Thursday, June 30, 2011

Queen: Flash

It’s TV Thursday time again and here’s one that’s been featured on the recent BlackBerry® PlayBook commercials that taut that it now has Adobe Flash – something the iPad doesn’t have. Queen provided the complete soundtrack to 1980’s “Flash Gordon.” While the movie was somewhat of a bomb at the box office, it has become a cult favorite. This is usually attributed to the subtle humor that this throughout the movie.

Worth mentioning is Max Von Sydow’s memorable performance as Ming the Merciless. What can you say about a guy who in previous roles played chess with death (“The Seventh Seal”), confronted Satan personified (“The Exorcist”), and as Jesus was betrayed by David McCallum’s Judas (“The Greatest Story Ever Told”). Although he has been known for some of his major roles on the side of good, he equally performs well on the other side as Ming.

Besides bassist John Deacon and drummer Roger Taylor, Brian May plays all of the other instruments. One of the sounds found on this song is the low piano range. May chose a 97-key Bösendorfer piano for the extra range of sound. Of course you also hear May’s homemade “Red Special” octave guitar licks. We would be remiss by not mentioning the vocals by Freddie Mercury with help from May and Taylor.

While the song missed the Top 50 charts in the US charting at #42, it was at least a top 20 record in most countries and a top 10 hit in the UK and Ireland and #1 in Austria. The single was released in 1981.

BlackBerry® PlayBook Commercial

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Cate Brothers: Mr. Union Man

In the 1950s, twin brothers Ernie and Earl Cate become associated with Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks in their hometown of Fayetteville, Arkansas. Levon Helm, The Hawks’ (and later The Band’s) drummer rekindled his relationship with the Cates in the 1970s and was instrumental in getting the brothers a recording contract with Asylum Records.

Their self-titled debut album featured their only Top 40 hit single, “Mr. Union Man.” The song peaked at 24 in 1976 on the Hot 100 chart; however, it also made it to #8 on the disco chart and #14 on the Dance Club charts. I wasn’t a fan of disco, but I love this record.

I forgot that I even owned this album until I rekindled my interest in this mid-seventies band. The album features a cast of some of best known session players of the time and was produced by Steve Cropper from Booker T and the MGs. Enjoy “Mr. Union Man” our One Hit Wonder for this Wednesday.


Well, it's six a.m.
I'm out on the job
Working like a fool
For my pay

A big man walks by
With a smile
Says you got to go
On strike today

Hey, hey, Mr. Union Man
How am I gonna pay my dues
Or the landlord or the doctor
How am I getting new shoes

Well, I know I need
To help to get that raise
There's one thing I don't like

Tell me how can I
Feed my hungry family
I you say I'm going on strike

Hey, hey, Mr. Union Man
How am I gonna pay my dues
Owe more money than I can pay
Looks like I'm bound to lose

Well, I don't see how
I'm going to get ahead
Seem like there ain't no way

Well, said don't worry
Cause I understand
Won't you try to
See things my way

Hey, hey, Mr. Union Man
Thank you for the helping hand
Hey, hey, Mr. Union Man
So glad you understand

Hey, hey, Mr. Union Man
So glad that you understand

Hey, hey, Mr. Union Man
Thank you for the helping hand
Hey, hey, Mr. Union Man
So glad that you understand

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mumford & Sons: Roll Away Your Stone

This is what I like to call acoustic music with attitude. Mumford & Sons was named in honor of their front man, Marcus Mumford and the “& Sons” was added to give it the flair of an old family business. “Roll Away the Stone” was released as the bands fourth single from their LP “Sigh No More”; earlier this month, it was released in the US as their third single.

Last year their debut LP was the Mercury Prize for the best LP released in Great Britain and Ireland. National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” rated the album as the eighth best for 2010. Early 2011, saw the band win the BRIT Awards “Best British Album” for the year. In the US, it has been the tenth most downloaded album to date.

Coming from the West London Folk Scene, Mumford & Sons features Mumford on vocals, guitars, mandolin, and drums; Ben Lovett on vocals, keyboards, accordion, and drums; Winston Marshall is featured on vocals, banjo, and Dobro®; and Ted Dwane on vocals, bass, guitar, and drums. This video of “Roll Away Your Stone” was recorded at the Bonnaroo festival in Manchester, Tennessee just a couple weeks ago.


Roll away your stone, I’ll roll away mine
Together we can see what we can find
Don’t leave me alone at this time,
For I am afraid of what I will discover inside

You told me that I would find a home,
Within the fragile substance of my soul
And I have filled this void with things unreal,
And all the while my character it steals.

The darkness is a harsh term don’t you think?
And yet it dominates the things I seek.

It seems as if all my bridges have been burned,
You say that’s exactly how this grace thing works
It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart,
But the welcome I receive with every start.

The darkness is a harsh term don’t you think?
And yet it dominates the things I seek.

The darkness is a harsh term don’t you think?
And yet it dominates the things I seek.

The darkness is a harsh term don’t you think?
And yet it dominates the things I seek.

Stars hide your fires,
And these here are my desires
And I will give them up to you this time around
And so, I’ll be found with my stake stuck in this ground
Marking its territory of this newly impassioned soul.

But you, you’ve gone too far this time
You have neither reason nor rhyme
With which to take this soul that is so rightfully mine.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Natural Acoustic Band: Is it True Blue?

For Mélange Monday, here’s a bit of Acid-Folk from the early 1972 by a Scottish band by the name of The Natural Acoustic Band. “Is it True Blue?” was from their second LP “Branching In” and was the flip side of their only single “Echoes.”

The Natural Acoustic Band was a three piece unit that consisted of Tom Hoy on guitar and vocals; Robin Thyne on guitar, percussion, vocals and recorders; and Krysia Kocjan on guitars, vocals, and tuned percussion.

Following the break-up of the band, Hoy and Thyne joined Magna Carta. Kocjan released a solo album and did back-up work for a number of artists – notably for Al Stewart in the band Shot in the Dark where she was billed as Krysia Kristianne.

It’s a great song from a virtually unknown band – take a listen.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Glass Harp: Look In The Sky

Before Phil Keaggy became a well known artist in Contemporary Christian circles, he was the lead guitarist of a power trio from Northeast Ohio named Glass Harp. Glass Harp recorded three albums for American Decca, but never received much critical acclaim while the band functioned as a unit.

Keaggy’s new found fame as a solo artist in the mid 1970s brought a revival of his work with drummer John Sferra and bassist Daniel Pecchio as Glass Harp. “Look in the Sky” is from the band’s 1970 self-titled first album.

The band supported many well known acts in concert and had the reputation as being a jam band. Today’s selection shows how a song which probably could have been recorded in four minutes was extended to eight with solos from Keaggy.

As always, Keaggy is spectacular on the guitar and this is no exception. The Christian based lyrics of “Look in the Sky” is just a prelude of other songs that would come from Keaggy’s pen during his later career when he devoted himself to Christian rock.


And if you hear the wind blow,
The breeze can catch your eye,
And if you feel the sunlight straight from the sky,
Yeah, look in the sky you're under,
So many good things there lie ahead.
Yeah, look in the sky with wonder,
And hear what I said.

Your days will be filled with gladness
And many more things to come your way,
Away from the noise and madness,
All you have to do is pray.

And thank the Lord for everything,
But more than that,
Believe in His word.
And you will find peace and happiness,
Right out your front door.

Well, you need to be yourself,
And you need your self-keeping.
You need to be yourself,
So stop your weary weeping.

Some people, somewhere in this town around
Don't know what's right and what's wrong,
Are they lonely?

Stopping everywhere, doesn't have a care
Can't see the light, and they dare.
Are they lonely, they're lonely.

You looked in the sky with wonder,
And you can rest your head and sleep.
Wake up to the lightning and thunder,
You don't have to weep.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Shot In The Dark: Playing With Lightning

Our bubbling under song for this Saturday comes from 1981. “Playing with Lightning” was the only single release from Shot in the Dark’s only album. Shot in the Dark was Al Stewart’s back-up band in the late 70s and 80s. The song only peaked at #71.

We played this song at WCIR in a nighttime rotation – and I loved it. Brian Savage’s flute reminded me of Tim Weisberg’s playing. The ending with the delay on the guitar is also awesome.

The band consisted of Peter White; Brian Savage; Robin Lamble (the brother of Fairport Convention’s late drummer Martin Lamble); Krysia Kristianne (who was known as Krysia Kocjan in the Natural Acoustic Band that we will feature on Monday); and Adam Yurman.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Badfinger: Carry On Till Tomorrow

Friday’s Flipside comes from Badfinger’s second hit single “No Matter What,” which charted in 1970 at #8. While “No Matter What” came from the band’s second LP “No Dice,” its flip “Carry on till Tomorrow” was from the LP “Magic Christian Music.” The song also was featured in the film “The Magic Christian.”

Pseudo Live Performance

“Carry on till Tomorrow” is a lovely ballad that features the vocals of Tom Evans. The song features the band’s original bassist Ron Griffiths. In this video, Joey Molland, Griffith’s replacement makes light of his own bass playing on this lip synched version for television. As for the roles in the band, Molland moved to guitar and Evans to bass from this point forward.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Jets Overhead: Where Did You Go?

Today’s TV Thursday song comes from Season Six of House, M.D. and the episode “Teamwork.” Jets Overhead’s “Where Did You Go?” was featured as the final song of the episode. Based out of Victoria, British Columbia, Jets Overhead is an indie band.

Jets Overhead may very well have been the first popular band to provide a complete LP for download with the option to voluntarily by the product. This occurred in 2006 with the release of their “Bridges” CD that featured “Where Did You Go?”


Math is running through my head
Wondering if she's dead
Did she say a quarter past
The hands can't move too fast
Stop to think and look within
Ordinary sin
Think you must have heard her wrong
'Cause she wasn't gone that long

Where did you go?
Oh, I don't wanna know

Looking lost into the night
She's gonna lose this fight
He'll just say the job ran late
His solitary fate
Stop to drink come wrinkled chin
Ordinary sins
Think you must have heard him wrong
'Cause he wasn't gone that long

Where did you go?
Oh, I don't wanna know

Who's somebody?
Who's someone?

Where did you go?
Oh, I don't wanna know

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Standells: Dirty Water

It’s been a while since I featured a one hit wonder from the 1960s, so I decided to feature one of the greatest garage bands of the era – The Standells and their only Top 40 hit “Dirty Water.” The song peaked at #11 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 1966 and was released on Capitol Record’s Tower subsidiary label.

The song was composed by the band’s producer Ed Cobb who based the lyrics on his own experiences in Boston – including being mugged. The song pays homage to the Charles River and its pollution, Boston University’s 12:00 curfew for coeds, and even the Boston Strangler gets a passing reference. As you can image, the song has been immortalized in “Beantown.”

Boston University taken by the author in July 2007

Besides The Standells stab at the Top 40 charts, they made some cameo TV appearances. If you watch any old reruns of “The Munsters,” you’ll occasionally see The Standells playing at 1313 Mockingbird Lane. As for their only hit, Drummer Dick Dodd sang the lead vocals.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Byrds: John Riley

From “Fifth Dimension,” my favorite album by The Byrds, today’s traditional tune based on Homer’s “Odyssey.” Although the story premise is much older, the song dates from 17th century England. “John Riley” is a tale of a sailor who tests the love of the girl he left behind seven years earlier by trying to dissuade her from waiting for John Riley to return.

He argues that Riley may have died in battle, drowned in the sea, or married another in order to tempt the fair young maid; however, she is steadfast in her commitment to John Riley. At the end of the song, the protagonist reveals that he is John Riley of whom she is waiting.

This traditional tune (incorrectly credited on the LP to Bob Gibson and Ricky Neff) was introduced to the band by Roger McGuinn. “Fifth Dimension” was the first LP that was released after the departure of Gene Clark; however, he appears on two of the album’s original tracks and three of the bonus tracks of the CD re-release.


A fair young maid all in her garden,
A strange young man comes passing by
Saying fair maid, will you marry me
And this answer was her reply

No kind sir, I cannot marry thee
For I've a love who sails all on the sea
He's been gone for seven years
But still no man will I marry

Well what if he's in some battle slain
Or drowned in the deep salt sea
Or what if he's found another love
And he and his love both married be?

If he's in some battle slain
I will die, when the moon doth wane
And if he's drowned in the deep salt sea
I'll be true to his memory

And if he's found another love
And he and his love both married be
Then I wish them health and happiness
Where they now dwell across the sea

He picked her up all in his arms
And kisses gave her one two and three
Saying weep no more my own true love
I am your long lost John Riley.

Monday, June 20, 2011

R.I.P. Clarence Clemons

Yesterday morning, I woke to the news that the Big Man for Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street Band, Clarence Clemons, had died from complications of a stroke that he suffered on June 12. Clarence Anicholas Clemons Jr. was born on Jan. 11, 1942, in Norfolk, Virginia. His parents bought Clarence (who was at the time known as Nick, Jr.) his first saxophone – an alto. He was nine years old.

To support his love for the instrument that became his identity, his parents enrolled him in lessons immediately. The world has never been the same due this act of parental love and devotion. His first performances supported gospel groups.

Fate had a way of pushing Clarence into the spotlight as he intended to pursue a career in professional football; however, on the day before his tryout with the Cleveland Browns, he was injured in a car accident that ended his hopes of playing football. It was career path he had worked diligently towards with high school football and a scholarship to Maryland State College.

Spirit in the Night

In the 70s, he worked in corrections in New Jersey and was playing with Norman Seldin and the Joyful Noyze. As fate again would have it, on a break from Seldin’s show, he walked into the Student Prince nightclub with saxophone in hand. Bruce Springsteen's Band was playing that evening.

Clemons recalled the incident in a People Magazine Interview: "I had my saxophone with me, and when I walked in this club -- no lie -- a gust of wind blew the door down the street. I say, 'I want to play. Can I sit in?' Bruce says, 'Hey, you can do anything you want.'" The first song that he performed with Springsteen was “Spirit in the Night.”

The world became aware of Clarence Clemons with the famous photo from the cover of Springsteen’s “Born to Run” LP. In fact, the cover was iconic and numerous others mimicked the pose as a parody of the original. It no doubt ranks up with "Meet the Beatles"/"With the Beatles" and "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" as one of most copied album covers.

Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out

From that iconic LP, “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” even references Clarence in the lyrics. "When the change was made uptown and the Big Man joined the band."

I got to see Sprinsteen and company during the “Back in the U.S.A.” tour in 1985 at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. Besides Bruce, the highlights of the show were Nils Lofgrin and Clarence Clemons. Clarence, we’ll miss your presence and your great saxophone licks. Rest in Peace.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Amos Lee: Jesus

Last Sunday as I was returning from taking my daughter and two of her friends to camp, I caught Amos Lee’s performance on “Mountain Stage” on West Virginia Public Radio. His live arrangement is quite different from the one on the CD. I really like the live version much better as it accentuates the usage of the frailing banjo style. Besides this, the gospel tinged back-up vocals really make the song click.

Amos wrote the song the day his grandfather had died. He considered his grandfather’s faith and how in the time of death we all need help from Jesus. In writing this song, Lee tried to recreate that raw and direct nature of gospel music from the past – something that is missing in much of the religious music of today.

Studio Version

From the CD Mission Bell, the studio is good, but different and heavier. It features the back-up vocals by James Gadsen and amplified harmonica – quite different than the live version above.

The CD was released in January and has topped both the Top 200 LP and Top Rock Charts at the number 1 position.


Oh, Jesus can you help me now, (Jesus can you help me now)
Oh, Jesus can you help me now, (Jesus can you help me now)
Oh, Jesus can you help me now,
No, I never felt so alone

I remember when I was wild and free
Oh, so wild and free
Oh, so wild and free
But my heart was a skipping stone

But now the world has jaded me
Oh, corrupted and defeated me
You know I never thought you hated me
But I’ve never felt so alone.

Oh, Jesus will you help me now, (So, Jesus won’t you help me now)
Oh, Jesus will you help me now, (Jesus won’t you help me now)
Oh Jesus will you help me now,
No, I never felt so alone,
So alone,

Oh Jesus
Oh Jesus
Oh Jesus (won’t you help me now)
Won’t you help me now?
Oh Jesus
Won’t you help me now?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Alan Parsons Project: Breakdown

Today’s bubbling under hit, “Breakdown,” comes from The Alan Parsons Project’s 1977 album release “I Robot.” – What a great album. I remember buying this LP in Huntington, WV shortly after it was released and loved every cut.

The album had three singles, but only one made it to the top 40 charts; “I Wouldn't Want to Be Like You” peaked at #36. The second single, “Don't Let it Show,” barely made it to the Hot 100 at 92 and “Day After Day (The Show Must Go On)” never even charted.

“Breakdown” didn’t chart either; however, it received an inordinate amount of airplay on album rock stations. Even though it wasn’t released as a single, it is often the song most people remember from this classic album that originally was to be based on Isaac Asimov’s “I, Robot” stories from the 1940s.

The Alan Parsons Project was a collaboration between songwriter Eric Woolfson and studio engineer and producer Alan Parsons. Parsons cut his teeth on projects such as The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” and Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon.” He won a Grammy for his engineering on Pink Floyd’s masterpiece from 1973.

In addition, you can hear his influence on Al Stewart’s “Year of the Cat” and a couple of hits by The Hollies, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” and “The Air That I Breathe.” The experience with The Hollies brought him in contact with lead singer Allen Clarke who, by the way, sings lead on “Breakdown.”

Friday, June 17, 2011

Episode 600 - Steely Dan: Any Major Dude Will Tell You

Well today is my 600th post on Reading Between the Grooves and while it takes a commitment to do this nearly every day, I am reassured that it is worth it when I see the stats every 100 posts. I will have to apologize for not being as active during this centum. Since February, I suffered from the flu and have been extremely busy otherwise. I am working on being a little proactive with content – so in case of sickness or emergency, I will have something up online anyway.

This week I received a very nice email from Andy Wahlberg who thanked me for featuring the harp guitar instrumental of “The Water is Wide” on Tuesday this week.

Just a note to say hi, and laud you for putting the harp guitar gathering finale on your blog site. (Proving that you are not only a scholar, but a tasteful one at that!) Great links on your other stuff too!

I appreciated his comments and am glad that the word is getting to the artists as well.

As it is Friday and we normally feature flip sides, here’s one from Steely Dan’s “Pretzel Logic” LP. Their biggest charting single, “Rikki Don't Lose That Number” (number 4 on the Hot 100), featured another great song as its “B” side. “Any Major Dude Will Tell You” is like most other Steely Dan tunes – excellent.

My favorite part of the song is hook lick that is doubled by the electric piano and guitar. I also like clean sounding acoustic guitar at head of the track. The song’s second verse mentions a mythical creature – the squonk and his tears.

With its ill fitting warty skin, the ugly squonk is reported to live in the forests of northern Pennsylvania. Because of his self consciousness, the squonk hides from humans crying about his station in life. If confronted, the squonk dissolves into a mass of tears to escape capture.

According to Donald Fagen, they based the song’s title around the vernacular of Los Angeles in the mid 70s – everyone called everyone else “dude.” So, trying to fit into the LA scene, Becker and Fagen wrote “Any Major Dude Will Tell You.”

RBTG’s 600th Post Retrospect

Like I had reported with the 100th, 200th, 300th, 400th and 500th posts, I took a look backward on how we are doing visitor wise. I began this blog on September 26, 2009, but did not start monitoring the visits until October 16, 2009. Currently, we have 26 declared followers of the blog – up from 18 in February 2011. There are many others who have visited frequently without declaring themselves as followers. The statistics are listed below:

Unique Visitors25,540
Times Visited29,109
Number of Pages Viewed44,704
People Visiting 200+ Times784
People Visiting 101-200 Times308
People Visiting 51-100 Times225
People Visiting 26-50 Times139
Number of Visitor Countries Represented133
Percentage of Visitors Referred from Search Engines53.40%
Percentage of Visitors Referred from Other Sites36.08%
Percentage of Visitors via Direct Access10.53%

The Top Ten Charts

As one would find in music trade magazines, I have prepared some Top Ten Charts for "Reading between the Grooves."

The Top Ten Visitor Countries

Since the 500th post on February 24, 2011, the number of visitor countries increased from 120 to 133. The same countries made the Top 10 since the 200th anniversary and have remained in their respective spots since the 400th anniversary.

Since picking up 13 new countries, we are still 3 away from having all of South America – we are missing the Guianas – French Guiana, Surinam, and Guyana. Central America is represented by every country with the exception of Nicaragua. The biggest hole in the Americas remains the Caribbean. As with last time, Europe is nearly covered with the exception of Svalbard and Jan Mayen, Moldova, and Montenegro; however, I didn’t realize that we were and still missing Jersey, Sark, and Andorra.

New areas were represented in Asia and only a handful of states remain missing. These include the following: North Korea, Yemen, Myanmar, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Timor-Leste. Some of these countries we may never reach; however, I was surprised by our penetration into Asia since the last anniversary.

While several smaller island countries in Oceana have not visited the site, the largest non-participating area is Papua New Guinea. Africa remains the continent (excluding Antarctica) that has most countries that have not visited Reading Between the Grooves.

1United States15,259
2United Kingdom2,325
9The Netherlands445

The Top Ten Pages via Direct Access

While most people (2,579) have visited the home page for “Reading Between the Grooves,” others enter distinct pages through page specific links and via search engine returns. Two new pages joined the list – Derek and the Dominoes: “Layla and other Assorted Love Songs” and The Art Reynolds’ Singers “Jesus is Just Alright.” Fairport Convention’s “Matty Groves” continued to move up from 4 to 3. This particular chart is slow moving as it is cumulative – newer features on this site will have to be really popular to catch up to the total direct accesses of these ten songs.

The Top Days by Total Visits

This chart represents the days that encountered the most visits and the content that was featured on those particular days. Only two were on the list at the 500th post – Mason Proffit’s “Eugene Pratt” and Thunderclap Newman’s “Something in the Air.” Every other song was new.

RankDayDateAssociated ContentVisits
1THU14 APR 2011Placebo Running Up That Hill205
2SUN27 MAR 2011Beach Boys: Our Prayer205
3SAT2 FEB 2011Mason Proffit: Eugene Pratt188
4SAT14 MAY 2011Novo Combo: Too Long Gone187
5WED15 JUN 2011Timmy Thomas: Why Can’t We Live Together173
6WED23 FEB 2011Thunderclap Newman: Something In The Air171
7SAT21 MAY 2011R.E.M.: It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)171
8MON28 MAR 2011Concrete Blond: Crystal Blue Persuasion169
9TUE15 MAR 2011Davey Graham: Anji166
10SAT26 MAR 2011Blodwyn Pig: It’s Only Love165

The Top Days by New Visitors

This chart represents the days that encountered the most visits by first time visitors and the content that was featured on those particular days. All of these songs are new to this chart and none is older than 100 posts. Two of the songs were posted in the last 10 days: Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Unseen Eye” and Timmy Thomas' “Why Can’t We Live Together.” The content of this chart is very eclectic and shows what types of songs are driving new people to this blog. Highly interesting.

RankDayDateAssociated ContentNew Visitors
1SUN27 MAR 2011Beach Boys: Our Prayer108
2THU9 JUN 2011Sonny Boy Williamson: Unseen Eye107
3TUE5 APR 2011Ian Matthews: Reno, Nevada104
4MON14 MAR 2011Eric Clapton: Knockin' On Heaven's Door103
5MON28 MAR 2011Concrete Blond: Crystal Blue Persuasion101
6SUN9 MAR 2011Steven Curtis Chapman: Tuesday's Child101
7SAT14 MAY 2011Novo Combo: Too Long Gone97
8SAT16 APR 2011Be-Bop Deluxe: Sister Seagull96
9SUN8 MAY 2011Elton John: Abide With Me95
10WED15 JUN 2011Timmy Thomas: Why Can’t We Live Together94

As always, I want to take this time to thank all of you for your support of this site and the encouragement to keep going forward. Thanks again for Reading between the Grooves.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Allman Brothers: Jessica

It’s TV Thursday and every evening when I get home from work, the TV show “Top Gear” is on at my home. This feature broadcast on this side of the Atlantic on BBC-America follows “Dr. Who,” which my daughter watches religiously every afternoon at 5:00 PM. I like Dr. Who as well, but it is usually off by the time I hit the door – but there is plenty of “Top Gear” to go around.

“Top Gear” runs every evening for two hours straight and follows the exploits of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May as they do some off the wall things with motor vehicles. These include making an auto amphibious and attempting to navigate the English Channel, navigating across fields while being chased by the tanks of the Royal Army’s 1st Armoured Division, racing double decker cars against top German drivers, and trying to make it across the Southern United States alive while having all manner of anti-redneck slogans painted on their respective vehicles.

The show is great fun and the primary individuals are plain nuts. That’s why we like it so much. One of the things I noticed early in our watching the show is that they use an instrumental by the Allman Brothers as their theme song. Release in 1973 on the album “Brothers and Sisters,” the Dickey Betts composition “Jessica” charted only at #65 – but it is one of their better known tunes.

“Brothers and Sisters” was the first album recorded by the Allman Brothers after Duane Allman’s death. During the recording of the album, bassist Berry Oakley also died in a similar manner to Duane Allman just three blocks from where his bandmate met his untimely fate.

Guest guitarist Les Dudek plays acoustic guitar on “Jessica” while Dickey Betts handles the lead guitar parts. The song features a dual keyboard harmony that fuses Chuck Leavell’s Rhodes electric piano on the high harmony while Greg Allman adds the low harmony parts courtesy of his Hammond organ. Dudek, by the way, also plays lead guitar on the album’s other single “Ramblin’ Man.”

If you get a chance, tune into “Top Gear”; I think you’ll like it as much as I do.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Timmy Thomas: Why Can't We Live Together

Today’s one hit wonder comes from the first part of 1973 and was the only song by Timmy Thomas to chart in the top 40. It was a number 1 record on the R&B chart and peaked at #3 on the Hot 100. The single sold over 2 million copies.

The song is as sparse as it gets and contains only a rudimentary rhythm machine, a Hammond organ, and Thomas’ vocals. While the song was only recorded as a demo, producer Steve Alaimo believed it was complete and it was released on TK Records’ Glades label. The song was rereleased in Britain in 1979 where it became a Northern Soul hit record.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Harp Guitar Gathering V: The Water Is Wide

Here’s an interesting instrumental version of the old English folksong “The Water is Wide” from the Harp Guitar Gathering V. It was the finale performance at the annual harp guitar gathering and everyone eventually comes to the stage to add their harp guitar to the mix.

The song starts with Stephen Bennett on his great-grandfather’s 1909 model harp guitar while he is joined by Gregg Miner playing a harp mandolin. Next John Doan solos and is followed by Andy Wahlberg. Finally before the remainder join in, Andy McKee takes his solo. I think this is largest assembled group of harp guitars I’ve ever seen in one setting.

While it is not flawless, it is still beautiful and unrehearsed. The performance came from October 27, 2007. It is truly something you don’t see every day.

Monday, June 13, 2011

David Gilmour: Wish You Were Here

This weekend, I got out my 12-string guitar for the first time in about two years. It was remarkably close to concert pitch. Using it in church this Sunday, I warmed up with a number of tunes and one was this Pink Floyd classic – the title cut from the “Wish You Were Here” LP. It was the second single from the LP with “Have a Cigar” being the first. Neither charted in the Hot 100; however, the album did make it to #1.

I bought the “Wish You Were Here” album shortly after it was released and was excited by the fact that a new Floyd LP was available two years after “Dark Side of the Moon.” Unfortunately, my copy skipped and I took it back to the store. Being that I lived in a small town of 3,000 that had no chain record stores, they had no further copies – so I traded it in on something else. I believe I substituted the second self-titled Fleetwood Mac album, which was a good choice.

Sadly, I never replaced this album; but, it was getting a good bit of airplay on WAMX in Ashland, KY when they were doing album rock in the evenings. So I heard it enough to be very familiar with this song. “Wish You Were Here” was another song about Syd Barrett, the former lead guitarist of Pink Floyd. Both David Gilmour and Roger Waters contributed to its composition and Gilmour sang lead in addition to playing all the guitar parts.

Here’s an unplugged version of the tune by Gilmour. He is joined on stage by Richard Wright of Pink Floyd on keyboards. This is an excellent rendition and the ‘cello really makes this tune. “We’re just two lost souls living in a fish bowl year after year - wish you were here.”

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Wailers: Sinner Man

This is a song that I first heard my brother sing back in the 1960s, although the reggae version here is quite different than his. This was the first song I ever performed in public with a guitar. Along with two other fellows, we performed “Sinner Man” at a church in Waverly, Ohio. That was in September 1973 and I played hi-strung guitar.

I’ve done this tune several times over the years, but probably hadn’t performed it since 1989 – that was until last Sunday when I sang it for the early service at church. I didn’t decide to do it until the wee hours of the morning before the service, so I grabbed my trusty Ibanez six-string acoustic to do it - I would have normally performed this with my 12-string, but didn’t have time to fool with tuning the thing.

I was asked to repeat the song today as its message will match up with today’s sermon, so at our 11 AM service I plan to do – this time with the 12-string – which sounds much better. I hope a friend of mine will join me on the ‘cello. We’ll see if he got my voicemail about bringing it.

Today’s version is by the Wailers and features Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Bunny Wailer. The song was released as a single in 1964 on the Coxsone label in Jamaica and on Island elsewhere except the US. I do not believe that it was released at that time in America, but came out on a later album issue.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Andrew Gold R.I.P.

This week I found out from an old radio buddy, Barry Pendry who was Barry Stewart on WCIR, that Andrew Gold passed away last Friday, June 3, 2011. He died in his sleep from an apparent heart attack. He was 59 years old.

Gold came from a musical family. His father, Ernest Gold, won an academy award for composing the music for the movie “Exodus.” His mother is 81 year-old Marni Nixon who is known for supplying the singing voice for a number of leading ladies in musicals. Andrew bore a remarkable resemblance to his mother.

Gold, a multi-instrumentalist, came into the public eye with his work on Linda Ronstadt’s “Heart Like A Wheel” and subsequent recordings. He released a number of solo albums and had Top 40 hits with “Lonely Boy” which charted at #7 and “Thank you for being a Friend” that was a mid-charter at #25. The song enjoyed a long run as the theme for the TV show “The Golden Girls” featuring a cover by Cynthia Fee. I’m sure Gold reaped great benefit from the royalties from the usage of his tune.

Today in honor of this passing musician, I am featuring four bubbling under songs from the great Andrew Gold.

Never Let Her Slip Away

From Andrew’s third solo LP “All this and Heaven Too,” “Never Let Her Slip Away” features Andrew playing a polyphonic synthesizer – which was a novelty in 1978. I am not sure of the model, but at that time only a few were on the market. They were the Oberheim four and eight voice models and Sequential Circuits’ Prophet 5. Both products were made available by the time Gold commenced recording this LP.

Ernie Watts plays the memorable saxophone and background vocals were supplied by another one Asylum’s stable of artists: J.D. Souther. “Never Let Her Slip Away” peaked on the American charts at 67.

Wax UK: “Right Between the Eyes”

Although this band which was a collaboration of Gold and Graham Gouldman of 10cc was known as Wax in the United Kingdom, trademark restrictions in the US required that the American releases be listed as Wax UK. In this video, Gold is seen playing bass. The song only peaked in the US at #43.

Final Frontier (Mad About You Theme)

Don Was and Paul Reiser wrote the theme to Reiser’s and Helen Hunt’s successful NBC sitcom that aired from 1992 to 1999. Andrew Gold’s recording of the song ran for most of the show’s duration replaced by Anita Baker’s cover during the show’s last run. While this was never a radio hit, its airplay on TV provides the impetus of being a bubbling under hit.

Bryndle – “On the Streets of Your Town”

One of Gold’s earlier forays into the music business was with the group Bryndle, which also included Kenny Edwards, Wendy Waldman, and Karla Bonoff. This pre-supergroup reformed in the 1990s and released three albums. From their 1995 self-titled release, here’s “On the Streets of Your Town.”

I hope you’ve enjoyed this excursion into the bubbling under hits by Andrew Gold. We’ll miss you as you are now on your final frontier.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Monkees: (I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone

Every Friday I feature a flipside of a US single release. Some are well known while others are not. Today, we present a flip that is the former as it was from a double-sided hit by The Monkees.

Released in November 1966 during the first season of their TV show, Mickey Dolenz sings “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone.” In fact, Mickey may have been the only Monkee on this Boyce and Hart composition. The background vocal was supplied by Tommy Boyce who co-wrote and co-produced the tune with Bobby Hart.

Although originally recorded by Paul Revere and the Raiders, “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” made it to 20 on Billboard’s Hot 100. It was the “B” to the band’s second number 1 hit, “I’m a Believer.” It also was featured on their self-titled debut album. My favorite part of the tune is the organ which was supplied by Bobby Hart.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sonny Boy Williamson: Unseen Eye

Recently, I caught a rerun of an episode of “House, M.D.” where today’s song was featured toward the end of the episode. I immediately recognized the voice and the unmistakable harp of Sonny Boy Williamson – or more accurately Sonny Boy Williamson II and “Unseen Eye.” The show was the 21st episode of the seventh season of the show and was titled “The Fix.”

Born as Aleck Ford in Mississippi, he later took the last name of his stepfather and was known by the nickname of Rice – and hence Aleck Ford became Rice Miller. As a regular on the King Biscuit Time show with Robert Junior Lockwoord on KFFA in Helena, Arkansas, the show’s sponsor capitalized on the recent success of Chicago bluesman Sonny Boy Williamson (John Lee Curtis), Miller was hereafter billed as “Sonny Boy Williamson.”

The name took and the Sonny Boy imposter became more famous than his predecessor who is now known in the music world as Sonny Boy Williamson I.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Benny Mardones: Into The Night

Today’s One Hit Wonder Wednesday tune could really be called a “Two in One Hit Wonder” as “Into the Night” charted twice for Benny Mardones – once in 1980 at #11 and later in 1989 at #20.

It also charted on the Adult Contemporary charts peaking also at #20. Less than a dozen recordings have ever accomplished the feat of charting in the top 20 twice – although there are numerous examples of songs charting more than once; however, in most instances one of the releases did not perform very well.

The song resurfaced largely because an Arizona radio station, KZZP, featured “Into the Night” on a segment called “Where are they Now?” Following this, KQLZ, Los Angeles program director Scott Shannon added the song to his playlist and stations across the US followed his example . . . and the rest they say is musical history.

The song was featured on Mardones’ second LP “Never Run, Never Hide” as well as on his self-titled fourth album. I remember this song very well – playing it first in current rotation in 1980 at WAMX and as an oldie at WCIR. When it resurfaced in 1989, I was at an oldies station WWNR and our cutoff for oldies was 1975 – so I never played it the second time around.

It was also as song that “Audio Game,” a band of which I was a member in 1982 and 1983, played as well. Keith Fain, our guitarist, had sung the song in a previous ensemble and brought it to us to round out our set list. I enjoyed playing my Wurlitzer electric piano on it. It was great slow dance song. Ah yes memories of the 80s.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Mike Cross: The Lord'll Provide

For Traditional Tuesday, I turn to an artist that I got to know because a couple of his albums were laying around one of the radio stations of which I was employed. The albums were not being played and not ever intended to be played as his musical style did not match our format. The artist is Mike Cross and like the title of his debut album “Child Prodigy,” he certainly was one.

Mike is a very talented multi-instrumentalist who has a knack for writing songs that have a humorous bent. From his third album, Mike provides a tongue in cheek story about a chicken hawk and a buzzard eying a chicken in the barnyard. “The Lord’ll Provide” comes from Mike’s third album “Bounty Hunter.” Enjoy.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Stan Getz & Charlie Byrd: One Note Samba

I don’t often wax jazz nostalgic, but when I do it normally conjures up memoires of music of the late fifties and early sixties when jazz was bordering on the mainstream. Today’s selection comes from 1963 and an album that single handedly created the bossa nova craze in the US in the early sixties.

In 1961 President John F. Kennedy inaugurated a goodwill exchange between the US and Brazil that gave guitarist Charlie Byrd the opportunity to tour Brazil. When Byrd returned, he headed to the studio and was joined by saxophonist Stan Getz. The result is the collaboration by Getz and Byrd known as “Jazz Samba.” One of the often played and often covered tunes is “One Note Samba.”

The song’s title comes from a series of measures where one note is featured over a bossa nova rhythm. In the key of G, the first eight measures center around a D note, this followed by four measures of G, and then four measures of D.

Bossa nova literally means “new trend” in Portuguese and the style developed from samba, but is less percussive than its antecedent stytle. It often features chord variations of sevenths, ninths, elevenths, and thirteenths. I love these chordal structures and if you play keyboard these extended chords are easy to remember as they feature at the 11th and 13th extensions an entire chord a complete step below the primary chord. For the 11th, 9th, and 7th chords, a note is dropped.

In other words for a 13th chord in C – a complete Bb7 is played above the C. A thirteenth is somewhat of a combination of a 7th and 6th chord as the Bb is the 7th and the A is the 6th. For example:

C13 is C E G Bb D F A | a Bb7 chord over C chord
C11 is C E G Bb D F | a Bb chord over C chord
C9 is C E G Bb D | Bb and D notes over C chord
C7 is C E G Bb | a Bb note over C chord

It also can be remembered by playing a minor one step above the 7th of the chord. For example:

C13 is C E G Bb D F A | a Dm chord over C7 chord
C11 is C E G Bb D F | D & F notes over C7 chord
C9 is C E G Bb D | D note over C7 chord

Unfortunately, I never read this anywhere, but figured it out on my own and it makes it easy to remember. If a song calls for F#13, I know that I need to play an E7 over the F#. If it’s a Db11, then I play a B over the Db. Remember this and you will have no difficulty in remembering the structure of extended chords.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Switchfoot: This Is Home

Today’s Spiritual Sunday feature comes from the “The Chronicles of Narnia: Price Caspian” soundtrack. Switchfoot provided “This is Home” for the movie and its accompanying soundtrack. Although formerly billed as contemporary Christian act, “Switchfoot” believes that their faith is a lifestyle and not a musical genre.

Be that as it may, when the song was released in 2008, it charted on Billboard’s Hot Christian Songs chart at #4 and on R&R’s Christian Contemporary Hit Radio chart at #3. In 2009, it was also nominated for a Dove award for the “Pop/Contemporary Recorded Song of the Year”; however, Brandon Heath’s “Give me your Eyes” took the award.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Dave Mason: Shouldn't Have Took More Than You Gave

It was released on Blue Thumb Records with its unique folding cover, but the thing about Dave Mason’s first solo album was the disc itself. Promoted as being in marbled vinyl, it got the reputation as being pressed in vomit-tone. If you don’t believe me, check out the photo below. It got that name because it really didn’t look like marble – it looks, well, like emesis (to be polite). What’s up, Chuck?

If you want to see a colored album version that really looks like marble, then check out the 1978 Canadian re-release of “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts’ Club Band.” At the time it was released, there was a push to release Beatles albums on various colored vinyl. I think I picked up eight or nine different colored vinyl and picture disc Beatles’ LPs during that year from the US, Canada, the Netherlands, and the UK. It was a match made in heaven for a collector of Beatles music and colored vinyl.

While I didn’t get Dave Mason’s “Alone Together” until it was rereleased in black vinyl, I sought out an original and found one in a used record store in Roanoke, Virginia during the summer of 1986. I also picked up two other albums I wanted – John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s “Unfinished Music #2: Life with the Lions,” which is a collectable but not worth the cardboard and the vinyl that was used in its construction. The other album was Mason Proffit’s debut album on Happy Tiger Records.

Never thought about it, but I got Dave Mason and Mason Proffit on the same trip. On to Dave now, today’s bubbling under song is “Shouldn’t Have Took More than you Gave.” It was a song that got quite a bit of airplay on album rock stations; however, it wasn’t released as a single. The album’s single was “Only You Know and I Know” and could be a bubbling under hit as well as it only charted at #42.

This song is just very pleasing to the ear. The banjo which appears during the intro and toward the end of the song really adds character. Then there is Dave playing his signature Gibson Firebird through a wah-wah pedal. Add Leon Russell’s piano and back-up vocals by Delaney and Bonnie and you can join me in wondering why this tune didn’t get the exposure that it should.

Mason is an interesting character in that he was in Traffic three separate times. He left after the release of their first album; Mason rejoined during the recording their second LP; the band then broke up and a third album of various and sundry unused songs including material with Mason was released; and then two years later, he rejoined the band for a tour that included the release of a live album “Welcome to the Canteen.” This live LP also contained “Shouldn’t Have Took More than you Gave.”

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Young Rascals: Sueño

For those who never flipped a 45 to hear what was on the other side missed many good recordings that were relegated to the other side of the hit record. The Young Rascals (later just The Rascals) had a string of hits from 1966 to 1969.

Today’s Friday Flipside is the “B” side of one of their three #1 hits – “Groovin’” from 1967. “Sueño” (meaning sleep in Spanish) was written by Ron Sasiak; however, it was credited on the single and the original album releases to Felix Cavaliere and Eddie Brigati. Apparently later versions of the LP corrected the credits to Sasiak. I tried to find out who he was, but was unsuccessful – but he happens to have a Facebook account.

If you were going to pigeonhole “Sueño” into an arbitrary category of music, you might call it psychedelic-pop-flamenco. Felix Cavaliere handles the lead vocals on this cut. “Sueño” also appears on The Rascals third LP, “Groovin’.”

Thursday, June 2, 2011

John Mellencamp: Someday The Rains Will Fall

I heard John Cougar Mellencamp’s “Someday the Rains will Fall” on an episode of NCIS. I hadn’t previously heard this song and Googled while it started playing in the show. I was surprised to learn that it was John Cougar who recorded this song; however, I should have recognized his voice on this song. It is the classic Mellencamp sound.

In 2009, John Mellencamp took his guitar into the historic Gunter Hotel in San Antonio and recorded a live recording of “Someday the Rains will Fall.” Over 70 years previous, a young Robert Johnson took his guitar and recorded live to acetate disc many of his classic blues sides for Brunswick Records at the Gunter. Of those that Johnson recorded in the three day session, the songs included “Dust my Broom,” “Crossroads Blues,” “Terraplane Blues,” “Kind Hearted Woman,” and others.

The author and John Mellencamp in 1986

Mellencamp’s tune came at a low point towards the end of that particular NCIS episode and it just fit the demeanor of the scene – dark, distant, and lonesome.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Benjamin Orr: Stay The Night

Although the bassist and occasional lead vocalist of The Cars, Benjamin Orr’s solo career produced one hit: 1986’s “Stay the Night.” Best known for his vocals on The Cars’ hit “Drive,” Ben Orr also sang lead on “Let’s Go” and “Just What I Needed.” From suburban Cleveland, Benjamin Orzechowski moved to Columbus, Ohio where he met Ric Ocasek in 1970. Playing together in numerous bands, they finally formed The Cars in Boston during 1976. The rest is history.

From his only solo LP “The Lace,” “Stay the Night” had an interesting run on the charts. It is probably is one of the few songs to chart higher on both the Adult Contemporary and Mainstream Rock charts than it did in the Hot 100. While it only made it to 24 on the top 40 charts, it was a top ten hit on the A/C (#2) and the rock (#6) charts. Typically, a song with both a strong A/C and rock base will perform much better on the top 40 side. This is a somewhat novel situation.

I loved this song and sang lead and played keyboards on it with two bands with whom I performed in the mid to late 80s: “The Game” and “Lyvyn Daylytz.” As for Ben Orr, this was his solo one hit wonder. Sadly for the music world, Ben succumbed to pancreatic cancer on October 4, 2000. He was 53. He’ll be greatly missed.