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Song of the Day by Eric Berman: Top Albums of 2018

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Top Albums 2018

  1. Kurt Vile – Bottle It In
  2. Mac Miller – Swimming
  3. The Carters – Everything Is Love
  4. Ryley Walker – The Lillywhite Sessions
  5. Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino
  6. Noname – Room 25
  7. Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel
  8. Jeff Tweedy – Warm
  9. Brian Eno – Music For Installations
  10. Kamasi Washington – Heaven And Earth
  11. Janelle Monae – Dirty Computer
  12. KIDS SEE GHOSTS
  13. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Sex and Food
  14. EELS – The Deconstruction
  15. Bettye LaVette – Things Have Changed
  16. The Good, The Bad & The Queen – Merrie Land
  17. Father John Misty – God’s Favorite Customer
  18. Young Fathers – Cocoa Sugar
  19. Leon Bridges – Good Thing
  20. Willie Nelson – Last Man Standing

Honorable Mentions:

  1. Elvis Costello – Look Now
  2. Ryley Walker – Deafman Glance
  3. Jon Hopkins – Singularity
  4. Nels Cline 4 – Currents Constellations
  5. John Prine – Tree of Forgiveness
  6. Kronos Quartet/Laurie Anderson – Landfall
  7. Saba – Care For Me
  8. Parquet Courts – Wide Awake
  9. Christian McBride – Christian McBrides New Jawn
  10. Vince Staples – FM

Legacy/Reissues

  1. Bob Dylan – More Blood, More Tracks/The Bootleg Series, Vol. 14
  2. The Beatles – The Beatles
  3. Durand Jones & The Indications – Durand Jones & The Indications
  4. Miles Davis/John Coltrane: The Final Tour/Bootleg Series, Vol. 6
  5. Prince – Post Warner Bros. Catalog on Spotify
  6. Lafayette Afro Rock Band – Malik
  7. Big Brother & The Holding Company – Sex, Dope and Cheap Thrills
  8. Charles Mingus – Jazz In Detroit
  9. John Coltrane – Both Directions At Once
  10. David Bowie – Welcome To The Blackout
  11. Neil Young – Roxy: Tonight’s The Night Live
  12. Gary Louris – Vagabonds
  13. Tom Petty – An American Treasure
  14. Ornette Coleman – The Atlantic Years
  15. Jerry Garcia – Before The Dead

 

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – Top Albums 2017

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Top Albums 2017

  1. The Shins “Heartworms”
  2. Kendrick Lamar “DAMN.”
  3. Cameron Graves “Planetary Prince”
  4. Sparks “Hippopotamus”
  5. Old Crow Medicine Show “50 Years of ‘Blonde On Blonde’”
  6. LCD Soundsystem “American Dream”
  7. Kamasi Washington “Harmony of Difference”
  8. Queens of the Stone Age “Villains”
  9. Courtney Barnet & Kurt Vile “Lotta Sea Lice”
  10. Mavis Staples “If All I Was Was Black”
  11. Run The Jewels “3”
  12. Robyn Hitchcock “Robyn Hitchcock”
  13. Aimee Mann “Mental Illness”
  14. Bob Dylan “Triplicate”
  15. Benjamin Booker “Witness”

 

Top Reissues/Legacy Recordings 2017

  1. Dion “Kickin’ Child: The Lost Columbia Album 1965”
  2. Replacements “For Sale: Live At Maxwell’s 1986”
  3. Bob Dylan “Trouble No More: Bootleg Series Vol. 13 1979-1981”
  4. David Bowie “Cracked Actor” (Live 1974)
  5. Elton John “11/17/70 Expanded”
  6. Rolling Stones “On Air” (BBC Recordings 1963-1965)
  7. The Meters “A Message from The Meters: Complete Josie, Reprise & Warner Bros. Singles 1968-1977”
  8. Neil Young “Hitchhiker”
  9. Miles Davis “Freedom Jazz Dance: Bootleg Series Vol. 5” (Sessions from “Miles Smiles”)
  10. Richard Hell & The Voidoids “Blank Generation 40th Anniversary”
  11. Raspberries “Pop Art Live 2004”
  12. Thelonious Monk “Les liasons dangerouses 1960” (Soundtrack to 1960 Roger Vadim film)
  13. “’Singles’/Expanded Original Soundtrack”
  14. Marshall Crenshaw “Thank You, Rock Fans” (Live 1982)
  15. Grateful Dead “Barton Hall, Cornell NY, 5/8/77”

 

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – Top Albums 2016

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Top Albums 2016

  1. Hamilton – Original Broadway Cast Recording
  2. David Bowie – Blackstar
  3. Rihanna – Anti
  4. J. Cole – 4 Your Eyez Only
  5. Ryan Walker – Golden Songs that Have Been Sung
  6. Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker
  7. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service
  8. Jim James – Eternally Even
  9. Wilco – Schmilco
  10. Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
  11. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo
  12. Phantogram – Three
  13. Bob Dylan – Fallen Angels
  14. Lizzo – Coconut Oil
  15. Deerhoof – The Magic
  16. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
  17. Kendrick Lamar – untitled unmastered
  18. Donny McCaslin – Beyond Now
  19. Various Artists – Day of the Dead
  20. Nels Cline – Lovers
  21. Frank Ocean – Blond
  22. The Claypool-Lennon Delirium – Monolith of Phobos
  23. The Dean Ween Group – The Deaner Album
  24. Beyonce – Lemonade
  25. Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression

 

 Top Reissues 2016

  1. Miles Davis Quintet – Freedom Jazz Dance – The Bootleg Series Vol. 5
  2. Bob Dylan – The Complete 1966 Concerts
  3. Van Morrison – It’s Too Late To Stop Now, Vols. II, III & IV (Live)
  4. Otis Redding – Live At The Whiskey A Go-Go 1966: The Complete Recordings
  5. Hart Valley Drifters (featuring Jerry Garcia) – Folk Time
  6. The Kinks – Everybody’s In Show Biz (Legacy Edition)
  7. Jack White – Acoustic Recordings 1998 – 2016
  8. Neil Young and the Bluenotes – Bluenote Café
  9. Paul Butterfield Blues Band – Got A Mind to Give Up Living: Live 1966 (LP)
  10. Silver Apples – Silver Apples
  11. Ramones – Live at the Roxy 8-12-76 (LP)

 

 

 

 

 

Edited: January 3rd, 2019

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Watch What Happens” by Lena Horne & Gabor Szabo

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Watch What Happens” by Lena Horne & Gabor Szabo

A funny thing happened when jazz vocalists like Lena Horne fell on the wrong side of the generation gap during the late 1960s. Suddenly, older classics like “Stormy Weather” and “Love Me or Leave Me” began to sound hopelessly out of date to a younger generation of listeners, who didn’t give artists like Horne the time of day, or worse, time on their turntables.

Changes would have to be made, and many of the artists began recording popular songs of the day and augmenting their once jazz or orchestral recordings with electric guitars, electric bass, organ and drums. Sinatra did it. So did Tony Bennett, Johnny Mathis and Andy Williams. It was a matter of survival, and at least Lena Horne had the talent and had been around the block enough times to attempt to adapt to the times.

While many of the pop vocalists didn’t have the wherewithal to update their sound and still retain credibility, Horne was a sympathetic and adept interpreter of song and managed just fine to survive with her career intact.

By 1969, Lena Horne hadn’t released a new album for four years and was pretty much considered yesterday’s news as a recording artist. At the same time, Gabor Szabo, who is one of the few guitarists whose stands comfortably beside Jerry Garcia when it comes to guitar sound, technique and improvisatory style, left Impulse Records to form his own Skye Records label along with vibist Cal Tjader and composer/arranger Gary McFarland.

Szabo was born in Hungary and came to America to study at the Berklee School of Music in Boston. He played guitar with the Chico Hamilton Quartet between 1961 and 1965, before recording a series of classic jazz albums for Impulse that melded his modal psychedelic guitar style with choice covers of contemporary hits. His 1966 album Sorcerer is one of the seminal jazz guitar recordings of the 1960s. Concurrent with his own recording career, Szabo also toured and played as a member of Horne’s live performance band. So it only seemed natural that Gabor and Horne would eventually record an album together.

The album they recorded was appropriately called Lena & Gabor, and it featured a who’s who of great jazz session players of the time including Eric Gale and Cornell Dupree on guitar, Richard Tee on organ, Chuck Rainey on bass and Grady Tate on drums. Many of these artists also recorded albums for the Skye label as well.

The album’s repertoire included Horne’s first chart hit in some time with today’s Song of the Day, “Watch What Happens,” which was written by Michel Legrand. The record also featured no less than four Beatles covers including versions of “In My Life,” “The Fool on the Hill,” one of the best covers of “Something” ever, and a fairly ridiculous take on “Rocky Raccoon.” Rounding out the record were versions of Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin’,” “Bacharach and David’s “Message to Michael” and the Charles Aznavour classic “Yesterday When I Was Young.”

Szabo’s hypnotic and funky guitar work throughout this album is nothing short of stunning. While the Skye label only lasted two years and 21 releases, Szabo went on to write the song “Gypsy Queen” which became a hit for Santana in 1970. He continued to record records for a variety of labels until his death in 1982.

Horne never really revived her recording career with this record, but continued to be a concert draw in supper clubs and on Broadway in her 1981 revue Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music for which she won a Tony Award. She died on Mother’s Day 2010 at the age of 92.

Edited: February 16th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Good Shepherd” by Jefferson Airplane

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Good Shepherd” by Jefferson Airplane

The epiphany of an eight year old…

The backdrop of my childhood played out with images of the Viet Nam war and the unrest that culminated in the protests at the 1968 Democratic Convention coming over the television screen. While I wasn’t privy to what it all meant, I did know that the world around me was changing and that my older sister and her peers were making it happen. And I also knew that I very badly wanted to be a part of it all.

I was eight years old in 1969 visiting my grandmother’s house when up the drive came the coolest MG convertible (if memory serves me right) I’d ever seen in my life. The car stopped right in front of granny’s house and out popped my groovy long-haired cousin Paul in full-on hippie regalia. (RIP Paul) Nothing was cooler than Cousin Paul at that moment, and then I spotted the record that he had laying on the front seat of the car.

It was called Volunteers by Jefferson Airplane. I had never heard of the group, although I already knew the song “Somebody To Love” from my older sister’s records. I just never made the connection that this was the same group.

I asked Cousin Paul if I could look at the record and he gladly obliged. The image on the front cover was a bit disturbing to me. I couldn’t tell if each band member was wearing a mask, or if they just looked that way. I just knew that the image was kind of creepy. Upon flipping the jacket over, I began reading the “Paz Chin-In Huge Success” story on the back cover. It didn’t make any sense to me. Then I opened the gatefold and saw the huge peanut butter and jelly sandwich inside which made me wonder what the sandwich had to do with everything else here.

Inside was a fold-out poster with the headings “Revolt!” on the front and “Feed And Water Your Flag” on the back. I was totally confused, and although I hadn’t heard a note of the music contained within, I knew was that I wanted to own this record.

Fortunately my ninth birthday was just around the corner, and as promised I received my very own copy of Volunteers from one of our neighbors with whom we exchanged birthday gifts.

A whole new world opened up to me upon putting the needle down on the vinyl.

First there was the opening tune with some of the most harmonious singing the Airplane ever committed to vinyl. “We Can Be Together” was a sentiment I could understand and sink my teeth into, and there was just enough novelty value in the lyric “Up against the wall motherfucker” for a nine year old who’d never heard the “f” word on a record before, to make it a track worth playing over and over again.

Next up was today’s Song of the Day. At the time, I didn’t know that it was a traditional song with biblical overtones, but I sure did like it. “Good Shepherd” is Jorma Kaukonen’s masterpiece on this record with some of his sweetest guitar fills.

“The Farm” came pouring out from the speakers next featuring the tasty pedal steel playing of Jerry Garcia. I didn’t know who he was back then, but I sure did like this song. The animal noises reminded me of The Beatles’ “Good Morning Good Morning” from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Things turned sinister and a little disturbing with “Hey Frederick,” a centerpiece for Grace Slick’s vocal prowess. The song was long, over eight minutes. As a kid, I thought the longer the song, the more important it must be. And the imagery of the lyric “There you sit mouth wide open / Animals nipping at your sides” was enough to make me feel uneasy as the first side of the record came to a close.

Side two began with the buoyant “Turn My Life Down,” another Jorma tune featuring Marty Balin’s pure soulful voice. Then came the David Crosby/Paul Kantner masterpiece “Wooden Ships.” I already knew this song from my older sister’s copy of the Crosby, Stills & Nash album which was played around the house all the time. The Airplane version seemed so epic in comparison, especially during the fade when the band invited the listener to “Go ride the music.” I wasn’t sure at the time how to “ride the music,” but I did know that the band was taking my ears on a life-changing, mind-opening journey.

The next song was another featuring Grace Slick. Grace was the star of the band, so her songs on the record were the ones I initially gravitated to. With “Eskimo Blue Day,” she outdid herself as she wailed the lyric “doesn’t mean shit to a tree” over the course of the song, which proved more than novel to my young ears. At the time, I had no idea that she was singing about the environment.

The next two songs were the weakest (and still are) on the album. The country and western arrangement of Nicky Hopkins’ “A Song For All Seasons” never truly fit into the scheme of this record, and the organ dirge “Meadowlands” seemed to just be taking up space as I patiently waited for the album’s title track to come on.

Then came Volunteers! The song rocked hard and was poignant with its call “got to revolution.” It seemed to be the polar opposite to the album’s opener “We Can Be Together,” but later on I realized that the songs indeed harbored the same sentiment.

Woodstock had happened by the time I got my copy of the album. It was an event I was keenly aware of even though my older sister (and by default) I wasn’t allowed to attend. I can remember watching footage of the festival on the news as it happened, as I sat pining to be there. The following year the movie and soundtrack album came out. It was where I finally got to see what the Airplane was like in concert, not to mention experiencing Santana, Joe Cocker, The Who and Jimi Hendrix in all their glory for the very first time.

Volunteers found the group at a commercial and cultural high point. The interplay between Grace Slick, Paul Kantner and Marty Balin’s vocals, coupled with Jorma Kaukonen’s acidic guitar playing and singing, Jack Casady’s bass and Spencer Dyrden’s drums made it the band’s most potent lineup. Add to that, the star power of a guest list that included Jerry Garcia, Stephen Stills, David Crosby, Nicky Hopkins and Ace Of Cups, and you had a group at the peak performance.

All in all, Volunteers proved to be the last great Jefferson Airplane album. It was also the last album the group made before Marty Balin and Spencer Dryden left the fold.

Edited: February 10th, 2015

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Thelma” by Paul Simon

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Thelma” by Paul Simon

It boggles the mind how a song this good could have been left in the can, but that was indeed the fate of the Paul Simon outtake “Thelma,” which was originally intended for his 1990 album The Rhythm Of The Saints. (The song would surface three years later on the Paul Simon 1964 – 1993 box set.)

By 1988, Simon had to begin thinking about the near impossible task of creating a follow up record to his 1986 Grammy-winning smash hit album Graceland. But how do you follow up a record as dominant and successful as that? For Simon, it meant fashioning a record along the same culturally exploratory lines as Graceland, but changing the locale from South Africa to Brazil, and melding the music from both locales together.

The resultant Rhythm collection was a far more adventurous record than its predecessor featuring groove oriented songs like “The Obvious Child,” “Can’t Run But,” “Proof” and today’s Song Of The Day, that were all built from the percussion on up. The album is also more subtle and intricate than Graceland with a set of nuanced experimental songs like “Further To Fly,” “Cool Cool River,” “Spirit Voices” and “She Moves On” that insinuate themselves with the listener upon repeated listening.

Like it’s predecessor, Rhythm featured an all-star international collective of musicians including the likes of Clifton Chenier, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Milton Nascimento, Adrian Belew, J.J. Cale, Hugh Masakela, Michael Brecker, Randy Brecker, Greg Phillinganes, Steve Gadd, Naná Vasconcelos and many others, working together to create a patchwork quilt of exotic sound to house Simon’s sharp, impressionistic lyrics.

Rhythm was also the first album that Simon collaborated with Cameroonian guitarist Vincent Nguini, whom he still works with today. Most of the record was recorded in Rio de Janeiro and then brought back to New York’s Hit Factory for final touch ups. Together, Simon and Nguini fashioned finished songs out of the bare rhythm recordings captured in Rio for Simon to put his lyrics on.

Simon toured extensively after the release of the album, culminating in a free concert in New York City’s Central Park in front of 750,000 attendees. (I was there!) While it is inevitable that Rhythm will always exist in the shadow of Graceland, the album’s failing is that it sounds at times more like a genre exercise than an actual Paul Simon album. That said, the album did peak the #4 position on the album charts and sold several million copies.

Edited: February 5th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Kill Your Sons” by Lou Reed

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Kill Your Sons” by Lou Reed

After the huge success of the Transformer album and its top-twenty single “Walk On The Wild Side,” Lou Reed delivered his most beautifully disturbing album as a follow up. The concept album, Berlin was considered at the time to be a depressing mess, and it was not exactly what fans expected or wanted from their newly minted glam rock star. Over time, Berlin’s stature has deservedly risen and is now not only considered a classic, but one of Reed’s greatest albums.

In order to calm the nerves of his record company and his fans, Reed followed Berlin with the live Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal that included readings of Velvet Underground classics with the blazing twin guitar attack of Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner who went on to back Alice Cooper.  The album, which was recorded in New York City at the Academy Of Music in December of 1973, sold very well and still does to this day.

Reed’s next studio album, Sally Can’t Dance was his best-selling and highest charting (#10) record to date. The album was a hastily recorded reaction to all of the expectations fans and record company alike put on Reed, and while his involvement on the record was relegated to a minimum of tossed off vocals and some minor acoustic guitar parts, it did restore his standing in the decadent world of glam rock.

Sally Can’t Dance was not one of Reed’s most consistent collections of songs either, however there are a few standouts including the glammy “N.Y. Stars,” that comments on the many imitators that cropped up in the wake of the success he had with “Walk On The Wild Side,” the sadly beautiful and intimate album closer “Ennui” and “Billy,” a song about a school friend who chose a straighter path than Reed did. The latter track also reunited Reed with his ex-Velvet Underground band-mate Doug Yule on bass.

The album also features horn charts, which was a first for Reed, and soulful female backing vocals on the funky “Ride Sally Ride,” “Sally Can’t Dance” and the somewhat misguided “Animal Language.”  But the album’s one true classic was also Reed’s most personal song “Kill Your Sons,” which found him reflecting on his childhood stint in a psychiatric hospital where he underwent shock therapy. It is perhaps one of Reed’s most frank and harrowing recordings (and that’s saying something), it is also one of his very best.

The top-ten success of Sally Can’t Dance found RCA Records pressuring him for a quick follow up, so Reed acquiesced and delivered the much-maligned-yet-superb-and -classic Metal Machine Music, which consisted of an hour of nothing but noise and feedback. RCA hastily rebounded by assembling the unused Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal tapes into the 1975 album Lou Reed Live. (Yet another great Lou Reed album!)

Edited: January 27th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Fox On The Run” by Sweet

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Fox On The Run” by Sweet

Boy, I hated this song when it was a huge hit back in 1975. It stood for everything I disliked about commercial rock ‘n’ roll. The band was totally lightweight and poppy, and their brand of glam rock had no teeth like that of David Bowie, Lou Reed and Mott The Hoople.

But a funny thing happened on the way to reaching the tender age of 54, I became nostalgic for the band and the song.

I’ve written about nostalgia before and I’ve come to the conclusion that the songs we feel most nostalgic for today, are the songs that were most reviled by the critics when they were new, and equally loved by the everyday radio listening fan. Many of them also had some kind of novelty value as well.

They were all played to death on radio to the point where even fans of the songs never wanted to hear them again, and many of them were co-opted by Madison Avenue for use in TV commercials in subsequent years after their run on the charts.

These are the songs we loved to hate when they were new, and today we kind of hate to love them. But we do love them. They make us feel good and warmly nostalgic when we hear them. Instead of hastily reaching for the dial to turn them off like we did when they were new, now we turn them up.

Such is the case for me when it comes to Sweet’s smash single “Fox On The Run” and the Desolation Boulevard album from whence it came. The band consisted of Brian Connolly on vocals, Steve Priest on bass, Andy Scott on guitars and Mick Tucker on drums, and most of the album’s tracks were written by Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn.

The roots of Sweet go back to the late 1960s when Connolly and Tucker were introduced to two aspiring songwriters Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn by their former producer Phil Wainman. The group recruited Steve Priest whom they had already worked with on bass and Andy Scott on guitar. Together, the band began recording records in the mold of bubblegum groups of the late 1960s who were at the height of their popularity.

On a side note, Chinn and Chapman went on to write and/or produce hit records for the Chrysalis Record label including “Hot Child In The City” for Nick Gilder, the Bondie albums Parallel Lines, Eat To The Beat, Autoamerican and The Hunter in which Chapman wrote many of their hits, Get The Knack by The Knack including the hit “My Sharona,” Tina Turner’s “The Best” and “Better Be Good To Me,” Pat Benatar’s “Love Is A Battlefield” and production on albums by Divinyls, Rod Stewart, Lita Ford and many others.

After signing a record deal with RCA in the UK and Bell in the U.S., Sweet began recording albums leading to thirteen top twenty UK hits including “Little Willie,” “Block Buster,” Funny Funny,” “Co-Co,” “Poppa Joe” and “Wig-Wam Bam.” The only early single that made any impact on U.S. shores was “Little Willie” which climbed to #3 on the Billboard charts in 1973.

Today’s Song Of The Day by Eric Berman was released as a single in 1974 in Europe, and then remixed and re-released the following year in the U.S. It was subsequently covered by the likes of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Girlschool, Ace Frehley (of Kiss) and the Scorpions, who recorded it in German. The Desolation Boulevard album also included the big hit “Ballroom Blitz” (another single I hated back then that I also now like) and glam-tastic album tracks like “The Six Teens,” “Sweet F.A.” and “AC DC.”

It’s hard for me to imagine why I totally ignored records by Sweet, Kiss and Bad Company back in the day because they sound so good to me now. The only excuse I could come up with is that they just didn’t seem to be as “weighty” as records like Lou Reed’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal, David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs, Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti, John Lennon’s Walls And Bridges and Mott The Hoople’s Mott, to name but a few.

Edited: January 26th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Groovy Movies” by The Kinks

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Groovy Movies” by The Kinks

The Great Lost Kinks Album isn’t really the great lost Kinks album.

That distinction goes to Reprise Records RS-6309 which would have been released in late 1967 or early 1968 as Four More Respected Gentlemen. But for reasons unknown, that record was never released and ultimately its best tracks finally saw the light of day on The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, and judging by the quality of that platter, we can all be thankful that The Great Lost Kinks Album never materialized anyway. You follow?

By 1971, The Kinks jumped ship to RCA Records and released the also wonderful Muswell Hillbillies album, while still owing their old label Reprise two more records. The first of the contractual agreement records was the superb and super necessary two record set known as The Kink Kronikles that featured many Kinks’ hits, should-have-been-hits and numerous necessary rarities that Kinks fans were grateful to wrap their ears around.

The second contractual album was the fourteen track, rarity filled Great Lost Kinks Album that featured songs recorded between 1966 and 1970, and was released on Reprise in 1973. On it were songs written for a British TV show (“When I Turn Off The Living Room Light” (one of Raymond Douglas Davies finest) and “Where Did The Spring Go?” from Where Was Spring? ), a film soundtrack (“Till Death Do Us Part” from the film adaptation of the TV show of the same name), a British single (“Plastic Man”), a B-side (“I’m Not Like Everybody Else”), lots of album outtakes including off cuts from Something Else (“Lavender Hill” and “Rosemary Rose) and Village Green (“Misty Waters” and “Mr. Songbird), plus several Dave Davies tracks that were recorded for his ill-fated never released solo record including (“There Is No Life Without Love,” “This Man He Weeps Tonight” and today’s Song of the Day by Eric Berman, “Groovy Movies.”)

“Groovy Movies” is very much a product of its time with its swinging arrangement, colloquial lyrics and driving horn charts. And as for the now sadly out of print Great Lost Kinks Album, Kink kastoffs like the ones included within are way better than most groups’ first run keepers.

God Save The Kinks!

Edited: January 20th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Don’t Let’s Start” by They Might Be Giants

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Don’t Let’s Start” by They Might Be Giants

You can’t bottle creativity, but in the case of They Might Be Giants, you certainly can buy it! They were two wild and crazy nerd-boys when they burst onto the scene in the 1980s, we just didn’t realize how wild and crazy they really were.

The two Johns: Flansburgh and Linnell have always looked at the world through different glasses than the rest of us, and it has manifested itself in some of the most creative ways to hear music. Case in point was “Dial-A-Song,” where you could call a phone number and hear a new original song on an answering machine…every day! The call was to a Brooklyn exchange, so they came up with the tag line “Free when you call from work” to publicize the service. This went on for many years and was recently revived as a weekly series.

Dial-A-Song got them signed to their first record deal and today’s Song Of The Day by Eric Berman comes from their self-titled debut album released in 1986. Once they conquered your telephone, it was only a matter of time before TMBG discovered the internet where they were amongst the first groups to use the medium to publicize and distribute their music.

With songs like “Birdhouse In Your Soul,” “Dinner Bell,” “Why Does The Sun Shine (The Sun Is A Mass Of Incandescent Gas),” and “Older” in their repertoire, it was only a matter of time before they got into the children’s music game releasing the album No! in 2002. They’ve since released several more children’s records insuring that their original fan base would take their kids to see them some day. Indeed, I fulfilled my duty as a parent and took my own kids to see them in 2002 when they were eight and five years old respectively.

On the road, they perform adult and kids shows at every tour stop and they also have a penchant for debuting newly written songs about each town they’re performing in each night. The two Johns are still very active today on stage and off where they regularly record and release enjoyable and inventive podcasts. If you’ve never heard their records or seen their shows, you really should before you grow up, or even worse, they do!

Edited: January 12th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Skating” by Vince Guaraldi Trio from the album “A Charlie Brown Christmas”

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Skating” by Vince Guaraldi Trio from the album “A Charlie Brown Christmas”

Christmas songs…I really don’t like most of them! However, there are some classics you can never really do without…The Ventures’ Christmas Album, John Fahey’s Christmas Album, The Phil Spector Christmas Album, Eugene Ormandy’s performance of The Nutcracker, and holiday classics by Bing Crosby, Johnny Mathis, Andy Williams, Herb Alpert and Bob Dylan (yes, I do think his Christmas album is a classic).

For the most part, Christmas music is so overplayed that I just don’t care if I ever hear most of the stalwarts ever again! And don’t even get me started on that monstrosity of a Christmas song by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, probably the single most cringe-worthy holiday song of them all…with “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” a close second! Bah Humbug!

But then there’s A Charlie Brown Christmas by Vince Guaraldi. The A Charlie Brown Christmas TV special first aired in December of 1965. At the time, Guaraldi was already a renowned Jazz pianist who worked with the likes of Cal Tjader, Woody Herman and Stan Getz, but he was best known for the Grammy Award-winning hit “Cast Your Fate to the Wind.” Guaraldi was originally asked to compose music for an unaired documentary on Charles M. Schulz by producer Lee Mendelsson in the early ’60s. When Coca-Cola later commissioned the creation of the Christmas special, Guaraldi was called again to compose the music.

Today’s Song of the Day by Eric Berman is only one of several classics on Guaraldi’s classic 1965 album A Charlie Brown Christmas. The other two members of the Vince Guaraldi Trio were Fred Marshall on bass and Jerry Granelli on drums. Close your eyes and you can almost feel the gently falling snow falling as you circle round your favorite ice rink!

Edited: December 22nd, 2014

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “The Nutcracker Suite” by Les Brown & His Band of Renown

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “The Nutcracker Suite” by Les Brown & His Band of Renown

The story of The Nutcracker was inspired by E.T.A. Hoffmann’s The Nutcracker and the King Of Mice and was presented to Russian composer, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, by Marius Petipa who was maître de ballet of the Imperial Theater from Dumas. Tchaikovsky was unmoved by the prospect of writing a ballet for the story and was practically strong-armed into doing so. Meanwhile, he was also writing an opera called Yolanta

Work on the ballet was put on hold when Tchaikovsky took a trip to America for the opening of Carnegie Hall. It was there he was introduced to the music of the celeste. A celeste is like a piano, but instead of mallets hitting strings like they do in a piano, celeste mallets hit metal plates giving the instrument a kind of woozy bell-like sound. The celeste inspired Tchaikovsky to write “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” and finish the ballet upon his return, so he could introduce the instrument to Russia. Upon its debut, The Nutcracker was widely panned, and the opera, Yolanta, was hailed as a great success…

Fast forward to 1957, by now Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker is considered the classic it has rightfully become (does anyone remember Yolanta?), and arranger Frank Comstock writes this jazz arrangement of the piece for Les Brown & His Band of Renown to record. They, in turn, record it for the album Concert Modern and history is made again.

While I adore listening to the classical recordings of this gorgeous piece of music, especially Eugene Ormandy & the Philadelphia Orchestra’s late 1960s interpretation on the Columbia label, Les Brown takes the cake for recording the most satisfying and enjoyable adaptation of the piece. Today, the piece is kept current by annual performances by the very superb Brian Setzer Orchestra.

Edited: December 21st, 2014

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Dancing Machine” by The Jackson 5

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Dancing Machine” by The Jackson 5

They were growing up…but the world liked their Jacksons young.

By 1973, The Jackson 5 were becoming somewhat of a spent force around Motown. It had been a few years since the group scored a bona-fide top ten hit, and there was plenty of dissatisfaction to go around.

Brother Michael was no longer the pint-sized dynamo that he once was. He was now a pimply 15 years old geek with a much deeper voice. Motown had been grooming him as a solo star much to the detriment of his singing brothers, and between 1971 and 1973 he scored several substantial solo hits including the top five smash “Got To Be There,” “Ben” which was a chart topping hit about a rat from the movie Willard, a cover of the Bobby Day hit “Rockin’ Robin” which climbed to the #2 position on the charts and “I Wanna Be Where You Are,” which went to #16 on the pop charts and #2 on the rhythm and blues charts.

Meanwhile, some of the other brothers were also branching out. Jermaine released a solo record in 1972 that included a cover of the Shep & The Limelites’ hit “Daddy’s Home” which rose up to the top ten of the charts, and Jackie also released solo record the following year. All of this activity was beginning to play on the dynamic within the group in negative ways.

What the group collectively craved most was more control over what they recorded, and more involvement in the making of their records. While they were writing, producing and playing songs in their home studio, Motown wouldn’t let them play on their own records insisting that they use the Motown house band, The Funk Brothers, or The Wrecking Crew (for West Coast sessions). Not only that, they were only allowed to record songs that were chosen for them by “The Corporation.”

Changes needed to be made, and it was within this atmosphere of disillusion that the group’s father and manager, Joe Jackson began to look for a new record deal for his charges.

The group’s 1973 album, GIT: Get It Together, was the first Jackson 5 album to feature lead vocals by each brother. The album also found the group dipping their collective toes into disco waters by segueing all the songs together in order to provide a non-stop mix of music for dancing.

By far, the best song of the album is today’s Song of the Day by Eric Berman, “Dancing Machine.” The song was an “automatic, systematic” call to the dance floor featuring syncopated funky rhythms and terrific vocal interplay between Michael and the rest of the group who traded off lead vocal lines and sang backup on the track. It was also one of the first songs that Michael employed the vocal hiccup that would end up being one of his lasting trademarks.

Like “Billy Jean” and the moonwalk, “Dancing Machine” also benefitted by an accompanying dance move which helped propel it up the charts. When the group appeared on Soul Train to promote the album, Michael Jackson was seen doing the robot dance resulting in a spectacle that left fans wanting more.

The song was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1975 for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals, but lost out to Rufus’s hit “Tell Me Something Good.” While the other seven tracks on the record were less commercial, the title track was a moderate hit that charted at #28 on the singles charts, and “Hum Along and Dance” became a popular favorite in the group’s live act.

Shortly after the release of the album, the group found themselves riding high in the charts again as background vocalists on Stevie Wonder’s 1974 single “You Haven’t Done Nothin’” from his Fulfillingness’ First Finale album.

The group signed with CBS/Epic Records in 1975 and had to change their name to The Jacksons, since Motown owned the rights to the Jackson 5 name. Jermaine chose to stay on at Motown since he was married to Berry Gordy’s daughter, and was replaced by the youngest Jackson brother, Randy.

While the group’s commercial prospects at CBS weren’t much better, Michael eventually scored a huge hit with the 1979 album Off the Wall, and then came Thriller and The Victory Tour, and Jackson mania swept the world again…

Edited: December 11th, 2014

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Things Will Never Be the Same” by Four Just Men

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Things Will Never Be the Same” by Four Just Men

I recently wrote about Freddie & The Dreamers’ single, “I’m Telling You Now,” and the American album of the same name. The record was not a Freddie & The Dreamers album per se, although they were the featured group on the cover. It was a compilation released in 1965 to introduce unknown British Invasion groups to American audiences featuring two tracks each by Freddie & The Dreamers, Mike Rabin & The Demons, The Toggery Five, Linda Laine & The Sinners, Heinz and the group whose song is today’s Song Of The Day by Eric Berman, Four Just Men.

Four Just Men were one of the better groups to ride on the coattails of The Beatles and The British Invasion, and while their output was miniscule to say the least, it was indeed potent.

They were a Merseybeat group whose original name was Dee Fenton & the Silhouettes. Upon changing their name to Four Just Men in 1964, they were signed by George Martin who produced several non-charting British singles for them in 1964 through 1965. The group’s two Parlophone singles were “Things Will Never Be the Same” b/w “That’s My Baby (which were the two songs on the U.S. compilation album) and “There’s Not One Thing” b/w “Don’t Come Any Closer.” Both singles were originals, written by singer-guitarist Dimitrius Christopholus and guitarist John Kelman. The group changed their name yet again, this time to Just Four Men after another band also calling themselves Four Just Men threatened to sue EMI.

While the group toured with The Rolling Stones, The Searchers and Del Shannon in support of the two singles neither charted and they were dropped by EMI. They resurfaced in 1966 as a psychedelic group called Wimple Winch, who was known for the local hits “Rumble on Mersey Square South” and “Save My Soul.”

The two Four Just Men singles, as well as eight previously unreleased tracks from the era and 16 songs by Wimple Winch, were released on the now out of print import CD, The Wimple Story 1963-1968.

Edited: December 10th, 2014

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Take Me to the Pilot” by Elton John

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Take Me to the Pilot” by Elton John

Happy 44th birthday to this performance!

I play Elton John’s 11/17/70 album every year on this day as it certainly captures him at his near best…especially on “Take Me to the Pilot,” today’s Song of the Day by Eric Berman.

The album was recorded live for a radio broadcast at the A&R Studios in New York City back on this date in 1970. A six song album from the broadcast was released in 1971 to offset bootleg recordings that almost immediately began to circulate after the performance.

Six more songs were performed that day and are still not released to this day. Those songs include early Elton classics like “I Need You To Turn To,” “Country Comfort,” “Border Song,” “Indian Sunset,” “My Father’s Gun” and, of course, “Your Song.” An additional song from the broadcast, “Amoreena,” was issued as a bonus track to the CD reissue in 1997.

The band on this performance includes Elton John on piano, Dee Murray on bass and Nigel Olsson on drums. They give new meaning to the term “power trio” since nary a lead guitar is heard on the recording. That’s New York radio DJ Dave Herman introducing the show on the album and he later went on to say that Elton must have cut his hand sometime during the 80-minute performance because when it was over his piano keyboard was covered in blood.

This year would have been perfect for a deluxe expanded reissue of the complete broadcast since forty-four years later is still is powerful!

Edited: November 17th, 2014

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “I Got Loaded” by Little Bob and the Lollipops

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “I Got Loaded” by Little Bob and the Lollipops

For many years, I thought this song was a Los Lobos original. Their version was so in line with their sound and it fit so well on their Will the Wolf Survive album. So it was surprising to me, when I found out that the song had been around for over twenty years by the time they got around to recording it.

The song was recorded by Little Bob and the Lollipops, and was never even originally released as the A-side to the single it appeared on. When originally released in 1965 on the La Louisianne record label (best known for Bob and Dale’s hit “I’m Leaving It All Up to You”), it was the flip of the single “Nobody But You.” Over the years, the song has become Little Bob’s signature song and has inspired covers by the likes of Robert Cray, Tab Benoit and The Refreshments.

Little Bob (born Camille Bob) grew up working on a farm in rural Prairie Laurent, Louisiana. Early on he took a liking to the music of B.B. King, Count Basie and Guitar Slim, and dreamed of a day when he could give up working in the fields and play music for a living. To that end, he traded a horse for his first set of drums as a teen, and set out on his music career.

By 1955, he was backing Good Rockin’ Bob (aka Ed Thomas) and making more money than he ever would have if he’d stayed on the farm. Growing restless as a backing musician, Bob decided to break out on his own, and formed Little Bob and the Lollipops in the late 1950s, naming the group after Cookie and the Cupcakes. The band soon became a fixture on the Louisiana party and club circuit, playing a rocking hybrid of rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm and blues.

His early singles “Are You Ever Coming Home,” “Please Don’t Leave” and “You Don’t Have to Cry” were Cajun-infused rhythm and blues. After signing with Carol Rachou’s La Louisianne label, Bob’s records took on more of a James Brown influence, as heard on the later singles “Are You Going My Way,” “I Can’t Take It” and “Look Out Mr. Heartache.”

Little Bob has been performing for over 50 years and was elected into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 1992. Both Little Bob and the La Louisianne record label are both still active today.

Word to the wise: Take two aspirin and drink a big glass of water after listenin’ to this one!

Edited: November 5th, 2014

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Good Year for the Roses” by Elvis Costello & the Attractions

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Good Year for the Roses” by Elvis Costello & the Attractions

They were young, drunk, marketed as punk rockers and cut loose in Nashville, Tennessee, behaving very badly. Such was the backdrop for Elvis Costello and the Attraction’s album-length foray into straight-ahead Country music back in 1981.

Costello was coming off a white-hot streak of records including 1977’s My Aim Is True, followed by This Year’s Model in 1978, Armed Forces in 1979, and both Trust and the 20-track Get Happy record in 1980, all stuffed to the gills with self-penned classic songs. Add to that the 20-track Taking Liberties album that gathered up the rest of the stray British singles and B-sides, and Costello fans had a ton of consistently great material to sink their teeth into.

Although the idea and reality of Costello releasing a full-blown Country collection, especially one of covers, came as a shock to his fans in 1981, it really shouldn’t have. Right from the beginning, Costello had flirted with Country music, recording songs like “Alison” on his debut album in 1977, “Different Finger” for Trust, “Motel Matches” on Get Happy and “Stranger In The House,” which was originally recorded for My Aim Is True and left off only to turn up on a bonus single included with first pressings of the British version of This Year’s Model. He’d also recorded a duet version of “Stranger” with the song’s composer, country legend George Jones, for a TV special called My Special Friends. (The footage of their duet shows a very under-the-weather Elvis Costello deep in the throes of the mumps with glands that are visibly swollen.)

When Almost Blue was unleashed onto an unsuspecting public, it was met with utter disbelief that Costello would do something that seemed so radical. And, indeed, the record was pretty unfairly shrugged off by much of his fan-base, becoming the black sheep of his catalog for many years (only later to be replaced by The Juliet Letters, but that’s for another time).

For the album, Legendary producer Billy Sherrill (best known for his string-laden production work with Tammy Wynette) was brought in to helm the project, and the Attractions were augmented by pedal steel player, John McFee, who had sessioned on a whole host of records by the likes of Van Morrison, Steve Miller Band, Grateful Dead, The Doobie Brothers (where he replaced Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter in 1979) and numerous others. McFee had also previously played the pedal steel with Costello on his first U.S. hit, “Alison.”

The album included credible and inspired cover versions of songs by Gram Parsons (“I’m Your Toy” and “How Much I Lied”), Hank Williams (“Why Don’t You Love Me”), Merle Haggard (“Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down”), Patsy Cline (“Sweet Dreams”) (written by Don Gibson), Charlie Rich (“Sittin’ And Thinkin’”) and George Jones who wrote today’s Song of the Day by Eric Berman, which was one of the album’s singles.

On tour for the album, Costello performed the single “I’m Your Toy” at The Royal Albert Hall backed by a full orchestra and released the resultant recordings on British 12” and 7” singles for the F-Beat label. I caught the “Almost Blue” tour on New Year’s Eve 1981-1982 at the now-defunct Palladium in New York City. Elvis and the Attractions came out for the first set and played 90-minutes of Country hits augmented by John McFee on pedal steel, and then came back at the stroke of midnight launched into “Lipstick Vogue” and followed it with a 90 minute set of solid rock ‘n’ roll…a great way to begin 1982.

When the album first came out, it was accompanied by a promotional vinyl version with Elvis offering spoken introductions to each song. Almost Blue has been reissued on CD several times over the years with incarnations on Columbia, Rykodisc, Rhino and Universal Music. The Rhino two-disc version is the one to own because it includes 27 bonus tracks, easily tripling the length of the record. Costello would dip his toes into Country Music many times over the years, most recently on his Secret, Profane and Sugarcane album in 2009.

Edited: November 2nd, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Toledo” by Elvis Costello & Burt Bacharach

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Toledo” by Elvis Costello & Burt Bacharach

THE SUMMIT…that’s the term Fran Sinatra coined to sum up the grouping of Sammy Davis, Jr., Dean Martin and himself many years ago. To me, THE SUMMIT equals two of my very favorite artists collaborating together for an album and a tour…and one of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen!

Elvis Costello was always a fan of Burt Bacharach. He covered his song “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself” right from the beginning of his career. The Bacharach-Costello collaboration began with the song “God Give Me Strength” which was written for the exceptional 1996 Allison Anders film Grace of My Heart” which was loosely based on the story of 1960s Brill Building pop songsmiths.

After the film, the two worked together by email and telephone and found they had a knack for writing great songs. They continued their long distance collaboration writing a batch of songs that became their sole album from 1998, Painted From Memory which today’s Song of the Day by Eric Berman was culled.

Here fans got the best of both worlds…Bacharach’s singular and angular way with a melody matched with Costello’s knack for the turn of a phrase. The ensuing 1998 tour was, for my money, a meeting of two of the greatest songwriters of all time…right up there with Lennon and McCartney!

Edited: October 28th, 2014

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Circle Sky” by The Monkees

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Circle Sky” by The Monkees

Right from the beginning, it was always intended that The Monkees would make the jump from the small screen to the big screen. However, by 1968 when the group made their debut film Head, The Monkees’ TV show had been cancelled and they were in dire need of some credibility in the music world.

Enter film maker Bob Rafelson and an up-and-coming actor named Jack Nicholson who wrote and directed a film that made Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels look positively coherent in comparison. Head is a psychedelic mess in the first degree…but an interesting one interspersing drug-induced visuals with graphic scenes of war…and, of course, The Monkees.

The Head album had some fine songs on it sprinkled with sound collages that made it an uneven listening experience. Today’s Song of the Day by Eric Berman is one of Mike Nesmith’s finest songs which also served as the centerpiece performance of the film.

The Head album was expertly expanded into a 3 CD box set by Andrew Sandoval and Rhino Handmade several years ago…it’s not for the casual fan for sure…but if you are a Monkees obsessive it’s well worth the price of admission.

Edited: October 26th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Paradise Girls” by Deerhoof

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Paradise Girls” by Deerhoof

Last year’s Breakup Songs was the album that topped my Best Albums list of 2013, and now Deerhoof return with their new album La Isla Bonita. (out Nov. 4)

Emanating from San Francisco (Greg Saunier, Ed Rodriguez & John Dieterich) by way of Japan (Satomi Matsuzaki), Deerhoof have released 13 albums over 20 years of unpredictable music with a sound that would have made Yoko Ono proud and John Lennon jump for joy.

It has finally come to pass that the dance ingredients of Yoko Ono’s recordings circa Double Fantasy coupled with the crunchy noise of her earlier albums which were championed by John Lennon have somewhat reached the mainstream with Deerhoof and their brand new album La Isla Bonita.

The album consists of rough tracks that were recorded in Rodriguez’s basement with the intent to send them to their producer before going into the studio. Upon playing the tracks back, the band realized that they already had the album they wanted to make.

Greg Saunier: “No one gave much thought to microphone placement and other technical matters, or playing the parts perfectly, or even staying in tune. It was unselfconscious, spontaneous and fun, all four musicians playing in the same tiny room at the same time.”

Satomi Matsuzaki later added her simplistic, repetitive lyrics and baby-doll vocals on top of the tracks solidifying the Deerhoof sound that fans have come to love.

Part electro-crunch, part sing-song melodies, part twee vocals and completely infectious in the dance rhythm department, “Paradise Girls” is a prime example of this band’s unique and irresistible sound.

Edited: October 14th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Who By Fire” by Leonard Cohen

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Who By Fire” by Leonard Cohen

It’s that time of year when Jews atone for sins and pray for forgiveness… in exchange for another year on the planet. It’s an unspoken deal Jews strike each year with God and and I am just superstitious enough to continue to go along with it.

Today’s Song of the Day by Eric Berman is a track from Leonard Cohen’s fourth studio album New Skin For The Old Ceremony. The song derives from the Unetanneh Tokef prayer that is said on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Jewish High Holy Days. The song is sung as a duet on the album with fellow Jewish folk singer, Janis Ian.

Leonard Cohen: “That song derives very directly from a Hebrew prayer that is sung on the Day of Atonement…according to the tradition, the book of life is opened and in it is inscribed all those who will live, all those who will die for the following year…In that prayer is cataloged all the various ways in which you can quit this veil of tears. The melody is, if not actually stolen, is certainly derived from the melody that I heard in the synagogue as a boy. But, of course, the conclusion online casinos of the song as I write it is somewhat different…”who shall I say is calling”…that is what makes the song into a prayer for me. In my terms, which is who is it, or what is it that determines who will live or who will die.” (from the Harry Rasky film The Song of Leonard Cohen 1979 -http://www.leonardcohen-prologues.com/who_by_fire.htm)

The album also includes several other bona-fide Leonard Cohen classics including “Chelsea Hotel #2,” a song about a sexual encounter Cohen had at the Chelsea Hotel with Janis Joplin, “Take This Longing” and “Field Commander Cohen.”

Just this past week Leonard Cohen celebrated his 80th birthday by releasing his 13th studio album called Popular Problems. May he also be inscribed in the book of life…and you as well…

Edited: September 28th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Nutted By Reality” by Nick Lowe

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Nutted By Reality” by Nick Lowe

The album title, Pure Pop For Now People is the American name for Nick Lowe’s 1978 debut solo record which across the pond carried the much cooler title Jesus Of Cool. The American and English editions of the record featured similar covers with a different array of images of Nick Lowe dressed in varied types of garb, and both editions sport similar but different track listings. When the album was reissued in 2008 by Yep Rock, it was rightly retitled Jesus Of Cool all over the world and combined all of the tracks from both editions in a new sequence.

Lowe was initially marketed as a burgeoning new artist who was part of the late ‘70s Punk and New Wave music explosion, however he’d been recording records since the late 1960s with British pub rockers Brinsley Schwarz. Jesus Of Cool sports an array of styles including hard rockers (“Music For Money”), New Wave (“So It Goes”), pub rock (“Heart Of The City”), sugar-coated pop (“Marie Provost” – a song that deals with a starlet who died and was found partially eaten by her dog) and today’s Song Of The Day by Eric Berman, a Motown-flavored disco-fied gem that abruptly shifts direction in the middle as if the song (as well as its protagonist) was also “Nutted By Reality.”

After leaving the Schwarz in 1975, Lowe became the in-house producer for Jake Riviera’s newly-formed Stiff Record label, where he also began recording with Dave Edmunds’ Rockpile. In fact, if you look closely at the cover to Jesus Of Cool, one of the photos of Nick Lowe is actually that of Dave Edmunds dressed up as Nick Lowe.

While with Stiff, Lowe produced Elvis Costello’s first five albums and The Damned’s debut album, and at the same time began recording records under his own name. Over the years Lowe has scored hits on his own like “Cruel To Be Kind,” and has written hits for others including “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace Love And Understanding” for Elvis Costello, “The Beast In Me” for Johnny Cash (who was his father-in-law for a time) and “I Knew The Bride (When She Used To Rock and Roll)” for Huey Lewis and the News.

During the 1990s, he formed the super group Little Village with John Hiatt, Jim Keltner and Ry Cooder, who recorded one record and toured the world before disbanding. He has continued to release records throughout the years and today writes and records intimate pop records along the lines of Nat King Cole.

Edited: September 7th, 2014

Song Of the Day by Eric Berman – “The Alley Cat” by Bent Fabric

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Song Of the Day by Eric Berman – “The Alley Cat” by Bent Fabric

Dance crazes come and go, but they are never forgotten.

Most recently there was Psy’s “Gangnam Style,” wreaking havoc across dance floors all over the world while the youth of America (and Myley Cyrus) began to twerk. In the 1990s, there was “The Macarena.” In the 1980s, country line dancing and “The Lambada” had their day in the sun, and the ‘70s gave us “The Electric Slide.” But in the early 1960s, there was only one communal synchronized dance that kids and adults alike shared in, making it a staple at weddings, proms and Bar Mitzvahs.

That dance was “The Alley Cat.”

In actuality, “The Alley Cat” began life as a 1961 hit for Bent Fabricius-Bjerre in Denmark under the title “Omkring et Flygel” (“Under The Table”). The song was picked up for U.S. distribution by Neshui and Ahmet Ehrtegun and released on their Atco label in 1962, where it became a million-selling top-ten hit. The song also went on to win a Grammy Award for, get this, Best Rock and Roll Record of 1962!

Fabric released six albums on Atco between 1962 and 1968, with titles like The Happy Puppy, The Drunken Penguin and Operation Love Birds, with animal-centric album covers to match. He was also paired up with Atco’s other big instrumentalist, Acker Bilk, for a series of recordings. But no matter how many albums were released, in America he is still only associated with one thing, “The Alley Cat.”

Fabric got his start playing Jazz piano in Denmark before moving into the realm of film scores, where he wrote music for 27 different Danish films. He also founded Metronome Records in 1950, which went on to become one of the most successful Danish record companies. One of his signings was Jorge Ingmann who scored a #2 hit in America with his classic instrumental “Apache.”

While Fabric has seemingly faded from view in America, he’s continued to release recordings in Denmark over the years, most recently scoring two top-ten hits in 2006 from his album called Jukebox. That album’s title track also got airplay in dance clubs across America, where a remix of “Alley Cat” was also re-released.

Surprisingly, in Mexico, ice cream trucks co-opted “The Alley Cat” as their calling card, so when children hear it blaring through the streets, it means the ice cream man is in the neighborhood.

Edited: July 28th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 9/26/13 – “Wake Me Up” by Elvis Costello & The Roots

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Wake Me Up” by Elvis Costello & The Roots

After the release of Elvis Costello’s last two T. Bone Burnett-produced albums, he was ready to throw in the towel on his recording career seeing no point in going back into the studio to create new records that nobody would hear. And as a long-time Costello fan of 36 years who suffered through those albums, I was beginning to sadly think that it might’ve been the right decision.

Fortunately, inspiration struck in the oddest of places while guesting on the Late Night With Jimmy Fallon TV show where The Roots have been the house band since the show’s inception. With a college of musical knowledge and a mutual love and thirst for all things sonic between Costello and Roots drummer, ?uestlove, a collaboration between the two seemed to be a match made in hipster heaven.

So, is this Costello’s hip hop album? Is it The Roots’ foray into punk rock?

Neither is true, but with his fedora tipped oddly to one side, Costello and The Roots have fashioned a narcotized, off-beat and off-kilter record drawing on both artists’ signature sound, while creating a groovy new sonic palate for all to taste.

Elvis: “It seemed like a good playground, a fabulous ride, to go in and play with a great band that has a broad-minded view of music. It felt like anything was possible.” ?uestlove: “We recorded a lot of it in our tiny little dressing room at 30 Rock, not a traditional studio, but Elvis had no hang-ups about that.”

In the spirit of sampling no doubt influenced by The Roots, Costello revisits his back catalog and repurposes lyrics from past songs for Wise Up Ghost’s tune stack. Once the novelty of playing spot the reference wears off, you’re still left with one of his strongest collections of songs in over a decade.

Today’s Song Of The Day (shown here from a the album’s kickoff concert in Brooklyn last week) plunders Costello’s 2004 track “Bedlam” from The Delivery Man and mingles it with the 2006 title track from his collaboration with Allen Toussaint The River In Reverse. “Stick Out Your Tongue” revisits the 1983 Imposter single “Pills And Soap” while incorporating “Hurry Down Doomsday (The Bugs Are Taking Over)” from his overlooked 1991 collection Mighty Like A Rose.

In the song “Refused To Be Saved” Elvis spits out lyrics from Mighty Like A Rose’s “Invasion Hit Parade,” as he approaches a rapper’s cadence accented by sharp horn blasts, and the stunningly beautiful urban doo wop of “Tripwire” hearkens back to the song “Satellite,” from Costello’s 1989 album Spike. One of the most beguiling tracks on the collection is “Cinco Minutos Con Vos,” a sinuous horn-infused duet with singer La Marisoul of the band La Santa Cecelia.

Elsewhere, The Roots’ influence shines through on the woozy funk of “Sugar Won’t Work” and the Princely soul of “Viceroy’s Row.” Their use of string arrangements to create a sonic tension in “Refused To Be Saved” and “Wise Up Ghost” create a symphonic funk sound reminiscent of classic Isaac Hayes.

And if to reassert his influence on the proceedings,  ?uestlove’s drums introduce many of the album’s songs including “(She Might Be A) Grenade,” “Walk Us Uptown,” and  “Viceroy’s Row,” exposing The Roots’ penchant for building songs up from the rhythm tracks first.

Costello and The Roots have created a soulful socially conscious musical bouillabaisse with Wise Up Ghost; a kind of a What’s Goin’ On and Superfly for the twenty-teens…and a record for the ages by both artists.

Edited: September 25th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 7/29/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Theme From An Imaginary Western” by Mountain

Originally posted on August 28, 2012

Every so often, you hear a song that you haven’t heard in a long time, and it blows you away as if you were hearing it for the very first time. I had this experience last night at our weekly “Vinyl Night” gathering at the Firkin bar Libertyville, IL where one of the gang brought the 1970 debut album by Mountain called “Climbing!.”

Now, I’ve had this album since I was a kid and I’ve heard it countless times, so many times in fact that it’s been years since I’ve even considered playing it again. But last night, the song revealed the perfection at its core: impassioned vocals, terrific power ballad melody and superb guitar work by “The Great Fatsby” himself, Leslie West. As a result, I am listening to and enjoying the albums “Climbing!” and “Nantucket Sleighride” today, as I write this entry.

Mountain was known as the “American Cream” because they were so heavily inspired by the British power trio, and their bassist, Felix Pappalardi, also produced the Cream albums “Disraeli Gears,” “Wheels Of Fire” and “Goodbye Cream.” The Cream connection goes even deeper on this track, since it was co-penned by Cream bassist and vocalist Jack Bruce.

Mountain formed in 1969 in Long Island, NY, and after four concerts, they found themselves on the bill at the Woodstock festival where they made a big impression. When the” Climbing” album came out, the band consisted of Leslie West on guitar, Felix Pappalardi on bass, Steve Knight on organ and Corky Laing on drums.

After several albums, Pappalardi left the band due to hearing problems, although he would rejoin the band on several of their many reunions. Pappalardi died in 1983 after suffering a gunshot wound accidently inflicted upon him by his wife. Gail Pappalardi was charged with criminally negligent homicide and served 16 months of a four year jail sentence. The last version of Mountain featured West and Laing and recorded and toured in 2008.

Today’s Song Of The Day is the version of “Theme From An Imaginary Wester” performed at Woodstock.

Edited: July 28th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 7/27/13

45 adapterpersuasionsSong Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Lumpy Gravy” by The Persuasions

From Gospel to The Grateful Dead, The Persuasions are an a capella group whose musical tastes know no boundaries.

The group’s five original members, Jerry Lawson, Jesse “Sweet Joe” Russell, Jayotis Washington, Herbert “Toubo” Rhoad, and bass vocalist Jimmy “Bro” Hayes began singing on the street corners of Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn during the early 1960s. Jerry Lawson was their arranger, lead singer and producer for most of their career until his departure in 2003.

Their big break came in 1968, when Stan Krause, who owned Stan’s Square Record Store in New Jersey, played a concert recording of theirs over the telephone to his friend, Frank Zappa. Zappa, being a doo wop aficionado, was intrigued enough to fly them out to LA where he produced their 1969 debut album A Capella for his Bizarre/Straight record label.

Over the years, the group recorded 26 albums for numerous labels including Zappa’s Bizarre/Straight, Capitol, MCA, A&M, Elektra, Flying Fish, Rounder, Earthbeat, Chesky and Grateful Dead Records. Their background vocals grace albums by artists as far flung as Joni Mitchell, The Grateful Dead, Stevie Wonder, Don McLean, Phoebe Snow, Ray Charles, Liza Minnelli and a whole host of others.

By way of thanks for producing their debut record, The Persuasions recorded the album Frankly A Capella in 2000. On the album, Zappa classics from early and late in his career get the Persuasions treatment including a capella versions of “Electric Aunt Jemimah,” “The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing,” “Cheap Thrills,” “Love Of My Life,” “You Are What You Is,” “Hotplate Heaven At The Green Hotel,” and “Anyway The Wind Blows.” The album also includes cameos by Zappa sidemen Bruce Fowler, Bobby Martin and Mike Keneally. Today’s Song Of The Day is a cover of “Lumpy Gravy” which originally appeared as the title track for Frank Zappa’s 1968 album Lumpy Gravy.

The group followed their Zappa tribute album with one for The Grateful Dead called Might As Well: The Persuasions Sing Grateful Dead where they took on the Dead classics “Bertha,” “Here Comes Sunshine,” “Must Have Been The Roses,” “Ship Of Fools,” “Greatest Story Ever Told” and several others.

They’ve also recorded tribute albums to The Beatles featuring versions of “Eight Days A Week,” “Love Me Do,” “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” “Don’t Let Me Down” and “Come Together,” and U2 including “Even Better Than The Real Thing,” “One,” “Angel Of Harlem,” “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “Pride (In The Name Of Love).”

The group’s baritone, Herbert “Toubo” Rhoad died in 1988 while on tour, and Jerry Lawson left their ranks in 2004; however the band still continues to perform today. The Persuasions were a huge influence on the modern vocal groups, Take 6, The Nylons and Boyz II Men, and if ever a group deserves to be in heavily flawed Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall Of Fame, it’s The Persuasions.

Edited: July 27th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – Memorial Day Repost

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “It’s Been A Long Long Time” by Bing Crosby

As our boys came home from World War II, they were welcomed back with this number one hit from 1945 that perfectly captured the sentiments of those who remained home while their loved ones were away.

It’s a perfect record in every way. You’d be hard pressed to find a better vocalist than Crosby to deliver these hopeful, romantic lyrics in a croon that is both smooth and warm. Meanwhile, the lilting melody expertly supplied by Jule Styne effortlessly supports the lyrics written by Sammy Cahn that spoke to millions of couples who had been separated by the war.

However, it’s the lyrical guitar playing of Les Paul that steals the show, with a tone as smooth and genial as Crosby’s croon. His licks are the epitome of tasteful and never overpower the proceedings, while the rest of the Les Paul Trio, featuring Jim Atkins (half-brother of Chet Atkins) on rhythm guitar and Ernie “Darius” Newton on bass, add the perfect support.

The song was also a number one recording for Harry James and his Orchestra with Kitty Kallen on vocals in 1945, and a chart hit for Charlie Spivak and his Orchestra with Irene Daye on vocals.

It’s been covered dozens of times by the likes of Stan Kenton with June Christy, Sammy Kaye, Perry Como, Peggy Lee, Keely Smith, Louis Armstrong, Al Hibbler, Guy Mitchell, Frank Sinatra, The Ink Spots, Rosemary Clooney, Brook Benton, Tom Jones and many others. Les Paul revisited the song several times throughout his career, cutting a version with his wife Mary Ford in the 1950s, and nearly 30 years later another one with Chet Atkins on the Chester and Lester album.

This recording is the definition of timeless.

Edited: May 27th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 4/2/13

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Nurse Jackie Title Sequence” by Wendy & Lisa

Like so many things in our disposable pop culture, the TV Theme has taken a massive hit over the years. What used to be a staple of every show has now been relegated to a mere few seconds, or even worse completely skipped over.

TV Themes generally came in two varieties. There are themes that were created specifically to establish the premise of the series through the lyrics. Themes like Harry Nilsson’s “Best Friend” from The Courtship Of Eddie’s Father, “Welcome Back” by John Sebastian from Welcome Back Cotter, “The Ballad of Gilligan’s Isle” from Gilligan’s Isle, “The Ballad Of Jed Clampett” from The Beverly Hillbillies, “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” by Will Smith and Quincy Jones, Vic Mizzy’s Addams Family Theme and “Movin’ On Up” from The Jeffersons by Ja’net Du Boise are but a few that fall into this category.

The other category includes those that just work as great music, while setting up the feel of the show. These themes are far more evocative of the show themselves because there are no lyrics. Themes like Danny Elfman’s theme for The Simpsons, Lalo Schifrin’s classic Mission: Impossible, The Ventures’ Hawaii Five-O theme, Henry Mancini’s Peter Gunn and Quincy Jones’ theme from Sanford & Son are all instrumental, yet totally associated with their shows.

Today’s Song Of The Day is a TV theme that was written by Wendy & Lisa. Most people know Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman as members of Prince’s background band, The Revolution, during the height of his purple streak of hits roughly between 1984 and 1986 and encompassing the records Purple Rain, Parade and Around The World In A Day.

After leaving Prince’s purple reign, Wendy & Lisa went on to release several well received albums on their own while also working with the likes of Joni Mitchell, Seal, k.d. lang, Pearl Jam, Liz Phair, Sheryl Crow, Madonna, Gwen Stefani, Eric Clapton and Grace Jones. They also wrote several television themes including those for Crossing Jordan, Heroes, The Bionic Woman and today’s Song Of The Day, the theme from Nurse Jackie which also won them an Emmy Award.

Wendy Melvoin’s is also part of the Melvoin musical dynasty that includes her father, Mike Melvoin, who was a member of The Wrecking Crew whose session work can be heard on hundreds of 1960s hits by such artists at Glen Campbell, The 5th Dimension, The Monkees, The Byrds and numerous other groups. Her brother, Jonathan was a touring member of Smashing Pumpkins and her twin sister Susannah was once engaged to Prince who wrote the song “Nothing Compared 2 U” about her. She also wrote songs for Madonna and Eric Clapton and has sung on sessions for Rogers Waters, Eric Clapton and Mike Oldfield.

While the TV show has certainly gone downhill over the years, Wendy & Lisa’s Nurse Jackie
Theme
holds its own as a great piece of music.

Edited: April 1st, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 11/27/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “A Caddy For Daddy” by Hank Mobley 

The title to this track really announces the hipness to be found within its grooves. With Lee Morgan on trumpet, Curtis Fuller on trombone, McCoy Tyner on piano, Bob Cranshaw on bass and Billy Higgins on the drums, this soulful strut wears its sense of sublime grooviness on its sleeve. While Coltrane had the propensity to go far out into the ozone with no return in sight, and Rollins’ gymnastic approach led the faithful to places they’d never gone before, Hank Mobley found himself on the smooth and lyrical side of tenor saxophone avenue, especially on this selection from his 1966 Blue Note album of the same name. Mobley came up through the Blue Note roster via The Jazz Messengers where he sessioned with Art Blakey, Horace Silver, Kenny Dorham and Doug Watkins. Mobley struck out on his own during the late 1950s resulting in over 20 albums for Blue Note label, while recording sessions with the cream of his label mates including Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, Grant Green, Philly Joe Jones and many others. He even recorded with Miles Davis in 1961, replacing John Coltrane for Davis’ “Some Day My Prince Will Come” sessions and appearing on several of Davis’ live albums.

Edited: November 26th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 9/29/12

 

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Baby Hold On” by Eddie Money

This ex-NYC cop burst onto the music scene in 1977 with his own brand of meat ’n’ potatoes rock that fit perfectly into FM radio formats of the day. It was rock impresario, Bill Graham, who signed the former Eddie Mahoney to his management company and secured him a record deal with Columbia Records resulting in a debut album that included this smash hit and its massive follow-up, “Two Tickets To Paradise.” Money soon fell into the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle and became addicted to drugs negatively impacting his career and landing him into rehab. Upon cleaning up his act in the mid-1980s, he scored again with the duet “Take Me Home Tonight” featuring ex-Ronette, Ronnie Spector on vocals. He has also appeared in several TV sitcoms and can now be seen hawking insurance for Geico.

Edited: September 28th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 9/17/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “You Are Woman (I Am Man)” by Barbra Streisand and Omar Sharif

Don’t ask me why I came up with this song for today, but here it is. Perhaps it was the visit with my 82 year old mother last night in New Jersey. She and my father played the “Funny Girl” Soundtrack, where this song is from, non-stop while I was growing up. Maybe it was watching the season premiere of “Boardwalk Empire” this evening which takes place during the roaring twenties, much like the story of Fanny Brice and Nicky Arnstein whom Streisand and Sharif portray in the movie and this clip. Or maybe it was just the wine I had tonight with my holiday dinner. Whatever the reason behind the pick, this track is one of the few instances where Streisand’s shtick truly works, and “Funny Girl” is one of the classic film musicals of the 1960s.

Edited: September 16th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 3/12/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Did You Ever See A Dream Walking” by Gene Austin

The age of the crooners began in 1925 when recording technology changed from acoustical recording, where artists would sing into conical horns that fed into a cutter that etched sound waves onto wax, to electronic recording using microphones and amplification. The amplification allowed singers to sing smoothly and intimately. Austin was one of the very first crooners and a giant influence on Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. He was a singer, songwriter and pianist who sold well over 80 million records during his career and wrote the jazz standards “When My Sugar Walks Down The Street,” “How Come You Do Me Like You Do?” and “Five Pennies.” He had hits with definitive early versions of such standards as “My Blue Heaven,” “Bye Bye Blackbird,” “Ramona” and “Carolina Moon.” His son is ‘70s country star David Houston. On a personal note, my first came contact with this 1933 gem came from my grandfather who used to sing it all the time when I was a little kid.

Edited: March 12th, 2012

Song Of The Day – 1/27/12

 

 

 

 

 

 

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “The OtherSide” by The Roots featuring Bilal Oliver and Greg Porn

They are much more than just the house band for “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” on TV every night. The Roots crew from Philadelphia was formed by vocalist Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter and drummer Ahmire “Questlove” Thompson in 1987. For over 25 years they’ve been providing their own brand of soul-infused jazz and hip-hop to a loving audience. But it wasn’t until they became the house band for Jimmy Fallon’s TV show that they gained in popularity and acceptance by a wider audience. This song is from their latest album, a concept record, called “Undun.” Even if you’re not a hip hop fan, tap into the lyrics to the chorus for some insight into their brilliance: “We’re all on a journey, down the hall of memories. Don’t worry ’bout what you ain’t got. Leave with a little bit of dignity. Never loved what I had. Always felt like I deserved more. But when I get to the other side, that’s when we settle up the score.”

Edited: January 27th, 2012

Song Of The Day – 12/18/11

 

 

 

 

 

 

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “The Forest from “Journey To The Centre Of The Earth” by Rick Wakeman

OK…this is a little embarrassing now, but back in 1974 when this record came out, I spent a lot of time spinning this one. Between this, David Bowie’s “Diamond Dogs,” Lou Reed’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal,” Elton John’s “Caribou,” Todd Rundgren’s “Utopia,” Frank Zappa’s “Apostrophe” and Yes’ “Relayer” I thought I had it made…and I did. Most of the aforementioned albums hold up pretty well today…unfortunately, Wakeman’s didn’t…

Edited: December 18th, 2011

Song Of The Day – 12/3/11

 

 

 

 

 

Song Of The Day – “Tongue Tied” by Grouplove

OK, I tried my best to ignore it. I even changed the channel a few times until my curiosity got the best of me. So here’s the latest earwig from Apple’s incessant iPad Touch commercials. Although they are all from America, Grouplove formed in Greece while the members were attending an art residency. They released their debut EP and then went on tour with Florence + The Machine. This is their latest single from their new album “Never Trust A Happy Song.” I’m sure I’ll be hating them and this song very soon…

Edited: December 3rd, 2011

Song Of The Day – 11/5/11

Song Of The Day – “Bad Time” by Grand Funk Railroad

Not exactly the “Footstompin’ Music” they were known for in the late ’60s and early ’70s, but once Grand Funk came under the aegis of Todd Rundgren and Jimmy Ienner, the hits started to come fast and furious! Pair this song with “Go All The Way” by The Raspberries and you’ve got pure pop nirvana!

Edited: November 4th, 2011

Song Of The Day – 10/6/11

Song Of The Day – “Well, All Right Then” by Jimmie Lunceford and his Orchestra

This causal strut from 1939 features elements of blues, swing, vaudeville and comedy…all hallmarks of this group who got their start at The Cotton Club in Harlem. The group featured trumpet great and arranger Sy Oliver and the saxophone on this track is courtesy of Willie Smith. Lunceford died while signing autographs in 1947.

Edited: October 6th, 2011

Song Of The Day – 7/17/11

Song Of The Day – “Montezuma” by Fleet Foxes

Classic Rock is alive and well in the form of Fleet Foxes an amalgam of CSN, Simon & Garfunkel, America and The Beach Boys. Saw them tonight for the third time since 2008 at Pitchfork Music Festival where they have now achieved headliner status…and still sound as good as ever. One of the few hipster bands today that actually write songs with melodies.

Edited: July 17th, 2011

Song Of the Day – “4th Of July” by Aimee Mann

Song Of the Day – “4th Of July” by Aimee Mann

Not patriotic in the least…but certainly high in the lexicon of Independence Day songs. Best line: “But when they light up our town I think what a waste of gunpowder and sky.” Hey, I’m as patriotic as most people…but this song from the 1993 album “Whatever” reigns supreme!

Edited: July 4th, 2011

Song Of The Day – 3/23/11

Song Of The Day – “Flunkt Sass vs The Root Plume” by Of Montreal

As with much of their material, I don’t really know what Kevin Barnes is going on about here…but hearing him tap into his inner Prince is always a treat. This one comes from their new EP “thecontrollersphere” which is due out in April. They’re also taking the show on the road this spring.

Edited: March 23rd, 2011

Song Of The Day – 3/22/11

Song Of The Day – “Once You Get Started/Stop On By” by Rufus featuring Chaka Khan

A duo of songs from the 1974 album “Rufisized” performed live on the Mike Douglas Show in 1975. What can be said of Chaka Khan that hasn’t been said already…dynamo performer…dynamite set of pipes! No need for auto-tuned vocals here…nothing processed…everything is real down ‘n’ dirty groove. Little known fact…Rufus with Chaka Khan grew out of the ashes of Chicago group The American Breed who scored a hit in 1968 with “Bend Me Shape Me.” Side note: How Mike Douglas managed to keep his job as talk show host is totally beyond me. What a buffoon…

Edited: March 22nd, 2011

Song Of The Day – 3/21/11

Song Of The Day – “Everyone’s In Love With You” by Steve Earle

To think that when most of the world was first introduced to Steve Earle, he was presented as a “New Country Traditionalist” alongside Randy Travis and Dwight Yoakam. Over the years, Earle has gone on to be either a ferocious rocker as heard here, or a literate folkie. With the exception of a brief foray into Bluegrass with Del McCoury, country has been largely absent from his repertoire. It shows how manipulative big record companies were…and still are in introducing new artists to the public where having a hook or a gimmick is everything even if it really doesn’t fit the artist. Here’s one from his amazing 2000 album “Transcendental Blues.”

Edited: March 21st, 2011

Song Of The Day – 3/19/11

Song Of The Day – “(I Was) Born To Cry” by Dion

Dion was one of the acts on “The Winter Dance Party” tour of 1959. On the fateful day of February 2nd, he decided he could not afford the $36.00 that would buy him a seat on the plane that ultimately crashed and took the lives of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper. Had he (or for that matter Waylon Jennings) taken the seat offered to him, the music world would have been robbed of some great music…including today’s pick from 1962.

Edited: March 19th, 2011

Song Of The Day – 3/18/11

Song Of The Day – “Long Distance Runaround” by Yes from the album “Fragile”

Guilty pleasure?  I think not!  I’ve been a card-carrying Yes fan since the early ’70s.  Sure they’ve had their missteps…the “Anderson Bruford Wakeman & Howe” debacle of the late ’80s…”Big Generator”…  However, from 1969 through 1977, Yes released a series of challenging and tuneful records that have indeed stood the test of time.

Edited: March 18th, 2011

St. Pat’s Special!

St. Pat’s Special – The Pogues – “The Sick Bed Cuchulainn”

Great Irish music…hold the dreaded bagpipes!

Edited: March 17th, 2011

Song Of The Day – 3/16/11

Song Of The Day – “Chiggers” by Seasick Steve

Steven Gene Wold (aka Seasick Steve) spent most of his life as a drifter throughout the U.S. and Europe. With a sound reminiscent of Tony Joe White and ample guitar chops, he finally brought his talents to a recording studio in his 60s causing a sensation in Europe.  This one comes from his 2008 album “I Started Out With Nothing And I Still Got Most Of It Left.”

Edited: March 16th, 2011

Song Of The Day – 3/14/11

Song Of The Day – “Yazoo Street Scandal” by Bob Dylan & The Band

One of the legendary “Basement Tapes” recorded in 1967 at the Band’s Big Pink house in Woodstock, NY and subsequently released on the 1975 album called “The Basement Tapes.” Several years ago, a terrific 5-CD set of these tapes called “A Tree Without Roots” was released highlighting that there are so many more great Basement Tape recordings in the vaults. It’s time for the folks from both Dylan & the Band’s camps to release the ultimate Basement Tapes box set! The fact that they are not officially out yet is the real “Yazoo Street Scandal.”

Edited: March 14th, 2011