Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Playlist for 8/20

Spoon - They Want My Soul
Jenny Lewis - Voyager
Tom Petty - Hypnotic Eye
Eric Clapton & Friends - The Breeze
Old Crow Medicine Show -Remedy
First Aid Kit - Stay Gold

Sunday, August 17, 2014

R&B Artists & The Rock Hall

In the last 5 years, the Rock Hall has inducted 2 R&B oriented acts.  Donna Summer in 2013 and Darlene Love in 2011.  In those 5 years the NomCom has put forth 11 names on the ballot:  Chantels, Chic, Chaka Khan, Darlene Love,  Marvelettes, Meters, Spinners, Donna Summer, Joe Tex, War, Chuck Willis.  Summer got in the year after she passed away.  And Love was put in after 3 tries. Looking over this list I see 4 artists who first started charting in  the 70's, 5 from the 60's and 2 from the 50's. And not one name that first charted in 80's.  The list of R&B names that have been left out in the cold is pretty impressive.  Can't say that the NomCom isn't trying to get these names in.  While the 2014 ballot had only 2 R&B names (Chic & Meters), the previous years were averaging at least 3 to 4 names.  But voters aren't going for them.  It could be that some of these aren't Popular choices. The word "crossover" will be used a lot, as having Pop Top 40 hits helps. I'd say that the Meters, Joe Tex, Chuck Willis and Chantels aren't well known outside of a few voters.  Below are a list of 31 names that should have gotten in by now.  Big names + some lesser known ones.  All worth a vote.

Ashford & Simpson - Could also be considered in the Songwriter category.  One big Pop hit on their own, but a string of excellent albums in the late 70's/early 80's.  Recording career underrated.  But it's as songwriters where they were remembered most.   8

Jerry Butler - Here's an interesting one.  Butler is in with the Impressions. His time there was brief.   His solo career was more distinctive.   Definitely one of the kings of Chicago Soul.   8

Chantels - One of the first Girl Groups, most likely hurt because they only had 4 Top 40 Pop hits.  But they have been nominated twice before.  The last in 2010.   6

Chic - We al know the story. 8X nominated, and the cruelest victims of the "disco sucks" crowd.  Somehow the Hall will have to get them in.   9

Chi-Lites - Eugene Record might be the most overlooked R&B name of the 70's.  He Produced and either wrote or co-wrote their greatest records.  And Chicago Soul is an overlooked genre anyway.  4

Clovers - First record came out in 1951, so they could be an Early Influence inductee.  A group I think most thought were already in.  Charted before label-mates the Drifters, and had just as many great hits.  8

Commodores/Lionel Richie - They skirted the Funk category before Lionel steered them toward  hit ballads.  Lionel's solo career alone is worth a nod, but the Commodores (along with Earth, Wind & Fire) were the biggest crossover R&B group of the 70's.  Both:  8

"5" Royales - I'm not saying most voters don't know their R&B history, but, well, okay that's what I'm saying.  This masterful group combined Doo Wop, R&B and even Gospel into a blend that others would take hold of.  First records were in 1952, so they could also be an Early Influence.  Nominated twice, the last in 2004.  8

Roy Brown-  His "Good Rocking Tonight" was covered by Elvis and you can here his vocals picked up by the likes of Jackie Wilson, B.B. King and other a in the the 50's.  Early Influence. 8

Gap Band - Charlie Wilson might be the most exciting lead singer in an R&B band you will ever see.  And their hits were great too.  Big influence on Hip-Hop, but voters might think they didn't have enough Pop hits.  6

Whitney Houston - The most influential and biggest Pop stars ever, she might be considered too Pop for some backward-thinking voters.  But there's no denying her legacy.  Just ask Beyonce, Mariah Carey, Mary J Blige, Alicia Keys or any other female R&B singer that came after her.  9

Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes/ Teddy Pendergrass - Outside of the O'Jays, Melvin were the 2nd biggest act on Philly International.  With just enough crossover hits that voters could get behind.  Pendergrass' solo career was even more spectacular.  Until his auto accident he was the biggest male R&B act.  Hall & Oates are right.  The Rock Hall is lacking in Philly Sound artists.  Both:  8

Janet Jackson - One of the  biggest female Pop stars from the mid-80's/mid-90's.  Might suffer from voters thinking she was only as good as her producers (Jam/Lewis on most songs).    8

Rick James - Until Prince came along, James was the craziest R&B star on the planet.  His R&B/Funk mixed with Rock made for some powerful moments.  He faded in the mid-80's though before coming back near his death in 2004. But a key influence on Hip-Hop.     6

Kool & The Gang - Started out as a pioneering Funk band before charting numerous Pop hits in the 80's.  Such a long-running presence that it's amazing they've never received a nomination.  8

Patti LaBelle -  Not enough Pop hits, but with her group Labelle she had a magical one.  First started charting in the 60's.  And let's face it, there's no other female R&B singer as exciting to watch as her.  8

Nina Simone - Although mostly thought of as a Jazz singer, she cut plenty of R&B tracks, even Blues ones.  Her status has grown since she passed away in 2003.   9

Marvelletes - You know that old joke about the Hall:  eventually every Motown and Atlantic act will get inducted.  But there's a reason for that, they were all great.  Here's another one whose only problem may have been that they were somewhat anonymous. But I think they were one of the all-time great Girl Groups. And the magic of Motown could get them in.   Nominated once in 2013.   8

Meters/Neville Brothers - The Meters have been nominated 3 times.  Last in 2014.  They could just as well go in as a backing band.  Not having enough Pop hits has probably hurt them.  The Neville Brothers have never even been nominated, which is a NomCom travesty.  Like Dr.John they are a New Orleans institution that would go in first-time on the ballot.  How have they slipped under the NomCom's nose?   (Meters) 7  (Neville Brothers) 10

Ohio Players - The best funk band of the mid-70's.  Had 2 #1 Pop hits, but may have faded out too soon for voters to remember their peak years.   4

Lou Rawls - Rawls made a great comeback in late 70's thanks to Gamble & Huff.  And it's those years that made him a household name.  But his first hits were in the mid-60's.  Could be his records are a little to jazzy for some.   7

Rufus with Chaka Khan - The best, if not most powerful female R&B singer of the late 70's/mid-80's, Chaka is the star of the show.   Nominated once in 2012.  Maybe she comes back on the ballot as a solo act.    9

Spaniels - Funny how everyone thinks Doo-Wop has enough names already inducted.  But here's one that slipped by everyone.  They had a unique lead singer in James "Pookie" Hudson and their records were widely influential as the years went on.  First records came out in 1953, so another Early Influence possibility.  6

Spinners - They didn't record for Gamble & Huff, but thanks to the genius of Thom Bell their sound was pure Philly Soul.  First started making records in the 60's, but it wasn't until Phillipe Wynne joined in the early 70's that they hit their stride.  The greatest R&B group of the early 70's.  Nominated once in 2012.  9

Stylistics - Like the Spinners, the Stylistics made their greatest records in the early 70's with Thom Bell.  Russell Thompkins Jr.'s falsetto was a force of nature, and the groups best songs were as smooth a Philly Soul as any other act of that time was producing.  7

Joe Tex - Already nominated 4 times.  Anytime he gets on the ballot their are smarmy remarks by people who don't know how great he was.  He had crossover hits and his talk-singing was wholly unique when couple with his best hits.  Underrated, and I give the NomCom credit for bringing his name up every few years.  8

Luther Vandross - The biggest R&B singer of the 80's.  Vandross' main selling point was his incredible voice.  Had some crossover hits, but maybe too much a presence on the R&B chart for some voters to remember them by.  7

Jr. Walker & The All Stars - Another Motown artist, but at least Walker's records weren't too coated in Pop.  "Shotgun" itself typified what Walker was trying to get too with his records. Bonus points for the sax solo on Foreigner's "Urgent".  4

War - Nominated twice, the last in 2012.  Put on a War record and you were bound to hear a mix of everything:  R&B, Funk, Rock, Latin.  They were one of the biggest bands in the mid-70's.  And in Latino and Hip-Hop circles, quite influential.   7

Billy Ward & The Dominoes -  Could be Early Influence as first records were in 1951. Once nominated in 1997 (as the Dominoes).  Clyde McPhatter and Jackie Wilson were once part of the Dominoes and their records had crossover appeal, long before the big Rock and Roll boom of 1956.  But would be puzzler to most voters today.   9

Wynonie Harris - Another Early Influence name.  He first record was in 1945.  Harris made some of the most rocking R&B of the pre-Rock era.  Elvis covered "Good Rockin' Tonight".   Definitely an "unsung hero of Rock and Roll."    9

Dionne Warwick - I've heard it said that if she had stopped making records in 1970 she would be inducted already.  But she didn't and it's those Pop hits in the late 70's/early 80's that have made her seem too Pop for some.  But those Bacharach/David hits in the 60's are her recorded legacy.  8

Mary Wells - Nominated twice, but way back at the dawn of the Rock Hall in the 1986 and '87.  Wells has been hurt because her chart time was too brief that not even her Motown years has helped get her back on the ballot.   7

Diana Ross - She may not stand a chance getting in as a solo act, because the Supremes were so iconic, but she had a spectacular run on her own.  Factor in her Oscar-nominated performance in Lady Sings The Blues, her many Pop Top 40 hits and Diana turned out to be one of the biggest Pop stars of the 70's.   6

Barry White -  Some of the most lush, smooth dance records of the 70's came from White.  He crossed over with just about every record he put out during his peak years.  Often gets labeled as a Disco artist which is unfair.  He influenced that genre.  But his orchestral arrangements also reached many a R&B act in later years.   9

Chuck Willis - Nominated 6 times, the last in 2011 (after being left off the ballot since 1990).  Before he died in 1958, made some classic sides for Atlantic.  First records in 1951, so should be an Early Influence candidate. The NomCom keeps bringing him up, but voters don't know anything about him.   8

Bill Withers - A member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, I have no idea why Withers hasn't gotten any NomCom love, as he would probably go in first ballot.  R&B singer-songwriter excellence was what made him stand out.  Stopped recording in 1985, but people haven't forgotten about him because his biggest hits have bee remade and sampled by future artists.   10

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Elvis-37 Years Later

I love to tell this story.  Where did I hear about Elvis' death?  I was coming back from seeing Star Wars for the 2nd time.  My Mom worked near the theater, so after she picked me up after the movie.  I get in the car turn on the radio and my local Top 40 station is playing an Elvis song.  Turned to the other Top 40 station and the same thing.  This seemed unusual because Elvis never got played on those stations.  After one of his songs finished the DJ got on and said Elvis had died.  I remember my Mom letting out a "What?" and my heart sinking a bit.  When we got home I turned on the TV and it was on the news.

Such a surreal day.  I went through my Dad's record collection and saw what he had on Elvis.  He had some early 70's LP's and 8-tracks.  The next day I took the bus downtown and went to an independent record shop and bought Elvis' latest album Moody Blue (with blue-colored vinyl).  Didn't have the money to buy anything else, but as the months went on I did buy other albums.

Elvis died young.  Only 42.  He never got old, but he was already an old soul by the time he passed.  He's the greatest Rock and Roll star ever.  The one true King of Rock and Roll.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Playlist for 8/12

John Hiatt - Terms of My Surrender
Puss N Boots - No Fools No Fun
Morrissey - World Peace
Charlie Worsham - Rubberband
Jason Derulo - Talk Dirty

Monday, August 11, 2014

Robin Williams

When George Carlin died, I wrote how the 70's were the last Golden Age of Comedy records charting high and going Platinum.  Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, Cheech & Chong were Rock stars of the Comedy world.
Robin Williams didn't make as many albums as some of those names, but his first album, Reality What A Concept, came out just as Mork & Mindy was peaking.   Like a lot of Comedy albums I bought back then, I memorized everything on it.

Williams never gave up touring, but his film career eventually became what a new generation of fans remembered him for.  His films could be filled with highs and some were just plain puzzling bad. No different than Steve Martin's films, and always the curse of actor's who work too much.

He had problems, demons, that were hidden behind his manic stand-up.  It's the early days that well always resonate with me. And a few films. And that first album. His genius never dimmed.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Blues Artists & The Rock Hall

Some people seemed surprised that Johnny Winter was not already in the Rock Hall.  His death brought out some posts wondering why he wasn't in.  As with all things Rock Hall (and NomCom) related, the answer is a mystery that remains stranded in those yearly meetings in New York.  But it also got me thinking about the Blues category.  Recent years have seen both Albert and Freddy King inducted.  But are there others?  The answer is a big yes, especially when you consider Early Influences.

So, I came up with a few names that should be there.  Amazingly, only one of these acts has ever been nominated, although I'm sure some have at least been considered by the NomCom.

In no particular order:

Charley Patton - He's the "Father of the Delta Blues".  So how did he slip by the Rock Hall.  An obvious choice for an Early Influence.  Howlin' Wolf and John Lee Hooker were influenced by him.

Sonny Boy Williamson II - There were 2 Sonny Boy's, but Sonny II was the giant.  A powerful harmonica player, he also wrote and sang some of the genres greatest sides on Chess.  Another should-be Early Influence inductee.

Junior Wells - Yet another influential Harmonica player of Chicago Blues  Wells is best know for his recordings with Buddy Guy and Muddy Waters.  Could be Early Influence, but didn't his own recording stride until the mid-60's.

Son House - Along with Charley Patton, another master of Delta Blues.  His slide-guitar playing alone influenced many.  Early Influence category.

Skip James -  Another excellent guitarist whose songs have been covered by everyone from Cream to Lucinda Williams to Gregg Allman.  Not as well known as others on this list, but still a seminal Blues name.  Early Influence category.

Mississippi John Hurt -   I wouldn't call it mellow, but Hurt's Blues were not of the gut-bucket variety.  "Warmth" is the word others have used.  Couple that with the fact that he was one of the genres greatest guitar players and Hurt is a strong candidate.  Early Influence again.

Big Mama Thornton - One of the great Blues shouters who also had an influence just as Rock and Roll was at its infancy.  "Hound Dog" was her ticket, and many female Rock & Blues singers were influenced by her.   Early Influence category.

Memphis Minnie - One of the early Blues guitarists, and a pioneer in that category among many of the women who followed her.  Somewhat forgotten today, but she was a popular presence throughout her life.  Early Influence category.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe - Probably more Gospel than Blues, but she did cut some records in the latter category.  Regardless, she's one of the best vocalists and guitarists from the early years of Blues and Gospel.

Blind Willie Johnson - Often called the most powerful Gospel meets Blues artist. Rough voice added to the drama of his best records.  He was also one of the genres best slide guitarists.  Early Influence.

Paul Butterfield Blues Band - Butterfield has been nominated 3 times.  The problem may be that most voters aren't familiar with his records.  I guess promoting his Chicago Blues to white audiences or having one of the best young Blues guitar players in your band (Mike Bloomfield), isn't enough.

Johnny Winter - Winter's death has definitely spawned an appreciation of his recorded output.  But most agree it was on stage that he excelled.  He was hyped early, and maybe he didn't live up to it on record, but his death convinces me that he was one of the best guitar slingers of his generation.  He'll go in first ballot.

Stevie Ray Vaughan -  Another one who will go in right away, Vaughan pretty much brought the Blues into a new batch of followers in the 80's.  In doing so, he touched many a guitar player that bought his records in that decade and beyond.  And he was always mindful of those that influenced him.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

More Yacht Rock Songs

Last month I ranked from 1-50 the top Yacht Rock Songs of All Time.

Yacht Rock Top 50

But I left many titles on the cutting room floor.  By sticking to a one title per artist criteria, I had to cut quite a few titles. This expanded list gives me a chance to add some R&B and Country to the mix.

So here's a ranking of 51-100 of the other songs, with no restrictions.  All titles released during Yacht Rock's heyday of 75-82.

51.  Sailing - Christoper Cross
52.  I Keep Forgettin' - Michael McDonald
53.  You're The Only Woman - Ambrosia
54.  Baby, I Love Your Way  - Peter Frampton
55.  Hearts - Marty Balin
56.  Hey Nineteen - Steely Dan
57.  Just Remember I Love You - Firefall
58.  Heart to Heart - Kenny Loggins
59.  What Can I Say - Boz Scaggs
60.  Cool Change - Little River Band
61.  Love Is The Answer - England Dan & John Ford Coley
62.  Let Your Love Flow - Bellamy Brothers
63.  Gold - John Stewart
64.  Easy - Commodores
65.  99 - Toto
66.  Margaritaville - Jimmy Buffett
67.  Minute by Minute - Doobie Brothers
68.  You're Only Lonely - J.D. Souther
69.  You Can Do Magic - America
70.  Whatcha Gonna Do - Pablo Cruise
71.  Lookin' For Love - Johnny Lee
72.  You Belong To Me - Carly Simon
73.  Eye In The Sky - Alan Parsons Project
74.  Slow Hand - Pointer Sisters
75.  Here You Come Again - Dolly Parton
76.  Let Me Love You Tonight - Pure Prarie League
77.  Hard To Say I'm Sorry - Chicago
78.  Love Takes Time - Orleans
79.  Every Kinda People - Robert Palmer
80.  An American Dream - Dirt Band
81.  Kiss On My List - Hall & Oates
82.  Him - Rupert Holmes
83.  Save It For A Rainy Day - Stephen Bishop
84.  Bluer Than Blue - Michael Johnson
85.  Get It Up For Love - Ned Doheny
86.  Imaginary Lover - Atlanta Rhythm Section
87.  Cool Night - Paul Davis
88.  Southern Cross - CSN
89.  Little Jeannie - Elton John
90.  Hurts So Bad - Linda Ronstadt
91.  Suspicions - Eddie Rabbitt
92.  Just When I Needed You Most - Randy VanWarmer
93.  Lovely Day - Bill Withers
94.  Fooled Around And Fell In Love  - Elvin Bishop
95.  Sad Eyes - Robert John
96.  Sexy Eyes - Dr. Hook
97.  Handy Man - James Taylor
98.  Personally - Karla Bonoff
99.  Shake It - Ian Matthews
100.  Get Used To It - Roger Voudouris
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