News for October 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 11/1/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Unfinished Sweet” by Alice Cooper

So Halloween is in the rear-view mirror…and I guess the Christmas season will soon begin (like today). But in this post Halloween lull, we should all be concerned about something near and dear to my heart…dental hygiene. Those who know me well are aware that for the last four years I’ve been a consultant for a major dental supply company, and in that time I’ve picked up a few tips on making sure the chompers are kept in good working order. During this time of year, the tendency is to eat tons of candy and forgo the requisite brushing and flossing that should occur immediately after. This type of behavior will lead you to…THE CHAIR! Not the electric chair, but the dentist’s chair — much like the poor sod of this cautionary tale by Alice Cooper from the 1973 album “Billion Dollar Babies.” If the whirring of the dentist drill makes you queasy, than this track is definitely not going to be your cup of tea (especially since tea stains teeth)…but if you have a thing for the perverse, this track will put a billion dollar smile on your face.

Edited: October 31st, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 10/31/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Electricity (Drugs)” by Talking Heads

In deference to friends and family on the East Coast, I’ve postponed my Halloween posting this year in favor of some much needed “Electricity.” When it was released on their 1979 album “Fear Of Music,” the Talking Heads song “Electricity” was renamed “Drugs.” But since family and friends back east could probably use some electricity at this point, I’ve decided to revert back to the song’s original title. Now that I think of it, if you are indeed one of the millions without electricity, perhaps some drugs could help too…just sayin’. Anywho, if you are reading this perhaps you have already recovered power, and if this is the case, I would ask you to repost this essential Talking Heads song in order to spread some “Electricity,” and yes, some “Drugs” around for everyone else. That’s my last comment on Sandy…now back to Talking Heads. By 1979, Brian Eno’s influence was felt all over the Heads’ music, especially on more atmospheric songs like this one. Eno’s input was beginning to create a chasm within the band because they felt that he was monopolizing David Byrne’s attention. Whatever tension Eno’s presence created resulted in the band taking off in a far more interesting direction. This version of “Electricity” comes from the live album “The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads.”

Edited: October 30th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 10/30/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Five Feet High And Rising” by Johnny Cash

Here’s another one for family and friends on the East Coast who are enduring the big storm. While Sandy blows through your town, I hope you are hangin’ tight with enough food, water, booze and most importantly, electricity! While “Frankenstorm” is indeed a force of nature not to be messed with, so was Johnny Cash, and here’s a song that may cut a little too close to the bone for you all back east. This autobiographical account of a flood the Cash family endured on their Arkansas farm when Johnny was a child first appeared on the 1959 album “Songs Of The Soil.” With spare boom-chicka-boom accompaniment, a repetitive chorus and a modulation in key every time the flood waters of the song rise, Cash manages to capture the drama of a devastating event in song.

Edited: October 29th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 10/29/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Buckets Of Rain” by Bette Midler with Bob Dylan

Here’s one from those of us who are watching Sandy from afar…good luck to you all! This great duet/cover comes to you from Bette Midler’s 1976 album “Songs For The New Depression.” The session came about because Dylan had hoped Midler would join him on the Rolling Thunder Revue with an eye towards her being a part of his film “Renaldo And Clara” which was filmed on the tour. The duo’s original intention was to cut a new version of the Moogy Klingman (later a founding member of Todd Rundgren’s Utopia) song “Friends,” that Midler had recorded on her debut album several years earlier. When that didn’t work out, they worked up this rough and ready version of a song that was from Dylan’s then-current album “Blood On The Tracks.” While there’s no topping Dylan’s own version of the song, I’ve always thought this one had a lot of personality and it sounds like they were both having a hoot recording it. Dylan and Midler would find themselves together in the studio one more time in the 1980s during the USA For Africa sessions for “We Are The World.”

Edited: October 28th, 2012

Song Of the Day by Eric Berman – 10/28/12

Song Of the Day by Eric Berman – “Peace Like A River” by Paul Simon

Can you imagine signing up for a college course in songwriting, and showing up on the first day of class to find that your professor is none other than Paul Simon. Such was the reality for some lucky NYU students in 1971 including Maggie and Terre Roche of The Roches and Melissa Manchester. Teaching was just one of the endeavors Simon embarked upon after the demise of Simon & Garfunkel in 1970. He also began to do some travelling, both musical and physical, which led to his experimentation with Jamaican (“Mother And Child Reunion”) and Latin American sounds (“Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard” and “Duncan”). It all culminated in the release of his eponymous first post Simon & Garfunkel solo album in 1972. While the record included the two aforementioned chart hits, it also had its share of lesser known gems including “Run That Body Down,” “Everything Put Together Falls Apart,” “Paranoia Blues” and today’s Song Of The Day, “Peace Like A River” featuring Simon’s amazingly adept guitar work.

Edited: October 27th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 10/27/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Head Over Heels/Broken” by Tears For Fears

There never was a “sophomore slump” for the duo of Roland Orzabel and Curt Smith, the ‘80s synth-pop duo better known to the world as Tears For Fears. While their debut album “The Hurting” topped the charts in their native UK, it was their second album “Songs From The Big Chair” that did the trick around the rest of the world. The album’s title was a reference to the TV movie “Sybil” that told the story of a child with multiple personality disorder who sought solace in the big chair of her psychiatrist’s office. “Chair” was a multi-platinum success that spawned several hit singles including the two U.S. chart-toppers “Shout” and “Everybody Wants To Rule The World,” plus “Mother’s Talk” and this, the albums best and most melodic track. The duo stayed together for one more album, the Beatle-esque “The Seeds Of Love” (featuring the huge hit “Sowing The Seeds Of Love”) before calling it quits, although Orzabel continued to release albums under the Tears For Fears moniker well into the 1990s. The second version of Tears For Fears, featuring Alan Griffiths and Tim Palmer, released several albums that did well overseas, but tanked in the states. The duo reunited and released the much underrated “Everybody Loves A Happy Ending” album in 2005, and joined Spandau Ballet on the road for a tour in 2010. The production values of the mid-1980s (tinny electronic drum sounds, overpowering synth washes) have rendered much of the music somewhat dated, but the current Synth Pop revival led by groups like Divine Fits and STRFKR has happily led me to rediscover some of the music of the era, and enjoy it anew.

Edited: October 27th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 10/26/12

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

Here’s some “Pure Pop For Now People” which is the American name for Nick Lowe’s 1978 debut solo record titled “Jesus Of Cool” in England. The American and English editions of the record featured different covers with an array of images of Nick Lowe dressed in different types of garb, and both editions sport different track listings. When reissued in 2008, the record was rightly retitled “Jesus Of Cool” all over the world and combined all of the tracks from both editions in a new sequence. Lowe was marketed as a burgeoning new artist who was part of the late ‘70s Punk and New Wave music explosion, however he’d been recording records since the late 1960s with British pub rockers Brinsley Schwarz. “Jesus Of Cool” sports an array of styles including hard rockers (“Music For Money”), New Wave (“So It Goes”), pub rock (“Heart Of The City”), sugar-coated pop (“Marie Provost” – a song that deals with a starlet who died and was found partially eaten by her dog) and this Motown-flavored disco-fied gem that abruptly shifts direction in the middle, as if the song (as well as its protagonist) was also “Nutted By Reality.” After leaving the Schwarz in 1975, Lowe became the in-house producer for Jake Riviera’s newly-formed Stiff Record label, where he also began recording with Dave Edmunds’ Rockpile. In fact, if you look closely at the cover to “Jesus Of Cool,” one of the photos of Nick Lowe is actually Dave Edmunds dressed up as Nick Lowe. While with Stiff, Lowe produced Elvis Costello’s first five albums and The Damned’s debut album, and at the same time began recording records under his own name. Over the years Lowe has scored hits on his own like “Cruel To Be Kind,” and has written hits for others including “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace Love And Understanding” for Elvis Costello, “The Beast In Me” for Johnny Cash (who was his father-in-law for a time) and “I Knew The Bride (When She Used To Rock and Roll)” for Huey Lewis and the News. During the 1990s, he formed the super group Little Village with John Hiatt, Jim Keltner and Ry Cooder, who recorded one record and toured the world before disbanding. He has continued to release records throughout the years and today writes and records intimate pop records along the lines of Nat King Cole.

Edited: October 25th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 10/25/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Ride My Llama” by Neil Young

This “extraterrestrial folk song” from Neil Young & Crazy Horse’s 1978 tour and resultant 1979 “Rust Never Sleeps” album really hits my sweet spot. The song was recorded live at The Cow Palace in San Francisco, like most of the tracks from the “Rust” collection. It has a haunting chord progression with a prickly guitar arrangement that comes enveloped in cavernous room ambience, giving this tiny acoustic gem a huge feeling. Add to that, an unreal set of stream-of-consciousness lyrics – “I met a man from Mars, he picked up all my guitars and played me traveling songs. And when we got on ship he brought out something for the trip and said, “It’s old but it’s good.” Like any other primitive would.” – and you end up with a wondrous listening experience in just a little over two minutes. I could never really put my finger on what makes this song so great, but it truly is…

Edited: October 24th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 10/24/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive ” by Johnny Mercer

With a resume that includes writing the lyrics to some of the greatest songs of the 20th century including “Goody Goody,” “I’m An Old Cowhand,” “Too Marvelous For Words,” “Hooray For Hollywood,” “You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby,” “Jeepers Creepers,” “And The Angels Sing,” “Sweet Georgia Brown,” “G.I. Jive,” “Day In Day Out,” “I Thought About You,” “Fools Rush In,” “Blues In The Night,” “Tangerine,” “That Old Black Magic,” “Trav’lin Light,” “Skylark,” “One For My Baby (And One More For The Road),” “Dream,” “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe,” “Come Rain Or Come Shine,” “Any Place I Lay My Hat Is Home,” “Autumn Leaves,” “Satin Doll,” “In The Cool Cool Cool Of The Evening,” “Something’s Gotta Give,” “The Glow Worm,” “Moon River,” “Days Of Wine And Roses,” “Charade,” “I Wanna Be Around,” “The Summer Wind,” “Drinking Again,” and hundreds more, the fact that he also founded Capitol Records in 1942 – and it still exists today – kind of takes a back seat to his accomplishments. Southern-born and well to do, Johnny Mercer relocated from Georgia to New York City in the 1930s where he got his first taste of success collaborating with Hoagy Carmichael and singing with Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra. But it wasn’t until he moved to Hollywood and began to write songs for RKO films starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and the numerous Bob Hope-Bing Crosby “Road” pictures that his career was assured. Here we have his original recording of “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive” from 1944 with backing vocals by The Pied Pipers (featuring Jo Stafford) and Paul Weston and his Orchestra. Numerous people have covered and had hits with this song including Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters, Kay Kyser, Artie Shaw, Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, NRBQ, and most recently Paul McCartney on his latest record “Kisses On The Bottom.” This past April, Stephen Colbert sang this song on his TV show duetting with none other than Julie Andrews.

Edited: October 23rd, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 10/23/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Get It Together” by James Brown

For the past ten years, Christmas to me has meant the organizing, staffing and managing of homeless shelters throughout the Northern Lake County area of Illinois. My main goal on this special day is to ensure that the shelter guests have a peaceful and memorable holiday centered on a meal with all the fixings that they don’t have to wait in line for. We seat them at decorated tables when they arrive at the shelter and wait on them as if they were in a restaurant, and after dinner we try to provide some kind of entertainment for their enjoyment. We also collect all kinds of donated clothes and supplies for them in the months before the holiday and hand them out. In the morning, we provide another hot meal before we send them on their way with a packed lunch. As a result, I’ve met many interesting people over the years who were down on their luck for any number of reasons and have gained an appreciation of the fragility of people’s situations, which in turn has made me grateful for what I have. So it was with much trepidation and a heavy heart on Christmas morning 2006, when I had to break the news to the mostly African American shelter guests that “Soul Brother Number One” had passed during the night. The bad news soon turned into celebration when several guests and I began talking about his trials and tribulations with the law, the impact his music had on their lives and, of course, his major contribution to music. After all, they didn’t call him “The Godfather Of Soul” for nothing. They say that James Brown was a strict bandleader and task master who wreaked havoc on his employees making their time in his ranks miserable. But the other side of the coin is that his strictness paid off in spades when it came to the groove. Case in point is this live track from 1968 highlighting the band’s precision under his direction. Brown’s late ‘60s band included Maceo Parker on saxophone, Alfred “Pee Wee” Ellis on keyboard, Lewis Hamlin on trumpet, Jimmy Nolen on guitar, Clyde Stubblefield on drums and Fred Wesley on trombone, and this lineup was responsible for some of his most indelible hits including “Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose,” “Licking Stick-Licking Stick,” “Funky Drummer,” “I Got The Feelin’,” “Mother Popcorn,” “Say It Loud (I’m Black And I’m Proud),” plus many others. “Hit it and quit!”

Edited: October 22nd, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 10/22/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Salt Peanuts” by Dizzy Gillespie and his Orchestra

Like the Rock and Roll that sprang from its loins, this new form of off-the-chart Jazz called Be Bop from the mid-1940s captured the imagination of the youth of America and positively terrified its parents. Not only was the music primarily an African American form, but hep cats known as “Bird” (Charlie Parker) and “Diz” (Dizzy Gillespie) were at its forefront. Gillespie is credited as the composer of this positively space-age tune, although the main riff can be traced back to the piano playing of Count Basie in 1941. This clip hails from the 1947 film “Jivin’ In Be-Bop,” a musical film without a plot, that featured Gillespie’s Big Band playing eight songs including “One Bass Hit,” “A Night In Tunisia,” “Orthinology,” “Oop Bop Sh’Bam,” “He Beeped When He Should Have Bopped,” “Shaw Nuff,” “Grosvenor Square” and this bona-fide classic. Members of the band include Ray Brown on bass, Milt Jackson on vibes and John Lewis on piano.

Edited: October 21st, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 10/21/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Jack’s Lament” by Danny Elfman

Halloween is in the air…and so is the greatest Halloween and Christmas film ever made! Tim Burton’s “Nightmare Before Christmas” has become a modern-day classic. The film had a ten-year gestation period and was released in October of 1993. The soundtrack was composed and mostly performed by Danny Elfman, who was a member of the new wave band Oingo Boingo from 1976-1995. The band had their own Halloween-themed success with their minor hits “Dead Man’s Party” and “Weird Science” (from the film of the same name). Elfman met Burton while working with Paul Reubens on “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure,” and has scored numerous Burton films including “Beetlejuice,” “Batman,” “Edward Scissorhands,” “Batman Returns,” “Mars Attacks,” “Planet Of The Apes,” “Charlie And The Chocolate Factory,” “Corpse Bride,” “Alice In Wonderland,” “Dark Shadows” and the recently released “Frankenweenie.” Elfman’s other credits include composing the “Simpson’s Theme,” and music for “Pee Wee’s Playhouse,” “Desperate Housewives” (theme), “Milk,” “Spider-Man,” “Men In Black,” “Mission: Impossible,” “Dick Tracy” and many others. Pay close attention to the orchestration on this track, that’s where its magic fully lies. Elfman’s vocals are wholly theatrical and full of emotion. This song would later be covered by All American Rejects when the superb soundtrack was re-released with a bonus disc of rock covers for the deluxe edition a few years ago.

Edited: October 20th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 10/20/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “I’m The Face” by The High Numbers

The Who formed out of the ashes of two bands. Pete Townshend and John Entwistle had a Dixieland Jazz band called The Confederates while Roger Daltry had a blues band called The Detours. One day, Daltry saw Entwistle walking down the street with his bass and asked him to join The Detours. Entwistle joined and brought Townshend along with him. By 1964, and the addition of Keith Moon on drums, the quartet began calling themselves The Who. But for a brief period in 1964, they changed their name to The High Numbers and released their first single aimed at the burgeoning British Mod scene featuring “Zoot Suit” as the A-side and “I’m The Face” on the B-side. “Face” was written by then-manager Peter Meaden and is a total rip of Slim Harpo’s “Got Love If You Want It.” Listening to it now, you can hear how the band’s sound that they termed “Maximum R’n’B” was already fully-formed and wholly their own. Shortly after the single bombed, the band changed their name back to The Who and began to write their own material at the insistence of their new manager, Kit Lambert, who wisely began molding them after The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. But with Keith Moon as their not-so-secret weapon, The Who stood tall amongst their peers, and far above all of the rest in the music scene of the early 1960s.

Edited: October 19th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 10/19/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Michael Praytor, Five Years Later” by Ben Folds Five

It’s been 13 years since Ben Folds, Darren Jessee and Robert Sledge recorded together as Ben Folds Five. Last year, the trio got back together to record three new songs for the Ben Fold’s retrospective three-disc set “The Best Imitation Of Myself.” Having found the experience pleasing, the trio regrouped this year to record “The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind,” their first record since 1999’s “The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner.” While Folds was signed to Epic Reocrds as a solo act, the band found themselves labeless. So last August they began an interactive pre-sale campaign to release the record themselves and ended up finding distribution through Epic Record’s parent company SONY Music. Over the years, Folds has released numerous solo records establishing himself as the musical stepchild of Billy Joel and Elton John. If Folds had been making music in the 1970s, he would be every bit as much of a superstar as they are today. Back in the mid-1990s, I saw the unlikely triple bill of Ben Folds Five followed by Jewel as the opening acts for Neil Young and Crazy Horse. I remember liking Folds a lot then…and I like him even more today.

Edited: October 18th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 10/18/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Solar Prestige A Gammon” by Elton John

This is the “Seinfeld” of songs, meaning that it is a song about…nothing! By the release of “Caribou” in 1974, Elton John’s career was so white-hot he could do no wrong. Hence, Elton unleashed a flimsy, tossed-off album chock full of half-baked songs (by a fully baked superstar), that topped the charts all over the world. “Solar” is the “Mairzy Doats” of the 1970s, and if you are too young to know what that is (and you probably are), you should check out that precedent-setting Merry Macs’ hit from 1944 on YouTube. The song, whose lyrics are purely gibberish, was inspired by none other than The Beatles and their “Abbey Road” track “Sun King.” Elton thought it would be fun to sing a song comprised of real words strung together to mean nothing, so Bernie Taupin wrote up a set of on-demand nonsense lyrics to fulfill his wishes. Sure, it’s a goof performed by the ultimate goofball, but if this musical turd doesn’t manage to put a smile on your face, you are far more jaded than I am.

Edited: October 17th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 10/17/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Born To Sing” by Van Morrison

I’m always fascinated by how the record companies approach the marketing of their legacy artists. To the record company, legacy artists are loss leaders, they have name value but don’t sell the number of records they used to. Many of these artists are either kept on their label’s roster for their marquee value, or they find themselves cutting distribution deals with independent labels like Concord Records to release their records. Paul McCartney and Paul Simon have recently gone down this route with their latest releases, and McCartney has gone as far as re-releasing his entire back catalog for the umpteenth time as well. I find it very telling which artists get the promotional bucks behind their releases versus those that don’t. For instance, the build up to Bob Dylan’s latest album “Tempest” went on for months, culminating in live streams a week before the release and a plethora of ways to purchase his new music, including one bundle that included a signature harmonica (for $119.99). With all the promotional muscle behind his release, Dylan only debuted on the charts at number three (roughly 110,000 in sales), a full two slots below the debut of his last record. Neil Young is deep into promotion for his second release this year, the forthcoming double-disc “Psychedelic Pill.” Neil recorded with Crazy Horse for the first time in seven years resulting in the “Americana” album earlier this year. Like that album, several tracks debuted with social media in the form of videos, well in advance of their release. While on tour, Neil has pretty much ignored the “Americana” album in favor of debuting many of the songs that will end up on “Pill.” Meanwhile, members of Crazy Horse hit the media trail giving interviews about the recording sessions of both albums. And just to ensure that your holiday gift giving will be Neil-filled, a biography “Waging Heavy Peace” and a concert film “Journeys” are also hitting the shelves this fall. The Rolling Stones seem hell-bent on milking every last dollar out of their 50th Anniversary with a book, a hits record and some concert dates. The band reconvened in the studio to record only two new songs. These songs will form the basis of their upcoming hits album called “Grrrr” that will be released in every which way to make you buy music you largely already own. There will be a single disc, double disc and multi-disc version released on CD and, of course, the obligatory over-priced multi-disc vinyl version. Since not much has happened on the charts for the band since their 40th anniversary hits album “Forty Licks,” you can pretty much count on shelling out your dough to buy songs you already own in order to get the two new songs. What will follow are a handful of live dates at two venues: one in Newark NJ and one across the pond at the O2 Arena in London. Top ticket price for the New Jersey show will cost some rich boomer $750.00. This brings us to Van Morrison, another legacy artist that stands about as tall as Dylan, Young, Simon, McCartney and The Stones. His awkwardly-titled new album “Born To Sing – No Plan B” has seemingly appeared with very little fanfare. The far more reclusive Morrison gave only one promotional interview behind the album to Mojo. While Van’s new release is largely a mixed bag, his singing is as committed as ever. It kind of makes me wonder why it is that Morrison’s new album hasn’t been met with the same fanfare and the five-star reviews of the rest of the lot?

Edited: October 16th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 10/16/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “True Thrush” by Dan Deacon

Somewhere between the robotic synchronicity of Philip Glass and the electro-crunch of LCD Soundsystem that threatens to dance yerself clean, lies the sound of Dan Deacon’s latest record “America.” Some categorize it as electronica…others contemporary classical…I just listen and marvel at one of the truly original artists making music today. Case in point is this track that seemingly takes its melody from the theme to “Magilla Gorilla” and swathes it in blissed out dance-otica. Such are the tangents that bounce off each other like positive and negative musical ions making this record so interesting to experience. Deacon studied composition at SUNY Purchase in upstate New York and then moved to Maryland where he formed a music collective of forward thinking musicians and composers. From there, he self-released several experimental records that didn’t gain any notoriety until his 2007 release, “Spiderman Of The Rings,” which got noticed by Pitchfork Media. Several records have followed, as well as performances where Deacon sets himself up right in the middle of the audience and allows audience members to gather around him and participate in his musical happenings. “America” came out this year on the Domino record label to critical acclaim.

Edited: October 15th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 10/15/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Crazy Love” by Van Morrison and Bob Dylan

Van Morrison is one of the few musicians who can breathe the same rarified air as Bob Dylan…and in my book, he is right up there on the Mt. Rushmore of rock. So here’s a clip of the Belfast bard and his royal Bobness performing one of Van’s classics from the “Moondance” album. The clip was filmed in Greece at the tail end of Dylan’s 1989 tour. On a beautiful, sunny day, the two climbed up the Hill of the Muses in Athens and performed a four-song set in front of BBC cameras including this song, “And It Stoned Me,” “One Irish Rover” and “Foreign Windows.” The footage was captured for the BBC documentary “Arena: One Irish Rover – Van Morrison in Performances.” Oh, to have been one of those cameramen…

Edited: October 14th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 10/14/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Uptown” by The Crystals

They had a string of hits in the early ‘60s written and produced by the best of what The Brill Building had to offer. There was “Uptown,” written by Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil, the somewhat ludicrous “He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss), (Carole King and Gerry Goffin), “He’s A Rebel” (Gene Pitney), “Da Doo Ron Ron” and “And Then He Kissed Me” (Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich), to name but a few. Many of the aforementioned classics were produced by Phil Spector utilizing the Wrecking Crew session musicians on his over the top “Wall Of Sound” production. The seminal records they cut sounded best when emanating out of a mono car radio (preferably of early ‘60s vintage). But who were The Crystals…and were they the same group on all of their records? The original Crystals consisted of school friends Barbara Alston, Mary Thomas, Dolores “Dee Dee” Kenniebrew, Myrna Girard, Patricia “Patsy” Wright and Dolores “Lala” Brooks (who replaced the pregnant Girard after their first few hits). This was the group that gave us the hit “Uptown.” Soon thereafter, Spector began using whoever was available when he was ready to record resulting in Darlene Love and The Blossoms billed as The Crystals on several of their hits. A slightly different version of the original group was soon back on their records until jealousy began to bear its ugly head between them and Spector’s other main protégé’s The Ronettes. Things got so bad, that The Crystals finally dissolved and Spector used The Ronettes (billed as The Crystals) on several tracks of the album “The Crystals Sing Their Greatest Hits.” Such was the music business of the early sixties! No matter who was actually in the studio, I think it’s safe to say that The Crystals made a clutch of world-class classics that have stood the test of time.

Edited: October 13th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 10/13/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Elephant Talk” by King Crimson

Well, here we are deep in the heart of Presidential debate season, and all we are getting is a bunch of “Elephant Talk.” No matter what your views are, one listen to this essential King Crimson track should put us all in agreement that it’s just “Talk…it’s only talk.” By 1981, King Crimson were coming off a seven year layoff following their 1974 swansong “Red,” with a brand new lineup featuring Robert Fripp on lead guitar, Adrian Belew, who had already toured with David Bowie and Frank Zappa and was currently working with Talking Heads on rhythm guitar, Tony Levin on Chapman Stick (bass) and Bill Bruford on drums. Not only was this a new lineup for the mighty Crimson, but with it came a new streamlined and somewhat danceable sound. Indeed, Fripp had already experimented with dance music in his instrumental group The League Of Gentlemen, and with the addition of Belew who was fresh off the road with Talking Heads, they cemented this new more approachable direction for the band. The resultant album was called “Discipline” and it is a stunner that stands mighty tall in their immense catalog. This particular lineup was one of the band’s most stable, lasting for a three years and the release of the albums “Beat” in 1982 and “Three Of A Perfect Pair” in 1984. During this period the band toured relentlessly around the world until Fripp decided to dissolve the band on the last night of the “Three Of A Perfect Pair” tour. “Talk…it’s only talk…”

Edited: October 12th, 2012

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

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “The Ruling Class” by Loose Fur

I love a good whistle! Not enough songs these days feature the old pucker up and blow that you can take with you anywhere you go. So, whenever I come across a song that features a good blow, you know I’m gonna have to bring it to your attention. Such is the case with this Jeff Tweedy-penned-and-sung classic from his side band Loose Fur (that’s a pun on Lucifer, in case you were wondering). Loose Fur consists of Glen Kotche on percussion, who at the time of their first record was not yet a member of Wilco, and longtime Wilco collaborator Jim O’Rourke. The group formed in 2000 when Tweedy was asked to participate at The Noise Pop Festival in Chicago. Tweedy chose O’Rourke as a collaborator because he liked the orchestral approach O’Rourke took on the arrangements of his 1997 “Bad Timing” record. Loose Fur’s then-unreleased debut record had a great influence on the recording of Wilco’s “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” album, to the point that Kotche was asked to replace Ken Coomer on drums in the band and O’Rourke was brought in to remix the record, much to the chagrin of longtime Wilco member Jay Bennett. As a result, “Foxtrot” was Jay Bennett’s last record with the band. The release of the first Loose Fur album was held back until 2003, in favor of releasing Wilco’s now-reworked “Foxtrot.” In 2005, Loose Fur reconvened and recorded their second record “Born Again In The U.S.A.” featuring songs with lyrics written by O’Rourke. This time, the resultant recordings sounded more in line with the experimental approach of Wilco’s “Ghost Is Born” album. Several Loose Fur songs have crept into the Wilco repertoire including this song and “Laminated Cat” from their first album.

Edited: October 11th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 10/11/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Bruca Manigua” by Ibrahim Ferrer

He became the bolero king of Cuba…forty years into his recording career. From his humble beginnings, orphaned at age twelve and forced to busk on the streets singing to survive, to becoming the Grammy-winning “Nat King Cole of Cuba,” Ferrer’s story is indeed a tale of rags to riches, but he wasn’t alone and shared his story with many other deserving musicians. Ferrer sang in Cuban bands during the early 1950s and even had a hit with his recording of “El Platanal de Bartolo.” But like many Cuban artists, Ferrer hit upon hard times because the venues he had made a living playing at were closed by the government during the Cuban Revolution. Ferrer ended up becoming a janitor with his music career far behind him, seemingly for good. Enter rock guitarist extraordinaire, Ry Cooder, who had a successful recording career as a session musician playing with everyone from The Rolling Stones to Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, and was also a successful recording artist in his own right. Cooder travelled to Cuba in the late 1990s to work on a project with British producer Nick Gold, mixing African high-life and Cuban son musicians together in the studio. When visas did not come through in time for the African musicians, Cooder and Gold changed their plans and located retired orquestra musicians like Ferrer, Compay Segundo (vocals), Rubén González (piano), Omara Portuondo (vocals), Eliades Ochoa (guitar), Manuel “Guajiro” Mirabal (trumpet) and many others, and formed The Buena Vista Social Club, named after one of the many clubs shut down by the Cuban government in the 1950s. The group recorded and then filmed two shows, one in Amsterdam and the other at Carnegie Hall in New York City, resulting in the hit film and album “Buena Vista Social Club.” All of a sudden the musicians, many in their late 70s and early 80s found themselves as in-demand celebrities and began touring the world and releasing hit records. What followed were several Buena Vista Social Club tours, as well as solo records by some of the standout musicians including Ibrahim Ferrer. This track comes from his first solo record, “Buena Vista Social Club Presents: Ibrahim Ferrer” released in 1999. Ferrer continued to tour with the Social Club until his death in 2005.

Edited: October 10th, 2012

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

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Long Yellow Road” by Toshiko Akiyoshi-Lew Tabackin Big Band

Contrary to popular belief, the Big Band Era didn’t end in the 1950s when the popularity for the form diminished in sales. Big bands have continued throughout time and still exist today. One of the premier big bands of the mid-to-late 1970s was the Toshiko Akiyoshi-Lew Tabackin Big Band. The group released a clutch of seminal albums for RCA records in the ‘70s featuring the piano playing of composer and arranger Toshiko Akiyoshi and the wild’n’wooly saxophone and flute artistry of her husband Lew Tobackin. Several years ago, Mosaic Select released an exceptional three-CD set featuring all of the group’s RCA records. While the release was a “limited edition” of 5000 (as all Mosaic Select releases are), you can still purchase this essential set online. In the 1980s, the group relocated from Los Angeles to New York where they continued to perform through 2003. This rare performance dates from the 1990s. All told, the group released a total of 23 records.

Edited: October 9th, 2012

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

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Long Haired Country Boy” by Charlie Daniels Band

Before he became a right-wing zealot, recording TV-sold religious records, Charlie Daniels was a superb session musician, songwriter and producer. Daniels wrote songs for Elvis Presley (“It Hurts Me”) in the early 1960s, and played on numerous late ‘60s sessions for producer Bob Johnston including on records by Johnny Cash, Leonard Cohen, Marshall Tucker Band and three Bob Dylan albums (“New Morning,” “Nashville Skyline” and “Self Portrait”). With his own Charlie Daniels Band, he scored numerous hits including “Uneasy Rider” (‘Ol Green Teeth, anyone?), “The South’s Gonna Do It Again,” the jingoistic “In America” and the number one smash “The Devil Went Down To Georgia,” for which he won a 1979 Grammy Award. This song is from “Fire On The Mountain,” his most consistent album recorded in 1974. First pressings of the album came with a free 7” EP featuring live recordings from the first Volunteer Jam concert. Daniels’ Volunteer Jam concerts began in 1974 highlighting him and many others in his Southern Rock cohort and still continue today.

Edited: October 8th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 10/8/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Your Call Is Very Important To Us, Please Hold” by Sparks

More Sparks for NOW people! Yesterday, I posted a Sparks track from their 1974 “Propaganda” record…today we have a track from their “Lil’ Beethoven” album released in 2002. Sparks’ concept on “Lil’ Beethoven” was to meld their songs with lush orchestral backing, creating a rather ornate listening experience. Ornate is it, but all the orchestras in the world can’t obscure the singular brand of humor that the Mael brothers bring to their craft. Other great songs from this record include “How Do I Get To Carnegie Hall?” (practice man practice), “I Married Myself” and “What Are All These Bands So Angry About.”

Edited: October 7th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 10/7/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Something For The Girl With Everything” by Sparks

Sparks emanated from Los Angeles and cut their first two Todd Rundgren-produced records in Woodstock, New York for the Bearsville record label. The brothers Mael (Russell the flamboyant lead singer and Ron, the keyboard player with the Hitler mustache) were one of Rundgren’s first production projects on the records “Sparks” (originally titled “Halfnelson” which was the band’s original name) from 1971 and “A Woofer In Tweeter’s Clothing” from 1972. Both records tanked on these shores, so the brothers broke up the band, moved to England, got on the glam bandwagon and formed a new band. In a musical world inhabited by David Bowie, Mott The Hoople, Lou Reed, The New York Dolls and Queen, they caused a sensation across the pond with songs like “This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us,” “Talent Is An Asset” and “At Home At Work At Play.” In 1974, they brought their act back to these shores where they became cult favorites. They would go on to work with dance music pioneer Giorgio Moroder on their 1979 “#1 In Heaven Record,” score a 1983 hit with “Cool Places” recorded with Jane Wiedlin from The Go-Go’s, and record countless records for countless labels. They are still together today and tour occasionally…but hardly ever in America. With over 20 albums under their belt, Sparks are the glam fad that just wouldn’t go away…

Edited: October 6th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 10/6/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Love (Can Make You Happy)” by Mercy

This slice of easy listening splendor hit the number two slot on the Billboard charts in 1969. At the time Mercy consisted of artists signed to the small Sundi Record label from Florida, and centered around member Jack Sigler, Jr. Once the song began to take off on the charts, Sundi rush-released an album with this song as the title track credited to “The Mercy” that featured none of the original members of the group. Such was the stuff of record companies in the 1960s. The record was quickly withdrawn due to litigation and Mercy was signed to Warner Bros. Records where another group centered around Jack Sigler, Jr. was formed. The Warner Bros. album managed a respectable #38 chart placing on the Billboard Album Charts. Another Sigler-led group still tours today and released an EP back in 2009. On a side note, I’ve been single-handedly trying to bring the expression “Mercy” back into popularity. I have been using it to show exasperation and surprise since the beginning of the summer, but it doesn’t seem to want to gain traction amongst my circle of influence…mercy…

Edited: October 5th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 10/5/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “The Descent” by Bob Mould

I was a huge fan of Husker Du and saw them many times during the 1980s. After the Du broke up, I saw Bob Mould acoustically on the “Workbook” tour and then again with his second power trio, Sugar. In my book, Mould could do (or is that “du”) no wrong…that is until I read his biography called “See A Little Light.” What an artistic ponce he turned out to be…second only to the other major artistic blowhard, Pete Townshend. I got real sick and tired of reading about the suffering artist and realized the guy was pretty much a bastard to those around him. When I read biographies of my favorite artists, I usually end up rediscovering their recordings in a big way, but after reading Mould’s book I wasn’t sure I’d ever want to listen to him again. So it was with much trepidation (and a recommendation from my buddy Glen) that I checked out Mould’s latest record “Silver Age.” A return to “Du-ville”, it’s not…but it is a good record that finds Mould reconnected with his fuzzed out rockin’ mojo. Now if I could just stop hearing it without the book tinting my rose colored glasses, I might really be able to get behind it.

Edited: October 4th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 10/4/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Dinosaur/The Red House/Wheezing/Eggs In A Briar Patch” by David Byrne

It was a creative peak for David Byrne. Talking Heads were coming off their hugely successful “Remain In Light” album and expanded band tour. Byrne had been collaborating more and more with Brian Eno, much to the chagrin of the rest of the band. By 1981, Byrne and Eno released their experimental “My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts” album that mixed samples of found recordings with funk backing tracks. Their landmark use of sampling predated its use in rap and hip hop music. It was within this atmosphere in 1981 that choreographer Twyla Tharpe commissioned David Byrne to compose a score for her dance piece called “The Catherine Wheel.” Byrne composed a 70-minute score that was released in its entirety on CD and cassette, while the vinyl version only featured about 40 minutes of music. For the recording of this project, Byrne gathered many of the musicians who worked with him in the expanded Talking Heads, including Heads member Jerry Harrison on keyboards, Adrian Belew on guitar, Brian Eno on numerous instruments, Yogi Horton on drums, Dolette McDonald on vocals, Steve Scales on percussion and Bernie Worrell, also on keyboards. With the exception of “Eggs In A Briar Patch,” today’s Song Of The Day focuses on some of the incredibly inventive instrumental pieces Byrne composed for the dance. “The Catherine Wheel” opened on September 22, 1981 at the Winter Garden Theater in New York City. Several of the tracks including “Big Blue Plymouth Eyes,” “My Big Hands (Fall Through The Cracks),” “Big Business” and “What A Day That Was” found their way into the Talking Heads’ repertoire and were performed extensively on the band’s 1982-1983 “Stop Making Sense” tour.

Edited: October 3rd, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 10/3/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “The Best Way To Travel” by The Moody Blues

Like most of America, I discovered The Moody Blues five years after they recorded their biggest hit, “Nights In White Satin,” which became a belated smash on these shores in 1972. At the time, there was a plethora of Moody Blues recordings that had been out for a few years to discover, and I started with the follow-up album to “Days Of Future Passed,” their 1968 release “In Search Of The Lost Chord.” When the group hit the studio in 1968, they made a conscientious effort to play as many instruments themselves and not rely on the orchestral backing that pervaded their last release. The band members taught themselves to play oboe, sitar and tablas in just a few hours while in the studio, before committing their new songs to plastic. The result was a psychedelicatessen of music designed to feed your head, including this Mike Pinder song that proclaims that “thinking is the best way to travel.” Sure, the record has dated some over the years…and sure, I’m sometimes a little embarrassed to cop to listening to the group’s brand of psychedelia, but in my estimation, they got it completely right with this song from the best and most consistent record they ever released.

Edited: October 2nd, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 10/2/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Troublemaker” by Green Day

Billie Joe Armstrong “ain’t no effin Justin Bieber!” True that…’cause Justin Bieber doesn’t throw F-bomb-laden tantrums from the stage when he doesn’t get his way. With that said, Justin Bieber hasn’t been releasing credible punk rock records like Billie Joe Armstrong and Green Day have for over 20 years either. Last week, Green Day unleashed their first of three new albums to be released in the next four months. “Uno” finds the band leaving bloated Who-inspired rock opera mode and entering into Who-inspired, tightly rocking “Dookie” singles rock. This album has more in common with their “Foxboro Hot Tub” alter ego release, featuring 12 tightly-wound ‘60s-inspired rockin’ singles, than with the rebellion of “American Idiot” or “21st Century Breakdown.” Any way you look at it, Green Day are back and better than ever…let’s just hope Armstrong gets his act together in time for their world tour early next year.

Edited: October 1st, 2012