Saturday, December 12, 2015

Wishbone Ash: Blind Eye

I got thinking this week about the British rock band Wishbone Ash and my introduction to their music. I was given a sampler album that featured artists from a variety of MCA labels: Decca (US), Coral, Uni, and Kapp. It was called “The MCA Sound Conspiracy” and the first track on the LP was Wishbone Ash’s “Blind Eye.” It was their first American single, as well as the lead cut from their self-titled debut album.

What was critical to Wishbone Ash’s sound was the twin guitar leads of Andy Powell and Ted Turner. The quartet was rounded out by Martin Turner (no relation to Ted) on bass and Steve Upton on drums. The piano on the cut is uncredited – so, your guess is as good as mine. Ted Turner sings the lead on this track.

Wishbone Ash was discovered by Ritchie Blackmore who encouraged MCA to sign the band. Deep Purple’s producer, Derek Lawrence, handled the production duties on the band’s first three albums – which are often considered their best.

As you can imagine, Wishbone Ash never received the popularity in the US that they deserved. No singles charted and album sales were not commensurate with their overall talent. Wishbone Ash, by the way, is still together with Andy Powell remaining as the band’s sole original member. Still talented – still great music.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Dominoes: Sixty Minute Man

Well, it has finally occurred. I have reached my sixtieth birthday. I don’t remember the nature of my conversation with my boss two weeks ago, but it may have been because we opted to take the elevator rather than climbing four flights of stairs. I made the comment, “Well it’s not like I’m sixty or anything.” Immediately, the cold slap of reality hit me and I said – well, I won’t be able to say that in two weeks. Yes, time has a way of catching up to us. I’m just glad I’m here. My father and grandfather never made it to being 50 let alone 60.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been debating on what to play on this auspicious occasion. The only song with 60 in its title, of which I am aware, was the 1951 R&B hit by The Dominoes “Sixty Minute Man.” It is an important recording in musical history as it vies as being one of the recordings that was responsible for the creation of rock ‘n roll.

While there is much debate on which song holds those honors, there are dozens of tunes that have been considered in hindsight. I tend to lean towards Jackie Brensten’s “Rocket 88,” but that’s my personal choice. “Sixty Minute Man” was recorded three months earlier on December 30, 1950 and was released in May of the next year.

While some consider it a novelty record, “Sixty Minute Man” did quite well on the charts holding the number one slot on the R&B charts for 14 weeks. It crossed over to the pop charts where it peaked at #17. Additionally, “Sixty Minute Man” was 1951’s “Song of the Year.” It also has made it to the soundtracks to several major motion pictures. Quite impressive,

It was written by The Dominoes’ manager and pianist Billy Ward and his talent agent partner, Rose Marks. The song features the lead vocals of the quartet’s bass singer Bill Brown. In addition to Brown, The Dominoes consisted of Charlie White, Joe Lamont, and Clyde McPhatter, who later sang lead with The Drifters. McPhatter adds the woo hoos and the falsetto parts. Good stuff, but released before my birth some sixty years ago today.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Charades of Deep Purple: Black Night

I never thought that I would say that I liked a cover of a Deep Purple song better than the original, but see if you agree my assessment of todays “Charades of Deep Purple” selection. Released in 2013, the metal band Monument recorded “Black Night.” The original was Deep Purple’s highest charting single in the UK; however, it failed to chart in the US, as it was lost in the shuffle of the band switching from Tetragrammaton Records to Warner Brothers.

The single was released for the sole purpose of honoring the late Jon Lord who passed away the previous year. All proceeds were donated to Lord’s favorite charity The Sunflower Jam. Since it was tribute to Lord and Monument didn’t have a keyboardist, they enlisted the talents of Bob Katsionis – the from Firewind to tickle the plastics.

I especially like the twin guitar leads on this version of the tune and the delay at the end of the song.  Great stuff. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Charades of Deep Purple: Highway Star

“Machine Head,” the album that launched Deep Purple into being the major influence on metal music, was released during the spring of 1972 and it changed rock history. When you dropped the needle on the vinyl, the first tune that emanated from your speakers was “Highway Star.” This up-tempo rocker was written as a fluke when a reporter asked Ritchie Blackmore how the band composed its material.

Blackmore picked up his acoustic guitar and began noodling some Bach inspired runs and vocalist Ian Gillan began singing – improvising the lyrics on the spot. Deep Purple worked on the tune and played it for the very first time that evening at a gig in Portsmouth, England. The rest is history.

Today’s “Charades of Deep Purple” cut includes former Purple member Glenn Hughes on lead vocals and bass, Steve Vai shining on guitar, and Chad Smith pounding the drums. While Hughes had performed the tune live with Deep Purple, his tenure with the band began 15 months after the release of “Machine Head.”

This version of “Highway Star” was a bonus track on the 40th anniversary tribute to “Machine Head” called “Re-Machined: A Tribute to Deep Purple's Machine Head.” A live version of “Highway Star” by Chickenfoot appeared as one of the CD’s regular tracks.

Although not credited as one of the main players on the cut, I would be remiss not to mention the keyboardist who channeled the late Jon Lord, who died a few months before this album was released in September 2012. Lachy Doley overdubbed the organ parts and played his Hammond M-3 organ through a Marshall amp much like Lord did with his Hammond C-3. It’s too bad he didn’t get full credit on this cut as the organ is part of the glue that holds it together.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Charades of Deep Purple: Child in Time

The Deep Purple song “Child in Time” has evolved over the years from its beginning as an It’s a Beautiful Day’s instrumental “Bombay Calling” to our current “Charades of Deep Purple” rendition by Stary Olsa. Hailing from Belarus, Stary Olsa (who are named for a Belarusian stream) typically play medieval music from the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania – a rather large territory that included parts of a number current Eastern European countries.

When not doing songs from antiquity, Stary Olsa also tries their hands at a number of rock songs from a variety of genres. One of those is Deep Purple’s “Child in Time,” which originally appeared on their LP “In Rock.” What I find interesting is the instrumentation. “Child in Time” features the following members of the band and their respective instruments:

  • Alieś Čumakoŭ on vocals and gusli (an Eastern European zither).
  • Maryja Šaryj on fipple flute and shawm.
  • Illia Kublicki on lute and cittern.
  • Zmicier Sasnoŭski on Belarusian bagpipes.
  • Siarhiej Tapčeŭski on bass drum.
  • Aliaksiej Vojciech on dumbek.

What I am particularly amazed by is the clarity of the gusli. It is basically a scaled down zither which uses the fingers and thumb of the left hand to dampen strings to play certain chords much like the chord buttons on an autoharp. This is truly an ancestor of the modern autoharp.

I hope you like this unusual arrangement of this classic Deep Purple tune.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Charades of Deep Purple: Smoke on the Water

For our third installment of “Charades of Deep Purple,” here’s a really different version of “Smoke on the Water.” While I think most every teenage rock band has learned this song, none do it quite the way that Surath Godfrey and Victor Chen have recorded this song. This is a brilliant blues tinged version that features the slide guitar and backup vocals of Chen and the lead vocals and percussive guitar by Godfrey.

I don’t know much about these artists, but they make their home in Singapore. While this is not a studio quality recording, that isn’t important – the arrangement is. There is one notable mistake in the lyrics – Godfrey sings “Montfort” instead of “Montreaux.” I can forgive that. This is a nice change of pace for this rock classic that originally appeared on Deep Purple’s “Machine Head” LP.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Charades of Deep Purple: Strange Kind of Woman

It’s day two of our look at Deep Purple covers that I call “Charades of Deep Purple.” During this week, we’ll be listening to covers that amazingly sound close to the original recordings, as well new arrangements of these classic Deep Purple cuts. Originally appearing the US version of the “Fireball” album, “Strange Kind of Woman” was always one of my favorite cuts.

While I found several good versions of “Strange Kind of Woman,” I opted to go with a different arrangement by Richie Kotzen. Kotzen has been a member of Poison and Mr. Big. He is currently with The Winery Dogs. Also to Kotzen’s credit are his solo recordings – 21 albums in all.

His unique version of “Strange Kind of Woman,” however, is found on the compilation: “Black Night: Deep Purple Tribute According to New York” that was released in 1997. It’s a nice take on the original with Kotzen’s own mark on the tune. To hear the original, see my post from 2010 “Deep Purple before Smoke on the Water.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Charades of Deep Purple: Wring That Neck

I had quite a few positive comments regarding my last month’s Second Week Special, “Rolling Clones” – a look at covers of Rolling Stones’ tunes. I’ve decided to do it again with another great rock group: Deep Purple. As a play on the title of their debut LP “Shades of Deep Purple,” I’ve decided to call it “Charades of Deep Purple.”

For the first post, I have a version of “Wring that Neck” – an instrumental that was found on the Deep Purple’s second LP, “The Book of Taliesyn.” Those of us who owned the original US release on Tetragrammaton Records know the song as “Hard Road.” The name change came from the execs at Tetragrammaton who thought that “Wring that Neck” was a little violent for American tastes. I always thought that the neck it referred to was Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar neck.

For today’s feature, here’s The Kings of Cerveza, an Austrian rock band that does a yeoman’s job in recreating this very difficult tune. While not as good as the original studio version, doing this song live and as good as The Kings of Cerveza have done it is a credit to their talent. Hats off go to keyboardist Dietmar Gamperl and guitarist Reini Schöpf who do an excellent job of respectfully emulating Jon Lord and Ritchie Blackmore.

If you want to hear another interesting take on “Wring that Neck,” check out my post from 2011 where I featured It’s A Beautiful Day’s interpretation. They named it “Don and Dewey” and the post explains the source of the name and the reason for this very unique version of “Wring that Neck.”

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Rolling Clones: Can You Hear Me Knocking

For our final “Rolling Clones” selection we bring you a tune that originally appeared on The Rolling Stones’ “Sticky Fingers” album from 1971 – “Can You Hear Me Knocking.” Today’s remake is from the 2010 Santana release “Guitar Heaven: The Greatest Guitar Classics of All Time” – an album that features some of the best guitar songs and vocals by numerous guests.

I can remember hearing the original of this the first time as I didn’t have the album. One night in 1974, I was recording some music off air from WAMX in Ashland, Kentucky. The station had the greatest selection of album rock courtesy of the jocks’ own record collections. Needless to say, I fell asleep and this was the last cut before the tape ran out. I had no idea the identity of the artist nor did I know the name of the song. Since Google hadn’t been invented, I couldn’t search for it by using the lyrics. When I finally got “Sticky Fingers,” I discovered this long unknown but favorite track.

Instead of guitars by Mick Taylor and Keith Richards and vocals by Mick Jagger, the song features Carlos Santana and Tommy Anthony and vocals by Scott Weiland who fronted the Stone Temple Pilots. While the remake has an impromptu jam, it is different than the one found on the Stones’ recording, which was inspired by Mick Taylor’s improvisation. While I like the original better, this is a very good take on this classic Rolling Stones’ track.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Rolling Clones: Tumblin' Dice

In the late 1970s, Linda Ronstadt was the female vocalist of the era. Beginning in 1975 with the #1 “You’re No Good,” she effortlessly charted with hit after hit.  Besides that, she was easy on the eyes, and that is always a plus for a talented performer of any gender. Her triple platinum, eighth studio album, “Simple Dreams,” produced a number of hit records that were covers of other artists’ material. Beginning in 1977, she charted with Roy Orbison’s “Blue Bayou” (#3), Buddy Holly’s “It’s So Easy” (#5), and Warren Zevon’s “Poor Poor Pitiful Me” (#31).

In 1978, Asylum decided to release two separate promo singles E45479-A “Tumblin’ Dice” and E45479-B “I Never Will Marry” to different radio audiences. Although the traditional “I Never Will Marry” is often erroneously reported as the A-side, the song is clearly identified as the B side in the numbering of both the promotional and commercial singles.

While “I Never Will Marry” didn’t place on the pop charts (and why would it?), this ballad hit #30 on the Adult Contemporary side and made it to the Top Ten on the country charts where it peaked at #8. The actual “A” side, “Tumblin’ Dice,” was the choice of Top 40 radio.

Her remake of this Rolling Stones’ classic garnered airplay and peaked at #32 on the Hot 100. Six years earlier, The Stones had a Top Ten hit with “Tumblin’ Dice” and took this first single from “Exile on Main Street” all the way to #7. In addition to the single’s success in America, Ronstadt’s version charted in Canada at #35. A live version also made it to the soundtrack to the 1978 film “FM.” It is the only cover song in our “Rolling Clones” feature that charted.

According to Ronstadt, Mick Jagger suggested that she add some heavier songs to her repertoire. Since her band was already playing “Tumblin’ Dice” as an instrumental for sound checks, she asked Mick to supply the words and the rest, as they say, is history.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Rolling Clones: Paint It Black

Back in 1972, my brother tripled my record collection by giving me a box of LPs that he had expunged from his very large inventory. One of the albums was the 1967 release of “Winds of Change” by the reformed Animals. Since Eric Burdon and drummer Barry Jenkins were the only remaining members of the Animals who disbanded in 1966, the group was officially christened as “Eric Burdon & the Animals”; however, the album references the band as the “New Animals.”

“Winds of Change” was a new musical direction for Burdon who had moved from blues-based music to psychedelia with a heavy bent. The hit from the LP was “San Franciscan Nights,” which charted at #9. One of the other cuts on the album that caught my ear was Burdon’s rendition of The Rolling Stones’ classic “Paint it Black.” While the Stones hit the #1 position with “Paint it Black,” it was never released as a single by Burdon & the Animals.

In addition to Burdon and Jenkins, the lineup contained the following new members: Vic Briggs on guitar and piano, John Weider with guitar and violin, and Danny McCulloch on bass. During the time of the album’s sessions, Weider broke his wrist and Keith Olsen substituted on some of the album’s cuts.

This nearly six minute (the album has the time wrong at 6:20) rendition of the Stones’ original is not musically perfect. There are some glitches in this version. One, Eric Burdon is no Mick Jagger – his voice is powerful, but his pitch is often erratic. The instrumentation isn’t always together – I guess I am so used to the quantizing that occurs with electronic music, that I expect it with real musicians.

In addition, there is a guitar note at 3:39 that has always bothered me – it was probably intended, but to me, it sounds out of place. Listen closely in the recitation part and you can also hear a 60 cycle hum which was no doubt amp noise – something that was probably not noticeable on vinyl release.

While there are some technical issues and it really is on par with how the band sounded live, I still like this version. The addition of the Weider’s violin and the recitation sets Eric Burdon & the Animals apart from other covers of this tune.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Rolling Clones: Play With Fire

In looking for Rolling Stones covers by other artists, I found an acoustic version of “Play with Fire” by Michelle Branch. While it is one of the better known Stones’ ballads, “Play with Fire” was issued as a flip side to “The Last Side” and received some airplay in its own right. Unlike “The Last Time” that was propelled to the #9 position, the Stones’ version of “Play with Fire” only made it to #96.

Grammy winning Branch recorded “Play with Fire” in 2012, but it is uncertain whether it will appear on her yet unreleased album “West Coast Time.” As it stands, it’s not in the unofficial list of songs for the CD – so chances of making it to the album does not look good. The single is available for free download.

While her version doesn’t sport the harpsichord as found on the original, her version features a number of guitars, percussion, and bass. “Play with Fire” was produced by John Leventhal.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Rolling Clones: Heart of Stone

It is day four of our series “Rolling Clones” and we have a very nice and bluesy rendition of the Stone’s 1964 American hit “Heart of Stone.” Although released on an EP in the UK, it was one of the few Rolling Stones’ hits that was not issued in their homeland as a single release. Today’s rendition comes from The Allman Brothers Band’s final studio album: “Hittin’ the Note” from 2003.

Although it’s the band’s last studio (but not last) album, it was significant in a number of respects. It was the only studio LP not to feature Dickey Betts as he had been relieved of his duties as The Allman Brothers’ primary guitarist. It also marked the return of Warren Haynes and the introduction of Derek Trucks as guitarists.

Derek is the nephew of one of The Allman Brothers’ drummers, Butch Trucks. Listen with headphones as you’ll be able to determine which guitarist is playing. Haynes in the left channel while Derek Trucks is in the right. This is really a nice production feature that extends across the entire album.

Gregg Allman shines on vocals on this classic. Take a listen.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Rolling Clones: You Can't Always Get What You Want

Looking for unique versions of Rolling Stones’ songs has be somewhat of a challenge, but not an impossibility. One that is different from the original recording comes from the 2007 release of the “House M.D. Original Television Soundtrack.” Today’s Rolling Clones’ selection is the Band from TV’s recording of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

Although the song as it appears on the CD was never featured in any episode, the Stones original was referenced several times throughout the length of the series. Hugh Laurie, who also played the lead role of Dr. Gregory House, sings lead as a member of Band from TV. This reggae influenced rendition is missing the choir, the acoustic guitar, and French horn that are characteristics of the original – but this remake has its own character that makes it very, very palatable.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Rolling Clones: Gimme Shelter

As we continue our look at covers of Rolling Stones recordings that I’ve titled as “Rolling Clones,” today’s remake is of global proportions. Playing for Change is an amalgamation of musicians from all over the world who collaborate digitally to release some amazing recordings. Mark Johnson has created the concept and produces the recordings with Enzo Buono. They travel the world recording the various artists using mobile multi-media gear.

The only artist on today’s selecting with whom I am familiar is Taj Mahal. The others, famous or not, I didn’t know – but they are all excellent musicians. Originally, released by The Rolling Stones on their “Let it Bleed” LP in 1969, it has become one of their most popular album cuts. Playing for Change’s 2011 rendition is dedicated to “all of lost, homeless, and forgotten people in this world.”

The players on this rendition included the following:
  • Greg Ellis of Hollywood, CA – hand drums
  • Venkat of Chennai, India – tabla
  • Roberto Luti of Livorno, Italy – slide National steel bodied guitar
  • Washboard Chaz of New Orleans, LA – washboard
  • Roselyn Williams of Kingston, Jamaica – vocals
  • A.S. Ram of Chennai, India – harmonium
  • Sidney Santos of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – electric bass
  • Tamika McClellan of New York City – vocals
  • Mamady Ba Camara of Bamako, Mali – kora mamadou koyate
  • Massamba Diop of Dakar, Senegal – djembe
  • Sherieta Lewis of Kingston, Jamaica -- vocals
  • Courtney “Bam” Diedick of St. Ann, Jamaica – drums
  • Sean “Pow” Diedrick of St. Ann, Jamaica – keyboards
  • Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars of Freetown, Sierra Leone – electric guitar and log
  • Seenu M. of Chennai, India – santoor
  • Taj Mahal of New York City – vocals and harmonica
  • Andrae Carter of Kingston, Jamaica – electric guitar
  • Char of Tokyo, Japan – acoustic guitar.

The Derek Lawrence Statement: I Am The Preacher

While I’ll admit my posts have been sparse during the past six months, but for a number of reasons I’ve had two posts on one day – yesterday and I will have a second one later today. Since today is Pastor Appreciation Day, I thought I might sneak in a song that is fitting for the moment: “I am the Preacher” by the The Derek Lawrence Statement.

As far as I know, this was the first recorded version of the song and it was released two months later by Deep Purple as their fifth American single. Their version of the song was titled “Hallelujah (I am the Preacher). It was written by Roger Greenaway and Roger Cook – two professional songwriters who penned a number of hits during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.

In 1969, Greenaway sent a demo to Derek Lawrence – the producer of the first three Deep Purple albums. Lawrence didn’t think the band would be interested in the song, but he sent it to Ritchie Blackmore anyway. At this time, Deep Purple was seeking another lead singer, another bassist, and unbeknown to Lawrence, another producer.

While Purple’s version failed to chart in the UK, it did poorly in the US by peaking at #108. While Rod Evans was out of the band having been replaced by Ian Gillian, Nick Simper apparently played on this single as Roger Glover had not yet joined the band. Although Derek Lawrence supplied Deep Purple with the demo, they did not utilize his services as producer.

Tony Edwards and John Colleta, managers of the band, are listed as the producers. To my knowledge, it’s the only cut where Edwards and Colleta were cited in this capacity. They are listed on the UK single on Harvest Records, but not on the US version on Tetragrammaton Records. Subsequent recordings have listed the band as producers. You can check out Deep Purple’s version with a number of their other early recordings on this 2010 post of “Deep Purple before Smoke on the Water.”

Although Deep Purple just barely charted with the song, they did not have the first recording of “Hallelujah (I am the Preacher)” – Derek Lawrence used his bevy of studio musicians and vocalists to produce his outstanding single under the name of The Derek Lawrence Statement. Along with its flipside, I believe that this was the only release by The Derek Lawrence Statement; however, the group in various forms recorded under about a half a dozen different names for Lawrence. “I Am the Preacher” was released in May 1969, which was two months before Deep Purple’s rendition.

The powerful vocals of The Derek Lawrence Statement are provided by Larry Steele, Liza Strike, and Tony Wilson. I believe each take a turn at the lead vocals. They are joined by Albert Lee on lead guitar, Harvey Hinsley on rhythm guitar, Chas Hodges on bass, and drummer Micky Burt.

The Derek Lawrence Statement still lives as it has been sampled for four hip-hop recordings. They include Qwel and Meaty Ogre’s “The Fourth Reich of the Rich” from 2006, Dilated Peoples’ “Hallelujah” from 2014, Fel Sweetenberg’s “Tomorrows in the Stars” from 2014, and Brock Berrigan’s “The Preacher” from earlier this year.

Happy Pastor Appreciation Day.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

"Brite Eyes Don't Cry" - Robbin Thompson has Passed

I just heard a few minutes ago that Robbin Thompson passed away yesterday at age of 66. The Virginia rocker has been fighting the dreaded disease for 15 years. Personally, I hadn’t heard of Thompson until I moved to Southern West Virginia in 1981. His fan base was within the Southeast and he had a cult-like following especially in the Commonwealth. For those outside of the region, Virginians tend to view their state as the only commonwealth in the US, but it’s not.*

Although he was born in Boston and reared in Melbourne, Florida, Virginia became his adopted home in 1969 when he began attending Virginia Commonwealth University. In his early years, he fronted Bruce Springsteen’s Steel Mill band for a short period before embarking on a longstanding career as a solo artist and fronting his own ensemble, The Robbin Thompson Band.

Earlier this year, his and Steve Bassett’s song “Sweet Virginia Breeze” was signed into legislation to be one of Virginia’s official popular songs. This song was featured on 1980’s “(two b’s please),” an album that also contained “Candyapple Red” and “Brite Eyes” – his only song to become a minor hit in the US – although it and others were regional hits. We played all three of these selections as album cuts at WCIR-FM, as his popularity had even extended into our region – but not to the north of us.

The album was released regionally on a local label based in Richmond and was picked up by Ovation for national release after selling 200,000 units in Virginia, the Carolinas, and DC. I couldn’t find any chart information on “Brite Eyes” other than it debuted on Billboard’s Radio Play chart at #88 during the fall of 1980.

“Brite eyes don't cry – it’s gonna be alright – you know I hate to see you cry.” Rest in Peace Robbin.

*Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Mariana Islands are also commonwealths.

Rolling Clones: 2000 Light Years From Home

Every so often, I will do a feature on covers. I actually planned to do this Second Week Feature back in 2013, but replaced it with something else. Now time is on my side to look at covers of songs originally recorded by The Rolling Stones. There were so many good and unusual covers of Stones’ selections that I decided to extend it to eight days and start a day early.

In the same vein I used for Buddy Holly covers (“Not My Buddy”), rehashed Beatles’ songs (“Refab Four”), and Byrds’ remakes (“Mocking Byrds”), today I bring you our new feature – “Rolling Clones.” While I had seven songs picked for 2013, I am only using three of those selections, as I found some more interesting alternate versions of Rolling Stones’ hits. Most of the songs will be familiar, but there are possibly three that mainstream folks won’t know. Today, we have one those selections.

The Stones released “2000 Light Years from Home” as the flipside of “She’s a Rainbow” in 1968. The band’s journey into psychedelic music has always been one of my enduring favorite lesser known Stones’ recordings. For today, I found a 2012 remake by Nektar from their cover album “A Spoonful of Time.” I wasn’t aware that the prog rock German based band of Englishmen had reformed, but after a 20 year hiatus, they have been together again since 2001.

The album “A Spoonful of Time” is also known for Nektar’s use of guest musicians on every cut and “2000 Light Years from Home” is no exception. Its guest is Hawkwind’s former keyboardist Simon House. Nothing like using someone accustomed to an ethereal sound to capture the intent of The Stones’ foray into psychedelia. The vocals are supplied by Nektar’s original guitarist/vocalist Roye Albrighton who left the band in 1977, and who returned for the 21st century reformation.

Nektar’s rendition of “2002 Light Years from Home” is nice, but it’s not for the faint of heart. The only thing missing from this remake is the falsetto background vocals that were on the original. Although, I recognized that they were lacking, I did not miss their absence. I always thought they were supplied by Yoko Ono on the original, but alas it was either Mick or Keith as they are only ones credited as backup singers on the Stone’s version.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Jimmy Buffett: Come Monday

I can’t believe that after writing this blog for over six years that I’ve never featured a tune by Jimmy Buffett. Well, let’s rectify that situation with our Thirty Something Thursday selection. “Come Monday” written about a leg of his 1973 summer tour which took him from Los Angeles to San Francisco where he would play his Labor Day show. It continues to be one of eight songs that Buffett plays at every appearance.

“Come Monday” was written about and for Buffett’s then girlfriend Janie who would later become his wife in 1977. While it wasn’t Buffett’s first single release, it was the first to make it into the Top 40. While this second single from his LP “Living and Dying in 3/4 Time” only made it to #30, it was bigger hit on adult contemporary radio where it peaked at #3 in 1974. It also got some country play, but the record stalled at #58 on the C&W charts.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Crosby, Stills, & Nash: Helplessly Hoping

One of my all-time favorite albums is Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s debut LP from 1969. What a great collection of songs that occurred by the chance collaborations of three superstars: David Crosby who took flight from The Byrds, Stephen Stills who was seeking a musical home following the divorce of Buffalo Springfield, and Graham Nash who left the Hollies over creative differences. The result was one of the most enduring marriages of rock music from the sixties forward – and this first album was just a taste – but a very good taste of the wonderful things to come.

A peak into some of the songs gives us some insight into the mind of one of its members: Stephen Stills. Judy Collins had recently broke off her relationship with Stills and nearly a third of the album is his dealing with the loss. The results were “49 Bye-Byes,” “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” and “Helplessly Hoping.” While “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” was a musical magnum opus with its different movements, “Helplessly Hoping” was a lyrical masterpiece with Stills’ painting a series of alliterations into a coherent set of lyrics over a canvas of a song.

While Nash and Crosby supply some guitar to the album’s various tunes and Dallas Taylor was drummer on all cuts except “Marrakesh Express,” the majority of the instrumentation on “Crosby, Stills & Nash” was strictly Stephen Stills. His work as a multi-instrumentalist shines.

But, the band was not known specifically for its instrumentation. Their three part harmonies are their signature . . . and the vocals on “Helplessly Hoping” are just wonderful – it just sends chills up and down my spine when I hear it. “Helplessly Hoping” is sparse by comparison to the other tracks – it’s only the vocals and one finger-style guitar courtesy of its author Stephen Stills.

“They are one person – they are two alone – they are three together – they are for each other.”

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Ray Charles: Mess Around

Having heard today’s Bluesday Tuesday selection a while back, I marked it down for future reference. It is a song that not only predates my life, but my familiarity of the late, great Ray Charles’ recordings. The 1953 single release of “Mess Around” is one of his definitive recordings.

From what I can tell, “Mess Around,” was Ray’s third single release on Atlantic Records and the first of his many early singles to chart. While he wouldn’t chart on the mainstream charts until 1957, “Mess Around” ascended to the #3 position on Billboard’s R&B Chart.

“Mess Around” was written by Ahmet Ertegün, the president of Atlantic Records, under the pseudonym of “Nuggy.” The song drew influence both instrumentally and lyrically from a number of sources as Ertegün borrowed liberally from his predecessors in the blues genre. This is great stuff from Ray.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Dave Grohl: Times Like These

Well, it had been awhile since I’ve had a Wooden Wednesday selection so I thought I’d find an acoustic song to satisfy this craving. While listening to WRLF in Fairmont, WV last night, I heard the Foo Fighters’ 2002 alternative hit “Times like These.” While searching YouTube for it to use as future post, I also found Dave Grohl’s acoustic rendition of this classic. Grohl provides all guitars, keyboards, and vocals on this solo video.

Written in the key of D, it is not in standard Ionian mode, but rather in mixolydian. This is basically a G-scale that uses the D note as the root. In other words, the scale is D-E-F#-G-A-B-C-D. Grohl’s acoustic version was released nearly four years after the Foo Fighter’s original and got a modicum of airplay as well. Nice stuff.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Lovin' Spoonful: Butchie's Tune

OK, I admit it. I have a problem. I am a binge-watcher. There, I said it. Since June 2014, I’ve been hogging my wife’s Netflix account to watch several programs that I hadn’t had the opportunity to see as of yet. I’ve seen most of the biggies and a few relatively unknowns. I find it easier to follow a series when I have the opportunity to watch it in sequence at my own time – whether that be at 11:00 PM or 5:00 AM.

Recently, I finished watching – well, let me backtrack, I finished watching all of the episodes on Netflix of “Mad Men.” The final seven episodes are not yet online – so, I’ll have to wait to see what happens. When the show originally aired on AMC, I only got to see two episodes – one from season two and one from season four. Without the prior context, I waited for Netflix to pick up the series.

What I’ve seen so far was pretty accurate for its portrayal of the 1960s. I did find some flaws and possible flaws in some of the artifacts – but really only minor ones that only someone with OCD would notice. One of the nice things about the show is that it provided a plethora of music from varying styles.

One of the tunes that caught my ear was the closing song of the 12th episode from season five. It is when Don Draper is driving Glenn Bishop back to the prep school and he allows Glenn to drive his car. The song, “Butchie’s Tune,” was by The Lovin’ Spoonful and was an album cut off their “Daydream” LP from 1966.

Although cowritten by John Sebastian and bassist Steve Boone, the lead vocals were supplied by drummer Joe Butler who still tours as Joe Butler and The Lovin’ Spoonful. One of the shining moments of “Butchie’s Tune” is the countrified guitar licks of Zal Yanovsky who had the pedal steel type Sus4 chords down pat.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Sixth Anniversary - Deram Records: I Woke Up This Morning.

Today is a day of celebration. Six years ago today I began this blog on a rainy Saturday afternoon. It was one of the better decisions I’ve made as I have rekindled friendships and made a number of new ones over the six year period. The last two years (especially last year) with the change in jobs, I’ve not kept up with the blog. In 2015, I’ve had long gaps without new posts. Hopefully, that will change.

Before we get to the stats, our final selection to celebrate the music of Deram Records, we bring you an album cut from Ten Years After fourth album for the label: “Ssssh.” In all, Deram released seven Ten Years After albums – five studio, one live, and a compilation album. “Ssssh” was their second album from 1969 and a number of cuts got some album airplay, no singles were issued from the album to my knowledge.

Until the 1971 hit on Columbia, “I’d Love to Change the World,” singles were just a nuisance that the record company released hoping that mainstream radio would pick up on it. With the exception of “I’d Love to Change the World,” it didn’t work and Deram had no hit records from Ten Years After.

To remedy that, we turned to the final cut on “Ssssh” and an Alvin Lee tune – “I Woke Up this Morning.” It really showcases how great a guitarist Alvin Lee was. Even as great a talent as Lee was, he needed a solid band and Ten Years After fulfilled that need. The band was rounded out by Leo Lyons on bass (always a joy to watch), Chick Churchill on keyboards, and Ric Lee on drums. Great stuff for a Saturday – rainy or otherwise.

RBTG’s Sixth Anniversary Retrospect

Like I had reported with every other 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 95 declared followers of the blog – the same number as in March 2015 when we had our 1600th post. There are many others who have visited frequently without declaring themselves as followers.

As noted above, we have not been vigilant in maintaining posts, but that hasn’t affected our overall numbers. With over 1600 posts, people have been visiting anyway even without new material that was forthcoming.

The cumulative statistics for the blog are listed below:

Unique Visitors190,254
Times Visited213,983
Number of Pages Viewed298,652
People Visiting 200+ Times3,188
People Visiting 101-200 Times1,557
People Visiting 51-100 Times1,486
People Visiting 26-50 Times1,418
Number of Visitor Countries Represented191

The Top Ten Visitor Countries

Since our 1,600th post, three new countries were added to the list: Tajikistan (in Asia), Cuba (in the Caribbean), and Chad in Africa . The Top 10 countries remain the same; however, former tenth position Spain knocked Netherlands out of the ninth position.

1United States105,359
2United Kingdom18,120

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.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Deram Records: Hallelujah Freedom

While the name Junior Campbell won’t mean much for our American audience, it will for the folks in the UK. His only American Top 40 hit was with Marmalade and it was “Reflections of My Life” from 1969 on London Records – Decca Records Ltd.’s American counterpart. Campbell not only sang lead, but also played guitar and keyboards. “Rainbow,” which was a Top 5 release in Britain, made it to #7 on the American A/C chart, but only hit #51 on the Hot 100.

In Britain, both Marmalade and Junior Campbell had numerous hit records. In 1971, William Campbell, Jr. broke from Marmalade and embarked upon a solo career on Decca/London’s subsidiary Deram Records. His second single, “Hallelujah Freedom” from 1972, was his most successful solo recording. While it charted at #10 in the UK, none of his solo recordings charted in the US. Campbell provide piano, guitar, electric piano, and lead and back-up vocals. The recording won the Best British Single of 1972 – which is why we’re including it here.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Deram: My Baby Loves Lovin'

Day Five at our look at Deram Records takes a trip down the pop music memory lane with a hit from 1969: White Plains’ “My Baby Loves Lovin’.” Like their label counterparts The Brotherhood of Man, White Plains initially started as a session group that morphed into a performing group. Like The Brotherhood of Man, Tony Burrows was one of its vocalists.

In addition to White Plains and The Brotherhood of Man, Burrows’ lead vocals can be heard on several other hit records. These include the following: Edison Lighthouse’s “Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes,” The Pipkins “Gimme Dat Ding,” and First Class’ “Beach Baby.” Three of his recordings with different groups were on the charts simultaneously and the public never noticed.

Recorded in October 1969, “My Baby Loves Lovin’” was released in January 1970. Being the most popular record for White Plains, from which Burrows left shortly after the song’s release, “My Baby Loves Lovin’” peaked at #9 in the UK and at #13 in the US.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Deram Records: Repent Walpurgis

For our Wordless Wednesday song from Deram Records, it was a competition between Whistling Jack Smith’s “I was Kaiser Bill’s Batman,” which charted at #20, and Procol Harum’s “Repent Walpurgis,” which failed to chart. Duh!!! Well, if you know me well enough, you would have guessed “Repent Walpurgis” won that battle. Since I had previously featured the band’s only hit on Deram, “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” I had to cull something else from their debut LP.

In Britain, only the “Whiter Shade of Pale” single was released on Deram Records. Their self titled debut LP would be the first release on the newly resurrected Regal Zonophone label – a subsidiary of EMI. In the US, the first Procol Harum LP was issued on Deram and led with “A Whiter Shade of Pale” and eliminated “Good Captain Clack” from the LP’s lineup. Additionally, the song order varied between the transatlantic versions, but “Repent Walpurgis” was the final cut on both.

Written by organist Matthew Fisher, “Repent Walpurgis” is one of the more powerful tunes on the album. Fishers’ overdriven Hammond Organ, Gary Brooker’s piano, and those guitar leads from Robin Trower just conjure up all kinds of images. Fisher felt the song was full of angst and that he thought it should be named “Repent.” One of his band mates said it reminded him of Walpurgis Night – or witches night that occurs prior to St. Walpurga’s Day on May 1. So they combined the thoughts into the title “Repent Walpurgis.”

While the name was ominous, so were the inspirations for this instrumental as they spanned centuries and continents. The primary progression of the tune featuring Cm, Ab/Eb, Dm7b5, and G was directly inspired by the chorus of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons 1967 single “Beggin’.” The piano interlude came primarily from Bach’s “Prelude 1 in C Major” from “The Well-Tempered Clavier.” This is prog rock at its finest.

Alternate Stereo Version

Here’s an alternate take of “Repent Walpurgis” that was shelved until the 1999 release of “Pandora’s Box: The Unused Procol Harum Stereo Versions Plus.” Unlike the original and shorter version, the alternate take is in true stereo not the rechanneled stereo found on American Deram release. While Fisher plays some different organ counterpoint, “Repent Walpurgis” also features more and heavier guitar work by Trower. It becomes quite the jam towards the end when someone whistles to signal to Trower and bassist Dave Knights to wrap it up and they do. It is a rather nice version in its own right.

The Four Season’s Inspiration

To make this feature complete, I found it necessary to add Frankie Valli and the Four Season’s “Beggin’.” Written by Bob Gaudio and Peggy Farina, the single peaked at #16. Although it had a respectable chart showing, it lost in the airplay wars with Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes off of You” that charted at #2 and was released two months after “Beggin’.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Deram Records: Tuesday Afternoon

One of my favorite bands of all time is The Moody Blues; and thus, it makes them my favorite Deram Records’ act. The classic version of the band released three LPs on the Deram imprint until moving over to their own label, Threshold Records, in 1969. The three Deram albums were “Days of Future Passed,” “In Search of the Lost Chord,” and “On a Threshold of a Dream.” The latter was the inspiration for their new label’s name.

In addition to three albums, five singles appeared on Deram. Being that it is Tuesday, we’ll feature their second seven inch release – “Tuesday Afternoon,” or as it appears on “Days of Future Passed” as “Forever Afternoon (Tuesday?).” Justin Hayward, who wrote the tune while sitting in a field playing his guitar, had originally named the song “Tuesday Afternoon”; however, producer Tony Clarke wanted a name that fit with the concept album “Days of Future Passed.” So, it was changed for the time being.

While the album was released in 1967, the “Tuesday Afternoon (Forever Afternoon)” single was not issued until 1968. It was the second single from “Days of Future Passed” with the first, “Nights in White Satin” only making it to #103 with the original 1967 issue. When reissued as a single five years later in 1972, “Nights in White Satin” peaked at #2 and was the band’s highest charting single in the US.

While “Nights in White Satin” did well both times in the UK (#19 and #9), it was not their biggest British release – “Go Now,” with the original lineup, peaked at #1, while the biggest song with the classical version of the band was 1970’s “Question.”

As for “Tuesday Afternoon,” it was not released as a single in the UK and only made it to #24 in the US. This is a pity, as it remains one of the band’s most enduring performances both in terms of airplay and their live performances. “Tuesday Afternoon” is a song that has held up well over its 48-year existence. It just has so much. The clear, ever present vocals of Justin Hayward and the fantastic bass of John Lodge that is occasionally punctuated by Mike Pinder on the piano’s bass register.

Speaking of Pinder, the Mellotron makes this tune – this new sound adds to the overall texture of “Tuesday Afternoon,” as well as numerous Moodies’ recordings to come. I would be remiss if I forgot to also credit Ray Thomas’ flute, Graeme Edge’s drums, and the London Festival Orchestra under the direction of Peter Knight. It just doesn’t get much better than this. “The trees are drawing me near; I've got to find out why. Those gentle voices I hear explain it all with a sigh.”

Although not credited on the album,“Tuesday Afternoon” is paired with a John Lodge composition “(Evening) Time to Get Away.” Here’s the complete album track from “Days of Future Passed.”

Monday, September 21, 2015

Deram Records: Night of Fear

Our second look at Deram Records features the precursor to the Electric Light Orchestra – The Move. Released in December 1966 as the ninth single for the label, “Night of Fear” charted in the UK at #2 in January 1967. Like most of The Move’s single releases, it failed to chart in the US. Only “Do Ya,” which was released in 1972, made a dent in the American charts – and it was barely a ding with its peak at #93.

“Night of Fear” draws from Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and you can see that Roy Wood was thinking about a mixture of rock and classical music well before ELO. The song features Carl Wayne on lead vocals and Trevor Burton, Ace Kefford, and Roy Wood on back-up vocals.

This is a great little tune and it can only be conjectured why it never charted in the US. Perhaps being on Deram was part of the problem. In 1967, it was still a very new label; and frankly, many of the Deram releases never charted in the US or the UK. Most that did still get oldies play. Enjoy this nugget from the past.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Deram Records: United We Stand

It’s the fourth week of the month, and as we have in the past, we’ve featured independent and smaller subsidiary record labels. For the next few days, we’ll look at Deram Records a subsidiary of Decca Records, Ltd., a UK music concern now owned by Universal Music Group. In the US, Deram was managed under London Records (Decca Records, Ltd.’s US label) from 1966 to 1980. The Deram imprint in the UK is still active.

As a youngster, I thought the label was pronounced as Dee-Ram. As I grew older, I figured that couldn’t be correct and thought it might be pronounced as Deer-am. I was wrong on both accounts. A few years ago, I heard an interview with one of the label’s former artists who called it Deh-ram.

Deram was an abbreviation for Decca Panoramic Sound and the “Deh-ram” pronunciation sounds correct with this in mind. The idea was to provide a more natural sounding stereo mix in the recordings and several of the label’s offerings were mixed this way; however, not all releases were examples of the Deramic Sound. For example, Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale” was a mono release in the UK and issued in fake stereo in the US.

In addition to Procol Harum, Deram had the distinction at one time of also having The Moody Blues, Ten Years After, David Bowie, The Move, and Cat Stevens on the label. Of those six, The Moody Blues and Ten Years After had a modicum of multi-year successes with Deram. Procol Harum and The Move left the label, as they were not officially signed to Deram per se. Their management company signed a contract with the label and eventually moved the two groups over to EMI’s subsidiary Regal Zonophone.

The Move recorded two singles (“Night of Fear” and “I Can Hear the Grass Grow”) and Procol Harum released an album (in the US) and single (“Whiter Shade of Pale”) for Deram. Of its other well known artists, both Cat Stevens and David Bowie failed to have hits with Deram in the US. The reason will become obvious after listening to some of these early recordings.

For our first look at the label, we turn to the British vocal group known as Brotherhood of Man. While the band released a number of records beginning in 1969, it did not have a fixed lineup until 1973. Like many other groups of the era, it was a studio creation without an actual identity. Their only Top 20 American hit, “United We Stand,” featured Tony Burrows, Sue Glover, Sunny Leslie, John Goodson, and Roger Greenway on vocals. The single was released in the US in March 1970 and its positive message resonated with youth on both continents.

Brotherhood of Man did much better on the UK charts than they did across the pond. While “United we Stand” only charted at #13 in the US on the Hot 100 at #15 on the A/C charts, it did slightly better at #10 in the UK. Their only other US hit, 1976’s “Save Your Kisses for Me” went to #1 in the UK and on the US A/C charts; however, it only peaked at #27 on the Hot 100.

Brotherhood of Man had two additional #1 records in the UK, but neither charted in the US. Like “Save Your Kisses for Me,” all were hits after they left Deram. Incidentally, all of their recordings on Deram listed the band as “The” Brotherhood of Man. After leaving the label, the definite article in their name was dropped.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Remembering Jimi Hendrix: If 6 Was 9

Forty-five years ago today, the world lost one of the most innovative guitarists – Jimi Hendrix. For today’s Friday Flipside feature, we use “If 6 was 9” – the “B” side of “Stone Free.” While “If 6 was 9” never charted, “Stone Free” only made it to #130. While “Stone Free” had been issued as the flip of “Hey Joe” in the UK in 1966, it was not released in the US until July 1969 when it appeared on the “Smash Hits” LP.

“If 6 was 9” was originally released on the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s 1967’s “Axis: Bold as Love” album and later appeared on the “Easy Rider Soundtrack” in 1969. The single was released on September 15, 1969 – a year and three days prior to Hendrix’s death. Penned by Hendrix, “If 6 was 9” contains plenty of distortion, reverb, echo, and even features Hendrix on soprano recorder. It is a counter-culture anthem that pits one side of the generation gap with the other.

The original stereo master of the “Axis: Bold as Love” unfortunately was lost so Hendrix and engineer Eddie Kramer hurriedly remixed the album with the exception of one cut: “If 6 was 9.” Unable to get a satisfactory remix of the tune, a noisy premix of the song that belonged to bassist Noel Redding was used as the final master.

It has been reported that Redding’s copy so was badly wrinkled that Kramer resorted to using an iron to straighten out the tape. The copy was transferred to virgin tape and was inserted into the album’s master. “If 6 was 9” was produced by Chas Chandler – Hendrix’s manager. Chandler, by the way, was the original bassist for The Animals.

On Friday, September 18, 1970, Hendrix died from aspirating his own vomit while overdosed on barbiturates and alcohol. It certainly was a sad day and I remember hearing the news 45 years ago like it was yesterday.

As an aside, this occurred during my sophomore year at East Allegheny High School in Pennsylvania. The very next school day, while Principal Joseph Churchman prepared to play the “Star Spangled Banner” and lead the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag over the public address system as he did every morning, several students approached him about playing Hendrix’s version from the Woodstock soundtrack. While it was definitely not his musical style, he obliged this request.

The next issue of the Wildcat Crier, the student newspaper, poked a bit of fun at Joe Churchman for allowing the Hendrix recording to be played in place of the military band record that he typically used. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the artist’s name, but I have remembered this all these years.

“White collared conservative flashing down the street, Pointing their plastic finger at me. They're hoping soon my kind will drop and die, but I'm gonna wave my freak flag high, high. Wave on, wave on.” Unfortunately, “If 6 was 9” was somewhat prophetic and in a year after this single was released, Jimi died in London at the age of 27. Play on Jimi – and the world will be playing your music for centuries to come.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Santana: Stormy

Having been a fan of the music of Dennis Yost and the Classics IV, I’ve also appreciated the covers of their bigger hit releases. This includes today’s Thirty Something Thursday selection of “Stormy” by Santana. Although the original peaked at #5 in 1968, the remake ten years later only made it to 32 on the Hot 100 chart.

From their 1978 “Inner Secrets” album, “Stormy” was the album’s second of three singles. The other two singles included a remake of the Buddy Holly album track “Well All Right” and “One Chain (Don't Make No Prison),” which was penned by the album’s producers, Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter. “Well Alright” basically used the same arrangement employed by Steve Winwood and Blind Faith in 1969.

Like any song by Santana, “Stormy” features the unique overdrive guitar of band leader Carlos Santana. Greg Walker provides the lead vocals. This is an exceptionally well done cover of “Stormy” that perhaps should have charted much higher than 32. “Stormy” was penned by Classics IV guitarist J.R. Cobb and the band's producer/manager Buddy Buie. For the original, see this post from 2014.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Fairport Convention: Tokyo

One of my favorite instrumentals comes from Fairport Convention’s ninth LP, which was appropriately titled “Nine.” Although the LP was released in 1973, I didn’t get my copy until 1976. It is not the typical fare for the band, but “Tokyo” showcases the band’s prowess as instrumentalists with guitar, fiddle, bass, drums, and keyboard pyrotechnics and the liberal use of wah-wah pedals.

The song was primarily a vehicle for Jerry Donahue to show off his talents as a lead guitarist, but it also provides an opportunity for his band mates to shine as well. There are a couple of places that showcase Dave Swarbrick: one has him on double fiddles and the other has him playing electrified violin complete with the aforementioned wah-wah pedal.

Additionally, Dave Pegg is keeping up on bass by using a plectrum for attack and speed. Drummer Dave Mattacks not only provides some interesting tom work, but he plays a mean clavinet that really adds to the mystique of “Tokyo.” I can only imagine that Trevor Lucas handles the rhythm guitar parts on the track.

At the close of the song, everyone is in unison. I can’t swear to it, but it sounds as though there is a mandolin in there as well. If so, it is either played by Swarb or Peggy. As you might expect, “Tokyo” was penned by Jerry Donahue. Nice stuff from an album that is not typically considered anyone’s favorite Fairport LP – but I like despite what anyone else thinks.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Barbara Dane: I'm On My Way

When I first heard Barbara Dane, I hadn’t seen her photo. I supposed that she was like most female blues artists of the late 50s and early 60s: African-American, a little older, and more matronly in appearance. I was surprised to learn that she was blonde, blue-eyed, 33 years old, and, er, not matronly like most of best known female blues artists of the era.

Ebony observed in 1959, “As the rich white spotlight sweeps over the face with the fresh-scrubbed look, the girl seems startlingly blonde, especially when that powerful dusky alto voice begins to moan of trouble, two-timing men, and freedom. She is singing the blues—just as Bessie Smith sung them, and Mama Yancey and Lizzie Miles and Ma Rainey. But, she is white.”

Looking at her older photos, it was obvious that her “startlingly” blonde hair came from a bottle, but it was fitting with her “fresh-scrubbed” complexion. Bottle or not – who cares? Her voice, however, is amazing – pure, unadulterated, and classy. She’s still around and still singing at the age of 88.

My introduction to Ms. Dane was her 1960 recording on Trey Records of “I’m On My Way.” Produced by Lee Hazelwood, this was her only output on this fledgling label that released less than 20 singles. Her record was the fifteenth of the series and has of late been a popular Northern Soul classic in England.

Although her rendering of “I’m On My Way” is a secular twist of the field holler that turned spiritual. This same song became an old time country gospel song at the hands of The Carter Family in 1934. Although a traditional song at the time of the Carter recording, A.P. Carter took the writing credit and Ralph Peer owned the publishing rights. The original author is unknown and Barbara Dane did the honorable thing – she only claimed the arrangement of this traditional spiritual.

Two years after the Trey release, Capitol Records issued an updated version of the song as the title cut for her LP, EP, and Seeburg Series’ 7 inch-33 1/3 RPM for jukebox play. All three releases were named as “On My Way.” The newer version moved the key from Gm to Am, had a different horn arrangement, and included backup vocals by the Andrews Gospel Signers. The newer version also featured Rocco Wilson on congas and is a slightly faster than her original.

While her original recording is sparse by comparison, I prefer it to the 1962 release of the same song. I am providing both versions as comparison. See what you think.

Monday, September 14, 2015

RIP REO's Gary Richrath

Gary Richrath is dead. While he may not have been a household name, he was one of the most underrated guitarists of the rock n’ roll era. Although he wasn’t the front man of REO Speedwagon, his impressive guitar licks always stood out on REO’s numerous LPs. While I met him twice, both were brief encounters and I never had an opportunity to really talk to him except to complement him on his work.

His death yesterday reminded of my own mortality as he is just a few years older than me. And although I have not been active with this blog, this sad news prompted me to attempt to reactivate “Reading Between the Grooves” for the second time this year.

I first heard Richrath’s licks during the fall of 1973 – Greg Rector placed his stereo speakers out the open window of his dorm room at Kentucky Christian College and I heard REO’s “Ridin’ the Storm Out” as it blared across campus. Penned by Richrath, “Ridin’ the Storm Out” is notable for the Moog synthesizer used on the cut, but you’ll also hear some of the greatest guitar work this side of Peoria.

While I featured “Ridin’ the Storm Out” in 2010 with several other REO classics, it was the studio version featuring Michael Murphy. The song was released as a single in 1973, but failed to chart. In 1977, a live version featuring Kevin Cronin was released as a single from “Live: You Get What You Play For.” While the tune charted, its peak at #94 wasn’t spectacular; however, Gary’s guitar work was; if you excuse the pun, its electrifying on this live version.

Gary – we’ll miss you – Keep “Ridin’ the Storm Out.”