Monday, March 29, 2021

An Album/Song A Day - Boz Scaggs - Silk Degrees

 On his sixth album, Boz Scaggs finally broke through.  Up to 1976 Scaggs could be described as a journeyman.  He played on Steve Miller's first two album in the late 60's, but his solo albums weren't catching on, despite good reviews.  
  Silk Degrees was his most commercial album up to that point.  It's basically an R&B record, with hints of Rock.  I've often said it's the best Blue-Eyed Soul album ever.  Not every singer likes the Blue-Eyed Soul tag.  Daryl Hall hates it.  You either have Soul or you don't, right?  The first time I heard the phrase was when I read up on the Righteous Brothers.  
  It doesn't matter what you call it, for Scaggs the tilt to a more commercial sound paid off. Silk Degrees finally made him a star.  Three future members of Toto played on it.  There were four singles released, with 3 going Top 40.  An album track, "We're All Alone" would go on to be a big hit by Rita Coolidge.  Released in the spring of '76, the album would eventually peak at #2.  Scaggs never matched the albums chart success, but he did go on to make more good music.  And no list of great Blue-Eyed Soul singers is complete with Scaggs on it.  And no list of great albums period should be without Silk Degrees

Friday, March 26, 2021

Shoulda Been A Bigger Hit Poll (2021 Edition)

Once again I voted in this poll.  This is from a Facebook group I'm part of that used to be  called I.R.S. ("It Really Shoulda" been a bigger hit!).  Now for some reason they changed their name to Wow 100. The concept now is to list songs that make you say Wow! the first time you hear them. I like the old concept better. And besides, when I hear a great song I'm always thinking in terms of Wow-ness. All of my choices below peaked outside the Top 10.  List can go up to 100 songs. 

1.  Ain't No Mountain High Enough - Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
2.  Solitary Man - Neil Diamond
3.  Tiny Dancer - Elton John
4.  Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again - Fortunes
5.  Take It Easy - Eagles
6.  Always and Forever - Heatwave
7.  At Last - Etta James
8.  Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now - McFadden & Whitehead
9.  In The Midnight Hour - Wilson Pickett
10. I Melt With You -  Modern English
11. I Wanna Be Your Lover - Prince
12. To Love Somebody - Bee Gees
13. Wonderful World - Sam Cooke
14. Baby I Need You Loving - Four Tops
15. I Only Have Eyes For You - Flamingos
16. God Only Knows - Beach Boys
17. This Magic Moment - Drifters
18. Try A Little Tenderness - Otis Redding
19. Way You Do The Things You Do - Temptations
20. Respect Yourself - Staple Singers
21. Ooh Baby Baby - Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
22. I'm Every Woman - Chaka Khan
23. Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel - Tavares
24. Stairway To Heaven - Led Zeppelin
25. What I Like About You - Romantics
26. In The Still Of The Nite - Five Satins
27. Don't Make Me Over - Dionne Warwick
28. Sex Machine - James Brown
29. Operator - Jim Croce
30. Holiday - Madonna
31. Disco Inferno - Trammps
32. Tutti Frutti - Little Richard
33. I Saw Her Standing There - Beatles
34. Since I Don't Have You - Skyliners
35. Reet Petite - Jackie Wilson
36. I Only Want To Be With You - Dusty Springfield
37. Hold On I'm A Comin' - Sam & Dave
38. SOS - Abba
39. By The Time I Get To Phoenix - Glen Campbell
40. Super Freak - Rick James
41. All My Loving  - Beatles
42. In The Air Tonight - Phil Collins
43. Fever - Little Willie John
44. For The Good Times - Ray Price
45. It's A Shame - Spinners
46. Wild Night - Van Morrison
47. Lies - Knickerbockers
48. Treat Me Nice - Elvis Presley
49. More Today Than Yesterday - Spiral Staircase
50. Maybe Baby - Buddy Holly
51. Walking In The Rain - Ronettes
52. But It's Alright - J.J. Jackson
53. Carry On Wayward Son - Kansas
54. Sincerely - Moonglows
55. Forget Me Nots - Patrice Rushen
56. So Very Hard To Go - Tower of Power
57. Just What I Needed - Cars
58. Our Lips Are Sealed - Go-Go's
59. River Deep-Mountain High - Ike & Tina Turner
60. Love The One You're With - Stephen Stills
61. Wild World - Cat Stevens
62. Listen To The Music - Doobie Brothers
63. Baby I Love Your Way (live) - Peter Frampton
64. Into The Night - Benny Mardones
65. Different Drum - Linda Ronstadt
66. This Old Heart Of Mine - Isley Brothers
67. Wishing You Were Here - Chicago
68. Undun- Guess Who
69. Just Like Me - Paul Revere & The Raiders
70. Faithfully - Journey
71. Free Ride - Edgar Winter Group
72. Time Has Come Today - Chambers Brothers
73. I've Been Lonely Too Long - Rascals
74. Tired Of Being Alone - Al Green
75. Girl On Fire - Alicia Keys
76. Strange Magic - ELO
77. That's The Way Of The World - Earth, Wind & Fire
78. Games People Play - Joe South
79. Summer Rain - Johnny Rivers
80. One Of A Kind (Love Affair) - Spinners
81. Piano Man - Billy Joel
82. I'm Into Something Good - Herman's Hermits
83. Let's Spend The Night Together - Rolling Stones
84. Blue Bayou - Roy Orbison
85. Tuesday Afternoon - Moody Blues
86. Steppin' Stone - Monkees
87. So Far Away - Carole King
88. Itchycoo Park - Small Faces
89. Any Day Now - Chuck Jackson
90. People Get Ready - Impressions
91. It's My Life - Animals
92. You Get What You Give - New Radicals
93. Kentucky Rain - Elvis Presley
94. Right Down The Line - Gerry Rafferty
95. I Saw The Light - Todd Rundgren
96. Having A Party - Sam Cooke
97. Got To Be Real - Cheryl Lynn
98. Oye Como Va - Santana
99.  Never Too Much - Luther Vandross
100. Waiting On The World To Change - John Mayer

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Playlist for 3/24

Tom Jones - Memories Don't Leave Like People Do
Phil Seymour - Archive Series Vol. 1
Directions In Music - Various
Dirty Knobs - Wreckless Abandon
Willie Jones - Right Now
Billy Strings - Home
Lucero - When You Found Me
Sophie - Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides
Reclaiming History: Our Native Daughters (Documentary)
A Grammy Salute To The Sounds of Change (TV Special)

Monday, March 22, 2021

An Album/Song A Day: "Fooled Around and Fell In Love"- Elvis Bishop

 When I first started to explore what channels were on the radio, the FM part of the dial was always a mystery.  By 1976, I began to check out the FM dial more than I ever had.  What I found was something foreign to my young ears.  Having only listened to AM Top 40, the genres I heard on the FM dial were new to my me: Gospel, Talk Shows, R&B, Rock, Country.  And even Top 40.  What a shock!  Top 40 channels were on the FM dial too.  And sounded better than AM radio?  
 To my recollection we had one Top 40 FM channel in our area. But the hits sounded different.  They were longer than the ones I heard on American Top 40.  Longer than the 45's I owned.  I decided to look at some of my sister's albums, and it finally hit me.  Album versions didn't always match the single version.  Talk about a revelation!
  One of the first songs I noticed that had a different running time was "Fooled Around And Fell In Love" by Elvin Bishop, and sung by Mickey Thomas.  The album length is about 4:30, while the single clocks in just under 3 minutes.  That's about a minute and a half cut from the album.  Basically a whole verse was cut from the song.  I kinda like the single version better, and that's the one you mostly hear today.  
Elvin Bishop was a founding member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band that brought Chicago Blues to white audiences that would have normally tuned out the Blues in the mid-60's.  They were inducted into the Rock Hall in 2015. 
 "Fooled Around and Fell In Love" as sung by Mickey Thomas was peak Blue-Eyed Soul.  Thomas went on to front the Jefferson Starship in the late 70's ("Jane" was his best moment with them).  It peaked at #3 in the Spring of '76. 
  As FM started to add more channels and variety, I began to tune out AM radio, except for AT Top 40, news and sports.  

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Playlist for 3/17

2021 Grammy Awards
Clint Eastwood & General Saint - Two Bad DJ
Carla Bley - Social Studies
Carla Bley/Andy Sheppard/Steve Swallow - Life Goes On
Ron Miles - Rainbow Sign
Immanuel Wilkins - Omega
Jeff Parker - Suite for Max Brown
John Fogerty - Fogerty's Factory
PJ Harvey - Dry (Demos)
PJ Harvey - To Bring You My Love (Demos)
United States vs. Billie Holiday (2021 Movie)

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

COVID Lockdown: One Year Later

One year ago today California shut down due to COVID-19.  I was two months away from retiring from the USPS.  March 17th also happened to be my wife's birthday.  As it turns out, also the last time we ate inside a restaurant.  The first few weeks were the most unusual times of my adult life.  While working I left the house at 6AM and usually came home 11 or 12 hours later.  The ride back home was often full of rush hour traffic.  Not in March 2020.  This was really a lockdown.  Few cars on the road.  As a mailman I could sense that people were nervous.  There were more people stuck at home.  And the ones I talked to on my route had no idea what the future held.  As the infection cases lined up, I got the feeling many people were unsure if this new life was the new normal.  A trip to the grocery store resembled something that you would see only in other states that experience a Hurricane.  Empty shelves without the promise of more stock became the reality of the moment. 

Life at the USPS was also different and more confusing than I can remember.  Masks weren't mandatory just yet.  Some of us wore them inside, some only wore them outside.  How did the virus spread.  Could it stay on letters or packages for a long period of time.  Hand gel was hard to come by.  They did give us masks.  As the weeks went on, our office was having trouble buying toilet paper.  Working inside a small office had many of us worried, but not overly concerned.   

I retired in May 2020 and now the reality of living during a pandemic became more stark.  A planned trip to attend a wedding in August was nixed.  A visit from my son who lives overseas, was also cancelled. In face since March 2020 I've not traveled anywhere.  Something I didn't think was possible when I first thought about retiring.  The days and months have flown by.  I did manage to eat at a restaurant late last year.  But only outside.  News of a vaccine came late in 2020.  Now at age 56, I await my turn.  My guess is sometime in May my wife and I will get vaccinated.  

It's been a year of living on the edge.  Trying to avoid situations that could put us in danger of getting the virus.  Will we make it?  Well, life is looking a little better.  COVID cases are down.  Vaccines are ramping up. There's optimism that better days are indeed ahead.  Count me in as one of those who wants to get back to the life we had before 2020.  Minus Trump as President, of course. 

Monday, March 15, 2021

An Album/Song A Week: "If She Knew What She Wants" - Bangles

The Bangles were my #1 female band of the 80's.  And "If She Knew What She Wants" is my favorite Bangles song.  They were a great cover band too.  This song was first written and released by Jules Shear in 1985.  It was the follow-up to another cover, Prince's "Manic Monday".  Yet another cover, "Walk Like An Egyptian" came after "If She Knew What She Wants".  And we can't forget their Simon & Garfunkel cover of "Hazy Shade Of Winter".  Better than S&G's original.  

What keeps me coming back to "If She Knew What She Wants" is the sound of the record.  It's very 80's for sure.  And features one of the best lead vocals by Susanna Hoffs.  I remember rooting for the song to become a bigger hit than it was.  It's surprising that a follow-up to the #2 "Manic Monday", only managed to peak at #29.  But the good thing is it still gets played more today than some of the Bangles' other songs that peaked higher.  Good songs always find their way back.   

Friday, March 12, 2021

Playlist for 3/12

Bunny Wailer - Tribute (1981 Album)
Bunny Wailer - Blackheart Man
Bunny Wailer - Roots Radics Rockers Reggae
Bunny Wailer - Rock 'n' Groove
Weezer - OK Human
John Prine - Crooked Piece of Time: Atlantic & Asylum Album (1971-80)
Stooges - Live at Goose Lake: August 8, 1970
Matthew Shipp Trio - Unidentifiable 
Rudresh Mahanthappa - Hero Trio
Eric Revis - Slipknots Through A Looking Glass
Linx - Intuition

Thursday, March 11, 2021

RIP Lou Ottens

Count me as one of those who had no idea that Lou Ottens existed.  But all music fans must salute him.  If the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame had any imagination, they would induct him in the Non-Performer category.  In 1963, Lou Ottens invented the cassette tape.  With this invention Ottens changed the way the music biz operated.  And he also helped invent the mixtape.  By my own recollection, the mixtape began to pick up speed in the early 80's, peaked in the 90's and was just about extinct when the Ipod appeared in 2001.  

My own personal experience with mixtapes began in the mid-80's when I would make tapes of songs from my collection for friends.  By the 90's I was making tapes for family, friends, co-workers.  All songs coming from my personal collection.  As cassettes began to disappear from cars, I then started making CD mixes for anyone who asked.  Oh, by the way Ottens helped invent the CD as well. 

The art of the mixtape didn't completely disappear with Ipods, Iphones or Spotify playlists.  Now there are websites devoted to them, a great book by Rob Sheffield called Love Is A Mix Tape and general nostalgic factor about making the perfect mix.  

This is the beauty of life.  In the background are anonymous people who are making our lives better in ways we may not realize until years later.  A major salute to Lou Ottens.  A genius who is no longer in the shadows.  Everyone now knows your name.  

Monday, March 08, 2021

An Album/Song A Week: Keith Whitley - I Wonder Do You Think Of Me

Has this ever happened to you?  Just when you are getting in to an artist's career, or maybe rediscovering their music again, they pass away.  It's happened to me.  And Keith Whitley was one of those artists.  This 1989 was recorded but released a few months after Whitley died from alcohol poisoning in 1989.  It's one of the greatest New Traditionalist albums ever.  Prior to his solo career, Whitley (along with Ricky Skaggs) was a member of Bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley's band. He went solo in 1983 and released his first album a year later.  His first albums show a remarkable voice, but patchy results.  In 1987, Whitley finally started to get songs that were up to his high standards.  Don't Close Your Eyes is a solid album.  The title track and "When You Say Nothing At All" are two of the best Country singles of the 80's.  There's also a definitive take of Lefty Frizzell's "I Never Go Around Mirrors".

Having found his sound, it was no surprise that I Wonder Do You Think Of Me turned out so great.  Three #1's, another Top Ten hit and a bunch of album tracks that were covered by other acts.  Whitley only lived to see one of those songs, "I'm No Stranger To The Rain", reach #1.  He died on May 9, 1989.  The album was released on August 1st of that year. 

The years since have shown his influence on a generation of Country singers who came after him.  Whitley's catalog is short, but influential.  And he's often mentioned as someone who belongs in The Country Hall of Fame.  Garth Brooks certainly believes he does.  

I Wonder Do You Think of Me is a powerful final statement. 

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Playlist for 3/3

Bluegrass Junction's Top 75 of All Time (SiriusXM Channel)
Hanging Tree Guitars - Various
Henry Cow - Unrest
Suzi Quatro - s/t (1973)
Bohannon - Keep On Dancin'
Art Blakey - Just Coolin' 
Joe Pernice - Could It Be Magic

Monday, March 01, 2021

An Album/Song A Week: "Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress)" - Helen Reddy

 When Helen Reddy passed away in 2020, the one song I thought of was not "I Am Woman", but her 1973 #3 hit, "Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress)".  The song was a follow-up to her #1 "Delta Dawn", and follows the same path lyrically.  A woman undone by a bad relationship.  But Reddy never liked "Leave Me Alone".  Often refusing to sing it at concerts, and complaining about having to repeat the chorus' repetitive "Leave Me Alone".  But it was that hook which stuck with most listeners.  Certainly did with me.  
 But the real reason I'm talking about this song is because of where I heard it and how often.  My recollection of living in Germany was that the American Forces Network didn't have many listener options.  I remember an FM station but mostly AM ones.  The AM channel my sister listened to the most was a Top 40 channel.  "Leave Me Alone" was released in the Fall of 1973, just as school was getting underway.  And once it became a hit, AFN AM station played it continuously, and just about every morning.  So, when Reddy passed, I immediately thought of those elementary school days.  Getting ready (no pun intended) for school and often hearing the same songs every morning.  Earworms like "Leave Me Alone" were easy to remember for young kids like me.  Even if I had no idea what the song was really about.  Not at nine years old. 
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