News for the ‘Blues’ Category

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #1 – Dale Hawkins: “Susie Q” b/w “Don’t Treat Me This Way” – Checker 45 #863 – 1957 (A1/B1)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #1 – Dale Hawkins: “Susie Q” b/w “Don’t Treat Me This Way” – Checker 45 #863 – 1957 (A1/B1)

Today marks the beginning of a new semi-regular series for Song of the Day by Eric Berman. “The Jukebox Series” will focus on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had the jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little almost 14 years and in that time I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within. (Well, at least I think so.)

Today, I will begin with “A-1” on the jukebox and systematically proceed through all of the records with a focus on why the tune is worthy of inclusion and how I got it.

I always thought that I’d have the Dave Edmunds single “A-1 On The Jukebox” in the “A1” position within my jukebox, but I don’t have a copy of the single, and as a rule don’t choose songs based on the novelty value of a visual pun that most people won’t see, so “A-1” in my juke box is Dale Hawkins’ swamp rock classic “Susie Q.”

I purchased an original Checker 45rpm pressing of the record at a garage sale several years ago for 10 cents and it was money very well spent. Sonically, it sounds killer pouring out of the vintage juke speakers.

Dale Hawkins wrote the song, although when it was released it was also credited to Stan Lewis who owned the record label and Eleanor Broadwater who was the wife of Nashville DJ Gene Nobles. Such was the way the music biz worked back in the 1950s, royalties had to be spread around if you wanted your record released and played on the radio.

Once the track was recorded, the master was licensed to Checker Records who released the single in 1957 where it climbed to #7 on the R&B charts and #27 on the pop charts. The guitarist on the track was a young 15 year old future Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Famer James Burton, who went on to play with the likes of Ricky Nelson, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, John Denver, Glen Campbell, Gram Parsons, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Costello, Roy Orbison, Joni Mitchell, Vince Gill and many others.

Over the years, the song has seen notable covers by The Rolling Stones, Creedence Clearwater Revival (who issued it at their debut single), Jose Feliciano, Suzie Quatro (a real Suzie Q), Lonnie Mack, The Crew-Cuts, Gene Vincent, Johnny Rivers, Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Everly Brothers, Linda McCartney (as Suzy and the Red Stripes), Bobby McFerrin and Flash Cadillac. None of the covers can even approach the greatness of the original, which is why it is included in my jukebox.

The flip is a sturdy rockabilly rave up which doesn’t get as much play time as it should; however when it does come up, it always sounds great.

Edited: March 3rd, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Shake Your Hips” by Slim Harpo

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Shake Your Hips” by Slim Harpo

This record’s got it all! An insinuating groove that doesn’t quit…otherworldly vocals that spook and caress at the same time…laid bare stripped down production, and the stellar harp playing that gave Slim Harpo his surname. There’s good reason why ‘60s British Invasion groups like The Who, The Yardbirds, The Kinks and The Rolling Stones borrowed so heavily from him.

Today’s Song of the Day is the version of “Shake Your Hips” that The Rolling Stones carbon copied for the Exile on Main Street album. The following year, ZZ Top revisited the track to form the basis of their first break-out hit “La Grange.” Although this is not surprising since the whole nature of the blues tradition is to pass down music from one generation to the next, it does amaze how many artists borrowed from Slim Harpo.

The Slim Harpo songbook provided numerous sixties rockers with material to record including “Got Love If You Want It,” which was repurposed by The Who as “I’m The Face,” and then also covered by The Kinks on their debut album. Meanwhile, Harpo’s classic “I’m A King Bee,” was covered by the likes of Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, The Doors, Muddy Waters and The Rolling Stones.

Slim Harpo was born James Moore in Lobdell Louisiana where he taught himself to play guitar and harmonica (using a neck rack) as a child. When he was in tenth grade his mother and father both died, and he left school to support his family working as a dockhand, while sitting in on local gigs under the name “Harmonica Slim.”

He was signed to the Nashville based Excello Records by Jay Miller who paired him as an accompanist to Lightnin’ Hopkins on several singles until recording and producing him on his own. A name change was required when Miller found out there was another performer known as Harmonica Slim.

Not only was Slim a great songwriter, composing classics that would be covered by a who’s who of performers, but he possessed a singing style that borrowed from urban blues and rural country and western. He possessed a plaintive ethereal voice that appealed to both pop and R&B audiences, ensuring that many of his records crossed over to both charts.

Slim’s first single release was the double-sided hit, “I’m A King Bee” backed with “Rainin’ In My Heart” on the flip. While the A-side fared well on the R&B charts, the flip crossed over into the top 40 of the Billboard pop charts in 1961.

His biggest hit came in 1966 with “Baby Scratch My Back” which climbed into the top 20 of the Billboard pop charts while topping the R&B charts. The huge success of “Baby Scratch My Back” found Harpo performing in a group with Lightnin’ Slim on the festival circuit during the late ‘60s, playing to predominantly rock audiences.

He flew to England in January of 1970 to begin his first European tour when he died suddenly of a heart attack while taking part in a pre-tour recording session.

 

Edited: February 18th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Golden Gate Gospel Train” by The Golden Gate Quartet

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Golden Gate Gospel Train” by The Golden Gate Quartet

Today’s Song of the Day by Eric Berman shines a spotlight on what I like to call holy rollin’ prehistoric Doo Wop, which is better known as Gospel Jubilee.

The Golden Gate Quartet started out as a Barbershop Quartet in Virginia back in the early 1930s comprised of two friends from the Booker Washington High School glee club, the barber and a one-legged bass singer. By the time the group began to perform for audiences during the late 1930s, the quartet featured Orlandus Wilson, Willie Johnson, Henry Owens and Clyde Riddick who soon migrated to North Carolina where their brand of Jubilee Gospel was featured all over the radio airwaves.

By 1937, they came to the attention of the Victor Record company who began recording their sides (including this 1937 track) for the Bluebird label. The Golden Gate Jubilee sound was a heady brew melding barbershop harmonies, jazz and scat singing and country hillbilly music with a healthy helping of old time religion. Their sound was a great influence on groups like The Ink Spots and many of the Doo Wop groups of the 1950s. The quartet performed for close to 70 years with Riddick staying in the group until he retired in 1995 and Wilson’s death in 1998, and the group still exists in some form today. Incredible, their most recent album was released in 2010.

Listen closely and you can also here a sample of this very song in Paul Simon’s “Love and Blessings,” from his latest studio album So Beautiful or So What.

Edited: November 16th, 2014

Groovy Ghouls and Haunted Hits – The Ultimate Halloween Playlist by Eric Berman

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Groovy Ghouls and Haunted Hits – The Ultimate Halloween Playlist by Eric Berman

For your Halloween party pleasure, cue this ghoulish playlist up in Spotify!

  1. This Is Halloween from the Nightmare before Christmas
  2. Monster Mash – Bobby Boris Pickett
  3. Boris the Spider – The Who
  4. Haunted House – Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs
  5. I Put a Spell on You – Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
  6. Theme from the Munsters – Billy Strange
  7. The Blob – The Five Blobs
  8. The Adams Family Main Theme – Vic Mizzy
  9. Purple People Eater – Sheb Wooley
  10. Witch Doctor – David Seville
  11. They’re Comin’ to Take Me Away – Napoleon XIV
  12. Frankenstein – Edgar Winter Group
  13. Welcome to My Nightmare – Alice Cooper
  14. Witchy Woman – The Eagles
  15. Season of the Witch – Donovan
  16. Hocus Pocus – Focus
  17. Don’t Fear the Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult
  18. Thriller – Michael Jackson
  19. Ghostbusters – Ray Parker Jr.
  20. Dead Man’s Party – Oingo Boingo
  21. Ghost Town – The Specials
  22. Twilight Zone – Golden Earring
  23. Somebody’s Watching Me – Rockwell
  24. Abracadabra – Steve Miller Band
  25. Werewolves of London – Warren Zevon
  26. Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) – David Bowie
  27. The Creature from the Black Lagoon – Dave Edmunds
  28. Pet Semetary – Ramones
  29. Zombie Zoo – Tom Petty
  30. Devil Inside – INXS
  31. I Want Candy – Bow Wow Wow

Edited: October 30th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #54– Chuck Berry: “Brown Eyed Handsome Man” b/w “Too Much Monkey Business” – Chess 45-1635 (G6/H6)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #54– Chuck Berry: “Brown Eyed Handsome Man” b/w “Too Much Monkey Business” – Chess 45-1635 (G6/H6)

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

The great thing about having a jukebox is that you can make the B-side of a single the A-side with a flip of the record in the slot. Today’s jukebox classic is one such record that I purchased specifically for the B-side and changed them around.

“Brown Eyed Handsome Man” was the flip side of Chuck Berry’s fifth single for Chess Records, “Too Much Monkey Business,” and was also from his 1956 debut album After School Session. The track was recorded in April of 1956 and featured Johnnie Johnson on piano, L.C. Davis on tenor sax, Willie Dixon on bass and Fred Below on drums. Even though the song was designated as the B-side of the single it was on, it still managed to place at #5 on the R&B charts. It was also one of the few singles in the juke that was originally released as a 78rpm first.

Berry was one of the first literary rock and roll songwriters whose sophisticated prose and observational skills created songs that described his world with pinpoint accuracy. “Brown Eyed Handsome Man” was a sly comment on race relations that was written after Berry witnessed an arrest of a Hispanic man in California. In it, Berry also brags about the appeal of black men to white women, much to the chagrin of 1950s white America.

The song has been covered by the likes of Buddy Holly, Johnny Rivers, Nina Simone, Waylon Jennings, Robert Cray, Paul McCartney, and it was also performed by Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley when they convened at Sun Studios for the relaxed jam session that is now known as The Million Dollar Quartet.

The real A-side to the single was “Too Much Monkey Business,” that according to Chuck Berry’s autobiography was meant to describe the types of hassles a person encounters in everyday life. The song was recorded at the same session as its flip and also featured Johnnie Johnson on piano, Willie Dixon on bass and Fred Below on drums. The song climbed to #4 on the Billboard Jukebox Play chart.

It has been covered by the likes of Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Hollies, The Yardbirds, the Kinks and Eric Clapton to name but a few, and the song was a huge influence on  Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues.”

Edited: January 8th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 7/30/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Shake Your Hips” by Slim Harpo

This record’s got it all! An insinuating groove that doesn’t quit…otherworldly vocals that spook and caress at the same time…laid bare stripped down production, and the stellar harp playing that gave Slim Harpo his surname. There’s good reason why ‘60s British Invasion groups like The Who, the Yardbirds, the Kinks and the Rolling Stones borrowed so heavily from him.

Today’s Song Of The Day is the version of “Shake Your Hips” that The Rolling Stones carbon copied for their Exile On Main Street album. The following year, ZZ Top revisited the track to form the basis of their first break-out hit “La Grange.” Although this is not surprising since the whole nature of the blues tradition is to pass down music from one generation to the next, it does amaze how many artists borrowed from Slim Harpo.

The Slim Harpo songbook provided numerous sixties rockers with material to record including “Got Love If You Want It,” which was repurposed by The Who as “I’m The Face,” and then also covered by The Kinks on their debut album. Meanwhile, Harpo’s classic “I’m A King Bee,” was covered by the likes of Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, The Doors, Muddy Waters and The Rolling Stones.

Slim Harpo was born James Moore in Lobdell Louisiana where he taught himself to play guitar and harmonica (using a neck rack) as a child. When he was in tenth grade his mother and father both died, and he left school to support his family working as a dockhand, while sitting in on local gigs under the name “Harmonica Slim.”

He was signed to the Nashville based Excello Records by Jay Miller who paired him as an accompanist to Lightnin’ Hopkins on several singles until recording and producing him on his own. A name change was required when Miller found out there was another performer known as Harmonica Slim.

Not only was Slim a great songwriter, composing classics that would be covered by a who’s who of performers, but he possessed a singing style that borrowed from urban blues and rural country and western. He possessed a plaintive ethereal voice that appealed to both pop and R&B audiences, ensuring that many of his records crossed over to both charts.

Slim’s first single release was the double-sided hit, “I’m A King Bee” backed with “Rainin’ In My Heart” on the flip. While the A-side fared well on the R&B charts, the flip crossed over into the top 40 of the Billboard pop charts in 1961.

His biggest hit came in 1966 with “Baby Scratch My Back” which climbed into the top 20 of the Billboard pop charts while topping the R&B charts. The huge success of “Baby Scratch My Back” found Harpo performing in a group with Lightnin’ Slim on the festival circuit during the late ‘60s, playing to predominantly rock audiences.

He flew to England in January of 1970 to begin his first European tour when he died suddenly of a heart attack while taking part in a pre-tour recording session.

 

Edited: July 29th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 7/10/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Central Time” by Pokey Lafarge

Everything old is new again…and while it seems the world has gone apeshit over supposed wood and string groups like The Lumineers and Mumford & Sons, Pokey Lafarge is the genuine real deal.

As a youth growing up in Illinois, Pokey Lafarge (real name Andrew Heissler) mixed his interest in history and the literature of John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway with a love for blues, swing and old-time bluegrass music by the likes of Bill Monroe & The Blue Grass Boys, Milton Brown & his Musical Brownies, The Mississippi Sheiks, The Skillet Lickers, Carolina Tar Heels, Howlin Wolf and Jimmie Rodgers, coming up with a sound that was a total throwback to a long-gone and forgotten musical era.

After two albums on his own, Lafarge formed The South City Three in 2009 featuring Joey Glynn on upright bass, Ryan Koenig on drums and harmonica and Adam Hoskins on guitars. Lafarge plays guitars and tenor banjo, and all of the band members sing background vocals. The band is also augmented by TJ Muller on coronet and Chloe Feoranzo on clarinet.

The group favors vintage instruments and microphones to capture their old-timey amalgam of early jazz, string ragtime, country blues and western swing. Today’s Song Of The Day comes from his latest eponymously titled album which was produced by Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show, and released on Jack White’s Third Man Records.

Lafarge has won two consecutive Independent Music Awards for his albums Middle Of Everywhere (2011) and Riverboat Soul (2010), and his music has been featured in the HBO series Boardwalk Empire. Pokey plays a 1946 Epiphone Spartan Archtop, a 1956 Silvertone Parlor, and a 2012 Hamm-tone Archtop guitar.

Edited: July 9th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 6/1/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Take A Giant Step” by Taj Mahal

There is no rhyme or reason as to how I come up with the songs I choose to write about every day. They usually spring out of something I’ve been listening to or something I’ve read. So, if you regularly follow this column, you’ll get a pretty good idea of some of the stuff I listen to on a daily basis.

For instance, today’s Song Of The Day came about after reading a review of the first of three Rolling Stones concerts in Chicago this week. Now, I’m not planning on attending any of their shows here in town as I believe they’ve not only totally priced themselves out of the concert market, but have also priced themselves out of this world. And besides, I’ve seen them several times in the past when they were much younger and probably much better.

But the astronomical price of their tickets hasn’t diffused my interest in what their set list looks like and how people say they sounded. Each show on the tour so far has had Mick Taylor as a special guest coming out to play “Midnight Rambler,” but there’s usually a “surprise” guest at every show as well. While some markets have lucked out by getting guests like Tom Waits to take a star turn with the Stones, others have seen the likes of Katy Perry and Gwen Stefani “grace” the stage.

So far, Chicago is one of the luckier markets on the tour because blues legend, Taj Mahal was the Stones’ guest for their show the other night, and together they played “Six Days On The Road.” The song was one that Mahal originally cut for his 1969 double album Giant Step/De Ole Folks At Home.

This led me to pull out my copy of the record which I haven’t listened to in many years. The title track of the album is a radically revised version of the Carole King/Gerry Goffin classic “Take A Giant Step,” which most people know by The Monkees’ recording of the song from their 1966 debut album.

Henry Saint Clair Fredericks took the name Taj Mahal, which came to him in a dream, while in college studying agriculture and animal husbandry in 1959. As a child, he was as passionate about farming as he was about music, and there was a time when he considered following his interests in farming over music. Fortunately, he chose music but his love of farming has led him to perform at numerous Farm Aid concerts over the years.

Mahal relocated to the West Coast in the early 1960s and established a name for himself playing solo blues in clubs. He soon met Ry Cooder, and along with Jesse Lee Kinkaid formed the group, The Rising Sons. The Rising Sons recorded for Columbia in 1964 resulting in the release of a single. The group cut an album’s worth of material for the label, but Columbia didn’t know what to do with an interracial group in the early 1960s, so the record languished in the vaults unreleased until 1993.

Between the Rising Sons debacle and Mahal’s self-titled first studio album for Columbia in 1968, he worked with the likes of Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Guy, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and Muddy Waters. He also played on sessions (along with Ry Cooder) for the Rolling Stones and even appeared in The Rolling Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus. (Hence, the reason he was the special guest at their show the other night.)

Giant Step/De Ole Folks At Home is Taj Mahal’s third Columbia release from 1969. The double album is half electric and half acoustic and it features a freewheelin’ and eclectic selection of originals, traditional blues tunes and pop covers.

The electric half features Mahal backed by Jessie Ed Davis on guitar and keyboards, Gary Gilmore on bass and Chuck Blackwell on drums. Together they create a beautiful noise as they run through a selection of blues-flavored covers including today’s Song Of The Day, Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Good Morning Little School Girl,” Dave Dudley’s “Six Days On The Road,” Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “Farther On Up The Road,” Leadbelly’s “Keep Your Hands Off Her” and Blind Willie Johnson’s “You’re Gonna Need Somebody On Your Bond.” The album’s final track is “Bacon Fat” which is attributed to Garth Hudson and Robbie Robertson, but more likely stems from pen of Andre Williams’ who scored a #9 R&B chart hit with the song in 1956.

The stripped down rural acoustic blues of De Ole Folks At Home features solo performances by Mahal on vocals, guitar, harmonica and banjo performing a mix of his own songs like “Light Rain Blues,” “Blind Boy Rag,” “A Little Soulful Tune,” “Cajun Tune” and “Country Blues #1,” and covers of “Candy Man,” “Stagger Lee” and “Linin’ Track.”

All in all, Mahal recorded 12 albums for Columbia through 1976, and then moved on to Warner Bros. for three more. He also wrote the score for the films Sounder and Brothers.

Later years found him moving to Hawaii, forming the Hula Blues Band and recording numerous records for Gramavision and the Private Music record label that incorporated his love of West African and Caribbean music, Americana, Blues, Zydeco, Rock and R&B. He’s also recorded several popular children’s records. His album, Señor Blues won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album in 1997, and he won another one in 2000 for his album Shoutin’ in Key.

Edited: May 31st, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 4/3/13

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Friendship” by Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five 

Some stone cold advice from Mr. Jordan and company waxed back in 1947.

It’s all here on this track…the roots of rock ‘n’ roll…rap…and comedy all rolled up into one tall tale of hilarity. That’s Wild Bill Davis on the piano and, of course, Jordan himself on the vocals. When it came to big band, jump blues, jazz and boogie woogie, Jordan was top of the heap ranking just behind Duke Ellington and Count Basie in popularity back in the day.

Louis Jordan was an accomplished songwriter, saxophone player and entertainer.  His first big gig was playing sax and singing with the great Chick Webb Orchestra.  After striking out on his own, he landed 57 hits on the R&B charts including “G.I. Jive,” “Choo Choo Ch’Boogie,” “Saturday Night Fish Fry,” “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens,” “Buzz Me,” “Beans And Cornbread” and many others leading to his being dubbed “King Of the Jukebox.”

Jordan fronted his own band for over twenty years. His unbridled charisma led to features in many films with his band The Tympany Five, allowing us the pleasure of seeing him in action today.

I recently acquired a 5 CD set on the JSI label featuring 131 of his recordings…that’s over six hours of Jazz, Jump and Jive!

Edited: April 2nd, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 2/17/13

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Work Song” by Nina Simone

Here’s one that was released the year I was born, yet it sounds as hip and current as, well, I am.  OK, it is hipper and more current than I am, but it goes to show just how timeless Nina Simone’s recordings really were.

Simone’s interpretive talents as a singer and piano player earned her the nickname, “The High Priestess Of Soul,” and put her right up there with greats like Anita O’Day, Odetta, Sarah Vaughan and Judy Henske, who all possess a similar earthy style. She was a terrific songwriter, comfortable mingling soul, gospel, folk and blues into a stew that was uniquely her own, and she was also an outspoken Civil Rights activist.

It took a long time for me to crack the hard façade that Nina Simone projected, before I could really appreciate the depths of her talent. Her severe earnestness over the struggles she faced as a black woman during the infancy of the civil rights movement created a seemingly impenetrable barrier between me and her music. But with maturity on my side, I’ve come to love and respect Simone’s whole approach, and the influence she’s had on everyone from Laura Nyro and John Lennon (who cited her recording of “I Put A Spell On You” as an inspiration for The Beatles “Michelle”) to Alicia Keys and Diana Krall.

Simone came to Colpix Records in 1959, after scoring a big hit with “I Loves You, Porgy” on the Bethlehem label. Her deal at Colpix gave her complete artistic control over the material she recorded which was unheard of at the time, and she released nine albums for the label, seven of which were recorded live in front of an audience.  Today’s Song Of The Day, the much covered “Work Song” written by Nat Adderly and Oscar Brown, Jr., is from her second record for the label, 1961’s studio effort Forbidden Fruit.

Part of the album’s excellence comes down to Simone’s sympathetic backing trio consisting of Chris White on bass, Bobby Hamilton on drums, and crucially, the great Al Schackman on guitar, whose tasty licks light up this entire recording, especially on the tunes “Just Say I Love Him” and the album’s opener “Rags And Old Iron.” But its Simone’s vocals and amazing piano accompaniments, especially on “Gin House Blues,” the swaggering “I Love To Love” and the album’s title track, “Forbidden Fruit,” that really elevate the proceedings to new heights of gospel fervor.

Later albums like Nina Simone In Concert from 1964 and the essential RCA album Nina Simone Sings The Blues from 1967, included signature songs that dealt with the civil rights issues of black women like “Mississippi Goddam,” “Backlash Blues,” “Four Women” and “To Be Young, Gifted And Black,” which was later covered by Aretha Franklin and Donny Hathaway.  She was also responsible for introducing the songs “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” and “House Of The Rising Sun,” years before The Animals recorded them.

Additionally, her recording of “Sinnerman” was sampled by the likes of Kanye West and Timbaland, but her greatest success came surprisingly from the song “My Baby Cares For Me” which was recorded on  her 1960 debut album for Colpix, but didn’t become popular until 1987 when it was used in a UK television commercial for Chanel No. 5 perfume.

Edited: February 16th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 12-30-12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Rock On” by David Essex–

It was the era of T. Rex’s “Electric Warrior,” David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardus”t and Lou Reed’s “Transformer.” Glam rock was all the rage as were Roxy Music, Mott The Hoople and The New York Dolls. And there was also a new brand of power pop taking the charts by storm at the same time with hits like “Little Willie” by Sweet, “Go All The Way” by Raspberries and later “Saturday Night” by Bay City Rollers.

Enter David Essex…British actor and future glam rock pinup star. Essex had an acting career appearing in the musical Godspell in 1971 and later in the film That’ll Be The Day where he came to the attention of British and American audiences alike.

So it was just a matter of time for him to take on the world of recorded music with this self-penned two-time hit from 1973. The bass player on this sinuous track is Herbie Flowers who went on to play bass for David Bowie on the album “Diamond Dogs” the following year. This song is the ultimate glam-pop confection, a sticky piece of ear candy with a slicing string arrangement and echo-laden bass riff. It should be no surprise that the track made it into the U.S. top five by 1974. Such was the popularity of the song that it would eventually top the charts again in 1988, when it was recorded by TV soap opera star Michael Damien.

While Essex will forever be associated mainly with this song in America, and perhaps his appearance in Jeff Wayne’s musical interpretation of “The War Of the Worlds” from 1978, he has led a long acting career primarily in the UK, where he has performed in the musicals “Evita” (and scored the top-five British hit “Oh What A Circus.”), “Aspects Of Love” and “Footloose.” Today, Essex continues to act on stage and on British TV in “The EastEnders.”

Edited: December 30th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 10/1/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Someday Baby” by Merle Saunders, Jerry Garcia, John Kahn & Bill Vitt

Last week I posted a deservedly less than positive Song Of The Day critiquing the music from the Dead’s 18-CD “Spring 1990” box set…and I heard plenty about my comments from lots of my Deadhead friends. So, I thought I’d make it up to them with some pre-Jerry Garcia Band, JGB from the Keystone in San Francisco. Back in 1973, Jerry Garcia and Merle Saunders could be found multiple nights at the club playing low-key gigs. It was an opportunity for Garcia to stretch out musically, playing mostly covers with musicians other than The Grateful Dead. On nights when he wasn’t on the road with The Dead or playing at The Keystone with Merle, he would also show up at the club with his other band, the equally great Bluegrass unit, “Old And In The Way.” Here we have the boys stretching out on a high-energy Lightning Hopkins original, from the newly released 4-CD box set called “Keystone Companions” featuring the complete 1973 Keystone recordings. If you want to hear a fully-engaged Jerry Garcia, look no further than these recordings!

Edited: September 30th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/25/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Mutt Romney Blues” by Ry Cooder

Ry Cooder has made a novelty record! “Election Special” features nine very topical songs centered on the upcoming presidential election. These are songs about the issues…songs that make us think…like “Mutt Romney’s Blues” about poor Mitt’s dog who took a ride on the top of his car in a luggage rack on a Romney family vacation. Now that’s an issue we can all sing our teeth into! While I believe ol’ Ry’s heart is in the right place and politically I don’t disagree with his views, most of the songs on this record come off like bad jingoistic political advertisements. Musically, the record is a two-man affair featuring Cooder’s tasty guitar playing throughout assisted by his son, Joachim on drums, but with the exception of the song “Brother Is Gone,” this record has left me cold. Oh, and as for the video…it’s a rogue video made by a fan.

Edited: August 24th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 7/31/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Evil” by Tom Jones

Some folks just get hipper when they get older. Case in point, there is me…and then there is Tom Jones, whose new 7” single recorded at Third Man Records with Jack White on guitar and in the production chair, bears some of the most stripped down virile sounds to emanate from the Welshman in some time. The A-side is a rip-roaring Howlin’ Wolf cover that gives the Wolfman a run for his money, while the B-side finds him covering Frankie Lane’s “Jezebel.” Gone is the resignation over old age that dragged down Jones’ last American release, “Praise & Blame.” Jones’ latest album, “Spirit In The Room,” was released overseas last May. It has yet to receive a domestic release here. If it sounds anything like this Jack White collaboration, I say bring it on!

Edited: July 30th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 6/5/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Burn In Hell” by Junior Kimbrough

Like his good friend R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough hailed from northern Mississippi and didn’t find fame until relatively late in the game. Kimbrough recorded sessions in the 1960s and 1970s that went mostly unreleased. It wasn’t until music critic Robert Palmer produced his first record for the Fat Possum label in 1992 that Kimbrough attained national attention. Kimbrough opened a club in Mississippi after the release of the record called Junior’s Place where he and R.L. Burnside regularly performed for such musical luminaries as Keith Richards, Tom Waits and Bono amongst the common folk. Kimbrough’s window of fame was a scant six years coming to an end when he died of a heart attack in 1998 at the age of 67 following a stroke. This song comes from his last album before his death “Most Things Haven’t Worked Out.” You can hear Kimbrough’s influence today in the music of The Black Keys and Jack White.

Edited: June 4th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 4/9/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Snake Drive” by R.L. Burnside

Along with fellow musician Junior Kimbrough, R.L. Burnside didn’t see any fame until he was well into his ’70s. He spent much of his life living in poverty playing the blues in his native Holly Springs, Mississippi. It wasn’t until he was signed to the Mississippi independent Fat Possum record label in the early 1990s that Burnside got any recognition on a national level. He recorded several albums backed by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion including the album “A Ass Pocket Of Whiskey” where this song was culled. Burnside took to the road during the latter part of his life either backed by Spencer or with his grandson, Cedric Burnside on drums. I caught him live several times in the early 1990s at The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia and then again towards the end of his life at the Chicago Blues Festival. Burnside died in 2005 after suffering complications from heart surgery.

Edited: April 8th, 2012

Song Of the Day by Eric Berman – 3/23/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Moanin’ At Midnight” by Howlin’ Wolf

It doesn’t come any more lowdown and spooky than this track by the wolf man of Chess Records. Chester Burnett’s stature in American music is as dominant and as imposing as his 6’6” 300 pound frame was. With a repertoire that includes such blues classics as “Smokestack Lightnin’”, “Killing Floor,” “Back Door Man,” Spoonful” and “300 Pounds Of Joy,” he pretty much fed the entire British Invasion with material to record. Burnett may have learned to play guitar from blues great Charley Patton in the 1930s, but his low-down delivery was wholly his own. Here is one of his earliest Chess sides from 1951 that perfectly encapsulates all that made Wolf a legend.

Edited: March 22nd, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 2/6/12

 

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Had You Told It Like It Was (It Wouldn’t Be Like It Is)” by Albert King

Like Jimi Hendrix after him, Albert King had a unique guitar sound due to his playing of a right handed guitar upside down with his left hand. In King’s world, he was pushing up on the strings a righty would normally push down on. His style was an inspiration to the likes of Robert Cray, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton. While he’s best known for his late ’60s STAX Records classics like “Born Under A Bad Sign,” “Cross Cut Saw” and “Laundromat Blues,” this song is from much earlier in his career. He began recording under his own name for the Bobbin Record label whose recordings were leased to King Records for release. In 1962, King released the album “The Big Blues” that featured this R’n’B classic. While sales were meager and the hits were slim, his recordings from this period are every bit as good as the ones he cut for STAX.

Edited: February 6th, 2012

Song Of The Day – 11/14/11

Song Of The Day – “I Got Love If You Want It” by Slim Harpo

This record’s got it all! Insinuating groove that doesn’t quit…otherworldly vocals that spook and caress at the same time…laid bare stripped down production and that stellar harp playing that gave Slim his surname. There’s good reason why ‘60s British Invasion groups like The Who, the Yardbirds, the Kinks and the Rolling Stones borrowed so heavily from him.

Edited: November 14th, 2011