BUCK OWENS – The Kansas City Song – (Capitol) – 1970

Buck Owens - The Kansas City Song

Regular readers of this blog will know I have a fondness for Buck Owens.

His material from the 1960s is what he is remembered for. That and his pioneering (along with Merle Haggard) of what became known as the Bakersfield sound.

Wikipedia: " The Bakersfield sound was a genre of country music developed in the mid- to late 1950s in and around Bakersfield, California. Bakersfield country was a reaction against the slickly produced, string orchestra-laden Nashville sound, which was becoming popular in the late 1950s. Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, Tommy Collins, and Merle Haggard and the Strangers, are the most successful artists of the original Bakersfield sound era"

The by-product beauty of the Bakersfield sound was that it ended up influencing many rock musicians especially those on the west coast and perhaps contributing the evolution of Country Rock.

Buck, especially in the 1969 – 1973 period covered non-country songs, and, with his own material took chances in instrumentation and lyrical content. "Bridge Over Troubled Water" (1971)  and "In The Palm of Your Hand" (1973) are two of his best albums I have heard from this period and excellent albums by anyone's standards.

Around this time Buck had the knack of making anything sound good. That's not to say that everything he did was great, though. There are a few duds but generally all his material is listenable. And, he can be forgiven for missteps because, along with many country artists, he was quite prolific.

This was his 20th studio album in 10 years.

And, this album is a mixed bag.

The back sleeve of the album declares "Bakersfield's Good Will Ambassador with his tribute home parts, foreign places and people in love …"

And that pretty much sums up the album. Apparently, Buck toured northern Europe during the sessions for this album, or perhaps just before, which explains the Dutch and Scandinavian themed songs. There are very few negative vibes on this album, no social commentary and no heartbreak (even when things don't always go right for people in love) … this is very un-country!

OK, I am trying to be humorous but a country album needs it's fair share of heartbreak …it is white mans blues.

"The Kansas City Song " and (It's a Long Way to) London Town were both rerecorded for this album of songs about places, "I Wouldn’t Live in New York City" (1971).

All songs written by Buck apart from the title song and "I’d Love To Be Your Man" which he co-wrote with red Simpson (who is in his backing band the Buckaroos).

Tracks (best in italics)

  • The Kansas City Song – Chintzy keyboards open the song but otherwise this is solid Buck and another country song about separated love.
  • Bring Back My Peace Of Mind  –  a beautiful Buck ballad
  • (It's A Long Way To) Londontown  –  a gently humorous song
  • I'd Love To Be Your Man –  This song is quite Nashville for a Bakersfield boy – lots of pedal steel and strings.
  • You Can't Make Nothing Out Of That But Love  –  bouncy and slick
  • Amsterdam  –  a ode to Amsterdam and a good one at that. I wonder what would Jacques Brel would think? (cryptic)

                        I left my home and I left my friends said I'll be back but I don't know when

                        Set my sail to the restless wind so long old Amsterdam

                        I picked plums up in Yakimo and I picked pearles down in Arkansas

                        Even learned how to say you all but I still miss Amsterdam

                        Amsterdam old Amsterdam

                        I did my thing in Tokyo tried my luck in Kokomo

                        Searched for bill in Buffalo but I still miss Amsterdam

  • Black Texas Dirt  -  one of the few "downbeat" songs. Dramatic, with a spoken bridge. The narrator defiantly stands up (and leaves) to the harshness of  his this birthplace but can't escape it.

                  From way before sunup to way up to sundown

                  Papa walked behind that ol' mule

                  Until the day that they laid him away

                  He lived by the golden rule.

                  Black Texas dirt you're full of hurt

                  And you won't grow nothing but weeds

                  You took my mama and papa, it's true

                  But you ain't a gonna get me.

      and then:         

                  Black Texas dirt you're full of hurt

                  And you won't grow nothing but weeds

                  You took my mama and papa, it's true

                  And now you're a gonna take me…

  • Scandinavian Polka  -  an instrumental, and despite Buck's tour of Scandinavia a reminder that many working country bands had to play  music for ethnic minority audiences
  • The Wind Blows Every Day In Oklahoma  –  a good song and a melancholy song about love.
  • Full Time Daddy – Buck goes ragtime! The sounds of the 20s were revived in the late 60s and early 70s (think New Vaudeville Band) and Buck had his ear to the ground. It is odd though.

And …

Not the best but good enough …. I'm keeping it.

Chart Action



1970  The Kansas City Song  Country Singles  #2


1970 #10 Country, #196 Pop



The Kansas City Song





Black Texas Dirt

Mp3 attached

Scandinavian Polka


The Wind Blows Every Day In Oklahoma


Full Time Daddy










Bakersfield Sound:





  • "We were sharecroppers – we were a little bit of everything. We farmed and tried to make something" – Buck Owens
Posted in Country | Tagged | Leave a comment

THE TURTLES – Happy Together – (White Whale) – 1967

Turtles - Happy Together

I spoke about The Turtles a few years back when this blog was still just an email list.

I said then, by way of background,  "The Turtles were one of the California bands that emerged in the wake of The Byrds success (in fact they were originally called The Tyrtles .. get it?)"

I have more time now, am more emotionally stable and can type quicker.

Notwithstanding the need for some sort of empirical rigor in commenting on music these three things are important.

Wikipedia background: "The band, originally a surf-rock group called the Crossfires, was formed in 1965 in Westchester, Los Angeles, by high school friends Howard Kaylan, Mark Volman, Al Nichol, Chuck Portz, Don Murray, and Jim Tucker. With the help of KRLA and KFWB DJ and club owner Reb Foster (b. James Dennis Bruton 1936), the Crossfires signed to the newly formed White Whale Records and adhering to the prevailing musical trend, re-branded themselves as a folk rock group under the name the Tyrtles, the intentional misspelling inspired by the Byrds and the Beatles. However, the trendy spelling did not survive long … As with the Byrds, the Turtles achieved breakthrough success with a Bob Dylan cover. "It Ain't Me Babe" reached the Billboard Top Ten in the late summer of 1965, and was the title track to the band’s first album".

Allmusic sum up their legacy as, "Though many remember only their 1967 hit, "Happy Together," the Turtles were one of the more enjoyable American pop groups of the '60s, moving from folk-rock inspired by the Byrds to a sparkling fusion of Zombies-inspired chamber pop and straight-ahead, good-time pop reminiscent of the Lovin' Spoonful, the whole infused with beautiful vocal harmonies courtesy of dual frontmen Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman. Though they hit number one in 1967 with the infectious "Happy Together," the Turtles scored only three more Top Ten hits and broke up by the end of the '60s".

Influences are important in figuring out a band. No one creates music in a vacuum. With the Turtles they wore their influences on their sleeve but they added to that some great vocals some sharp song writing (and song choices), and a lot of pop smarts.

They took the gentle and smooth harmonies of The Byrds and added the sunshine and pop opera of the Beach Boys, the good time sounds of The Lovin' Spoonful and the quirkiness and observation of the post R&B Kinks.

How can you go wrong with that?

You can't and the Turtles moved with the times but were never slavish in their influences. They starting out as a sort of as a more mainstream folk rock version of The Byrds and then moved to a bigger and fuller sound … the pop and folk never left them but they added horns, and big sounds to the create a quirky pop sensibility.

By 1967 they were almost a avant-garde cabaret folk rock band.

That may sound like a sledge but it's not … I would like to think that they themselves would have liked that definition.

The band had a few hits outside of the US but, for whatever reason, they never reached the international consciousness like The Beach Boys, Creedence, The Doors, The Lovin Spoonful or any number of other American acts

Perhaps that's because they were never revived at a later stage.

Perhaps it's because  the music tastemakers never fully appreciated them …the central Turtles, Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman, sang a little too well and, despite being able to write a good tunes, were just as happy singing someone else's music. To be taken seriously you have to sing your own material, no matter how dire your voice is.

Failing that you have to at least look the part and Kaylan and Volman hardly looked like pop stars.

The good thing is though that the hardcore fans of the day and their musician peers loved them enough to keep them working and to keep them "known" if not "well known".

Many other bands have slipped through the cracks whilst the Turtles still have a profile (helped by their subsequent reunions in the 80s and their all star package tours (organised by them) in the 21st Century

This album is perhaps their transitional one where they move from folk rock into other areas. There is a bit of this and a bit of that but it is all good and shows the band had wide tastes and were not content to just throw out any old album.

This is west coast sunshine pop par excellance.

Produced by the ever reliable Bones Howe.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Makin' My Mind Up -(Jack Dalton, Gary Montgomery) – this sounds like it could be from a hip 60s Hollywood romantic comedy starring Tony Curtis. Writers Dalton and Montgomery later formed Colours. Not the famous 80s band from Brisbane (or rather Ipswich) but a much underrated band out of LA in the late 60s.
  • Guide for the Married Man -(John Williams, Leslie Bricusse) – this is the title song to a hip 60s Hollywood romantic comedy! Though it starred Walter Matthau. A hilarious film and the song does well by it.
  • Think I'll Run Away -(Howard Kaylan, Mark Volman) – Written by the central Turtles this is sublime ..coming across like a west coast "Left Banke".
  • The Walking Song -(Kaylan, Al Nichol) – written by Kaylan with the bands guitarist this isn't too bad but sounds quite English …there is a European oom-ph-pah feel to it.  It works as a nice piece of wimsy.
  • Me About You -(Garry Bonner, Alan Gordon) – Garry Bonner and Alan Gordon were of the East Coast band the Magicians who also write tunes for others on the side. This song is magnificent. Perfectly sung and quite haunting.
  • Happy Together -(Bonner, Gordon) – Another Bonner/Gordon song. One of the greatest songs of the 60s.
  • She'd Rather Be with Me -(Bonner, Gordon) – More Bonner/Gordon song. Another great tune. These guys can write and the Turtles can sing.
  • Too Young to Be One -(Eric Eisner) – written for them with echoes of Lovin Spoonful. A good song though not as good as that preceding it.
  • Person Without a Care -(Nichol) – written for them this has echoes of The Kinks in themes
  • Like the Seasons – (Warren Zevon) – Before Zevon became famous in the 70s he was in a musical duo called lyme & cybelle (no capitalization) who were on White Whale label. He wrote this and "Outside Chance" (a single from 1966) for label mates the Turtles. A gentle folk song which is very "wounded heart" but quite fetching.
  • Rugs of Woods and Flowers -(Kaylan, Nichol) – The vocals are over the top but The Turtles could never keep a straight face. They love their satire and send up though they are more gentle than this. This seems to be a send up of the psychedelic bands of the day. As music it's so-so but it is quite funny and interestingly in mood it is not too dissimilar from some of Ray Davies satirical rock operas of the 70s…though both he and The Turtles knew they were doing satire.

And …

Side 1 is magnificent, Side 2 lags a little (but only just) This album is excellent …. I'm keeping it.

Chart Action



1967  She'd Rather Be With Me  The Billboard Hot 100  #3 

1967  Happy Together  The Billboard Hot 100  #1


1967 #25 (their highest charting album)



1967  Happy Together  #12

1967  She'd Rather Be With #4


1967 #18 (their only charting album)



1967 Guide for the Married Man #6

1970 Me About you #10 1970



Makin' My Mind Up

live later


Guide for the Married Man


Me About You

mp3 attached

Happy Together



mp3 attached

She'd Rather Be with Me


Like the Seasons













  • "Kaylan and Volman (accompanied by Pons) joined the Mothers of Invention as The Phlorescent Leech & Eddie, since the use of the Turtles name (and even their own names in billings) was prohibited by their contract with White Whale. Flo & Eddie, as they soon became known, recorded albums with the Mothers, appeared in Frank Zappa's film 200 Motels in 1971 and later released a series of records on their own". https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Turtles
  • "Kaylan and Volman sang backing vocals on several recordings by T. Rex, including their worldwide hit "Get it On (Bang A Gong)" and albums Electric Warrior and The Slider. When White Whale's master recordings were sold at auction in 1974, the duo won the Turtles' masters, making them the owners of their own recorded work. (The duo promptly licensed the tracks to Sire Records, who issued the compilation Happy Together Again.). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Turtles


Posted in Folk Rock, Sunshine Pop and Baroque | Tagged | Leave a comment

RACHEL SWEET – Blame it on Love – (CBS) – 1982

Rachel Sweet - Blame it on Love

Sex sells,


have pout will travel.

Pout; push one's lips or one's bottom lip forward as an expression of petulant annoyance or in order to make oneself look sexually attractive.


Rachel Sweet had tons of talent but still, she was marketed as all young girls are in the music industry … through sex.

Here at the age of 20 she is no different to Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus or any other number of young nymphets who followed her. The one big difference is that had talent to match her sex appeal.

All of her albums (it seems) have a variety or pouts, snarls or parted lips. Now I have nothing against that as long as she is going along with it and making money for her efforts.

Here they have her looking like a brunette Traci Lords, but the music leaves a lot to be desired and the record didn't sell.

And, that's a pity because this girl can sing and has a great voice and a great ear for old sounds.

The relative failure of the last three albums which were full of updated retro 60s sounds sent her (or her record company) into a different direction, that of mature girl pop.

It was the 80s and the 20 somethings were starting to crowd the airwaves but the trouble is that this is not a s catchy as Cyndi Lauper or as dance-y as Madonna.

It is less dull than Sade though.

This direction was the wrong direction for Rachel.

That's an opinion.

Some people, addicted to everything in the 80s (I grew up in the 80s there was a lot of shit mainstream music … a BIG lot) will love this but for me it is overproduced. And what's worse a lot of this sounds clichéd … and some of the clichés were still new. Such is the disposability of pop that the saturation and turnaround from new to cliché is a blink away.

allmusic says, accurately: "Sweet is in great voice on these ten songs, but she rarely gets a chance to indulge in the hooky but emphatic rock that marked her best music; while she co-wrote and co-produced most of the album with Marc Blatte and Larry Gottlieb, the arrangements are often a mess of '80s pop clichés ("Cruisin' Love" being the worst offender), and the songs are overwrought and uncompelling. It's worth noting than one of the album's best moments, "Paralyzed," was one of two cuts written and produced by Sweet without Blatte and Gottlieb's assistance, which could suggest the album's greatest failing was a poor choice in collaborators, but that doesn't change the fact this was Sweet's weakest album"


Even if Rachel had a hit with this album I'd still maintain this is not the direction for her as a a lot of those sounds haven't dated well.

She was much better served by her earlier label (the English label "Stiff") and those songs hold up better today.

Is a legacy important?

Of course it is.

I would prefer her to have kept mining the older sounds like she did on her first three albums and she would have come across more like The Go Gos, The Bangles or any number of retro 60s new wave chicks.

She can sing that stuff and on her writing she shows the smarts in understanding that sort of pop.

So perhaps Rachel's pout on the cover can be viewed differently:

Pout; To exhibit displeasure or disappointment; sulk.


With exception of "Paralysed" and "American Girl" by Rachel Sweet alone all the other songs are by Rachel Sweet-Marc Blatte – Larry Gottlieb (all three also produced).    

Check my other comments for background on Rachel Sweet.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Voo Doo – For what it is (big 80s overproduced pop) it's not too bad. The guitar is a hangover from the mainstream 70s and makes no concessions to powerpop or new wave.
  • Paralyzed -    quite catchy
  • Sticks And Stones – moving into Cyndi Lauper territory though with a little more grunt
  • American Girl –  good lyrics but a so-so song 
  • The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter –        
  • Blame It On Love –    quite good. Very big but (very) well sung…sort of like a pop version of Joan Jett.
  • Hearts On The Line –   well sung but not especially memorable.
  • Cruisin' Love –    "Nice girls need action, nice girls need satisfaction" ….?
  • Cool Heart –   so so.
  • Baby Blue – a the big ballad – and quite a good one.

And …

Patchy and I wouldn't normally keep this but I quite like Rachel's other albums I have …. I'm keeping it.

Chart Action



1983  Voo Doo  The Billboard Hot 100  #72 




Voo Doo

Video clip




Blame It On Love

mp3 attached














https://www.facebook.com/pages/Rachel-Sweet/119557243757 http://www.bobbyshred.com/rachelsweet.html



Posted in Rock & Pop | Tagged | Leave a comment

LOU CHRISTIE – Strikes Again – (Roulette) – 1966

Lou Christie - Strikes Again - Roulette - 1966

I have commented on Christie before though they were earlier comments when this blog was still an email list so they were a little slap dash. To be fair to Lou Christie I should re-vamp what I have said…

Allmusic: "While Lou Christie's shrieking falsetto was among the most distinctive voices in all of pop music, he was also one of the first solo performers of the rock era to compose his own material, generating some of the biggest and most memorable hits of the mid-'60s. Born Lugee Alfredo Giovanni Sacco in Glen Willard, PA on February 19, 1943, he won a scholarship to Moon Township High School as a teen; there he studied music and vocal technique, later joining a group dubbed the Classics. Between 1959 and 1962, in collaboration with a variety of Pittsburgh-area bands, he cut a series of records for small local labels, adopting the stage name Lou Christie along the way. Eventually he made the acquaintance of Twyla Herbert, a classically trained musician and self-proclaimed mystic some 20 years his senior; they became songwriting partners, and in 1962 penned "The Gypsy Cried," which he recorded on two-track in his garage. The single became a local phenomenon, and was eventually licensed for national release by the Roulette label, peaking at number 24 on the pop charts in 1963"

That could be shortened to, Lou could sing like a proverbial bird, was a teen idol and sex symbol and was, perhaps a product of his times.

As I said in an earlier comment on Christie, "he is one of the batch of Italian American singers (real name Lugee Alfredo Giovanni Sacco) who flooded the airways in the late 50s / early 60s …. qv: Frankie Valli, Bobby Darin, Fabian, Frankie Avalon, Dion, Jack Scott, Freddy Cannon, Johnny Rivers, Bobby Rydell, Bob Gaudio, James Darren…"

I can add Connie Francis and Bobby Vee to that list also.

Why so many Italians? Not all the Italians I know can sing … well, not like these guys.

Perhaps economic necessity creates music.

There was time when only (mainly) poor kids where attracted to careers in music. Potential fame and money where a way of escaping from the often predetermined background of being poor (and anonymous) in contemporary America. Their American dream wasn't based around studying hard, going to University and doing well. I don't know if that opportunity even existed for them. I do know that up until the 1960s, outside classical music and perhaps some folk circles music was a career path, albeit a risky one, for the working class of the US. Whether it be the Italians of the 50s and 60s, of New Orleans jazz 50 years earlier, or of New York and New Jersey in the 30s and 40s, of the poor white kids from the South in the 50s , of the poor black kids from the North, of the Poles and other Slavs from Detroit and surrounds, of the Jewish kids from New York or of the Mexican Americans from Texas and Arizona, music provided an escape route from daily tedium and toil, and with a bit of luck, an escape to a career with fame and potential fortune.

Christie was a part of that simple background and Italian heritage …

A history of rock and pop through the eyes of a social historian with a Marxist bent would be interesting if nothing else.

People forget that, art considerations aside, the music business is just that, a business.

Christie had had minor hits since 1963 and was established but had been drafted into the army for two years. When he came out he found huge commercial success with 'Lightning Strikes' (#1, 1965 on the MGM label). In the traditional of all good music companies various labels rushed to cash-in on Christie.  Roulette and Colpix both released 1966 collections entitled  "Lou Christie Strikes Again" even though neither album had anything to do with the hit song.  The Colpix set featured a compilation of previously released 1964-1966 Colpix singles, with a few unreleased tracks whilst the Roulette set has 4 "new" songs added to 8 lifted from Lou's first album, "Lou Christie" on Roulette in 1963.

Are the albums compilations? Well, yeas and no. They are from different sessions and the albums have been compiled together but the material is largely new and such practices were not uncommon before the album became the dominant form for "serious" music*.

To make things more confusing Co & Ce Records released this same album as "Lou Christie Strikes Back" in 1966. Co & Ce was a small Pittsburgh-based record label which was run by Herb Cohen and Nick Cenci from 1962-1967… and who had signed Christie early on (first). His early releases with the Co & Ce were released around Pittsburgh but Roulette picked them up for national distribution. So, now, accordingly, both labels got to or did a deal to release this album with the same art work, same songs but different titles.

Co & Ce, also, had released Christie's 1966 Single "Outside The Gates Of Heaven  / All That Glitters Isn't Gold" under their name … I assume that was a response to his success with "Lightning Strikes".

The new tracks were:

  • Outside The Gates Of Heaven – (A side # 45 1966 Co & CE records)
  • There They Go – ( the flip side to "Stay" on Roulette from 1964)
  • Maybe You'll Be There – ( a uncharted Roulette single from 1964)
  • You May Be Holding My Baby – (this doesn't seem to have been a single or come from an album so it may be an unreleased track)

The ones lifted from the first album:

  • Mr. Tenor Man
  • Tears On My Pillow   
  • The Gypsy Cried   
  • Have I Sinned   
  • Two Faces Have I   
  • How Many Teardrops   
  • All That Glitters Isn't Gold   
  • You And I ( Have A Right To Cry )

The tracks are three years old and music had moved on, but by 1966 Lou hadn't changed his style greatly. That would come with his late 60s albums. So these tracks did fit in with his current hit, more or less and, obviously, having been recorded together, earlier, they fit in amongst themselves.

But ultimately it's Christie's voice that wins you over. And, he had two unique voices … he had a pleasing doo-wop-tinged tenor, as well as a full command of a shrieking falsetto. The tenor is easy, the flasetto will test how much you like the falsetto sub genre of pop rock.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Outside The Gates Of Heaven – (Christie, Herbert) – a throw back for sure but quite pleasing with Christie's falsetto in perfect use. I have no idea why everyone is outside the gates of heaven though.
  • Mr. Tenor Man – (Carroll Jackson)  – I believe this was first recorded by Christie. A response to Johnny Cymbal's "Mr Bass Man" (#16, 1963)
  • Tears On My Pillow  – (B. Lewis) –   first recorded by Little Anthony and the Imperials in 1958 (#4). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tears_on_My_Pillow
  • There They Go – (Jimmy Crane) –   first recorded by The Delmonicos in 1963
  • The Gypsy Cried – (Herbert, Sacco) –  a great track
  • Have I Sinned  – (Ebert, Mendelsohn) –    I don't have any background on this track. This is is falsetto and it's most overused perhaps. All technique no groove.
  • Two Faces Have I – (Herbert, Christie) –  It may be old but it's good.
  • Maybe You'll Be There – (Rube Bloom , S. Gallop) –    The song was published in 1947. Gordon Jenkins had a #3 with it in 1948 and The Four Aces had a popular version of it in 1958. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maybe_You'll_Be_There. Christie does a very good, authentic version in his best ballad style. Though, perhaps, a little to authentic …it's too 1958.
  • How Many Teardrops – (Rick Rodell) – written by "Milan the Leather Boy" aka Rick Rodell a rock n roll enigma.
  • You May Be Holding My Baby – (Art Russell, Paul Colby) –   The Pussycats released a version in 1964. This is a little more progressive and works. There's a nice, strange little backing vocal running through it.
  • All That Glitters Isn't Gold – (Herbert, Christie) –  filler, perhaps.  
  • You And I (Have A Right To Cry ) – (Cohen, Lapham, Levy) – The record execs want a piece of the song writing. Cohen was from Co & Ce records and Morris Levy was of Roulette Records and they were friends. Maybe the Lapham wrote the whole song and they got a cut, maybe not. Either way Christie was the first to record the same. A bit to cutesy.

And …

Patchy- the best songs are the ones from the earlier album. Still, I'm keeping it.

Chart Action



1966  Outside The Gates Of Heaven  The Billboard Hot 100  #45 

1963  The Gypsy Cried  The Billboard Hot 100  #24 

1963  Two Faces Have I  The Billboard Hot 100  #6 

1963  Two Faces Have I  R&B Singles  #11

1963  How Many Teardrops  The Billboard Hot 100  #46 




Outside The Gates Of Heaven


mp3 attached

Mr. Tenor Man


Tears On My Pillow


There They Go


The Gypsy Cried


Have I Sinned


Two Faces Have I


Maybe You'll Be There


How Many Teardrops


You May Be Holding My Baby


All That Glitters Isn't Gold


You And I ( Have A Right To Cry)


















 Lou Christie - Strikes Back - CO & CE - 1966      Lou Christie - Strikes Again - Colpix - 1966     Lou Christie - Lou Christie - Roulette - 1963 

An aside:

*Actually it shits me when people refer to some albums as compilations and somehow they shouldn't be treated as proper "albums". When the wankers at Rolling Stone magazine put out their lists of "best albums" they exclude compilations (oddly though with the exception of Elvis' "Sun Sessions" (1976) which compiles Elvis' Sun output … they wouldn't have credibility otherwise). Pinheads usually say Elvis never pout out a great album (which is rubbish in itself, "Elvis" (1956), "Elvis Presley" (1956), "Elvis is Back" (1960) and "From Elvis in Memphis" (1969) are all classics) but they always leave out "Elvis Golden Records" (1958), "Elvis Golden Records Vol 2" (1959), "Elvis Golden Records Vol 3" (1963) and "Elvis Golden Records Vol 4" (1968). OK only the first two are great but are they compilations? The songs are all hit singles that weren't normally released on albums and were normally recorded at the same sessions and around the same time. Why is that album called a "compilation". How is it comparable to, say, "Queen's Greatest Hits" that collects their best selling tracks, that were singles and on albums, over a 20 year period?. It's not. Those Elvis Greatest Hits albums came from an era when there were albums and then there were singles. A album which has singles released from it comes (mainly, as a concept) from the 60s. To treat those earlier albums as compilations may be true by definition but it is more than a little unfair.

Posted in Blue Eyed Soul, Pop Rock | Tagged | Leave a comment

JOHN HARTFORD – Headin’ Down Into the Mystery Below – (Flying Fish) – 1978

John Hartford - Headin' Down Into the Mystery Below

I have fought the urge to rush out a Rod McKuen, who died a couple of days ago, comment today. I have commented on McKuen before, and I love his music, but I don't think it would be wise to write one today. Objectivity (what little I have), the various Rod McKuen albums I have to comment on, and the act of rushing are all considerations I took into account.

I decided instead to finish off this John Hartford album.

And, perhaps oddly, Hartford in many ways has similarities to McKuen. Not in music (at all) but in temperament – both look backwards, McKuen more inwards than Hartford, both can be wistful and melancholy, both can have bursts of biting satire, both used the past to show a different future, both wear their hearts on their sleeves and both can be quite quirky musically.

There is no better expression of that than on this John Hartford album.

John Hartford had a love of the Mississippi river and the steamboats / paddle steamers. So much so that he became a licensed steamboat captain.

The steamboats gently, and largely unobtrusively, paddling down the Mississippi river really seems to fit in with Hartford's personality. A romantic melancholy. A celebration of the past and the simple things in life, I couldn't imagine Hartford on a powerboat or water skiing or on that greatest of evil toys, the jet ski.

This album is an ode to the steamboat. A concept album of sorts.

Every song (all bar one, sort of, written by Hartford) is about steamboats or the wistful recollections and observations of a man who spends a lot of time on steamboats. And, that love of steamboats isn't a nostalgia for days past. This is a album of contemporary (1978) life on the Mississippi steamboats. Many of the steamboats he sings about were of recent (1978) vintage.

It's as if he says we have all these new inventions but I put my faith in these things of the past which are still relevant, useful and functional today.

The steamboats and the river, give him space to think. Just as the solitude of the open sea has created many songs (and books and films) the river here becomes a (perhaps existential) space where one can reflect on life without interruptions from those onshore.

It doesn't hurt that the "average surface speed of the (Mississippi) water is near 1.2 miles per hour – roughly one-third as fast as people walk" (thankyou US National Park Services), and that it is one of the longest and widest rivers in the world. It is (usually) calm and serene.

You may as well be on the open sea, in good weather.

The perfect place to think, perhaps.

Edward Faulkner, Mark Twain (and even open sea man Herman Melville) have written about the Mississippi and songs have been sung to it by Johnny Cash, Charlie Pride and others but Hartford has, over the course of a number of albums, sung about The Mississippi and its steamboats, on a regular basis.

Melancholy and observational he may be but in Hartford style, he is humorous and playful, even with his beloved steamboats. Being a "contemporary album" he generally stays away from the inherent dangers of old school steamboats (boilers were known to blow up) and the Mississippi when it floods but does acknowledge, in his lyrics, that there is work in running  a steamboat on the Mississippi.

That aside, this is his happy steamboat album.

No jokes about happy steamers please.

Apart from the backing vocals on a couple of tracks (as if patrons on the steamboat sidled up to join in on a sing-along) all the banjo, guitar, violin and lead vocals are by Hartford. There is no percussion though he keeps the beat and rhythm in our ears by dancing  on a piece of close miked plywood (3/4" 4×8 sheet of new Grade A unfinished plywood to be exact if any of you want to recreate the sound)

For background on John Hartford check out my other comments.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • The Mississippi Queen – "the biggest steamboat that was ever afloat on the Mississippi river back home" . Hartford doesn't reach back here. The Mississippi Queen was built in 1976. This song can be an ad and celebration of that, and her. (Sadly she was scrapped in 2009). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mississippi_Queen_(steamboat)
  • Mama Plays the Calliope – A calliope is a musical instrument that produces sound by sending steam through large whistles and were common on steamboats.
  • See the Julia Belle Swain – Hilarious. Hartford sings the travel brochure for the boat on which he apprenticed, the Julia Belle Swain, for his license. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julia_Belle_Swain
  • On Christmas Eve – there is "no better place to be than out on the river on Christmas eve". Some beautiful banjo playing.
  • Natchez Whistle – an ode to the Natchez steamboat.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natchez_(boat)
  • Kentucky Pool – a humorous song about trying to steer along the Mississippi ….it's like a song about a driving test.
  • Miss Ferris - a boy dreams of the Mississippi river whilst listening to his teacher Miss Ferris, who also loves the Mississippi.
  • Paducah – kids from Paducah, Kentucky dream of steamboats and the Mississippi…at least I think that's what it is about.
  • Headin' Down into the Mystery Below – Hartford tries to explain his love of the Mississippi river, whilst referencing the tale of a old steamboat wreck.  You can't get more personal that this.
  • Beatty's Navy – just steamboat sounds. From the liner notes: "Beatty's Navy" (The towboat "Claire E. Beatty") was recorded from the pilothouse of the "Julia Belle Swain" at Massengale Rock, Mile 446.0, Tennessee River, 18 miles below Chattanooga, while the former was raising the sunken towboat, "Sarah E. Thomas" in 1974. This past January, Capt. John Beatty lost his wife's namesake in the ice at Markland Dam on the Ohio River in a valiant effort to remove some barges that had drifted down on the piers. As this is being written salvage efforts are underway and by the time this album comes out we'll once again be able to hear his beautiful collection of whistles". More here: http://naquillity.blogspot.com.au/2009/07/john-beatty-navy-update.html
  • In Plain View of the Town – the workings of a steamboat barge.

And …

Not the best John Hartford but a very personal album and ultimately very satisfying. It certainly is the best album ever written about steamboats….. I'm keeping it.

Chart Action


Nothing no where



The Mississippi Queen


See the Julia Belle Swain

mp3 attached

Miss Ferris


















  • Backing Vocals– Billy Ray Reynolds, Diane Tidwell, Jack Greene, Jeannie Seely, Lisa Silver.  Banjo, Guitar, Violin, Vocals, Other [Dancing On Plywood Sheet], Written-by– John Hartford, Producer– Mike Melford.
  • This album was recorded at The Sound Shop in Nashville. "Beatty's Navy" (The Towboat "Claire E. Beatty") was recorded from the Pilot House of the "Julia Belle Swain" at Massengale Rock, Mile 446.0, Tennessee River, 18 miles below Chattanooga.




RIP Rod McKuen 1933 – 2015



Posted in Alt Country, Americana, Country, Folk | Tagged | Leave a comment

PAUL REVERE & THE RAIDERS – Alias Pink Puzz – (Columbia) – 1969

Paul Revere & The Raiders - Alias Pink Puzz

There is plenty of biographical information on this blog about Paul Revere & The Raiders so have  a look at all that for background.

Also, by now there are quite a few of their albums commented on also, so you will have some idea of their musical history if that interests you.

Having said that I like this bio from mainstream music download and streaming site, Rhapsody:

Three decades before grunge broke, Paul Revere and the Raiders charted out of the Northwest with music that rocked as hard as Nirvana ever would. Keyboardist Revere was actually from Nebraska, but by 1958 he was in the Downbeats with Oregon singer Mark Lindsay. Their name changed, and in 1961 — three years before The Beatles — they had their first Top 40 hit, which was already called "Like Long Hair," and based on Rachmaninoff to boot. In 1963 Columbia signed the band for its cover of "Louie Louie"; tragically, the Kingsmen's version hit instead. But the Raiders played frat houses, armories, teen clubs and (according to one 1964 song) Crisco parties, and in 1965 they wound up regulars on Dick Clark's TV show Where the Action Is, dressed up in British Invasion-spurning Revolutionary War outfits. They became, for a couple of years, the biggest American band in America, scoring with R&B-based greaser punkers like "Just Like Me" and the anti-drug classic "Kicks." Big hits lasted into 1967, and smaller hits for another half-decade. But their highest charter — the Native-American-history novelty "Indian Reservation" — came in 1971, by which time they were simply called the Raiders. http://www.rhapsody.com/artist/paul-revere-and-the-raiders

Paul Revere & The Raiders like a lot of bands was always adapting itself to the hit sounds of the day.  And, as I have said somewhere before there is nothing wrong with that. If you want to use the holy cow that is The Beatles, who certainly were innovative, you can see that they were doing that (adapting and incorporating their music to and with trends). Their early 60s music is pop rock not dissimilar (though infinitely better ) than any other number of bands from Liverpool and England generally (who were aping any number of Phil Spector acts from the US). Then, the success of Dylan certainly influenced their song writing, whilst the musicality of Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys meant the Beatles were playing catch up with them. Later on the back to the earth sound of The Band caused The Beatles to retreat from the overblown theatrics of Sgt Peppers and the rise of the singer songwriter movement affected many of their later LPs.  It's easy to assume that The Beatles were starting the trends because they had the lions share of market sales (success breeds success) but in each case they were incorporating sounds they liked into their sound (and by doing that creating something new). This is not meant to be a put down of The Beatles but it is meant to say that even genius doesn't exist in a vacuum.

So, if you are going to accept that it's OK for The Beatles to incorporate new emerging sounds of the day into their music they why can't Paul Revere & The Raiders get away with a few stylistic shifts in their sound?

I make this point because more than a few musical commentators have commented on The Raiders stylistic shifts in a pejorative manner.

And, frankly, that isn't fair.

Much like The Beatles, and any other number of good bands, Paul Revere & The Raiders don't leave their past behind to jump on another sound but, rather, they incorporate those sounds into their musical sensibility.

And that's what they have done here.

Sandwiched between the "Hard 'N' Heavy (with Marshmallow)" (1969) and "Collage" (1970) LPs, "Alias Pink Puzz" has Paul Revere & The Raiders playing around with psychedelica, funky soul, country and swampy rock though still retaining their proto power pop, garage and pure pop sensibilities.

Searching for current sounds for commercial viability is a nice argument but maybe the explanation is a lot simpler… with the exception of Lindsay and Revere there were a lot of line-up changes and those new members, perhaps, were bringing in their musical personalities to the mix.

Paul Revere & the Raiders though faced another hurdle. Their Top 40 hit making past, gimmicky colonial outfits and teeny bopper status were held against them. (yes, The Beatles managed to shed their teeny bopper image). They wanted to write more "relevant" and personal songs (the lyrics are in the gatefold – always a giveaway for those trying to be serious) but found acceptance here difficult.

When the tastemakers who review records and the DJs who spin records aren't on board it becomes harder to escape your past … and that effects your (commercial) future.

Those things proved fatal to Paul Revere & The Raiders but from the here and now I don't have to be concerned by such things.

All that remains is the songs themselves. Mark Lindsay wrote most of the tunes and he seems to be writing autobiographical material about life as a pop star (much as Ray Davies would do later in the Kinks wonderful "Everybody's in Show-biz" album from 1972). But, if the songs aren't catchy, memorable or have some other special hook then no amount of musical trend knowledge or confessional writing is going to save you.

All songs are by Mark Lindsay unless otherwise indicated. He also arranged and produced.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Let Me! – a funky dirty greasy soul shouter. Some nice dirty guitar compliment the suggestive (though inane) lyrics. Great fun.
  • Thank You – A love lament that alternatively is gentle and rocking. Not dissimilar to what Simon & Garfunkel were doing. Quite the winner with a number of girls name checked.

                  In a Little square of time

                  I made love with Caroline

                  And she crept into my mind

                  And she eased the pain away

                  But in the morning came the sun

                  And I knew I'd better run.

                  'Cause i rather stay just one

                  Than two or three

  • Frankfort Side Street – hookers on German side streets … everyone should have a song about them. Come to think of it Elvis' "Frankfort Special" (1960) could be about the same subject!
  • Hey Babro – oom pah pah bubble gum with a censored bleep (intentional or subsequent I do not know).
  • Louisiana Redbone – (Keith Allison, Mark Lindsay) – country rock with swampy edges. Not dissimilar to Ricky Nelsons "Louisiana Man" ….the melody and outlook not just the title.
  • Here Comes The Pain – (Keith Allison, Mark Lindsay) – a gentle psych baroque ballad. Quite melancholy as you would expect from the tile.
  • The Original Handy Man – country rock Vegas style – I could see Elvis doing this.
  • I Need You – (Keith Allison, Mark Lindsay) – a trippy mid tempo ballad.
  • Down In Amsterdam – (Keith Allison, Mark Lindsay) – a good "Faces" or "Jeff beck Group"  type of song though without the grunt. Very funny though.
  • I Don't Know – another ballad with psych and Rolling Stones overtones. Lindsay does a good Mick Jagger impersonation. Though, arguably, Mick did a good Mark Lindsay impersonation.
  • Freeborn Man – (Keith Allison, Mark Lindsay) – more country rock and quite catchy. Originally released as a single by bassist Allison in 1967 (he joined the band in 1968).

And …

Very underrated and quite great  …. I'm keeping it.

Chart Action



1969  Let Me  The Billboard Hot 100  #20 


1969 #48




Let Me!




Frankfort Side Street

mp3 attached















  • The line-up here : Mark Lindsay – Vocals / Freddy Weller – Lead Guitar / Joe Correro, Jr. – Drums / Keith Allison – Bass / Paul Revere – Organ
  • "As bassist Keith Allison explains in his new liner notes, the title of Alias Pink Puzz refers to the fact that the Raiders submitted an advance pressing of a new song to a Los Angeles FM rock station under the pseudonym "Pink Puzz" in an effort to sidestep the band's Top 40 pop image. The station's management liked the song, but was livid when they learned the truth" http://www.sundazed.com/shop/product_info.php?products_id=2312#sthash.xUXbWm19.dpuf
  • Paul Revere and the Raiders toured Europe with the Beach Boys in the spring of 1969. I don know if these songs were written before tat tour or after though there are a number of European references.
  • Paul Revere died Saturday, 4 October 2014, at the age of 76. The cause was cancer.
Posted in Garage, Surf and Frat, Rock & Pop | Tagged | Leave a comment

ARLO GUTHRIE – Running Down the Road – (Reprise) – 1969

Arlo Guthrie - Running Down The Road 01

I recall having this album a long time ago but it was so hacked up it was barely listenable. I can put up with a fair bit of crackle and pop but sometimes it gets too distracting and I didn't appreciate the record.

I, also and differently, recall having this album a long time ago and it was pretty scratchy. That and the fact I didn't know where Arlo was coming form didn't allow me to give the record a fair go.

Who knows what was the position but once I got on board  I was hooked. So, I'm happy to have come across this, again.

Check out my other comments for Arlo biographical detail but suffice it for me say that Arlo was the son of folk legend Woody Guthrie. Arlo was inspired by his father, Bob Dylan  and American music in all it's forms: folk, country, rhythm and blues, gospel trad pop, tin pan alley, ragtime, rock n roll. More often than not the is referred to as a folkie and I suppose, in some ways, he is but his folk is of the post Dylan not pre Dylan traditional variety. None of his folk sounds like The Kingston Trio if you know what I mean.

Guthrie is better labelled Americana.

Like most Americana artists some albums will lean more to folk, others to country, others to ragtime or blues.

Likewise, like most Americana artists there is relatively little commercial success regardless of which way you lean..

What there is, though, is an audience who is always willing to see you regardless how small they are.

Allmusic allude to this themselves: "Is it possible to be a one-hit wonder three times? The question is provoked by the recording career of Arlo Guthrie, which is best remembered for three songs in three different contexts. There is "The City of New Orleans," Guthrie's only Top 40 hit, which earns him an entry in Wayne Jancik's The Billboard Book of One-Hit Wonders. There is also "Coming into Los Angeles," which Guthrie sang at the legendary Woodstock music festival, and which featured prominently in both the Woodstock movie and multi-platinum soundtrack album. And there is "Alice's Restaurant Massacree," the comic-monologue-in-song that gave him his initial fame and took up the first side of his debut LP, the million-selling Alice's Restaurant. Whether these successful tracks make him a one-, two-, or three-hit wonder, they were arguably both flukes in a performing career that was still going strong a full 40 years after Guthrie first gained national recognition and facilitators of that career. With their help, he spent 15 years signed to a major record label, charting 11 LPs, after which he was able to set up his own label and go on issuing albums. More significant, he maintained a steady following as a live performer, touring worldwide year after year to play before audiences delighted by his humorous persona and his musical mixture of folk, rock, country, blues, and gospel styles in songs almost equally divided between his own originals and well-chosen cover tunes".

This album has Guthrie at his most identifiable but I think just before the height of his powers. At that place in time lasting commercial success was still a real possibility. Music was open and the audience was large and receptive. One could sing anything.

Glam, disco and 70s excess put an end to that and to Arlo's musical commercial success.

But, here you can hear a young man, already well versed in the Americana song book, whether they be covers or originals that sound like they came back from the past, singing as if music transcends time.

Arlo leans towards country on this album. Not the country of lap steel, twang and barrooms but the urban country of isolation, loneliness and uncertain futures in a hostile environment. It's the music of escaping to the past and moving to the country and hopefully finding happiness  and peace.

Country rock. 

The musicians backing him (see trivia end note) are legends at their craft and all crack musicians at country rock stylings. The album was recorded in California I assume … where else could you get a smattering of Elvis' touring band (Burton, Scheff), a couple of Byrds (Parsons, White) and other assorted legends (Cooder, Gordon) all playing on the one record?

That was meant to be a rhetorical question but I suppose I can answer it with … maybe Nashville.

Arlo's country rock isn't cosmic like Parsons, eccentric like Michel Nesmith or as melodic as the Byrds. He is much too traditional for that but what he does have is good taste and a strong sense of musical history and at the age of 22 that is admirable.

The album isn't perfect but it sure is pleasant while it's on.

Lenny Waronker (fresh from producing the Beau Brummels, Randy Newman, The Everly Brothers (their roots album called "Roots") , Harpers Bizarre and Van Dyke Parks) and Van Dyke Parks (fresh fro recording Randy Newman but before going on to record and work with all sorts of American musicians) produced this.

All tracks composed by Arlo Guthrie except where noted:

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Oklahoma Hills – (Woody Guthrie, Jack Guthrie) – a great tune written by Woody with some new lyrics added by his cousin later. The big version is by hank Thompson from 1961 (#10 Country). A great song and an ode to "home" and "place". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oklahoma_Hills
  • Every Hand in the Land – not especially memorable but quite enjoyable when it's on
  • Creole Belle – (Mississippi John Hurt) – a gentle folk blues tune originally by Afro-American Mississippi John Hurt. Arlo does the sing well.
  • Wheel of Fortune – filler perhaps but bouncy enough.
  • Oh, in the Morning – a Dylan like confessional tune. Quite beautiful.
  • Coming into Los Angeles – can you name a better song about importing drugs into LA? Seriously, this is a great tune with some great playing.
  • Stealin' – (Gus Cannon) – an old jug band folk song of unknown authorship though Gus Cannon gets credited a lot. The Memphis Jug Band's version post dates his career peak (1928) but is the most identifiable early version pf the song. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stealin'
  • My Front Pages – a response or dig at Bob Dylan's "My Back Pages"(1964)? Or, perhaps, a reference to The Byrds version (1967) of the Dylan song. This is folk rock and very well done.
  • Living in the Country – (Pete Seeger) – Seeger's beautifully evocative instrumental which Arlo has updated.
  • Running Down the Road – a real treat and not like anything else on the album with jagged and distorted psychedelic guitar. It's not in your face but it is up front. Nice.

And …

Yessum, a treat …. I'm keeping it.

Chart Action




1969 #54





Oklahoma Hills

With Johnny Cash


Coming into Los Angeles

at Woodstock


My Front Pages

mp3 attached












  • Personnel: Arlo Guthrie – vocals, guitar, piano / Clarence White – guitar / Ry Cooder – guitar, mandolin / Gene Parsons – guitar, harmonica / James Burton – guitar / Chris Ethridge – bass / Milt Holland – percussion / Jerry Scheff – bass / John Pilla – guitar / Jim Gordon – drums
  • Guthrie's version of "Stealin'" was featured in the Monte Hellman's counter culture film Two-Lane Blacktop (1971).
  • The cover (and gatefold) shows Arlo on a Triumph TR6 Trophy motorcycle.
  • "Oh, in the Morning" was later (1972) covered by McKendree Spring.
  • Prior to the release of this album, Guthrie appeared at the Woodstock festival (on August 15, 1969), where, as part of his set, he performed the then-unreleased "Coming into Los Angeles." After that performance turned up in the Woodstock movie and soundtrack album in May 1970, the tune became one of his signature songs.

Arlo Guthrie - Running Down The Road - Back Sleeve     Arlo Guthrie - Running Down The Road - Gatefold


RIP: Kim Fowley (1939-2015)



Posted in Americana, Country Rock, Folk Rock | Tagged | 2 Comments

MELANIE – Madrugada – (Neighborhood Records)- 1974

Melanie - Madrugada

Melanie, again.

I've written at length over Melanie so check out the other comments.

This is an interesting album in the evolution of Melanie in that it lays (with the album previous, "Stoneground Words" from 1972) the direction of Melanie's musical future.

The album(s) is more "mature", less twee, less "hippie". I like the urban and pastoral wide eyed innocence of  Melanie's earlier work but as she grew older her music became even more personal. 

It also became slicker.

There were less of the rustic tones , the shaggy edges which made Melanie's early music so appealing.

This matters not as long as the song's are up to scratch.

On first glance the amount of covers would indicate Melanie was running out of ideas but the truth was this was her 13th album in six years. OK, there were a couple of soundtrack albums and live albums in there but still that's a lot of work. Melanie, also, wasn't adverse to a cover if it fit it into the album. And this all here hangs together quite well.

This album is slicker than her earlier work but the emotional content and Melanie's point of view as narrator hasn't changed that much.

And that is a joy.

This was the last Melanie album to chart in the US (and it barely charted). I'm not sure why here commercial popularity came to an end. There were many other vocalists who weren't as good as this who were having successful careers.

The only explanation, and one the pundits raise often, may be, ultimately, right and that is her audience identified her as the  flower child vocalist (whether she was one or not) and when she outgrew that they refused to go along for the ride.

A pity there is much too  like here.

Once again the album was produced by Melanie's husband, Peter Schekeryk.

All songs written by Melanie Safka, except where noted.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Love To Lose Again – quite the "world" song with vaguely Caribbean and Latin beats and a chorus that wouldn't be out of place on one of Paul Simon's later efforts. The song is quite catchy
  • Lover's Cross – (Jim Croce) – A cover taken from Jim Croce's fifth and final album, "I Got a Name", from 1973. Croce's broken heart worked because the thought of a big, burly bloke exposing his emotions was jarring and effective. Melanie's version is good though not as good as the original ( and perhaps a little too long).
  • Pretty Boy Floyd – (Woody Guthrie) – The song has been well covered by folkies but it will forever be identified with Woody Guthrie who recorded in 1939 (five years after the outlaw Floyd's death). His song was a romanticised Robin Hood song for the people which was particularly effective in the depression years  where the banks and big business were ripping everyone off blind. Melanie doesn't have Woody's matter of fact Midwestern common touch though, no doubt, she saw something in the lyric which related to the corporate greed in mid – 70s America. She was right and the song is still relevant.
  • Wild Horses – (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards) – "Wild Horses" is the Rolling Stones song from their 1971 album "Sticky Fingers". Melanie has always done well with the Stones (her "Ruby Tuesday" is magnificent and her "Jig Saw Puzzle" wasn't bad). It's interesting to note that most singer-songwriters in covering songs leant to Lennon-McCartney whereas Melanie saw something sensitive in Jagger-Richards. Here she orchestrates "Wild Horses" and adds a jazzy spin to it. The horses are no longer the ragged wild horses of the Stones but they aren't tame either. This is a good version that grows on you. (for information on the Stones song http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_Horses_(The_Rolling_Stones_song))
  • I Think It's Going To Rain Today – (Randy Newman) – Randy Newman (most famous?) song, from his 1968 debut album "Randy Newman". The song has been covered by everyone including Judy Collins (1966), Eric Burdon and The Animals (1967), Bobby Darin (1967), Rick Nelson (1968), Peggy Lee (1969), Leonard Nimoy (1969), Nina Simone (1969), Neil Diamond (1971), Dave Van Ronk (1971), Joe Cocker (1975), Jools Holland and David Gray (2003), Val Kilmer (2009), Barbra Streisand (2012). (for more on the song http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Think_It's_Going_to_Rain_Today). This is a great song …it always works
  • Will You Love Me Tomorrow – (Gerry Goffin, Carole King) – The great Goffin and King song that was a #1 for The Shirelles in 1960. The song has been well covered even by chick singer songwriters. Jackie DeShannon (1966), Cher (1966), The Four Seasons (1968), Linda Ronstadt (1970) and Carole King herself in 1971. (more on the song http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Will_You_Love_Me_Tomorrow). This is one of those magnificent songs that is good regardless. Melanie's version is good. She doesn't have the NYC urban teen opera beat but she has made it a NYC urban folkie query without sacrificing the melody of the song. A winner.
  • Maybe Not For A Lifetime – this is big and well produced by Melanie standards…but not to bad.
  • Holding Out – a piano driven song (with piano supplied by legendary session musician Ron Frangipane)…. it grows on you.
  • The Actress – partly autobiographical it seems …and quite effective.
  • Pine and Feather – strings and all, though sparse and not orchestrated, this is meant to be gentle and delicate ..and it works.

And …

I have the others …. I'm keeping it.

Chart Action



1973  Will You Love Me Tomorrow?  The Billboard Hot 100  82 


1974 #192



1974 Will You Love Me Tomorrow # 37




"Will You Love Me Tomorrow" #93



Pretty Boy Floyd


Will You Love Me Tomorrow

Mp3 attached
















  • This album is the English version of this album which has the Goof-King song replacing a Melanie original, "I Am Being Guided", which is on the US release. ." In November 1973, Melanie had a hit in the UK with her cover of " Will You Love Me Tomorrow" so  I assume to make the album more commercial it was added to the album (it didn't work).
  • "Madrugada" is the Portuguese word the early hours of the morning, before dawn.
Posted in Singer Songwriter | Tagged | Leave a comment

THE A’s – A Woman’s Got The Power – (Arista) – 1981

The As - A Woman's Got The Power

I've had the The A's self titled debut album (not this one) from 1979 for many years. I'm pretty sure I found it in an op shop in the mid-80s for $1.

I tried selling it a number of record fairs for $3 without any luck.

I then realised it's probably better in my collection as there are a good half dozen songs on it.

From cut out bin, to op shop to record fair bargain.

Fame is fleeting that's for sure but The A's were hardly famous.

Allmusic's biography : "Philadelphia's the A's were a rock & roll band whose music combined the edgy energy of new wave with the muscle and attitude of East Coast rock. Formed in 1978, the A's featured Richard Bush on lead vocals, Rick DiFonzo on guitar, Rocco Notte on keyboards, Terry Bortman on bass, and Michael Snyder on drums. The band's powerful live show and hooky but aggressive tunes quickly earned them a loyal following in Philly, and they scored a contract with Arista Records. the A's self-titled debut album, produced by Rick Chertoff, was released in 1979, and it received enthusiastic reviews as well as plenty of local airplay. However, the album didn't sell well outside of Philadelphia and a few other strongholds on the East Coast. In 1981, the A's issued their second album, A Woman's Got the Power; with Chertoff again producing, the album polished off the sharper edges of the group's approach and embraced more of a heartland rock approach, as well as a stronger R&B influence, especially on the title track. Despite its more accessible sound, A Woman's Got the Power didn't sell appreciably better than the debut, and Arista dropped the band. In 1982, the A's self-released an EP, Four Dances, but it didn't do much to boost the band's fortunes, and once the A's paid off the recording bills, they split up".

The often perceptive dude from Badcat records had this to say about their debut album: "Formed in 1978, Philadelphia's The A's featured the talents of bassist Terry Bortman, singer Richard Bush, lead guitarist Rick DiFonzo, keyboardist Rocco Notte, and drummer Mikey Snyder.  The band's live shows quickly garnered them a loyal local following (you can still find a slew of fawning on-line reviews from folks who saw the band's early shows).  That in turn captured the attention of Clive Davis' Arista label which was on the lookout for new wave talent.  While The A's weren't really a new wave act, they were close enough for Arista management which quickly signed them to a recording contract.   They were quickly teamed with producer Rick Chertoff  going into New York's The Record Plant Studios to record 1979's cleverly-titled "The A's".   So leave it to a city like Philadelphia to spawn a bunch of guys who thought they were punks, but had a repertoire full of songs that were creative, lyrically intriguing, funny, and highly commercial.  Judging by the leather jacket drenched album cover, Bush (the only one member not wearing Ramones-styled leather) and company seemingly thought they were channeling English new-wave bands like The Boomtown Rats, or The Undertones (I know they were Irish), but the fact of the matter is The A's were really a first rate power-pop band.  Yeah, there wasn't a great deal of originality spread across these ten original numbers, but propelled by Bush's tawny, raw voice tracks like 'After Last Night', 'Teenage Jerk Off' and 'Grounded' had far more energy and enthusiasm than virtually all of the competition – imagine The Hooters with a new-wave edge, or a more urbane, jittery version of The Dwight Twilley Band, or a tougher version of The Cars and you'd have some idea of what to expect" http://badcatrecords.com/BadCat/As.htm

Now that a fair chunk of quoting. I know I could re-write that in my own words but why bother?

Both of those quotes describe the debut album (and band) accurately… energetic, enthusiastic power pop. But, I recall them being quite quirky  with a fair bit of humour.

And just to be sure I have listened to it again … yup, and it still works (albeit over 5-6 songs).

Not knowing anything about this second album I approach it with some trepidation. Commentators have alluded to the record label smelling a dollar and their encouragement for the band to move to broader commercial acceptance with the sound of the day.

It's hard enough to keep the momentum going on a second album without changing direction.

It doesn't bode well but …. I have to give it a listen.

Produced by Rick Chertoff  (Englishman Nick Garvey of pub rockers The Motors handling three tracks 1, 4, and 5), the album goes for more of a heartland rock sound (as if sung by an Englishman, at least on the Nick Garvey produced tracks)  with a fair chunk of new wave pop added to the mix … covering the bases.

The sound is big and the edginess, immediacy and having fun on the streets sound of the first album has gone.

This album sounds like it is purely the product of the studio. Of course I know it as recorded in the studio (as are most albums, derr) but some albums sound like they were born on the streets and then brought in for recording. This sounds like it was actually conceived in the studio.

This is slick US new wave – think The Hooters (also from Philadelphia and also produced by Chertoff), The Call, The Nails and others.

Having said that I don't mind a this sound in medium sized doses.

I have no idea about the cover art – a album called "A Woman's Got the Power"  with a "spunky" chick (80s style) , in leotards, drinking a glass of milk.  Perhaps it has something to do with the lyric to the title song "A woman's got the strength, A woman's got the power, Keep a man up, never let him down… yeah" … leotards equals exercise, milk equals strength? Perhaps I'm reading too much into the cover art. In any event the current PC police would ban the cover art on the basis that it must be offensive even if no one knows what it means.

All songs are by band members Richard Bush and Rocco Notte except where noted.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • A Woman's Got the Power –  a bit naff but actually quite catchy
  • Electricity –  lyrics about the "electricity" of passion would be better suited to a blue eyed soul song.
  • Heart of America –  horns!  (overdubbed?) banjo!!. This is heartland rock …With a title like "Heart of America" this could only be a heartland rock song, right? Think John Cougar Mellencamp.
  • How Do You Live –  big sounding new wave pop. Hooting with The Hooters.
  • When the Rebel Comes Home –  (Tom Jans) –  Folk singer/songwriter Tom Jans is most famous for writing and recording ‘Loving Arms’ in 1974 which was originally done by Kris Kristofferson & Rita Coolidge (1973), before becoming a hit cover for Dobie Gray (#61US, #81US R&B, #7US Adult Contemporary 1973). It was also recorded by Elvis Presley (1974) and subsequently by some 30 other people. Watch those royalties come in …well until he died in 1984. This song is from his 1982 album Champion (which was recorded in 1978). How The A's got hold of it I don't know. It does sound like another Hooters reject though.
  • Johnny Silent –  This one is power pop harkening back to their debut though quite produced. It's catchy though.
  • Little Mistakes –  yes, here, on this song – too much Clarence Clemons / Bruce Springsteen type horns.
  • Working Man –  This is a little naff but quite catchy ..and it would fit nicely in one of those Hollywood teen films from the 80s trying to be "punky"
  • I Pretend She's You –  Quite Elvis Costello like though bigger
  • Insomnia  –  power pop like The Plimsouls though with quirky, slightly bizarre, keyboards over the top. This is a treat.

And …

Not as good as the debut but with this I have their entire catalogue.

The sound is big but it is a testament to the band that their quirky power pop come new wave  personalities still come through the gloss and (80s style) bombast …. I'm keeping it.

Chart Action



1981  A Woman's Got The Power  Mainstream Rock  #18   


1981 #146




Nothing – though this album (and the debut) were pressed and released locally.



A Woman's Got the Power


Johnny Silent

mp3 attached


Mp3 attached





2007 reunion


2013 reunion













  • After the bands break-up Bush and Notte briefly played together in The Candles. Guitarist Rick DiFonzo went on to a career as a sideman and session musician, working with Bob Dylan, Cyndi Lauper, Roger Waters (he was a member of The Bleeding Hearts band (he's on "The Wall" video)), and Joan Osborne, and also leading his own band the Rick DoFonzo Band. Singer, Richard Bush, remained a fixture in the Philadelphia music scene with his band The Peace Creeps.
  • apparently Bruce Springsteen recorded "A Woman's Got the Power " live on tour in 1984 and 2011! http://www.brucespringsteen.it/DB/sd3.aspx?sid=11
  • Personnel: Richard Bush, Richard Bush (vocals); Rick DiFonzo (guitar); Rocco Notte (keyboards); Terry Bortman (bass instrument); Mike Snyder , Michael Snyder (drums).
  • The band had a reunion where they opened for the Hooters on two dates (11/21/07 & 11/23/07) and more recently in 2013. The followed with anew EP…http://articles.philly.com/2014-07-05/entertainment/51078396_1_rocco-notte-richard-bush-band
  • Their entire catalogue is 2 LPs,  2 EPs  and a few singles
Posted in Power Pop, Punk and New Wave | Tagged | Leave a comment

JOHNNY RIVERS – at the Whiskey a Go Go – (Imperial) – 1964

Johnny Rivers - at the Whisky a Go Go

This is Johnny River's influential first album.

Influential in that it set the style for him over his next five or six albums and also influential, musically, because a whole little subgenre of rock n roll was created …. the west coast up-tempo beat based, dance rock … which became very popular for about three years.

It's also a forerunner for all blue eyed soul (rhythm and blues and soul music performed by white artists ..with an emphasis on rhythm and soul)

I call it "go-go" music partially because of it's origins at the Whiskey a Go Go night club, partially because of the short skirted dancing go go girls you would see on west coast television or partially because the music seems to say "go-go" with every beat …

I was exposed to this music as a kid in the 70s in it's watered down format (not that it wasn't watered down to start off with) through Hollywood movies and TV shows …you know the ones where the characters inevitably ended up on Sunset Strip in Los Angeles with some band pumping out up tempo pop rock to a dance floor full of tens cavorting and go go-ing.

The beat is King and ultimately each song is designed to make sure that the dancers don't need to change their moves too much from song to song.

It was, perhaps, a pop version, or more accessible version of frat and garage rock or perhaps it was a rock beat aimed at an older crown (as evidenced by the stars quoted on the back of this LPs sleeve: Steve Allen, Tony Bennett, Johnny Carson, Sammy Davis Jr, George Hamilton, Gina Lollobrigida, Dorothy Provine and others are hardly the voice of emerging youth culture)

It always seems like (if you believe the backs of record sleeves and recollections of those at the time) that these venues (at this time) were playing to hip, older audiences made up of movie stars, celebrities and the upper middle class ….

It was in West Hollywood and Hollywood elite in the 30s and 40s had traditionally frequented clubs and restaurants in the area like Ciro's, The Mocambo and The Trocadero. But the area had become depressed and run down and the lower rent youth clubs moved in catering for live rock n roll music..

The Whiskey a Go Go opened in 1964 and was a success (Pandora's Box, The London Fog, The Troubadour, PJs all opened or found new audiences as a result).

In 1964 Sunset Strip in Hollywood was the hip place to be.

By 1966 it was done… a new crowd had moved in on the coattails of  emerging youth bands like The Doors, the Byrds. Love, The Turtles

The popularity of the areas with the youth led to curfews and the Sunset Strip curfew riots of 1966.

From there the Strip accommodated the cynicism and drugs of the emerging youth counter culture.

But for a short time I would like to think it was a hip, swinging crowd getting plastered on alcohol (perhaps there was a bit of speed in there).

Having never seen Johnny Rivers, (or Trini Lopez or others) in their heyday on the Sunset Strip I don't know what the answer is but I would like to think it was were the young (post drinking age of 21) at the older types would mix freely and get off on this rock n roll beat.

Either way the beat is the raison d'etre for this album.

This was the first album in that go-go style – Elvis Presley (in his early 60s film music), Chuck Berry,  Bobby Fuller and others had been hinting at the go-go beat across various individual songs but Rivers was one of the first to put out a whole album in the style (the similar "Trini Lopez at P.J.'s" by Trini Lopez came out a few months earlier in 1963).

Johnny devised a formula: "Trini Lopez had been playing over at PJ's, doin' this slap rhythm thing. I said, 'I can do that kind of stuff.' I didn't have a band so I called Eddie Rubin, a jazz drummer. He wasn't gigging at the time, so he and Eddie went into Gazzari's together‹just guitar and drums‹and played what we thought was going to be a three- or four-day gig." To everyone's surprise, huge crowds gathered to hear Johnny and Rubin play rock and R&B hits. Gazzari's profits soared, and when Rivers was ready to leave, Gazzari offered him more money and let him hire a bassist. Joe Osborn, just starting to become an L.A. studio legend, joined Rivers and Rubin. http://johnnyrivers.com/jr/biography.html

Surely the intention was for the album to be played all the way through at parties. There are audience sounds, claps and shrieks that add to that intention (and excitement). And on that level it works…and that's the only level it's aiming at. (Despite that, the album's title and front cover statement "Recorded Live, Very Live!" there is some doubt at to whether the album was actually recorded live at the Whiskey ..it was probably recorded in a studio with live audience noise dubbed on).

Johnny Rivers was 22 years old at the time (For bio information on him check out my other posts) but he was seasoned as a player and performer. He wasn't adverse to writing a song but all this music called for was for him to cover other familiar tunes adding his go-go beat and nasal twang over the top.

His band is a three piece : him on guitar and vocals, bass (Joe Osborne) and drums (Eddie Rubin) (or perhaps a four piece if you want to count the audience as a member) and they are tight and play well.

The music didn't travel well outside of the US but it should have because the music is fun music and you can hear that popping off the record.

This LP tells my ears that the most perfect place to be in the entire world was on Sunset Strip in Los Angeles in 1964 … now if I could only find a group of people, throw alcohol at them, put this record on to see if I can recreate that moment in time.

Original Versions

  • Memphis – (Chuck Berry) –  One of Chuck's greatest songs from 1963. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memphis,_Tennessee_(song)
  • It Wouldn't Happen With Me – (Raymond Evans) –  Professional songwriter Ray Evans wrote truckloads of songs including Nat King Cole's "Mona Lisa" in 1950 and Doris Day's "Que Sera Sera" in 1956. I assume this is an original for Rivers.
  • Oh Lonesome Me – (Don Gibson) –  Don's country hit (#8, #73 pop) from 1958
  • Lawdy Miss Clawdy – (Lloyd Price) –  Originally by New Orleans singer/songwriter Lloyd Price from 1952 (#1 US R&B charts)….but done, notably, by Elvis in 1956. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawdy_Miss_Clawdy
  • Whiskey a Go Go – (Johnny Rivers) –  an original.
  • Walking the Dog – (Rufus Thomas) –  Rufus Thomas had a #10US hit with it in 1963.
  • Brown Eyed Handsome Man – (Chuck Berry) –  another magnificent Chuck Berry tune, from 1956. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown_Eyed_Handsome_Man
  • You Can Have Her – (I Don't Want Her) –  – (Bill Cook) –  This was the great Roy Hamilton's last hit record (#6 R&B, #12 pop) from 1961.
  • Multiplication – (Bobby Darin) –  Darin's #30 hit from 1961.
  • Medley: La Bamba – (Traditional; arranged by Johnny Rivers) –  / Twist and Shout – (Phil Medley, Bert Russell) – La Bamba was Richie Valens #22US hit from 1958 but it was also on Trini Lopez' #2US hit folk go-go album "Trini Lopez at P.J.'s" from 1963. "Twist and Shout" was recorded by the Top Notes in 1961, then covered by The Isley Brothers in 1962 (#17 US pop), and then covered by The Beatles in 1963. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Bamba_(song)  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twist_and_Shout

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Memphis – (Chuck Berry) –  This is magnificent and put Rivers on the map. The song has some controversy attached though in relation to whether Rivers lifted it from his friend Elvis' version which he had heard and which hadn't been released yet. Rivers' "Memphis" is closer to Elvis than to Chuck but who cares. Elvis had had many hits and Johnny was his freind …. http://www.elvis-history-blog.com/elvis-johnny-rivers.html
  • It Wouldn't Happen With Me – (Raymond Evans) –  a song that name checks both Elvis and The Beatles can't be all bad. In fact it's quite good …it's a bit novelty but it's infectious.
  • Oh Lonesome Me – (Don Gibson) –  a country lament given the up tempo treatment.
  • Lawdy Miss Clawdy – (Lloyd Price) –  this works …but it always does.
  • Whiskey a Go Go – (Johnny Rivers) –  an original though River's name checks John Lee Hooker and the beat is Hooker-ish.
  • Walking the Dog – (Rufus Thomas) –  Rivers doesn't speed this up much but the beat is up front …as is the audience. His version is raucous like the Rufus original (or The Rolling Stones cover) but it is slyly seductive
  • Brown Eyed Handsome Man – (Chuck Berry) –  excellent …
  • You Can Have Her – (I Don't Want Her) –  – (Bill Cook) –  a great song but it doesn't really work in this setting.
  • Multiplication – (Bobby Darin) –  I love this song in the original version so this works for me.
  • Medley: La Bamba – (Traditional; arranged by Johnny Rivers) –  / Twist and Shout – (Phil Medley, Bert Russell) – a good medley of two great songs – no one could stuff this up and Johnny really gives them a good performance.

And …

Excellent …. perfect for parties …  I'm keeping it.

Chart Action



1964  Memphis  The Billboard Hot 100  #2 


1964  The Billboard 200  #12 







It Wouldn't Happen With Me

Mp3 attached





Not easy to find wanything on-line (not hip enough to be reviewed?)












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