Thursday, June 30, 2016

RIP: Wayne Jackson/Bernie Worrell/Ralph Stanley/Freddy Powers

Wayne Jackson - As a member of the Mar-Keys, Jackson was one of a handful of musicians who played on every Stax record that featured a horns.  The Mar-Keys themselves had one Pop Top 40 hit in 1961, "Last Night" (#3).  In 1969, Jackson along with fellow Mar-Keys horn player Andrew Love named themselves the Memphis Horns and left Stax.  From there the duo played on tons of hit records for Al Green, Elvis Presley, Dusty Springfield, Neil Diamond, U2, Robert Cray, etc.  Jackson spent his last years writing an autobiography and giving personal tours of the Stax museum.  Andrew Love died in 2012.

If the Rock Hall cared about the Sideman category at all (last inductees were in 2009 under that name), then acts like the Memphis Horns, Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, the Meters and others would be rightfully inducted.

Bernie Worrell  - Worrell was a virtuoso keyboardist who, along with George Clinton, was a founding member of Parliament/Funkadelic.  While P-Funk is his legacy, Worrell also played on Talking Heads albums and tours in the 80's and his keyboard is featured on plenty of session work.  Parliament-Funkadelic were inducted into the Rock in 1997.  Here's a little trivia:  what keyboardist from a Prog band that critics dismissed in the 70's was a big influence on Worrell?  Yes, the late great Keith Emerson.

Ralph Stanley - Thanks to his version of "O Death" in Brother, Where Art Thou, Ralph Stanley had one of the best late career resurgences.  But his Bluegrass/Old Timey musical legacy was already cemented by then.  First as a member of the Clinch Mountain Boys with his brother Carter, then cutting classic sides with him as the Stanley Brothers. Eventually, Stanley used the Clinch Mountain Boys name again.  The newer version included Ricky Skaggs and Keith Whitley.  In the last couple of decades he became the Bluegrass elder statesman.  Still touring and making records.
Amazingly, not a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, despite influencing many in that genre.

Freddie Powers - Powers is one of those behind the scenes artists that always fascinate me.  He's best known for co-writing a bunch of Merle Haggard hits in the 80's.  Powers own music was a mix of Country Jazz and he added that flavor to Haggard's 80's songs.  He also played in Willie Nelson's band and  produced one of his albums in 1981, and during that decade had hits with other Country singers.  Quick note:  Powers wrote what might be my favorite non-Haggard single of the 80's:  "Friend In California" which was a #9 hit in 1986.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Scotty Moore

Scotty Moore played guitar during Elvis Presley's greatest recording years:  1954-58.  It's really simple.  Elvis' Sun records changed music.  They were the most influential records of Rock's formative years.  I don't get caught up in the did he or did he not invent Rock and Roll argument.  All I know is Elvis, Scotty, Bill Black, DJ Fontana (those three to be known as the Blue Moon Boys thereafter)  and Sam Phillips created their version of Rock and Roll when they laid down "That's All Right" in 1954.

Scotty Moore was one of Rock and Roll's first guitar heroes.  He wasn't flashy, that wasn't Scotty, but his solos had a precision that would later influence tons of future guitar heroes who adored Elvis's early records.

Look, if you haven't heard or don't own a copies of Scotty Moore's tenure with Elvis than stop reading this and learn your Rock history.

Once Elvis got drafted in the Army in 1958, Moore began to persue other ventures.  But when Elvis returned, Moore was once again playing on his early 60's sessions.

In 1968, Moore and Fontana were part of the sit-down segments from the '68 Comeback Special.  But after that it was over between Elvis and DJ and Moore.

The best post-Elvis Scotty Moore recording?  Seek out 1997's All The King's Men, which not only featured DJ, but guests Keith Richards, Ron Wood, Levon Helm, Jeff Beck and others.

My favorite Sun records track is "Mystery Train", which captures everything thrilling about Elvis and Scotty's guitar in under 3 minutes of Rock and Roll invention.

Lastly, Moore was one of the first inductees under the Rock Hall's Sidemen category which was established in 2000.  Moore was right when he said both DJ and Bill Black should have gone in with him.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Music Years of My LIfe: 1970

The first song that stayed with me for a long period of time was Anne Murray's "Snowbird" from 1970.  What does that sentence mean?  Let me get back to that.  "Eight Days A Week", "Daydream Believer", "These Eyes", "Good Morning Starshine", "In The Year 2525", are some of the first records I remember hearing.  They came from my sister's stereo, radio or my parents' car.   But the first song that actually stayed in my brain all throughout the day was "Snowbird".  Released in the summer of 1970, the song was in the Top 10 by the time I started first grade.  It became a morning staple on the ride to school.  I can remember spending school days with that song lodged in my brain.  It didn't help that it might come on again in the ride home from school.

These were the setup pieces for my future musical infatuations.  Who knew that at the age of 6 a song as harmless as "Snowbird" could do that to me?  I must say that Anne Murray had another hit in 1974, a Beatles cover called "You Won't See Me", that I also kept coming back to years later (and still do).  So, I'm a fan.  And it all started harmlessly during the early days of school life back in 1970.

But the song that makes my all-time personal Top 10 was "My Baby Loves Lovin'" a Top 10 in the early months of 1970 by White Plains, a studio group fronted by Tony Burrows.  Burrows' voice would grace other studio-only groups:  "Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)", "Gimme Dat Ding", "United We Stand", "Beach Baby".   All of the above, save for the latter were Top 10 hits in 1970.   I can't tell you how much joy "My Baby Loves Lovin'" gives me every time it pops up on Sirius' 70's channel.  Bubblegum Pop at its sticky best.

Teen Idols began to make a comeback in the early 70's.  The debut of the Partridge Family on TV had me hooked.  And "I Think I Love You" could be heard blaring from my sister's room on a daily basis.  That theme song has been in my head for decades.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Guy Clark/Chips Moman/Prince Be/Keith Emerson

Guy Clark -  Clark was a giant among the Troubadours that stormed Texas and Nashville in the 70's:  Billy Joe Shaver, Townes Van Zandt, Rodney Crowell, Willie Nelson, Doug Sahm to name a few of the popular names.  He released his debut album in 1975 at age 34.  But what an album it was.  Old No. 1 belongs on everyone's shelf.  Two of his most covered songs are on it:  "LA Freeway" and "Desperadoes Waiting For A Train".  While he never matched its brilliance he continued to write classic songs, most of which got covered by others:  "Heartbroke", "She's Crazy For Leavin'" "Boats To Build", "Homegrown Tomoatoes", "Randall Knife".  His last album in 2013 included the devastating title track, "My Favorite Picture Of You".   Like most of his fellow Troubadours Clark has been snubbed by the Country Music Hall of Fame.  His death should have everyone going back and exploring his sterling catalog.

Chips Moman -  We Elvis Presley fans have to bow to Chips Moman.  In 1969 he got Elvis to record his last great start to finish album, From Elvis In Memphis.  Here's the story.  Elvis was flying high after the December success of his '68 TV Special (the Comeback Special as its referred to now).  Thanks to a couple members of his entourage, Moman's American Sound Studio in Memphis was suggested instead of Elvis' usual Hollywood/Nashville studios.  American Sound Studios already had a reputation for making hit records.  Under Moman's guidance, Elvis sounded as connected with the material as he did with the TV Special.  Besides the album, future singles from it included "Suspicious Minds", "Kentucky Rain", and "Don't Cry Daddy."  Unfortunately, Colonel Parker and Elvis' publishing kept Moman from recording him again.  Besides the Elvis connection, Moman is loved for co-writing "Dark End of the Street", "Luckenbach, Texas", "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man" and producing Country hits in the 80's for Willie Nelson (also the Highwaymen).  He started his career as a Producer/Engineer at Stax before founding American Sound Studio.  If the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame cared at all about the Non-Performer category they would have inducted Moman years ago.

Prince Be -  PM Dawn only released four albums, all in the 90's.  As the decade ended so were they.  Then they faded into history.  There were no comebacks for Prince Be (aka Attrell Cordes).  Health issues took their toll.  I don't know if there's anything stored away for future use.  I hope there is, because looking back on their 90's run, I marvel at all he achieved.  There first 2 albums are essential, the final 2 also pretty good.  PM Dawn's music came right at us just as Gangsta Rap was taking off.  Prince Be sang and rapped his songs which were always on the positive tip.  There best moments were a trip to hear.

Keith Emerson -  I had to go back and listen the Nice before writing about Emerson.  And, what a keyboard whiz he was.  But, no, ELP's Prog never won over the critic's in the 70's.  Emerson's death was met with more praise for his skills than their records.  But I listened again to all of ELP's prime 70's stuff and decades removed from their success found them rewarding.  Emerson had the goods.  But their call from the  Rock Hall still seems miles away.

Playlist for 6/21

Love - Reel to Real
Clear Light - s/t
Blue Oyster Cult - s/t
Blue Oyster Cult - Tyranny and Mutation
Blue Oyster Cult - Secret Treaties
Blue Oyster Cult - Spectres
Punk 45: Chaos In The City Of Angels - Various

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Favorite Father's Day Song

Last month I posted my favorite Mother's Day song, "I'll Always Love My Mama"  by the Intruders (1973).  A Philly Soul uptempo classic.

For Father's Day, I'm going just the opposite direction.  Country music is full of songs for Mom and Dad.  The one that has stuck with me the most, since my Dad passed away in 2008 is a tearjerker from Conway Twitty  (1987, peaked at #6 Country).  It's just one of those teary-eyed songs.  If you've ever lost your Father or a Father figure, then you will feel the same.

Conway Twitty was a fave of my Dad.  This song reminds me of both my Dad and Conway.  Two greats gone too soon.

"That's My Job" - Conway Twitty

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Playlist for 6/15

Thin Lizzy - Fighting
Thin Lizzy - Bad Reputation
Iron Maiden - s/t
Iron Maiden - Powerslave
Judas Priest -  Hell Bent For Leather
Judas Priest - Screaming For Vengeance
Rainbow - Rising
Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow - s/t
Dust - s/t
Dust - Hard Attack
Taste -  On The Boards
Hawkwind - Doremi Fasol Latido

Sunday, June 12, 2016

TV Update (Summer 2016)

These are the shows I watch:
Updated for Summer '16, for those shows that are still on the air.

30 for 30
60 Minutes Sports on Showtime
Alpha House
American Pickers
Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown
Austin City Limits
Big Interview w/Dan Rather
Black Mirror
Black Sails
Bridge  (Sweden)
Broad City
Da Vinci's Demons
Deutschland 83
Fear The Walking Dead
Game of Thrones
Girlfriend Experience
Grace and Frankie
Graham Norton Show
Hell on Wheels
Hinterland  (UK)
House of Cards
House of Lies
Independent Lens
Inside Amy Schumer
Lady Dynamite
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
Late Night With Jimmy Fallon
Later with Jools Holland
Little Couple
Live from Daryl's House
Marco Polo
Master of None
Masters of Sex
Mindy Project
Moone Boy
Mozart In The Jungle
New Girl
Orange Is The New Black
Orphan Black
Penny Dreadful
Please Like Me
Ray Donovan
Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel
Real Time with Bill Maher
Red Sails
Ripper Street
Saturday Night Live
Silicon Valley
Sleepy Hollow
So You Think You Can Dance
The Fall  (UK)
The Voice
Ubreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Walking Dead

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Playlist for 6/8

Henry Threadgill - In For A Penny, In For A Pound
Velvet Underground - Complete Matrix Tapes (4CDs)
Jimi Hendrix- Rainbow Bridge
Paul Simon - Stranger To Stranger
Bob Dylan - Fallen Angels
Eric Clapton - I Still Do
Monkees - Good Times
Merle Haggard - Fightin' Side of Me  (Live)
Del McCoury Band - Del & Woody
Guy Clark - Better Days
K.D. Lang - Angel With A Lariat
Wild Feathers - Lonely Is A Lifetime

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Music Years Of My Life: 1975

You could call this as 1/2 of 1975.  In the Summer of '75, we moved back to the U.S. after living in Germany the previous four years.  Military life can be a burden.  There is lots of moving.  Fortunately by '75 my Dad had the over 25 years of Army service that we didn't bounce around much.  Only once when we were in Germany did we move.
For most of 1975 my music life was like the previous years.  Armed Forces radio was the place.  But the first thing I did when we moved to California was check out all the radio and TV choices.  Hey, there's American Bandstand and Soul Train.  And lots of AM radio choices.  We moved in June, so some songs that were hits earlier in the year were still getting airplay by then:  "Wildfire", "Chevy Van", "Sad Sweet Dreamer", "Fire", "It's A Miracle", "Sad Sweet Dreamer", "Poetry Man", Minnie Riperton's "Lovin' You" and Gloria Gaynor's "Never Can Say Goodbye" are just some that stuck out from those first six months.

You know how they say certain songs can remind someone of what they were doing at that time?    The records I recall hearing when we got to the States that in June '75 are still vivid in my memories: "Philadelphia Freedom", 10CC's "I'm Not In Love", "The Hustle" and "Love Will Keep Us Together".  Elton John was King of the Pop world, and that song was just winding down its chart run,  while the latter was racing to #1.
Also:  Pilot's "Magic", "Get Down Tonight", "Listen to What The Man Said", "Jive Talkin'", Ace's "How Long", "One Of These Nights", "Rhinestone Cowboy", "Walking In Rhythm", "Please Mr. Please", "Bad Luck", "Rockford Files", "Black Superman", "Midnight Blue", "Jackie Blue",  "Why Can't We Be Friends", etc. etc. And who can forget a novelty like "Mr. Jaws".  Jaws was the film of the year (and Summer) and was an originator for all the big blockbusters to come (e.g. Star Wars).

Things tapered off in the Fall as school and sports took hold.  But there was still "Evil Woman", "Bad Blood", "Miracles", "That's The Way I Like It", "They Just Can't Stop It (Games People Play)", "It Only Takes A Minute", etc. etc.

I also wasn't much of a Billboard chart watcher at this point.  That would happen in '76, but my local AM radio Top 40's would put out a weekly chart listing, so I always had an idea of what the big hits were.

Writing about 1975 makes me see how much of a pivotal role it played not only in my musical life but in my own personal life.  We still live in the same area 40 years later, and I still love those songs from that era.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Black Superman

There's a reason Johnny Wakelin's "Black Superman (Muhammad Ali)" occupies a spot on my Spotify Playlist, Tracks Of My Years.  In the Summer of '75, having just moved back to the U.S. from Germany, it was one of many songs from that time that has always occupied a space in my musical brain.
I think it got more airplay on my Top 40 channels than it's national chart peak showed (#21).  Written by Wakelin after Ali's defeat of George Foreman in 1974, it's reggae meets pop sound had me for years thinking he was Jamaican.  But Wakelin was a white Englishman.   And further notes for you one hit wonder nuts, he was discovered and signed to the same label as Carl "Kung Fu Dancing" Douglas.

As these things go, the success of the song spawned a sequel in 1976, "In Zaire", about the Foreman fight again.  It didn't go anywhere in the States but was a hit around Europe.
Wakelin is still alive and Ali's death will give "Black Superman" more spins.  There are certainly more thought-provoking songs on Ali's impact, but for its time, Wakelin's little ditty was perfect.

Johnny Wakelin - "Black Superman (Muhammad Ali)"
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