about the song, "I was just writing for this album that was up and coming, and that was one of the songs. My brother Randy was playing this little riff and I said, "Gee, I really like that riff, that's great." All of a sudden, "Think of your fellow man, lend him a helping hand, put a little love in your heart," came just like that. I owe some of that to my mom, because she was always saying that people should put a little love in their heart when things are not so good. I'd like to say it was very difficult, but it was one of those songs you wait a lifetime to write". 


A lot of music is about timer and place, And 1969 was the right time to be singing about peace and love if you were a white female vocalist with a bit of soul and funk in your style.

The producers, I suspect, wanted an album akin to Dusty Springfield or Petula Clark who were doing well with their (English, though recorded in the US) versions of white southern soul or perhaps something sassier with the equally successful country soul of Southern belles Bobbie Gentry and Jeannie C Riley.

But, Jackie DeShannon's musical tastes were a lot broader than that. This girl from Kentucky had been in California since the early 60s and had brought her Kentucky stylings there but had been exposed to surf music, British invasion, Hollywood pop, folk rock and just about everything else. She couldn't serve up an album straight which is perhaps a blessing and a curse. The blessing is we can see her scope and ambition, the curse is that sometimes a producer can give you a cohesive whole. I prefer the former but easy dollars come in with the latter.

In any event this may have been a moot point. Jackie again, "You have to remember that I, being a woman at that time, did not have the kind of leverage that young women today have. They go in, they own their publishing, they're the producer, they're the writer, they're everything. In those days, I would go in with producers and they would agree with me before we got in the studio about the vision of the song. Then we would get in the studio and they'd change it all around and if you said anything, you were being difficult. Now the more difficult you are, the more they respect you. But it was hard to get that respect. I was producing demos all the time, but when I went in the studio with many, many different producers, a lot of things fell apart because it wasn't my vision. Having a hit certainly helped in the short term, but you have to remember, there's a heckuva lot of songwriters around and a lot of politics. A lot of different things that the public probably isn't even aware of that go on with getting songs in this movie, and getting songs in that television show. It's not just Oh, let's sit down and pick the best thing".


And here I think the producers won out. The album is straight southern soul which DeShannon can pull off but I don't think here heart is in every song. The production is a little thin sometimes also. Some of the quirky DeShannon should have been allowed through (there is nothing of the singer songwriter she had already touched on and would  be recording within the year) and she should have been given to someone like Chips Moman for production (which they were trying to emulate).

The single did well but the album tanked.

The album is produced by Vitale & McWhorter Enterprises which is a production company formed by the partnership of George Vitale and Dargin McWhorter.

Tracks (best in italics)  

      Side One

  • Put A Little Love In Your Heart – (Jackie DeShannon, Jimmy Holiday, Randy Myers) – A great song. Of its times but undeniably catchy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Put_a_Little_Love_in_Your_Heart
  • You Are The Real Thing – (Jackie DeShannon, Jimmy Holiday, Randy Myers) –  slight.
  • River Of Love – (Jackie DeShannon, Jimmy Holiday, Randy Myers) – This is a little better though there doesn't seem to be an emotional peak to it which it may need.
  • Keep Me In Mind – (Jackie DeShannon, Jimmy Holiday) – This has a nice beat
  • Mama's Song – (Buddy Buie, James Cobb) – Buie and Cobb were from the group "Classics IV" (known mainly fror the song "Spooky", 1968) who did quite a bit of songwriting for others on the side.
  • Movin' – (Jackie DeShannon, Jimmy Holiday, Randy Myers) –  another one with a good beat

      Side Two

  • You Can Come To Me – (Jackie DeShannon, Jimmy Holiday) –  A mid tempo big ballad with a touch of cabaret which is quite good.
  • You Have A Way With Me – (Jackie DeShannon, Jimmy Holiday) –  a funky intro leads into a soul-ish song about love and longing. Not too bad.
  • I Let Go Completely – (Jackie DeShannon, Jimmy Holiday) –  a soul ballad.
  • Always Together – (Jackie DeShannon, Jimmy Holiday) – This one is good and goes a little off the path with a touch of country soul in the mix.
  • Love Will Find A Way – (Jackie DeShannon, Jimmy Holiday, Randy Myers) –  The follow up single to "Put a Little Love in Your Heart". Horns and strings and another "happy" message. It makes sense but it's not half as good.
  • Live – (Irvin Hunt, Sam Russell) –  I believe this was first recorded by DeShannon. Sam Russell was the younger brother of Dargin McWhorter who co produced this album. A little different to the rest having been written by a couple of other people. Not too bad.

And …

The results are patchy here. The great songs (and there aren't many) are great and the so so songs are, err so so. …. a missed opportunity. Still, it's Jackie, I'm keeping it.

Chart Action



1969 Put A Little Love In Your Heart #4 Billboard Hot 100

1969 Put A Little Love In Your Heart #2 Adult Contemporary

1969 Love Will Find A Way #40 Billboard Hot 100


1969 #81



Put A Little Love In Your Heart



Love Will Find A Way

























Jackie DeShannon - Put a Little Love in Your Heart - German 45



Posted in Country Soul | Tagged | Leave a comment

THOMAS JEFFERSON KAYE – Thomas Jefferson Kaye – (Dunhill) – 1973

Thomas Jefferson Kaye - Thomas Jefferson Kaye

Kaye was one of those music people you come across who was around music and the music business for practically his whole life (here some 40 years) without ever becoming a household name, or even a well known name today among anal music bloggers and yet, in his own way, he was quite influential.

Wikipedia in its introduction to him say, "Thomas Jefferson "Tommy" Kaye (born Thomas Jefferson Kontos, 1940? – 16 September 1994) ( or in 1942, in North Dakota)was an American record producer, singer-songwriter, sessionman, and musician. Described as a "legendary hipster", he worked as a songwriter and producer with a wide variety of musicians including The Shirelles, Loudon Wainwright III, and Gene Clark, and also recorded solo albums".

They then go into some detail on his career and it's an interesting read if for no other reason than the list of big names he has worked with.

Like a lot of music career people he started as an entertainer and never really shook that. Apart from his three solo albums (all later in his career) he was in the following groups, The Blaretones (1956), The Rock-Abouts (1957) (who changed their name to The Ideals in 1958, and recorded two singles for Decca Records and backed singer Joey Dee), White Cloud (in the early 70s and who recorded an album), and K.C. Southern Band (with Gene Clark)

He produced The Shirelles (for whom he co-wrote their 1966 single "Shades of Blue"), Judy Clay, Maxine Brown, Chuck Jackson, The Kingsmen, Jay and The Americans, Loudon Wainwright III, Link Wray, Mike Bloomfield, John Hammond Jr, Dr. John and most famously Gene Clark on three occasions.

He wrote about 185 songs including "One Man Band" for Three Dog Night which became a hit single (#17, 1971).

He worked continuously through the 70s and 80s.

He died in 1994. The usual rock n roll staples of pills and alcohol didn't help.

This album from 1973 was his first solo album and it is both a little strange and of its times.

Kaye was riding on a high as a producer and had worked himself into a comfortable place in California and so, I assume, called in some favours and put out this album.

It is of its times because 1973 California was awash with Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter ( see http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2015/02/laurel-canyon-music-scene) and country rock and the album is lightly rooted in country rock with some of the gentler trippy and dreamier elements of the Laurel Country singer-songwriters thrown in. But Kaye was an outsider, and a fairly recent outsider, and had brought with him his own bag of tricks. There is some swamp, Louisiana blues funk, jazz and even Native American vibes thrown into the mix.  There are references to native American Indian music on the sleeve and  Kaye (aka Kontos I had read somewhere may have been of Greek ancestry) was born in North Dakota, American Indian territory. Native American rockers, Redbone, were doing well at the time also.

The end result, regardless of where he picked up his influences, is a country rock album which is outside the norm in both ambition and scope. Country goes south perhaps, like Manassas, Dr John and some dribs and drabs of Little Feat and The Byrds. Country funk, certainly.

Certainly if Cameron Crowe had been writing for something less mainstream (and banal) than Rolling Stone then "Almost Famous" would have had this on its soundtrack.

Most of the songs, well those that aren't piano driven, have tasty electric guitar licks supplied by Rick Derringer. Derringer had been in the garagy McCoys in the 60s before working with

Edgar and Johnny Winter, and with Steely Dan before going solo and into blues rock.

But, what holds it together is Kaye's voice. His voice is all cool and if the "legendary hipster" nickname is accurate I can see why. His voice is cool without sounding self conscious. He knows how to pitch it and does it perfectly. Like Tony Joe White without the southern drawl .. or, again, quite a bit like Redbone.

He even looks cool on the sleeve.

The songs "Hoe Bus", "Collection Box" and "Thanks for Nothing" all originally appeared on the self titled album put out by his band White Cloud in 1972. A couple of the songs are songs he co-wrote but initially appeared on Jay and the Americans "Capture the Moment" (1970) album which he co-produced.

Surprisingly, the album was produced by Gary Katz (who was a regular producer at the Dunhill label) and who is most often associated with Steely Dan rather than by Kaye himself. The album has a strong Steely Dan connection and includes Donald Fagen, Walter Becker, Jeff 'Skunk' Baxter, and David Palmer in the session work.

All songs by Kaye unless noted.

Tracks (best in italics)

           Side One                                               

  • The Body Song – a slow song and a strange opener. Quite effective with an ominous beat and a hint of Native American rockers Redbone going on.
  • Collection Box – (Thomas Jefferson Kaye, Joanne Vent) –  a great song with a great voodoo hoodoo vibe going on.
  • The Door Is Still Open – a good groove with horns a plenty.
  • Learning How to Fly – (Thomas Jefferson Kaye, Kenny Vance, Marty Joe Kupersmith, Sandy Yaguda) – this one oozes attitude with horns and a down home strut. Why wasn't this a hit? The co-writers were in Jay and the Americans. The song was originally done by them on their "Capture the Moment" (1970) album though funk soul dude Freddie Scott also released it on his "I Shall Be Released" (1970) album.
  • I'll Be Leaving Her Tomorrow – (Thomas Jefferson Kaye, B. Wagman) – a beautiful piano driven piece. Produced slickly this is a perfect ballad for early radio and just needs a hook to make it a hit. This one is copyrighted 1966 but was originally done by Jay and the Americans on their "Capture the Moment" (1970) album

Side Two

  • Hole in the Shoe Blues – another song which is sooooo cool and quite cynical. Like a western Tony Joe White. Excellent.
  • Snake in the Grass – a great bluesy stomper.
  • Thanks for Nothing – copyrighted 1968 I can't find if Kaye had written this for someone else. A ballad which works a nice groove.
  • Hoe Bus – southern grooves, a mid-tempo beat and a catchy chorus make for a great tune though I'm not sure what a "Hoe-Bus" is. Perhaps I shouldn't ask

And …

Excellent. Kaye should have been a lot better known … I'm keeping this.

Chart Action

Nothing nowhere.


The Body Song   


Collection Box    


The Door Is Still Open   


Learning How To Fly 

mp3 attached

I'll Be Leaving Her Tomorrow   

mp3 attached

Hole in the Shoe Blues


Snake In The Grass  


Thanks For Nothing    


Hoe Bus












  • Personnel: Thomas Jefferson Kaye – Acoustic Guitar, Vocals / Rick Derringer – Electric & Acoustic Guitar / Jeff 'Skunk' Baxter – Electric Guitar on "Thanks for Nothing" / Bobby Black – Steel Guitar / Rick Slossen – Drums / Joe Frank Corrola – Bass, Backing Vocals / Randy Hobbs – Bass / Walter Becker – Bass on "I'll Be Leaving Her Tomorrow" and "Hole in the Shoe Blues" / Tom Salisbury – Piano / Victor Feldman – Percussion / Clydie King, Venetta Fields, Shirley Matthews, Dorothy Morrison, Diane Morrison, Micki St. Clair, Mark Springer, Chris Williamson – Background Vocals / Donald Fagen – Background Vocals on "The Door Is Still Open", "Learning How to Fly", and "I'll Be Leaving Her Tomorrow" / David Palmer – Background Vocals on "The Door Is Still Open", "Learning How to Fly", and "I'll Be Leaving Her Tomorrow" / Gary Katz – Background Vocals on "Collection Box".
Posted in Country Rock, Southern and Boogie Rock | Tagged | Leave a comment

CASEY KELLY – Casey Kelly – (Elektra) – 1972

Casey Kelly - Casey Kelly

I always get excited over a new Elektra LP.

It's a great label.

Casey Kelly I had not heard of before and there is very little on him online. Luckily though he is a moderately successful songwriter (and author on songwriting) and has a website.

He gives us a succinct biography there which gives some background:

I grew up in Baton Rouge, LA. While attending LSU I became one of the founding members of the legendary local rock band, the Greek Fountains.

After the "Fountains" split up, I moved to NYC where I worked as a session musician and singer, a songwriter, an arranger, a music publisher, a record producer and a record company executive.

I moved on to tour with Tom Rush, playing guitar, harmonica, and piano. I then went to L.A. where I signed a recording deal with producer Joe Wissert who took me to Warner Brothers Records. After releasing a single at Warner Brothers Records I moved on to A&M Records and formed the Luziana Band which was recorded by Jim Hilton.

My next label deal was at Elektra Records where I worked with producer Richard Sanford Orshoff, recording two more nationally acclaimed LP's, "Casey Kelly" and "For Sale". I toured extensively promoting my records, opening shows and performing with virtually every popular music act of the time from the mega-hit group America to Frank Zappa.

These days I tour and perform my songs in the duo "Kelly-Ellis" with Grammy Award Winning singer, Leslie Ellis.

Whew! It's been a crazy ride but I've loved every minute of it and I ain't done yet!


He wrote "Anyone Who Isn't Me Tonight" for Kenny Rogers and Dottie West (#2 Country, 1978) , "Soon" for Tanya Tucker (#2 Country, 1993), "Somewhere Down the Line" for T G Shepherd (#3 Country, 1984), "The Cowboy Rides Away" for George Strait (#5 Country, 1985), “That Road Not Taken” for Joe Diffie (#40 Country, 1995), "Only Game in Town" for America and "Resign Yourself" for The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (#5 Country, 1985).

He has also co-authored with David Hodge, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Art of Songwriting" (2011).

Back in 1972 his career was not all that certain.

But he was in the right place, at the right time with the right pedigree to take advantage of some great music.

The early 70s was a great time for American music. In the wake of Bob Dylan, The Band, a chart dominant Creedence Clearwater Revival, and, dare I say it, a resurgent and more "down home" Elvis Presley there was an interest in American music and all things Americana.

The times had changed though. The world was a different place. Introspection and thoughtfulness was the order of the day. The slogans of the 60s were a little gentler and individual morality and personal responsibility seemed to be taking over from communal action. The singer songwriter music was everywhere and country and folk influences had seeped into rock. The end result was something that was both new and distinctly old. Call it country, country rock or rather, an early version of what we now call alt country.

The country influences are unmistakeable but there are other influences in there also and not just straight rock ones. The musicians are taking from all forms of American music both new and old. If you listen to this album today, and if the record was recorded today, the market it would be plugged to is the "alt country" market.

Kelly's songwriting is strong and this is a good country rock with an emphasis on the singer songwriter style with more than a little experimentation and splashes of folk rock, psych, baroque pop and MOR. He isn't the strongest singer but his voice is endearing and, more importantly, suits what he writes and that's all that counts.

Also, the music isn't slick and it is a little ragged around the edges which is exactly how I like it.

All songs by Casey Kelly.

Tracks (best in italics)

            Side One

  • Silver Meteor – A great start on a country rock song that could pass for a Gram Parsons tune. In fact Sneaky Pete Kleinow from Flying Burrito Brothers is on Steel Guitar.
  • Making Believe – An about face. A sad, melancholy and beautiful tune with MOR tendencies which sounds a little like something Val Stoecklein (of Blue Things) would write.
  • Run Away – a gentle swamp psych vibe runs through this as if Neil Young and Tony Joe White had been crossed. Nice.
  • Poor Boy – a big up tempo song.
  • For Miss Julie – Nice and emotive. This sounds like something I know but I can't put my finger on it.

      Side Two

  • A Good Love Is Like A Good Song – I like an accordion on a song and this gentle mid tempo old time country-ish song has some nice accordion (and fiddle) work.
  • You Can't Get There From Here – A country rock song with emphasis on the rockier aspects. Jim Messina from Poco on guitar.
  • Escaping Reality – Another song that leans to the MOR but it is beautiful. It's like something Jimmy Buffet would be doing in a few years.
  • Resign Yourself – This is great and reminds me a lot of Ray Davies (Kinks) faux country from "Muswell Hillbillies" (1972).
  • Visiting An Old Friend – another gentle and gorgeous song.

And …

This album is not without flaws but it is an unjustly forgotten and, perhaps  a minor masterpiece … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action



Run Away

mp3 attached

Poor Boy


A Good Love Is Like A Good Song


You Can't Get There From Here


Visiting An Old Friend

mp3 attached










  • Guitar – Casey Kelly, Bass – Leland Sklar, Drums – Russell Kunkel, Keyboards – Craig Doerge, Producer, Engineer – Richard Sanford Orshoff.
  • Dean Sciarra, owner of Classic Music Vault says "The masters for some albums simply don’t exist anymore, so you have to use vinyl as the source on occasion. Luckily, I’m pretty good at converting vinyl so that 99 percent of people can’t tell. I remastered the first LP by Casey Kelly (Elektra, 1972), which was the worst pressing ever. I did such a good job that when Casey heard it, he cried and said that not only did it sound great but that he hadn’t heard it sound that good since he was in the studio when he recorded it. Hearing an artist say that means the world to me. That’s why I do what I do. By the way: I’m pretty sure that Elektra used my master when they finally released the first Casey Kelly album. So  vinyl as a source doesn’t have to be a bad thing". http://www.goldminemag.com/article/hunt-long-lost-albums-can-lead-classic-music-vault
Posted in Alt Country, Country Rock | Tagged | Leave a comment

PETER & GORDON – I Go To Pieces – (Capitol) – 1965

Peter & Gordon - I Go to Pieces

Check my other Peter & Gordon comments for background and other ramblings.

Peter & Gordon are a strange birds.

They are folk, they are MOR, they are pop.

They wrote their own songs. They did many covers.

Maybe they were trying to cover all the bases.

They weren't the vanguards of any revolution.  They were no threat.

But their music is easy listening at worst, sublime on the senses at best.

Yes, sublime.

Look, early on I found it easy to mix them yup with Chad & Jeremy and maybe a couple of the other "someone and someone" groups but if you listen to them enough you realise they do have their own sounds and they write their material to that beat. Their covers (which are quirky and at times eccentric and imaginative in selection) are all manipulated to fit in with that sound.

It works.

And how well it woks depends on how much of their sound you can take.

The starting point is the era. It was the 1960s and you have to like the 60s sound, and I do.

Sixties pop is wonderful and when that pop was applied to folk or country or traditional music it all seems to work to my ears.

Does it have to be weighty, lofty and earth shattering?


It was pop.  But from that came some of the greatest hum-able, toe tappable and feel good-able (?) music ever.

That's enough isn't it?

Peter & Gordon have a "thing" for pre-Beatles 60s tunes and for Elvis tunes. I'm not sure why but given I love both of those things so I'm not complaining.

There is a tendency to think of the British Invasion acts as inventing something new … they weren't they were just repackaging what the Americans had already sent to England and importantly all of them had grown up on Elvis and pre-Beatles music. That is what they loved and perhaps (probably) got them into music in the first place. So when the opportunity for a cover comes up it's a no brainer to reach back into your musical memory (even if its fairly recent) and pay homage to those artists your love.

This was Peter & Gordon's third album in the US and, again, (much like fellow Britshers, The Animals) this US release is a mishmash of UK releases and bears little resemblance to anything specific in England. The front sleeve here was taken from their second English album "In Touch with Peter & Gordon" (1964) which only shares three of the same tracks (A Mess Of Blues, I Still Love You, I Don't Care What They Say). Tears Don't Stop, What You Gonna Do 'Bout It, Someone Ain't Right, All Shook Up are from the UK "Hurtin' 'N' Lovin'?" LP (1965). Th e other songs are made up of "I Go To Pieces" and "If You Wish", and two tracks only issued in the United States ("Sleepless Nights" and "Good Morning Blues").

This isn't perfect and may be derivative but smarts, skill and imagination means these guys are miles ahead of other British Invasion acts like Herman's Hermits, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Freddie and the Dreamers and probably a few others ….

Tracks (best in italics)

            Side One

  • I Go To Pieces – (Del Shannon) – The saga of this song makes good reading. Check the link below. This is supreme pop and Peter & Gordon do justice to the song but I heard the version by Shannon (which was recorded in March 1965) and I love his version best. Still a great song is a great song …
  •  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Go_to_Pieces
  • Sleepless Nights – (Felice Bryant) – The Everly Brothers tune from 1960. Very familiar, but good Everly Brothers teen romance ballad. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleepless_Nights_(Everly_Brothers_song)
  • Tears Don't Stop – (Gordon Waller, Peter Asher) – A nice pop tune.
  • If You Wish – (Gordon Waller, Peter Asher) – A good beat song in the style of the early Beatles (circa their first album)
  • All Shook Up – (Elvis Presley, Otis Blackwell) – Peter & Gordon have turned this familiar Elvis tune on it's head and made it into a slow blues. It's not a dirty blues but a blues nevertheless. Elvis apparently came up with the song title but Blackwell wrote the song. David Hess recorded it first in1957 but Elvis' version a couple of weeks later went to #1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_Shook_Up
  • Whatcha Gonna Do 'Bout It – (Doris Payne, Gregory Carroll) – The Doris Troy R&B song from 1964 (also done by The Hollies in 1964 and Cilla Black in 1965). This was quite the American song for British beat bands to cover. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What%27cha_Gonna_Do_About_It

      Side Two

  • Good Morning Blues – (Alan Lomax, Huddie Ledbetter) – Leadbelly from the early 40s but often revived on compilations of his work. Ypu know this osn't too bad. It's not authentic but it's not meant to be. Peter & Gordon have captured the blues feel without sounding ridiculous.
  • Someone Ain't Right – (Doris Payne, Gregory Carroll) – Doris Payne is Doris Troy. New York born singer-songwriter Doris Troy (Doris Higginson, 1937-2004) moved to Britain after she charted there with "What'cha Gonna Do About It". She became a regular on the Ready Steady Go TV show and wrote and released songs. Co-writer Gregory Carroll (John Carroll, 1929-2013) had been in 50s vocal groups including The Four Buddies, The Orioles and The Dappers and he, and Troy both sang in gospel group The Halos, as well as in the R&B backing vocal group The Cues. Quite good and catchy.
  • A Mess Of Blues – (Pomus-Shuman) – Elvis' #32 (US) hit in 1960 but in England in the same year it went to # 2. The original is magnificent but this is quite good and shows how the beat sound could be overlaid on earlier tunes without too much difficulty. Apparentlt that's Brian Jones from THe Rolling Stones on (some fine) harmonica. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Mess_of_Blues
  • I Still Love You – (King) – I don't know much about this song but this reminds me of English pre-Beatles pop rock. Quite nice.
  • I Don't Care What They Say – (Gordon Waller, Peter Asher) – Another, "why did you have to break my heart" song. Which is actually one of the lines.  Nice.

And …

I like this … I think I'm keeping it.

Chart Action



1965  I Go To Pieces  The Billboard Hot 100  #9 


1965  #51 




I Go To Pieces



Del's original


All Shook Up

Live later, circa 2008



A Mess Of Blues

mp3 attached











if you want to untangle their US discography







Peter & Gordon - I Go to Pieces - In Touch With

Posted in British Invasion | Tagged | 1 Comment

JOHN SEBASTIAN – The Four of Us – (Reprise) – 1971

John Sebastian - The Four of Us

Checkout my other blog entry for some detail on why I like John Sebastian.

I didn't really link much of a biography on him so for those of you who cant be bothered clicking here in an annotated biography.

Wiki[edia: "John Benson Sebastian was born in New York City (1944) and grew up in Italy and Greenwich Village. His father, John Sebastian, was a noted classical harmonica player and his mother, Jane, was a radio script writer… Sebastian grew up surrounded by music and musicians, including Burl Ives and Woody Guthrie and hearing such players as Lead Belly and Mississippi John Hurt in his own neighbourhood. He graduated from Blair Academy, a private boarding school in Blairstown, New Jersey, in 1962. He next attended New York University for just over a year, but dropped out as he became more interested in musical pursuits… In the early 1960s, Sebastian developed an interest in blues music and in playing harmonica in a blues style, rather than the classical style used by his father. Through his father's connections, he met and was influenced by blues musicians Sonny Terry and Lightnin' Hopkins (for whom Sebastian served as "unofficial tour guide and valet" when Hopkins was in New York City). Sebastian became part of the folk and blues scene that was developing in Greenwich Village and later gave rise to folk rock. In addition to harmonica, Sebastian played guitar and occasionally autoharp. One of Sebastian's first recording gigs was playing guitar and harmonica for Billy Faier's 1964 album The Beast of Billy Faier.  He also played on Fred Neil's album Bleecker & MacDougal and Tom Rush's self-titled album in 1965. He played in the Even Dozen Jug Band and in The Mugwumps, which split to form The Lovin' Spoonful and The Mamas & the Papas. Bob Dylan invited him to play bass on his Bringing It All Back Home sessions (though his parts probably did not appear on the album), and to join Dylan's new electric touring band, but Sebastian declined in order to concentrate on his own project, The Lovin' Spoonful".

The Lovin Spoonful were incredibly popular between 1965 – 1967 and Sebastian found his material widely covered. His solo career (since 1968) however never really took off, the exception being the #1  theme to the "Welcome Back Kotter" television show, "Welcome Back", in 1976, a beautifully evocative song if there ever was one and one that sums up the show succinctly over the course of two or so minutes.

This album was his third solo album (second studio solo album).

Sebastian was not afraid of experimenting and 1971 was a time for experimentation. The record labels were certainly letting people do what they want.

So when Sebastian fronted up with an album of folk blues and roots music on side one and one 16 minute song on side two the record label didn't flinch. Well maybe they did but folk lues was commonplace (Canned Heat, Blues Project et al) and Arlo Guthrie and Iron Butterfly had sold well with the long suite songs so why not here?

For whatever reason it didn't do well. Sebastian seems to think it didn't because he was too happy and people wanted cynicism.


Certainly the mood of the album isn't downbeat but the music itself is schizophrenic. There's a little bit of something here for every musical taste. Perhaps too much. Sebastian was showing his versatility in roots music (and all the facets of Americana) and it all holds together but only just. Some of the songs are excellent but there are no instant classics that Sebastian was always capable of putting out.

All songs by Sebastian unless otherwise indicated.

Tracks (best in italics)

      Side 1

  • Well, Well, Well  – (arranged by Josh White) – a good folk blues that Sebastian had learned from Josh White in hi youth.
  • Black Snake Blues – (Clifton Chenier) – a cover of  song by the great zydeco act Clifton Chenier before he as too well known. This is positively electric and shows Sebastian could have been a convincing white bluesman.
  • I Don't Want Nobody Else – Like something from Lovin Spoonful but without the lush fills.
  • Apple Hill  – another very good familiar Sebastian tune.
  • Black Satin Kid  – a straight ahead rocker. Sebastian is least convincing on these.
  • We'll See  – Great good time music like the Lovin Spoonful put out
  • Sweet Muse – a rootsy New Orleans type of jazzy blues piece.

      Side 2

  • The Four Of Us – Contributors include the Esso Trinidad Steel Band, Dr. John and Felix Pappalardi. This is actually four separate songs linked together and chronicling a cross-country journey of Sebastian and his wife and another couple (the "four of us"). This is hardly commercial but it works as four separate songs (which jar against each other intentionally at times) or one long song.

And …

Patchy but good … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action




1971 #93



Well, Well, Well


Black Snake Blues






Lovin Spoonful











Posted in Americana, Roots Rock, Singer Songwriter | Tagged | Leave a comment

THE YOUNG RASCALS – Groovin’ – (Atlantic) – 1967

Young Rascals - Groovin

Check out my other Rascals comment for background on this seminal American band.

Putting the hit singles to one side, The Young Rascals are sadly underappreciated outside of the US. They were, for a short time, phenomenal, but like many other American acts their popularity outside of the US was underwhelming.

You don't hear people asking "What's Your favourite Rascals album?" as they would of the Rolling Stones, Beatles, Who or Kinks.

And, they had a #1 album in 1968 (the Greatest Hits album), 2 Top 10 albums, another 3 Top 20 albums and another Top 40 album … all in 4 years!

I think, outside of the US, there is still an under appreciation of LPs by US 60s bands generally, such was the popularity of the British invasion groups. The good thing is, for me, the discovery of  these "new" albums.

This was the Rascals third album and here they really extended themselves bringing in Latin rhythms, pop, balladry, horns, psych influences to their already establish blue eyed soul and garage sound.

They could do this, and do this easily…

As a working band they could play as good as any band in the land. Playing night after night will sharpen your skills to the point where anything you tackle with imagination will pay off.

And they had imagination.

The late 60s, and 1967 specifically, was a time of imagination and experimentation. Anything was possible. Both musically and otherwise. The Summer of Love was underway and even though there was a war being fought on south east Asian fields escapism rather than confrontation was the rule of the day.

The Rascals tapped into that alternative reality. There is an urban pastoral (if that's not a contradiction) feel to this album. This album is relaxed and laid back, as if you were going for a stroll in the local park, even if it is surrounded by skyscrapers. The heavier, noisier rock and soul of their first two albums only sticks its head in occasionally here. I love that music but the "good vibrations" on this album really make it special and ease a weary mind.

Even today, despite some sounds that are of their time, this album is perfect for the days of winter sunshine when you don't have a care in the world.

Within a few years everything would turn to shit and a realisation that escape does not exist without ramifications, becomes clear, but, for a moment there in 1967 the world was perfect. It was good to be young, free, and in love.

The Young Rascals knew this and put it to music, just like an East Coast Beach Boys.

What is most striking to me is the similarity to The Beach Boys. Wait, listen. I'm not talking about sounds, but thematically. With a sense of innocent wide eyed excitement much of this album feels like something coming in the immediate aftermath of "Pet Sounds" (1966). Surely that album had an influence on this album. The horns replace The Beach Boys multi layered vocals but, otherwise, the emotional punch in the songs comes from the same area.

This is sublime music.

All songs are written by Felix Cavaliere and Eddie Brigati, except where otherwise indicated.

Tracks (best in italics)

Side One

  • A Girl Like You – (Lead Vocals: Felix) – A great song. Really, a great song. A touch of The Lovin Spoonful in here but what a great song.
  • Find Somebody – ((Lead Vocals: Eddie) – ) – Garage rock with psychedelic overtones. This is good and tough ….
  • I'm So Happy Now – (Gene Cornish) – (Lead Vocals: Gene) – beautiful … gentle.
  • Sueño – (Lead Vocals: Felix) –  A wonderful Latin lilt runs through this, naturally enough given the songs title. Though here the Latin is injected with some psych. Excellent.
  • How Can I Be Sure – (Lead Vocals: Eddie) – a fantastic single with a beautiful melancholy accordion (well three of them are of Italian ancestry). This is one of my favourite "accordion" rock n pop songs. This sounds like it could have come off a soundtrack of the time. It is sublime, totally romantic and wonderful.

      Side Two

  • Groovin' – (Lead Vocals: Felix) – The big single and one of the greatest of songs from pop. Its effect on the happy  part of the brain is palpable … https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groovin%27
  • If You Knew – (Lead Vocals: Eddie & Felix) – a very pretty song. Filler, but superior filler.
  • I Don't Love You Anymore – (Gene Cornish) – (Lead Vocals: Gene) – Beautiful.
  • You Better Run – (Lead Vocals: Felix) – Apparently a song left over from earlier albums. This is straight garage and rock with keyboards up front. Maybe they were hedging their bets in case the old fans didn't like the new direction but, it doesn't matter because the song is so well done and sung.
  • A Place in the Sun – (Ronald Miller, Brian Wells) – (Lead Vocals: Eddie) – a cover of the Stevie Wonder hit from 1966 (#9). The Rascals play this gently and it fits in perfectly with the originals (thematically also).
  • It's Love – (Lead Vocals – Felix) – a great soul rock song with swirling flute and an ethereal light psych feel. The Flute solo is by legendary jazz flutist Hubert Laws.                

And …

A magnificent album. One of the best of the 1960s … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action



1967  How Can I Be Sure  The Billboard Hot 100  4 

1967  Groovin'  The Billboard Hot 100  1

1967  Groovin'  R&B Singles  3 

1967  A Girl Like You  The Billboard Hot 100  10 


1967  Groovin'  R&B Albums  7 

1967  Groovin'  The Billboard 200  5 



1967  Groovin'  #8   

1967  A Girl Like You  #37 




A Girl Like You



mp3 attached

How Can I Be Sure

mp3 attached























  • apparently The Young Rascals were one of the only white groups to have a sizeable following with Afro-Americans (five of their albums made the R&B Charts).
Posted in Blue Eyed Soul, Rock & Pop | Tagged | Leave a comment

JOHNNY RIVERS – In Action! – (Imperial) – 1965

Johnny Rivers - In Action

You know the drill.

Biographical details and musical stylistic observations on Johnny Rivers are on any number of other entries on this blog.

This was Johnny's 3rd album and 3rd album of 1964.

It was his first studio album despite suggestions of being live: the pictures, the title.

Rivers had shown he could cut it live and create "groovy" go go sounds. This album is a little more restrained but there is still a good vibe running through it as he tackles songs from the rock n roll era and more recent hits. These aren't slavish covers but rather songs done to the Rivers beat. The emphasis is on the beat, as in a beat for dancing.

As I sit here alone in my man cave (the wife and kids having deserted me for the comforts of cable TV) I'm not going to hop up and do a dance but my foot is tapping and I know I'll be playing the record through again because it's fun.

The album was produced by Lou Adler who is no slouch at this type of stuff. Joe Osborn is on bass and Mickey Jones (formerly with Trini Lopez and later with Bob Dylan) is on drums.

Perhaps the final word should come from Steve McQueen who does the celebrity endorsement liner notes on the back sleeve:

I dig music…all kinds of music: jazz, blues, pop, classical; the style doesn’t matter if it’s something that involves me.  That’s why, when I was asked to write a few lines for this new album, I jumped at the chance.

Blues are something special for me; they get to the live heart of people – their hurts and happiness, problems and joys, desires and fulfilments.  Isn’t this what life is all about?

When Johnny Rivers sings, he gets to the heart of the music.  He sings from the soul, capturing not only the meaning of the lyric but the complimentary value of the melody.  For me, Johnny is the most exciting and creative young talent since the days of the great Leadbelly.

Many times I’ve enjoyed dancing to Johnny’s music at the Whisky à Go Go.  But Johnny’s talents are equally deserving of a listening audience, and for that reason I’m happy to be able to add this album to my collection at home.

Johnny Rivers is no fad.  He’s an artist, one who will survive and continue to grow long after many another has been forgotten.

Tracks (best in italics)

Side One

  • Mountain Of Love – (Harold Dorman) – Harold Dorman's 1960 hit (#21Pop, #7R&B). Apparently, The Wrecking Crew played backing to Rivers on this. The Beach Boys tackles Rivers version on their "Party" (1965) album. This sis a great song and oddly reminiscent of Elvis movie songs around the chorus.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountain_of_Love
  • Promised Land – (Chuck Berry) – Chuck Berry was perfect for Johnny Rivers. Rivers had hit with Chuck's Memphis and Maybelline (both 1964)  so i assumed the logic was, "when oin a roll …" The song first appeared on Chuck's 1964 album, "St. Louis to Liverpool" and Rivers does a good credible version. It's become a bona fide classic. (Elvis' version from 1974 is one of the best). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Promised_Land_(song)
  • I Should Have Known Better – (Lennon–McCartney) – The Beatles song from 1964 slowed down for hipster older dancing rather than teen shenanigans. It works. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Should_Have_Known_Better
  • I'm In Love Again – (A. Domino – D. Bartholomew) – Fats Domino's tune from 1956. is done well by Rivers. This type of stuff Rivers loved having grown up in Louisiana. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I%27m_in_Love_Again_(song)
  • Rhythm Of The Rain – (J. Gummol) – The Cascades big hit from 1963 (#3) is sped up slightly to match the tempo of the other songs, for dancing. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhythm_of_the_Rain
  • He Don't Love You Like I Love You – (Nathan Stuckey) – Jerry Butler, Calvin Carter, and Curtis Mayfield) – A #7 hit in 1960 under a different title. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/He_Don%27t_Love_You_(Like_I_Love_You)

Side Two

And …

I dig this music and, if it's good enough for Steve McQueen, it's good enough for me … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action



1964  Mountain Of Love  The Billboard Hot 100  #9 

1965  Cupid  The Billboard Hot 100  #76 


1965  Johnny Rivers In Action!  The Billboard 200  #42 



Mountain Of Love














Posted in Blue Eyed Soul, Rock & Pop, Rockabilly and Rock n Roll | Tagged | Leave a comment

JOHN WALKER – If You Go Away – (Philips) – 1967

John Walker - If You Go Away

Everyone (well the critics and music tragics anyway) wax lyrical about Scott Walker (and rightly so) of The Walker Brothers but what about his "brother" John?

John was one third of 1960s pop sensations The Walker Brothers.

The Walker Brothers are interesting on a number of levels.

They weren't brothers and secondly they were Americans who went to live in England at the height of the British invasion and had hits there.

Wikipedia: John Maus was born in New York City (in 1943) , the son of John Joseph Maus Sr., who was of German extraction, and his wife Regina. With his parents and his older sister, Judith, he moved to California in 1947, at first settling in Redondo Beach and later in Hermosa Beach. He began learning saxophone, clarinet and guitar as a child, and by the age of 11 also began acting and appearing in TV talent shows. He had a role in a regular sitcom, Hello Mom, and small uncredited parts in the movies The Eddy Duchin Story (1956) and The Missouri Traveler (1958). He became a friend of Ritchie Valens, and was an honorary pallbearer at Valens' funeral. In 1959 the family moved again, to Inglewood, where he made the acquaintance of David Marks and Dennis and Carl Wilson, helping to teach them guitar. He began using the name John Walker at the age of 17, because he was unhappy at how people pronounced his real name…From 1957 onwards, he worked as singer and guitarist with his sister, as the duo John and Judy. They recorded several singles for the Aladdin, Dore, Arvee and Eldo labels between 1958 and 1962. In 1961, they formed a backing band and performed as John, Judy and the Newports, until the band split up after an engagement in Hawaii. They then met Scott Engel, who had been playing bass in The Routers, and, with drummer "Spider" Webb, formed a new band, Judy and the Gents. Maus obtained an ID card in the name of John Walker, in order to perform in clubs around Los Angeles while under the legal age to do so. In 1963, Walker and Engel, with two other musicians, toured the Midwest as "The Surfaris", although the group included none of the musicians who played on the Surfaris' records. Walker also released his first solo record, "What a Thrill", on the Almo label, with The Blossoms as backing singers… He formed The Walker Brothers (originally The Walker Brothers Trio) in 1964, with himself as lead vocalist and guitarist, Engel on bass and harmony vocals, and Al "Tiny" Schneider on drums. Walker and Engel were signed as a duo by Mercury Records, and recorded their first single, "Pretty Girls Everywhere" in Los Angeles. There they became a leading attraction at Gazzari's nightclub, and appeared on the Shindig! TV show developed by Jack Good, and then on a weekly TV show, Ninth Street A Go Go. Late in 1964, they met drummer Gary Leeds, previously of The Standells, who had recently toured the UK with singer P.J. Proby, and who persuaded them that they would have greater success in England. Before leaving, they recorded their second single, "Love Her", overseen by Nick Venet and arranger Jack Nitzsche, with Scott Engel taking the lead vocal part for the first time. With financial backing from Leeds' stepfather, Walker, Engel and Leeds travelled to the UK in February 1965 for an exploratory visit …"

The result of that visit …. Singles: 2 #1s, another 7 Top 40. Albums: 4 Top 10 albums. And that is in the space of three years!

The Walker Brothers had less chart success in the US (2 Top 20s) though I suspect that was partially because the US already had "their" Walker Brothers … and what the "Walker Brothers" were based themselves on (in part), The Righteous Brothers.

The Brothers broke up in 1968. Each went on to put out solo work with Scott achieving the most success, critically and commercially.

They reformed in the 70s for three more albums before splitting again. John Walker went into electronics and solo work before passing away in 2011.

John was 24 at the time of this album. He had sung lead back in the US but Scott had become the lead voice soon after the group formed and was the only lead voice the English had heard. So whilst he sand up front, Gary played drums and John sang harmonies. Those harmonies where integral to The Walker Brothers sound and John was right up front of stage with Scott. But there was more. John Walker wrote, somewhat immodestly, but with a lot of truth, in his autobiographical The Walker Brothers: "No Regrets – Our Story":

"I was always the leader of the band. I was the one who said, 'Let's do this, let's do that.' I spent a great deal of time making sure that the group would make incredible music. Most people don't realise that it was I who chose the songs that would become The Walker Brothers' biggest-selling singles….. I was aware that things had changed a lot: Scott had become the lead singer of the group… Now that he was singing lead, I enjoyed the opportunity to create some unusual harmonies, something I had never done before. We knew that we each had an important role, and felt responsible to each other, with one goal in mind, which was to make good records that were unique for the time."

I suspect, though, that John wanted to do a side project and this was it. Whether that was a result of a split in the band or a looming split I do not know as I'm not that familiar with the (minutiae) details of the band.

Clearly, John had an influence on The Walker Brothers career and sound as they all did. By that I mean to suggest they were not a "put together" act. It seems clear they were all creative and (to varying degrees) forceful personalities.

This album is proof of that. It is both a Walker Brothers album and a departure from the Walker Brothers. This album could have been a Walker Brothers album. The same themes, same sound (maybe stripped down a little), and same pop sensibility are there. And yet, it departs from what the Walker Brothers did as John injects more of his own personality. There are more retro trad pop numbers, less emphasis on intensely brooding songs, and occasional displays of a wounded heart (which was Scott's forte).

Despite a single John  released in 1968, "Annabella", co-written by Graham Nash, which reached #24 on the UK singles chart this album tanked as did follow up singles and a 1969 album, "This Is John Walker". There would be other bits and pieces before and after the 1970s Walker Brothers reunion but his solo career never took off.

I suspect a lot of that had to do with being in the (giant) shadow of Scott Walker, who sang not dissimilar music.

Tracks (best in italics)

            Side 1

  • The Right To Cry – (Goffin-King) – nice, but a little thin around the voice and the voice lost in the instrumentation on occasion. First done by Lenny Welch in 1967.
  • Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out To Dry – (Cahn-Styne) – this is better. Walker's voice suits gentle arrangements when he wants it to. Here he takes on a wounded heart little boy lost voice, with some huskiness around the edges. This is decidedly retro with 40s era backing vocals. I'm not sure where the market is (was) for this in 1967. Even Tony Bennett wasn't doing stuff like this at the time. Still, there is nothing wrong with it, it's good in fact. A standard done by everyone, notably Frank Sinatra in 1958. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Guess_I%27ll_Hang_My_Tears_Out_to_Dry
  • Reaching For The Sun – (Duncan-Nash-James) –   a beat ballad co-written by Graham Nash. This is good with some nice drama. Nash is always a good writer.
  • An Exception To The Rule – (Stone) –  a mid tempo soul number which is fun (slight but fun).
  • Good Day – (Nash-Duncan-James) – a song of its times. Baroque, hippy and quite relaxing in a winter way.
  • If You Go Away – (McKuen-Brel) – The magnificent Rod McKuen and Jacques Brel song done by everyone including Scott Walker. There are going to be inevitable comparisons and the general consensus is Scott's version is better … and it is, but John's version is pretty good also, but then again the song is great for pop singers like this. Some of the orchestral flourishes are a little too much but then the song is meant to be uber emotional …

            Side 2

  • So Goes Love – (Goffin-King) – English pop singer Dave Berry (1965) had done this as had The Turtles (1967). Nice.
  • It's All In The Game – (Sigman-Dawes) –  The song had given Tommy Edwards (#1, 1958) and Cliff Richard (#2 UK 1963, #25 US, 1964) hits. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It%27s_All_in_the_Game_(song)
  • Nancy (With The Laughing Face)  – (Silvers-van Heusen) – nice and gentle but always associated with Frank Sinatra (1944). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nancy_(with_the_Laughing_Face)
  • It's A Hang Up Baby – (Reeves) – a stompin mid tempo rocker. Decidedly old school and a touch cabaret but quite groovy. Similar to Jerry Lee Lewis' version on his " Soul My Way" album from 1967.
  • Pennies From Heaven – (Burke-Johnston) – one of my favourite of all the popular standards. This , though, misses the mark. Both the tempo and  orchestration is wrong, which, I think, sets the wrong mood for the song. Done by everyone but usually associated with Bing Crosby (1935) though I'm partial, also, to Guy Mitchell's version from 1958. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pennies_from_Heaven_(song)
  • I Don't Wanna Know About You –  (Maus) – written by Walker himself. A pleasant mid tempo rocker.

And …

Not perfect and if it wasn't for the continual comparisons to Scott Walker this would stand a taller. Quite good and at times impressively good (and I like the Walker Brothers anyway) … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action



Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out To Dry 


Reaching for the Sun

mp3 attached

If You Go Away 


It's A Hang Up Baby   

mp3 attached


doing Dylan


Walker Brothers



doing Dylan









visual tribute









  • Accompaniment is by reg Guest who worked with The Walker Brothers and Scott Walker solo.


RIP: Elvis Presley – 38 years ago.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZ3MOyCn66w


Posted in Adult Pop, Blue Eyed Soul, Popular & Crooners, Rock & Pop | Tagged | Leave a comment

ROD McKUEN – Seasons in the Sun, II – (Stanyan) – 1967

Rod McKuen - Seasons in the Sun II

A man.

A singlet.

A beach.

A piece of driftwood.

A perfect LP sleeve.

And perhaps a little gay.*

Not to me though.

To me the (almost) middle aged beachcomber depicted is a romantic slightly retreat-ist anti-hero at odds with contemporary society.

McKuen was that person.

I say was because Rod McKuen died earlier this year, on January 29, 2015.

Readers of this blog will see that I have commented on other Rod McKuen albums in the past. Go to those for biographical detail.

McKuen was 81 when he died, and sadly, that revival in his career I imagined could always happen never did.

But the press remembered his place in history:

NEW YORK (AP) — Rod McKuen, the husky-voiced "King of Kitsch" whose avalanche of music, verse and spoken-word recordings in the 1960s and '70s overwhelmed critical mockery and made him an Oscar-nominated songwriter and one  of the best-selling poets in history, has died. He was 81http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2015/01/29/us/ap-us-obit-rod-mckuen.html

The mainstream may have referred to him as the King of Kitsch but within that title, if that title is accurate, he encompassed many tings and took many positions which made him progressive, even in the progressive 60s, and would even still make him progressive by today's standards. His attitudes to the environment, war, the arms race, gender politics, human rights, interpersonal relationships and all sorts of social ills were insightful and accordingly, "progressive". Sure, he lacked the "scientific" rigour to make him a soapbox singer, a political troubadour,  or a militant malcontent minstrel but that was intentional on his part. His beliefs were wrapped in a romantic humanism almost religiously spiritual in nature which was always inclusive rather than exclusive.

In the 60s a critic called him a "soft voice in a hard world" and that is pretty accurate. Not so much in actual voice but in themes. He was in his thirties. Those themes were there when he was in his twenties and their when he grew old. He was remarkably consistent in his out look on life.

McKuen's songs are populated by people (lovers, friends, friends who are lovers, strangers, people who meet by chance) who are trying to make connections or maintain connections, and not necessarily sexual ones, in a world that is determined to make it difficult for them. That "difficulty" is a dual one, both manmade and natural. The busy society and the impersonality of technology are all themes hinted at but the movement of time and aging also reoccur in song after song.

Time is always slipping away in McKuen's songs and he is forever trying to stop it or preserve the moment or rather make that moment last, longer than it does.

It is undeniably romantic.

When wrapped in strings, spoken word, with a world weary and throaty voice it is a little kitsch.

It is also ready for rediscovery.

What Rick Rubin did for Johnny Cash on his "American Recordings" he could have done for Rod McKuen.

Perhaps, McKuen was a little "one note" (sic). Certainly, despite the fact that he has sold millions of volumes of poetry I find his music easier to listen to than his poetry to read. In both mediums his themes are re-visited many times but what makes them so appealing (at least aurally) is the delivery. At his best his voice is up front, weary, with retrained emotion whilst behind him he has a small orchestra or large combo.

One thing is for certain, he was prolific, there are many Rod McKuen songs ready for rediscovery.

This record was made on 1967 … I have little detail on it but I assume it was done at the same session as the songs for the "Seasons in the Sun" (1966) album.

This album is firmly of McKuen's late 60s product. His style is well developed. This is the sound that he would, more or less, keep till the end of his career.

Tracks (best in italics)

         Side One

  • I'm Strong But I Like Roses – (Rod McKuen) – yes, and why not.
  • Blue – (Rod McKuen – Gloria Shayne) –   A smoky late night ballad much in the Sinatra mould. Co-writer Shayne wrote "Goodbye Cruel World", which was recorded by James Darren in 1961.
  • Chasing The Sun – (Rod McKuen) – an ode to youth
  • Song Without Words- (Rod McKuen – Jacques Brel) – a spoken piece with nice piano accompaniment which is quite sombre and quite French, not surprising given it is written with Brel. (this actually plays as track 5)
  • Love Child – (Rod McKuen) – This plays as track 4 not track 5 …odd. In any event it's a devastating song. McKuen had a dysfunctional growing up particularly in relation to his "real" father. This song s partially autobiographical.
  • Nobody Told Me – (Rod McKuen – John Addison) – John Addison was an English film composer best known for the Oscar winning score to Tom Jones (1963).        
  • Interlude – (Rod McKuen – Hale Matthews) – a gentle samba type beat. Dream like.

         Side Two

  • When Summer Ends (I Think I'll Go Back Home) – (Rod McKuen) – a beautiful song with familiar McKuen themes, and a nice melody line. It reminds me a little of The Elvis Presley song "Let's Be Friends" from 1969.
  • The Word Before Goodbye – (Rod McKuen) – "Hello is the word before goodbye"
  • Orly Field & Fields Of Wonder – (Rod McKuen) –  from "Stanyan Street and Other Sorrows". A poem, spoken, to acoustic guitar.
  • I Don't Know Why (Je Ne Sais Pas) – (Rod McKuen – Jacques Brel) – a short (like a fragment of a song?) almost spoken song about lost love.
  • I Am What I Am – (Rod McKuen) – If you try you can find a homosexual subtext in just about anything.
  • I Wish You'd Stay – (Rod McKuen) – OK, there's anchors being dropped in the bay and restless men at dawn in this song. A good tune.
  • Once Upon A Summertime (La Valse des Lilas) – (Johnny Mercer –  Michele LeGrand) –  Originally done by Blossom Dearie for her "Once Upon a Summertime"(1958) album. Other versions include Tony Bennett 1963 and Astrud Gilberto (1966). A beautiful lost love song.

And …

Wonderful … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

No charting.

I find something wrong with the charts when it comes to McKuen. Very few of his LPs appear in the US charts. But yet his albums are everywhere here in Australia (and in the US I assume). Record labels will get it wrong once and have to dump hundreds of thousands of copies of an album on the public but they wont re-finance mistakes and McKuen had to many albums to have mistakes. Over his career, McKuen released over fifty vocal albums, ten spoken word albums, fourteen albums of classical compositions, twelve live recordings, fifteen hits compilations, four greatest Hits compilations, and sixteen albums in collaboration with Anita Kerr and the San Sebastian Strings. So why isn't there more of a chart presence?


I'm Strong But I Like Roses



mp3 attached

When Summer Ends (I Think I'll Go Back Home)

mp3 attached







a video biography











  • *I've just deleted three paragraphs of my rambling. I don't want to give this topic any mileage because McKuen himself didn't want to give it any mileage so I've put it down here. The mainstream press in their obituaries made no mention of his sexuality mainly because, for McKuen, there was no big coming out moment. The alternative press saw a conspiracy because McKuen's sexuality (his "gayness") was not championed in those obituaries. The fact that he wasn't championed by the gay press while he was alive probably says lot about them. When asked, in 2004, at age 70, on his blog, if he was gay he said, in typical McKuen fashion: "Am I gay? Let me put it this way, Collectively I spend more hours brushing my teeth than having sex so I refuse to define my life in sexual terms. I've been to bed with women and men and in most cases enjoyed the experience with either sex immensely. Does that make me bi-sexual? Nope. Heterosexual? Not exclusively. Homosexual? Certainly not by my definition. I am sexual by nature and I continue to fall in love with people and with any luck human beings of both sexes will now and again be drawn to me. I can't imagine choosing one sex over the other, that's just too limiting. I can't even honestly say I have a preference. I'm attracted to different people for different reasons. I do identify with the Gay Rights struggle, to me that battle is about nothing more or less than human rights. I marched in the 50’s and 60’s to protest the treatment of Blacks in this country and I’m proud of the fact that I broke the color barrier in South Africa by being the first artist to successfully demand integrated seating at my concerts. I am a die-hard feminist and will continue to speak out for women’s rights as long as they are threatened. These, of course, are all social issues and have nothing to do with my sex life (although admittedly I’ve met some pretty hot people of both sexes on the picket line.)." http://www.rodmckuen.org/

One day he will be rediscovered and his history will be rewritten, no doubt (as it      already seems to be … a lot of post death articles refer to him as a "gay icon"?) but he is a most unlikely poster boy for the orthodox homosexual lobby but an effective one for the humanist lobby.

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JACKIE DeSHANNON – Songs – (Capitol) – 1971

Jackie DeShannon - Songs - 1971

This is another album that I've had a while. It's been kicking around since the late 1980s I think. I had quite a few Jackie DeShannon albums and I was pressed for space and I thought … I've got a couple of compilations in my collection so I can rationalise a few LPs and stick them into a "maybe" pile… where they sat for quite sometime.

Time, age and the realisation that Jackie probably is my favourite female singer-songwriter has caused me to reconsider that decision and I started to re-listen to those albums over the last few years.

Commenting on this album is perhaps a fait accompli as I have heard it (albeit many moons ago) and I do like Jackie DeShannon but I'm in a Jackie DeShannon mood and I have so little of her product (perhaps five or so albums all up).

Jackie was born Sharon Lee Meyers in Hazel, KY on August 21, 1944 (some sources say (born August 21, 1941). Go to the links and read any of her bio's … they make for interesting reading … she started in the late 50s, was in California in it's heyday the 60s, dated Elvis (well, she didn't really but every article says she did – see trivia section), hung out with The Everly Brothers and Rick Nelson, toured with The Beatles, worked with Jack Nitzsche  Burt Bacharach and Hal David, starred in films, wrote music, appeared on TV shows of the day …

She isn't as well know as Carole King or Joni Mitchell

But, she, perhaps, should be more well known: Allmusic introduces its entry on her with, "Singer and songwriter Jackie DeShannon has quite a musical legacy. Her early singles crafted doo wop to intelligent lyrics. She toured with the Beatles in 1964 and more than held her own. She wrote songs with Randy Newman and Jimmy Page. She sang with Van Morrison. She was among the first artists to realize that folk and pop could work together and was a behind-the-scenes innovator in the creation of folk-rock. And she did it all with style and grace, singing with a sexy, husky voice full of energetic passion and writing songs that gracefully belied the craft behind them. By all accounts she should be a household name instead of just a respected rock & roll footnote'.

Her own website is overly modest I think: "Singer-songwriter Jackie DeShannon is the soulful voice behind two enduring 1960’s anthems — Burt Bacharach & Hal David's "What The World Needs Now Is Love" and DeShannon's own  "Put A Little Love In Your Heart."  Beyond those standards is an artist who has created a body of  work covering a diverse range of genres including rock, folk, R&B, country, gospel, reggae and jazz.  Her songs have been performed by Brenda Lee, The Byrds, Marianne Faithfull, Al Green,  Annie Lennox, The Searchers, Pam Tillis, The Carpenters, Kim Carnes, The Temptations,  Rick Nelson, Cher, Van Morrison, Ella Fitzgerald, Dolly Parton, Irma Thomas,  Bruce Springsteen and dozens more". 

This chick really was a trailblazer and was cutting edge throughout the 60s and into the 70s writing many great tracks, recording many other great tracks but never having that one gigantic album or hit for herself.

Two Top 10 singles and no albums that even made the Top 40.

Everything, normally, is about the charts. That's where the money is and the ticket to fame.

But there are exceptions.

The singers, the musicians, the music archaeologists, the keen listeners and the kids who spend a lot of time in op shops all know real gold when they hear it.

And, so do the punters, they just have to be given access to it.

In truth, even the most casual music listener knows something by Jackie DeShannon you just have to dig a little to realise it.

In the early 70s Jackie was on a roll … she had had hit with "Put A Little Love In Your Heart" ( #4 1969) and "Love Will Find A Way" (#40 1969)  and had put out some fine, though, low selling introspective singer-songwriter-ish introspective country soul and pop albums.

This album is more of the same though it is a little bit more rustic. DeShannon has a good mix of covers and originals (and a couple of songs that, I assume, are originals by others) which all emphasise a pastoral attitude with quite a few gospel overtones. I think Jackie was tapping into her Kentucky roots. Co-produced by DeShannon, Eric Malamud, and John Palladino everything is kept quite low key but still soulful, much like what Delaney & Bonnie were doing at the time. One track  'Show Me' was produced by Memphian Chips Moman, (apparently from an earlier abandoned session) and in Chips Moman style it's quite produced but it still fit's in well.

This country soul sound fit hand in hand with the country rock sound emerging at the time and there were many crossovers. The only surprise is that neither the album or any of the tracks got any airplay.

Tracks (best in italics)

      Side 1

  • Keep Me Warm – (Johnny Christopher) – Johnny Christopher is a professional songwriter (he co-wrote "Always on My Mind" with Mark James, for Elvis)
  • Lay, Baby, Lay – (Bob Dylan) – The great Dylan song with the "Lady" changed to "Baby". A beautiful version of the song.
  • West Virginia Mine – (Jackie DeShannon) – quite vivid and potent for a pop song.
  • Show Me – (Johnny Christopher) – I love this track. The carnival bounce to it and delicate lyric work well and remind me a little if Nilsson.
  • Down By The Riverside – (traditional arranged by Randy Edelman) – a rocking version of the old spiritual.

      Side 2

  • International – (Benny Gallagher – G. Lyle) – a cover from the first McGuinness Flint album from 1970. A nice gospel feel.
  • Sunny Days – (Randy Edelman) – a cover from Edelman's 1971 self titled debut album. Nice.
  • Salinas – (Jackie DeShannon) – quite like a daydream.
  • Bad Water – (Jackie DeShannon) – Another rocker and quite good.
  • Ease Your Pain – (Hoyt Axton) – a cover of country singe Axton's 1971 single. A great tune. Another in the long line of "hip" faith songs of the early 70s. Understanding, love and faith will lighten your burden and ease your pain … and by extension get you through the troubling times that were the early 1970s.

And …

Quite relaxing and perfect for a sunny autumn day … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

Nothing … surprisingly.


Lay, Baby, Lay

mp3 attached

West Virginia Mine


Show Me

mp3 attached



Bad Water

Live recent






Is this not perfect?




Here cover of Elvis' "Trouble"













  • If the truth be know, and I put aside all the psuedo intellectual wankery in relation to music and songwriting the real reason I got hooked on Jackie way back in the 80s, when I was a teenager, was because she was a total fox. I went into Kent records (I think) in Brisbane and there was an album or book with a picture of her with platinum blonde hair, in a bob, and she was wearing a 60s skirt … that image and her slightly husky voice on the record grooves was worth ten Cyndi Laupers.
  • Apparently she was one of the singing voices on the " Don't Bug the Mosquitoes" (1965) episode of Gilligan's Island. I assume she was a voice for one of The Honeybees. Cool! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rqp_Si4a10E
  • Jackie and Elvis. http://www.elvis.com.au/presley/interview_jackie_deshannon.shtml

Jackie DeShannon 01             jackie deshannon 02             jackie deshannon 03

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