News for the ‘Folk’ Category

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Thanksgiving Trifecta #1 – “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” by Arlo Guthrie

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Thanksgiving Trifecta #1 – “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” by Arlo Guthrie

It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without Arlo’s classic 1967 shaggy dog story of a bunch of hippies doin’ their best to lend a hand to a friend by disposing some garbage on Thanksgiving. It’s a true story about a true Alice, in fact; my Aunt’s sister was good friends with the real Alice back in the day!

What starts off as a silly story about disposing garbage turns comically serious when it gets around to the draft. Enjoy and have a safe, happy and thankful Thanksgiving!

Edited: November 26th, 2015

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 I am just superstitious enough to continue to go along with it.

Today’s song 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 folk singer (and also a Jew), 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 the Leonard Cohen classics “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.”

May you, Leonard Cohen and I all be inscribed in the book of life…G’mar Tov…

Edited: September 21st, 2015

4th Of July Playlist

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4th Of July Playlist

Here’s my own personal 4th Of July Playlist. I’m sure there are songs you feel deserving of such an endeavor. If so, add them and let me know…

 

  1. Woody Guthrie: This Land Is Your Land http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XaI5IRuS2aE
  2. Ray Charles: America The Beautiful http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRUjr8EVgBg
  3. The Beach Boys: Spirit Of America http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gc0cvsSwvs0
  4. Grateful Dead: U.S. Blues http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPBLfzTPCDc
  5. Chicago: Saturday In The Park https://youtu.be/PLiMy4NaSKc
  6. John Mellencamp: Pink Houses http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOfkpu6749w
  7. Los Lobos: One Time One Night https://youtu.be/cjq4y9EFLMA
  8. X: 4th Of July https://youtu.be/lhu807VUY24
  9. Aimee Mann: 4th Of July https://youtu.be/vOYI85anqmQ
  10. Bruce Springsteen: 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) https://youtu.be/KgFHM8HMbWQ
  11. Hair Original Cast: Don’t Put It Down https://youtu.be/_w2gyWE0M0k
  12. West Side Story Original Soundtrack: America http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qy6wo2wpT2k
  13. David Bowie: Young Americans http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFudBQcplj4
  14. The Clash: I’m So Bored With The U.S.A. https://youtu.be/A13vj5vdlCU
  15. Devo: Freedom Of Choice http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dVGINIsLnqU
  16. Neil Diamond: America http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T3S7mlRYL-8
  17. Paul Simon: American Tune http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AE3kKUEY5WU
  18. Johnny Cash: Ragged Old Flag http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mbbGi3mTjCo
  19. Jimi Hendrix: The Star Spangled Banner http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_3uHYd7pV0

 

Edited: July 4th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #37 – Jose Feliciano: “Light My Fire” b/w “California Dreamin’” – RCA Victor 45 RPM Single 47-9550 1968 (P4/Q4)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #37 – Jose Feliciano: “Light My Fire” b/w “California Dreamin’” – RCA Victor 45 RPM Single 47-9550 1968 (P4/Q4)

Two songs from the 1960s that are unquestionably classics today…and Jose Feliciano had a hand in making them so…

The Doors’ “Light My Fire” topped the US charts in July of 1967, at the height of the Summer of Love. Along with Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” It became one of the most covered songs by bar bands of the late 1960s. A year later, the song found its way again on the pop charts peaking at the #3 position as covered by Jose Feliciano as the A-side of today’s single.

Song writer Robby Krieger said in an interview about the cover: “It’s really a great feeling to have written a classic. I think I owe a big debt to Jose Feliciano because he is actually the one, when he did it, everybody started doing it. He did a whole different arrangement on it.” (Wikipedia – James, Gary (1994). “Interview With Robby Krieger”. Classic Bands. Retrieved January 18, 2011.) Feliciano’s version won two 1969 Grammy Awards, for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance and Best New Artist and firmly established him with the American record buying public.

The flip of today’s single is Feliciano’s take on The Mamas & Papas’ “California Dreamin’.” The also song made the rounds as another one of the most covered of its era including versions by Wes Montgomery, The Carpenters, The Four Tops, Melanie, Bobby Womack, Hugh Masekela, The Seekers, Raquel Welch, The Beach Boys , Wilson Phillips, and it still gets regularly licensed for use in film and commercials today.

Puerto Rican born Jose Feliciano was permanently blind from his birth in 1945. As a child he learned to play guitar at an early age and was influenced by classical guitarist Andres Segovia, jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery and Ray Charles for his vocal skills.

Feliciano came up from the same fertile Greenwich Village folk ground as Bob Dylan, Fred Neil, John Sebastian and Joan Baez, and he signed with RCA Victor Records in 1964 to begin his long and legendary recording career. He was a virtuoso Latin guitarist whose early records ran the gamut from traditional Latin tunes and pop hits of the day performed in a crossover folk, pop, jazz and soul bag.

By 1967, Feliciano relocated to Los Angeles. He was already a household name in Latin America and RCA teamed him up with producer Rick Jarrod who had worked with Jefferson Airplane and Harry Nilsson to record the both sides of today’s classic single and the 1968 album Feliciano!

The album is one of the quintessential albums of the late sixties and features near definitive versions of often covered sixties classics including Gerry & The Pacemakers’ “Don’t Let The Sun Catch Your Crying,” Bacharach & David’s “Always Something There To Remind Me,” Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny,” Tom Paxton’s “The Last Thing On My Mind” and of course the requisite Beatles covers “In My Life,” “And I Love Her,” and “Here, There And Everywhere.”

Musicians on the record included José Feliciano on guitar, vocals, arrangements, Ray Brown on bass, jazz percussionist Milt Holland, Jim Horn on alto flute, recorder and Harry Nilsson’s production team of producer Rick Jarrod, George Tipton providing orchestration, string & woodwind arrangements and Perry Botkin Jr with song arrangements. The single and album were recorded in November 1967 and January 1968 at RCA Victor’s Hollywood studios.

By 1968, Feliciano’s superstardom from the Grammys, hit records and numerous TV appearances was short lived. Feliciano’s star fell quickly after performing an impassioned and very personal performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” before Game 5 of the 1968 World Series which proved very controversial to many Middle Americans who were never exposed to Latin music. As a result, radio stations stopped playing his records for several years after.

After scoring a surprise hit with his self-penned Christmas classic “Feliz Navidad” in 1970, his career seemed to stall in America, however he has constantly continued to be a strong draw in Latin American countries. During the 1960s and 1970s, he appeared on dozens of TV variety and came back in 1976 with his hit theme from the TV show Chico and the Man. He also composed music for the 1970s TV shows McMillan & Wife and Kung Fu.

Feliciano is a perennial of the summer shed circuit and continues to perform around the world today. His “Feliz Navidad” has become a regularly played as a Christmas holiday staple during the last months of every year. His latest release is a tribute album to Elvis Presley released in 2012 on the Select-O-Hit record label called The King.

“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 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: June 1st, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #22 – Bob Dylan: “Lay Lady Lay” b/w “I Threw It All Away” – Columbia 45 RPM Single 13-33178 (C3/D3)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #22 – Bob Dylan: “Lay Lady Lay” b/w “I Threw It All Away” – Columbia 45 RPM Single 13-33178 (C3/D3)

The late 1960s introduced a new Bob Dylan to the world. With his motorcycle accident and requisite seclusion in Woodstock behind him, he emerged with John Wesley Harding, a rootsy, back-to-basics album in 1968 that flew in the face of the flamboyant psychedelic music that was currently all the rage at the time.

However, nothing could prepare Dylan fans for what followed in 1969: A content Dylan who was seemingly happy with his lot in life, complete with a new soulful, melodic croon of a voice that replaced the nasal monotone of the past. Most crucially, the 1969 model Dylan marked another shift in musical direction away from the mainstream, with an album of country influenced tunes called Nashville Skyline that was quite simply, unlike anything else he had recorded up to that point.

The album was recorded with a who’s who of Nashville’s finest session musicians including Norman Blake on guitar and dobro, Kenny Buttrey on drums, Fred Carter, Jr. on guitar, Charlie Daniels on bass, Pete Drake on pedal steel guitar, Charlie McCoy on guitar and harmonica, Bob Wilson on piano and organ and several others including Johnny Cash who provided duet vocals on “Girl From The North Country.”

“Lay Lady Lay,” the A-side of today’s jukebox classic was originally intended for the soundtrack of the movie Midnight Cowboy, but it was submitted too late to make the film and Nilsson’s cover of Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talking” was used in its place. Dylan then offered the song to the Everly Brothers backstage at a concert. When Dylan played “Lay Lady Lay” for them, they thought he was singing “lay across my big breasts, babe” instead of “lay across my big brass bed” and didn’t’ think that the song was appropriate for them to record. When they finally heard the correct lyrics in Dylan’s recording, they realized what a mistake they had made. They finally got around to recording the song for their EB 84 album in 1984. (songfacts.com)

“Lay Lady Lay” became one of Dylan’s biggest singles climbing all the way to #7 on the Billboard pop charts. According to Johnny Cash, Dylan introduced the song in a circle of song writers who congregated at Cash’s house that included Shel Silverstein who played “A Boy Named Sue,” Joni Mitchell who broke out “The Circle Game,” Graham Nash who performed “Marrakesh Express” and Kris Kristofferson who played “Me And Bobby McGee.” (songfacts.com)

Over the years, “Lay Lady Lay” has been covered by the likes of Cher, The Byrds, The Everly Brothers, Melanie, The Isley Brothers, Keith Jarrett, Neil Diamond, Isaac Hayes, Richie Havens, Steve Howe, Booker T. & the MGs, Buddy Guy, Duran Duran and Ministry.

The flip of today’s single was the first single release from Nashville Skyline, although it only charted at #85 on the Billboard pop charts. After writing the song, Dylan shared it with George Harrison who brought it to The Beatles’ Let It Be recording sessions. Session tapes reveal that George took the song out for a spin during The Beatles’ session for a performance . The song was also covered by Cher, Elvis Costello, Graham Parker, Lambchop and Yo La Tengo.

“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 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: April 27th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “All My Sorrows” by The Kingston Trio

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Before The Beatles…there was The Kingston Trio! The Trio of Dave Guard, Nick Reynolds and Bob Shane were the most recognized act of the initial folk boom of the late 1950s causing a sensation throughout college campuses. Their brand of exuberantly sung folk songs mingled with a healthy dose of good natured “aw-shucks” humor offered pure entertainment and insured them a place on the charts and on concert stages. Their hits included “Tom Dooley,” “The M.T.A.,” “The Tijuana Jail,” “Where Have All The Flowers Gone,” ”A Worried Man,” plus many others.

I was introduced to the music of The Kingston Trio by my parents, with the group’s Greatest Hits album which was a staple of their record collection. They were also fans of The Brother’s Four and had a Columbia album called All Star Hootenanny that gave me my first taste at a very young age of Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, The Clancy Brothers and Johnny Cash all in one place.

I’ve also had the honor and pleasure of compiling several Kingston Trio collections during my music career while working for Time Life Music and Reader’s Digest Music back in the 1990s. For Reader’s Digest, I compiled a 60-track, 3 CD set called The Kingston Trio: Their Greatest Hits & Finest Performances. At the time of its release, it was the most comprehensive Kingston Trio collection available on the market. It was also one of Reader’s Digest’s most popular single artist collections and was kept in print for many years. At Time Life, I compiled a 30-track, 2 CD collection of their greatest hits for a TV-sold package called The Very Best Of The Kingston Trio, and also created a second 30-track collection of deeper cuts for an upsell called Trio Treasures & Folk Favorites.

I also spent some time consulting for a great Chicago folk record label called Folk Era which is run by Allan Shaw, who is one of the world’s great authorities on The Kingston Trio and the music of the Folk Era. The label is also the home of the Rediscover Music Catalog which includes a well thought out selection of folk music you won’t find elsewhere. During my time working with Folk Era, I was introduced to original Trio member Bob Shane and John Stewart, who replaced Dave Guard in the trio in 1961 and remained a member through 1967. John Stewart was also best remembered for writing The Monkees’ hit “Daydream Believer” and his own classic 1971 album California Bloodlines.

Today’s Song Of the Day was originally from the group’s 1959 fourth album At Large. The group was at the absolute height of their popularity in 1959 placing four consecutive albums into the top ten of the Billboard album charts throughout the year.

“All My Sorrows” was also released as the B-side to the “M.T.A.” single. The songs is also known under the title “All My Trials” and is widely considered a lullaby because of its opening line “Hush little baby don’t you cry.” The song was actually a protest song of both hope and resignation for a time when “All my trials, soon be over.”

The song has been covered by numerous artists including Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Bob Gibson, Dave Van Ronk, Harry Belafonte and Peter Paul & Mary. Over the years, it has also become closely associated with Lindsey Buckingham who recorded it for his album From The Cradle. Before performing the song in concert, Buckingham regularly pays homage to the influence The Kingston Trio has had on his own career.

The At Large album was the first Trio studio album that the group really began to gel instrumentally with each other. The inclusion of David “Buck” Wheat on double bass and occasional guitar filled out their sound. Wheat also assisted with arrangements and remained part of the outfit through the end of 1961. The album won a 1960 Grammy Award for Best Ethnic or Traditional Folk Recording and it was also nominated in the “Best Vocal Group or Chorus” category. It was certified Gold for sales of 1,000,000 units in 1961.

Several other Kingston Classics also came from the At Large album including their #15 hit “M.T.A.,” which is one of their most beloved recordings and “Remember The Alamo,” which was considered and rejected for use in the John Wayne film, The Alamo. The Trio’s recording of “Scarlet Ribbons (For Her Hair)” was originally made popular by Harry Belafonte a few years before The Trio took it on and became a concert staple and another of the group’s most requested songs. The #12 single, “Tijuana Jail” b/w “Oh Cindy,” was also recorded during the sessions for the album, but ultimately left off.

Although touring members of The Trio still exist, the last version with original member Bob Shane stopped touring in 2004.

Edited: February 2nd, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Year of the Cat” by Al Stewart

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Year of the Cat” by Al Stewart

So, 2015 is not the year of the cat…it’s the year of the goat (or sheep), but that’s just the hook that led me to choose this fine tune as the first Song of the Day by Eric Berman of a new year. Besides, the Chinese New Year is still a few months off in the distance…so, Happy Rosh Hashanah everyone…but I digress.

While most people remember Al Stewart for a clutch of radio-friendly pop tunes from the late 1970s including “Time Passages,” “On The Border” and today’s 1976 top-ten smash, Stewart had already recorded singles with members of The Yardbirds, appeared at the very first Glastonbury Festival in England (1970), and was well known throughout Europe for his historically-themed folk and progressive rock recordings.

In 1965, Stewart moved to London where he roomed with another aspiring songwriter, Paul Simon, who was spending a year abroad woodshedding and recording the solo album The Paul Simon Songbook before resuming his recording career with Art Garfunkel. Meanwhile, Stewart continued to release albums as his folk recordings began to metamorphose into progressive rock with the addition of electric instruments and lengthy multi-suite compositions. His exceptional second album Love Chronicles” (1969) has an eighteen minute title track that features Jimmy Page and Richard Thompson on guitar.

In America, Stewart came to the attention of prog rock fans, with his 1973 album Past, Present and Future and its FM radio staple “Nostradamus.” His career here began to get traction with the release of Modern Times in 1975, but it wasn’t until he met up with producer Alan Parsons and recorded the album The Year of the Cat that Stewart would become a household name around the world.

The 1978 album, “Time Passages,” followed and was also a major hit, and he never really stopped recording, although many of his albums from the 1980s and on have never seen a release in America. Today, he continues to performs live and occasionally records albums.

Today’s Song of the Day by Eric Berman is a live version of Stewart’s signature song as performed on the British music TV show, “The Old Grey Whistle Test.”

Edited: January 1st, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” by Judy Collins

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” by Judy Collins

This wistful gem is one of Judy Collins’ greatest recordings from her greatest album, the 1968 classic Who Knows Where the Time Goes. The song was written by the late, great Sandy Denny who recorded a demo of it in 1967. Shortly thereafter, Denny joined forces with The Strawbs who had a go at the song on their All Our Own Work album which was recorded in 1967 but not officially released in the U.S. until 1973. After hearing the original demo in 1967, Collins recorded it and relegated to the B-side of her smash hit single “Both Sides Now,” which gave it enormous exposure.

The song surfaced again the following year as the title track to the Who Knows Where the Time Goes album, whose super group of musicians included Stephen Stills (guitar), James Burton (guitar), Buddy Emmons (pedal steel), Van Dyke Parks (piano), Chris Ethridge (bass) and drummer/mother murderer Jim Gordon.

Sandy Denny then took the song with her when she joined Fairport Convention where it was released on their superb 1969 Unhalfbricking album, becoming the group’s signature tune. Others who have committed this song to wax include Greek pop star Nana Mouskouri, 10,000 Maniacs, Cat Power, Charlie Louvin, Susanna Hoffs & Matthew Sweet, Nina Simone and many others.

Denny would later go on to be the only guest vocalist ever to appear on a Led Zeppelin record when she supplied vocals to “The Battle of Evermore.” She later succumbed to complications from a brain hemorrhage after she fell down some steps on April 21st 1978 at the age of 31.

Denny would later go on to be the only guest vocalist ever to appear on a Led Zeppelin record when she supplied vocals to “The Battle of Evermore.”

Edited: December 18th, 2014

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Wings” by Tim Buckley

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Wings” by Tim Buckley

My sister is seven years my senior, and growing up she was my biggest musical influence introducing me to artists and albums I would have never otherwise discovered at such a young age. And so it was back in 1972 when she brought Tim Buckley’s album “Goodbye and Hello” home when I was eleven years old.

To be honest, it took me years to actually get into Tim Buckley because the combination of his ethereal brand of psychedelic folk music combined with my young age made the music somewhat incomprehensible to me, and it was enough of an obstacle to keep my interest in his albums distant at best. Meanwhile, she continued to follow Buckley’s career adding Buckley’s Lorca and Greetings from L.A. albums to her collection. At the time I felt that Lorca was unlistenable, but I did, in fact, learn to like the more rock oriented Greetings album.

Fast forward about eight years, and I finally really began to understand the cosmic wonder of Buckley’s music, and began to enjoy his unique way of singing. Over the years, I began to seek out as much of his recorded output as I could, and especially came to love his exceptional 1969 albums Happy Sad and Blue Afternoon. Further cementing my appreciation of Buckley was his wide-eyed and super-psychedelic performance of “Song to a Siren” from The Monkees TV show.

Today’s Song of the Day by Eric Berman is Buckley’s eponymously titled debut record from 1966. With a band that included Lee Underwood on guitar, Van Dyke Parks on piano, harpsichord and celeste, Billy Mundi (from Mothers Of Invention & Rhinoceros) on drums and James Fielder on bass,Buckley’s debut was a much more straightforward pop and rock affair than what was to follow, including great songs like “Understand Your Man,” “Aren’t You The Girl” and today’s Song Of The Day.

What gets me about “Wings,” as well as the rest of the record, is the whole late ‘60s audio mise en scene happening in the instrumentation and production. It all comes right down to the band’s secret weapon, Van Dyke Parks, who was an in-demand session musician (The Mothers Of Invention Freak Out – they also asked him to join the group, The Byrds’ Fifth Dimension) before working with Buckley. He would later go on to co-write and work on The Beach Boys’ legendary Smile album and Judy Collins’ Who Knows Where The Time Goes, whose instrumentation makes it a piece with other albums of the day from Fred Neil and Tim Hardin.

Rhino Records’ collector label, Handmade, released an expanded version of this album last year featuring the mono and stereo versions of the album, plus 23 previously released recordings made around the time of the sessions for the album.

Edited: December 17th, 2014

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “One Too Many Mornings” by Bob Dylan & Johnny Cash

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “One Too Many Mornings” by Bob Dylan & Johnny Cash

Still a mystery to me why these recordings have never been officially released…and now that The Complete Basement Tapes have finally seen the light of day, maybe their time has come…

The Dylan-Cash Sessions took place in Nashville’s Columbia Studio A on February 17-18, 1969 at the tail end of the Nashville Skyline recording sessions. During the same week that Dylan turned in such indelible recordings as “I Threw It All Away,” “Lay Lady Lay,” “To Be Alone With You” and “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You,” Johnny Cash, who had been recording in an adjoining studio, turned up for some recording fun.

What transpired were several days of session in which the two traded songs and laid some duets down on tape with an eye toward making a record together. In the studio with Dylan and Cash were the cream of the Nashville session elite including Norman Blake on guitar and dobro, Kenny Buttrey on drums, Fred Carter, Jr. on guitar, Charlie Daniels on bass, Pete Drake on pedal steel, Marshall Grant on bass, W.S. Holland on drums, Charlie McCoy on guitar and harmonica, Bob Wilson on the crucial organ and piano work and Bob Wootton on electric guitar.

The fifteen selections that have been widely circulated include jovial run-throughs of Cash standards like “Big River,” “I Walk The Line,” “Ring Of Fire,” “Guess Things Happen That Way” and “I Still Miss Someone,” plus Dylan’s “Girl From The North Country” and today’s Song Of The Day by Eric Berman, “One Too Many Mornings,” plus versions the rock and roll classics “Matchbox,” “That’s All Right Mama” and “Mystery Train.”

Not enough music came out of the loose sessions deemed worthy of release at the time except “Girl from the North Country,” which opened Nashville Skyline. So the rest sat on the shelves at Columbia and in the hands of lucky collectors.

It totally knocks me out that footage exists of these sessions at all, but here is a YouTube clip of the two in the studio. Cash handles the lion share of the lead vocals here and on most of the recordings, and Dylan seem somewhat out of his element with his vocals. That said, you can hear the mutual respect the two artists have for each other in every note of the joyful music they made.

Nashville Skyline went on to be a big success, giving Dylan his biggest hit to date with “Lay Lady Lay.”

Edited: November 13th, 2014

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “If I Had My Way” by Peter, Paul and Mary

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “If I Had My Way” by Peter, Paul and Mary

They were the original prefab group, put together by their manager much in the same way that The Monkees were. But instead of a casting call, Albert Grossman knew exactly what he was looking for to form his folk group…two bearded guys (one on stand-up bass, one on guitar) and one woman, preferably a blonde, who could all sing. That’s how the folk trio of Peter Yarrow, Paul Stookey & Mary Travers came to be. But unlike The Monkees who were ridiculed by many and spent years proving to their audience that they were the real thing, PP&M were welcomed with open arms right from the get-go.

After auditioning for the job of being Peter, Paul and Mary, the trio cut their teeth performing in the folk clubs of Greenwich Village in New York City. Not only did Peter and Paul write many of their biggest songs including “Puff The Magic Dragon,” “The Cruel War,” “Gone The Rainbow,” “Day Is Done” and “I Dig Rock ‘n’ Roll Music,” but they introduced a whole host of songwriters’ material to a new generation of music fans, including songs by Gordon Lightfoot (“Early Morning Rain”), John Denver (“Leaving On A Jet Plane”) and, most crucially, Bob Dylan (“Blowin’ In the Wind”), who not-coincidentally was also managed by Albert Grossman as well. The trio went on to record memorable versions of Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin,” “Don’t Think Twice (It’s Alright)” “It Ain’t Me Babe,” “I Shall Be Released,” “Too Much Of Nothing” and “When The Ship Comes In.”

In 1963, Peter, Paul and Mary appeared at the March on Washington for equal rights, sharing the stage with Martin Luther King when he gave his famous I Have A Dream speech and performing their version of “If I Had A Hammer.” While they were already the darlings of the collegiate generation of folk fans who were also tuned into groups like The Kingston Trio and The Chad Mitchell Trio, that appearance also established them with the burgeoning counter-culture.

After scoring numerous hits, the trio split in 1970 to try their luck at solo careers, with Stookey composing and scoring the hit “Wedding Song (There Is Love),” which went on to become a standard played at millions of weddings each year. The group reformed in 1978 and resumed regular touring together again until Mary Travers died in September of 2009.

The original version of today’s Song of the Day by Eric Berman appeared on the trio’s self-titled debut album from 1962 which spent seven weeks at the top of the Billboard charts. With a story line drawn right from the Bible, the tale of Samson & Delilah has been fodder for numerous artists throughout the years (and under different names including “Samson & Delilah” and “Tear That Building Down”) including the Reverend Gary Davis, Blind Willie Johnson, Ike & Tina Turner, and most notably by the Grateful Dead, who performed it as part of their regular repertoire for many years.

Edited: November 3rd, 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 #45 – Melanie: “Brand New Key” b/w “Ring The Living Bell” – MCA 45-N-2737 (I5/J5)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #45 – Melanie: “Brand New Key” b/w “Ring The Living Bell” – MCA 45-N-2737 (I5/J5)

“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.

Today’s jukebox classic came out in 1972 when roller skating and roller rinks were all the rage in my eleven year old age group, and the song “Brand New Key” certainly spoke our language.

I had already been exposed to Melanie’s music since 1970 through my older sister who became so enamored by her, that she scrambled to not only get her latest Candles In the Rain album, but also her first one called Born To Be.  She used to blast “Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)” with The Edwin Hawkins Singers frequently around the house much to the chagrin of my parents. Needless to say, our house was filled with Melanie’s histrionic vocals and songs about peace, beautiful people, leftover wine and Winnie The Pooh, and as a result of her fascination with Melanie Safka. I paid close attention. For Melanie was the consummate hippie and her covers of James Taylor’s “Carolina In My Mind” and The Rolling Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday” ultimately introduced my young ears to the original versions.

Melanie not only interpreted the popular songs of the day, but she also had quite a few first-rate original songs that were favorites including “What Have They Done To My Song Ma,” “Ring The Living Bell,” “The Nickel Song” and “Beautiful People.”  More Melanie albums followed in my sister’s collection including Leftover Wine from 1970, The Good Book from 1971 and Gather Me from 1972, before she left for college and outgrew Melanie.

Melanie formed her own Neighborhood record label in 1972 and released today’s single which topped the charts and sold over three million copies. To my sister and her age group, the song was the straw that broke the camel’s back and caused them to pretty much decide that she’d become yesterday’s news.

But to my age group, Melanie’s star was on the rise. Forget the apparent double entendre going on in the lyrics to “Brand New Key,” with locks and keys, and “going pretty far,” that was all lost on me and my cohort the first time around.

To be honest, I really didn’t like the song much when it was a hit. I saw it for what it was…a novelty that was capitalizing on a craze. However, millions found the song to their liking by sending it up to the top of the charts. Today, the song is a guilty pleasure, but the fact that I have the single in my jukebox says that it is still a nostalgic pleasure.

The flip of today’s jukebox classic was the follow-up single to “Brand New Key,” which was also from Melanie’s 1971 Gather Me album. “Ring The Living Bell” is an anthemic song that was written by Melanie with a swelling chorus that reached the #31 position on the pop charts.

When Neighborhood Records released the single, Buddah Records (her previous record company) dug up one of Melanie’s older recordings, “The Nickel Song” and released it as a single to compete on the charts. Meanwhile, “Brand New Key” was still on the charts. As a result Melanie became the first artist to have three top forty hits on the charts at the same time.

As the 1970s came to an end, so did Melanie’s hit making days. Today, she occasionally performs concerts and releases albums. I never got to see Melanie perform back in the day, but I’d bet it would be a hoot to see her now.

Edited: December 12th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #37 – Jose Feliciano: “Light My Fire” b/w “California Dreamin’” – RCA Victor 45 RPM Single 47-9550 1968 (P4/Q4)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #37 – Jose Feliciano: “Light My Fire” b/w “California Dreamin’” – RCA Victor 45 RPM Single 47-9550 1968 (P4/Q4)

“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.

Two songs from the 1960s that are unquestionably classics today…and Jose Feliciano had a hand in making them so…

The Doors’ “Light My Fire” topped the US charts in July of 1967, at the height of the Summer Of Love. Along with Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” It became one of the most covered songs by bar bands of the late 1960s.  A year later, the song found its way again on the pop charts peaking at the #3 position as covered by Jose Feliciano as the A-side of today’s single.

Song writer Robby Krieger said in an interview about the cover: “It’s really a great feeling to have written a classic. I think I owe a big debt to Jose Feliciano because he is actually the one, when he did it, everybody started doing it. He did a whole different arrangement on it.” (Wikipedia – James, Gary (1994). “Interview With Robby Krieger”. Classic Bands. Retrieved January 18, 2011.) Feliciano’s version won two 1969 Grammy Awards, for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance and Best New Artist and firmly established him with the American record buying public.

The flip of the single is Feliciano’s take on The Mamas & Papas’ “California Dreamin’.” The also song made the rounds as another one of the most covered of its era including versions by Wes Montgomery, The Carpenters, The Four Tops, Melanie, Bobby Womack, Hugh Masekela, The Seekers, Raquel Welch, The Beach Boys , Wilson Phillips, and it still gets regularly licensed for use in film and commercials today.

Puerto Rican born Jose Feliciano was permanently blind from his birth in 1945. As a child he learned to play guitar at an early age and was influenced by classical guitarist Andre Segovia, jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery and Ray Charles for his vocal skills.

Feliciano came up from the same fertile Greenwich Village folk ground as Bob Dylan, Fred Neil, John Sebastian and Joan Baez, and he signed with RCA Victor Records in 1964 to begin his long and legendary recording career. He was a virtuoso Latin guitarist whose early records ran the gamut from traditional Latin tunes and pop hits of the day performed in a crossover folk, pop, jazz and soul bag.

By 1967, Feliciano relocated to Los Angeles. He was already a household name in Latin America and RCA teamed him up with producer Rick Jarrod who had worked with Jefferson Airplane and Harry Nilsson to record the both sides of today’s classic single and the album Feliciano!

The album is one of the quintessential albums of the late sixties and features near definitive versions of often covered sixties classics including Gerry & The Pacemakers’ “Don’t Let The Sun Catch Your Crying,” Bacharach & David’s “Always Something There To Remind Me,” Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny,” Tom Paxton’s “The Last Thing On My Mind” and of course the requisite Beatles covers “In My Life,” “And I Love Her,” and “Here, There And Everywhere.”

Musicians on the record included José Feliciano on guitar, vocals, arrangements, Ray Brown on bass, Jazz percussionist Milt Holland, Jim Horn on alto flute, recorder and Harry Nilsson’s production team of producer Rick Jarrod, George Tipton providing orchestration, string & woodwind arrangements and Perry Botkin Jr with song arrangements. The single and album were recorded in November 1967 and January 1968 at RCA Victor’s Hollywood studios.

By 1968, Feliciano’s superstardom from the Grammys, hit records and numerous TV appearances was short lived.  Feliciano’s star fell quickly after performing an impassioned and very personal performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” before Game 5 of the 1968 World Series which proved very controversial to many Middle Americans who were never exposed to Latin music. As a result, radio stations stopped playing his records for several years after.

After scoring a surprise hit with his self-penned Christmas classic “Feliz Navidad” in 1970, his career seemed to stall in America, however he has constantly continued to be a strong draw in Latin American countries. During the 1960s and 1970s, he appeared on dozens of TV variety and came back in 1976 with his hit TV theme to Chico And The Man. He also composed music for the 1970s TV shows McMillan & Wife and Kung Fu.

Feliciano is a perennial of the summer shed circuit and continues to perform around the world today.His “Feliz Navidad” has become a regularly played as a Christmas holiday staple during the last months of every year. His latest release is a tribute album to Elvis Presley released last year on the Select-O-Hit record label called The King.

Edited: December 2nd, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Thanksgiving Trifecta

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Thanksgiving Trifecta #1 – “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” by Arlo Guthrie

It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without Arlo’s classic 1967 shaggy dog story of a bunch of hippies doin’ their best to lend a hand to a friend by disposing some garbage on Thanksgiving.  It’s a true story about a true Alice…in fact; my Aunt’s sister was good friends with the real Alice back in the day! 

What starts off as a silly story about disposing garbage turns comically serious when it gets around to the draft.  Enjoy and have a safe, happy and thankful Thanksgiving!


 

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Thanksgiving Trifecta #2 – “Surfin’ Bird” by The Trashmen

This single was most recently an installment from my Jukebox Series of postings, however on Thanksgiving, BIRD IS THE WORD!

Yes, I’ve played the “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” by Arlo Guthrie every Thanksgiving ever since I was a little kid…and I will force my family to sit through it again tomorrow. However, aside from, perhaps, selections from the musical Bye Bye Birdie, I can’t seem to think of a more appropriate song for Thanksgiving…so as we give thanks, think about what you’re eating…Bird is the Word.


 

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Thanksgiving Trifecta #3 – “Dinner Bell” by They Might Be Giants

Choosing the perfect Thanksgiving Song Of The Day is not an easy task.

In the past, I’ve done the obvious with the all-American standby, “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” by Arlo Guthrie. It’s something I’ve listened to every year on Thanksgiving ever since I was a kid, and I will be spinning it again (on vinyl, of course) sometime tomorrow.

One year I went total novelty and chose “Turkey Lurkey Time” from the Bacharach/David musical Promises, Promises which went over like picked over leftovers when posted. I was considering “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” by Sly & The Family Stone for a while, with its theme of thanks and that whole family angle via The Family Stone, but decided to shift gears a little to look at the holiday differenty…at least musically.

So this year, we’re gonna celebrate what we’re all gathering round the table for today: dinner! And what better way to start the celebration than with They Might Be Giant’s “Dinner Bell” from their classic Apollo 18 album. The song has always been a favorite of mine with its secret-weapon-of-a-counter-melody sung by John Linnell listing the things he either doesn’t want to eat, or what he would rather be having.

It gets right down to the heart of the matter this year, which is families and friends coming together for a meal and perhaps a prayer…so here’s hoping that the “Dinner Bell” is ringing joyously around your table tonight.

Edited: November 27th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 9/6/13 – “Who By Fire” by Leonard Cohen

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

Today’s Song Of The Day 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 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.”

The album also includes the Leonard Cohen classics “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.”

Edited: September 5th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/28/13 – “Do You Know Who I Am? I’m F**kin’ Snooki!!” by The Jeffrey Lewis & Peter Stampfel Band

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Do You Know Who I Am? I’m F**kin’ Snooki!!” by The Jeffrey Lewis & Peter Stampfel Band

It’s a joke…and it’s completely for real…Hey Hey…It’s The  Jeffrey Lewis & Peter Stampfel Band is also one of the most refreshing, rough ‘n’ tumble spins you’re likely to hear all year.

Jeffrey Lewis is a comic book artist and historian who is known for his successful series of Fuff (aka Guff ) comic books. He’s also a guitarist who writes sardonic ramshackle anti-folk songs and has self-released numerous records since 1997. His series of illustrated low budget documentaries complete with fully illustrated historical songs can be found on The History Channel website. (http://www.history.com/search?q=jeffrey+lewis&x=0&y=0) His latest record is a collaboration with Peter Stampfel called Hey Hey It’s…The Jeffrey Lewis & Peter Stampfel Band. It is their second record together.

Peter Stampfel is probably best known as one of the founding members of the 1960s psychedelic folk band The Holy Modal Rounders. He was also briefly a member of The Fugs and has recorded records with The Bottlecaps and if that isn’t enough of a resume, he also contributed to the liner notes for Harry Smith’s Anthology of Folk Music.

Together, the 72 year old Stampfel and the 37 year old Lewis have created a motley collection of shambolic songs that are about as off-the-cuff as they come. If you like your music messy, this is the record for you. The band consists of Peter Stampfel on banjo and fiddle, Jeffrey Lewis on guitar, Isabel Martin o bass, Heather Wagner on drums and Spencer Chakedis on mandolin.

Today’s Song Of The Day (shown here in performance from The Mercury Lounge in New York City) is about everyone’s favorite Jersey Shore character, Snooki. Neither Stampfel nor Lewis claim to have ever seen the show, but Stampfel says that he’s been reading about Snooki since the show’s inception. Apparently, Snooki was heard screaming all the words to the refrain in the song (except for one line – “All you creeps are gonna be real sorry”) when she was arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct.

The album’s opener, “More Fun Than Anyone” originally came from Stampfel’s secret archive of unfinished songs. He says that the only person he thinks is really more fun than anyone is Little Richard. Several other songs on the album have their genesis in Stampfel’s archive including “All The Time In The World” which was finished up with Lewis for this record.

Other highlights on this delicious platter include “Isn’t Summer Fun,” which pays homage to The Beach Boys circa 1963 (Stampfel has said that he doesn’t have it in him to write a Beach Boys tune from  ‘64/’65, his favorite Beach Boys era), “Moscow Nights,” written by the late Fugs member Tuli Kupferberg and making its recorded debut here, “Indie Bands On Tour” which perfectly captures life on the road for an independent touring band, “Money Marbles And Chalk,” a cover of Patti Page’s 1949 hit and “Duke Of The Beatniks” (aka “Dook Of The Beatniks”) which Stampfel has recorded several times before.

The album is self-released and can, and should, be purchased from the Jeffrey Lewis Band website. (http://jeffreylewis.bandcamp.com/album/hey-hey-its-the-jeffrey-lewis-peter-stampfel-band-10)

Edited: August 27th, 2013

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “The First Girl I Loved” by Incredible String Band/”The First Boy I Loved” by Judy Collins

I first came into contact with this wistful song via Judy Collin’s version on her Who Knows Where The Time Goes album where it was called “The First Boy I Loved.” It makes sense that she would’ve covered this song as they were both label mates at Elektra Records.

It literally took me years to get into the Incredible String Band. My older sister had their 1967 album The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter when I was growing up and I found it to be impenetrable.  Now, I really love their rootsy psychedelic instrumentation, whimsical lyrics, terrific vocals and the songs of Mike Heron and Robin Williamson.

Today’s Song Of The Day comes from their 1966 psychedelic masterwork, The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion.


Incredible String Band Version:

Judy Collins Version:

Edited: August 24th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 5/27/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “All My Sorrows” by The Kingston Trio

Before The Beatles…there was The Kingston Trio! The Trio of Dave Guard, Nick Reynolds and Bob Shane were the most recognized act of the initial folk boom of the late 1950s causing a sensation throughout college campuses. Their brand of exuberantly sung folk songs mingled with a healthy dose of good natured “aw-shucks” humor offered pure entertainment and insured them a place on the charts and on concert stages. Their hits included “Tom Dooley,” “The M.T.A.,” “The Tijuana Jail,” “Where Have All The Flowers Gone,” ”A Worried Man,” plus many others.

I was introduced to the music of The Kingston Trio by my parents, with the group’s Greatest Hits album which was a staple of their record collection. They were also fans of The Brother’s Four and had a Columbia album called All Star Hootenanny that gave me my first taste at a very young age of Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, The Clancy Brothers and Johnny Cash all in one place.

I’ve also had the honor and pleasure of compiling several Kingston Trio collections during my music career while working for Time Life Music and Reader’s Digest Music back in the 1990s. For Reader’s Digest, I compiled a 60-track, 3 CD set called The Kingston Trio: Their Greatest Hits & Finest Performances. At the time of its release, it was the most comprehensive Kingston Trio collection available on the market. It was also one of Reader’s Digest’s most popular single artist collections and was kept in print for many years. At Time Life, I compiled a 30-track, 2 CD collection of their greatest hits for a TV-sold package called The Very Best Of The Kingston Trio, and also created a second 30-track collection of deeper cuts for an upsell called Trio Treasures & Folk Favorites.

I also spent some time consulting for a great Chicago folk record label called Folk Era which is run by Allan Shaw, who is one of the world’s great authorities on The Kingston Trio and the music of the Folk Era. The label is also the home of the Rediscover Music Catalog which includes a well thought out selection of folk music you won’t find elsewhere. During my time working with Folk Era, I was introduced to original Trio member Bob Shane and John Stewart, who replaced Dave Guard in the trio in 1961 and remained a member through 1967. John Stewart was also best remembered for writing The Monkees’ hit “Daydream Believer” and his own classic 1971 album California Bloodlines.

Today’s Song Of the Day was originally from the group’s 1959 fourth album At Large. The group was at the absolute height of their popularity in 1959 placing four consecutive albums into the top ten of the Billboard album charts throughout the year.

“All My Sorrows” was also released as the B-side to the “M.T.A.” single. The songs is also known under the title “All My Trials” and is widely considered a lullaby because of its opening line “Hush little baby don’t you cry.” The song was actually a protest song of both hope and resignation for a time when “All my trials, soon be over.”

The song has been covered by numerous artists including Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Bob Gibson, Dave Van Ronk, Harry Belafonte, Peter Paul & Mary, and many others. Over the years, it has also become closely associated with Lindsey Buckingham who recorded it for his album From The Cradle. Before performing the song in concert, Buckingham regularly pays homage to the influence The Kingston Trio has had on his career.

The At Large album was the first Trio studio album that the group really began to gel instrumentally with each other. The inclusion of David “Buck” Wheat on double bass and occasional guitar filled out their sound. Wheat also assisted with arrangements and remained part of the outfit through the end of 1961. The album won a 1960 Grammy Award for Best Ethnic or Traditional Folk Recording and it was also nominated in the “Best Vocal Group or Chorus” category. It was certified Gold for sales of 1,000,000 units in 1961.

Several other Kingston Classics also came from the At Large album including their #15 hit “M.T.A.,” which is one of their most beloved recordings and “Remember The Alamo,” which was considered and rejected for use in the John Wayne film, The Alamo.  The Trio’s recording of “Scarlet Ribbons (For Her Hair)” was originally made popular by Harry Belafonte a few years before The Trio took it on and became a concert staple and another of the group’s most requested songs.  The #12 single, “Tijuana Jail” b/w “Oh Cindy,” was also recorded during the sessions for the album, but ultimately left off.

Although touring members of The Trio still exist, the last version with original member Bob Shane stopped touring in 2004.

Edited: May 27th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 4/12/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Piggies” by Theo Bikel

Broadway and film star, folk singer, songwriter, civil rights activist, and back in 1969 Theodore Bikel attempted to add pop star to his list of credentials with the release of one bright and shining album for Reprise Records.

As a Broadway star, Theodore Bikel originated the role of Captain Von Trapp in The Sound Of Music on Broadway and he’s portrayed the role of Tevye from Fiddler On The Roof on stage over 2000 times. In film, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in The Defiant Ones (1958) and also acted in The African Queen (1951) and Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels (1970) to name but a few.

He was one of the first artists signed to Jac Holzman’s upstart Elektra Records where he recorded 16 albums of ethnic folk songs throughout the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, helping to establish himself as a recording artist and the label as an entity to be reckoned with.  He also founded the Newport Folk Festival (with Pete Seeger, Oscar Brand and George Wein) in 1959 and became a civil rights activist in the early ‘60s and a delegate to the 1968 Democratic Convention.

He was signed to Mo Ostin’s artist friendly Reprise Records in 1968 where he was paired with hip producer of the day, Richard Perry to record the album A New Day where today’s Song Of The Day was culled. Perry’s stock in trade within the Warner/Reprise family was as a career revivalist. He worked with established artists who hadn’t had hits in awhile and put them into the context of what was currently happening in music. To that end, Perry recorded albums with Ella Fitzgerald, Fats Domino and Little Richard for the label, casting them all into a more hip and contemporary vein.

As he did with the others in his charge, Perry surrounded Bikel with sympathetic backing musicians including Larry Knechtel on bass and keyboards, Eric Weissberg on banjo, Jim Gordon on drums, Louie Shelton on guitar, Paul Beaver (of Beaver & Krause) on synthesizer and Sid Sharp, Donnie Gallucci and Joey Newman on strings. Together they worked to update Bikel’s sound by choosing current songs that would spotlight Bikel’s interpretive talents.

Today, the album is purely a pop period piece from the late ‘60s that features Bikel performing current hits of the day in contemporary easy listening settings of the time, as evidenced by the chamber pop arrangements on Donovan’s “Jennifer Juniper,” The Rolling Stones’ “Lady Jane,” The Beatles’ “For No One,” Joni Mitchell’s “Urge For Going” and today’s Song Of The Day, The Beatles’ “Piggies.” While the arrangements date the material, the material doesn’t sound dated at all.

Elsewhere Bikel rocks out on Cat Stevens’ “I Love My Dog” and gets positively theatrical (and a little hysterical) on Jaques Brel’s “Amsterdam.” Other songs include covers of Peter Yarrow’s (of Peter, Paul & Mary) “The Great Mandala (The Wheel Of Life),” Paul Williams’ “The Lady Is Waiting,” Bikel’s own “I Hear The Laughter” and yet a third Beatles song, “Mother Nature’s Son.” Bikel lends a theatrical touch to several of the songs by incorporating spoken word vignettes that occasionally drag the proceedings down.

Back in the late 1960s, Warner Bros. and Reprise Records release sampler albums in a series they called The Loss Leaders. They charged $2.00 for each double album and included tracks from all of the labels’ new releases. As a pre-teen kid, I first discovered groups like Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention, The Fugs, Randy Newman, Jimi Hendrix, Jethro Tull, Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, Rod McKuen, Harper’s Bizarre, The Mike Post Coalition, Petula Clark and Kenny Rogers & The First Edition through these albums.

I first came into contact with tracks from Bikel’s A New Day from the Loss Leader albums Schlaggers, which included his cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Urge For Goin’,” and The 1969 Warner/Reprise Record Show that included today’s Song Of The Day.

1969 Reprise Records RS-6348

Edited: April 12th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 2/27/13

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Dancin’ Wild” by Tom & Jerry

Before “The Boy In The Bubble” and “Graceland”…before “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” and “Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard”…and before “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “Sound Of Silence,” there was “Hey Schoolgirl” and a multitude of early recordings by the likes of Tom & Jerry, Jerry Landis, Tommy Graph, Artie Garr, True Taylor, The Mystics and Tico And The Triumphs. No matter what name they recorded under they were still two teenagers named Art and Paul, and when their voices blended, they were undeniably Simon & Garfunkel.

Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel were childhood friends who grew up living three blocks from each other in Kew Gardens, Queens, New York. They met in elementary school in 1953 and attended Parsons Junior High School and Forest Hills High School together.

Inspired by their heroes, The Everly Brothers, they began recording as Tom & Jerry in 1957, when they were 16 years old. Paul changed his name to Jerry Landis (taking the last name from a girl he’d been dating) and Art became Tommy Graph (taking his last name from his propensity to graph the hits on the weekly pop charts.)

Their first professional recording was the Paul Simon original, “Hey Schoolgirl,” backed with today’s Song Of The Day, “Dancin’ Wild,” which they recorded for Sid Prosen’s Big Record label. The single climbed up to #49 on the charts on the strength of its A-side, and sold 100,000 copies. Despite an appearance on American Bandstand, subsequent recordings for MGM, Warwick and Laurie Records, under various names, failed to chart. After high school, Simon attended Queens College and Garfunkel went to Columbia University.

Between 1957 and 1963, Simon and Garfunkel continued to write and record songs around The Brill Building. In early 1964 they were signed to Columbia records by Clive Davis, and recorded their debut album Wednesday Morning 3AM. The record didn’t sell well, so Simon took off to England to try his luck at a solo career. He recorded his first album, The Paul Simon Story, which was a UK only release that wouldn’t see a U.S. release until 2004.

While Simon was in England playing cafes and writing songs like “Cathy’s Song” and “Homeward Bound” for his girlfriend, Garfunkel continued with his studies. Meanwhile radio stations began to get requests for the Simon & Garfunkel album track, “The Sound Of Silence,” from their debut album. Producer, Tom Wilson was having success with early folk-rock recordings by The Byrds, so he overdubbed the track with electric guitar, bass, and drums and released it as a single. The recording became Simon & Garfunkel’s first number one hit, and the rest, as they say, is history.

My first came contact with the early Tom & Jerry recordings was from a “Simon & Garfunkel” album released by Pickwick Records back in the mid-1960s. My parents purchased it for me thinking it was one of their real releases,  only for us to all be disappointed by the early rock ‘n’ roll recordings we heard on the record. Over time, I’ve come to appreciate the innocence of these recordings and their unique place in music history.

Last year, Jasmine Records in England released the compilation Two Teenagers featuring the duo’s complete recordings from 1957 through 1961.

Edited: February 26th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 1/12/13

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Hit Or Miss” by Odetta

Odetta! Voice of the Civil Rights Movement? Roots mama? Gospel great? Soul queen? Hip hop hottie?

The answer, of course, is yes!

Actually, most people don’t remember who Odetta was. But if you are of a certain age (which is certainly older than I am) and was a fan of folk music, Odetta was your hero. She was an activist, actress and an influence on any folk singer worth his weight in salt…including Dylan, Baez, Belafonte, Ochs, Neil and numerous others.

She was in the thick of things, right there at the March on Washington in 1963. Martin Luther King dubbed her “The queen of American folk music,” and if you’ve ever heard her spine-tingling recording of “Water Boy,” you know he was spot on.

By the early ‘70s, the folk movement had petered out, and unfortunately so had her record sales. So she decided to do what so many others of her stature did, make a faux soul record consisting of mostly covers of tunes by the day’s rock elite. Odetta Sings featured covers of songs by Paul McCartney (“Every Night”), Elton John (“Take Me To The Pilot”), James Taylor (“Lo And Behold”), Randy Newman (“Mama Told Me Not To Come”) and The Rolling Stones (“No Expectations”). She was backed by an all-star group including Carole King on piano, Bernie Leadon on guitar, Russ Kunkel on drums, Clydie King, Vanetta Fields and Merry Clayton on vocals, Barry Beckett on keyboards and a whole host of others who came out to give their props to Odetta.

The album fell flat and was not well received at all. However today’s Song Of The Day stands taller than the rest on the album, and was one of two songs that was written by Odetta. “Hit Or Miss” was not like the rest of the record. Here Odetta turned into the soul queen she really was. If you’ve never heard the full track, you probably heard parts of it in other’s recordings since it was sampled by the likes of De La Soul (“Buddy”) and The Chemical Brothers (“Electrobank”), covered by none other than Bo Diddley in 1974, and has appeared in many TV commercials, including that ridiculous one for Southern Comfort with the shirtless fat guy, currently airing all too regularly.

In 1999, she was awarded the NEA’s National Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton, and she appeared on David Lettermen’s revered first show back on air after the 9-11 attacks on America. She recorded and toured many times during her later life, including her last tour in 2008 where she performed on stage from a wheelchair. Odetta died of heart disease in New York City in 2008, but left behind a legacy of great recordings ripe for rediscovery by generations to come.

Edited: January 11th, 2013

Song Of the Day by Eric Berman – 1/4/13

Song Of the Day by Eric Berman – “If I Had My Way” by Peter, Paul and Mary

They were the original prefab group, put together by their manager much in the same way that The Monkees were. But instead of a casting call, Albert Grossman knew exactly what he was looking for to form his folk group…two bearded guys (one on stand-up bass, one on guitar) and one woman, preferably a blonde, who could all sing. That’s how the folk trio of Peter Yarrow, Paul Stookey & Mary Travers came to be. But unlike The Monkees who were ridiculed by many and spent years proving to their audience that they were the real thing, PP&M were welcomed with open arms right from the get-go.

After auditioning for the job of being Peter, Paul and Mary, the trio cut their teeth performing in the folk clubs of Greenwich Village in New York City. Not only did Peter and Paul write many of their biggest songs including “Puff The Magic Dragon,” “The Cruel War,” “Gone The Rainbow,” “Day Is Done” and “I Dig Rock ‘n’ Roll Music,” but they introduced a whole host of songwriters’ material to a new generation of music fans, including songs by Gordon Lightfoot (“Early Morning Rain”), John Denver (“Leaving On A Jet Plane”) and, most crucially, Bob Dylan (“Blowin’ In the Wind”), who not-coincidentally was also managed by Albert Grossman. The trio went on to record memorable versions of Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin,” “Don’t Think Twice (It’s Alright)” “It Ain’t Me Babe,” “I Shall Be Released,” “Too Much Of Nothing” and “When The Ship Comes In.”

In 1963, Peter, Paul and Mary appeared at the Equal Rights March On Washington, sharing the stage with Martin Luther King when he gave his famous I Have A Dream speech and performing their version of “If I Had A Hammer.” While they were already the darlings of the collegiate generation of folk fans who were also tuned into groups like The Kingston Trio and The Chad Mitchell Trio, that appearance also established them with the burgeoning counter-culture.

After scoring numerous hits, the trio split in 1970 to try their luck at solo careers, with Stookey composing and scoring the hit “Wedding Song (There Is Love),” which went on to become a standard played at millions of weddings each year. The group reformed in 1978 and resumed regular touring together again until Mary Travers died in September of 2009.
The original version of today’s Song Of The Day appeared on the trio’s self-titled debut album from 1962 which spent seven weeks at the top of the Billboard charts. With a story line drawn right from the Bible, the tale of Samson & Delilah has been fodder for numerous artists throughout the years (and under different names including “Samson & Delilah” and “Tear That Building Down”) including the Reverend Gary Davis, Blind Willie Johnson, Ike & Tina Turner, and most notably by the Grateful Dead, who performed it as part of their regular repertoire for many years.

But, as much as I love the good ol’ Grateful Dead’s version, it doesn’t hold a candle to this 1967 live version from Japan. For years, this version was available on a Japanese-only vinyl release, until late last month when Rhino Records finally got around to releasing the whole concert on an expanded 2-CD set called “Live In Japan 1967”.

Edited: January 3rd, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 1/3/13

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “The Magdalene Laundries” by Joni Mitchell

“Turbulent Indigo” was Joni Mitchell’s last great album. That’s not to say that all that followed wasn’t any good, it’s just that “Indigo” was her last consistently good album from beginning to end.

Coming in on the heels of a trio of experimental records on the Geffen label – “Dog Eat Dog,” “Chalk Marks In a Rainstorm” and “Night Ride Home” – that featured electronic textures and somewhat dated layered production, “Turbulent Indigo” returned Mitchell to Reprise records with a more stripped down straight-ahead sound that peeled back the atmospheric electronics of the previous records in favor of more organic instrumentation akin to records like “Hejira.”

Thematically, the album was her state of the world circa 1994, and her world was not a pretty place to live in. Once again, Larry Klein played bass and produced, but the couple’s marriage came to an end during the sessions resulting in their divorce after twelve years of marriage.

To match the title, Mitchell delivered her most turbulent set of songs in a long time including “Sex Kills” which dealt with such social injustices as violence, global warming, sexuality in consumerism and AIDS with its repeating chorus, “And the gas leaks, and the oil spills…And sex sells everything, and sex kills.”

The song, “Not To Blame” speaks about domestic violence with its harrowing opening couplet “The story hit the news from coast to coast/They say you beat the girl you loved the most.” Although Mitchell has denied it, the song was supposedly about Jackson Browne and Darryl Hannah’s tumultuous relationship.

The album’s opening track “Sunny Sunday” dealt with the topic of suicide, and today’s Song Of the Day is the gut-wrenching “Magdalene Laundries” dealing with the suffering and abuse of “fallen” women who were sent to the Magdalen Asylums at the hands of the Roman Catholic Church for being promiscuous or pregnant out of wedlock.

“Yvette In English” was co-written by David Crosby and features the soprano sax of Wayne Shorter as does several other songs on the record. And Seal sings with Mitchell on the James Brown cover “How Do You Stop.” The record may seem like a depressing affair by my description, but this two-time Grammy winner was one of her most inspiring records in many years, and like I said before, her last consistently great record.

Edited: January 2nd, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 12/28/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Wings” by Tim Buckley

My sister is seven years my senior, and growing up she was my biggest musical influence introducing me to artists and albums I would have never otherwise discovered at such a young age. And so it was back in 1972 when she brought Tim Buckley’s album “Goodbye And Hello” home when I was eleven years old.

To be honest, it took me years to actually get into Tim Buckley because the combination of his ethereal brand of psychedelic folk music combined with my young age made the music somewhat incomprehensible to me, and it was enough of an obstacle to keep my interest in his albums distant at best. Meanwhile, she continued to follow Buckley’s career adding Buckley’s Lorca and Greetings From L.A. albums to her collection. At the time I felt that Lorca was unlistenable, but I did, in fact, learn to like the more rock oriented Greetings album.

Fast forward about eight years, and I finally really began to understand the cosmic wonder of Buckley’s music, and began to enjoy his unique way of singing. Over the years, I began to seek out as much of his recorded output as I could, and especially came to love his exceptional 1969 albums Happy Sad and Blue Afternoon. Further cementing my appreciation of Buckley was his wide-eyed and super-psychedelic performance of “Song To A Siren” from The Monkees TV show.

One of the few albums I never owned before today when I went shopping in a used record store (and had only heard parts of), was Buckley’s eponymously titled debut record from 1966. With a band that included Lee Underwood on guitar, Van Dyke Parks on piano, harpsichord and celeste, Billy Mundi (from Mothers Of Invention & Rhinoceros) on drums and James Fielder on bass, Buckley’s debut was a much more straightforward pop and rock affair than what was to follow, including great songs like “Understand Your Man,” “Aren’t You The Girl” and today’s Song Of The Day.

What gets me about “Wings”, as well as the rest of the record, is the whole late ‘60s audio mise en scene happening in the instrumentation and production. It all comes right down to the band’s secret weapon, Van Dyke Parks, who was an in-demand session musician (The Mothers Of Invention Freak Out – they also asked him to join the group, The Byrds’ Fifth Dimension) before working with Buckley. He would later go on to co-write and work on The Beach Boys’ legendary Smile album and Judy Collins’ Who Knows Where The Time Goes, whose instrumentation makes it a piece with other albums of the day from Fred Neil and Tim Hardin.

Rhino Records’ collector label, Handmade, released an expanded version of this album last year featuring the mono and stereo versions of the album, plus 23 previously released recordings made around the time of the sessions for the album.

Edited: December 28th, 2012

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

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Requiem For John Hurt” by John Fahey

I buy most of my music these days on line. I either purchase from Amazon where I can take advantage of free shipping, eBay where I can score clean copies of used records or directly from record labels like Polyvinyl and Third Man Records.

Earlier today I got a rush and went down to a small independent record store in Barrington, Illinois called Rainbow Records with my friend. I had been to Rainbow once before on Black Friday Record Store Day and thought the store was pretty cool, so I made a mental note to come back again sometime.

Rainbow Records is owned by a fellow record geek named John Thominet, who is the fifth owner of the store that began in the 1970s. While there, I picked up a few used records including Tim Buckley’s first album (which I’ve never owned on vinyl) and a 1970 live double album by The Butterfield Blues Band. I also purchased The Rolling Stones’ “Some Girls Live” (Houston Texas 1978) which is seeing its first release on vinyl, and a reissue of John Fahey’s 1968 album “Requia and other compositions for guitar solo.”
I had been interested in the Fahey album, because I love his solo guitar playing and it also includes an experimental four-part piece called “Requiem For Molly” which takes up most of side two and is not unlike The Beatles’ “Revolution No. 9” with solo guitar interspersed throughout the montage. Today’s Song Of The Day is the album’s lead-off track that pays tribute to Mississippi John Hurt, who had at the time recently passed away. John Fahey on this track: “He was in his quiet way, a very great man, and I deeply mourn our loss of him. So, I wrote this requiem for him, about him, but I play it the way Charley Patton would have played it.”

But I got a lot more than records during my visit to the store…I got a great atmosphere and the feeling of community (similar to that of our weekly vinyl gathering at a local bar), but in a record store setting with people of all ages. There were a couple of teenagers at the store who were buying records that I generally take for granted because I’ve had them for so long. Through their eyes, records like an original pressing of Steely Dan’s “Can’t Buy A Thrill” and The Clash’s “Sandinista” were real finds. I really dug the genuine enthusiasm coming from these young record collectors…they reminded me of…well, me…

With the store’s owner and my buddy John also chiming in on the conversation, we were having a great time together. And with prices that are comparable to what I normally spend on eBay for records, that feeling of community, my friends, is something you can’t possibly get on line.

Edited: December 27th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 12/19/12 – Top Albums Of 2012 by Eric Berman

1. Deerhoof: Breakup Song (Polyvinyl)
Emanating from San Francisco (Greg Saunier & John Dieterich) by way of Japan (Satomi Matsuzaki), Deerhoof have released 12 albums 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 ingredients of Yoko Ono’s recordings circa “Double Fantasy” that were championed by John Lennon have somewhat reached the mainstream with Deerhoof and their brand new release Breakup Song. Part electro-crunch, part sing-song melodies, part twee vocals and completely infectious in the dance rhythm department.

 

 

2. Divine Fits: A Thing Called Divine Fits (Merge)
When I first started playing Divine Fits’ debut album, I immediately gravitated to the songs that featured Britt Daniels on lead vocals. Daniels formed the band with Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade and Sam Brown of New Bomb Turks while on hiatus from his band Spoon. In fact, it was Britt Daniels and the Spoon connection that led me to this album in the first place. What I found was that this record is chock full of terrific glam-infused tunes written by each band member with a heaping helping of ‘80s synth-pop and punk rock thrown in for good measure.

 

 

 

3. Ian Hunter: When I’m President (Slimstyle)
Ian Hunter is making records today that stand ever so tall in a catalog that includes classics by Mott The Hoople and solo staples like his eponymously titled debut album from 1975 and 1979’s classic You’re Never Alone With A Schizophrenic. The 73-year old and his current Rant Band have been on a roll, releasing several killer albums in a row, culminating in this year’s When I’m President. Hunter is supplied with pliant backing by the Rant Band featuring James Mastro (of Bongos fame) on guitar, Steve Holley (Elton John, Paul McCartney) on drums, Paul Page on bass, Mark Bosch on guitar, Andy Burton (Tiny Lights) on piano, Mark Rivera on sax and Andy York (Jason & The Scorchers) on backing vocals. Together they make a MOTTly sound on this solid collection packed with full-on Mott rockers with the brand of Dylanesque wordplay we’ve come to expect from Ian Hunter.

 

 

4. Japandroids: Celebration Rock (Polyvinyl)
Two Guys! No, not the department store from the 1960s, and not The White Stripes or Black Keys either. I’m talkin’ about two Canadian guys, Brian King on guitar and vocals and David Prowse on drums, who brought a firestorm of fury onto these shores with their aptly titled second full-length record Celebration Rock. Having seen these guys in action, I’m here to tell you that once they leave the stage, they leave a cadre of spent bodies with bleeding ears in their wake. And that’s a good thing, if your thing is high-powered, adrenaline producing walls of sound (think Husker Du) with the kind of chant-along hooks that haven’t been heard since U2 last fired up stadiums around the world.

 

 

 

5. Alabama Shakes: Boys And Girls (ATO)
Not your garden variety genre exercise. The Alabama Shakes’ debut record is a fine old-school, STAX-inspired soul record with sturdy songs sung by newcomer powerhouse vocalist Brittany Howard. They’re not just emulating a sound here, it’s totally genuine.

 

 
 

6. Bettye LaVette: Thankful N’ Thoughtful (Anti)
After over 40 years of obscurity, Bettye LaVette has come back, and since 2005 she’s recorded four excellent albums for the Anti record label, mostly consisting of well-chosen covers by her and her producer Craig Street. Her latest, and greatest, features inventive takes of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” Bob Dylan’s “Everything Is Broken,” The Pogues’ Dirty Old Town” and Neil Young’s “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere.” It takes a big set of pipes to take on a song like Gnarls’ “Crazy,” but like the other tracks on this record, LaVette makes them all her own.

 

 

 

7. Jimmy Cliff: Rebirth (UME)
It would be easy to report that Rebirth is a return to form for Jimmy Cliff, but A. Cliff never left for me to proclaim he’s returned, and B. since you could always count on Cliff for the kind of sturdy Reggae album he released this year, he remains in very fine form. That said, the state of Reggae is alive and well in the hands of Jimmy Cliff who released one for the ages this year.

 

 

 

 
8. Jack White: Blunderbuss (Third Man)
He may have changed his color schemes from red and white to blue for his first solo record, but this album isn’t a White of a different color musically…and that’s a good thing! Mr. White looks at love from all sides now on Blunderbuss and has come up with a collection featuring biting lyrics and songs that get under your skin and stay there. With a tune stack that includes the White Stripe-ean bluster of “Sixteen Saltines,” the Led Zep folk of “Love Interruption” and the loosey-goosey rockabilly of “I’m Shakin’,” a new color scheme and not one, but two backing bands (one female one male), White has proven that even though he likes to lean on visual themes and shticks, his music speaks the loudest.

 

 

 

9. Frank Ocean: channel Orange (Def Jam)
I saw OFWGKTA perform at the Pitchfork Music Festival several years ago and utterly disliked their set. So when I began hearing the pre-release hype surrounding the album channel Orange by one of the members of Odd Future, I pretty much dismissed it in turn. That, my friends, was a big mistake. Upon finally hearing this record, my ears weren’t prepared for the pure soulful sounds (think Talking Book era Stevie Wonder or the “Superfly” sound of Curtis Mayfield) packed into superb tracks like “Sweet Life,” “Thinkin’ ‘Bout You,” “Super Rich Kids,” and “Crack Rock” which is both ethereal and gritty at the same time. Like too many of the hip hop records that come out today, the songs are surrounded by brief skits that, if anything, take away from the blissful experience of Ocean’s performances throughout this essential record. There’s a reason why this album is on everyone’s top albums of the year list this year (including mine), and the proof surely is in the grooves!

10. Animal Collective: Centipede Hz (Domino)
In a musical world where little is truly ever new, Animal Collective consistently tap into the past to create a sound that’s wholly their own. Like a wigged out Yes or a Beach Boys on acid, the sound of Animal Collective is like nothing else you’ve ever heard. Coming in on the heels of their breakthrough record, Merriweather Post Pavilion, Animal Collective took a left turn away from the bright lights of fame and has offered up a far denser platter that gives it up in spades upon repeated listening.

 

 

 

Runners Up
11. Dr. John: Locked Down (Nonesuch)
12. Ravi Coltrane: Spirit Fiction (Blue Note)
13. dBs: Falling Off The Sky (Bar None)
14. G.O.O.D. Music: Cruel Summer (Kanye West) (Island/Def Jam)
15. Branford Marsalis: 4 MF’s Playin’ Tunes (Marsalis Music)
16. Bob Dylan: Tempest (Columbia)
17. Aimee Mann: Charmer (Superego)
18. Neil Young & Crazy Horse: Americana (Reprise)
19. Leonard Cohen: Old Ideas (Columbia)
20. Grimes: Visions (4AD)

Best Of The Rest
21. Bela Fleck/Marcus Roberts Trio: Across The Imaginary Divide (Rounder)
22. Green Day: Dos (Reprise)
23. Flaming Lips: Flaming Lips & Heady Fwends (Warner Bros.)
24. Redd Kross: Researching The Blues (Merge)
25. Dwight Yoakam: 3 Pears (Reprise)
26. Kelly Hogan: I Like To Keep Myself In Pain (Anti)
27. Rhianna: Unapologetic (Island/Def Jam)
28. M. Ward: A Wasteland Companion (Merge)
29. Various Artists: Chimes Of Freedom – The Songs Of Bob Dylan (Amnesty International)
30. Beach Boys: That’s Why God Made The Radio (Capitol)

Reissues
1. Merle Saunders/Jerry Garcia: Keystone Companions – Complete 1973 Fantasy Recordings (Fantasy)
2. Johnny Cash: The Complete Albums Collection (Columbia)
3. Billy Bragg & Wilco: Mermaid Avenue – The Complete Sessions (Nonesuch)
4. Velvet Underground: Scepter Acetate LP (UME)/Velvet Underground: Verve/MGM Albums (Sundazed)
5. Captain Beefheart: Bat Chain Puller (Zappa Family Trust)
6. Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros – Catalog Reissues (Hellcat)
7. Carole King: Legendary Demos (Hear Music)
8. The English Beat: Complete Beat (Shout Factory)
9. The Who: Live At Hull
10. Paul McCartney: RAM (Hear Music)

Edited: December 18th, 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 – 9/20/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Who Knows Where The Time Goes” by Judy Collins

This tune, one of Collins’ greatest recordings and the title track from her 1968 album, wasn’t written by or for Collins to record. The song was written by the late, great Sandy Denny who recorded a demo of it in 1967. Shortly thereafter, Denny joined forces with The Strawbs who had a go at the song on their “All Our Own Work” album which was recorded in 1967 but not officially released in the U.S. until 1973. Judy Collins heard Denny’s original demo in 1967 and recorded and released it as the B-side to her smash hit single “Both Sides Now.” She then made that recording the title track to her classic album “Who Knows Where The Time Goes” whose musicians included Stephen Stills (guitar), James Burton (guitar), Buddy Emmons (pedal steel), Van Dyke Parks (piano), Chris Ethridge (bass) and drummer/mother murderer Jim Gordon. Sandy Denny then took the song with her when she joined Fairport Convention where it was recorded for their 1969 album “Unhalfbricking” becoming the group’s signature tune. Others who have committed this song to wax include Nana Mouskouri, 10,000 Maniacs, Cat Power, Charlie Louvin, Susanna Hoffs & Matthew Sweet, Nina Simone and many others.

Edited: September 19th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 9/18/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Cecilia” by Simon and Garfunkel

This song, from Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” album, was written in the same house on Blue Jay Way in Los Angeles that George Harrison rented, and named a Beatles’ song after. The percussive track was formed by recordings of Paul and Art slapping their thighs while others thumped on a piano bench, dropped bundled drum sticks in an echo-laden room and strummed guitars with slackened strings. From this, producer Roy Halee created the musical bed for one of Simon and Garfunkel’s most joyous and catchy songs. The song was not a paean to an elusive love named Cecilia, but rather the Cecilia of this song was the patron saint of music in the Catholic tradition and the song was about the trials and travails of songwriting. Simon would revisit St. Cecelia again in his song “The Coast” from his 1990 “The Rhythm Of The Saints” album with the lyric “A family of musicians took shelter for the night in a little harbor church of St. Cecelia.”

Edited: September 17th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 9/10/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Pay Me My Money Down” by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band

Not the Seeger Sessions Band, who Bruce fronted for his recording and subsequent tour, but a more recent version backed by The E Street Band from the “Wrecking Ball” tour. One of the many highlights of last night’s show shined a bright light on The E Street Band’s expanded horn section featuring Clarence Clemons’ nephew (and new Springsteen foil) Jake Clemons. While this song was originally a Negro slave song, it was made famous by The Weavers, of whom Pete Seeger was a member. It was later popularized by The Kingston Trio. It is a perfect song for Springsteen to include in his show since it fits in to the message of his latest album, but gives fans a break from some of the heavy handed “Wrecking Ball” tracks on display. Here, the E Streeters introduce a little New Orleans flair to their version.

Edited: September 9th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 9/6/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Don’t Make Promises” by Tim Hardin

While Tim Hardin was a terrific singer possessing a distinctive vibrato-infused style, he was better known as the gifted songwriter who wrote the classics “If I Were A Carpenter” and “Reason To Believe.” While both songs were covered often by many artists, one of his most covered songs was this lesser known gem. “Don’t Make Promises” was the lead song on Hardin’s first record, “Tim Hardin 1,” and was covered by a myriad of artists including Joan Baez, Bobby Darin, The Kingston Trio, Helen Reddy, Gary Puckett & The Union Gap, Rick Nelson, Marianne Faithful, The Beau Brummels, Three Dog Night, Dave Alvin and Paul Weller. As a stage performer, Hardin was erratic at best as illustrated by his appearance at Woodstock where he and his performance were disheveled due to his drug addiction. It’s been reported that Hardin became addicted to heroin while serving in Viet Nam in the early 1960s, which set him up on inevitable road that led to his death from an overdose in 1980. During the latter part of his career, Hardin gave up on writing original songs and focused on covering old rock and roll tunes, today his modest canon or originals is ripe for rediscovery.

Edited: September 5th, 2012

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

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Summer’s Almost Over” by Loudon Wainwright III

Tonight we had a going away party for my daughter who will be embarking on her first year of college in another week. What I’ve been told is that the child who leaves for college never really comes back home. What comes back in their place is a more self-assured facsimile of what left, with an all-important year of independence under their belt. Not only am I conflicted with her going away on her own, but it also brings about the feeling of ennui I get at the end of summer in general. That feeling is perfectly captured in this song by Loundon Wainwright III from his 1976 album called “T Shirt.” I remember that when this album came out, our country was in the throes of Bicentennial fever captured by the lead-off track from the album called “Bicentennial.” By the time the Bicentennial buzz wore off, it was time to go back to school and it was this song that always put my emotions into perspective for me.

Edited: August 11th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/7/12 (written 8/6/12 – Charlie’s Birthday!)

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “The Bells” by Phil Ochs

Today happens to be my son Charlie’s 15th birthday and I am proud to say that one of his all-time favorite records is Phil Ochs’ first album “All The News That’s Fit To Sing” from 1964. Sure, he heard it from me first after watching the excellent Phil Ochs documentary “There But For Fortune” last year, but in this day of quick cut video games and non-stop Comedy Central, it amazes me that a kid his age would be such a fan of the seemingly prehistoric form of music known as folk, as well as a serious folkie like Ochs. What amazes me more is that he doesn’t really like Dylan that much because he says, “Dylan can’t sing.” This is one of his favorite Ochs songs, which my 18 year old daughter so astutely pointed out is a retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Bells.” Geez…my kids are so smart…smarter than me, in fact. Happy Birthday Charlie, this one’s for you!

Edited: August 6th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 6/26/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Trials, Troubles, Tribulations” by Geoff & Maria Muldaur

She’s the same Maria Muldaur of “Midnight At The Oasis” fame but most people don’t know much about her before she sent her camel to bed. Muldaur’s maiden name was Maria D’Amato and she got her start performing as a member of the Even Dozen Jug Band alongside future Lovin’ Spoonful member John Sebastian, David Grisman and Stefan Grossman. The Jug Band was part of the same Greenwich Village folk scene that spawned Fred Neil, Phil Ochs and Bob Dylan. D’Amato then went on to join the Jim Kweskin Jug Band where she met her future husband Geoff Muldaur. After Kweskin’s outfit split up, Geoff and Maria went on to release two marvelous down-home old-timey albums for Reprise records. This song comes from the first one called “Pottery Pie” released in 1968, a second called “Sweet Potatoes” followed in 1971. Maria Muldaur went solo after their marriage split up in 1972 releasing numerous albums and hitting it big with the aforementioned top-ten hit “Midnight At The Oasis” in 1973. In the late 70s, Maria sang backing vocals with The Jerry Garcia Band. She’s released over 30 albums over the years and continues to release folk and gospel albums to this day.

Edited: June 25th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 6/23/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Hey Hey My My (Into The Black)” by Devo w/Neil Young

Q: Where do the worlds of The Kingston Trio, Devo and Neil Young all collide? A: Why, on “Human Highway,” of course! “Human Highway” was a mostly dreadful film released by Bernard Shakey (aka Neil Young) in 1982. The film starred Neil Young, Dean Stockwell, Dennis Hopper, Russ Tamblyn and Devo and was filmed between 1978 and 1981. It was briefly shown in movie theaters upon its release and was never to be seen again until its home video release in 1995 on VHS. It is currently out of print. While the movie is quirky and mostly incoherent, it is also very funny and somewhat entertaining in places. Devo were cast as Nuclear Garbagepersons, but getting into the convoluted plot that deals with a nuclear power plant and the last day on earth would be as convoluted as watching the film again. Devo can be seen performing the Kingston Trio classic “Worried Man Blues” on the back of a truck and “Hey Hey My My (Into The Black)” with Mark Mothersbaugh in his “Booji Boy” guise and Neil Young on guitar. In fact, it was in this performance that Mothersbaugh first uttered the words “rust never sleeps” that gave Young the title to his next record.

Edited: June 22nd, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 6/18/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Scotch And Soda” by The Kingston Trio from the 1958 album “The Kingston Trio.”

 Before The Beatles…there was The Kingston Trio! The Trio of Dave Guard, Nick Reynolds and Bob Shane were the most recognized act of the initial folk boom of the late 1950s causing a sensation throughout college campuses. Their brand of exuberantly sung folk songs mingled with a healthy dose of good natured “aw-shucks” humor offered pure entertainment and insured them a place on the charts and on concert stages. Before the Trio ever recorded a note in the studio, they got a booking based on their performances in frat houses opening for Phyllis Diller at a San Francisco club called The Purple Onion. Sending 500 postcards out to everyone they knew inviting them to the week of gigs, they ended up with a sold out engagement causing a sensation for themselves. Their hits included “Tom Dooley,” “The M.T.A.,” “The Tijuana Jail,” “Where Have All The Flowers Gone,” ”A Worried Man,” and many others. This one comes from their 1958 debut album called “The Kingston Trio.” In 1961, Dave Guard left the group and was replaced by John Stewart a major talent in his own rite who went on to write classics like “Daydream Believer.” I have had the pleasure in my own career of anthologizing The Kingston Trio on CD for both Reader’s Digest and Time Life Music. Although touring members of The Trio still exist, the last version with original member Bob Shane stopped touring in 2004.

Edited: June 17th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 5/29/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Cops Of The World” by Phil Ochs

OK, so the cops did a pretty good job during the NATO Summit in Chicago last weekend. While crowd control was needed in a few instances, the police handled it by using their heads first and then their force. This song comes from an era when cops were considered pigs, and in some cities…in some circumstances, they still are. Phil Ochs had his fair share of run-ins with the police and was even arrested here in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic Convention. This song was recorded in 1966 on his album “Phil Ochs In Concert.” While most of the album was recorded at concerts in Boston and New York City in 1965, some of the tracks are studio recordings with the audience dubbed in.

Edited: May 28th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 5/9/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “America!” by Bill Callahan

He’s the artist sometimes known as “Smog” who has spent most of his career releasing some very quirky records. As Smog, Callahan has released 14 lo-fi albums since 1990 laced with very repetitive, simplistic and challenging music featuring strange instrumental combinations, lots of dissonance and sparse lyrics if any at all. He has also released four albums under his own name that are more conventional in instrumentation but still pretty quirky. While he’s not from Chicago, he is afforded a hometown welcome whenever he plays here due to the fact that he’s recorded exclusively for Chicago’s own Drag City records since the beginning of his career. This clip is from one of the cooler Chicago venues, the intimate Lincoln Hall and it was recorded last July. You can find the studio version of this song on his 2011 album called “Apocalypse” which was one of last year’s very best releases.

Edited: May 8th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 3/18/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “The Whistling Gypsy Rover” by The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem

Patrick “Paddy”, Tommy, Bobby and Liam were the Clancy Brothers and together with Tommy Makem they recorded dozens of records and were responsible for not only introducing America to traditional Irish Folk music, but helping to popularize Folk music all over college campuses throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s. They were a major influence on Bob Dylan who nicked the melody of The Clancy Brothers’ recording of the song “The Patriot Game” and appropriated it for his own song “With God On Our Side.” The Brothers’ big break came on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1961 when Pearl Bailey was a no show and the boys were given her spot giving them an unprecedented 16 minutes of air time in front of an audience of 80 million people. Although they had been recording for the Tradition Record label since the mid-50s, they were signed by John Hammond at Columbia Records shortly after this performance and it was the connections of their label mentor John Hammond that cemented their success. This performance was from a 1962 PBS special filmed in Chicago.

Edited: March 17th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 3/15/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Old L.A.” by New Multitudes

While Bruce Springsteen tries to turn himself into Woody Guthrie by writing socially conscious lyrics (that are nebulous at best) and adopting a faux Oklahoma accent, the spirit and songs of Woody are alive and well in the form of New Multitudes. Marrying new music to lyrics left behind by Woody Guthrie is not a new idea, and Woody certainly left behind some great unrecorded lyrics. It had been done before to great effect by Billy Bragg and Wilco on their two essential “Mermaid Avenue” records. Timed to celebrate Woody’s 100th birthday, comes “New Multitudes” featuring Jay Farrar (Son Volt, Uncle Tupelo), Will Johnson (Monsters Of Folk, Centro-Matic), Anders Parker (Gob Iron, Space Needle) and Yim Yames (My Morning Jacket). The album is sonically reminiscent of classic Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Fleet Foxes, and is certainly the best folk album released this year. It’s also a solid follow-up in the tradition of the “Mermaid Avenue” records and a deserving tribute to one of America’s greatest songwriters. The twelve track album is available in a deluxe version that adds on a second disc with eleven more songs.

Edited: March 15th, 2012

Song Of The Day – 2/20/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Going Home” by Leonard Cohen

Sometimes when bad things happen to people, other people benefit. Case in point is the story of Leonard Cohen. The Canadian musician/poet spent a good portion of his 77 years amassing a fortune off of such classic songs as “Hallelujah,” “Suzanne,” “Bird On A Wire,” “So Long Marianne,” “Sisters Of Mercy,” “Famous Blue Raincoat,” and countless others. Several years ago he found out that his manager embezzled his entire life savings away. This unfortunate event resulted in two critically hailed world tours over a two year period for Leonard and an album of brand new songs released several weeks ago called “Old Ideas.” Leonard’s droll sense of humor is on parade in the album’s kickoff song “Going Home,” in which God calls him “A lazy bastard in a suit.”

Edited: February 20th, 2012

Bonus Super Bowl Song Of The Day – 2/5/12

 

Bonus Song Of The Day – “The Patriot Game” by Liam Clancy

Liam was a member of the Irish folk group The Clancy Brothers whose recording of this song was one of their most popular. The song was later adapted by Bob Dylan for his song “With God On Our Side.” But today, the song is highlighted because the Super Bowl is a Patriot game…one a Patriot fan hopefully will not like the outcome of…unless God is on their side…

Edited: February 5th, 2012

Song Of The Day – 11/1/11

Song Of The Day – “Riding For The Feeling” by Bill Callahan

In 2005, Bill Callahan began to record under his real name after almost 20 years of recording under the moniker of “Smog.” Callahan creates epic-length ponderings with densely coded lyrics that seemingly talk about one thing but mean another. His latest record, “Apocalypse,” was recorded in Texas and released a few months ago on Chicago’s Drag City record label.

Edited: November 1st, 2011

Song Of The Day – 11/13/11

Song Of The Day – “Pretty Smart On My Part” by Phil Ochs

“Rehearsals For Retirement” was the first record Phil Ochs released after the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. Ochs was a Yippie (Youth International Party) member and was instrumental in the organization of the protest and the party. This song, and indeed the whole album, reflects the sense of alienation Phil Ochs took home with him from Chicago.

Edited: October 12th, 2011