Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sister Rosetta Tharpe: My Journey To The Sky

I love this recording by Sister Rosetta Tharpe and although it predates my birth, it is worth inclusion here. Tharpe recorded “My Journey to the Sky” in 1948 and was released by Decca Records in the US and Brunswick in the UK as the flip side of “Up Above My Head.” The song features Sister Tharpe on lead vocals and a National Triolian guitar, Marie Knight on contralto harmony vocals, and the Sam Price Trio supplying the piano, bass, and drums.  I do a version of this song based on Sister Rosetta's arrangement.

Mistakenly, the label lists Sister Rosetta Tharpe as the author of the tune; however, she was not. The song was written by Dorothy Austin of the Austin Gospel Singers of Toledo, Ohio. Austin dedicated the song to her grandmother, Mrs. Belle F. Woods. It was published in 1944 by the Austin Studio of Gospel Music whose rights were administered by Martin and Morris of Chicago. This predates Tharpe’s recording by four years – and the earlier date would have been significant had any litigation occurred to prove that Austin and not Tharpe was the author.

There are several scenarios that could have caused the misidentification of the song’s author. One, Decca Records may have assumed that the tune was a Tharpe original and applied the credit incorrectly. Second, Sister Tharpe could have stolen the tune outright and misrepresented herself as the author. Third, Sister Tharpe heard the song and performed it for a period of several years and actually believed she had written it.

Her version deviates slightly from the Austin original and it appears that she had heard the song and began performing it in her own style. The truth on the misidentification will probably never be known. Although Sister Rosetta’s guitar is present, it is difficult to hear. It is a great gospel recording nonetheless and worthy for inclusion as a Spiritual Sunday selection. 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Apple Records: Try Some, Buy Some

One of the conditions of Phil Spector’s relationship with Apple Records was that the label would help reinvigorate his wife’s career. A condition that The Beatles apparently accepted, as several of the Fab Four were fans of Ronnie Spector’s music as the Ronettes’ lead singer.

The 1971 single “Try Some, Buy Some” backed with “Tandoori Chicken” was Ronnie Spector’s only output on the label. George Harrison wrote “Try Some, Buy Some” while “Tandoori Chicken” was co-authored by Harrison and Phil Spector. The two songs could not be more different with “Tandoori Chicken” sounding more like a 50s rocker with “Try Some, Buy Some” a more melancholy recording with very confusing lyrics.

It has been said that “Try Some, Buy Some” was Harrison’s personal disillusionment with organized religion and was inspired by messages of televangelists. Others have speculated that the song was about drugs or even prostitution. Ronnie Spector has admitted that the song was difficult to learn and sing. She cited that one of the reasons was that she did not understand what Harrison was trying to say lyrically. That makes several of us.

The production is fantastic, as Phil Spector employed his famous “Wall of Sound” technique. The single only made it to #77 on the American charts and failed to chart in the Top 50 in Britain. It was probably due to the public’s interpretation that the song was about drugs and that alone kept it from performing better chart wise.

Personally, I like “Tandoori Chicken” much better and it may have had a better run – as during the period there was a resurgence and revival of old rock and roll shows and the public were clamoring for less cerebral music. The only thing against “Tandoori Chicken” as an "A" side in 1971 is the subject matter. The average recorded buyer probably never had or even heard of this spicy bright red/pink Indian dish. I’ll probably feature “Tandoori Chicken” as a Friday Flipside in the future, as it is a great but simple rock tune.

While “Try Some, Buy Some” failed to reinvigorate Ronnie Spector’s career, the tracks used in her recording were recycled by George Harrison for his 1973 “Living in the Material World” album. Although used the same recording, Harrison mixed the tracks differently.

Well known musicians appearing on the backing tracks included Gary Wright and Leon Russell on keyboards, Klaus Voormann and Carl Radle on bass, Jim Gordon on Drums, and Harrison and Badfinger’s Pete Ham on acoustic guitar. John Barnham provided the choral and orchestral arrangements. The orchestra contained mandolins, strings, brass, a harp, and percussion.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Apple Records: Apple Scruffs

In November 1970, George Harrison laid down the tracks for today’s Apple Records’ song which also qualifies as a Friday Flipside. The song “Apple Scruffs” was a tribute to hard-core Beatlemaniacs that traipsed around London looking for one of the Fab Four. They were at their most active during period when The Beatles were transitioning from a band to solo musicians.

The Apple Scruffs’ primary home was the front steps of The Beatles’ business venture Apple Corps or just outside the studios where one or several of the band were involved in recording sessions. Their name, which they embraced, was coined by George Harrison.

Originally The Beatles were annoyed by their presence, but later they grew to accept and somewhat appreciate these fans. The song appeared on George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” album (which had an orange apple label) and was the flipside to “What is Life” – the album’s second single.

With “Apple Scruffs” appearing as the “B” side to a single that charted at #10 in 1971, it got plenty exposure in the US including being flipped by DJs and garnishing a minimal amount of airtime in the process. The recording was primarily Harrison on lead and back-up vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica, and double tracked slide guitars. Beatles’ road manager Mal Evans can be heard playing a wood block on the cut.

I always thought that Harrison used an octave Echo Harp on this cut, but I can’t be certain. It appears though that he is playing a harmonica in the key of “A” in the first position – a style utilized by Dylan and a number of folk performers. Blues harmonica players (among others) prefer second position that utilizes a harmonica in one key to play in a key a fifth higher.

This primarily acoustic track is often compared to Bob Dylan’s style – presumably because of the acoustic guitar and the harmonica. In my book, the comparison ends there.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Apple Records: Back Off Boogaloo

One of the first Apple singles I remember purchasing was Ringo Starr’s “Back off Boogaloo” in 1972. It is also the only US release on Apple that was issued on some releases with a blue apple on the label. I was oblivious of the blue label until the early 80s when I saw one owned by a collector friend of mine. I was not aware that it even existed. After seeing the initial one, I originally thought that the blue label was a mistake due to a lack of yellow ink in the CMYK printing process.

Jacksonville, Illinois pressing

I later learned that pressings from the Jacksonville, IL Capitol plant issued many, if not all, of the blue apple labels. It was only when I discovered that most foreign pressings had the blue label that I realized that the color was intentional. I did not procure one until my friend John Sellards so graciously gave me a copy in the late 80s or early 90s. All the versions I’ve seen pressed at Los Angeles; Winchester, VA; and Scranton, PA have variations of the green apple label blank; however, it is possible that they also issued some blue versions as well.

Winchester, Virginia pressing

I opted to buy this single, as it was a non-album cut until it was released on his greatest hits LP, “Blast from your Past,” in 1975. That album was the second US release with a red apple label – the first being “Let it Be” by The Beatles. “Let it Be” was issued on the Apple label, but by United Artists and not Capitol; therefore, a label color distinction was made. The UK versions of “Let it Be” had the traditional green label.

Later in 1972 when I began collecting Apple releases, I was able to purchase some of the relatively unknown recordings from the label – which pretty much categorized most of the 80+ or so American singles on Apple.

Ringo wrote “Back off Boogaloo” after having dinner with Marc Bolan of T. Rex who used the word “boogaloo” a number of times during the evening’s conversation. Besides Ringo on drums and vocals, George Harrison plays slide guitar, Klaus Voormann was on bass, and Gary Wright of Spooky Tooth handled keyboards. Madeline Bell, Lesley Duncan, and Jean Gilbert were brought in for back-up vocals. The single was produced by Harrison.

Ringo later re-recorded the song in 1981 for his “Stop and Smell the Roses” album released on the ill-fated “Boardwalk” label. The original 1972 release peaked at #9 on the Hot 100 and #2 in the UK.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Apple Records: Something In The Way She Moves

By the title of this post, I imagine a number of folks will expect that I am featuring George Harrison’s composition released by The Beatles that has a similar title. Today’s post, however, is an album cut from James Taylor’s only album on the Apple label. There is a connection between the two songs, as George Harrison was inspired to write his tune because of the title of Taylor’s song.

James Taylor was signed to Apple Records by the label's A&R Director Peter Asher – a man who could have been Paul McCartney’s brother-in-law had things turned out differently between Paul and Jane Asher. Asher also was the Peter of Peter and Gordon who released four Beatles compositions (“World Without Love,” “Nobody I Know,” “I Don’t Want to See You Again,” and “Woman”) as singles. Peter Asher produced the album which began his journey from performer to producer.

A friend  of Taylor's delivered a demo to Asher who played the tape for McCartney and both agreed that Taylor was to be signed to the budding record label. His self-titled debut was recorded at London’s Trident Studios during the same time period as The Beatles’ “White Album” was being recorded in a studio in the same complex. The album was released in the US in February 1969. It contained a gatefold cover that was issued with flimsier cardboard than most Capitol pressings.

While “Carolina in my Mind” was the single release, I prefer “Something in the Way She Moves.” The working title for the song was “I Feel Fine,” but Taylor changed it to avoid confusion with The Beatles’ song of the same name. That didn’t stop George Harrison from borrowing the line, “Something in the Way She Moves” for his composition. Taylor’s album only peaked at #62 in the US. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Apple Records: Instant Karma!

Almost akin to mass produced goods, John Lennon’s “Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)” was a recording that progressed at phenomenal speed from its writing to becoming a hit. John Lennon awoke on the morning of January 28, 1970 with an idea of a song and quickly composed “Instant Karma!” Lennon called up Phil Spector who was working on George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” album and encouraged him to help him record this song that very day.

Harrison got Spector to the studio and assembled a band together that included Lennon, Harrison, Klaus Voormann, Alan White, Billy Preston, Yoko Ono, and Mal Evans to record the original tracks of the song. The final version took 10 takes and Spector worked his magic with his legendary “Wall of Sound.” The background vocals were recorded by The Beatles’ manager Allen Klein and some folks Billy Preston met at a London nightclub that he later brought to the studio. True to Lennon’s wishes, a 50s slap back echo was used.

The single was released in the UK on February 6 and Spector, without Lennon’s knowledge, remixed the single for an American release on February 20. The song peaked at #3 on Billboard’s Hot 100 on March 7. It was the first million seller solo release by any of the four members of The Beatles. While Lennon posthumously earned two gold records in 1981 with releases on Geffen Records; “Instant Karma!” was his only solo gold record on the Apple imprint. 

Lennon was identified as John Ono Lennon on this single and is the only US 45 where he was listed as such. Lennon had recently changed his middle name from “Winston” to “Ono.” There were two primary label versions of the single – one with the Plastic Ono Band listed and the other without.

Typically, due to pressing plant differences, you’ll find multiple variations of printing style and in the label blanks. Some Beatles collectors will try and find all of the variations of a particular recording. As for my own collection, I was happy just to have as many of the Apple releases as possible – including this one.  As the single instructs, “Play Loud.”

Monday, June 24, 2013

Apple Records: No Matter What

For our second selection in our tribute to Apple Records, we turn to my favorite act on the label outside The Beatles (collectively and individually). Badfinger originally signed to the label as The Iveys and produced one album under that name and would record four albums as Badfinger for Apple.

“No Matter What” appeared on their second Badfinger album, “No Dice.” Several versions of “No Matter What” were recorded; however, the version recorded in April 1970 made it to release in October of the same year.

Mal Evans, the former road manager for The Beatles, produced the record. Evans, like others associated with Badfinger, died a tragic death; however, suicide did not claim his life as it did Band members Pete Ham and Tom Evans (no relation). Mal Evans was killed by Los Angeles police in 1976. He was in a crazed state and was waiving an air rifle. Supposing that Evans had an actual weapon, police shot and killed him.

“No Matter What” was not slated for release until executives at Apple’s New York office requested its issue as a single. It was a good choice, as it was the band’s third most popular single in the US. It peaked at #8 and was only outpaced by “Come and Get It” at #7 and “Day After Day” at #4. The song was authored and sung by the late Pete Ham.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Apple Records: That's The Way God Planned It

Being the fourth week of the month, Reading Between the Grooves features another record label. This month we feature Apple Records which was started as a creative outlet for The Beatles’ own recordings as well as for acts they had signed.

Non-Beatle releases (including the solo recordings of John, Paul, George, and Ringo) in the US were numbered sequentially with an 18XX numbering system (1800-1885); however, since The Beatles remained under contract with Capitol Records, their group releases retained Capitol catalog numbers. The label was initially active in the US from 1968 to 1975.

The label’s four initial singles were released simultaneously in the US on August 26, 1968. They included The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” (2276), John Foster & Sons Black Dyke Mills Band’s “Thingumybob” (1800), Mary Hopkins’ “Those were the Days” (1801), and Jackie Lomax’s “Sour Milk Sea” (1802).

While we featured Billy Preston’s live recording of “That’s the Way God Planned It” from “The Concert for Bangladesh,” we have not featured the single release from July 1969. Although Preston’s had a long term association with The Beatles and had been listed along with the Fab Four on the “Get Back” single, this was not enough to propel his debut single with the label into the Top 40. “That’s the Way God Planned It” only made it to #62 on the Hot 100.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Who: Eminence Front

The other night I was watching the show “Person of Interest” and I immediately recognized The Who’s “Eminence Front” in a crucial part of the show. I hadn’t heard this tune in decades, but remember it well from the 1982 album “It’s Hard.” The song was the second of the three singles released from the album.

While the single failed to make a dent on the Top 40 charts by peaking at #68, it charted at #5 on the Mainstream Rock chart. Unlike most of The Who’s songs, “Eminence Front” was not sung by Roger Daltry, but rather by lead guitarist and composer Pete Townshend.

The song is known for its sequenced synthesizer as the glue that holds the song together. While Townshend, bassist John Entwistle, and sideman Tim Gorman are credited with playing the synthesizer on the album, the synthesizer on this song is not credited; however, it is reminiscent of Townshend’s earlier work with the instrument. Gorman plays the electric piano part.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Rest in Peace Slim Whitman & Give Elvis "All My Best"

He influenced countless numbers of performers including The Beatles and Michael Jackson, but to many in my generation he remained an enigma from the past. For those older than me, they remember his early performances on radio and television. Those younger than me were introduced to the dulcet tones of Slim Whitman as they became the weapon of choice against alien invaders in “Mars Attacks.” My generation’s collective memory will be inextricably tied to Suffolk Marketing’s per-inquiry TV ads for his album “All My Best.”

Released by Liberty Special Products with a very flimsy cover, the album propelled Whitman once again into the spotlight, was responsible for reinvigorating his career, and it sold 1.5 million units. Not bad for a singer who was on the road to being washed up by 1979. Somehow, and I do not remember how, I procured a copy of this album. I didn’t buy it, so it must have been a gift, but I wouldn’t part with it.

For all of its kitsch, it is a pretty good album – if you like that sort of thing, and strangely enough, I do. My wife would kill me though if I ever played it in her presence and I know she will react in a negative manner to this post as well. But then again, there is no accounting for my taste at times.

My best memory regarding Slim Whitman is tied to my years in radio in the Huntington, WV market. I often hung out at the Tri-State’s Top 40 powerhouse WKEE-FM in the wee hours of the morning. One of the jocks, Greg Smith – who was arguably the funniest guy I’ve ever known, would often sneak in “Indian Love Call” at about 3 AM. The Program Director and General Manager were asleep and the members of the morning crew were not yet awake. I just have to wonder if any Martians were harmed in the process.

“Indian Love Call” was Slim Whitman’s fourth single. Released in 1952, it was one of his few recordings to crossover to the pop charts where it peaked at #9. The song was from the 1924 opera “Rose-Marie” and was originally known simply as “The Call.” He would later record “Rose Marie” from the same opera in 1954.

“Indian Love Call” was Whitman’s highest charting crossover – the three others barely scratched the surface and charted at #134, #123, and #93 respectively. Its position on the country chart at #2 tied with his 1954 release of “Secret Love” making the two his most popular country charting hits.

I’ve said all of this to report that Slim Whitman passed away on Wednesday of a heart attack. He was 90 years old and eternity has a new yodeler among its midst. Not everyone makes it to these pages, but Slim Whitman now has. Rest in Peace, and give The King “All My Best.”

Thursday, June 20, 2013

John Denver with Fat City: Take Me Home, Country Roads

Happy Birthday West Virginia! Today is the 150th anniversary of the founding of the State of West Virginia, which was born out of the conflict known as the American Civil War. “Take Me Home, Country Roads” is probably the best known song that mentions West Virginia, and it made it to #2 during the summer of 1971.

While the geography of the song is better suited to northern Virginia, it didn’t stop the song from being popular in neighboring West Virginia. Only one county in the Mountain State is home to the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah River is the most easterly portion of the state in Jefferson County. While West Virginia received the mention and the geographic references were of Virginia, the inspiration was Montgomery County, Maryland. Go figure.

The song was primarily written by Bill Danoff and his wife at the time Taffy Nivert. Danoff and Nivert performed as a duo named Fat City. Later in the mid 1970s, the duo grew to a quartet called the Starland Vocal Band. Fat City was opening for John Denver in Washington, DC where he had heard their song. Denver later did some editing of the lyrics and became a collaborator in the writing of the eventual hit.

While it was a slow climb up the charts, it satisfactorily launched Denver’s mainstream popularity. The song appeared on “Poems, Prayers & Promises” – his fifth album and fourth with a major label, RCA Records. I hope this is a fitting treatment to the state that I made my home temporarily during the summers of 1975 and 1976 and permanently from 1981 to 2013.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Featuring Toots Thielemans: Hello It's Me

I bet you thought that you were going to hear Todd Rundgren on this cut, but alas no harmonica was used on his version of "Hello It's Me" from the 1972 album “Something/Anything?” For that matter, not even the Nazz's original version had harmonica. Today’s live rendition comes from Mark King, the bassist and lead vocalist from Level 42. He achieved his goal of playing live with one of his idols: Toots Thielemans.

Toots outshines himself on this cut, as does King. If you notice, King is not the only individual on stage playing bass. There is another bassist (as if he needs another bassist) handling the rhythm of the bottom end. This freed up King to play more of the role of an accompanist and allowed him to play bass chords and some leads as well. This is a really nice rendition of an old classic.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Featuring Toots Thielemans: Too Late For Goodbyes

Despite the video intimating that Julian Lennon was playing harmonica on 1984’s “Too Late for Goodbyes,” it was actually Toots Thielemans playing a chromatic harmonica. I’m not sure Lennon even had a harmonica in his hand in the video, as it is never seen. He may be just cupping his hands to appear that he is playing.  Unfortunately, he quits “playing” with two notes remaining. If he had a harmonica, it would have been a smaller diatonic harmonica as it would have fit within his hands.

From the album “Valotte,” “Too Late for Goodbyes” was Lennon’s second single release in the US; however, it was the first in the UK. The single peaked in Billboard during March 1985 at #5 and crossed over to adult contemporary radio where it became a number one record.

Not only was it Julian Lennon’s biggest hit, it was also the highest charting record that featured Toots Thielemans. Unfortunately, he was just given seven measures for a solo which was simple by Toots’ normal standard.

The video was directed by Sam Peckinpah who is best known for his work on 1969’s “The Wild Bunch.” Seeing it again in 2013, I have to beg the question, “Was that the GEICO Caveman in the doorway?” It certainly looks him.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Featuring Toots Thielemans: Velas

In 1981, Quincy Jones released his platinum album “The Dude.” Three singles were issued to pop radio from the album and all three charted on the Top 40 charts. “Ai No Corrida” peaked at #28, “Just Once” at #17, and “One Hundred Ways” charted at #14. The latter two songs featured James Ingram who went on to be a star in his own right.

In addition to these three hit singles, a 12-inch of “Ai No Corrida,” “Razzamataz,” and “Betcha Wouldn’t Hurt Me” was issued to clubs and R&B radio. The three songs simultaneously charted at #3 on the dance charts; as for R&B radio, “Ai No Corrida” charted at #10 and “Razzamataz” at #17. The album peaked at #10 on Billboard’s Top 200 Albums chart. “The Dude” won four Grammy awards. In addition, yours truly was awarded a platinum album from A&M Records for helping the album achieve its success.

Today’s song was not one of the hit singles; however, the instrumental “Velas” featured Toots Thielemans whistling and playing the chromatic harmonica – but not simultaneously. Brazilian artist Ivan Lins co-wrote the song with Vitor Martins. Lins’ version of “Velas Içadas” contained lyrical content and a vocal track. Being in Portuguese may have inspired Jones to record it solely as an instrumental.

While “Velas” was not a hit recording for Quincy Jones, it does showcase Thielemans best known musical attributes.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Featuring Toots Thielemans: Leave A Tender Moment Alone

Our third example featuring Toots Thielemans is a 1983 hit by Billy Joel – “Leave a Tender Moment Alone.” Joel wrote the songs for “An Innocent Man” –  an album he recorded following his divorce from his first wife and was feeling a bit nostalgic for his teenage years. The songs on this album all have a flavor that hints at the primal years of rock ‘n roll.

“Leave a Tender Moment Alone,” which hinted at a more relaxed version of pop music, was the fifth of six singles released from “An Innocent Man.” It was the only one of the six that didn’t chart within the top 20, as it peaked at #27. Its softer side though brought the single to the number one slot on the Adult Contemporary charts.

Playing the solo on the intro and the solo proper is chromatic harmonica virtuoso Toots Thielemans. Good stuff from the harmonica master.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Featuring Toots Thielemans: Midnight Cowboy

When John Barry was hired to do the score for the movie “Midnight Cowboy,” he chose to feature instrumentalist Toots Thielemans to play harmonica on the movie’s main theme song. The single even named Thielemans under Barry’s name. The song was quite successful, as Barry received a Grammy award for the best instrumental theme for the song; however, the chart success of his versionwas less than spectacular, as it peaked at #116 on Billboard’s singles’ chart.

A cover of the tune, however, was a Top 10 hit. Arthur Ferrante and Louis Teicher’s treatment of the song was issued on United Artists Records – the same company that released the movie and makes me wonder if UA had a part in releasing the song before Barry’s official soundtrack was released on the competing Columbia label. I find it unusual that United Artists didn’t release the soundtrack in the first place, but have no idea why this transpired.

The original and the cover differ. Toots Thielemans’ harmonica was the main instrument on the original while the pianos of Ferrante & Tiecher and the guitar of Vinnie Bell shared lead duties on the cover. Bell’s guitar has a unique under water quality to it. Very unusual, but we are featuring the original recording, which I find as the superior version despite its lack of chart success.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Featuring Toots Thielemans: Bluesette

I’ve been playing harmonica for 40 years this year and have never attempted playing a chromatic harp until this week. It is difficult, and it will be a lengthy process for me learn how to manipulate this massive instrument. One reason I’ve never attempted this in the past is the shear price of one – about eight to ten times the cost of a standard diatonic harmonica, but I found a used instrument in good shape for the cost of a sale priced diatonic. Let the good times roll.

Toots Thielemans is a master of the chromatic harmonica and has been heard on countless recordings for seven decades. Lesser known are his abilities as a guitarist and whistler often playing runs and whistling the same melody simultaneously a skill he honed as a member of Charlie Parker’s All Stars and the George Shearing Quintet.

But I digress, you may not recognize his name, but you’ve heard this Belgian musician numerous times. Remember the Old Spice commercials? That’s Toots’ whistling. How about the theme for CTW’s Sesame Street – the harmonica parts are courtesy of Mr. Thielemans. This week we dedicate the blog to the musical output of Toots Thielemans who at 91 years of age is still going strong.

His only international hit under his own name was released in 1962 and “Bluesette” quickly became a jazz standard. ABC-Paramount released the album “The Whistler and His Guitar” the same year. I got a copy of this LP around 1971 and was amazed by his talent – not knowing at the time about his already well-known reputation on the harmonica. I already featured a version of “Bluesette” where Toots and Stevie Wonder play a harmonica duet live. But alas, I’ve never featured the original until now.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Traffic: Shanghai Noodle Factory

“Last Exit” was the third album by the band Traffic; however, it was a conglomeration of various tracks that Island records in the UK collected and released. This was done to fulfill the band’s recording contract after they broke up the first time. In the US, the LP was issued on United Artists as Island did not yet have a North American presence.

“Shanghai Noodle Factory” was one of those songs, and although it was the flip side of “Medicated Goo” in the UK, it was not the flip in the US – that was relegated to “Pearly Queen” from the previous self-titled album. I include it here as it did garner some album airplay and it is one of my favorite cuts on “Last Exit.” The song was written when Dave Mason was in the band (the second of three times); however, it was recorded after he left Traffic for the second time. “Last Exit” was released in May 1969.

The song was credited to all four band members, producer Jimmy Miller, and songwriter/arranger Larry Fallon. While Fallon worked with a number of bands, I am not sure what his connection with Traffic was at this time as his name only appears on the songwriting credits of this song and nothing else on the album. The UK single only lists Winwood and Capaldi as writers.

As with many of the Traffic releases as a three part band, it showcases Stevie Winwood on vocals, keyboards, bass, and guitar. Not to be outdone, the late Chris Wood plays stellar flute as well and the late Jim Capaldi provided drums, percussion, and backing vocals.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Nilsson: Gotta Get Up

If you have the album “Nilsson Schmilsson” by Harry Nilsson, then you are familiar with today’s Friday Flipside selection: “Gotta Get Up.” Released in 1971, the song was the album’s lead track and the “B” side to his cover of Badfinger’s “Without You.”


The “A” side resonated with audiences over the world and was a number one hit in the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, and Ireland. It was Nilsson’s most popular single and his only number one record in most of those countries. The only exception was “Everybody’s Talkin’,” which was a #1 hit in Canada. In addition, “Without You” charted at the top position on the US Adult Contemporary chart.

“Gotta Get Up” received its fair share of airplay even though it never charted on its own. It featured a star-studded cast of musicians that included the following:

  • Harry Nilsson – piano & vocals
  • Klaus Voorman – bass
  • Chris Spedding – guitar
  • Jim Gordon and Jim Keltner – drums
  • Richard Perry – percussion
  • Henry Klein – accordion
  • Jim Price – trumpet and trombone

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Episode 1200 - Arlo Guthrie: Coming Into Los Angeles

Today’s post marks our 1,200th edition of this blog and before we summarize the activity of this blog, we’ll head to today’s musical selection. Not as famous as “The City of New Orleans” or “Alice’s Restaurant,” Arlo Guthrie’s ode to counter-culture activity is probably his third best known recording.

From his 1969 album “Running Down the Road,” “Coming into Los Angeles” increased in popularity as it was one of the songs Arlo performed live at Woodstock later that year. According to Geoff Boucher of the LA Times who got the story from Arlo, the song chronicles a late 60s flight from London to Los Angeles by Mr. Guthrie.

While on the flight, he opened up his suitcase to find that someone from London included a present of a couple of kilos of contraband. Needless to say, Arlo was extremely nervous especially when he was going to go through customs. Apparently, as the song doesn’t record an arrest or any harassment, he was able to re-enter the US with the unnamed illegal substance.

Boucher explained the line in the song about the “Chickens flying everywhere around the plane.” It refers the extreme turbulence the plane experienced on its flight over the Arctic and the stewardesses were dropping chicken dinners in the process.

About two weeks ago a friend and I were talking about Arlo’s music and I remembered this song. I hadn’t heard it in years and it is perfect for our Wooden Music Wednesday feature as Arlo plays an acoustic guitar throughout the tune. The fine electric guitar leads were courtesy of Clarence White of The Byrds.

RBTG’s 1,200th Post Retrospect

Like I had reported with every other 100th post anniversary, 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 67 declared followers of the blog – up from 59 in January. There are many others who have visited frequently without declaring themselves as followers. The statistics are listed below:

Unique Visitors113,311
Times Visited125,553
Number of Pages Viewed184,355
People Visiting 200+ Times1,695
People Visiting 101-200 Times790
People Visiting 51-100 Times609
People Visiting 26-50 Times585
Number of Visitor Countries Represented175
Percentage of Visitors Referred from Search Engines63.3%
Percentage of Visitors Referred from Other Sites26.4%
Percentage of Visitors via Direct Access10.3%

The Top Ten Charts

On January 28/29, 2013, Google apparently changed its algorithm on how it counts visitors for sites using its analytics feature. There was a marked drop of page views on January 29 to levels that were lower than two years ago. January 29 also was the date of our 1100th post.

Because of this, we will not be bringing you the Top 10 charts for songs and dates, as these will no doubt remain static because the current numbers are unusually low. The overall numbers are up and we have more dedicated followers; however, this is not translating in the daily page view category. We will only be able to provide the Top Ten Visitor Countries.

The Top Ten Visitor Countries

The rankings remain static when compared to the previous two anniversaries; however, Spain is poised to take the ninth spot soon. Three new countries and territories were added since January 2013. They include one from Europe (Kosovo), one from the Caribbean (Guadeloupe), and one from Oceania (Solomon Islands).

1United States60,629
2United Kingdom10,351

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.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Amy LaVere: If Love Was A Train

There several female stand-up bass players out there, but it is always interesting to encounter another one, as it is an unlikely feminine instrument. Not being sexist, it’s just the size of the monster that typically is found in the larger hands of the male of the species. The ladies who have made the acoustic bass their instrument of choice have reveled in it and have made it their own. Amy LaVere is one of those bassists.

From her 2009 EP “Died of Love,” Amy LaVere tackles Michelle Shocked’s “If Love Were A Train” with a rockabilly flair. LaVere’s vocals remind me of Ellen Jewell – they have similar phrasing; however, Jewell’s voice is lower. This is a great little cut and showcases her former lead guitarist Steve Selvidge.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Capricorn Records: Southbound

I got tied up with being the chauffeur for the kids and cutting the grass that I nearly forgot to post my final salute to Capricorn Records. In the early days of the label, there was no label per se. The first five albums were issued on ATCO with the designation as “Capricorn Records Series.” The sixth Capricorn album was the initial album on Capricorn Records proper in 1971.

UK ACTO/Capricorn Series jacket

While foreign releases of Alex Taylor’s “With Friends and Neighbors” were still issued on ATCO or even Atlantic with the “Capricorn Series” designation, the US version was first album to sport a pink Capricorn label. Alex Taylor was the oldest of the singing Taylor siblings, that included James, Livingston, and Kate; he had joined his younger brother Livingston as a Capricorn recording artist.

Brother James Taylor provided two songs for the album and added his guitar. The album also featured the duo of Scott Boyer and Tommy Talton, better known as Cowboy (our featured act this past Wednesday). Boyer provided two songs while his partner Talton supplied one. Our selected cut, however, came from another Capricorn artist – The Allman Brothers.

US jacket on Capricorn

The bluesy “Southbound” was written by co-lead guitarist for the Allmans – “Dickey Betts.” None of the members of The Allman Brothers Band, including Betts, appeared on this album though. The stellar keyboards, by the way, were courtesy of Paul Hornsby; for without whom, this cut would not have been as wonderful.