(PAUL REVERE & THE) RAIDERS – Country Wine – (Columbia) – 1972

Raiders - Country Wine

This is the last album of the original Paul Revere and the Raiders despite just being called "Raiders", a name they had used over their preceding two albums, Collage (1970) and Indian Reservation (1971). Importantly, both Paul Revere (the keyboardist) and Mark Lindsay (the vocalist) are still here with several long time Raiders members.

At the time despite the success of the single "Indian Reservation" (#1, 1971 US) their fortunes were dwindling, or so the usually told narrative goes.

Sure there hits weren't as frequent as they had been but they were hardly washed up and this certainly wasn't meant to be their last album as there were subsequent singles and songs recorded for a follow up album (that never came) before the band called it quits in 1976.

The Raiders always had their ear to the ground when it came to trends in music and perhaps have been criticised a little for that, though no one seems to complain about The Rolling Stones doing it (R&B, psych country, country gospel, R&B, rock n roll and even disco) or The Beatles (country, Americana, and big pop).

So this album is very 1972 with country influences, gospel influences, rock n roll, and big soulful adult pop – all popular musical styles of the day

The Raiders were certainly open to and incorporated these influences but those influences had all been explored before and are part of their musical make-up. Country soul and gospel had been referenced before especially in "Goin’ To Memphis" (1967), adult pop In their last preceding three or so albums (and on Mark Lindsay's solo albums of the time), rock n roll from their earliest days.

The trouble is, at least to the greater public, the albums come out a little schizophrenic, incorporating all the influences across songs rather looking for one dominant style to effect the whole album. You can point to the Stones country rock album, R&B album psych album, disco-ish album but with the Raiders it's not that clear cut as each album  (especially, and mainly, their later ones) has songs that bounce from genre to genre.

The album comes across almost as a collection of singles and there is nothing wrong with that apart from the fact that their (former) audience had now grown up and become more album oriented.

Clearly this was a conscious decision on the part of the Raiders (and something they had always done to varying degrees) but, with hindsight, it perhaps would have been better to focus.

These all sound like negatives and they are but only to the extent of why (perhaps) The Raiders later albums are not as well known as they should be.

Whether this album is a deliberately varied approach, or simply directionless doesn't matter because, musically, there is gold scattered across the album.

The back cover of the album shows the band comprising Mark Lindsay (lead vocals), Paul Revere (keyboards), Keith Allison (bass and guitar, who had replaced Phil Volk), Freddy Weller (guitar, who had replaced Jim Valley) and Mike "Smitty" Smith (drums, who had already been a member in the 1960s, left and then returned and replaced Joe Correro Jr. in 1970).

The band play well … no one could ever say the Raiders can't play. And that is impressive given the different styles present on this album.

I note it's another one of those albums where they put all the fast songs on one side (side one here) and the slow ones on the other side.

All the songs are written by the band or (seem to be) written for the band by professional songwriters. Lindsay produced.

Tracks (best in italics)

      Side One

  • Country Wine – (E. Villareal, W. Watkins) – written for the band. Big up-tempo pop with a country flavour, like a more mainstream Delaney & Bonnie. Perfect for television talk show guest spots. It is undeniably catchy though.
  • Powder Blue Mercedes Queen – (Mark Lindsay) – Bad Company, free and Mountain are channelled here for this heavier rocker in the "Mississippi Queen" style.
  • Hungry For Some Lovin' – (Robert Siller) – This is a good soulful number in "Aint No Mountain High Enough" style.
  • Baby Make Up Your Mind – (John P'Andrea, John Porter) – big soulful pop with some funky asides
  • Take A Stand – (Mark Lindsay, Keith Allison) – thematically very much of it's time, "everybody's got to take a stand". This has a great groove going with nods to War.

      Side Two

  • Where Are Your Children – (Leslie Ward Chandler) – Big, straight adult and family pop with a touch of Las Vegas. Lindsay loved this stuff (as his solo albums suggest) and he can sure sing it. This is mush but irresistible.
  • Ballad Of The Unloved – (P. Weiss, S. English) – pure big pop … and quite mushy as the title would suggest, but quite good.
  • American Family – (Alan Earle O'Pay) – more big pop with a depressing and, perhaps, a non commercial theme though there is optimism in there … "The American Family is dying, the American marriage is through,  though that doesn't mean it's true". I don't know if there is a misprint and the writer is meant to be Alan O'Day but in any event it sounds very much something written by Jimmy Curtiss. Very catchy though.
  • Golden Girls Sometimes – (M. Lindsay, K. Allison) – country folk pop and quite beguiling.
  • Farewell To A Golden Girl – (Mark Lindsay) – a gentle instrumental (with a spoken bridge) that closes nicely though it sounds like something from the late 1960s.

And …

A solid album by a band I love … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action



1972  Powder Blue Mercedes Queen  The Billboard Hot 100  #54 

1972  Country Wine  The Billboard Hot 100  #51 





Country Wine




Powder Blue Mercedes Queen


Hungry For Some Lovin'


Baby Make Up Your Mind


Take A Stand  


Where Are Your Children


American Family


Golden Girls Sometimes


















RIP: Alan Vega


Posted in Adult Pop, Country Soul | Tagged | Leave a comment

HORALD GRIFFITHS – Good Ol’ Boy – (Atlantic) – 1972

Horald Griffiths - Good Ol' Boy

Not "Harold" but "Horald".

I spent some time googling before I noticed my error.

The correct "Horald" did not provide that much more information, in fact he is often listed as “Harold”

I even picked myself up and went and consulted my music library. Horald Griffiths does not appear anywhere.

This is unusual as he was signed to a major label, but stranger things have happened.

His history prior to the album is murky …

All I have, and then it took some time is that he provided music and lyrics and appeared in Doug Dyer's off Broadway play "Blood" in 1971.

"Blood" was an anti-war piece about a Vietnam veteran's homecoming done as an updated version of the Greek trilogy "The Oresteia" by Aeschylus. It seems to be yet another spin off and attempt at gaining the audience of "Hair".

The label saw something in him and were taking a chance.

It failed.

This was his only album.

It seems, though, that subsequent to this he gigged. He played, and may have been a regular, at Caffè Lena, the small bohemian coffeehouse run by Lena Spencer  in Saratoga Springs, upstate New York, from 1960 until her death in 1989. (apparently it was the oldest continuously running coffeehouse in the country … and is still going).

So much music comes with preconceived notice.

This doesn’t.

Well, apart from the sleeve, the rustic New York come country Americana sleeve sucked me in.

This is of its time. Country folk (Americana) though with a lot of quirk. The genre hadn’t been established clearly yet so there was a lot of experimentation, or fumbling in the dark, going on. And this is endearing. There is folk, folk-psych, rustic country, rockabilly, singer songwriter.

It is not dissimilar to Bob Dylan (naturally enough) and Arlo Guthrie with more rock n roll references and Griffiths has a good expressive voice on both the straight forward and personal songs.

The playing is superb with Griffiths on acoustic guitar, David Spinozza (session guitarist who had just come of working on Paul McCartney's Ram album during 1971), Bill Salter (Pete Seeger, Miriam Makeba, Harry Belafonte), Ron Carter (jazz bassist and former member of Miles Davis Quintet), Ray Lucas (backed Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, The Supremes), Ralph McDonald (songwriter and sessionman who has backed Harry Belafonte, David Bowie and others). Producer Joel Dorn was an American jazz and R&B music producer who worked at Atlantic exclusively in the early 70s which explains while all the session men with the exception of Spinozza, are Afro-American jazz men.

 All songs are by Griffiths unless noted otherwise.

Tracks (best in italics)

      Side One

  • Broken-Down Horse Thief – a great start and very Dylan and not surprisingly Arlo Guthrie in fact it predates similar Arlo a little.
  • White Flag – some great playing going on here which sounds quite simple. The song is quite subservient, a flag to wave on the fourth of July with no stars or bars, it's just "plain old white".
  • Frozen Corn – singer songwriter rumination which is quite stark.
  • I Found Out Where They Chased Them Indians To – another winner with some sharp observations.
  • Give Back The Song – a weird one which sounds like it is a sung soliloquy from some sort of Broadway show
  • Final Score After Two Overtimes – (Patrick Fox) – a fight between "black" and "white"  is another catchy tune with more Arlo influences.

      Side Two

  • Watching Pigeons Chasing Shadows On The Ground – like a cross between Tom Lehrer and John Sebastian. Quite enjoyable, very enjoyable.
  • One Way Street – nice
  • Kansas City Star – (Roger Miller) – Roger Miller's humorous song fits in well with Griffiths who is similar. The song is short though.
  • Love Buzz – very catchy
  • Prisoner Of War – a dramatic, dark turn.
  • Another Dream – a solemn ballad with psych overtones you would expect to hear in 1968.
  • Gravity Of The Times – (Patrick Fox & Horald Elman Griffiths) –  dramatic and so so.
  • Carter Cat Blues – and for something totally different a rockabilly type song which is very catchy and a lot of fun but absolutely different to the rest of the album.

And …

A incredibly overlooked release (from a major label) … not perfect but really, really good … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

Nothing, nowhere.


Broken-Down Horse Thief

mp3 attached

Prisoner Of War  

mp3 attached






  • Griffiths may have been from Utah originally. There is another Horald Elman Griffiths who passed away in 2007 and who was born in 1921 which would fit the age of a father. The obituary makes specific reference to a Horald Elman Jr who has already passed. Is this the one in the same I have no idea. http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/OBITUARIES/2008-06/1212479802
  • US records indicate there was a Horald Griffiths born 10 February 1947 (in Nevada perhaps) who died May 1977.
  • Session men: Vocals, Guitar – Horald Griffiths / Drums – Ray Lucas  / Electric Bass – Ron Carter, Bill Salter / Guitar – David Spinozza / Percussion – Ralph McDonald.


Posted in Americana, Folk, Singer Songwriter | Tagged | Leave a comment

DR HOOK – A Little Bit More – (Capitol) – 1976

Dr Hook - A Little Bit More

Can you ever have enough Dr Hook?

Don't answer that.

Check my other comments for bio and detail. I have commented on earlier albums than this and later ones but this album is pivotal in some ways as it really broke them in the UK. They had some single chart success earlier but this album went Top 10 and also placed two singles in the Top 10.

And, it was not surprising. Since signing with Capitol on the 1975s "Bankrupt" album Dr Hook had lost their full name "Doctor Hook and the Medicine Show" and had moved further into ballads and soft rock. Any traces of country humour, beer and pot party songs or quirky observations were subdued to make Dr Hook as sweet as possible despite all the hair, moustaches and beards.

Apparently this album was originally intended to be a solo album by co-singer Dennis Loccoriere, but ended up being a Dr Hook album. Loccoriere sang lead on most tracks, but Ray Sawyer (the eye patched one) didn't miss out either. Most of the tracks were written by their regular writer Shel Silverstein also. So, apart from the gloss Dr Hook fans may not have noticed a big difference in the band's sound even though founding guitarist George Cummins had left in 1975.

I lean to the earlier Dr Hook but  for fans of soft rock or softer country rock this album is perfect.

Produced and directed by Ron Haffkine apart from "What About You" which was produced by Ron Haffkine & Waylon Jennings.

Tracks (best in italics)

      Side One

  • More Like The Movies – (S. Silverstein) – as sickly sweet as a bloke can get which is a result of the production as the lyrics and melody are pure country lament. Having said that, when ithits it's emotional high it is quite catchy.
  • A Little Bit More – (B. Gosh) –  It was written and originally performed by Bobby Gosh and released on his 1973 album "Sitting in the Quiet". This, again, is sickly sweet but you can see why it was a hit. A couple of wines and you will be singing along. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Little_Bit_More
  • The Radio – (D. Locorriere, S. Silverstein) –  hmmm
  • Up On The Mountain – (J. Comanor, S. Silverstein) –  old school Dr Hook doing their country funk
  • If Not You – (D. Locorriere) –  whoa, very, very sticky

      Side Two

  • Jungle To The Zoo – (S. Silverstein) –  okay. A statement the music industry? Marriage? Life? Or, all of the preceding? Dr Hooks country funk at work again..
  • Bad Eye Bill – (H. Smith) –  this seems to have been written for Dr Hook.
  • What About You – (J. Anglin, J. Wright) –  Johnnie Wright (1914–2011) and Jack Anglin (1916–1963) were American country duo Johnnie & Jack. They released this track as a single in 1949 but it was compiled into the album "Hits By Johnnie & Jack" in 1959. Mushy here but a traditional country lament.
  • I Need The High – (D. Locorriere, R. Sawyer) –  a love song – the double meaning would, no doubt, have amused Dr Hook.
  • A Couple More Years – (D. Locorriere, S. Silverstein) –  whoa, very sweet

And …

Too sweet … tape a few and sell.

Chart Action



1976 A Little Bit More #11

1976 A Little Bit More #15 US Adult Contemporary

1976 A Couple More Years #51 Country

1976 If Not You #55

1976 If Not You #26 Country

1976 If Not You #21 US Adult Contemporary



1976 A Little Bit More #62

1976 A Little Bit More #18 US Country



1976 A Little Bit More #2

1976 If Not You #5


1976 A Little Bit More #5



1976 A Little Bit More #10 Australia

1976 A Little Bit More #4 Canada

1976 If Not You #69 Australia

1976 If Not You #56 Canada


Canada 1976 A Little Bit More #69

Denmark 1976 A Little Bit More #1


More Like The Movies




A Little Bit More





The Radio


Up On The Mountain


If Not You




Jungle To The Zoo

mp3 attached

Bad Eye Bill


What About You


I Need The High


A Couple More Years























Dr Hook - A Little Bit More - back


Posted in Country Rock, Soft Rock | Tagged | Leave a comment

CATCH – Catch – (Dot) – 1969

Catch - Catch

Now this is obscure.

I bought this because it was a US pressing and $1. I was expecting jazz rock. I'm not sure why, maybe it's their dress.

What is known and none of this is certain is that the band were California based.

That's it.

Okay, a little more, this album and two singles were released in 1969 on the Dot label. Singers / guitarists Mike Collins and Roger White were credited with writing all of the original material.

That's it.

Well, apart from some after facts.

The band disbanded after this album though (at least) Collins and White joined / formed a band called Feather with John Townshend (later of the Sanford Townshend Band))

who released an album  in 1970, "Friends By Feather" (Columbia) which followed up on a couple of singles released on smaller labels. Collins and White, again, wrote most of the songs.

Both albums, were produced by J.R. Shanklin.(who worked with Nilsson in the mid 60s)

Collings and White subsequently became part of the Loggins and Messina recording and touring band (that fact is very loose). Roger White toured with Gene Clark in the  mid-70s (that is established).

That's it.

The music is of it's time but I like the time and highly influenced by what was happening around them. There is nothing wrong with that. Some bands have been cult favourites with the same philosophy.

There is nothing particularly individual here but it is hard to dislike this album as there are quite a few good songs amongst the musical schizophrenia. The overall sound is rustic country but there are nods to hippie music, Baroque pop, old school garage, soft psych, and just plain pop.

It may be musically ambitious but it could also be described as giving the people what they want by giving them as many familiar sounds as possible. I'm probably wrong but I suspect the members don't have roots in any of the American traditional musical idioms tackled.

But that's no a bad thing because every song the band tackles is convincing though they lack that one song to make them cult favourites. The name also, "Catch" at the time may have been a good idea but on the digital highway trying to find a band called "Catch" with a self titled album of the same name is not easy. The more famous "America" I imagine suffer the same problem.

All songs written by band member Mike Collins and Roger White unless noted.

Tracks best in italics)

            Side One

  • Amber – very nice. A bit like Crosby Stills and Nash or The Byrds with deeper (voiced) harmonies. Very nice and a couple of years ahead of it's time.
  • Come Near Me  – country rock with a light jovial bounce and few authentic country roots but nice nevertheless with a catchy melody.
  • Storm  – country rock over tones overlaid on (horn) pop with a little bit of fuzz guitar not dissimilar to what Paul Revere and The Raiders were doing around this time.
  • City Ditty – a trip to back to ye olde world music with the ragtime circus atmosphere popular at the time. Hints of Lovin Spoonful and Sopwith Camel.
  • The Dandelion And The Butterfly  – more horn and sting big pop and a Left Banke feel.
  • Live  – shades of Country Joe and the Fish tough with big horns..

      Side Two

  • I'm On The Road To Memphis –  covered by Buddy Alan and Don Rich on their "We're Real Good Friends" album (Capitol, 1971). Buddy Alan was Buck Owens son and Don Rich was Bucks lead guitarist. Country rock sounds like The Beau Brummels or Paul Revere and the Raiders on their country rock excursions.
  • Something Golden –  hmmm, plain pop
  • Crash And Burn  – fuzz guitar mayhem and a little out of place with the other songs but a standout track.
  • Nine Roses  – the obligatory long song. Eight minutes. Moody and not too bad.
  • Just A Closer Walk With Thee – (trad arranged Collins, White) – a traditional gospel song done by everyone. Dating to the 30s the original was made by the Selah Jubilee Singers in 1941  but is associated with Sister Rosetta Tharpe, who recorded her own version on 2 December 1941.  Red Foley's 1950 recording was one of the first religious hits in Country music. This one has a New Orleans feel. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just_a_Closer_Walk_with_Thee

And …

Quriky, and interesting … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action




mp3 attached

I'm On The Road To Memphis 


Crash And Burn 

mp3 attached












  • Arranged By – Catch, Dave Blumberg (who had ' has worked at Motown with Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, The Supremes and others as well as with The Fifth Dimension, Trini Lopez and many others (tracks: A4), Ken Kotwitz (tracks: A3, B2, B4)
  • In South Africa the album was called "Groovy" and had a different sleeve.  https://www.discogs.com/Catch-Groovy/release/7890263
  • A band called Catch they released a privately pressed album in 1972, "Caught Live at the Golden Hawk". That Catch seem to be a different band out of Des Moines and have a female singer.


Catch - Catch - back sleeve


RIP: The great, legendary Scotty Moore.

Posted in Country Rock, Psychedelic, Rock & Pop | Tagged | Leave a comment

JIM KWESKIN – Relax Your Mind – (Vanguard) – 1966

Jim Kweskin - Relax Your Mind

Jim Kweskin & The Jug Band had released two or three albums by the time Jim decided to put out this solo release.

Though it's not really "solo" just Jim and some of his band in a less raucous mood. The album was recorded live in the studio (with two tracks, "I Got Mine" and "Buffalo Skinners" recorded live at Club 47 in Cambridge. Massachusetts) by a truncated version of the Jug Band (Jim Kweskin on vocals and guitar, Mel Lyman on harmonica, and Fritz Richmond on washtub bass).

I suspect there were traditional tunes that Jim wanted to tackle that didn't fit the full band sound

Again, the band sound loose but aren't. They practiced a lot to sound this relaxed and loose. And you have to. For the music to come out naturally there can't be worries about the musicianship.

This album covers the pre-rock American songbook …  there is ragtime, country, blues, a cowboy song, gospel, Tin Pan Alley and even a Zulu folk song.

All done in Jim's jug band style, though low key and quiet.

Jim once said, "What jug band music is: if you had to boil it down to one thing, it’s really jazz played on folk music instruments. That was the difference between the jug band and the other “folk” music that was going on at the time" (http://thebuskersblog.typepad.com/the_buskers_blog/2015/09/jim-kweskin-on-the-jim-kweskin-jug-band.html)

And that applies here though instead of the full jazz band this is the jug band equivalent of a trio playing cool jazz..

The harmonica of Mel Lyman is amazing whilst Fritz Richmond keeps the beat on the washtub bass. But, central to it all is Jim Kweskin with his acoustic guitar and vocals tha are both of another time and keenly contemporary.

The material may have been old but the melodies, emotions and narratives within the songs do resonate now, as they would have in 1966.

His audience was marginal then and now it may be still be , though with the internet it may be larger, but a song (or recording) should have a life beyond when it was written or recorded. We (the masses) look and "old" paintings, don't we? We read classic" novels, don't we? We (sometimes) even watch films form the "golden years of cinema", don't we? They why not listen to old music? Double old here … a singer in 1965 singing old music. I hear people saying, I listen to Led Zeppelin or I listen to Queen but that is more of a case of listening to music that was around when you were young that you still listen to now. The time has come to dig deep and go for something that was around before you were born.

Good music is good music regardless of its age and it is "new" if you haven't heard it before even if it was recorded fifty years ago.

Jim Kweskin (born July 18, 1940, Stamford, Connecticut) played solo in coffee houses throughout the early folk boom before forming The Jug Band. The group broke up in the late 60s and Kweskin pursued a solo career in music, but also ran a day job / career as a construction contractor in the Los Angeles area.

"I got a day job," he said. "I no longer wanted to play music because I had to, because when I did, it stopped being fun". (http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/2230752-181/the-buzz-about-jim-kweskin?ref=related)

He continues to play today in small club and venues in the US …

All the songs are "traditionals" unless noted.

Tracks (best in italics)

            Side One

  • Sister Kate's Night Out – A medley composed of "I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate" (A. J. Piron), "Heebie Jeebies" (Boyd Atkins) and "Fifteen Cents" (Frankie Jaxon). "I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate" was recorded by The Original Memphis Five (1922), The Cotton Pickers (1923) and others. It seems to be adapted from a 1917 Louis Armstrong composition, ‘Take Your Feet Off Katie’s Head’. "Heebie Jeebies" was recorded by Louis Armstrong (1926) , "15 Cents" was recorded by Frankie Jaxon (1933). The songs are seamless. A great way to start the album
  • Hannah – Kweskin says he learnt the song from an old 78 rpm record by Chris Bouchillion (1926). A blues with great harmonica by Mel Lyman.
  • Bye and Bye – is an old Baptist gospel tune, written in 1906 by Charles Albert Tindley. There were gospel versions by the Nazarene Church Choir (1928) , The Golden Gate Quartet (1941), The Blind Boys of Alabama (1950), The Soul Stirrers (1950) and many others. Country versions include Frank & James McCravy (1927) ,The Kentucky Mountain Choristers (1929) and others. Louis Armstrong also recorded it in 1939. Kweskin is in fine voice though quite 60s. A joy. Bound to make you feel good.
  • The Cuckoo – is a traditional English ballad by Margaret Casson (published 1790). Recorded by Kelly Harrell (1926) Clarence Ashley (1929) and others. It was picked up by the folk boom and recorded by The New Lost City Ramblers (1962), The Holy Modal Rounders (1964) and many other folk performers. Quite solemn. I can see why this appealed to certain parts of the folk boom.
  • I Ain't Never Been Satisfied – (with Marilyn Kweskin, lead vocal) is and "original" with new words and music by Jim and Marilyn Kweskin, and is based on children's ring games. Simple and effective
  • Eight More Miles to Louisville – is a "new" song recorded by Grandpa Jones in 1957. A beautifully upbeat way to finish the side.

      Side Two

  • I Got Mine – Kweskin refers a version recorded by Pink Anderson in 1950 but the song is based on an old vaudeville from 1902 (by John Queen & Charlie Cartwell), called ‘I Got Mine (The Coon Song)’ which was recorded by Arthur Collins & Joe Natus. Country versions were recorded by Fiddlin’ John Carson (1924), Gid Tanner & his Skillet Lickers (1926) and others. African-American versions were recorded by Big Boy George Owens (1926 as ‘The Coon Crap Game’], Frank Stokes (1928), Robert (Barbecue Bob) & Charlie Hicks (1930 as ’Darktown Gamblin – Part 1 (The Crap Game)). Recorded live and lively with Kweskin quite growly
  • Buffalo Skinners – is traditional and genuine cowboy song from the 1800s, published by John Lomax in the 1910 collection Cowboy Songs, recorded for the Library of Congress in 1935 by Pete Harris. Woody Guthrie (a favourite of Kweskin) recorded it at least a couple times, with altered words; once with Cisco Houston and Sonny Terry (1944) and solo (1945). It, also, was picked dup by the folk boom and recorded by Jack Elliott & Derroll Adams (1957) Pete Seeger (1956), Cisco Houston (1962), Eric Von Schmidt (1963) and others. The second of the live songs. A haunting and beautiful song.
  • Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor – is based on W.C. Handy's "Atlanta Blues" which in turn comes from an old folksong. It was recorded by Ethel Waters (1926), Jelly Roll Morton (1938), Sidney Bechet (1940), Jimmy Yancey (1944),  Guthrie [1940s, released 1964), Cisco Houston (1958), The Weavers (1959), The Journeymen (1961), and Mississippi John Hurt (1966). A hoot … great lyrics.
  • Guabi Guabi – (with Fritz Richmond, 2nd voice) is a Zulu folksong from the Nde-Ele tribe. It was recorded by George Sibanda, from Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) in 1952 but made famous by Jack Elliott in 1964. Cute and quite catchy.
  • My Creole Belle – Kweskin say he learned this song from Mississippi John Hurt who recorded it in 1963. It is based on the 1902 song ‘Creole Belles’, written by George Sidney and J. Bodewald Lampe, recorded by Sousa’s Band and others. More great harmonica work in this New Orleans old time blues.
  • Relax Your Mind – Kweskin says he learned the song from Leadbelly who recorded it in1948. Very Leadbelly … there is a sense of doom over everything. I love the sentiment though.

And …

Wonderful … takes me back to, errr, to the first time I found old-timey and ragtime records in op shops in the 80s. I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

Ha, none


Three Songs – A Look at the Ragtime Era (Sister Kate's Night Out) …




Bye and Bye

mp3 attached

The Cuckoo


I Ain't Never Been Satisfied


Eight More Miles to Louisville


I Got Mine


Buffalo Skinners


Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor


Guabi Guabi

Live recently


My Creole Belle


Relax Your Mind

Live recently


mp3 attached













Posted in Americana, Folk | Tagged | 1 Comment

JOHNNY MATHIS – Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head – (CBS) – 1970

Johnny Mathis - Raindrops Keep Fallin On My Head

Johnny Mathis hasn't reached the iconic status of other singers from the 20th century.

And this is a guy who has sold 350 million records worldwide, making him, arguably, the third biggest selling artist of the 20th century.

Perhaps it is because he is still around, perhaps it's because his music is often dismissed as easy listening (which it is but, so?), perhaps it's because he never revolutionised anything musically, perhaps it's because he was a great trad pop singer in the wrong era, perhaps it's because he never had a notable crossover film career, perhaps it's because of the fact that, despite tackling many genres of music, he really only had one style.

Perhaps it's a little bit of each of these.

But, it is undeniable that whatever he sings and whererever he records, there he is, sounding as smooth as ever … and always in excellent voice.

I've always needed music to sooth the brain. Electronic ambient doesn't do it for me, whale sounds don't do it for me, soft rock doesn't do it for me, very few rock balladeers do it for me.

Traditional pop singers and lounge do work.

And what could be more trad pop and lounge-ier than Johnny Mathis.

Admittedly his lounge can be velour rather than leather and have shag pile rather than parquetry and rugs (ie: he came after the great lounge singers) but his romantic balladry, really does belong at a relaxed cocktail party or as dinner music.

And that's not criticism. Music sets mood, creates good vibes, and doesn't always have to intrude on  peoples lives, after all some people just aren't into music that much (regardless of what they say, or think)

Johnny, also, came at a time when the industry and some of the public needed an antidote to Elvis Presley. Both were born in 1935, both were influenced by black and white musicians, both came to prominence in the mid-50s, and both, had long chart careers. The joke of course is that Elvis and Johnny admired each other s talents and covered each other (as well as doing many of the same standards).

Wikipedia: "Mathis was born in Gilmer, Texas, United States, in 1935, the fourth of seven children of Clem Mathis and his wife, Mildred Boyd. The family moved to San Francisco, California, settling on 32nd Ave. in the Richmond District, where Johnny grew up. His father had worked in vaudeville, and when he saw his son's talent, he bought an old upright piano for $25 and encouraged him … Mathis was a star athlete at George Washington High School in San Francisco. He was a high jumper and hurdler, and he played on the basketball team. In 1954, he enrolled at San Francisco State University on an athletic scholarship, intending to become an English teacher and a physical education teacher … In San Francisco while singing at a Sunday afternoon jam session with a friend's jazz sextet at the Black Hawk Club, Mathis attracted the attention of the club's co-founder, Helen Noga. She became Mathis' music manager, and in September 1955, after Noga had found Mathis a job singing weekends at Ann Dee's 440 Club, she learned that George Avakian, head of Popular Music A&R at Columbia Records, was on vacation near San Francisco. After repeated calls, Noga finally persuaded Avakian to come hear Mathis at the 440 Club. After hearing Mathis sing, Avakian sent his record company a telegram stating: "Have found phenomenal 19-year-old boy who could go all the way. Send blank contracts." … At San Francisco State, Mathis had become noteworthy as a high jumper, and in 1956 he was asked to try out for the U.S. Olympic Team that would travel to Melbourne, Australia, that November. Mathis had to decide whether to go to the Olympic trials or to keep his appointment in New York City to make his first recordings. On his father's advice, Mathis opted to embark on a professional singing career. His LP record album was released in late 1956 instead of waiting until the first quarter of 1957 … Mathis's first record album, Johnny Mathis: A New Sound In Popular Song, was a slow-selling jazz album, but Mathis stayed in New York City to sing in nightclubs. His second album was produced by Columbia Records vice-president and record producer Mitch Miller, who helped to define the Mathis sound. Miller preferred that Mathis sing soft, romantic ballads, pairing him up with conductor and music arranger Ray Conniff, and later, Ray Ellis, Glenn Osser, and Robert Mersey. In late 1956, Mathis recorded two of his most popular songs: "Wonderful! Wonderful!" and "It's Not For Me To Say"."

Those songs placed at #14 and #5 on the US charts respectively and his career was underway. Within a year he had a #1 ("Chances Are") and another Top 10, one Top 20 and six Top 40 songs. And this was during the Elvis Presley chart juggernaut.

In a 1968 interview, Mathis cited Lena Horne, Nat King Cole, and Bing Crosby among his musical influences.(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Mathis) and this isn't the case of some pop star name dropping what he thinks will make him look cool. You can hear all three of those singers in Johnny's voice regardless of the genre of music he tackles.

Rock and Roll is just about the only style of music that Mathis hasn’t done. “I put my toe in the water" Mathis said of rock and roll. “But said, okay, you don’t do it very well". (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Mathis)

But he did record rock songs in his easy listening trad pop style as he did jazz and Broadway standards, country, Christmas tunes, gospel, Brazilian and Spanish songs, R&B, soul, and disco.

He subsumed all musical genres into his musical style and temperament.

The trouble was, from the late 50s on, the adult contemporary audience (his main audience) was shrinking. So, from about the mid 60s through to the mid 70s Johnny's albums reflected the need to appeal to as many people as possible, as long as that didn't go outside his style. The albums, of this period, are predominantly cover versions of contemporary song hits combined with popular film themes of the day.

And, this I love. As a kid trawling through op shops I came across dozens of Johnny Mathis albums (did I mention he has sold in excess of 350 million records world wide) and when I flipped them over there he was singing The Beatles, Kris Kristofferson, The Hollies, The Fifth Dimension, Neil Diamond, Simon & Garfunkel and The Doors (!).

All done in trad pop romantic style.

What's not to like.

I bought a handful of these and have no dramas playing them for others.

This album, from 1970, fits into this era perfectly. Covers of the day and film themes done in Johnny's style.

Things may have been burning, figuratively and literally in 1970 but Johnny was there to ease the pain.

And he's still out there touring.

Tracks (best in italics)

             Side One

  • Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head – (Burt Bacharach, Hal David) – The theme to the film "Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid" (1969) and a #1 (US) for B. J. Thomas (1970). A corny but undeniably catchy song.
  • Honey Come Back – (Jimmy Webb) – Glen Campbell's #2 country hit (US) in 1970. The spoken segments aren't as convincing as the vocals but it is wonderful cheese.
  • Watch What Happens – (Norman Gimbel, Michel Legrand) – One of the songs from the French film "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" (1964) and done by Tony Bennett in 1965 and Frank Sinatra in 1969. Nice but ….
  • Something – (George Harrison) – The Beatles #1 from 1969. One of the greatest Beatles ballads. This is given the big band sound which works really well with the uber emotional performance like Elvis gave it in 1973. Johnny performance is somewhere in between the original and that. Like George Harrison being back by a big band. Still, the song is great …
  • Alfie – (Burt Bacharach, Hal David) – From the 1966 film "Alfie". The song was a major hit for Cilla Black (UK#1 1966) and Dionne Warwick (US#15 1967). A love song to a bloke sung by a bloke. Well , it was when first sung by the chicks, though it can be said that here it could be one bloke giving advice to another. No need to Freud-erise over this.         
  • Midnight Cowboy – (Jeff Barry, Jack Gold) – From the film "Midnight Cowboy" (1969). The song was a harmonica instrumental by Toots Thielemans. It was covered by instrumental duo Ferrante & Teicher (#10 US 1970). Lyrics were added. The haunting music comes through successfully, lyrics or not.

      Side Two

  • A Man and a Woman – (Pierre Barouth, Jerry Keller, Francis Lai) – From the French film "A Man and a Woman" (1966) with English lyrics by Jerry Keller. A beautiful song.
  • Odds and Ends – (Burt Bacharach, Hal David) – Dionne Warwick's  #7( Adult Contemporary ), #43 (The Billboard Hot 100) hit from 1969.
  • Jean – (Rod McKuen) – Oliver had a #2 (US) hit with this great Rod McKuen song in 1969. A great song.
  • Everybody's Talkin' – (Fred Neil) – From the film "Midnight Cowboy" (1969) and a #6 (US) for Nilsson in 1969. Written well before being used in the film (about a male hustler). Another great song.
  • Bridge over Troubled Water – (Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel) – Simon & Garfunkel's #1 from 1970. Some interesting keyboards with a Fisher Price vibe give this a distinct quirky edge but Johnny's vocals are good.

And …

Very good … I'm keeping it which increases my Johnny Mathis collection to five or six albums. Hopefully, this doesn't mean I will start collecting all though there are a couple …

Chart Action



1970 Midnight Cowboy #20 (Easy Listening chart)

1970 Odds and Ends #30 (Easy Listening chart)


1970  The Billboard 200  #38 




1970 #23


Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head



Honey Come Back






Midnight Cowboy



mp3 attached

Everybody's Talkin


Bridge over Troubled Water






My favourite Johnny song

Done live later













  • Song References








Posted in Popular & Crooners | Tagged | 1 Comment

GENE PITNEY – Gene Italiano – (CBS) – 1964

Gene Pitney - Gene Italiano

Important things were happening in music in 1964.

Gene Pitney sings in Italian.

And, why not?

Pitney's hyper emotional style with his operatic vocal tendencies is perfect for Italian pop music of the 60s. The beat and pop appeal to the kids and the operatic stylings appeal to the older listeners.

The move, wasn't however,  novel.

The Italian-Americans with their love of music had their feet in jazz going back to the earliest sounds coming out of New Orleans. The trad pop singers were awash with them: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, Perry Como, Al Martino, Jerry Vale and many others. The Italians flocked to the new sounds of rock 'n' roll also: Bobby Darin, Bobby Rydell, Dion, Johnny Restivo, Jack Scott, Annette Funicello, Connie Francis, Fabian, Frankie Avalon, The Four Seasons and others. It was a way to escape poverty or the mundane.

Italian music was everywhere in the early 1960s.

The success of Italian films, the emergence of the San Remo song contest all had an impact on American and English speaking audiences.

Connie Francis had recorded an album of Italian songs, "Connie Francis sings Italian Favorites" (1959) and Dean Martin had some mixed language on the Italian themed "Dino: Italian Love Songs ) from 1960.

The big push on Italian sounds as opposed to Italian American singers probably dates back to "Volare" by Domenico Modugno released in 1958. It spent five non-consecutive weeks at #1 and became  Billboard's number-one single for the year and the first Grammy winner for Record of the Year and Song of the Year in 1958. (It was translated and also sing in mixed language by all sorts of people including Bobby Rydell, Dean Martin (#12 1958), Al Martino,  and later Cliff Richard, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Jerry Vale, David Bowie, Ella Fitzgerald, Luciano Pavarotti, Andrea Bocelli, Dalida, Gipsy Kings, and Barry White.

But, Gene Pitney wasn't Italian.

And you didn't have to be to have hits.

Elvis Presley and his love of Dean Martin, Mario Lanza and Caruso had no trouble taking the Neapolitan numbers ‘O Sole Mio’ and ‘Torna a’ Surriento’, Anglicising them and having hits with them as  "It's Now or Never" (a mammoth #1US, 1960) and "Surrender" (#1US, 1961). He would go on to record the traditional Neapolitan ballad "Santa Lucia" in Italian for his 1964 film "Viva Las Vegas" (the song was released on his " Elvis for Everyone" LP from 1965).

This is not aimed just at the Italian market but also at at American-Italians, Italian immigrants of other nations and the "hip" pop music crowd in general.

So why not Gene?

The sixties was pop music at its greatest experimentation and it was expressed in it's desire to appeal to all people and exclude no one.

And that meant recording foreign language songs or foreign themed songs, or both.

Elvis, Johnny Cash, Connie Francis, Trini Lopez, Bobby Darin, Bobby Rydell, Jay and the Americans,  were all releasing albums or singles in foreign languages.

American pop stars singing in German, Spanish, Yiddish, French and Italian words were all on the airwaves, somewhere.

There were three ways to tackle the foreign language experiment. Sing foreign language songs in their language,  sing foreign language songs translated into English or sing English songs in the foreign language.

Gene, here (largely),  sings English songs (including at least three songs that had been big hits for him) in Italian whilst throwing in some more recent Italian compositions. This approach may be, because, the album seems to have compiled some of Gene's Italian language single releases going back to 1962 (the Italians loved him).

Regardless of motivation, it works. For those not familiar with Italian traditional tunes you can hear familiar 60s songs … the same beat, the same melody, the same groove just sung in Italian.

The album did well overseas and was followed up by Gene's appearance at the 1966 San Remo song contest at which he sang "Nessuno Mi Puo Giudicare" which became the title of another album of Italian songs for him in 1966.

The Italian experiment worked so well that Gene released the Spanish language "Pitney Español" in 1966  though he has nothing on Connie Francis who released albums, apart from the Italian one, in Spanish (1960), Jewish (1960), German (1964) and err, Irish (1962)

This album was Gene's eight album.

Tracks (best in italics)

      Side One

  • A Poche Ore Da Te (Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa) – (David-Bacharach-Mogol) – his #17 from 1963. A magnificent song and this version hits all the right notes
  • Città Spietata (Town Without Pity) – (Washington-Tiomkin-Nome) – his #13 hit from 1962. Another good reading.
  • Un Soldino (If I Didn't Have A Dime) – (Russel-Medley-Pace) – recorded by Gene in 1962. A gentle poppy song with Gene in great voice though "jukebox" in Italian is , apparently, "jukebox".
  • Ritorna (Half Heaven, Half Heartache) – (Schroeder-Gold-Goehring-Mogol) – his #12 from 1963. Another great song and well done though it doesn't hit the emotional high as the English version.
  • Resta Sempre Accanto A Me (True Love Never Runs Smooth) – (Bacharach-David-Pallesi) – his #21 from 1963. Glorious.
  • E Se Domani (If Tomorrow) – (Calabrese-Rossi) – perhaps done originally by Fausto Cigliano for the San Remo 1964 contest.

      Side Two

  • Che Sara Di Me (What Will Happen To Me) – (Specchia-Leuzzi) – pure early 60s fluff in any language.
  • Quando Vedrai La Mia Ragazza (When You See My Girl) – (Giacci-Rossi) – Little Tony and Laila Kinnunen both recorded it in 1964. A great song with a good beat … you can almost see the visuals to this in one of the Italian dramatic comedies of the early 60s.
  • E Quando Viene La Notte (Come The Night) – (Pace) – a dramatic one with a good beat.
  • Non Lasciamoci (Only Love Can Break A Heart) – (Bacharach-David-Pace) – his #2 from 1962. Very nice.
  • Foglie Morte (Autumn Leaves) – (Prevert-Kosma) – much covered and done. This is light and airy and captures the right autumnal mood. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autumn_Leaves_(1945_song)
  • Vorrei Capire Perchè (Tell Me Why) – (Chiosso-Torrebruno) – light and catchy

And …

Fantastico Gene … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

Nothing in the US or England.


1964 Quando vedrai la mia ragazza #1 Italy


A Poche Ore Da Te (Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa)

mp3 attached

Città Spietata (Town Without Pity)


E Se Domani (If Tomorrow)


Che Sara Di Me (What Will Happen To Me)


Quando Vedrai La Mia Ragazza (When You See My Girl)

mp3 attached

Foglie Morte (Autumn Leaves)


Vorrei Capire Perchè (Tell Me Why)



















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JOHNNY CASH – Songs of Our Soil – (Columbia) – 1959

Johnny Cash - Songs of our Soil

Johnny's third album for his new label, Columbia, in a year.

The album is groundbreaking in the Johnny Cash world …

It is his first concept album, though it is not a fully fledged concept album like some of his later albums. The songs aren't necessarily linked and the storytelling isn't as cohesive but the album does have a theme beyond just being a batch of old and newly written folk songs.

It is Cash's first folk album. It is not pure folk but it is as close to folk as Cash would come. Almost everything is written by Cash in an old style himself but he also adds some traditional material and occasional oldie like "Clementine" that fits perfectly with the rest of the songs. There are hints of gospel, country, cowboy songs and even old nursey rhymes but it all hangs together well as different aspects of life on the land or , :songs from our soil"..  (Well, it's not part of my heritage but I have read John Steinbeck, William Faulkner and Erskine Caldwell so i get the picture)

His boom-chicka-boom sound is preserved but softened and pop-ified somewhat. The introduction of occasional piano and backing vocals (by The Jordanaires) fill out the sound but don't compromise Cash's aesthetic.

Columbia, no doubt, encouraged him to do this album though with some pop concessions like using Elvis' backing vocalists the Jordanaires and having Johnny's voice crisp and deep in the centre of everything. Johnny was going down this path but , I suspect, Columbia would have been happy. The folk boom was beginning to take off – The Kingston Trio were big in the charts and The Weavers, despite being banned, were very popular. The format of a loose concept album also was proven – Marty Robbins had put out an album of country Hawaiian flavoured songs in 1957 ("Songs of the Islands") and Burl Ives and Oscar Brand had put out numerous "themed" albums. Likewise, story songs were very popular – Johnny Horton was riding high in the charts ina style not dissimilar from Johnnt Cs. It was for them a no brainer. As long as Johnny was churning out material of good quality they were happy.

And he was.

So a folk-ish, country-ish pop album about life on the land, in particular the struggles of life on the land was given the green light.

But when you dig deep you see something unsettling. There is a lot of death on this album:

"As many have noted, the album is filled with death.  His mother dies (Don’t Step on Mother’s Roses), his father dies (again, Roses), his grandfather dies (Grandfather’s Clock), a native warrior threatens murder (Old Apache Squaw), a carousing miner is murdered behind a saloon on the eve of his wedding (Clementine), three prospectors thirst to death in the desert (Hank and Joe and Me), a cemetery caretaker ponders his forthcoming lonely death (The Caretaker), and it’s all rounded with a meditation on the return of Christ (The Great Speckled Bird).  Other songs offer little cheeriness.  The farm gets flooded (Five Feet High and Rising), the family ponders asking the rich man in town for help as they starve (The Man on the Hill), and a sailor gets homesick (I Want to Go Home)". https://raisemyglasstothebside.wordpress.com/2013/01/29/album-review-songs-of-our-soil-johnny-cash/

Cash himself said in his "Man in Black" biography that at the time his growing amphetamine and barbiturate dependence caused him to dwell on issues of death. Did that affect his songwriting? I think there is too much pop psychiatry is such assertions … any album dealing with songs of the land, workers and poor people isn't going to be about cocktail parties and soirees. Death and dying are going to be featured in any album with that theme. To exclude it would be disingenuous. It is how you approach the subject that counts …

And despite the darkness there is hope in his voice and a bounce in the music which is not just a concession to pop. There is optimism there and the belief that there is something better around the corner.

What is most convincing is Johnny's voice.

He may be stiffer than he was on his first album for Columbia "The Fabulous Johnny Cash" (1958) and less inspired than on his second "Hymns by Johnny Cash" (1959) but his stiffness could be a stoicness in the face of the material. After all you are telling real life stories (no doubt) of living and dying and Johnny's direct baritone is perfect for that.

Johnny has written songs to cover all aspects of the land (and added some traditional material or oldies that fit in). And, he never did waste time getting to the point. His songs are excellent little dramas in music. They are stories with beginnings and ends and what strikes you most is they communicate so much  even though most are under three minutes long … though, at times, you do wish they were a little longer if for no other reason than the mood they create..

Tracks (best in italics)

      Side One

  • Drink To Me  – (Cash) –  The song is an adaptation of the old English song “Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes” which was based on a 1616 poem by Ben Jonson derived from Greek verses by Philostratus. On the album "Personal File" Cash revealed that it was the first song he ever performed publicly for a high school event. Quite a pretty song.
  • Five Feet High and Rising – (Cash) –  a fantastic song. Both funny and dramatic and very catchy.
  • The Man on the Hill – (Cash) –  a farming family thinks of asking rich man in town for help as they starve. Cheery (not).
  • Hank and Joe and Me – (Cash) –  echoes of "Cool Water" here a cowboy-ish song where everybody dies. It's a hoot because it's slightly surreal given it's subject matter and the Jordanaires backing vocals echoing the narrator.
  • Clementine – (Billy Mize, Buddy Mize) – A variation on the "Oh My Darling Clementine" theme given a newer twist co-written by country singer Billy Mize
  • Great Speckled Bird – (Traditional) –  Religious zeal and the second coming in this Methodist gospel song. I love the imagery. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Speckled_Bird_(song)

      Side Two

  • I Want to Go Home – (Traditional) – known to most people as "Sloop John B". The Kingston Trio recorded the song in 1958 as "The John B. Sails" but it goes back to the 1920s. Okay, The Beach Boys version (1966) is the best but this is pretty nifty also. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sloop_John_B
  • The Caretaker – (Cash) –  a caretaker in a cemetery … perfect subject for a song? Actually, after observing many a funeral the cemetery caretaker ponders his forthcoming lonely death.
  • Old Apache Squaw – (Cash) – an Native American tale which prefigures his later Native American album "Bitter Tears" from 1964.
  • Don't Step On Mother's Roses – (Cash) – a sad song about a boy thinking about his deceased mother but gaining strength from the roses she planted. Beautiful.
  • My Grandfather's Clock – (Henry Clay Work) – A grandfather and a tall clock are one in the same, metaphorically speaking. This is an old song dating back to 1876 that, apparently, was so popular that the tall clock became known as the "grandfather clock". There you've learnt something. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Grandfather%27s_Clock
  • It Could Be You (Instead of Him) – (Vic McAlpin) – McAlpin was a professional songwriter based in Nashville. I think this may be the first recording of this song. A gospel type song with a great message and perfect Jordanaires backing.

And …

Marvellous … It creeps up on you. I'm keeping it.

Chart Action



1959  Five Feet High And Rising  Country Singles  #14 

1959  Five Feet High And Rising  The Billboard Hot 100  #76 





Whole album


Five Feet High and Rising



Hank and Joe and Me

mp3 attached

I Want to Go Home

mp3 attached

It Could Be You (Instead of Him)




















  • Don Law – Original Recording Producer


RIP Muhammad Ali

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ROD McKUEN – McKuen Country – (Warner Brothers) – 1976

Rod McKuen - McKuen Country

McKuen goes country!

And why not, when this album was released in 1976 country music was all over the pop charts.

Country singers were regularly cracking the pop charts, country rock acts were in abundance, original rock n rollers were returning to their country roots, and trad popular artists were incorporating country sounds or at least putting out the odd country flavoured album.

Guy Mitchell and Dean Martin had already flirted with country sounds in the 60s and early 70s. Bing had a crack even earlier than that. Even Frank Sinatra flirted with some country sounds in the late 1960s. But by the 70s it was normal to pack up and record in Nashville (or bring Nashville to you?) as albums by  Andy Williams ("You Lay So Easy On My Mind", 1974), Al Martino ("Country Style", 1973) and Perry Como  ("Perry Como In Nashville",  1975) suggest.

And importantly Rod's temperament if not his style was distinctly "country".

As the liner notes to this album say:

Rod McKuen and country music – the two are rarely connected in the minds of those who appreciate the work of the world’s best loved poet. But Rod’s love of and affinity for country & western flavored songs is a long standing one. His collection of c&w records must be one of the largest in or out of Nashville and his own music and lyrics frequently echo his love of the country style. And McKuen songs are no strangers to the world of country music… witness some of the leading artists in the field who have performed them: Glen Campbell, Chet Atkins, Eddy Arnold, Bobby Goldsboro, Tom T. Hall, Tommy Roe, Waylon Jennings, Lynda K. Lance, Roy Clark, Johnny Cash, Bobby Wright, Don Cherry, Skeeter Davis, The Nashville Brass, Floyd Cramer, Hoyt Axton, The Anita Kerr Singers, Jimmie Rodgers, Leroy Van Dyke, Hank Williams, Jr. – just to name a few (can Loretta Haggers be far behind?)

It is noteworthy that nearly all these performers listed also write themselves, so they really have to like another writer’s work to perform it.

 Rod McKuen and country? Right at home! He’s exactly where he should be. Exactly where you should be too. Join him there… in McKuen Country.

Rod's songs are perfectly suited to country singer … lost love, times past, home, regrets, loneliness, fear of loneliness, general melancholia but that doesn't mean country music suits Rod.

You would think that Rod's growl of a voice would be perfectly suited for country but it's not. He is to urban and in any event country singers aren't grizzled in the voice usually, just in appearance, occasionally.

When Rod tries to sing to the style he moves out of his range and the song doesn't work. The melodies and pace don't always match the vocals, as if his voice was trying to catch up to the music.

But when he nails it, usually on songs which hint at country, his songs are beautifully evocative in the typically Rod way.

And, luckily, most songs are done in Rod's normal voice, tempo and persona with country sounds to provide atmosphere, and even then some of that is very low key. And that is saying something – check out (in the trivia section at the end) the powerhouse musicians playing session for Rod. A weird group. The album was recorded in few places .. a pity it would have been (surreally) great to see all these people in the same studio at the same time.

The "country" in this album comes from the themes that Rod loves using and those themes are what made the songs attractive to country singers in the first place, as noted in the liner notes above.

Full circle.

The covers generally fit in with the originals whilst the originals are, mainly, updated songs Rod had previously done but has now given a county feel. And, I'm not sure the "brand new" compositions aren't actually dusted off old songs either but it doesn't matter in the least.

Central to Rod's music is the message and his telling of the message.

Check out my other entries for biographical details.

Tracks (best in italics)

      Side One

  • Silver Threads And Golden Needles – (Dick Reynolds, Jack Rhodes) –  The song was first recorded by Wanda Jackson in 1956 but English pop group The Springfields (with Dusty Springfield) had a #20 with it in 1962 (the first single by a British group to reach the American Billboard top 20). Recorded by everyone, Linda Ronstadt also had a country Top 20 (#20, #67 pop US ) with it in 1974. This is just plain weird with chirpy female backing vocals over Rod's  gruff grizzle. The standout is some very quirky guitar work. It isn't a total success but it it tickles me.
  • Hello Heartaches – (Rod McKuen) –   originally from the 1968 film "Joanna" but sung by Barbara Kay. "Heartaches" is a typically country motif and works here.
  • My Old Man – (Rod McKuen) –  Originally recorded for RCA in the 60s, here updated. Quite a bouncy song given that McKuen's father had deserted his mother before he was born. Undeniably catchy though.
  • My Friend – (Hans Hammerschmid, Hildegard Knef, Rod McKuen) –   around this period McKuen wrote a few songs with Hans and actress Hildegard … "We Live On Islands" on his "Sleep Warm" album from 1975. Strings added to the instruments. This is unusual as it comes across as a European ballad with country overtones, which is what it is, I suppose. It also has a downbeat twist … also very European, perhaps.
  • Sunshine – (Rod McKuen) –  A beautiful song with some great lyrics.
  • Long, Long Time – (Gary White) –  Linda Ronstadt had a #25 pop hit with this in 1970. Another beautiful song done beautifully by Rod.
  • I'm Coming Home – (Rod McKuen) – originally done for the film " Lisa, Bright And Dark" from 1973. Rod is perfectly happy here and it works.

      Side Two 

  • Guess I'd Rather Be In Colorado – (Bill Danoff, Taffy Nivert) –   The writers are husband and wife and members of the Starlight Vocal Band. They were friends from the folk scene with John Denver and co-wrote with him " Take Me Home, Country Roads". That and this song are taken from Denver's 1971 album " Poems, Prayers & Promises". This with it's gentle country folk lop works.
  • Chester County – (Anita Kerr, Rod McKuen) –   co-written with regular co-writer arranger and singer Kerr. Another winner. Gentle, though not quite country despite the themes.
  • Rose – (Rod McKuen) –  More country themes about a working family with mother, Rose, at its center. Quite jarring given the bounce and light hearted feel but tragic subject matter.
  • The Story Of My Life – (Burt Bacharach, Hal David) –   A early song by the hit writing pair which was a 1957 hit for US country singer Marty Robbins (#1 country, #15 pop US). A great song done respectably by Rod.
  • The Summer's Long – (Rod McKuen) –  Originally recorded in the late 1960s and then the song was given to (and recorded, perhaps, by) Summer's Children (a duo of Curt Boettcher and Victoria Winston). Quite beautiful. Recorded live in Denver, Colorado at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
  • Help Me Make It Through The Night – (Kris Kristofferson) – The great Kristofferson song released on his debut self titled album from 1970. Sammi Smith had the hit with it in 1971 (#1 country, #8 pop US) but it was covered extensively including, by, Elvis Presley (1971), Joan Baez (1971), Willie Nelson (#4 country 1980 US). A good reading. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Help_Me_Make_It_Through_the_Night
  • The World I Used To Know – (Rod McKuen) – Originally done by Rod on his "Seasons In The Sun" album from 1964. A great McKuen song whichever way he does it.

And …

As if I wouldn't … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

Nothing no where.


My Old Man


Sunshine – (Rod McKuen) –

mp3 attached

Long, Long Time


The Summer's Long



Help Me Make It Through The Night









a video biography








  • Musicians: Banjo – Pete Seeger, Roy Clark / Bass – Clyde Hoggan / Guitar – Barry McGuire, Big Jim Sullivan, Billy Strange, Dave Koonse, Don Costa, Glen Campbell, John Morrell, Rod McKuen, Roy Clark, Sneaky Pete / Harmonica – Tommy Morgan / Oboe – David Sherr / Piano – Leslie Pearson, Lincoln Mayorga, Paul Smith, Pete Jolly / Chorus Master – Evangeline Carmichael, Mike Sams / Producer – Rod McKuen, Wade Alexander
  • Recorded In Nashville, Chattanooga, and Memphis, Tennessee; Los Angeles & Bakersfield, California; and London. Side 2 Song 5 was recorded live in Denver, Colorado at the Red Rocks Amphitheater


Rod McKuen - McKuen Country - back

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THE SKYLINERS – Once Upon A Time …. – (Kama Sutra) – 1971

Skyliners - Once Upon a Time

The Skyliners were a white American doo-wop group from Pittsburgh. The original line-up was: Jimmy Beaumont (lead), Janet Vogel (soprano), Wally Lester (tenor), Jackie Taylor (bass voice, guitarist), Joe Verscharen (baritone).

In 1956 Joe Rock (aged 20), an ABC promotion man, was visiting an Italian social club at Mount Washington in Pittsburgh, A capella vocal groups with a black sound were big. That night Rock saw a young teen group called The Montereys that included Jimmy Beaumont (aged 16, almost) . Rock was impressed by Beaumont's vocals  and lured him to another group he managed called The Crescents and with the addition of a couple of people from another group, The Eirios, they became The Skyliners who went on to have hits in the late 50s including "Since I Don't Have You"  (1959, #2) and 1960  "Pennies From Heaven" (1960, #24).

They released two albums (though the later was a rehash of the earlier one). That group broke up in the 1964.

Original member Jack Taylor, with Joe Rock’s permission, re-launched The Skyliners in 1965 with a new group of singers released a song and broke up.

In 1970, Jimmy Beaumont, Janet Vogel Rapp, Lester, and VerScharen reformed to tour and record.  They recorded this album and promoted themselves. They appeared on the oldies revival and doo-wop revival circuit for several years before breaking up in 1976.

But that's not the end, Jimmy Beaumont formed Jimmy Beaumont and the Skyliners in the 1990s with Nick Pociask, Dick Muse, and Donna Groom to appear on doo-wop tours and television specials.

And they are still out there somewhere.

The Skyliners were among the more dramatic, theatrical white doo-wop groups and, oddly, weren't made up of (predominantly) either Italians or Jewish types. Their one enduring moment is "Since I Don't Have You"  but this album, late in the piece (and which I did not know about), intrigued me, so I forked out $4.

The band have cast off any doo-wop stylings.

This is pure vocal group MOR sunshine pop (google this blog for "sunshine pop" definitions).

The album was recorded in 1970 but sounds 1969.  You could here this music on any number of inoffensive TV specials of the time but in it's own way it is quite beautiful. Of course, I'm partial to vocals and vocal groups.

Having said that there is a lot going on within the grooves. There are shared lead vocals between the male and female leads. There are tempo changes on some tracks suggesting jazz rock influences of Blood Sweat and Tears or Chicago Transit Authority. There is also a slight dreamy psych vibe over a few songs and an autumnal melancholy air over other tracks.

Well, it is on the Kama Sutra label (Brewer & Shipley, Lovin' Spoonful, Sopwith Camel).

Okay all those inflections are weighted down by middle of the road inoffensiveness but they do poke out enough to make the album quite distinctive, and lovely.

They sound like a a more white version of The Fifth Dimension, and there is nothing wrong with that.

You can see a chick in a mini skirt and an umbrella tiptoeing through Manhattan Park with the New York City skyline in the background …err, the cover art is alluding to that.

You are literally transported to that time and place.

I'm not sure where you would play it now … dinner party, nightclub, coffee shop … but I would like to give it a whirl and see what happens

Tracks (best in italics)

      Side One

  • Once Upon A Time (Yesterday)  – (Joe Rock / Jimmy Beaumont) – an excellent example of MOR sunshine pop.
  • Maybe I Could Have Loved You Better – (Joe Rock / Jimmy Beaumont) – dreamy and slightly trippy.
  • That's My World – (Joe Rock / Thom Davies) – a ballad.
  • Put A Little Love In Your Heart – (Randy Myers / Jackie DeShannon / Jimmy Holiday) –  an interesting take on this song. It doesn't sound like the original at all but has it's own vibe with a black soul feel.
  • What's Your Plan – (Janet Vogel Rapp) – a ballad with horns and strings.

      Side Two

  • The Thought Of Yesterday – (Jimmy Beaumont / Janet Vogel Rapp) – a groovy sunshine pop number with busy background.
  • Dry Your Eyes – (Joe Rock / Jimmy Beaumont) – lead vocals by Janet and it is quite catchy. Apparently originally done in 1967 but unreleased till here.
  • Make Mine As Good As Yours – (Jimmy Beaumont / Janet Vogel Rapp) – a group effort.
  • Always Something There To Remind Me – (Burt Bacharach / Hal David) – The great Bacharach and David song done by Dionne Warwick, Sandie Shaw and others. It works here also and is a little quirky.
  • And So It Goes – (Jimmy Beaumont / Janet Vogel Rapp / Joe Verscharen) – a busy song with enough layers to make Brian Wilson happy.
  • Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow – (Joe Rock / Jimmy Beaumont) –  a dramatic ballad softened by strings. Well sung.

And …

I need this in the collection … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

Nothing nowhere


Once Upon A Time (Yesterday) 


What's Your Plan


Dry Your Eyes


Always Something There To Remind Me

mp3 attached











  • Produced by Jag Gerz (not an individual but Pittsburg locals, pop group and label mates The Jaggerz). The album was recorded at Don Elliott's Studio, N.Y. Oct.1970
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