Saturday, September 27, 2014

Chrysalis Records: Doctor Doctor

Formed in England in 1969 under the name Hocus Pocus, UFO took its new name several months later in honor of the London club where they were discovered. In 1974, the band signed to Chrysalis Records and released their fourth LP “Phenomenon.” 

Our final look at Chrysalis Records is UFO’s first American single. While, “Doctor Doctor” failed to chart both in the UK and the US the first time it was released as a single, the band later released a live version of the same song in 1979. This second time around, it peaked in the UK at #35, but again, it failed to chart in the US.

It is the original studio version that I am using for our final look at Chrysalis Records.  By the way, former Ten Years After bassist Leo Lyons produced this cut.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Fifth Anniversary - Chrysalis Records: Heartbreaker

Well, it’s our birthday – well anniversary really – for Reading Between the Grooves. Five years ago today, I came up with the idea to pass along my passion for recorded music to the masses and it has been a great ride. Nearly 160 thousand people have stumbled onto this blog since that rainy Saturday in 2009. Currently, I’ve penned 1,524 posts. Since I recently elaborated on the blog’s stats for our 1500th post, I won’t do that here. See me on the 1600th post after the first of the year.

For our Fourth Week Label feature and Feminine Fridays, I present a cut from the diminutive diva of rock: Ms. Pat Benatar. “Heartbreaker,” her first major single release, was issued during the fall of 1979. It was Benatar’s third single and her second release from her debut album “In the Heat of the Night.”

Although Benatar had a possible future in classical voice, she didn’t pursue this career path. Choosing to rock instead, Chrysalis Records gave her a shot and she became one of the better known female vocalists in the 1980s. Although receiving a great deal of airplay, “Heartbreaker” only charted at #23. Although it wasn’t her best known recording, “Heartbreaker” served to introduce this musical legend to the rest of us.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Chrysalis Records: Only When You Leave

Spandau Ballet, another Chrysalis act that fit the New Romantic musical genre, had a moderate hit in 1984 with “Only When You Leave.” While the band would never see the success that drove them to the #3 slot in the US with “True,” Spandau Ballet continued to put out excellent albums and singles.

Although the band had nine Top 10 hits in the UK, that success wasn’t mirrored in the US and only three singles charted in the Top 40: “True,” “Gold” at #29, and “Only When You Leave” at #34. As good as their recordings were, they never a received gold or platinum certification in the US.

“Only When You Leave” features the talented vocals and keyboards of Tony Hadley, the guitars of Gary Kemp, the bass of his brother Martin Kemp, and the drums of John Keeble. The best part of this song, in my estimation, is the saxophone work of Steve Norman. Norman, who also plays congas on the track, started out as a guitarist for the band. His saxophone work in Spandau Ballet is a testimony that he made the right decision in adding the instrument to his sound arsenal.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Chrysalis Records: Bungle in the Jungle

Only two songs by Jethro Tull ever made it into the Top 40 and both were released by Chrysalis Records. The highest charting of the two, “Living in the Past,” was a reissue of a 1969 single release on Reprise. It peaked at #11 the second time around in 1972. Two years later, “Bungle in the Jungle,” charted at the #12 position. Recorded in late 1972 or early 1973 in Paris for an ill fated project and film, “Bungle in the Jungle” eventually found its way onto Tull’s 1974 LP “War Child.” It was a good thing, as it was the album’s best known track.

Lead singer and flautist Ian Anderson is quoted as saying that Jethro Tull was probably the catalyst for Chris Wright and Terry Ellis to form Chrysalis Records. Jethro Tull was having difficulty securing an album deal with a major label and the only single release that the band had up to this point was on MGM. Even with that, the label failed to get the band’s name correct, as the single, “Sunshine Day” backed with “Aeroplane,” was credited to “Jethro Toe.” Their management company, the Ellis-Wright Agency, rose to the occasion and started its own label and the rest is musical history.

While “Living in the Past” charted slightly higher, “Bungle in the Jungle” is probably the better known song of the two. Enjoy this blast from the past.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Chrysalis Records: Pinball

I want to personally thank Ron Richards for today’s selection. I’ve known Ron since grade school and I must give him the proper respect for this suggestion. I had completely forgotten about Brian Protheroe’s near hit from 1974, “Pinball.” The song also inspired me to look at Chrysalis Records as my Fourth Week Label feature.

I categorized this as a near hit, as while it received some radio play in the US, the song only inched up the Hot 100 chart but failed to make it into the Top 40. Additionally, this recording was only a Top 30 hit in Protheroe’s native UK.

While it garnered some album play in 1974, you won’t hear this one on the radio today – which makes it a perfect selection for our Chrysalis Records’ feature. Martin Sutton, the music director for BRMB (Radio Free Birmingham), told Billboard in 1974 that songs like Protheroe’s “Pinball” were too good for radio. He may have had something there. It’s not always what is good that sells – some great music is often overlooked.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Chrysalis Records: Eyes Without A Face

Day Two of our look at Chrysalis Records takes us back to 1984 with Billy Idol’s first Top 10 hit in the US. Co-written by Idol and guitarist Steve Stevens, “Eyes without a Face” pays homage to the 1960 French horror film “Les Yeux Sans Visage,” which was released in the US under the title of “The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus.” “Les Yeux Sans Visage” can be translated as “Eyes without a Face”

The film’s inspiration on the writing of “Eyes without a Face” is additionally noticeable with the backup vocals sung by Perri Lister. Throughout the song, Lister sings “Les yeux sans visage.” While sometimes considered a soft rock track, “Eyes without a Face” dispels this proposition with the searing guitar work from Steve Stevens.  While the guitar break is excellent, it is Judi Dozier’s keyboards and Idol’s voice that make this cut spectacular.

As the second of four singles issued from the “Rebel Yell” album, “Eyes without a Face” was the highest charting cut from the LP. It peaked on the Hot 100 at #4 and placed almost as high on the Rock chart where it placed at #5. As expected, “Eyes without a Face” failed to chart very high on the Dance chart and only made it to #63. It’s inclusion on this chart was probably due to Idol’s previous success on this specialty chart with “Dancing by Myself,” “Mony Mony,” and “White Wedding.”

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Chrysalis Records: Reap The Wild Wind

Since it’s the fourth week of the month, I typically feature a record label and this month it’s Chrysalis Records. Founded in the UK in 1969, the label’s name was twofold. Chrysalis referenced the pupal stage of a butterfly as well as an amalgamation of the names of the founders: Chris Wright and Terry Ellis.

Before Chrysalis became a full-fledged label, its recordings were distributed in the UK by Island Records. Since Island had no outlet in the US at the time, Chrysalis artists were represented by a number of US labels. For example, Jethro Tull appeared originally on Reprise, Ten Years After’s Chrysalis recordings were issued on Columbia (US), and Procul Harum continued their relationship with A&M that had been established by their former UK label, Regal Zonophone.

Because of Jethro Tull’s relationship with Reprise, an arm of Warner Brothers, Chyrsalis debuted in North America as a Warner’s distributed label in 1972. In 1976, the label shifted to an independent distribution status and they were no longer represented by Warners.

In 1990, EMI purchased 50% control in Chrysalis and by the next year gained full control of the label. Eventually Chrysalis ceased to be an imprint with EMI Records being the successor label for Chrysalis artists. Warner Music Group currently owns the Chrysalis catalog – a full circle arrangement.

In the 1980s, a number of New Romantic artists were signed to the label with some having marginal to good success in the US. One of those acts that had marginal success was the British band Ultravox. Singed to Chrysalis when Midge Ure replaced John Foxx as lead vocalist in 1979, Ure’s line up of Ultravox recorded five albums for Chrysalis.

While Ultravox never achieved the success in the US as they did in their native UK, their sound is indicative of the New Romantic musical style of the 1980s. All five Ultravox’s Chrysalis albums were Top 10 releases in the UK; however, in the US only one LP, “Quartet,” charted in double digits when it peaked at #61 in 1982.

While their singles did exceedingly well in the UK with 16 charting in the Top 40 and one of those, 1980s “Vienna,” charting twice (at #2 and as a 1993 reissue at #13). Only two Ultravox singles charted in the US. “Dancing with Tears in my Eyes,” their second highest charting UK single at #3, only made it to #108 in America.

Today’s feature, 1983’s “Reap the Wild Wind,” peaked at #71 in the US despite its success at #12 in Britain. Unfortunately, it was greatest level of success that Ultravox garnered on this side of the Atlantic. “Reap the Wild Wind” was the debut single from their best selling US LP “Quartet.” Good stuff from a little known band in the US.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Toots Thielemans: C to G Jam Blues

Back in the 1970s someone gave me a Toots Thielemans album and I dearly loved it. I never heard of Toots at the time, but grew to appreciate his guitar and harmonica talents. In fact, a little over a year ago I featured him for a solid week by giving you a taste of his work on other folks’ recordings.

Toots can make the chromatic harmonica wail, walk, and talk. I’ve tried playing chromatic harp, but cannot seem to wrap my head around it. So, I’ll stick to playing the diatonic harmonica and let virtuosos like Toots and Stevie Wonder, who are both masters of the instrument, take center stage.

I’m not sure when “C to G Jam Blues” was recorded, but it was issued as part of Verve Records’ “Jazz Masters” series between 1994-1996 Toots’ LP was the 59th in that particular series of 60 albums and it was released at the tail end of the run in ‘96. Fifty-eight of the albums featured individual artists that had recorded for Verve or another Polygram label, while albums #20 and #60 were various artists’ releases.

“C to G Jam Blues,” our Bluesday Tuesday selection, showcases the amazing talents of Toots Thielemans as he is able to go, as the title states, from the key of C to G with half-step increments. Eight song keys are utilized in this short recording – meaning that Toots had to do seven key changes. But, he does it with finesse and without missing a beat. It’s wonderful stuff from a master of his harmonica domain.

Monday, September 15, 2014

eden ahbez: Full Moon

You may not know eden ahbez’s name, but if you heard Nat King Cole’s recording of “Nature Boy,” you’ve heard one of his compositions. Considered to be the original “hippie,” ahbez believed that only “God” and “Infinity” should be the only words in the English language that are capitalized – and hence we use lower case letters in our reference to him.

Ahbez, who was the personification of “Nature Boy,” lived in the woods with his family. It is said that they camped just below the first “L” in the famous “Hollywood” sign in Los Angeles. They only ate fresh vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Since he had long hair, a beard, and wore a white robe and sandals before such appearances became common in the late 1960s, his persona was similar to the many artistic depictions of Jesus.

Although he wrote “Nature Boy” in the late 1940s, ahbez did not begin recording his own music until 1959. He recorded a number of singles and one album: “Eden’s Island: The Music of an Enchanted Isle.” Today’s selection, “Full Moon,” was featured in the TV show “Fargo.” “Full Moon” is reminiscent of the recordings of Martin Denny with the addition of beatnik poetry.

Not my normal fare, but interesting as a piece of recording history. Enjoy.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

In Search of Iain Matthews: Home

For our final look at Iain Matthews we head back to 1974 with a country influenced recording from his album “Some Days You Eat the Bear . . . Some Days the Bear Eats You.” Although Matthews recorded ten cuts for this album, he only penned four of the songs including our feature “Home.”

While not chosen as the single, perhaps it should have been. Elektra picked Matthews’ cover of Steely Dan’s “Dirty Work” as the initial single in 1974. While Steely Dan’s version of “Dirty Work” wasn’t released in the US as a single, it received massive amounts of album play. Although Matthews’ version is a respectable rendition, it would be immediately compared to the original and the American public didn’t buy it – figuratively or literally.

The second single for the album was Matthews’ take on the late Danny Whitten’s (formerly of Crazy Horse) “I Don’t Want to Talk About It.” Released in the UK in December of 1975, the single did not capture the attention of the public as did Rod Stewart’s 1977 release of the same song. Again, Matthews’ interpretation was stellar, but it did not chart.

Today, we bypass the singles to an album cut titled “Home.” I can’t tell you who specifically played pedal steel guitar on this cut as the credits list both Jeff “Skunk” Baxter and B.J. Cole on the instrument. The harmonica which is integral to this recording was provided by session musician Joel Tepp. I hope you’ve liked this feature on Iain Matthews and had the opportunity to hear some new music in the process.

Friday, September 12, 2014

In Search of Iain Matthews: If (Stomp)

It’s day six of our search for Iain Matthews and I continue with my favorite cut from Fairport Convention’s debut album. In addition to its presence on the album, “If (Stomp)” was released in the UK as the flipside of the band’s first single: “If I had a Ribbon Bow.” While the album was released on Polydor, the single was on Kit Lambert’s Track Records label and was released in February 1968.

With Fairport’s rise in popularity with their December 1969 release of “Liege & Lief,” Polydor re-released the album and brought “If (Stomp)” to the forefront in April 1970. “If (Stomp)” became the plug side and was backed by “Chelsea Morning.” The remastered version of the album with four bonus tracks was released by Polydor in 2003. This was the first appearance of “If I had a Ribbon Bow” on a Fairport album. I got my copy of the song, however, in the 1970s on an import Polydor album called “Rare Tracks.”

“If (Stomp)” is such an upbeat number that you can’t listen to it without smiling. Written by Iain Matthews (credited as Ian MacDonald) and Richard Thompson, the song features Matthews on lead vocals and includes Thompson and Simon Nicol on backup vocals. No doubt it is Thompson on lead guitar and probably Nicol on the slide guitar later in the song.

I love Martin Lambles’ drum break – I’m not sure if he is drumming on a rim, the top of the bass drum, or a stack of chairs as he did on “Si Tu Dois Partir.” Lamble also plays tambourine, but it isn’t as noticeable in stereo version as it is in the mono single mix.

Others on the tune include Judy Dyble on electric autoharp and Ashley Hutchings on bass. I never noticed the autoharp until listening to the remastered version of the tune. It is in the right channel – and is quite neat – I always thought it was a guitar.

Neither single, by the way, were released in the US and the album only surfaced the second time around when it was issued on Cotillion Records, a subsidiary label of Atlantic, in 1970. Getting a copy of this LP from my brother in November 1972 was my introduction to this English mainstay and it served to whet my appetite for more Fairport music.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

In Search of Iain Matthews: 7 Bridges Road

If you mention the song “Seven Bridges Road,” people’s minds immediately go to the Eagles. It is no wonder, as the Eagles’ late 1980 live version of the song charted at #21 on the Hot 100, #17 on the adult contemporary chart, and #55 on the country chart. Eighteen years later, Ricochet recorded a similar arrangement and it charted at #48 on the country chart.

Although the Eagles’ version is the best known release, they were not the first to record Steve Young’s song. In fact, Young recorded it thrice before the Eagles, with versions released in 1969, 1972, and 1978. Even Eddy Arnold, Joan Baez, and Rita Coolidge recorded it earlier.

Even at that, the arrangement of the song by the Eagles was borrowed from Iain Matthews who was the first to record “Seven Bridges Road” in 4/4 time, as the original was in 3/4. Matthews was also the first to introduce an a capella beginning. Both the Eagles and Ricochet owe a debt of gratitude to Matthews, as had it not been for his 1973 release from his “Valley Hi” album, their subsequent hits would have never occurred.

While the Eagles version utilized the vocals of all five members of the band, Iain Matthews sings all of the parts on his recording – making it even more remarkable. “Seven Bridges Road” and “Valley Hi” were produced by former Monkee Mike Nesmith who also lends his guitar work to the album. In addition, Red Rhodes’ steel guitar is prominently featured giving “Seven Bridges Road” a haunting feel.

Although released as a single, it failed to chart for Matthews, which is a shame as it is one of his best recordings. For Matthews’ release, both the single and album titled the song as “7 Bridges Road” unlike the full name of “Seven Bridges Road” used on earlier and subsequent releases of the tune. Of course, he was known as “Ian” Matthews in those days too.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

In Search of Iain Matthews: Woodstock

Iain Matthews only had two American Top 40 hits in his career. His biggest release came in 1979 with his remake of Terrance Boylan’s “Shake it” from his “Stealin’ Home” LP. It charted at #13 – a respectable position for a relatively unknown artist in the US. Unfortunately, I won’t be featuring “Shake It,” as I had featured it in 2012.

The other hit came about in 1970 and it was a remake of the Joni Mitchell composition “Woodstock.” Matthews Southern Comfort version is remarkable as it was released during the same year as Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young’s hit version that charted at #11. Matthews and company hit #23 on the Hot 100 and it was probably released as a single in the US as it achieved #1 status for three weeks in the UK during October. The song features a nice laid back pedal steel lead by Gordon Huntley.

Although “Matthews’ Southern Comfort” was the name of his first solo album, Iain Matthews later used the name Matthews Southern Comfort for his band that released two albums. Unlike the solo album, the group’s name official contained no apostrophe; however, the apostrophe mysteriously appears on pressings of the “Woodstock” single.

Both Matthews Southern Comfort albums were released on Decca in the US (UNI in the UK); “Woodstock” came from second LP, “Later that Same Year,” which was later re-released on the budget Phoenix label in the latter 1970s. This is the version of the LP that I have in my collection.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

In Search of Iain Matthews: Book Song

Day Three in our search for Iain Matthews who is our Second Week of the Month feature. In today’s episode, we feature a duet between Matthews and Sandy Denny from Fairport Convention’s second album. In the UK, the LP was called “What We Did on Our Holidays”; however, A&M, the band’s US label, rebranded it simply as “Fairport Convention,” as their first album of that same name had not yet been released in the US.

In addition to the albums schizophrenic identity, the UK version’s cover had a photo of a blackboard “assaulted by the members of the band.” The US cover, however, features a fun photo of the band sitting in a pile of leaves. A&M banked that this cover would be more attractive to American audiences and I for one always loved this photo. I can’t say the same for A&M’s cover choice for the next LP, “Unhalfbricking,” which was simply stupid by any stretch of the imagination.

Our choice is the beautiful waltz named “Book Song.” Iain’s and Sandy’s vocals never sounded better. This is one of the songs that I got to know from “The History of Fairport Convention” which included a total of four songs from “What We Did on Our Holidays.”

Penned by Iain Matthews and Richard Thompson, the song highlights the great production skills of American Joe Boyd. “Book Song” is replete with interesting instrumentation that includes a sitar, a backwards guitar, and Claire Lowther’s ‘cello. During the instrumental break, there is a wonderful interplay of Richard Thompson’s lead, a backwards guitar lead, and ‘cello. In my book this is the highlight of this tune.

For those interested, the backwards guitar was recorded on another tape deck and then the tape was flipped and then played backwards and was added to the overall mix. This technique was used by The Beatles; Crosby, Stills, and Nash; Jimi Hendrix; Yes; and countless numbers of other rock musicians.

Today, the effect can be attained electronically without the use of a tape deck; thus giving the guitarist more control over the notes being played.  If you listen to the second verse there are a couple of discordant notes from the backwards guitar which is a necessary evil when reversing a tape and the resultant notes happening when they do. It is not real obvious in this tune, but they are there.  I never noticed this until recently, and that is after listening to this song for over 40 years. So Joe Boyd and the band did a commendable job keeping these issues at a minimum.

Monday, September 8, 2014

In Search of Iain Matthews: Desert Inn

During the summer of 1973, I was fortunate to pick up a copy of Iain Matthews’ second album, “If You Saw Thro' My Eyes.”  Its characteristic indigo cover definitely caught my eye as I slugged through various discount bins at my local F.W. Woolworth’s. That spring, I had previously purchased an import of “The History of Fairport Convention” with Pete Frame’s lovely family tree of the band. It was my second Fairport LP and it gave me a taste of the band's music from their second LP to their yet unreleased “Rosie.”  I had been previously been given the American release of their self-titled debut album. 

It was Frame’s tree that provided me knowledge of the various Fairport Convention alumni’s extra curricular activities. These other projects included Matthews Southern Comfort, Plainsong, Steeleye Span, Strawbs, Fotheringay, Trader Horne, and others. With my heightened awareness of the various members and their activities, I set out to find these recordings. Matthews’ “If You Saw Thro' My Eyes” was my first find in my extra-Fairport quest.

The Side A Vertigo Label as used on this album.

This 1971 release is one of my favorites by Matthews and it features notable guest musicians including Fairport alumni Sandy Denny on vocals and Richard Thompson on guitar and accordion. There also were a couple members of Sandy Denny’s Fotheringay project: Pat Donaldson on bass and Gerry Conway on drums. Rounding out the lineup was guitarist Andy Roberts, who would later become Matthews’ partner in Plainsong, and guitarist Tim Renwick, a member of Quiver.

The Side B label with Side A info included.

“If You Saw Thro' My Eyes” is probably my favorite Matthews album. Today, I am featuring the lead track “Desert Inn.” I will have to admit that I don’t quite understand the lyrical content of this and several other songs on the album, but I really like the tune. What’s not to like? There’s innovative guitar leads by Richard Thompson, backup vocals by Sandy Denny, and Matthews’ impeccable voice. Listening to it “helps me keep alive and kickin’.”

Sunday, September 7, 2014

In Search of Iain Matthews: An Amelia Earhart Trilogy

It’s the second week of the month and I always try to come up with a theme to play across seven days of posts. I came up with today’s selection back in May and have dubbed it “In Search of Iain Matthews.” Born as Iain Matthew McDonald, he has performed as Ian McDonald, Ian MacDonald, Ian Matthews, and finally as Iain Matthews. I took the name of this week’s special in honor of his band Plainsong’s LP “In Search of Amelia Earhart.”

Matthews got his start with a West Coast/surf sounding band called Pyramid in 1966. The band released one single in 1967, “The Summer of Last Year” backed with “Summer Evening.” A third cut, “Me about You,” was eventually released in 1999. While Pyramid’s non-charting single “The Summer of Last Year” is available on YouTube, the sound quality of that recording is not the best; therefore, I won’t be providing it as an example.

We will, however, be featuring some of Matthews’ better recordings (in my opinion) from his first decade of performance. Matthews still performs today and my brother had an opportunity to open for one of his Pittsburgh shows a number of years ago. While not generally known by the hoi poloi, Matthews’ voice is unmistakable and needs to be heard more often – that’s my mission this week.

Today, we feature a trio of songs that appeared on Plainsong’s 1972 release “In Search of Amelia Earhart.” While only three songs on the album dealt with “The First Lady of the Air,” the title was inspired by Fred Goerner’s theory that Earhart was captured by the Japanese on Saipan. According to Goerner’s theory, Earhart’s first mate Frederick Noonan was beheaded and Earhart died of dysentery during her capture. It was theorized that Earhart and Noonan were actually on an air reconnaissance mission to spy on the Japanese for the US government.

It was hard picking one of the three songs that appear sequentially on the Plainsong LP, so I created a YouTube playlist that features all three Earhart related tunes. The first was Plainsong’s rendition of Red River Dave McEreny’s 1939 composition, “Amelia Earhart’s Last Flight.”

The bridging song is that well known gospel tune “I’ll Fly Away,” which was one of over 600 songs penned by Albert E. Brumley beginning in the 1920s - hence our labeling this post also in the Spiritual Sundays category. Finally, the trio of tunes ends with Matthew’s own composition of the “True Story of Amelia Earhart.” While Plainsong consisted of several members, the principal partners in the band were Ia(i)n Matthews and Andy Roberts, who still today perform as a duo under the band’s name.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Spirit: Animal Zoo

Our Bubbling Under Saturday selection takes us back to Spirit’s 1970 album “Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus.” While the album produced three singles, none charted within in the Top 40 and “Mr. Skin” only charted in the Hot 100 when it was re-released in 1973. Unfortunately, the album was the band’s worst charting LP to date as it only peaked at #63. This position would be tied with its follow-up, “Feedback,” and all subsequent albums did much worse including “The Best of Spirit.”

Even with the lackluster chart performance, consistent sales of “Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus” over time allowed it to be their best selling LP and their only album to be certified gold. This occurred six and half years after the album’s initial release.

“Animal Zoo,” written and sung by Jay Ferguson, was the album’s first single release. Unfortunately, it only peaked at #97. Additional singles included “Mr. Skin,” which failed to chart during its original release, and one of my favorite Spirit cuts, “Nature’s Way.” However, our mission is to play this underperforming hit by Spirit: “Animal Zoo.”

Friday, September 5, 2014

k.d. lang: Thread

It’s Feminine Friday and today we honor the voice of k.d. lang an artist who eschews capital letters. I’ve always liked her voice, but really have only one of her CDs. I don’t know why – I just never bought any others and I really should. Today’s feature song came to me as I was listening to “Prairie Home Companion” one Sunday afternoon while waiting on a pizza at Little Caesars.

It was a live version of the song “Thread” that was fantastic – in fact, it was better than the terrific studio version that I am featuring here. That particular rendition, performed live at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles on June 6, 2009, utilized a baritone guitar. I was drawn to it as the instrument really made the song more haunting than the strings which are featured on the studio version. This was from an encore presentation that I heard earlier this summer.

Unfortunately, the live performance isn’t on YouTube, but it is online. You'll find it here  It is worth it – I wish she had issued this version on CD as well. Check it out.

The studio version of “Thread” appeared on lang’s 2008 album “Watershed” and was penned by lang and her co-producer and bassist David Piltch. Lang has such an expressive voice that is rarely equaled today. I hope you enjoy both versions as much as I have.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Mama Cass Elliot: Make Your Own Kind of Music

It’s Thirty Something Thursday and we drift back to 1969 with a selection by Mama Cass Elliot. Following her semi successful release of “It’s Getting Better,” producer Steve Barri suggested that she record another tune by husband and wife team Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil to keep Cass’ chart momentum going.

That momentum on the pop charts, however, was not as great as Dunhill Records hoped. “It’s Getting Better,” her second single from the album “Bubble Gum, Lemonade & . . . Something for Mama,” only peaked at #30.

“Make Your Own Kind of Music” was released initially as a single, but as the record began to climb the charts, Dunhill Records decided to add the track to her current album and rebranded the album after the single and redesigned the cover. Although the song stalled at #36 on the mainstream charts (#30 for Cashbox), it climbed to #6 on the adult contemporary chart.

If you were a fan of the show “Dexter,” you’ll recognize this tune as it was featured prominently during the show’s eighth season.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Jimi Jamison's Search is Over

I caught wind today that Survivor’s lead vocalist Jimi Jamison passed away on Sunday of an apparent heart attack. While Jamison was not the singer on Survivor’s biggest hit, “Eye of the Tiger,” his tenure with the band produced several notable hits. These included “I Can’t Hold Back” (#13), “High on You” (#8), “The Search is Over” (#4), “Burning Heart” (#2), and “Is this Love” (#9) – to name only the Top 40 hits.

I had an opportunity to meet Jamison in 1985 and he was one of the nicer stars with which I've crossed paths. Both Jim Peterik and Jimi Jamison were more than glad to briefly chat with me and I was able to get a photo of me and Jimi together. I didn’t have the opportunity to do this with Jim Peterik, as it was just the two of us when we were walking through the corridors of the Charleston (WV) Civic Center. Unfortunately, this was in the pre-selfie days – so no photographic evidence exists of our brief encounter.

Jimi Jamison and the author; 1985

Not only was Jimi a great talent, he was a gracious star. In addition to placating me, he treated our busload of concert ticket winners by coming aboard the Y94 Concert Cruiser to meet our winners.

Our tribute song was his Jamison’s first Top 5 hit with the band: “The Search is Over.” This 1985 rock ballad was also a number one adult contemporary hit. Written by Jim Peterik and Frankie Sullivan, the song chronicles a man returning to his childhood friend who happens to be the love of his live.

Jimi Jamison had spent three tours of duty with Survivor. The most productive was his first stint with the band from 1984-1989. He later rejoined Survivor from 2000 to 2006 and again 2011 until his death on Sunday. Rest in Peace Jimi; “The Search is Over.”

Monday, September 1, 2014

Amy Ray: Duane Allman

I must apologize for my extended absence. I just started a new job and I needed to concentrate on becoming acclimated to my new surroundings during the last two weeks. To get back into the “Grooves,” I have a performance that I heard a few months ago on Mountain Stage from West Virginia Public Radio.

Luckily, Amy Ray’s tribute to “Duane Allman” was videotaped and immortalized on YouTube. Amy plays what appears to be a vintage Gibson A model mandolin. The song really presents an authentic Allman Brothers’ vibe with the interplay between the lead guitar and the pedal steel. Unfortunately, neither musician is featured much visually in this recording; however, the talented fiddle player gets more than his share of screen time.

If Amy Ray’s name is not familiar, perhaps you’re familiar with the Indigo Girls. Amy and Emily Saliers have been performing since the early 80s in that unit. Ray has additionally recorded five studio and two live albums as a solo artist. Good stuff.