Friday, May 31, 2013

Capricorn Records: Keep On Smilin'

Wet Willie recorded three albums for Capricorn Records before they had their first hit – the title cut of their fourth LP, “Keep on Smiling.” Released in early 1974, it managed to be the band’s biggest hit and one of only three that broke the Top 40 charts. While “Keep on Smilin’” made it to number 10, the other two hits on Epic were mid-charters. “Street Corner Serenade,” steel drums and all, peaked at #30 and the disco influenced “Weekend” charted slightly higher at #29.

From Mobile, Alabama, “Wet Willie” had more of a soul influence than some of the other Southern bands signed to Capricorn Records. Giving it all he had, “Wet Willie’s” front man was Jimmy Hall who not only sang, but also played harmonica and saxophone. He played a nice harp solo on this number.  To the credit of “Keep on Smilin’,” it also had a catchy rhythm hook: da-da-da-da-dat dum dum dum; da-da-da-da-dat dum dum dum.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Capricorn Records: Heard It In A Love Song

“Which one of you guys is Marshall?” I imagine that at some point in the career of The Marshall Tucker Band that they were asked that question. The band’s name came from a blind piano tuner that once rented the space where the band practiced in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Like many other Southern rock bands, they were signed to Capricorn Records.

“Heard it in a Love Song,” their highest charting single, came from the 1977 album “Carolina Dreams.” Although having released a number of singles, only two MTB songs charted within the Top 40: “Fire on the Mountain” at #38 and “Heard it in a Love Song” at #14.

There are three soloists on this tune: Toy Caldwell on lead guitar, flautist Jerry Eubanks, and session musician Paul Hornsby on piano.  I never realized it before, but I must have been immensely influenced by Hornsby, as I subconsciously ripped off some of his licks when I played piano on my brother’s album that was recorded the same year. Both cuts were in the key of “D.” Strange but true.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Capricorn Records: Please Be With Me

The 1970s group Cowboy is not as well known as other country-rock bands like the Eagles, Poco, The Byrds, and The Flying Burrito Brothers; however, they were a pretty good example of their genre. The band’s primary musicians were Scott Boyer and Tommy Talton. Their most famous song, “Please Be With Me,” came from their second album, “5’ll Get You Ten.”

The song appeared on two other Capricorn albums: 1973’s reissue of Cowboy’s first two LPs as “Why Quit When You’re Losing” and 1972’s “Duane Allman: An Anthology.” It was the Allman compilation that brought this song to the mainstream public’s attention because Duane Allman played Dobro® on the cut.

In fact, it was the last non-Allman Brothers’ session that Duane played on prior to his death on October 29, 1971. Such was its popularity, that Eric Clapton recorded the song for his 1974 album, “461 Ocean Boulevard.” On his version, which is quite nice, Clapton played the Dobro® part. We’ll feature that one someday, but as for now – the original by Cowboy on Capricorn Records.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Capricorn Records: Nothing Matters But The Fever

Day Three of our tribute to Capricorn Records with a band which was named as a twist of the name of its leader, Chuck Leavell – C. Leavell – Sea Level. Sea Level was an offshoot of The Allman Brothers Band featuring three of its members, Leavell, Jai Johnny Johanson, and Lamar Williams. They were joined by Jimmy Nalls to fulfill the complement of the original version of this fusion band. Shortly after their first album, the band enlarged to six members.

“Nothing Matters But the Fever” came from the band’s 1977 self-titled debut album. For the life of me, I cannot figure out what effect Leavell is using on his acoustic piano on this song. It almost sounds like he is fooling with a synthesizer mod wheel, but this was about five years or so before realistic piano sounds could be emulated by an electric keyboard. Good stuff from south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Capricorn Records: Take It Off The Top

For our second number from Capricorn Records, we turn to the jazz-rock fusion band, the “Dixie Dregs.” The cut of choice today that features the excellent instrumental work of the band featuring the guitar work by Steve Morse, keyboards of Mark Parrish, violin of Allen Sloan, bass of Andy West, and drums of Rod Morgenstern.

Featured as the lead cut from the “Dregs’” third album “What If,” “Take it off the Top” also fits our Media Monday selection as it was used as the theme song for the “Friday Rock Show.” “What If” (and I always thought it should be “What If?”) is the only Dixie Dregs album that I own and it is excellent. “Take it off the Top” showcases the incredible talent of this band than never received mainstream accolades.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Capricorn Records: Revival (Love Is Everywhere)

It’s the fourth week of the month and time for our Fourth Week Label special, and this week we concentrate on Capricorn Records. It was founded in Macon, Georgia in 1969 by brothers Phil and Alan Walden and Atlantic Records’ executive Frank Fenter. The label’s original recordings were issued on ATCO until the Capricorn imprint was developed.

The label was initially distributed by Atlantic Records until switching to their corporation partner and competitor, Warner Brothers Records in the early 1970s. In the mid to late 70s, Capricorn switched distribution to Polygram. By 1979, this haven of southern rock declared bankruptcy. An attempt to resurrect Capricorn in the 1990s produced a number of new recordings before completely closing in 2002.

Probably the best known artist on Capricorn was The Allman Brothers’ Band whose tenure with the label tracked its first incarnation from 1969 to 1979. From their second album, Idlewild South, which was originally released on ATCO, the band’s second single was an edit of the album track “Revival (Love is Everywhere).

The song written by guitarist Dickie Betts features an extended instrumental (1:35) before heading into the lyrical content of the song. Although the band’s second single, it was their first to chart with a rather dismal appearance at #92 on the Hot 100. It is a perfect song for a Sunday as love is everywhere and it’s time for a revival.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Emerson, Lake & Palmer: Karn Evil 9

If you’ve ever seen Emerson, Lake, and Palmer perform live, there is a chance you’ve heard them perform their most popular non-single released song. Opening the second side of their 1973 album, “Brain Salad Surgery,” is “Karn Evil 9, 1st Impression, Part 2.”

The name “Karn Evil” was a take on the word “Carnival” and the lyrics in the second part of the first movement provided the title for the 1974 album, “Welcome Back My Friends to the Show that Never Ends . . . Ladies and Gentleman, Emerson, Lake & Palmer.” This portion of “Karn Evil 9” really capitalizes on a carnival like atmosphere. “Karn Evil 9” in its entirety is about 30 minutes long.

While the live version from 1974 is better known than the 1973 studio release, I was unable to find this particular live recording on YouTube. Be that as it may, ELP wrote and recorded the album “Brain Salad Surgery” for the purpose of being able to play all of the cuts live with minimal difficulty. Following the recording of their previous studio album, “Trilogy,” the band discovered that many of the songs were difficult for a three piece band to play live as overdubbed parts were impossible to recreate.

To prepare for the recording of “Brain Salad Surgery,” the band purchased a theatre so that they could write and practice in a setting that was conducive to a live performance. The effort worked, and while this particular movement of “Karn Evil 9” was never issued as a single, it became the most popular cut from the LP garnering much airplay on album radio.

Atlantic dropped the ball by not issuing “Karn Evil 9” as the single; however, I’m sure the title would have confused the American buying public in knowing what song they wanted to buy. Instead, Atlantic issued the British hymn “Jerusalem” as the single – a song that would have made sense in the UK as the single. Even though the song was ingrained in British society, it was unknown in America – but despite that, it had a moderate showing at #79.

If I were in the A&R Department at Atlantic at the time, I would have picked “Karn Evil 9, Impression 1, Part 2” as and renamed it as “Welcome Back My Friends (Karn Evil 9)” for the single release. That did not happen and we will have to be content that album radio carried the ball on this release giving it the opportunity for those of us in the USA to know this particular ELP classic. “Roll up, Roll up, Roll up; See the show!”

Friday, May 24, 2013

Dave Mason: Mystic Traveler

Although Dave Mason’s “Mystic Traveler” begins like Chicago’s “Wishing You Were Here” and the walk down is in the same key of Dm, they are different songs; however, they might make a good mash-up. I picked this particular song which got some airplay in 1978 because it was a double flipside for Mason in 1977 and 1978.

From Mason’s LP, “Let It Flow,” Columbia Records believed in this particular song as they picked as a flip side twice. Its first single release came in 1977 when “Mystic Traveler” was paired with “We Just Disagree.” While he had more popular compositions, the “A” side was Mason’s biggest solo hit in the US. It peaked in October of that year at #12.

When Mason’s next single, a cover of the Goffin/King composition “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” Columbia resurrected “Mystic Traveler” as the “B” side. The “A” side was Mason’s second biggest hit; however, it just barely made it to the Top 40 charts peaking at #39.

Many radio stations including those in the Tri State Area of Huntington, WV flipped the single and played “Mystic Traveler”; however, it failed to chart on its own. The song has a lush arrangement – with my favorite part being the harp and the female vocalist doing the descant.

This song always reminded me of my grandfather – himself, a musician who played guitar, cello, concert harp, and violin. It is the content of the lyrics that remind me of old George as he believed at times he traveled to different astral plane – I guess he was a “Mystic Traveler.” I would have been interesting to meet him.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Doors: Light My Fire

Earlier this week Ray Manzarek, The Doors’ keyboardist, passed away from cancer. While we dedicated our Tuesday post to Manzarek, one of the band’s tunes fits our Thursday Repeats and Threepeats category. In most cases where a song is released more than once, the second take usually results in a higher chart position; however, for The Doors’ version of “Light My Fire” that was not the case.

Ray Manzarek is featured twice on “Light My Fire,” as he laid down a track with his Fender Rhodes keyboard bass and another track featuring his Vox Continental combo organ. Although the keyboards were recorded separately, Manzarek typically played the two instruments simultaneously. Like the rest of the The Doors’ debut LP, a four track reel-to-reel deck was utilized.

“Light My Fire” was the band’s second single release and their first to chart within the Hot 100. This 1967 release was The Doors’ highest charting single, as it held the number one slot for three weeks. When Jose Feliciano’s 1968 cover of the tune began to chart, Elektra Records re-released the single. It only made it to #87 on its second issue.

The original album version was a composite of two takes that were spliced together, but that is not the only notable aspect of this long album cut. When the album was mastered, the version of “Light My Fire” ended up being slower than it was originally recorded.

Although the single edit was released at the correct speed in the key of Am, the album version was slower and was just a bit sharp of Abm. When the album was remastered in 2006, the album version was corrected to its intended speed and key.

Like his solos on other recordings by The Doors, Ray Manzarek’s keyboard work on this classic tune is simply amazing.

Single Edit

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Wolfstone: The Bloody Bouzouki

For our Wooden Wednesday selection this week, we turn to Scotland – the home of the band Wolfstone. Today’s pick comes from their 2007 release “Terra Firma” and is entitled “The Bloody Bouzouki.” Despite the title, no bouzoukis were harmed in making this recording – there’s not one on the entire CD.

While a bouzouki is not present, Duncan Chisholm’s fiddle is prominently featured. “The Bloody Bouzouki” has two movements – the slower “Ben-Y-Vrackie” and the rock oriented and faster movement named the same as the suite – “The Bloody Bouzouki.”

This is a perfect example of what might be termed as Celtic-Rock. Enjoy and think of the highlands sans the bouzouki  – although as the title insinuates, it sounds more like Ireland than Scotland.  

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Ray Manzarek - Another Door Closed

Yesterday, I learned the unfortunate news of the passing of one of members of The Doors – keyboardist Ray Manzarek. At 74 years of age, Manzarek succumbed at a clinic in Germany where he was being treated for bile duct cancer. Along with Jim Morrison, Robbie Krieger, and John Densmore, the four were architects of a sound that helped define a generation.

Key to that sound was Ray Manzarek. One of the best examples of Manzarek’s keyboard talent is found on the last song recorded by the band, “Riders on the Storm.” Released as a single from their LP “L.A. Woman” just prior to Jim Morrison’s death in 1971, the single only peaked at #14, but it remains one of their best known tunes.

While credited to all the members of the band, Manzarek was the primary author having been inspired by the western tune “Ghost Riders in the Sky.” Unlike earlier recordings by the band which featured Manzarek on standard keyboard instruments and a Fender Rhodes keyboard bass, “L.A. Woman” used an actual session musician, Jerry Scheff, playing bass. He can be heard on this cut.

The song was written in E Dorian mode and Manzarek’s Fender Rhodes piano is integral to the song including imitating rain drops with his classic run down the keyboard – probably one the better known keyboard licks in all of rock music. Typical of the Rhodes, there is a little bit of distortion from the instrument.

Morrison’s vocals were recorded on two tracks – one in which he sung the main vocal line and another where he whispered the lyrics – creating a unique faux echo effect at the end of the tune. Add to this real sound effects of thunder and rain and the keyboard interplay with Robby Krieger’s guitar, the final mix created a haunting melody. I can’t imagine a world without Ray Manzarek – we are the fortunate ones to have heard him play and improvise. Long live his music. Rest in Peace Ray.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Johnny Cash: Hurt

I had completely forgotten about Johnny Cash’s cover of the Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” until my memory had been rekindled by the use of the song over the credits for the movie “Columbiana.” Song writer Trent Reznor commented that he was a bit skeptical about Johnny Cash doing the song, but when he saw the video, he commented “I just lost my girlfriend, because that song isn’t mine anymore.”

That was the key to the success of this 2003 cover version – Johnny Cash made it his own version. The video, shot 7 months before Cash’s death and 3 months prior to the death of June Carter, detailed the past successes and the present condition of Cash’s career and health. Even the Cash home where the video was shot had a shot life – succumbing to a fire just four years later.

The single was CMT’s Single of the Year in 2003, CMT’s Top Video of the Year for 2003, #1 on CMT’s 100 Greatest Country Videos, and was the only time Cash ever crossed over to Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks chart where it placed at #33.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Jerry Fielding & Jon Faddis: A Closer Look at A Closer Walk

It’s been a while since I had featured a Spiritual Sunday song. It wasn’t until recently that I discovered that Jon Faddis was the artist on “A Closer Look at A Closer Walk.” It was featured prominently in the Clint Eastwood film “The Gauntlet” and since I did a weekly jazz program, I stayed to the end of the credits trying to discover who the trumpeter was on this song. If Faddis was credited, I missed it.

I caught the title, but not the name of the artist as Jerry Fielding was listed as performer on all of the cuts. I saw the movie in Huntington, West Virginia in early 1978 and had forgotten about this cut until seeing the movie again several months ago. It is a great take on the old spiritual classic, “Just a Closer Walk with Thee.” This and a cup of coffee should get your Sunday moving.

By the way, the artwork for the movie poster and the soundtrack was done by one of my favorite artists: Frank Frazetta.  I wrote about Frazetta and his contributions to the music world back in 2010 when he passed away.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Kentucky Songs: The L&N Don't Stop Here Anymore

Our final tribute to Kentucky comes in the form of a song written by Jean Ritchie and one that I had featured two and half years ago by Kathy Mattea, “The L&N Don’t Stop Here Anymore.” I lamented in 2011 that Michelle Shocked’s version of the tune was not online; however, as I recently checked, it now is.

The song takes place in the county seat of Perry County, Kentucky – Hazard and the demise of the coal industry which was signified by the lack of local service by the L&N (Louisville & Nashville) Railroad in the community and by the rusting unused coal cars lined up on the tracks.

From Michelle Shocked’s 1988 LP “Short Sharp Shocked,” I became aware of her version from a cassette that Mercury Records sent me. Playing it in my car, I grew to love her version of “The L&N Don’t Stop Here Anymore.” I think it was primarily based on the Dobro® work by Al Perkins. The sparse recording features her guitar and vocal, frailing banjo by Banjo Jim Croce, and Perkins’ Dobro® as the lead instrument.

Although not released as the album’s two single releases, it became my favorite cut on the cassette. It also became my favorite version of the tune. I hope you like it too.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Kentucky Songs: Message to Michael

Today’s Kentucky related song had three different American titles on its various releases. Written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, the original title of the song was “Message to Martha” and was first recorded by Jerry Butler in 1962 for his 1963 album “Need to Belong.” It was released by Lou Johnson in 1964 under the title of “Kentucky Bluebird.” The biggest hit for the song, however, was when Dionne Warwick changed the focus of the song from a woman to a man and released it under the name of “Message to Michael.”


Although the songwriting team had signed Warwick as an artist, written numerous songs for her, and co-produced her recordings; lyricist Hal David was vehemently opposed to the changing of the sex of the song's title character and the use of the name of “Michael” – a name he disliked.

Warwick (no doubt using her Psychic Hotline Friends Network) realized the hit potential for her song and recorded it in Paris with a backing track that was originally intended for French singer Sacha Distel. Distel had passed on recording the song and Warwick used the track – which was much to the dismay of Bacharach and David. Blue Jac Productions, their company with Warwick, was given production credits; however, neither Bacharach nor David was present for the Paris recording session.

Bacharach and David acquiesced in allowing Scepter to release the song as a single; however, they insisted that it be relegated to a “B” side and not be promoted. Because New Orleans is mentioned in the opening lines of the tune, Scepter quietly promoted the song in that market, and when it became a hit there, the record was poised for national promotion.

Warwick was right. “Message to Michael” charted at #8 on the Hot 100 and #5 on the R&B charts. It proved to be Warwick’s first Top 10 record in two years and would bring Bacharach and David mucho dinero for songwriting and publishing royalties. It also proved to be the most popular version of the song as Butler’s recording was an album cut and Lou Johnson’s “Kentucky Bluebird” only peaked at #104.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Kentucky Songs: Kentucky Woman

Song number five in our tribute to Kentucky is the rerecording of the Neil Diamond classic “Kentucky Woman” by Deep Purple. The follow-up single to “Hush,” “Kentucky Woman” appeared on the band’s second album “The Book of Taliesyn.” Both the single and the album were released in the US on Tetragrammaton, a label that was partly owned by comedian/actor Bill Cosby.

The single was released in December 1968. Although it did not chart as high as Neil Diamond’s original, which peaked at #22, or as high as their debut single, Hush at #4; the single broke into the Top 40 peaking only as high as #38.

The band’s original line-up appear on this Deep Purple classic and includes vocalist Rod Evans, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, keyboardist Jon Lord, bassist Nick Simper, and drummer Ian Paice. As with most of their work, Blackmore and Lord have killer solos. Jon Lord utilized a Hammond organ with a Leslie rotating speaker cabinet.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Kentucky Songs: Kentucky Mandolin

Day four of our tribute to the Commonwealth of Kentucky – the U.S. has six entities branded as commonwealths – how many of the other five can you name? The answer will appear at the bottom of this post. For today’s special a little wooden newgrass from the Yonder Mountain String Band with their rendition of Bill Monroe’s “Kentucky Mandolin.”

While the song retains the feel of the original Monroe tune, it is an exercise in wonderful improvisation and instrumental expertise. Based out of Colorado, which has become a haven for acoustic artists, the Yonder Mountain String Band prominently features Jeff Austin on mandolin on this cut. Others in the band include Dave Johnston on banjo, Adam Aijala on flat-picking style guitar, and Ben Kaufmann on a solid body electric upright bass.

If these guys weren’t inspired by the classic line-up of Newgrass Revival, I can’t tell you who their influences are. I am also, however, tempted to throw in a hint of Dave Grissman into the mix as well. While their style would be categorized as heresy by the bluegrass purists, I think their sound is wonderful and I could listen to them all night long.

Besides the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the five other US commonwealths are Pennsylvania, Virginia, Massachusetts, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Mariana Islands. During the final years when the Philippines was a US territory, it also was a commonwealth from 1934-1946. Now, aren’t you glad you know that?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Kentucky Songs: Kentucky Rain

Continuing our second week of the month special featuring songs related to Kentucky, we turn to one of the chart hits that reference the Bluegrass State. Elvis’ 1970 release of “Kentucky Rain” was originally issued only as a single; however, several months later RCA included it on the four disc compilation album, “Worldwide 50 Gold Award Hits Vol. 1.”

Written by Eddie Rabbit and Dick Heard, the single was double crossover for The King. Peaking at #16 on the Hot 100, “Kentucky Rain” placed at #3 on the Adult Contemporary chart and at #31 on the Country chart. The song was recorded in Memphis in 1969 and featured Ronnie Milsap on piano.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Kentucky Songs: You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive

A little over three years ago on this blog, I featured Patty Loveless’ version of the Darrell Scott classic “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive.” During that post, I pretty much summed up all there could be said about the song – that was before I heard the latest recording of the tune by Dave Alvin.

You might remember Dave’s name from his stint in The Blasters as lead guitarist behind his brother Phil. He remained in that slot from 1979 to 1986 when he left the band to pursue other musical interests including a solo career.

On April 2 during the season finale of FX’s show “Justified,” Alvin’s version of “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” was featured. From the first chords of the song, you know his recording is different. It starts with a guitar using a vibrato/tremolo effect set on a slow setting. Hearing these first chords for the first time caused the hair on the back of my neck to stand on end.

The only time I’ve ever had this happen musically was another song that used a slow vibrato/tremolo setting on the guitar: The Viscount’s “Harlem Nocturne.” Although I had heard this song as a kid, it was during the Stephen King movie “Christine” when the 58 Plymouth Fury rebuilds itself that I had a similar experience. Although the scene was powerful, it was the song and its unique backward strum along with the vibrato/tremolo effect that caused the physical reaction.

Flash forward 30 years to when I first heard Dave Alvin’s version of Scott’s classic lament about Central Appalachia. Although the sound is quite different from The Viscounts, it evoked the same emotion. Alvin set out to record his version in a bluesy feel with only a hint of a “country” sound. The fiddle and the mandolin fulfill any connection to country. If you listen closely, you can also hear Alvin’s National “Style 0” steel bodied guitar.

In the forefront of song, however, are four electric guitar tracks – two rhythm guitars with tremolo – one in each channel, the tasty slide licks, and the killer lead in the middle of the song. A female vocalist harmonizes with Alvin’s gritty low voice. The voice that “Justified” producer Graham Yost said typified what he conceived as the musical voice of the show’s lead character Raylan Givens.

It is for that reason that Alvin’s music has been featured four times, including a cameo spot, on the show. It was not his only recording about Harlan that appeared on “Justified,” as his own composition of “Harlan County Line” also was featured. Additionally, it was not the only time “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Behind” was used on the show. Brad Paisley’s version was utilized in the season finales for both seasons one and two.

This week, I’m featuring songs that reference Kentucky and I cannot think of a better example than Dave Alvin’s unique treatment of “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive."

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Kentucky Songs: Kentucky Borderline

Did you miss me? I had to take a break from the blog – I was not feeling inspired to write anything during the past week, but I am ready to go now. About a month ago, I returned to the Commonwealth of Kentucky – in fact to the town of Grayson where I lived for five years from 1973-1978 to take a job at my alma mater, Kentucky Christian University.

In total, I lived nearly 8 years in the Bluegrass State – attending college at what is now KCU and then at Marshall University. During the period, I also worked at a variety of radio stations in the Tri-State Area. It has been a real Kentucky homecoming.

Every second week of the month, I feature seven days of songs that fit some sort of theme. For the month of May, I thought I might feature songs that reference Kentucky. Although Vincent is from Missouri, I decided to feature her and her band The Rage’s song “Kentucky Borderline.”

During my first semester of college in the fall of 1973, I owned 1964 Ford Fairlane 500.  Since it only had an AM radio, one of the few stations that could be heard clearly in Grayson and the surrounding area was the local outlet of WGOH. Because I had my afternoons free during my freshman year, I was frequently seen exploring the back roads of Carter and Boyd counties listening to the radio – and specifically to the late Carmel Stevens’ country music and bluegrass shows.

Having been transplanted from Pennsylvania, I had never heard bluegrass before and during this time I gained an affinity to this genre of acoustic music. Since I haven’t kept up with the bluegrass scene, I need to give credit where credit is due. A former coworker of mine, Jim Kandrach, turned me onto Vincent’s music (as well as a number of other eclectic artists) a few years ago. I’m pretty sure that I reciprocated.

Rhonda Vincent & the Rage put on an energetic show, as demonstrated by the accompanying video. I never quite understood bluegrass music’s affinity to the key of B, but it has been explained to me that it is great key in which to sing. I’ll have to try it some time. I’ve done Bb and C, but can’t say I’ve ever sung a song in B.

Playing in B on a string instrument is a challenge unless you use a capo at the fourth fret as does the Rage’s guitarist and banjo picker. Rhonda, however, does not and does fine on mandolin. Of course, the fiddler and bassist couldn’t capo their instruments if they wanted to do so.

Now You See It

This particular recording was a composite of at least two performances in the same venue probably on the same day. How can I tell? That’s the mystery that I will reveal. Watch the neck of the guitarist. In some shots, he has a pink pick stuck in strings below the capo, but not in others.

Now you Don't
Before his solo, it is missing – but it magically appears and disappears during his solo. There are four shots of the solo. It’s present in the first and last shots, but not in two shots in the middle. I know he’s fast, but no one is that fast to be able to move that pick around. During the remainder of the video, it’s present in some shots and not in others. Either the video editors missed it or they assumed no one would notice it.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Moody Blues: For My Lady

Released in 1972, “Seventh Sojourn” happened to be The Moody Blues’ eighth album and its follow-up “Octave” was actually the ninth by the band. The counting of albums eliminated the band’s debut album, “The Magnificent Moodies,” that contained Denny Laine and Clint Warwick. Instead, the official enumeration began with the enlistment of Justin Hayward and John Lodge and their landmark release of "Days of Future Passed" in 1967.

“Seventh Sojourn” was the album that brought us today’s Friday Flipside, “For My Lady.” Written and sung by the Moodies’ flautist, Ray Thomas, it was one of his most memorable songs and is in a completely different style than the “A” side: “I’m Just a Singer in A Rock N’ Roll Band.”

While it sounds like an accordion on the number, it is a Chamberlin – the precursor to the better known Mellotron. With the exception of Ray Thomas’ flute, all of the orchestral and keyboard sounds were produced by the Chamberlin by Mike Pinder.

Working on the same principle as a Mellotron, a bank of tapes with instrument sounds for each note rotated on a loop and when a key was depressed, a tape head came in contact with the tape loop.

Joining Thomas and Pinder, Justin Hayward played acoustic guitar, John Lodge bass, and Graeme Edge on drums and percussion. Hayward, Lodge, and Pinder all provided back-up vocals. The song remains one of the most beautiful love songs recorded by the band.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Beatles: From Me To You

Our Thursday Repeats and Threepeats feature looks at songs that have been released more than once. Today’s feature is a classic Beatles’ recording that was released in the US on the Vee-Jay label. When Capitol Records passed on the option to release The Beatles’ “Please Please Me” album in the US, a Chicago area independent label picked up the option to release these early recordings by the Fab Four.

While Vee-Jay and its subsidiary Tollie Records released a number of Beatles’ singles in 1963, it wasn’t until the success of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” in February 1964 that the Vee-Jay singles took off in sales. One of these singles, “From Me to You,” made it to the charts twice.

As the second proper Beatles’ US release in May 1963, it gained momentum as it was a radio favorite in Los Angeles and peaked at #116 in August 1963. The single was originally issued as the “A” side with “Thank you Girl” as the flipside.

When Beatlemania hit in 1964, “From Me to You” was reissued by Vee-Jay as the “B” side to “Please Please Me.” “Please Please Me’s” original Vee-Jay release had “Ask Me Why” as its flip. Because Vee-Jay wanted to flood the market with singles to capitalize on The Beatles’ popularity in early 1964, there are many label variations for the single, as numerous pressing plants were being used to meet the demand of consumers.

While the resurrected “Please Please Me” charted at #3, radio stations began flipping the record and playing “From Me To You.” Its second time around landed the song at the #41 slot. Over one million copies of the single were sold.

The single is credited as a McCartney-Lennon composition rather than the typical Lennon-McCartney scenario. While later Lennon-McCartney songs often were written by one of the duo, “From Me To You” was truly a combined effort. One of the highlights of the single is John Lennon’s harmonica.

The year 1964 was an interesting year for Beatles’ recordings as singles were issued by a number of labels including Capitol, Vee-Jay, Tollie, Swan, ATCO, and MGM. They probably hold the record for the number of singles' labels in a given year – and they rest they say is history.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Pete Townshend: Save It For Later

Last week with our feature on I.R.S. Records, I discovered a rendition of an English Beat (AKA The Beat) song that had been performed both live and recorded in the studio by Pete Townshend of The Who. The basics of the song “Save it for Later” was written by Dave Wakeling when he was about 18 years old and it finally made it to vinyl on the final album by The Beat/The English Beat named “Special Beat Service” that was released in 1983.

One evening while Wakeling was entertaining guests, he received a phone call from Townshend who wanted to know what tuning was used on the song as he wanted to perform it. Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour was with Townshend at the time and their combined knowledge of the guitar, which is extensive, could not successfully determine how Wakeling played the tune.

Realizing that a modal tuning was employed, they attempted to play the song on the popular DADGAD tuning, but it just didn’t sound right. Wakeling explained that he intended to use DADGAG but had mis-tuned the guitar to DADAAD. The two “As” on the second and third string were in unison. This gave the tune its unique sound. Apparently, as Townshend explains on the live version of the song, The Velvet Underground also employed this tuning at times.

For our Wooden Music Wednesday, we feature that master of the guitar Pete Townshend with both a live and a studio version of this song. He really does it justice and I like it much better than the original.

Live Version by Pete Townshend's Deep End

Recorded live at Brixton Academy in London on February 11, 1985, its lineup include an all star cast of performers including David Gilmour, Rabbit Bundrick, Simon Phillips, The Kick Horns, and many others. I love Tim Sanders’ tenor sax solo on this number.  It appeared on the LP "Pete Townshend's Deep End Live."


Studio Version

The studio version of the song was recorded during the sessions for the original album of “White City: A Novel” that was released in 1985. It did not make the final cut for the vinyl release. In 2006, the song was resurrected as a bonus track for the CD version of the album. This version has more of a Who sound to it with the piano that joins midway through the cut. “Save it for Later” was probably cut from the original as ATCO had released it on the live album.