Sunday, October 31, 2010

H.P. Lovecraft: Wayfaring Stranger

Being that it’s the final day of Halloween week and Spiritual Sunday, it is difficult to coordinate the two, but I believe I have come up with a solution. A spiritual song by a band who have taken their name from one of the greatest horror authors of the 20th Century: H.P. Lovecraft.

The song is “Wayfaring Stranger” a traditional American folk spiritual of unknown origin. The band H.P. Lovecraft recorded this psychedelic treatment of the song from their 1967 debut LP.

The band took its name from Howard Phillips Lovecraft, who lived from 1890 to 1937. Lovecraft authored many bizarre horror stories that fit into a universe that he developed from story to story. There is Cthulhu the large and hideous entity that no one in their right mind wants to encounter.

Lovecraft’s stories normally center around the fictional Arkham, Massachusetts and its Miskatonic University where the library houses the Necronomicon. Authored by the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred, nothing good happens to anyone who reads and recites its unpronounceable chant that conjures up the dread Cthulhu.

Beware and Happy Halloween. If something large comes to your door with squid like tentacles, throw the candy and don’t let it in.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Michael Jackson: Thriller

Our album feature for this next to the last day of the Halloween week is probably the best selling album of all time: Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” The album has sold an estimated 50 million copies worldwide (29 million in the US alone), it produced a record seven single releases, “Thriller” was the number one album for both 1983 and 1984, the album contributed to breaking down racial barriers at MTV, and got airplay on stations of every format except country and beautiful music.

Thriller (the song)

A dramatic video that is twice as long as the LP’s final cut and final single release captured audiences with its choreography, acting, effects, and who can forget Vincent Price’s recitation. It has become a Halloween favorite since the album was released in late 1982. The single only peaked at 4 in 1984 on the American charts; however, it was certified platinum for over two million copies sold.

“The foulest stench is in the air – the funk of 40 thousand years and grisly ghouls from every tomb are closing in to seal your doom. And though you fight to stay alive, your body starts to shiver. For no mere mortal can resist the evil of the Thriller.”

Billie Jean

The album’s second single is no doubt Michael Jackson’s hottest cut of all time; however, producer Quincy Jones hated the song. He thought it was weak and not up to par with the rest of the album’s material. Jackson insisted that it be included and he won in the long run. Q was also critical of the intro and wanted it edited – but Jackson refused. In the recording of the tune, Jones had Jackson sing the vocals through a large cardboard tube; this was accomplished in one take. Fearing that people would equate the title to Billie Jean King, Jones wanted the song named as “Not My Lover”; however, Jackson stood firm on the title.

In the end, 91 mixes of Billie Jean were created and the second mix was the one used for the album release. The hard work that went into this tune paid off as it was the biggest single of the album holding down the number 1 slot for seven weeks and selling in excess of two million copies. It is the quintessential dance song from the 80s. Two bands I was in during that decade, Audio Game and Street Heat both performed this tune and it was an immediate dance sensation.

Beat It

The album’s third single featuring guitarists Eddie Van Halen and Toto’s Steve Lukather even received airplay on Album Rock stations on the strength of Van Halen’s guitar solos. It was the album’s other number one single where it held the top spot for 3 weeks. Like “Thriller” and “Billie Jean,” the single also was certified platinum. Jackson wrote the song as he felt he needed to create a rock song that teenagers and college students would like.

Other singles on the album included “The Girl is Mine” (a duet with Paul McCartney) that charted at 2, “Wanna be Startin’ Something” that charted at #5, “Human Nature” at #7, and “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” – a hit at #10. “The Girl is Mine” was the only one of these singles that was certified gold. The singles charted over three calendar years 1982-1984.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Mike Sharpe: Spooky

The Halloween season conjures up the initial hit single by Dennis Yost and the Classics IV: “Spooky.” While this 1968 recording was bigger than the later hit by the Atlanta Rhythm Section, it still was not the original version of the song.

Saxophonist Mike Sharpe recorded his instrumental “Spooky” first and it was a regional hit in the south for Liberty Records in 1966. Sharpe, credited under his real name of Mike Shapiro, and Harry Middlebrooks wrote the tune. The song appeared on his LP “The Spooky Sound of Mike Sharpe.”

Thus, here's the Friday Firsts' selection for this Halloween.

The Classics IV Hit Version

Originally from Jacksonville, Florida, the band moved to Atlanta where Bill Lowery of the Lowery Music Group discovered the band and the rest was history. Buddy Buie was the band’s producer, songwriter, and manager.

Besides lead vocalist Dennis Yost, the band also included J.R. Cobb, Robert Nix, and Dean Daughtry who later were members of the Atlanta Rhythm Section. Guitarist J.R. Cobb and producer Buddy Buie added words to Sharpe’s instrumental and the rest they say is history. This recording had the Classics IV original lineup of Yost, Cobb, Wally Eaton, and Joe Wilson.

The Atlanta Rhythm Section's 1979 Remake

ARS grew out of the Classics IV and in 1979 the band resurrected their old Classics IV hit “Spooky.” While their original 1968 hit charted at #3, the remake only just broke the top 20 and peaked at #17. This version appeared on their LP “Underdog.”

Producer and cowriter Buddy Buie was lead vocalist in the Atlanta Rhythm Section. You can definitely see a maturity of the musicians from the 11 years since the original hit was released.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Al Caiola: Experiment In Terror

Today’s post might not mean much to anyone who lived outside the Greater Pittsburgh area; however, anyone who happened to live in the Steel City between 1963 and 1983 will remember Al Caiola’s interpretation of Henry Mancini’s “Experiment in Terror.” During those years, Bill Cardille utilized the song as the theme for his ever popular Saturday night creature features called Chiller Theater.

Last year at this time, I featured some clips on Chilly Billy and his cast of regulars from a 1993 reunion show. If you missed these last year, you’ll find them posted here. It is because of this two pronged connection – the odd; the macbre; the downright silly antics on WIIC – the ones to watch in Pittsburgh, that we have a Halloween feature on TV Thursday.

Henry Mancini’s Original

For continuity’s sake, I am including Henry Mancini’s original version of “Experiment in Terror.” Mancini also had Pittsburgh connection, as he grew up in the Pittsburgh suburb of Aliquippa. The original version came from the 1962 movie of the same name and is slower and more eerie than Al Caiola’s guitar and King Curtis’ saxophone that conjures up images of maniacal laughter.

With the exception of the string arrangement that is reminiscent of a late 50s or early 60s detective drama, the remainder of Mancini’s instrumentation, especially the prepared piano and baritone guitar, makes his version a little more frightful.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Warren Zevon: Werewolves of London

Before Kid Rock, there was Warren Zevon. Written by Waddy Wachtel, Leroy Marinell, and Zevon, “Werewolves of London” is our Halloween themed song for this Wednesday. The song features the rhythm section from Fleetwood Mac and of course the memorable piano lick from the excitable boy himself.

I never understood why they never used this for the movie “An American Werewolf in London” as it would have been perfect; however, they chose CCR’s “Bad Moon Rising,” which was more familiar and worked well as the theme song.

When I think of this song, I remember reading a review of the tune in a Pittsburgh based music newspaper in 1978. The writer (for lack of a more fitting epithet) analyzed the line “He’s a hairy handed gent who ran amuck in Kent; lately he’s been overheard in Mayfair” as a throwback to the Kent State shootings in 1969.

Even in 1978, the American education system showed signs of trouble. The young lady needed a little English geography instruction of counties that border Greater London. Kent State, indeed. What did Mr. Werewolf do – get on a plane at Heathrow, fly to Akron, do his hairy handed deeds, and then fly back to London to be “overheard in Mayfair.”

Shortly after the Kent debacle, the same author also wrote an article on music that mentioned the Steel City in song. While most of her examples fit the theme, another geography question came into view. She referenced Mountain’s “Mississippi Queen” lyric which stated, “Way down around Vicksburg, around the Louisiana way.”

She swore that the song said Pittsburgh (or in the vernacular Picksburgh). She justified this by referencing that Pittsburgh’s three rivers were in the Mississippi’s watershed – of which she was correct; however, Pittsburgh is a long way from Louisiana and Cajun ladies. Where were the editors on these two articles? Oh well, the paper was free, so she couldn’t have been making a living from her writing.

Well I bled all over this one. “Better stay away from him. He'll rip your lungs out, Jim. I'd like to meet his tailor.”

“Ha, draw blood.”

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Steeleye Span: Alison Gross

As we continue our Halloween theme, I’m indebted to my brother for reminding me of this song that is fitting for Traditional Tuesday. Recorded by Steeleye Span on their 1973 “Parcel of Rogues,” I first heard this song staying at his home during the Thanksgiving break in 1973. I have the song on the compilation LP “The Steeleye Span Story: Original Masters.”

Francis James Child collected this traditional song that tells the story of “Alison Gross – she must be the ugliest witch in the North Country.” Child numbered the song as #35 in his collection of traditional British folk songs. The moral of the story, be careful with whom you associate as you may turn into a worm.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Black Sabbath: Evil Woman (Don’t Play Your Games With Me)

Well it is the week of Halloween and like last year I am featuring songs that relate somewhat to this particular holiday. So boys and ghouls, let’s get started with our Monday cover selection. Our feature is a 1970 cover version of the 1969 hit by Crow.

“Evil Woman (Don’t Play Your Games with me)” was Black Sabbath’s debut single in the UK; however, it was eliminated from the American release of their self-titled first LP. The song was not released in the USA until 2002. Ozzy Osbourne sings lead as you might expect.

Crow’s Original

Minneapolis based Crow recorded “Evil Woman (Don’t Play Your Games with me)” as the second single from their debut album “Crow Music.” The harmonies of the vocals and the horns are interesting and not what you would normally find on American radio in 1969. The song peaked at #19 in November 1969.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Jorma Kaukonen: I Am The Light of This World

Today’s Spiritual Sunday song was written and recorded by Rev. Gary Davis in the 1930s. Today’s interpretation is from the hands and voice of Jorma Kaukonen who was the lead guitarist of the Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna.

This version of “I am the Light of this World” comes from Jorma’s first solo album, Quah, which was recorded in 1974. Jorma’s rendition is very true to Gary Davis’ original.

“I’ve got fiery fingers and I’ve got fiery hands. When I get up into heaven, gonna play in a fiery band.”

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Derek & The Dominoes: Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs

Last week’s selected album of the “Allman Brothers at Fillmore East” inspired me to look beyond the Allmans into other projects with the late Duane Allman and remembered Eric Clapton’s classic 1970 recording with Derek and the Dominoes and “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.”

I bought this album somewhat late in the game at DJ Records Shop, the Sundry Store, or Ralph’s in Grayson, KY – the only places where you could by albums in this small town of 4,000 in the 1974. While a double album purchase was fairly expensive for a struggling college student with no income, being an record collector, I wanted a copy of the original ATCO release as these were being phased out with the switch to Polydor USA Records.

Prior to 1972, Polydor had no outlet in the US and its artists were released on a variety of American labels including American DECCA and Atlantic and its ATCO and Cotillion subsidiaries to name a few. With the merger of Polydor and Phonogram, Mercury (a Phonogram label in US) became the operation whereby the Polydor releases could be manufactured and issued. Confused yet, no? Then read on for more chaos.

Eric Clapton’s recordings with his first solo LP and with Cream, Blind Faith, and Derek and the Dominoes were originally issued on ATCO. When Polydor USA was created, the original albums continued to be released on ATCO under contract for a short timeframe. In the meantime, Polydor issued competing compilation albums such as “Heavy Cream,” “Eric Clapton at his Best,” “Ginger Baker at his Best,” and “Jack Bruce at his Best.” All four albums had a similar cover theme.

Around the same time, ATCO’s last hurrah was the very excellent “History of Eric Clapton.” I mention these releases as they had impact upon the ultimate sales of the Derek and the Dominoes LP.

By 1974, the original releases were then switched Polydor distribution, as was “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.” Eventually, these albums would be issued on Robert Stigwood’s label: RSO Records. Very confusing, but for collectors – labels and distribution labels are very important. I thought I was killing a bear by scarfing up the ATCO release; however, the short-lived Polydor releases are rarer and more valuable. Who would have thunk it in 1974?

The concept of Derek and the Dominoes came about when Eric Clapton was tired of the fame associated with his genius and being a member of a super group like Cream, Blind Faith, and the Plastic Ono Band. Following his tour with Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett, Clapton and keyboardist Bobby Whitlock took some time off from recording, rehearsing, and revues and concentrated on songwriting. These tunes became the basis for the classic first album by Derek and the Dominoes.

Joined by Delany and Bonnie and Friends’ bassist and drummer Carl Radle and Jim Gordon, Clapton and Whitlock set out for a small club tour using the name Derek and the Dominoes. They were careful not to Clapton’s name or fame in relation to the band. In August 1970, the band assembled with producer Tom Dowd at Criteria Studios in Miami and began working on their first release.

Dowd, who was also producing the Allman Brothers’ “Idlewild South” album invited Clapton and crew to an Allman Brothers concert. After the show, the Allmans came down to Criteria and participated in a jam session that lasted at least 15 hours. Duane Allman was asked to sit in with the band during the recording sessions and was an unofficial member of Derek and the Dominoes although he is listed as a full member on the band on the LP. Duane contributed to 10 of the 14 cuts.

Tell the Truth

The first intended single for the debut album was not recorded at Criteria in Miami, but rather at Apple Studios in London during the same sessions as George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” LP in June 1970.

The concept of this song was to be like a Sam and Dave number and included Dave Mason on second guitar. Produced by Phil Spector, the original version was faster than the officially released version. The original was later released on CD form.

The Original

The Official Album Version

When Tom Dowd and Duane Allman came up with a new arrangement, it clicked with the remainder of the band. Clapton told ATCO to scrap the original single release as it was not indicative of the remainder of the album.


The most popular song from the album is the LP’s signature tune “Layla.” Although released as the album’s first official single, this song that was inspired by the 12th century Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi’s legend of unrequited love called “The Story of Layla.”

The song was originally intended to be a love ballad that was dedicated to George Harrison’s wife Pattie Boyd. Boyd, a young British model, had met Harrison during the filming of “Hard Day’s Night.”

They were married in January 1966. Difficulty in their marriage was attributed to Harrison’s religious beliefs and changes in his personality had affected the marriage. Boyd divorced Harrison in 1974 after a short affair with the Faces’ Ronnie Wood. Boyd and Clapton married in 1979 and subsequently divorced ten years later.

The face that launched a half a dozen songs: 
Pattie Boyd Harrison Clapton AKA Layla

In addition to “Layla,” Boyd was the inspiration for Harrison’s “Something” and “For You Blue” recorded by The Beatles and Harrison’s solo recording of “Isn’t It A Pity.” Clapton also penned and recorded “Bell Bottom Blues” and “Wonderful Tonight” in her honor.

The ballad was changed to a rocker when Duane Allman devised the opening guitar riff for the song. The rest, as they say, is history. ATCO released the single twice. The first version was released in March 1971 with 2:43 edit for radio airplay that only charted at #51.

When ATCO released “The History of Eric Clapton” in late 1971, the full length version of “Layla” at 7:10 was released and charted at #10 on Billboard’s Hot 100. Both versions of the single were issued by ATCO under the same number 6809. I have both in my collection.

Bell Bottom Blues

Another song inspired by Pattie Boyd, “Bell Bottom Blues” was another single from the LP that failed to chart in the top 40. Pattie had asked Eric to bring her back a pair of bell bottom jeans from the US when he returned to England. Duane Allman is not on this cut.

Little Wing

In 1972, Polydor issued the song “Let it Rain” from Clapton’s first solo album as the single from the LP “Eric Clapton at his Best.” The flip side, also issue under the name of Clapton from this LP, originally appeared on “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.” It was the band’s rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing.” Clapton and Whitlock share vocal duties.

The Album in its Entirety

Here’s a YouTube playlist that allows you the opportunity to hear the entire album in the order that the songs appeared on the original release.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Richard Thompson: Tear Stained Letter

Those in the US will remember Jo-EL Sonnier’s version of Richard Thompson’s “Tear Stained Letter” that became a top 10 country hit in 1988.

The song really fit the Cajun artist’s repertoire and is one of the several songs that show the influence of Cajun music on the songwriting of Richard Thompson. Today, I feature as our First Friday tune, a live version of Richard Thompson’s original song. It was released in studio form in 1983 on his “Hand of Kindness” LP.

This song opens the album and is a top tapper that features the twin saxophones of Pete Zorn and Pete Thomas. On this live version from 1984, Fairport Convention fans will recognize Simon Nicol on rhythm guitar, Dave Pegg on bass, and Dave Mattacks on drums. This recording comes from the Old Grey Whistle Test.

Jo-El Sonnier’s Hit Version

From his 1987 “Come on Joe,” Cajun artist Jo-El Sonnier scored at #8 hit on the US country charts and #6 hit on the Canadian country charts with his interpretation of the song. It was his third single from the album and his second and last top ten hit. Country artist Patty Loveless also covered this tune in 1997 and did a respectable version, but did not release it as a single.

Jo-El Sonnier & Richard Thompson Together

This live version featuring both artists was recorded in 1989 on the program Night Music. I don’t know, but it seems to me that the tempo on this live duet is much faster than either version. The recording is not sped up as the key has not changed. David Sanborn, the show’s host, adds sax to this one of kind performance.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Justin Hines: Wish You Well

Occasionally you’ll hear a song that is used within a television drama that strikes a chord with you. Today’s TV Thursday song is one of those tunes that I heard for the first time on either a House, M.D. or Bones episode. Both shows utilize songs as part of their storyline and I am a fan of both. I saw this in a rerun about a month ago, found the song, and committed it to my YouTube favorites for future reference.

Since it has been a number of weeks since I first heard Justin Hines’ “Wish You Well,” I cannot recall the show, episode, or context of where the song was used. Confined to a wheelchair, Justin suffers from a rare genetic disorder called “Larsen's Syndrome.” It has not hampered this Canadian’s ability to write interesting songs and utilize his vocal talents. Enjoy.


Darling I can’t take your thirst away but I can show you to the sea
While you’re walking on your path unknown
I said, “Will you think of me?”

Well time will tell and I wish you well

Too many times I've seen those ghosts before
I've watched them dance around your bed
I would give you all of my sleep filled nights just to see you get some rest

It's not my place to try to fill that space but I can wish you well
I wish you well

In times like this I tend to ponder of things we'll miss
We can always reminisce

When you come back from the great beyond with moonlight in your hair
I will meet you where that dark road ends
And it won’t be long until we’re there

And once
Once again we’ll talk about way back when
But until then I wish you well
I wish you well

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

REO Speedwagon Before Hi Infidelity

Due to the success of REO Speedwagon’s 1980 LP “Hi Infidelity,” it was many individuals’ first taste of this band from Champaign, IL. “Hi Infidelity” was their first of three top 10 albums and the only one to go to number 1. In addition, the album was certified 10 times platinum and produced six single releases.

Two were top five singles “Keep on Lovin’ You” at number 1 and “Take it on the Run” peaking at #5. Two singles charted within the top 30: “Don’t Let Him Go” at 24 and “In Your Letter” at 20. The two remaining singles, “Tough Guys” and “Out of Season," failed to chart in the Hot 100; however, they did manage to make it onto the Rock chart.

To many, “Hi Infidelity” was their first album. Unfortunately, a number of great songs recorded by the band during the previous decade were being ignored due to their three album run of Top 40 success. Hence, I have decided to feature some of their better early music to fulfill the musical malnutrition of the mainstream with “REO Speedwagon before ‘Hi Infidelity.’”

I had an opportunity to see and meet the band in 1985 and 1987.  While it was after their classic period, many of the songs during their shows featured the songs that follow.

Ridin’ the Storm Out

It was during the fall of 1973 that I became familiar with REO Speedwagon. I can almost hear it now. It was a warm fall afternoon on the campus of Kentucky Christian. Someone had their dorm room windows open and the stereo’s speakers were blaring out the opening synthesizer of “Ridin’ the Storm Out.” At the song’s end, Jack O’Shea of KEE radio in Huntington, WV, back sold the song, “That was REO Speedwagon with ‘RIdin’ the Storm Out.’”

Great memories and a great tune; “Ridin’ the Storm Out” was the band’s third album and lead vocalist Kevin Cronin had left the band during its production. Michael Murphy was brought in to fill the role as the band’s front man.

The cover photo shoot in which Cronin was a part was altered and airbrushed over with a photo of Murphy in his place. In 1977, “Ridin’ the Storm Out” was re-released as a live cut with Cronin singing lead. The new version barely made the charts with a dismal showing at 94. The synth portemento that opens the song is a definite REO signature. Neil Doughty played an early Mini-Moog on this cut. Its three oscillators provided the unique textured sound that was used on this cut.

Golden Country

While “Golden Country” was from the second album “R.E.O. T .W.O,” I never heard this song until 1974 when WAMX began playing album rock music late at nights. Bob Lee, who worked nights in those days, would bring his albums into the studio then located at the tower site on Terrapin Ridge Road south of Ashland, KY.

 This social consciousness song shows off the talents of Gary Richrath who not only is a fantastic guitarist, but who is also an excellent songwriter as well. Kevin Cronin sings lead.

Keep Pushin’

In 1976, Kevin Cronin rejoined the band for their sixth LP “R.E.O.” or the one I refer to as the “Cow Album.” While this version of the Cronin composition isn’t from the “R.E.O.” album, it was recorded live on the tour to support the album and subsequently appeared on their 1977 live album “Live: You Get What You Play For.”

Roll With The Changes

From an album that I generally consider one of the best titles ever, “You Can Tune A Piano, But You Can’t Tuna Fish,” “Roll With Changes” was another single release for the band that failed to break the 50 mark into the top 40. Kevin Cronin wrote this tune and this live version comes from a 1978 edition of “Midnight Special.” It goes to show that you don’t have to be in church to have great interplay between a piano and organ.

Time for me to Fly

Another single from “You Can Tune a Piano, But You Can’t Tuna Fish,” “Time for me to Fly” is a hint of the ballad hits that REO would score with in the 1980s. Another Kevin Cronin composition, this song failed to break the Top 40; however, the album was their first to chart within that range. It also was their first multi-platinum LP and sold in excess of two million copies.

 Backstage pass signed by REO Speedwagon

Epic Records believed so much in this song that charted at 56 in 1978 to rerelease it as the single from their greatest hits album “A Decade of Rock and Roll: 1970 to 1980.” The second time around in 1980, the song only peaked at 77.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Lindisfarne: Fog On The Tyne

The Traditional Tuesday selection is a feel good nonsense song from the band Lindisfarne. While exceedingly popular in the UK, Lindisfarne was basically ignored in the United States although signed to a major label (Elektra) during the peak of their popularity.  The title cut from their 1971 second LP, “Fog on the Tyne” became the band’s signature number.

Unfortunately, “Fog on the Tyne” was not released officially as single until three years later after the bulk of the band’s membership had left to form Jack the Lad leaving Alan Hull and Ray Jackson to recruit a new selection of members. Later the original members reformed and the band continued with varied personnel until 2003.

“Fog on the Tyne” refers to the River Tyne in England which formed the traditional border between historic Northumberland and Durham. Lindisfarne was from Newcastle upon Tyne on the river’s north bank.

Verses one and four feature Alan Hull; Ray Jackson sings the second verse while Simon Cowe is the lead vocalist on the third. What is going on with Cowe’s hair? He looks a little like a cross between Aqualung of Jethro Tull fame and the "Wild Man of Borneo."

The Hirsute Mr. Cowe

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Pointer Sisters: Angry Eyes

Today’s Monday cover comes from 1979 and it is a live rendition from the Pointer Sisters’ LP “Energy” which was released on Planet Records in 1978. It was the same album that rekindled the Sisters’ career with their rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s “Fire.”

The album featured quite a few covers of other stars’ material. It was also the first album that did not feature their sister Bonnie who left the band in 1977 to pursue a solo career on Motown courtesy of her husband, Motown producer Jeffrey Bowen. In fact June had also left the band in ’77 and Anita and Ruth signed the recording contract and convinced June to return to the band.

While “Energy” wasn’t their best selling LP, it was a critical success for the trio and was one of their best selling and higher charting albums spanned a career that continues to thrive decades later. Certified as a gold album, “Energy” included their interpretation of one of my favorite Loggins and Messina songs: “Angry Eyes.” While I wouldn’t have thought this song could translate into a R&B/Urban recording, the Pointer Sisters prove this wrong and provide an excellent interpretation of this classic rock tune.

Loggins and Messina Original

This is my favorite Loggins and Messina song of all time and you can’t get much better than this cut from their second album, “Loggins and Messina.” Their version of “Angry Eyes” finishes off the album as a jam featuring the woodwinds of Al Garth and Jon Clarke. “Angry Eyes” charted at #1 on Billboard’s AOR chart.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Son House: John The Revelator

As we cap off blues week, I am reaching back to an old Blind Willie Johnson song that was revived by Son House in 1965. House’s first LP, “The Legendary Son House Father of the Folk Blues,” was released after he was rediscovered working in Rochester, NY.and was subsequently signed to Columbia Records. I received a copy of this album as a gift in 1973 or thereabouts. It was the first time I heard the song “John the Revelator” and immediately liked it.

Son House’s a cappela treatment of this spiritual is different than Willie Johnson’s original. House specifically added verses that dealt with the fall of man, Christ’s final week, and the resurrection.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Allman Brothers: "At Fillmore East"

For our blues week, I’ve wrestled with what album to feature today and finally decided to feature the Allman Brothers classic live album “At Fillmore East.” The only problem is that the length of certain songs prevents their being uploaded to YouTube without being split into several segments.

I got this album in the mid 1970s, but was familiar with it from the numerous airplay that the LP got from Pittsburgh’s WDVE and have nearly all of the album on tape – so a vinyl version was not necessary. I finally got it when I bought a fellow student’s entire album collection. The album was recorded at the Fillmore East in New York in 1970 and the LP was released in 1971.

Stormy Monday

This T. Bone Walker song (recorded also by Bobby “Blue” Bland and many others) ends out what some consider the blues side – side one.

Statesboro Blues

Kicking off Side One is Blind Willie McTell’s “Statesboro Blues.” The other day, I featured Taj Mahal’s version of this tune and alluded to the classic recording of the Allmans. Here it is. Duane Allman’s slide guitar makes this tune.

In Memory of Elizabeth Reed

This instrumental is dedicated to the grave site of Elizabeth Jones Reed Napier located in the Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon, Georgia. Located near the railroad tracks that run along the cemetery’s border, this secluded location was where members of the band could be found away from public eye doing all manner of illicit and illegal activities.

Their favorite spot was the grave of Mrs. Napier. Since the stone reads Elizabeth Jones Reed wife of Briggs H. Napier, she was immortalized in song as Elizabeth Reed and not Elizabeth Napier.  Duane Allman and Berry Oakley rest side by side in the same cemetery not far from the grave of Elizabeth Reed.

Photo stolen from; 
for more photos see her Find A Grave memorial

I am not sure if this is the same version as found on “At Fillmore East,” but this live recording occurred during the same tour at the Fillmore East. The LP recording takes up 13:04 on Side Three of the double album.

Whipping Post

This Greg Allman composition was quite the jam on “At Fillmore East,” as it ran the complete fourth side of the album at 23 minutes. The song was loaded to YouTube in three sections and I strung these three together into one YouTube playlist.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Robert Johnson: Love In Vain

It’s Friday Firsts during blues week on Reading Between the Grooves. The Rolling Stones recorded this tune twice – once on their monumental LP “Let it Bleed” and the live version on “Get Your Ya-Ya’s Out.” The original was written and recorded by the legendary Robert Johnson. The original was released on 78 for Vocalion Records in 1937.

Rolling Stones’ version from Let it Bleed

This version of the tune has only four of the Stones on it as during “Let It Bleed” the band was in transition of lead guitarists. Brian Jones and Mick Taylor each contributed to two songs each; however, neither played on “Love in Vain.” The slide guitar is played by Keith Richards and Ry Cooder added the mandolin part. “Let it Bleed” is one of the best Rolling Stone LPs if not the best.

Live Version from “Get Your Ya-Ya’s Out”

This version from the Stones’ 1970 live album was recorded on November 26, 1969 in Baltimore just weeks prior to the release of “Let it Bleed.” The slide guitar part is markedly different with Mick Taylor handling the slide chores while Keith Richards was on rhythm guitar. This is a far superior version than the studio release; however, I miss Ry Cooder’s mandolin.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Wolf/Waters Blues Twofer

Long before computer users had aliases and decades before CB radio users had handles, the great bluesmen had nicknames. Two of the most memorable of these names belonged to Chester Burnett and McKinley Morganfield.

I don’t know about you, but either of these men’s real names are unique and I kind of like that. I mean, how many folks do you know by the first name of McKinley? I can’t think of a single one.

That aside – the monikers chosen by these two Chess Records bluesmen are more recognizable than any unique name. They were respectively Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters. Both have records that are TV Thursday selections.

Howlin’ Wolf: Smokestack Lightning

This classic Howlin’ Wolf song was recorded in 1956 and is monochromatic in that it was based on a riff based on a single chord. It is said it was inspired by the old steam driven locomotives that young Chester used go out at night and watch. Bellowing out of the engine’s smokestack with the smoke, the young man referred to the sparks that flew upward as “smoke stack lightning.”

The song is currently in use in the latest Viagra commercial. It is also ranked at 285 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Song of All Time. It is also one of the 500 songs that shaped Rock ‘N Roll as listed by the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame.

Muddy Waters: Mannish Boy

Muddy Waters’ classic 1955 recording was an answer tune to fellow Chess artist Bo Diddley’s “I’m a Man.” It was used in a Levis 501 Jeans commercial a number of years ago. Like “Smokestack Lightning,” the song appears on both lists of top 500 songs. It ranks at #229 on Rolling Stone’s list. Here’s a live version of the tune by Muddy followed by the Levis commercial.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

In Praise of the Electric Slide Blues Guitar

As we continue with blues week, I thought I would invigorate today’s selection with several songs that explore the use of the electric slide guitar. The slide guitar has been a mainstay in the blues since the 1920s; however, it was Elmore James who popularized the electrified slide guitar and brought the style of playing to new heights in the early 1950s. This was not your father's lap steel either. 

Elmore James: Dust My Broom

One song James recorded a number of times was the Robert Johnson composition of “Dust My Broom.” James’ characteristic style is cleanly heard on this cut and was henceforth copied by a series of guitarists for the next several decades. Although this recording is not his original 1951 version, it is an early recording none the less.

Taj Mahal

Although the Allman Brothers version of this T-Bone Walker song is probably the best known recording, Taj Mahal recorded and released the song several years prior to the Allmans. “Statesboro Blues” appears on Taj’s debut album and features the likes of Ry Cooder (another great slide player) on rhythm guitar. Taj Mahal, who adopted the name after dreaming about India during his high school years, plays the killer slide guitar.

Rory Gallagher: Bullfrog Blues

It’s hard to believe this rockin’ blues number was originally released in 1928, but it was recorded by its author William Harris that year. The song became a signature tune and often extended into long jams for the Irish guitar legend Rory Gallagher. Gallagher is using a Coricidin D bottle as a slide with his Fender Telecaster.

This type of bottle used for a glass slide was probably initiated by Duane Allman in the 60s. The Coricidin bottle was out of production in the late 1970s in favor of cheaper blister packaging. I managed to get one in 1978 before they went off the market; however, I find it a little big and hard to use.

This performance was an encore from the Old Grey Whistle Test in 1977, but did not appear on the show when it aired.

Johnny Winter: It’s My Life Baby

This is the newest of the slide guitar cuts and comes from Winter’s 1984 “Guitar Slinger” album. While it is impossible to know what guitar Johnny is using, I imagine that he is using his signature Gibson Firebird as this is typically the electric guitar he uses.

He puts on a fantastic show. I got to see Johnny live in 1977 at the Tomorrow Club in Youngstown, Ohio. My brother Chuck, the late Nick Brack, and I drove up from Pittsburgh and caught him and 38 Special. Check out the ticket price - $5.50 in advance - you can't get a bargain like that today.

By the way, the ticket had WYDD written on the back. Pittsburghers will remember that WYDD at 104.7 took on an album rock format in the early 70s and gave WDVE a run for the money.  In the long run WDVE prevailed and WYDD's album format was gone by the early 80s.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Chuck & Jim Owston: Goin' Down Slow

Today’s selection serves three purposes – it is an acoustic number – so it satisfies our loose definition of “Traditional Tuesday,” it is a blues number – which allows for its inclusion during blues week, and finally it is shameless self promotion as it is a cut that features my brother Chuck and me. “Goin’ Down” slow was recorded in August 1975; however, due to its length it was never released on the vinyl edition of the album “Nite Owl Blues.”

Original LP cover photo from 1975

This acoustic blues number written and originally recorded in 1941 by St. Louis Jimmy Oden achieved greater fame in 1962 when Howlin’ Wolf released the song. Since then two dozen or so blues and rock artists have recorded “Goin’ Down Slow.” This version was recorded with only two microphones – one serving as a guitar and vocal mic and the other for harmonica.

 Original issue label

Chuck is playing his National Duolian steel bodied resonator guitar made in 1931 and sings while I play harmonica. I had only been playing about a year at that time – but I am generally pleased by my performance – not something I can say about all of my recordings made during the two days I was there.

In 2004, Chuck found a dozen tapes from the session including the original album master, alternate takes, unused tracks, and outtakes – which through the miracle of digital editing could be salvaged. The result was a reissue of the original LP with eleven new cuts interspersed throughout.

Reissue cover from 2005

I had the opportunity to edit, coproduce, add a bass to one song, and do the cover art for this release. The reissue took a nearly a year to produce – just in time for the 30th anniversary of the album’s original release. For more about this reissue, see

I remember on a trip to Pennsylvania with CDs of the reel tapes and sitting in my car with Chuck listening to “Goin’ Down Slow.” We both marveled at this track and wondered why it never included on the original release. It became one of the new 11 cuts appearing on the CD reissue appropriately named “Nite Owl Blues – Revisited.” I hope you enjoy this cut.

Monday, October 11, 2010

John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers: Hideaway

This week, I received a Facebook post from one of my old radio friends who went by the air name of Mike Corsair. Mike worked as news anchor at WWNR for a period of time in the 1980s and occasionally I see him at Wal-Mart or other non-descript location.

He prefers the moniker Mayor Mike these days, and while responding to a post regarding last week’s violin/fiddle week, he requested that I do a week featuring the blues. I have no problem with that request and have the entire week all planned out.


Today’s Monday Cover feature is John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers featuring Eric Clapton covering the old Freddie King R&B hit “Hideaway.” The live version comes from John Mayall’s 70th birthday celebration in 2003. Mayall does some killer keyboard and harmonica work on this tune. You’re never too old to rock ‘n roll.


The studio version is from the 1966 John Mayall with Eric Clapton LP “Bluesbreakers.” The album title was a springboard for John Mayall’s band since that time.

My first experience with this recording was from the 1972 ATCO release, “The History of Eric Clapton.” Unlike the live version above, Clapton is not playing a Fender Stratocaster but rather a Gibson Les Paul.

Freddie King’s Original

Released under the name of “Hide Away” (as opposed to “Hideaway” in 1961, Freddie King’s instrumental hit was named after the Chicago blues club, Mel’s Hide Away. The song went to #5 on Billboard’s R&B chart and #29 on the Hot 100 chart. Freddie King and Sonny Thompson are credited as the songwriters.

King, however, admitted that Hound Dog Taylor actually wrote the tune. Bassist Willie Dixon is credited with christening the song as “Hide Away” and King borrowed liberally from Robert Lockwood, Jr., Jimmy McCracklin, Henry Mancini’s “Peter Gunn Theme.”

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Ricky Scaggs: Simple Life

Today we finish off our week long salute to the violin and fiddle with a Spiritual Sunday look at a Ricky Scaggs tune “Simple Life.” This reworking of this song is a confluence of styles and musicians representing old time American country music, bluegrass, Cajun, and traditional music from Scotland, Ireland, and England.

From America:
Ricky Scaggs on guitar and vocals.
Jerry Douglas (of Union Station) on Dobro®
Russ Barenburg on mandolin
Michael Doucet (of BeauSoleil) on fiddle

From Scotland:
Aly Bain (from the Boys of the Lough) on fiddle
Donald Shaw (from Capercaillie) on accordion
Iain MacDonald (from the Battlefield Band) on whistle

From Ireland:
Tommy Hayes on bodhrán

From England:
Danny Thompson (of Pentangle) on bass

As we take one look at the violin/fiddle, pay particular attention to Aly Bain (who is the primary fiddler) and Michael Doucet. The song ends with an impromptu jig which particularly showcases both fiddlers' talents.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Elton John: Honky Château

I forgot how good Elton John’s “Honky Château” album was until I was prompted by Greg Rector’s suggestion for a violin/fiddle week for Reading Between the Grooves. It has been a while since I’ve heard some of these tunes, and while it is not my favorite Elton John LP (that would be “Madman Across the Water”), it ranks fairly high in the scheme of things.


For this week’s inclusion in violin week, I have to give honor where honor is due and that is to Jean Luc Ponty who played on two cuts on the album: “Mellow” and “Amy.” This was John’s first album where his parent record company (DJM in England) allowed him to record an album completely using his road band. All albums prior to this were peppered liberally with session musicians with only scant offerings from his band. “Honky Château” would change this.

As a guest musician, Ponty shines on electric violin on this cut. His violin is amplified through a Leslie rotating speaker and the lead sounds eerily like an electric organ. For years, I thought it was an organ believing that Ponty’s work was buried in the mix – but it was out front from the solo to the end of the song.

Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters

Probably my favorite cut on the LP was on that received quite a bit of album radio airplay during 1972 and afterward. As Elton moved from a cultic figure to a mainstream pop star, album radio rejected his recordings that began to receive mass appeal via Top 40 radio.

Rocket Man

“Honky Château” was one of seven Elton John albums to chart at the top position on Billboard’s Top 200 Album Charts. All seven #1 albums were Elton’s complete LP output from 1972 to 1975 and represented his career’s pinnacle.

Selling in excess of a million copies, the RIAA certified “Honky Château” as platinum. It also produced two top ten singles “Honky Cat” at #8 and “Rocket Man” which peaked at #6. I love the Arp Synthesizer played by David Henschel on this cut interspersed with Davey Johnstone’s slide guitar.

The Complete LP

For your listening pleasure, here is the complete LP in the original order as it appeared on vinyl back in 1972.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Blind Boy Fuller: Truckin' My Blues Away

Although immensely popular in the late 60s and early 70s because of R. Crumb’s artwork, the phrase “Keep on Truckin’” can be attributed to Blind Boy Fuller with his 1937 recording of “Truckin’ my Blues Away.” The song, later rechristened in 1972 as “Keep on Truckin’ Mama,” was from Hot Tuna's third LP: “Burgers.”

The song’s genesis was in Bob Carleton’s 1918 nonsense composition named “Ja-Da.” Carleton, a ragtime pianist and composer, gained prominence during World War I with sales of sheet music – a mainstay of the music business until it was eclipsed by sales of recordings and performance royalties from radio.

Since Carleton held the copyright on the song, often he is listed as the sole composer; however, it was Blind Boy Fuller’s derivative work “Truckin’ my Blues Away” that later gained nearly popularity twenty years later.

Born as Fulton Allen, Blind Boy Fuller was one of the few recorded bluesmen from the Piedmont region of North Carolina and his influence extended to several generations of guitarists and bluesmen. From 1935 to his death in 1940, Fuller recorded 120 songs which were released as 78 RPM discs for the ARC, Columbia, Decca, Mellotone, OKeh, Perfect, and Vocalion labels. Fuller recorded “Truckin’ My Blues Away” in 1937 – our Friday First selection.

Hot Tuna: Keep on Truckin’ Mama

To fulfill our violin week, I’m featuring the version by Hot Tuna from 1972 that features the fiddle work by Papa John Creach. Hot Tuna was a spinoff of the Jefferson Airplane and was centered around guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady. Later, fiddler Papa John Creach joined as a permanent member of Hot Tuna and Jefferson Airplane.

I remember hearing this song quite often on Pittsburgh’s WDVE during 1972 and 1973; however, when I moved south of the Mason-Dixon line, I was amazed that most people I knew in radio had never heard of the song. It really showcases the fiddle work of Papa John. Creach, who was a generation older than his band mates, died in 1994 a few months before his 77th birthday.

A Jefferson Airplane Extra

I wanted to also add an unrelated Airplane tune to the repertoire that also featured Papa John Creach. When I was looking for an appropriate tune, I returned to the second Jefferson Airplane LP that I owned: “Thirty Seconds over Winterland.” I bought a UK import of this LP at a flea market during the summer of 1974. It was in immaculate condition. Up to this point, I only had their first: “Jefferson Airplane Takes Off.”

Although I had three hours of JA music on cassette tape recorded from WDVE, this live album doubled the recorded output on vinyl from the Airplane that I owned. I would follow it with “The Worst of Jefferson Airplane” and “Bark” – both purchased largely due to Grunt/RCA Records changing the cover designs to save money on future pressing costs. Here’s “Milk Train.”

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Kansas: Dust In The Wind

In 1977, I had tickets to see Kansas and Styx in concert in Huntington, WV – but for reasons I don’t remember, that show was cancelled. While I got to see Styx in concert in Charleston, WV in 1981, I never had the opportunity to see Kansas live. Their best selling single, “Dust in the Wind,” has become a signature tune for the group from the Sunflower State.

It fits our week long look at the violin as band member Robbie Steinhardt provides an excellent solo that is underscored by a viola track which he also plays. A viola is tuned a fifth lower than a violin and an octave higher than a ‘cello at C-G-D-A. The violin is tuned G-D-A-E.

Violin and big brother Viola

The song also is our TV Thursday cut as it was used in a Subaru Tribeca commercial from a few years back. The guitar part on “Dust in the Wind” features two acoustic guitars playing in unison. One is tuned to standard tuning while the other is “high strung” like the octave strings of a 12-string guitar. This tuning configuration has been also called “Nashville Tuning” as it was used in many sessions recorded in Music City, USA.

I keep a guitar tuned this way, but it has been years since I’ve used it for anything. Perhaps, I get it out and fool with it soon. It really adds a nice touch to recordings. On Gordon Lightfoot’s “Sundown” LP he used a standard six string on one channel and a “high strung” acoustic on the other channel. With headphones, it was like you were in the middle of a 12-string guitar. It was a very nice effect.

But we are here to discuss the violin aren’t we? Our feature violin tune charted at #6 and was Kansas’ only top ten single. Its LP, “Point of Know Return,” was their highest charting album at #4, but not the band’s best seller. While “Point of Know Return” was certified quadruple platinum, “Leftoverture” (that peaked at #5) was quintuple platinum. Former Kansas member Kerry Livgren wrote this tune.

Alternate Live Version

This live version from a few years ago is an “unplugged” version that features a string quartet. The string arrangement is varied from the original Robbie Steinhart viola/violin collaboration. Robbie plays an electric violin that appears to be processed via MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) with a synthesizer.

The string quartet has the typical arrangement of first and second violins, viola, and ‘cello. I like the pizzicato effect they use on “just a drop of water” line. It is a nice alternative, but I am still partial to the original.

Subaru Tribeca Commercial

Kansas Extra – Live & Studio

Here’s a cut that introduced me to Kansas back in 1974. It was during summer break and I was back home and caught Kansas on a rerun of Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert. The original episode ran in February, but I apparently missed that show. I was blown away by the whole experience. The song “Can I Tell You” comes from their self-titled debut album and features the fiddle of Robbie Steinhardt.