RUSTY DRAPER – Rusty Meets Hoagy – (Mercury) – 1957

Rusty Draper - Rusty Meets Hoagy

I'll speak of Rusty first only because he comes first when referring to the album.

Wikipedia says, Rusty Draper "born Farrell H. Draper; January 25, 1923 – March 28, 2003) was an American country and pop singer who achieved his greatest success in the 1950s …Born in Kirksville, Missouri and nicknamed "Rusty" for his red hair, he began performing on his uncle's radio show in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the mid-1930s. Draper moved on to work at radio stations in Des Moines, Iowa—sometimes filling in for sports announcer Ronald Reagan—and in Illinois before settling in California. There he began to sing in local clubs, becoming resident singer at the Rumpus Room in San Francisco. By the early 1950s he had begun appearing on national TV shows including The Ed Sullivan Show (CBS) and Ozark Jubilee (ABC). In 1952, Draper signed to Mercury Records and issued his debut single, "How Could You (Blue Eyes)". The following year, after a national club tour, his cover version of Jim Lowe's "Gambler's Guitar” made No. 6 on both the country and pop charts, and sold a million copies, and was awarded a gold disc …"

It seems simple doesn't it?

A career that it.

When time is written down and reflected in a couple of paragraphs in a wikipedia entry.

Rusty's career almost seems easy but 15 or so years had elapsed between entering the business as an adult and his first hit.

Rusty is usually labelled a country and pop singer and that is accurate as he had hits in both genres and worked in both styles.

In the early 1950s there were two groups of country and pop acts fighting for the same piece of pop chart pie  You had Jim Reeves and Eddy Arnold, who incorporated pop sensibilities into their sound and then you had trad pop singers who incorporated county sensibilities into their sounds much like Frankie Laine, Guy Mitchell, and Dean Martin did at various points of their careers.

Rusty was somewhere in between, as was Guy Mitchell.

Rusty and Guy Mitchell both had backgrounds in country music but Guy only flirted with his west coast country roots for a few years when he was starting out. Rusty was more committed to his country music roots (check the video link below from 1949) but once he went down the trad pop path, unlike Arnold and Reeves, his music was a lot more straight down the line. He may have taken some country sounds with him  but the overwhelming feel is a trad pop one. And that is one reflected in the charts. His charting singles made the pop charts but not the country charts  whereas Reeves and Arnold charted on both charts. Later when his pop career closed (due to rock n roll no doubt) he moved into country and had straight country hits.

But, in 1957 Rusty is still riding high as a trad pop singer.

So, as much as I would have loved hearing an album of Hoagy Carmichael songs done by a country singer an album of Hoagy songs done by a trad pop singer is more obvious, but no less pleasing.

Why?

I love Hoagy Carmichael.

I picked up a Hoagy Carmichael compilation album as a teen (after seeing him in movies) way back when and fell in love with his tunes and his distinctive delivery. Carmichael himself only put out about two (?) proper albums during the album era (post 1952) as most of his material was written in the 1920s and 1940s.

A lot has been written about Hoagy Carmichael (1899 – 1981) and it's hard trying to find a good quote that sums him up in a couple of lines so I'll just use the one on wikipedia: "American composer and author Alec Wilder wrote of Carmichael in American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900–1950 that he was the "most talented, inventive, sophisticated and jazz-oriented" of the hundreds of writers composing pop songs in the first half of the 20th century"

And, importantly Hoagy's co-writers are no slouches either – Johnny Mercer, Frank Loesser et al … these guys are all legends. We aren't talking Stock Aitken Waterman rubbish here.

It's important to remember here (something we rock era listeners tend to forget because we like our "words") that Hoagy was primarily a melodist and the co-writers were usually, but not always, the lyricists. But he sang those songs first. So those words belong to him even though he didn't write them, right?

There is a tradition in popular music, and in American music, which was lost to the rock era and that is the more "valuable" or at least the better paid partner in the music partnership  (if one is needed) is the person who writes the music not the lyricist. That tradition is one that goes back to tin pan alley down through Hoagy Carmichael but can be traced to Burt Bacharach, Brian Wilson (he did both but you would be surprised how many lyrics he didn't write) and others.

Of course you need both and when they click they are magnificent, I just point this out because there is an assumption that some of these songwriting legends are primarily lyricists.

Words are important to convey meaning, the singer is important to deliver the meaning in the words, but, the words are only memorable because of the melody.

Enough.

For Rusty Draper to tackle Hoagy it was, probably, a no brainer.

This was Rusty's second long player. There being little faith in albums back then this was not surprising … Rusty was consider a singles act, even if he was a successful one. There was an assumption that apart from certain artists like Sinatra the public would not buy pop singers on album. And, on this occasion, the label was right as the album didn't chart. No singles charted off it either (assuming singles were released from it … and Rusty was charting that year with other singles). Interestingly, Rusty never had an album chart in the US.

As Eugene Chadbourne (what is Eugene Chadbourne doing reviewing this!?) points out in the allmusic review from the album cover you would expect this album to be low key … and that's how it should be. Carmichael sounds best in small combos or better still just vocalist and piano. But to be fair Carmichael himself on his 50s albums recorded, not with a full orchestra, but with a large combo and it was the 50s, and rock 'n' roll had come … everything was big, loud, glossy and in your face.

Rusty meets the challenge. And this is a good example of trad pop "Americana". In fact the liner notes refer to this album as "Americana" with all its  lack of pretension and bombast , hair down, down to earth American feeling. It may not be all that but with Hoagy Carmichael's sensitive melodies, which aren't obscured, and the sophisticated rustic lyrics there is more than an element of truth to it.

And, whilst he doesn't have the balls of Frankie Laine or the voice of Guy Mitchell of the style of Dean you have to give him credit …. he does an album of Hoagy Carmichael songs.

Tracks (best in italics)

            Side One

  • Georgia on My Mind – (Hoagy Carmichael / Stuart Gorrell) – a magnificent song. It needs a little more subtlety though
  • Ole Buttermilk Sky – (Jack Brooks / Hoagy Carmichael) – This one works with oomph. I love this tune.
  • Ole Rockin' Chair  – (Hoagy Carmichael) –  nice but not stellar. I think Rusty is trying to sound black.
  • In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening  – (Hoagy Carmichael / Johnny Mercer) –  Excellent…as good as Dean Martin's version of the same.
  • Judy  – (Hoagy Carmichael / Sammy Lerner) –  nice and low key.
  • Hong Kong Blues  – (Hoagy Carmichael) –  Bouncy and excellent with Rusty is particularly fine voice.

      Side Two

  • Lazy Bones  – (Hoagy Carmichael / Johnny Mercer) –  This is a magnificent song. The lyric and music perfectly compliment each other. Draper sings well with a touch of Bing Crosby (ho had done it)
  • Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief  – (Hoagy Carmichael / Paul Francis Webster) –  almost a novelty song but with some sharp lyrics … and quite funny.
  • Moon Country  – (Hoagy Carmichael / Johnny Mercer) –  Nice, a very evocative song of the South
  • My Resistance Is Low  – (Harold Adamson / Hoagy Carmichael) –  a favourite of mine. One of the first Hoagy Carmicahel songs I heard. I saw him singing it in a film where he plays a piano player (naturally enough), "The Las Vegas Story" (1952) with Jane Russell and Victor Mature. I liked the film and though he was cool.
  • Lazy River  – (Sidney Arodin / Hoagy Carmichael) – A great song. But Rusty at the end of the song isn't as convincing as others on the same.
  • Small Fry  – (Hoagy Carmichael / Frank Loesser) –  another sharp song

And …

Rusty sounds like he's a copying a number of other singers (not just Hoagy) on the various songs but he doesnt hit any bad notes so it is all good. And, the band is good …. I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

nothing

Sounds

The album:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLgHtN69Ss67vyZMPy-Ztl06FlLVzCTt1I

Georgia on My Mind

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYa8ZYI94jY&list=PLgHtN69Ss67vyZMPy-Ztl06FlLVzCTt1I

Ole Buttermilk Sky

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-uTkpyuoht4&index=6&list=PLgHtN69Ss67vyZMPy-Ztl06FlLVzCTt1I

In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bjvXE4VvaA&list=PLgHtN69Ss67vyZMPy-Ztl06FlLVzCTt1I&index=2

Hong Kong Blues

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-H22Z5-hh8&list=PLgHtN69Ss67vyZMPy-Ztl06FlLVzCTt1I&index=3

Moon Country

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fRW09G1tnQ&index=9&list=PLgHtN69Ss67vyZMPy-Ztl06FlLVzCTt1I

My Resistance Is Low

Small Fry

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzFTZ9EaV-4&index=11&list=PLgHtN69Ss67vyZMPy-Ztl06FlLVzCTt1I

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgkgbccIoHE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mH0TvxeCiK4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cabYOkLKtFg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjUp570wnZU

Review

http://www.allmusic.com/album/rusty-meets-hoagy-mw0000893574

Bio

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rusty_Draper

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/rusty-draper-mn0000222720/biography

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/03/obituaries/03DRAP.html

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/hoagy-carmichael-mn0000708613/biography

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoagy_Carmichael

http://www.redhotjazz.com/hoagy.html

Website

http://www.hoagy.com/

Trivia

 

Rusty Draper - Rusty Meets Hoagy - back

 

Posted in Popular & Crooners | Tagged | Leave a comment

ARLO GUTHRIE with Shenandoah – Outlasting the Blues – (Warner Brothers) – 1979

Arlo Guthrie - Outlasting the Blues

For those who need to read up on who Arlo Guthrie is check the links at the end, or better still check my other entries on him in this blog.

For those who can't be bothered I will say he is an American Americana styled folkie who started recording in the late 1960s and is still recording today.

This album came at the end of a turbulent decade.

The 1970s had seen many folkies, scarred, cynical, or worse, dead.

Bob Dylan had turned to God (and had turned out some still under appreciated music), Phil Ochs had killed himself, others were the victims of life on the road (Jim Croce, Harry Chapin) or drugs (Tim Hardin).

Guthrie was still a young man (32) but had been around long enough and had been exposed to enough to have picked up a much older view of the world. The music he listened to, the music of his father (folksinger Woody), his fathers friends, the people he surrounded himself with, maybe not all the time but enough of the time, perhaps gave him that perspective.

His music always lent itself to a slightly world weary, melancholy view of the world.

That is only exacerbated when times are tough and the optimism of the 60s was dead, the drugs of the 70s had worn off, and America was in (arguable) decline …

Arlo's personal world had collided with the external world (as they always do). The worry for one's family and their future. He was a family man with a long time wife and three kids and a fourth on the way or newly born (future singer Sarah Lee Guthrie).

Importantly, he was also approaching the age where he would discover whether or not he would be struck with Huntington's chorea, the hereditary nerve disease that killed his father.

You'd think that would inform your song writing wouldn't you?

Apparently Guthrie had met, on an airplane, a Catholic Franciscan monk that belonged to a small order of monks that practiced street evangelism and had kept in touch with him.

Some time later ( I assume in the late 70s) he had an Jesus epiphany, and this is for a kid who was brought up in Jewish household: "I was standing on my porch, and one of those things happened that I never imagined would happen to me. I don't know how to explain it, and I don't want to make a big deal out of it, but God showed up in the person of Jesus Christ. He was sort of right in front of me. I knew who he was even though nobody said anything. And not only that, but I knew that he knew everything about me. For about ten minutes – actually, I have no idea how long it was – I felt a love that I knew existed but that I never thought I would be in the midst of. And it penetrated every atom of my being."

https://www.questia.com/read/1G1-13830737/arlo-and-ma

So, he went down to the Catholic Church where his Franciscan friends hung out, and eventually became a third-order Franciscan monk, started doing charitable works and also put out this record.

Arlo says that he always had a spiritual side, “I was a person who always loved God, but that was without knowing who God was. Still, it had always been an interest of mine. I even wrote songs on Alice’s Restaurant that I think of as being vehicles for me to communicate with this nebulous God that I knew was there but that I’d certainly never met face-to-face.”

https://kroc.wordpress.com/2007/12/08/outlasting-the-blues/

As Dylan turned to a fundamentalist Protestant Christianity, Guthrie turned to a mystical (yet progressive) Catholicism (though he remained Jewish apparently …don't ask me to explain that …and I think he had moved on to or incorporated Eastern religions in there now).

The music is Americana with an ear to 70s rock (70s roots rock). Comparisons are often made between Arlo and Dylan and they will be here again. After all, this religious album (if it is that) came out at the same time as Dylan's religious albums (if they are that). Dylan's religious albums (Slow Train Coming (1979), Saved (1980), Shot of Love (1981)) are a mixed bag. His best religious album ("Shot of Love") is akin to the best music on this album in that he manages to reflect on God, love, and death in a substantial and meaningful way without giving the listener the idea they are being preached at. Both Dylan and this album though have the sledge hammer religious songs which are all electric guitars and religious imagery and quite apocalyptic, literally, as if the second coming is around the corner. Arlo's are better. They sound better as songs and seem more thoughtful. Or perhaps that's the difference between Catholicism and fundamentalist Protestantism?

In any event the those types of songs tend to preach but I don't have a problem with that. I can think for myself and I can figure out when I'm being preached at and can take or leave the same.

Inevitably when one refers to albums with any religion in them there is a need to downplay or evaluated the "peachiness" of the record.

Somehow that doesn't apply to metal or punk music … they are all equally preach. They are all songs with messages telling you how to lead your life?

Anyway, this is not a Christian blog that is just an observation.

But, like Dylan's "religious" albums of the time the rock is heavy and in you face.

This is Arlo's second album with Shenandoah who are his touring band and he likes them enough to give them billing title.

If you hadn't read this blog you might not pick up the overt religious references on the album but they are there.  Arlo was never as strident again though all of his albums do have that spiritual side to them, if you choose to listen hard enough or without prejudice.

All songs by Arlo unless otherwise indicated.  Produced by John Pilla.

Tracks (best in italics)

            Side One

  • Prologue – despite the slick production and electric guitar the lyrics are great. A very personal song, with some cynical jabs at the world and religious overtones. 
  • Which Side – an electric update of the 30s mining song by Florence Reece, "Which Side Are You On", which asked on which side do you stand, the workers or the bosses? Here, the same question is asked ("But just one question still remains") though the workers are the followers of Jesus and the bosses are those who chase material wealth.
  • Wedding Song – Adam and Eve, Joseph and Mary, Me and You  … a wedding, or rather marriage, song. Quite nice and quite a smart way to weave a love song into a religious song.
  • World Away From Me –  a bouncy love tune.
  • Epilogue – a personal rumination.   

     Side Two

  • Telephone – a humorous song about the prevalence, intrusiveness and annoyance of telephones. And this was before mobiles!!   
  • Sailing Down This Golden River – (Pete Seeger) – from Pete's 1971 ecological album "My Rainbow Race". A beautiful song.
  • Carry Me Over – a tuck carrying the narrator to the promised land?   
  • Underground –  the narrator (with an acapella choir) looks at his own mortality
  • Drowning Man – a wonderful song. A plea to a (dear) companion for help.
  • Evangelina – (Hoyt Axton, Kenneth Higginbotham) – a popular Hoyt Axton song which first came out on his "Fearless" album from 1975. Nice

And …

Very, Very Good …  I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

nothing nowhere

Sounds

Wedding Song 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z72E68soVhM

Sailing Down This Golden River 

live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ejwaNx2aBo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2ZlF0WQjT0

Drowning Man   

mp3 attached

Evangelina

live later

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xalh630rJM

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92jFck0X0nk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g266Uwp6ZnI

Review

http://www.allmusic.com/album/outlasting-the-blues-mw0000262685

http://nodepression.com/album-review/arlo-guthrie-outlasting-blues-power-love

https://kroc.wordpress.com/2007/12/08/outlasting-the-blues/

Bio

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arlo_Guthrie

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/arlo-guthrie-mn0000927736

Website

http://www.arlo.net/

Trivia

  • Members of Shenandoah were in Boogity Shoe. Both bands were from Berkshire County, Massachusetts. 
  • Shenandoah are: Steve Ide – guitar, trombone, vocals / David Grover – banjo, guitar, string arrangements, vocals / Dan Velika – bass, guitar, vocals/ Carol Ide – guitar, percussion, vocals / Terry A La Berry – drums, marimba, vocals
Posted in Americana, Gospel, Roots Rock | Tagged | Leave a comment

CHIP TAYLOR – Somebody Shoot Out The Jukebox – (Columbia) – 1976

CHIP TAYLOR - Somebody Shoot Out The Jukebox

The full title of this album is "Chip Taylor With Ghost Train". I'm not sure who Ghost Train are but I assume they are his backing band, George Kiriakis, David Kapell, John Platania, Joe Renda, David Mansfield and Beau Segal.

They never, as far as I can tell, recorded under that name anywhere else.

That's not to say they weren't exceptional musicians.

Chip Taylor was at a point in his career (read my other comments for biographical details) where , even without hits he could command good production facilities and basically run his own show when it came to recording. Here he produces and I assume picked the band. Some had played with him before and the others date back to north-east bands from the early 60s and no doubt knew Chip from them.

George Kiriakis (lead acoustic guitar) had been in rockabilly country pop duo The Echoes (with Ed Sulik), a duo that could have made it, but "payola" and history scene stopped their success. Dave Kapell (bass) had played session for Chip before. John Platania (electric guitar) had played all over the place most notably for Van Morrison.  "Crazy" Joe Renda (keyboards) was later remembered for his Kiss-related novelty project Crazy Joe And The Variable Speed Band but his roots extend back to early 60s garage rock with The Sherwoods, David Mansfield (pedal steel, fiddle, dobro) was formerly of country rock band Quacky Duck and His Barnyard Friends and then part of Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue, and, Beau Segal was in rock band Pulse and Island.

They can play.

Chip had tried his hands at all sorts of music but there was a common thread to all his music, namely a rustic, country-ish earthiness which he had picked up as kid (in Yonkers, New York) whilst listening to hours of country and rockabilly on the radio.

He had musical contemporaries in the same boat,  Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Mickey Newbury, Jerry Jeff Walker, John Prine and others. They were a little country, but not country enough, a little rock on occasion but not quite rocky, a little singer-songwriter and a little folk-y.

At the time it was called, variously, singer-songwriter, county, outlaw country or any other number of things but eventually the music would come to be called, when fully fledged, Americana.

And, this best describes Chip's music, though there is a (pre) "alt country" overlap.

Having said all that it would be reasonable for someone to assume this is a country record. There is quite a bit of pedal steel and the usual country lyrics. But, what differentiates it from straight country (like others of its ilk) is the use of other non-country traditions in music and a sensibility which refuses to be 100% country.

A lot of the songs are in the folk narrative story tradition also and, what works, are those tales of people with their dreams, lives lived and loved. It is hard not to be sucked in and enjoy the songs and stories. And, most of it is quite upbeat and positive, which is hard to do with taste.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Peter Walker's Circus – an excellent song with a bit of bounce and some great lines like, "And we'll sing a Willie Nelson song and pass the drinks around."
  • Three Younger Bandits – a touch of the Kris Kristofferson's here (specifically, "The Pilgrim"). Still, it's good.
  • Hello Atlanta – not too bad, and it grows on you.
  • Farmer's Daughter – (Haggard) – a cover from Merle Haggard's 1971 "Hag" album. A gentle love song.
  • Nothin' Like You Girl – some good lyrics about a father and his child.
  • Somebody Shoot Out the Jukebox – A song about old school rock 'n' roll that name checks first generation rock 'n' rollers. Like most of it's ilk it's not rock 'n' roll itself but it is affectionate, though here there is also a cynical dig at contemporary music.
  • The Gambler – a gambler in life not necessarily at the table.
  • Still My Son – schmaltz but ingratiating schmaltz. A emotional crescendo with accompanying flutes and backing vocals but it still works. The Highwaymen would tap into this emotionalism (though in a more rough edged way) later.
  • I'd Like to Be That Man – very thick on the drama. Perhaps a little to thick on this one.  Lots of dramatic percussion and heavenly backing vocals.
  • Dads' Club Sizzlers – references to "The Bad News Bear" and "The Sunshine Boys" in an amusing funky song with sound effect about a baseball game featuring the "Dad's Club Sizzzler's" whoever they may be … and whatever that may mean.

And …

Another good album from Chip Taylor. Not perfect but with enough good tracks to make it worthwhile. And it grows on you … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

US

Singles

1977  Hello Atlanta  Country Singles  #93

Album

England

Sounds

Peter Walker's Circus

mp3 attached

Hello Atlanta

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4t4x5AkwKA

Somebody Shoot Out the Jukebox

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdRDt4pwMx4

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8BuRodJ312k

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xK5YHU2-jY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dt9GBafFzjE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFcVaErgrVA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-aJWGSoAMA

Review

Bio

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chip_Taylor

http://www.rockabilly.nl/references/messages/wes_voight_chip_taylor.htm

http://www.trainwreckrecords.com/assets/i/press_kits/Chip_Taylor_Fact_File.pdf

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/chip-taylor-mn0000773849/biography

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Platania – van morrison

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quacky_Duck_and_His_Barnyard_Friends

Website

https://myspace.com/chiptaylorsolo

http://www.trainwreckrecords.com/artists/chip_taylor.html

http://www.david-mansfield.com/

Trivia

 

CHIP TAYLOR - Somebody Shoot Out The Jukebox - back sleeve

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

DAVID ESSEX – Be-Bop The Future – (Mercury) – 1981

David Essex - Be Bop The Future 01

Essex was in a musical slump at the time of this album.

Only six years earlier he had been in the #1 spot in the UK, had been a film star and had been courting America.

But six years is a long time in pop music.

His previous album hadn't done well ("Hot Love" from 1980 reached #75 in the UK charts), his last three singles had failed to chart and the one before ("Hot Love" in 1980 had gone to #57), and his film career had stagnated after Silver Dream Racer (1979), which was a commercial and critical failure (though the single from the film had done well, going to #3 in the UK in early 1980).

It was time to take stock and change.

The times were a changing.

And Essex had enough musical personality to make change easy.

Punk and new wave had changed the face of popular music especially in the UK were the pond is incredibly small. The new romantic movement was on the rise and synths had taken over. At the same time there was a back to the basics rock 'n' roll revival going on. Bands like the (imported) Stray Cats as well as locals like Shaking Stevens, Dave Edmunds, Nick Lowe, and The Polecats were popular and Essex 70s contemporaries Queen had scored a #1 US and #2UK with the rockabilly-inspired single "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" in late 1979.

Perhaps it made sense to do something retro and Essex leant that way anyway. His 70s records were just rock and roll songs updated for the glam era. He wasn't a rocker generally but a popper and balladeer but he was clearly enamoured with the 50s and 60s sounds as themes.

With this in mind he got Al Kooper to produce and recruited mainly American rock musicians including pianist John Douglas "Rabbit" Bundrick (formerly of Mallard and who had worked with The Who, Free and Crawler), Englishman bassist Herbie Flowers (ex Blue Mink, T. Rex and Sky and a sessionman for Elton John, David Bowie, Lou Reed,  Harry Nilsson, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and others), guitarist Jeffrey Allen "Skunk" Baxter (ex Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers and a session man for Rick Nelson and others), Steven Lee Lukather guitarist from Toto.

If he wanted a roots record Al Kooper was a good choice as he had his hand in all sorts of American roots music … ex Blues Project and Blood Sweat and Tears. He was there playing session for Bob Dylan when he plugged in and went electric and had played on hundreds of records, including ones by the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix Experience, Alice Cooper, Cream, B. B. King, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and The Who,

But, if you thought David Essex was ever going to do anything straight you are wrong. Even at his height as a teen idol he was unpredictably quirky and seemed to find an audience that liked his music rather than have his music manufactured and marketed to a target audience.

More power to him but that makes record companies nervous.

Essex took a rock 'n' roll band and producer but didn't miss what has been happening around him and produced an album that is all over the shop but engaging.

What ultimately holds it together is that very early rock meets synth sound familiar at the start of New Wave. There are loud rock guitars (much like in Jeff Wayne's "War of the Worlds" which Essex had appeared on), tinkling synths (before they had become smooth … they are played more like pianos), and some fairly organic thumping percussion. It's a sound specific to the late 70s and early 80s and usually associated with "old" established bands who were trying to contemporize their sound. A lot of it can come of sounding duff (as some of it does here) but when you have someone as oddball and quirky as Essex then it comes of as, uhmmm, oddball, quirky, duff and charmingly engaging.

The trouble, now as it was then, is there is no audience for this. The New Wave-ish cover art won't fool anyone.  The music is too rock for the synth new wave crowd and two synth and slick for the rock crowd. The only group that may get something for it are those who like quirky auterists like Jonathan Richman (who he doesn't sound like at all) or Lou Reed (who has some musical though not vocal similarities) who like to do whatever they want on their albums.

And neither of them either was selling in the early 80s

This album became Essex's first album not to chart and the three singles chosen ("Be-Bop-A-Lula", "Sunshine Girl" ,"The Magician), also, all failed to chart.

Essex would come back in 1982 with a #2 single, "A Winter's Tale",  and there would be other highlights but his time a s a force in music were over.

And, this album, faded from his canon into relative obscurity.

That, of course, means there are "new" sounds waiting to be (re) discovered.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Totally Secure – Very much, even lyrically, like some of the numbers Ray Davies was writing for The Kinks around this time … lots of old school electric guitar trying to sound new (here, courtesy of Steve Lukather). On the first listen I thought it was little silly but I played it a couple of times and it grew on me … and I do like The Kinks from this era.
  • Sunday Papers – Lot's of electric guitar (Lukather again) and backing vocals from a young boy who is meant to be David as a "young lad". The song has flashbacks …
  • The Magician – A mid tempo pop tune which has a touch of disco but is engaging.
  • The Politician – This is an Al Kooper Blues Project type tune. A chugging train blues updated with political lyrical references. Harmonica is by Paul Jones (I'm assuming it's Paul Jones from Manfred Mann but I don't know for sure)
  • Sunshine Girl – (Riopelle-Roberds-Macleod) – A 20# 1967 hit in the US for the writers who were the folk sunshine pop trio The Parade. Herman's Hermits covered it in 1968 (#101US and #8UK). A great tune and very catchy but very 60s.
  • Be Bop A Lula – (Vincent-Davies) – a hit for Gene Vincent in 1956 (#7US, #16UK), Vincent's popularity in the US declined in the 60s though in England and Europe he had a sizeable following. A young (semi) greaser like Essex would have loved him. Here he has taken the classic and made a synth dance floor song out of it. He is ahead of the curve here amongst the music makers. The good thing is he hasn't lost the soul of the song in synth-ing it up. There is a nice "Thankyou Gene" at the end.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Be-Bop-A-Lula
  • Life Support System  – a touch of the David Bowie here.
  • Showgirls –  A silly slow burn sexy sax number which has the benefit of a beat with the title repeated over an over, much like some of of the slow beat songs did in the 70s.
  • Silly Little Baby Running  –  This song has African-Caribbean influences and sounds like it came off a West End show. You know you are in trouble when a "marimba synthesiser" is a credited instrument. The ensemble is conducted by Dominic Frontiere who is an American composer, arranger known for composing the theme and much of the music for the television series The Outer Limits as well as The Rat Patrol, The Flying Nun, The Invaders, The Fugitive and Twelve O'Clock High.
  • Pick Up The Future –  almost Essex "unplugged" though it's Essex with synthesiser only. Interestingly, the synth is played like a church organ (almost) and with the optimistic though slightly melancholy lyric the song works.

And …

It's hard not to like this album if only because you know someone has put thought and talent into it. … I'm keeping it.

Put it on at the dance club and have it clear the dance floor. Offer a bonus prize of free alcohol for those who can guess the artist … the clubs alcohol is safe.

Chart Action

Nothing nowhere

Sounds

Totally Secure

mp3 attached

Sunshine Girl 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmoA9QqrYQ0

Be Bop A Lula

Live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWPGnRg7F0w

Pick Up The Future

mp3 attached

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdTg9n0_Rsc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQTuurrUTvs

Review

http://www.allmusic.com/album/be-bop-the-future-mw0000838221

Bio

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Essex

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/david-essex-mn0000645474

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al_Kooper

Website

http://www.davidessex.com/discography/

Trivia

  • Backing vocalist  James Earl "Jim" Gilstrap  is best known for singing co-lead to the theme from the TV series Good Times.
  • Backing vocalists Ron Hicklin and Gene Morford  (who as part of the Ron Hicklin Singers) are most famously known as the real singers behind the background vocals on The Partridge Family recordings.

 

RIP: David Bowie

Posted in Rock & Pop | Tagged | 1 Comment

DR HOOK – Dr Hook and the Medicine Show – (CBS) – 1972

Dr Hook - Dr Hook and the Medicine Show

This is first album from Dr Hook and it is both a showcase for them and a vehicle for songwriter Shel Silverstein.

Songwriters using band or acts to express their music better, perhaps, than they could themselves is not unusual. Jim Webb wrote albums for The Fifth Dimension, The Supremes, Glen Campbell and others. Rod McKuen for Frank Sinatra, Glenn Yarbrough. Leiber and Stoller for The Coasters, Jay and the Americans, Elvis Presley and others.

It's all about making sure that the songwriters' music and personality marry well with the band or singer.

Read my other comments for background on Dr Hook but:

Dr. Hook’s pathway to stardom was a long, strange trip. The band itself was a mixture of Southern boys and New Jersey guys. Iconic front-man Ray Sawyer, with his eye patch and mangled hat, was from Chickasaw, Alabama. After losing his right eye in a car accident in 1967 he fronted a band called The Chocolate Papers. They were the house band at Gus Stevens’ Supper Club on Highway 90 in Biloxi, Mississippi (trivia: Jayne Mansfield played her last club date at Gus Stevens’ before perishing in an auto accident on the way to New Orleans).

The Chocolate Papers eventually folded with guitarist George Cummings making his way to New Jersey where he formed another band. Cummings invited former bandmates Ray Sawyer and keyboardist Billy Francis to join up and then added a key piece – 19-year-old Dennis Locorriere. Cummings and Sawyer were already in their 30s, ancient by rock standards, but they found a musical kindred spirit in the talented Locorriere who was 10 years their junior. Locorriere was a gifted singer and could play guitar and he and Sawyer had a natural chemistry together. http://retrorockblog.com/tag/dr-hook-and-the-medicine-show/

Dr Hook was born.

Shortly thereafter, Ron Haffkine was overseeing the musical production on the 1971 movie "Who Is Harry Kellerman And Why Is He Saying All Those Terrible Things About Me?", for which Shel Silverstein was writing the songs. Haffkine, without luck, was searching for the right group to do Silverstein's songs, until he received a Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show demo from the band, and loved it.  Silverstein also heard the demo, went to New Jersey to hear the group in action and loved them. Two of the band’s songs were included in the movie soundtrack and though the film was only a modest success songs were enough to secure the band its first recording contract, this album.

Shel Silverstein wrote most of the material.

Shel Silverstein, was a man of many talents as a satirist, (Playboy) cartoonist, writer of children’s books and as a songwriter. He was a sharp Brill building staff songwriter with an eye for small details which gave his songs lives that people could relate to. Like a more acerbic Ray Stevens his music is humorous but without losing touch of the melody or musical hook (sic).

Dr Hook and Shel Silverstein were a perfect match. The band with their jokey, devil may care, anything goes humour where quite anarchic by mainstream standards which fit in perfectly with Silverstein's sharp humorous satire.

This isn't underground  New York avant-garde but mainstream music. But it is quite twisted by mainstream standards. The band, having been a bar band, are tight but they look scrappy, and they exude chaos and down home on the porch, with a jug of whisky (or a joint or two), sing-along sessions. This fits in perfectly with the freewheeling early seventies. There was just enough country sounds in there to have them pick up on some of that market, and just enough soft rock for the mainstream market.

As an aside, the band had quite a few hits here in Australia (two #1s and another six Top 10 singles in 10 years). Their anarchic, rebellious sprit was quite appreciated in the Australia of the seventies, which was coming out of a long period of post-war conservatism. Anything went in the Australia of the seventies (just about) and the influence of Dr Hook on Australian music in attitude and humour if not music (Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band, Daddy Cool, Skyhooks, Redgum etc) is, I think, under researched.

As their career progressed Dr Hook moved more to the mainstream, away from country-ish sounds (still satirical though) but, here, they still have their roots showing. And, what is surprising is the depth of their roots … rock, country, honky tonk, soft rock, ballads and a touch of folk rock.

With two lead vocalists (Ray Sawyer and Dennis Locorriere) alternatively taking turns singing lead they could cover a range of music sounds more, than perhaps, one vocalist could. Locorriere does the ballads and soft pop whilst Sawyer does the more raucous "regional" type numbers. The rest of the band supply could vocal backup along with their fine musicianship.

All songs by Shel Silverstein unless noted.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Sylvia's Mother – the hit single. A sweet one and undeniably catchy.
  • Marie Lavaux – a twisted swamp song like a cross between Jerry Reed and Captain Beefheart.
  • Sing Me A Rainbow – another AM ballad.
  • Hey, Lady Godiva  – satire with horns (quite strange) and calls and asides. Like a stoned country cabaret band.
  • Four Years Older Than Me – (J. David / Ron Haffkine / Dennis Locorriere / Ray Sawyer) – a slow rocker with swamp overtones.
  • Kiss It Away – singer-songwriter country opera with tongue in cheek (perhaps)
  • Makin' It Natural – (Jeffrey Comanor / Shel Silverstein) – A country tune with some un-country lyrics. Very funny and quite the toe tapper.
  • I Call That True Love – more twisted rock comes country comes swamp.
  • When She Cries  – another ballad.
  • Judy – another ballady type number though more gruff than usual being sung by Sawyer (I think).
  • Mama, I'll Sing One Song For You – a nice straight country rock song not dissimilar from early Poco, or perhaps even The Eagles.

And …

I've always found (the later) Dr Hook albums patchy. And, this one isn't perfect but it is very good … I think I may keep it.

Chart Action

US

Singles

1972  Sylvia's Mother  The Billboard Hot 100  #5 

Album

1972  Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show  The Billboard 200  45 

England

Singles

1972  Sylvia's Mother  #2 

Album

Also

Canada – 1972  Sylvia's Mother  The Billboard Hot 100  #2 

Australia – 1972  Sylvia's Mother  The Billboard Hot 100  #1  

Sounds

Sylvia's Mother

Live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bSUA53PrPFw

Marie Lavaux 

Live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xFkjmYaAfQ

and live here … an amazing performance that is tight, loose and anarchic …

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Z8zxeyK5Cs

mp3 attached

Sing Me A Rainbow 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5hSfapZLMI

Hey, Lady Godiva 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VzuVSKbIRQ

Makin' It Natural 

mp3 attached

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=olQNes_mq8I

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCJpzpd-8us

Review

http://www.allmusic.com/album/doctor-hook-mw0000078105

Bio

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/dr-hook-mn0000806645

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/dr-hook-the-medicine-show-mn0000205575

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dr_Hook

http://www.robertchristgau.com/xg/music/drhook-78.php

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shel_Silverstein

Website

https://myspace.com/drhooksmedicineshow/music/songs

https://www.facebook.com/Dr-Hook-and-the-Medicine-Show-55588104361/timeline?ref=page_internal

http://www.raysawyer.com/

http://www.dennislocorriere.com/

http://www.sylviasmother.com/

Trivia

  • Four of these guys from Chocolate Papers went on to Dr Hook … circa 1967 … Chocolate Papers
Posted in Country Rock, Soft Rock | Tagged | 1 Comment

JONATHAN EDWARDS – Sailboat – (Warner Brothers) – 1977

Jonathan Edwards - Sunshine

Jonathan Edwards is one of those folky singer-songwriters who has slipped through the music popularity cracks.

At least over here in Australia.

In the States he has a career, plays, has a fan base, and even had a hit ("Sunshine", #4, 1972). His fan base may be small, but they are loyal and like a lot of others of his generation of singer-songwriters, who only need their songs and their guitars, he has found he can have a presence on in the internet age because people can find him, and, then, can go and see him play live. This is enough to sustain a career and to allow an artist to keep recording music.

He has absolutely no profile over herein Australia. You rarely see Australian pressings of his albums. Any indication of admiration you display for him or his music will be met with a scratch of the head.

I have a few Edwards albums (mainly acquired in the last five years or so … some of the local record stores have been shipping in old US vinyl and then reducing what doesn't sell) and have spun him in the past and have been impressed enough to keep buying him when he crops up.

Biography by Allmusic, "Best remembered for his crossover hit "Sunshine," country and folk singer/songwriter Jonathan Edwards was born July 28, 1946, in Aitkin, Minnesota, and grew up in Virginia. While attending military school, he began playing guitar and composing his own songs. After moving to Ohio to study art, he became a fixture on local club stages, playing with a variety of rock, folk, and blues outfits, often in tandem with fellow students Malcolm McKinney and Joe Dolce … In 1967, Edwards and his bandmates relocated to Boston, where they permanently changed their name to Sugar Creek and became a full-time blues act, issuing the 1969 LP Please Tell a Friend. Wanting to return to acoustic performing, he left the group to record a solo album. Near the end of the 1970 sessions, one of the finished tracks, "Please Find Me," was accidentally erased, forcing Edwards to instead record a brand-new composition. The song was "Sunshine," and when it was released as a single the following year, it quickly became a Top Five pop hit … With the release of 1972's Honky-Tonk Stardust Cowboy, Edwards' music began gravitating toward straight-ahead country; his label was at a loss as to how to market the record, however, and over the course of two more albums, 1973's Have a Good Time for Me and the following year's live Lucky Day, his sales sharply declined. Soon, Edwards dropped out of music, buying a farm in Nova Scotia … In 1976, Edwards' friend Emmylou Harris enlisted him to sing backup on her sophomore record, Elite Hotel; the cameo resulted in a new record deal and the LP Rockin' Chair, recorded with Harris' Hot Band. Sail Boat, cut with most of the same personnel, appeared a year later".

This album is part of a (poor returns) deal Edwards did with Warners (he didn't record again in the studio till 1985) and as indicated above the backing band are mainly comprised of Emmylou Harris' Hot Band as well as Emmylou herself, Herb Pedersen and others. The album never sounds anything less than tight and rootsy. These guys can play.

As was the sound popular at the time there is a Eagles, Poco, Doobie Brothers vibe going on though without the vocal harmonies.

The problem is that, that sound dates. Especially now when country roots sounds, even when merged with pop, are expected to be a little more authentic and, errr, rootsy.

Edwards being a soloist is perhaps a strength. The old folky singer-songwriter with harmonica can still be heard and helps keep the album (more) rootsy and away from Eagles faux pop pap. Though, this probably hurt its sell-ability.

Regardless, the album is just a little too quiet for 1977, even on its up-tempo tunes. Everything was either loud (rock), slick (disco) or big production (Eagles etc) and this is none of those.

It is quite country rock though.

I know Edwards had always dabbled with country music but this album is certainly more (straight) country rock than the other music of his I have heard.  I will have to listen to the rest to see how it all fits in together, but, I just make the observation.

Edwards only has three originals on the album. He wrote most of the previous years "Rockin' Chair" album so I assume he was short on songs. Hey, it happens to everyone (even Dylan goes through long patches where he is short on original material).  Edwards fills the album with an old (sounding) patriotic country song, a soul song and then four songs released the previous year (three from fellow American ex-pat to Canada Jesse Winchester, from his "Let the Rough Side Drag" album, and one from Hoyt Axton's "Fearless" album).

Edwards recent covers aren't as good as the originals and they sound a little like filler. The older covers from his musical memory sound much better and his originals hit the mark. Perhaps he should have waited another year to record  … but then who knows what his contract said.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Blow on Chilly Wind – (Jesse Winchester) –  from Winchester's "Let the Rough Side Drag" (1976) album. A great song though Edwards version isnt as good as Winchester's
  • Evangelina – (Hoyt Axton, Kenneth Higginbotham) – from Axton's "Fearless" (1976) album. A beautiful song by Axton.
  • Sailboat – (Jonathan Edwards) – catchy and obviously tapping into the Jimmy Buffet sound with a Caribbean feel … quite dreamy in its own way.
  • People Get Ready – (Curtis Mayfield) – People Get Ready" is a 1965 single by the Impressions. Not as good as the original but a good version. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People_Get_Ready
  • How About You – (Jesse Winchester) –  from Winchester's "Let the Rough Side Drag" album. Some nice country sounds here with pedal steel and gentle guitar picking making it a winner.
  • Girl from the Canyon – (Jonathan Edwards) – Excellent and done with a nod to later Byrds.
  • Weapon of Prayer – (Ira Louvin, Charlie Louvin) – by The Louvin Brothers from their "Weapon Of Prayer (1962) album. Wonderful. If you know "The Christian Life" by the Louvin Brothers (or as done by Gram Parsons in The Byrds) and which Edwards had done on his "Rockin' Chair" album then you know what to expect here.
  • Never Together (But Close Sometimes) – (Rodney Crowell) – This, I think, is the first version of this song. Crowell was in Emmylou's band and played session on this album so probably plugged the song to Edwards. It's a good one though it's given a slight Caribbean feel here whereas the later Carlene Carter (1978) version is done straight and is, perhaps, better. The song has also been done by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (1982) and The Oak Ridge Boys (1988).
  • Carolina Caroline – (Jonathan Edwards) – another good original.
  • Let the Rough Side Drag – (Jesse Winchester) –  from Winchester's "Let the Rough Side Drag" album. A country rock song that is meant to be a bit of a stomper. It's good but a little subdued.

And …

Subdued but not without it's joys and virtues … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

Nothing nowhere

Sounds

Blow on Chilly Wind  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nsUjid9Fuvw

Evangelina

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hEJO90YesyY

Sailboat

live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RnHlqWCORM0

People Get Ready  

Live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBoj9Ssbxd4

Girl from the Canyon

mp3 attached

Carolina Caroline –

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6hrLZQw7UM

Let the Rough Side Drag

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oic9WYPVlBQ

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6vyTM_qJAE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5OYY9JgIPts

Review

http://www.allmusic.com/album/sail-boat-mw0000415371

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sailboat_(album)

http://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2008/06/jonathan-edwards-sailboat.html

Bio

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/jonathan-edwards-mn0000261866/biography

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Edwards_(musician)

http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2015/09/03/jonathan-edwards-tomorrows-child

http://www.classicbands.com/JonathanEdwardsInterview.html

Website

http://www.jonathanedwards.net/

https://www.facebook.com/JonathanEdwardsmusic

Trivia

Posted in Country Rock, Singer Songwriter | Tagged | Leave a comment

JOHN STEWART – Dream Babies Go Hollywood – (RSO) – 1980

John Stewart - Dream Babies Go To Hollywood

This is Stewart's follow up to the mainstream success of his previous album "Bombs Away Dream Babies" (1979).

Stewart had been in the music business for some twenty years, and had fame as a member of The Kingston Trio. But their career waned in the mid-60s and he had been solo since 1968 without mainstream acceptance.

"Mainstream" is the keyword. Stewart always had his audience, his hard core fans, but I suspect mainstream acceptance, or at least a mainstream hit, puts more people in your audience and more money in your bank account.

"Bombs Away Dream Babies" went to #10 in 1979 in the US and three singles made the Top 40, the highest, "Gold" reaching #5.

So, in true music fashion, and what makes perfect common sense anyway, you follow the hit with something that sounds the same.

And, if that wasn't enough, whether it was Stewart or the record label (I suspect the label), the title of this album refers back to the earlier hit and the cover of this album is not dissimilar to the earlier, with the same colour tones and motif in the rose.

The music here is all written and recorded by Stewart post the "Bombs Away" album but the sound is much the same.

In relation to "Bombs Away" I said this, Lindsay Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac "co-produced this album (with Stewart) and called upon many of his L.A. friends (including Stevie Nicks) to come and help.  There is a tension throughout the album between Buckingham's slick pop and the ragged, plain sounding honesty of Stewart's voice but it works beautifully if for no other reason than it distinguishes the album from Fleetwood Mac and from all the other soft rock soft cocks who were emulating Fleetwood Mac".

Stewart produces here and tries to do the same here, though without Buckingham (or Nicks) but with more or less the same musicians and some great backing vocalists including Phil Everly, Nicolette Larson, Linda Ronstadt, and Wendy Waldman who were all successful recording artists.

The album tanked.

It reached #85 in the US and produced no hit singles. It was Stewart's last chart placing of his career despite releasing another thirty or so albums.

But, like a lot of albums that slip under the radar because of poor chart performance, this album has more than its fair share of joys on it. This may be singer-songwriter folk with a heavy pop bent but Stewart is aware of that and knows how to keep it from becoming too slick. The era was right as well. As the eighties progressed the pop sounds became slicker, thinner and generally inappropriate for artists like Stewart. Here they are still organic.

What stands out, though, is Stewart's song writing. The guy was prolific which means there were hits and  filler. But, even the filler, has a way of fitting in a piece of the whole. Each individual song, regardless of whether it is ultimately a good song or not, has something to say, and that is more than most singer-songwriters achieve. Of course, when he gets it right, as he often does, his songs soar.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Hollywood Dreams – A bouncy rock song with a cynical lyric about the "Hollywood Dream".
  • Wind on The River – dreamy folk pop
  • Wheels of Thunder – a straight rock song which is convincing and pleasant, and could be a Springsteen outtake.
  • Monterey – a beautiful song that starts slow but has a haunting melody.
  • (Odin) Spirit of The Water – lots of drama and energetic backing vocals on this one
  • Lady of Fame – a good song about beating the "lady of fame"
  • The Raven – dramatic but catchy.
  • Love Has Tied My Wings – a nice clip clop of a song with some folky country overtones.
  • Nightman – keyboards similar to those on "Gold" and with a similar vocal based around short, sharp lines. This isn't as catchy. The electric guitar intrudes a little bit.
  • Moonlight Rider – A folky hoedown of a song and pre-empting and anticipating the indie folk of the mid-80s

And …

Underrated and undervalued … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

US

Singles

Album

1980 #85

England

nothing

Sounds

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL_km2hXsdPRQ6AloPvNDGDx8tY64TDuAK

lyrics

http://www.californiabloodlines.com/

Moonlight Rider

mp3 attached

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HS9yaMRjdF8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=baudPKSh-XM

Review

http://www.allmusic.com/album/dream-babies-go-hollywood-mw0000868930

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dream_Babies_Go_Hollywood

Bio

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Stewart_(musician)

http://www.sonic.net/~roadman/bloodnotes/

http://bitemyfoot.org.uk/reviews/leigh98/leigh98.html

http://www.beautifulbotany.com/Latest/Latest-Stories-2008/Feb-John%20Stewart/John%20Stewart.htm

http://www.hiddenhistory.com/page1/storhom3.htm?

http://www.hiddenhistory.com/page6/jstewone.htm

 

Website

http://bitemyfoot.org.uk/

Trivia

  • Musicians: Guitars : John Stewart Drums : Russ Kunkel & David Plotshon Bass : Chris Whelen Keyboards : Joey Carbone Percussion : Russ Kunkel, John Stewart & Steve Ross Additional Vocals : Henry Diltz, Phil Everly, Sidney Fox, JoAnn Harris, Nicolette Larson, Linda Ronstadt, Blaise Tosti, Wendy Waldman & Chris Whelen
Posted in Rock & Pop, Singer Songwriter | Tagged | Leave a comment

THE EVERLY BROTHERS – Christmas With The Everly Brothers – (Warner Brothers) – 1962

Everly Brothers - Christmas Album

"It's Christmas time pretty baby and the snow is falling on the ground"… well, not here in Brisbane it's not, but in the Christmas sprit I have pulled this record from the pile.

Now, I have always liked, no loved, The Everly Brothers, and I have no problems with Christmas albums by rock 'n' roll stars.

Though I am highly biased Elvis' first Christmas album (and a another first by him the first Christmas rock 'n' roll album) "Elvis' Christmas Album" from 1957 still is the benchmark for all rock Christmas albums. It contains Christmas rock, Christmas rock ballads, traditionals and a touch of gospel.

The Everly Brothers coming from the same paddock as Elvis, and having had the benefit of hindsight, I thought, may tackle Christmas in a similar manner.

I should have looked at the title a little closer

"Christmas with The Everly Brothers and The Boys Town Choir"

Well, it was 1962 and raucous rock 'n' roll had moved off the mainstream and the Everly Brothers were new traditionalists in many ways anyway.

Still, I'm not going to  let anything discourage me.

For biographical details check out my other Everly Brothers comments.

The 33 member Boys Town Choir from Omaha, Nebraska are the choir formed from boys of the celebrated Boys Town organisation, originally an orphanage but then, also, a non profit organisation dedicated to helping familles in times of need in the US.  To us, over here in Australia, it is mostly known by the films starring Spencer Tracy who portrayed its founder Father Edward Flanagan, Boys Town (1938) and its sequel, Men of Boys Town (1941).

So, there are no guitars. no beats, and not much in the way of the Every Brothers harmonies. Two songs are sung entirely by the choir, and the Brothers don't sing entire songs together usually, being joined by the choir and the church organ.

There is nothing innovative about the arrangements either. This is done straight and must have been aimed at the mainstream adult market of the time.

Oddly, it didn't chart. Clearly the adult were wary and the kids stayed away.

There is still something there though.

This is traditional stuff and if you like your Christmas straight up and down but have a ear for music, and are rightly sick of the modern secular and Christian pop Christmas Albums, then this is an excellent choice.

Tracks (best in italics)

      Side One

  • Adeste Fideles (O Come All Ye Faithful) – (Traditional) – nice.
  • Away in a Manger – (Traditional) – Sung entirely by the choir.
  • The First Noel – (Traditional) – now, this is beautiful, reverential obviously and beautiful.
  • God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen – (Traditional) – I always found this song stodgy …still is.
  • What Child Is This? – (Dix, Traditional) – Don sings solo on this. His voice alone, with organ and choir works well.
  • Silent Night – (Gruber, Mohr, Traditional) – Compare this to Elvis' version from his 1957 album for a small combo, and no less reverential, take on this famous Christmas song. The Everly Brothers harmonies don't soar and aren't meant to but they do mesh well here

      Side Two

  • Hark! The Herald Angels Sing – (Mendelssohn, Traditional) – sweet.
  • Angels, From the Realms of Glory – (Traditional) – Sung entirely by the choir
  • Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly – (Traditional) – Okay.
  • Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabella – (Traditional) – I'm not familiar with this song at all.
  • O Little Town of Bethlehem – (Traditional) – Phil sings solo on this. Beautiful and Phil had the sweeter voice of the to brother's. Again, an interesting comparison can be made to Elvis' version.
  • We Wish You a Merry Christmas – (Traditional) – largely reverential but they spice it up, briefly , at the end.

And …

A little Everly Brothers is better than no Everly Brothers … and this reminds me (a little) of my Catholic Boys school schooling … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

Nothing no where

Sounds

The whole album is here:

https://app.box.com/s/eyyanzj35zgc673s7j0l

Adeste Fideles (O Come All Ye Faithful)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BsMVH1XF33Q

Away in a Manger

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5JDh_3TiUk

The First Noel

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9aIwjZia38

God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Anr009nZ8wE

What Child Is This?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YkpiJMSjSU

Silent Night

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkgG316zUIE

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chlCXUCCxLc

Angels, From the Realms of Glory

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGONiq8nMZw

Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LSzNYv8ax4E

Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabella

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2rI_FQJsstw

O Little Town of Bethlehem

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5b0YEYapYeo

We Wish You a Merry Christmas  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CL6pcinptdQ

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHc0zu029no

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ICd6xj8nv8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9acA2fffKI

Review

http://www.allmusic.com/album/christmas-with-the-everly-brothers-and-the-boys-town-choir-mw0000209444

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_with_the_Everly_Brothers_and_the_Boystown_Choir

Bio

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everly_Brothers

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/the-everly-brothers-mn0000046699/biography

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boys_Town,_Nebraska

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boys_Town_(organization)

Website

http://www.everly.net/

Trivia

  • The back cover proclaims" a beautiful hour of song … one what you will never forget". Yes, if you play the record three times as the playing time is only about 26 minutes all up.
  • The Boys Town Choir had already put out a batch of Christmas songs on "The Boys Town Choir Singing Christmas Music" in 1953 on Capitol with their conductor, Francis P. Schmitt (who also worked with Don and Phil here) http://www.discogs.com/The-Boys-Town-Choir-Boys-Town-Choir-Singing-Christmas-Music/release/7618892

 

Merry Christmas …

Posted in Christmas, Gospel, Popular & Crooners, Rock & Pop | Tagged | Leave a comment

JAKE HOLMES – So Close, So Very far To Go – (Polydor) – 1970

Jake Holmes - So Close So Very Far To Go

This album would crop up now and then in op shops and I bought it on a whim (many years ago) because I liked the mood conveyed in the cover art.

Reading up on Jake I found he was the author and original performer of "Dazed and Confused"  made famous by Led Zeppelin (though Led Zeppelin did not credit Holmes with authorship of the song till much later).

There is no shame in not knowing that.

I recall putting the album to one side and thinking I must listen to that soon … and then years and years pass.

To this point.

In the mean time I had bought Holmes' "How Much Time" album from 1971 which I liked. I was convinced but not totally convinced.

Jake Holmes has his faithful fans but he also has his naysayers, and reputable naysayers as well.

I suspect that's why he doesn't have a higher profile.

When The Velvet Underground, The Monks, The Sonics, Big Star or any number of other bands who were never really big during their existence received cult fame later the hard core fans and the critics both agreed on them.

Jake Holmes doesn't have that.

Worse still, he went on to become a very successful writer of jingles for commercials.

We want our cult heroes tortured and on the brink of poverty it would seem..

Because we, generally, like to think of music is an art.

Art it can be, but it can also communicate and pass on information, ideas and feelings in less artful ways, it can make you want to dance, or tap your feet and, of course, it can also be disposable.

Jake crossed a number of lines which you are no supposed to cross, which makes perfect sense when you look at his background but doesn't endear him to tastemakers.

He was thoughtful but wrote pop.

He was a folk singer but he sang to sweetly and sentimentally.

His pop was quirky with elements of jazz, country, theatre and trad music blurring the edges but he liked strings. MOR stylings and mawkishishness.

He had a poet streak but not a poets disposition.

He was hip but he was kind of square.

Led Zeppelin were inspired by him but he wrote an album of songs for Frank Sinatra, and an album for The Four Seasons.

To me he is just a younger rock era Rod McKuen or a more pop David Ackles and I like both of them.

Holmes was born in san Francisco in 1939 and had a career before going solo. See below for longer, straightforward biographical details because the guy has done a lot.

This succinct career resume from The Church's Marty Wilson-Piper is good though because in pinpoints Jake strengths and failings, or what people perceive to be his strengths and failings: " In 1967 as that era’s hipsters were growing their hair, many acts striving to be part of the or any musical revolution of the day fell into line. It might not be fair to call Jake Holmes conservative and less kind to call him opportunistic but his journey to this point wasn’t what you would expect. He began in a Folk parody duo with his wife Katherine and when they broke up was in a comedy trio that included…wait for it, Joan Rivers. But his debut Tower records album sounds like any other young singer/songwriter from that period that didn’t make it. Despite fitting in, both The Above Ground Sound Of Jake Holmes released in 1967 and his second album (dealing with his divorce with his wife), A Letter to Katherine December released in 1968, fell into obscurity … But Jake Holmes was something of a wit, calling his album The Above Ground Sound Of… in contrast to ‘The Underground Sound ‘ of the day was the observation of a bright and talented thinker that just missed the hipster boat by being born too late – in 1967, Holmes would have been 28. In 1969, signed to Polydor he released, Jake Holmes followed by, So Close, So Very Far To Go in 1970, the latter reached No.135 on the US chart and the single, So Close No.49. In 1971 changing labels again he signed to Columbia and released How Much Time and that was pretty much it for his solo musical career … But interestingly Holmes was surviving through unlikely connections. He seemed to be able to place ideas in other people’s heads".  

This is Jake's fourth album and he recorded it in Nashville. It is folky singer-songwriter and very slick. The musicianship is excellent, as you would expect, from the Nashville session men hired. There is a tendency to MOR with strings and whatnot but Holmes wasn't adverse to that and that's where the sound was going. It's not dissimilar to Bergen White who was recording around the same time if you crossed him with Jim Croce.

What I find most intriguing is the subversiveness of it all. A sound that is pop and clean has other little bits of quirky musicianship going on around the edges which disarm you whilst the lyrics are "deeper" and more topical than what you normally get in straight pop.

All songs by Jake Holmes.

Tracks (best in italics)          

            Side One

  • So Close – This is big pop with strings and horns everywhere. It is undeniably catchy. Rock it ain't, big pop it is. It has been covered a few times … Christine Smith (1971), Harry Belafonte (1973),  Mary Travers (1974) and Euson (1975)
  • A Little Comfort – more straight singer-songwriter with a touch of David Ackles in the lyrics.
  • I Sure Like Her Song – a great tune with some great organ work. This sounds like something Paul Simon was doing in the mid-70s.
  • We're All We've Got – A protest song with a gentle funky back beat which is never going to pass for "black" but it was never meant to..
  • Her Song – more David Ackles type stuff, and quite good.

      Side Two

  • So Very Far To Go – a beautiful gentle folky singer-songwriter song.
  • The Paris Song –  Covered by Harry Belafonte (1971) and Euson (1971).
  • I Remember Sunshine – a country flavoured romp. It's not real country but it wasn't meant to be.
  • Django & Friend – a dramatic, beautiful song with jazz asides and another one that sounds like Paul Simon has listened to it (and perhaps Sting).
  • Population – a pop psych protest song. Groovy it is, heavy it's not. It works though.

And …

The album may be criticized but it works on me. It would work for cocktail parties (if I had hosted any …maybe it's time) … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

US

Singles

1970  So Close  The Billboard Hot 100  #49 

Album

1970 #135

England

nothing

Sounds

So Close

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1mZcNYE7PI

live recently

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLslfqu0DGw

I Sure Like Her Song

mp3 attached

Her Song

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8WXtu_yQ_Kc

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9SQsJr_tu9g

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTsvs-pAGDc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZgBSl8bRIU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NyMNyxwpad4

Review

http://www.allmusic.com/album/so-close-so-very-far-to-go-mw0000846463

http://jakeholmesmusic.blogspot.com.au/2007/06/so-close-so-very-far-to-go-1970.html

Bio

http://www.furious.com/perfect/jakeholmes.html

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/jake-holmes-mn0000133626/biography

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jake_Holmes

http://www.billboard.com/artist/304057/jake-holmes/biography

Website

http://www.personal.psu.edu/users/s/x/sxh36/jakeholmes.htm

Trivia

  • For the saga on the song "Dazed and Confused" – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dazed_and_Confused_(song)
  • Holmes also worked in a folk rock group with fellow folk-rock singer/songwriter Tim Rose before going solo. Rose has said the group was called The Feldmans but Hiolmes recalls the group as Tim Rose and The Thorns.
  • Muscians here:

                        Arranged By [String & Horn] – Bob Freedman

                        Drums, Percussion – Kenneth Buttrey

                        Electric Bass, Acoustic Bass – Norbert Putnam

                        Lead Guitar, Arranged By – Teddy Irwin

                        Pedal Steel Guitar – Weldon Myrick

                        Piano, Organ – David Briggs

                        Rhythm Guitar – Jake Holmes

                        Violin, Soloist – Buddy Spicher

Posted in Adult Pop, Folk Rock, Singer Songwriter | Tagged | Leave a comment

PATRICK SKY – Patrick Sky – (Vanguard) – 1965

Patrick Sky - Patrick Sky

I had not heard any music of Patrick Sky despite having read about him for many years.

Sky was another of the many folk singers thrown out by the great folk music explosion of the 1960s in the US.

He isn't well known today and, perhaps, is not that well know in casual folk music circles which is a pity because he stood off to one side of the other folkies because of his background.

From, http://thegreatrockbible.com/portfolio-item/patrick-sky-biography/, "Born Patrick Lynch, October 2, 1940 (most sources say 1943), in Live Oak Gardens, nr. Atlanta, Georgia, Patrick was a descendant of the Creek/Muskogee Indians; his grandmother taught him her tribe’s traditional songs. Equally inspired by the legend of WOODY GUTHRIE and satirical political comic Will Rogers (a part-Cherokee Indian), SKY broke away from his people’s base in LaFouche Swamp in Louisiana, firstly to honour his 2-year conscription in the Army, secondly to become a folk-music troubadour, having earlier learned how to play guitar, banjo and harmonica …  Alongside fellow Native American BUFFY SAINTE-MARIE (his girlfriend at the time), Patrick toured the coffeehouses and clubs of eastern America during the early half of the 60s, before finally settling into the Greenwich Village scene. With both parties signing to Vanguard Records, his eponymous PATRICK SKY (1965) album (coming as it did a year after Buffy’s debut) was unjustly lumped in with the post-DYLAN clique, much like RICHARD FARINA, DAVID BLUE, et al; these latter acts appeared with SKY on a `Singer-Songwriter Project’ LP for Elektra that year. His debut, meanwhile, consisted of several original compositions (two of them, `Many A Mile’ and `Love Will Endure’, duly borrowed by SAINTE-MARIE and The BLUES PROJECT respectively), while there was a competent mixture of covers and trad songs via TOM PAXTON (`Everytime’) and PETE LaFARGE (`The Ballad Of Ira Hayes’) and `Wreck Of The 97’.

What the short bio doesn't mention and what will have bearing later, and which is obvious from his birth name, is that Sky also had Irish ancestry, though how recent I do not know.

Sky became increasing disillusioned (with the music business apparently though his later music barbed satire is aimed at contemporary society as a whole) and increasingly political. Never a big seller his music became more marginal and he more or less retired in the mid 1970s before returning to the stage in 1984 with a program that mixed Irish traditional music played on the Uillean pipes with original folk songs and gently humorous stories. Sky has become a master craftsman in the making of Irish Uillean pipes and, keeping in line with his other tradition and culture, the Native American mouth-bow.

This album was his first and was released in 1965 and it is a throwback.

Things changed quickly in the 60s.

This would have been the "in" sound in 1962, 1963  or even early 1964 but by 1965 Dylan had plugged in and gone electric and The Byrds were taking "Mr Tambourine Man" into the Pop charts and practically inventing folk rock.

Sky's album was acoustic simplicity defined: he accompanies himself on guitar and harmonica with only the support of Ralph Rinzler’s mandolin on a couple of tracks. The songs are narratives and stories in the old traditions. You can hear the influence of Dylan in here but that's not surprising as he influenced a generation and he actually was a contemporary of Sky's in the Greenwich Village scene.

Does any of this detract from the music?

Hell no, the music is solid but it doesn't give him the instant career boost he would have had if it had come out a couple of years earlier.

He was around earlier but for whatever reason didn't record till now (1965).

It is interesting to note that his later music was more satirical, barbed (and bawdy) but Dave Van Ronk, here, on the liner notes refers to these aspects of Sky's personality and draws comparisons with Rabelais, Will Rogers Marquis de Sade and Bertolt Brecht.

None of that is overt on this set.

But what is clearly heard is the companion to the barbed satirist and that is the person who wears his heart on his sleeve. The romantic, perhaps disillusioned, and usually stubborn.

And, for me, in this age of cheap shot cynicism or plastic truth that is enough.

All songs by Sky unless indicated.

Tracks (best in italics)

            Side One

  • Many a Mile – a beautiful song which became a folk club staple and was covered by Buffy Sainte-Marie on her second album, "Many a Mile", also released in 1965
  • Hangin' Round – great Americana folk … with a nice humorous edge. You can hear Pokey Lafarge here.
  • Love Will Endure – The gentle love song. And a good one. Covered by The Blues Project on "Live at Town Hall" (1967).
  • Reuben – (Traditional) –  Not the ship saga Reuben James but a train song with the obligatory harmonica train noise sounds.
  • Rattlesnake Mountain – (Traditional) –  a good version of the tongue twister old standard. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rattlesnake_Mountain_(song)
  • Everytime –  (Tom Paxton) –  from Tom Paxton's "Ain't That News" album of 1965. A beautiful simple love ballad and one of Paxton's best songs.

            Side Two

  • Come With Me Love – a good old school romantic love song.
  • Nectar of God – a powerful song much in the vein of Dylan's "Masters of War" or some Townes Van Zandt and John Prine
  • Separation Blues – More folk Americana … and, once again, humorous. A treat.
  • Ballad of Ira Hayes – (Peter LaFarge) –  by LaFarge from his "Ira Hayes" And Other Ballads" (1962) album. The Johnny Cash version is iconic but this version is beautiful.
  • Words Without Music – (Stanley) –  by Dayle Stanley from her "After the Snow" album from 1963. "Words Without Music" is music without words though as Sky says on the liner notes, with a "variation", because he never got the sheet music from the author.
  • Wreck of the 97 – (Dewey/Noell/Wittier) –   the traditional country folk song dating back to the 1920s done by everybody including Woody Guthrie, Ramblin' Jack Elliott and Johnny Cash. A great version!

And …

Simple but wonderful…. I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

Nothing no where

Sounds

Full album

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4knua_3fio

Hangin' Round

mp3 attached

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHjxZkAoAAg

Review

http://www.allmusic.com/album/patrick-sky-mw0000175777

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Sky_(album)

Bio

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Sky

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/patrick-sky-mn0000013254/biography

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7al1306eAFI

Website

http://patricksky.com/

Trivia

 

Posted in Folk | Tagged | Leave a comment