News for November 2012
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Spill The Wine” by Eric Burdon & War
THIS IS NOT THE SONG OF THE DAY! I REPEAT, THIS IS NOT TODAY’S SONG OF THE DAY! I couldn’t find the ACTUAL Song Of The Day out there in YouTube land, so I figured I’d make do with this classic since the lead vocalist on this record is the very same vocalist that you would’ve heard singing on the actual song of the day. (And, this song really kicks ass!). The ACTUAL Song Of the Day was supposed to be “Out Of My Mind” by Eric Burdon & The Greenhornes. I wanted to begin the ACTUAL Song Of The Day by saying that while the world goes ga-ga over The Stones’ 50th Anniversary shows, and the two somewhat lame new tracks they’ve just released, another legendary British Invasion hero just released a limited edition four-song EP on Black Friday Record Store Day backed by The Greenhornes. For those who don’t already know, The Greenhornes are an Ohio band that have been around for over fifteen years. Two of the band’s members are Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler who left the group to form The Raconteurs with Brendon Benson and Jack White. By now you probably know that The Raconteurs recorded two superb studio albums, released a couple of live discs and toured the world a couple of times. Now that The Raconteurs are on hiatus, The Greenhornes reformed to record this four-song session with Eric Burdon on vocals with Raconteur, Brendon Benson, on hand to handle the production and mixing duties for the session. I would love to tell you that the Eric Burdon & The Greenhornes EP hits the ball out of the park in the sheer greatness quotient, but it doesn’t even come close. Don’t get me wrong, three of the four Eric Burdon-penned tracks on the EP are quite excellent (especially today’s ACTUAL Song Of The Day), but the fourth track on this EP is some kind of piss-take that should have never been released. What they were thinking by releasing it is really beyond me. That said, the other three songs show that Burdon is still a great vocalist, right up there with Mick Jagger…so roll over Mick, the original Animal is on the loose and back in action. And in the meantime, enjoy this killer clip of Eric Burdon & War performing their signature song live in Germany from the classic European TV show, “The Beat Club.”
Edited: November 30th, 2012
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “State Trooper” by Bruce Springsteen
The guttural howls that he lets out at the end of this psychobilly classic mixed with its pleading paranoid lyrics conjures the mood of pure dread…and with Bruce Springsteen’s sixth album, it was all about mood. Hot on the heels of “The River,” his biggest album yet, after several years on the road with The E Street Band touring to support it, Springsteen found himself back at home in Colts Neck, NJ with some restless free time on his hand and lots of bummer songs rattling around his brain. A change of work habits was in the air as well. Rather than writing songs in the studio with the band waiting around as he had done up to this point resulting in albums taking years to complete, Springsteen called upon his engineer friend Mike Batlin to set up a primitive home studio so he could create demos of his new set of songs to be presented to the band in the studio. Springsteen worked fast at home and over a period of few days at the end of 1981, he captured fourteen new songs on his very basic Tascam 4-Track cassette recorder including early versions of “Born In The USA,” “Pink Cadillac” and “Working On The Highway” (then titled “Child Bride”) that wouldn’t see the light of day for several more years. Springsteen proceeded to carry the cassette around with him for several weeks before making a copy and sending it to his manager, Jon Landau, who was blown away by not only the darkness and depth of the material, but the change of musical direction he heard. Upon reconvening in the studio with the E Streeters to work up full band versions of the songs, it became evident that the band couldn’t capture the dark, desolate feeling that these songs needed. So a remixed version of the “demo” cassette that Springsteen recorded at home literally became his next record. Once the bigwigs at Columbia Records got it in their head that they weren’t going to be releasing another blockbuster Springsteen record as the follow-up to “The River,” they devised a laid-back promotional campaign to suit the material. Springsteen fans were confused with the release of “Nebraska” in 1982, but the critics were rightfully blown away by its austere grandeur, hailing the record as one of his best…which it, indeed, still is.
Edited: November 29th, 2012
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Empty Lives” by Graham Parker
He was never a punk rocker and was already around too long to be part of the “New Wave,” but marketing is marketing and that’s how much of the world came to discover Graham Parker. By his 1979 breakthrough album, “Squeezing Out Sparks,” Parker had been recording with his trusted band The Rumour featuring Martin Belmont, Brinsley Schwarz, Andrew Bodnar, Bob Andrews and Steve Goulding for several years, and had classic albums like “Howlin’ Wind” (1976), “Heat Treatment” (1976) and “Stick To Me (1977) under his belt. But like fellow journeymen Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds and Elvis Costello, the music machine had to put them somewhere, so new wave, punk rockers they became. “Sparks” was Parker’s most consistent album and it benefitted by the promotion that accompanied a label change in America from Mercury to Clive Davis’ Arista imprint. By the recording of Parker’s second album for Arista, “The Up Escalator” from 1980, Bob Andrews was out of the band and members of the E Street Band (including Bruce Springsteen) participated in the recording sessions which were helmed by producer Jimmy Iovine. “Escalator” would also be the first album credited to just Graham Parker. The record was his highest charting album, but was not as well received as his previous release. Here’s a live version of the album’s signature track from the now-defunct TV show “Fridays.” Throughout the 1980s and to the present, numerous albums on numerous record labels including Elektra, RCA, Atlantic, Capitol, Razor & Tie and Chicago’s own Bloodshot Records (where he’s recorded his last several albums) have been met with declining sales, but no decline in quality of performance and songwriting. In fact, Parker’s releases over the last ten years have been his best yet.
Edited: November 28th, 2012
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Leon” by Madness
I love it when a favorite band releases an album that I had no idea was coming out. Such was the case last week when I found that Madness had a new disc called “Oui Oui Si Si Ja Ja Da Da.” This, of course poses some problems for Madness because If a long-time fan of the band like myself doesn’t know that a new record is on the horizon, something is terribly wrong with their promotion machine…especially since I bought the vinyl copy of their last album directly from their website. I can’t tell you how much I’ve loved this band over the years, and they’ve gotten better over time evolving from lovable Ska-Punk caricatures into even more lovable art pop Gods. If there was ever a band to inherit the Kinks crown, it is Madness with their music hall melodies and lyrics that focus on the nuances of life. Madness’ last album, the cinematic “Liberty Of Norton Folgate,” (released in 2009) was one of their best yet, easily making it into the top five of the British album charts. No such luck in America, where the band has gone largely forgotten since the dominance of their hit “Our House” in 1983. So now comes a new album, not as cohesive as the last one, but still chock full of keepers, especially this one featuring our beloved Suggs (Graham McPherson) on vocals. The cover of the new album, featuring crossed out alternate titles the band was considering for the record, was designed by Peter Blake who is best known for designing The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” It has already gone top-ten in England.
Edited: November 27th, 2012
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “A Caddy For Daddy” by Hank Mobley
The title to this track really announces the hipness to be found within its grooves. With Lee Morgan on trumpet, Curtis Fuller on trombone, McCoy Tyner on piano, Bob Cranshaw on bass and Billy Higgins on the drums, this soulful strut wears its sense of sublime grooviness on its sleeve. While Coltrane had the propensity to go far out into the ozone with no return in sight, and Rollins’ gymnastic approach led the faithful to places they’d never gone before, Hank Mobley found himself on the smooth and lyrical side of tenor saxophone avenue, especially on this selection from his 1966 Blue Note album of the same name. Mobley came up through the Blue Note roster via The Jazz Messengers where he sessioned with Art Blakey, Horace Silver, Kenny Dorham and Doug Watkins. Mobley struck out on his own during the late 1950s resulting in over 20 albums for Blue Note label, while recording sessions with the cream of his label mates including Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, Grant Green, Philly Joe Jones and many others. He even recorded with Miles Davis in 1961, replacing John Coltrane for Davis’ “Some Day My Prince Will Come” sessions and appearing on several of Davis’ live albums.
Edited: November 26th, 2012
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Sebbin Come Elebbin” by Jimmy Heap
Taking my daughter back to school today provided me with several hours of uninterrupted music listening in the car, part of which was spent with the first volume of “A Capitol Rockabilly Party.” The three-part compilation spanning over 90 tracks was put out in the late 1990s by a CD reissue company in the Netherlands called Disky, who extensively reissued lots of great rare sides from the storied vaults of Capitol Records. One of the tracks that stood out is today’s Song Of The Day, “Sebbin Come Elebbin” by Jimmy Heap. Heap was probably best known for writing two standards: Hank Thompson’s classic honky-tonk hit “The Wild Side Of Life,” which climbed to the top of the charts in 1952…and “Release Me,” which was a huge hit for both Engelbert Humperdinck (1967) and Esther Phillips (1962). But Heap had a prolific career for over three decades making records with his group The Melody Masters. Although Heap was generally better known for his smooth delivery a la “Release Me,” and his many Western Swing and Honky Tonk recordings, he occasionally liked to cross over to the “dark side” with some unhinged, greasy rockabilly, like this one from 1955.
Edited: November 25th, 2012
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Run Run Run” by Velvet Underground
This is the Scepter acetate version of “Run Run Run” by Velvet Underground. The story goes that the Velvets went into Scepter Studios on April 25, 1966 to cut tunes for their upcoming debut album. All of the songs on the acetate made it onto the final album, although some were totally different takes and the mixes were different than the final version. Cut to 2002, where record crate digger Warren Hill of Canada was looking at records at a flea market in the Chelsea section of New York City, when he came upon the only known copy of the record and purchased it for 75 cents. Several years later, he put it up on EBay where it sold for $25,500. The acetate has finally received its first official vinyl release as part of this year’s Black Friday Record Store Day. For those who don’t know what Record Store Day (RSD) is, it’s when the record companies put out limited pressings of collector’s vinyl titles and distribute them to participating Mom & Pop record stores throughout the world to entice record collector’s to shop. Geeks like me usually line up at said stores to buy whatever titles actually make it onto the shelves. It’s a crap shoot, because although record stores order them all, the fill rate is low because the titles are limited, so many stores only get one or two copies of a title, and many don’t get any at all. There are two RSD per year, and last April I waited outside a record store in Evanston, Illinois (Home of Northwestern University) for several hours. By the time the store opened, I was fifth in a line of about 150 people. Yesterday, I went to a much smaller store in a small Northern suburb of Illinois where I was again fifth (out of 10) in line 30 minutes before the store opened. I scored some nice RSD vinyl titles including a 2-record set by Grateful Dead recorded at Winterland in 1971, the aforementioned Velvet Underground Scepter Acetate release (low number 56 out of 5000 worldwide), a Mono pressing of Miles Davis’ “Sketches Of Spain,” an EP by Eric Burdon (of the Animals) and The Greenhornes (mostly members of Raconteurs), a Beach Boys 10” 78rpmi, a Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros 2LP live album, three Captain Beefheart 45rpm singles, a Zappa 45rpm single, a red-vinyl White Stripes 45rpm single and a 45rpm single of Bob Dylan’s “Duquesne Whistle.” A pretty good haul for this RSD!
Edited: November 25th, 2012
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Jump Into The Fire” by LCD Soundsystem
I finally got around to watching the LCD Soundsystem film “Shut Up And Play the Hits” which chronicles the last LCD show from April, 2011 before James Murphy and company decided to pull the plug on the band. While I loved LCD, I always thought they were somewhat derivative of their inspirations including Talking Heads, David Bowie, King Crimson and Kraftwerk. What always swayed the group my way was the idea that if you’re going to be derivative of something, you might as well choose the best, which is precisely what LCD did to great effect. I caught the group at the Pitchfork Music Festival several years ago, and I’m here to tell you that in concert they were right up there with their inspirations. In fact, being in the audience for LCD’s set at Pitchfork reminded me of seeing Talking Heads at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in NY, back in 1983 where everyone…and I mean everyone…was up on their feet for the whole show dancing. LCD seldom covered material by others, but here we have a rare example with a version of Nilsson’s great “Jump Into The Fire” from the B-side to the single “Daft Punk Is Playing In My House.” Although, I would have rather shared the live version of this song, as performed at the final Madison Square Garden show and seen in the film, I couldn’t find it on YouTube.
Edited: November 23rd, 2012
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Free Man In Paris” by Joni Mitchell
I watched the PBS “American Masters” documentary on David Geffen today for the second time. Geffen was the guy who signed one of my all-time favorite singer-songwriters, Laura Nyro, whom he championed and cut deals making sure that the likes of Three Dog Night, The Fifth Dimension and Blood Sweat and Tears recorded hit versions of her songs establishing her as a star in her own right. Geffen was also the guy responsible for cutting the deal that got Crosby, Stills and Nash out of each of their respective record deals, allowing them to record their first record together for Atlantic Records. When Geffen started his own Asylum record company in the early 1970s, he signed the likes of Joni Mitchell, Tom Waits, Jackson Browne and Eagles to the label. Geffen and his partner Elliot Roberts not only managed the aforementioned artists, but became friends with them as well. By 1973, Geffen tired of being the father figure to all of his artists and abruptly sold his label to Warner Bros. While this by no means meant he was finished with the music business or his roster of artists, it did put some much-needed distance between him and them. Right after the sale of the label, Geffen and Joni Mitchell vacationed together in Paris where Joni Mitchell wrote this song about David Geffen’s newly found freedom. In the documentary, Geffen explains that he felt exposed by the song, but heck, not many people have songs written about them by Joni Mitchell…especially a hit song. Geffen would come back from Paris to head up the newly merged Elektra/Asylum label. After that came Geffen Records (John & Yoko, Peter Gabriel, Elton John, Donna Summer, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell) and then the David Geffen Company (Nirvana, Sonic Youth) before he moved on to the business of movies (“Risky Business,” “Shrek”) and Broadway (“Dreamgirls,” “Little Shop Of Horrors” and “Cats”). If you are a music fan and haven’t seen this documentary yet, I urge you to catch it on demand if you can.
Edited: November 22nd, 2012
Thanksgiving Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “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” 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 today. 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, while the east coast has lots to be thankful for because they survived and are rebuilding, and the world collectively holds our breath in hopes that a Middle East peace agreement works out, in the Midwest 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 the album “Apollo 18.” 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.
And here’s an amazing live version of the song for your jollies:
Edited: November 21st, 2012
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Cupid de Locke” by Smashing Pumpkins
Beautiful grunge may seem like an oxymoron to some, but in the hands of Smashing Pumpkins on their masterwork “Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness,” beautiful grunge is a reality. Case in point is this gorgeous, gentle melody – one of several that pop up on an album that Billy Corgan says was inspired by The Beatles “White Album” in it’s scope at the onset of its recording. “Cupid de Locke” has always been my favorite song on the record due to its ethereal, otherworldly arrangement and, crucially its placement within the sequence of the CD (Note: The CD and vinyl versions of this album have different track sequences). “Mellon Collie” was filled to the brim with some of Corgan’s most tender and melodic songs including the hits “Tonight Tonight” and “1979,” plus the wonderful “In The Arms Of Sleep,” “Thru The Eyes Of Ruby” and today’s Song Of The Day, “Cupid de Locke.” There’s also a fair share of vitriol within, especially on the album’s centerpiece “Bullet With Butterfly Wing” with it’s furious chorus “Despite all my rage, I am still just a rat in a cage” and on “Zero” which Corgan announces that “Emptiness is loneliness, and loneliness is cleanliness and cleanliness is godliness, and god is empty just like me.” There’s also plenty of grunge-crunch on “Here Is No Why” and fire in the belly on “Tales Of A Scorched Earth.” In interviews after the record’s release, he likened the sprawling double album to Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” but the Pumpkins easily better that album with its musical scope and less pretentious theme of dawn to dusk and twilight to starlight. Corgan also saw this as the last major statement from this, the most significant lineup of the Pumpkins. Indeed, the follow-up album “Adore,” took grunge is beautiful to a whole new level with its subtle electro-sonics and sumptuous melodies. “Adore” would be the last great music to come out of Corgan and company for a long time. Corgan has been working on another Pumpkins major work which has been released in dribs and drabs over the years, and has opened a tea house in Highland Park, Illinois which is 20 minutes away from where I live, yet a million miles away in class and status.
Edited: November 20th, 2012
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Medley: Yell Help/Wednesday Night/Ugly” by Elton John
By the release of “Rock Of The Westies” in 1976, the bloom was beginning to fall off of the Elton John flower. While “Westies” was indeed a very good album that debuted at the pole position of the charts, its release signaled the beginning of a long decline in the quality of the music and the relevance of the star. Up to this point, Elton was a white-hot commodity that seemingly could do no wrong. The costumes were at their most outlandish and everything he recorded literally turned to gold and platinum. “Westies” includes a clutch of great Elton songs, including its sole hit, the number one single “Island Girl,” “Dan Dare,” “Hard Luck Story” and this track that features LaBelle on background vocals. Elton’s follow-up album, “Blue Moves,” was a double-length downer that didn’t live up to Elton’s larger-than-life persona, and although it did include the huge hit single “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word,” the double album failed to reach the top of the charts and only spawned the one hit single. Fear not for Elton, he weathered the dry patch that lasted almost ten years, and to be fair, did include a few hits, cleaned up his hard-partying act and recovered nicely by writing songs for Disney films, most notably “The Lion King.”
Edited: November 19th, 2012
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “On The Road To Freedom” by Alvin Lee and Mylon LeFevre
British born Alvin Lee got his start playing the same Hamburg, Germany club circuit as The Beatles where they both performed at the Star-Club in 1962. He found success after forming Ten Years After in 1968 and coming to the attention of rock impresario Bill Graham who brought him to American and booked him into the San Francisco club circuit. But it was the inclusion of his Woodstock performance of “I’m Coming Home” that was included in the film that really established him on this side of the pond. By 1972, Lee left Ten Years After and joined forces with Mylon LeFevre. American-born LeFevre is a leading light in the world of Gospel music, where he composed the song “Without Him” that Elvis Presley recorded on his classic “How Great Thou Art” album. He was also a member of the world-renowned Gospel group The Stamps from 1966 through 1968. Together they cut the album “On The Road To Freedom “ in 1973, with an assist from the elite of ‘60s rock including Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi and Rebop of Traffic, Ron Wood, Mick Fleetwood and “Hari Georgeson” (aka George Harrison) as he was credited on this record. It was a one-off record that should have led to others based on the quality of material and performance, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Edited: November 18th, 2012
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “I Got Rhythm” by Bud Freeman Trio
The other day I was pondering about the lack of Jazz clarinetists in today’s Jazz landscape which got me on a clarinet binge here at the homestead, which in turn led me to Bud Freeman. Chicago’s own Bud Freeman got his start on the clarinet before switching over to the tenor saxophone where he became one of the most important instrumentalists of the Big Band Era. Freeman’s early fame and his resultant nickname “The Eel” came via the recording of a tune called “The Eel” with Eddie Condon’s band that caused a sensation with its ever-winding soloing. By the time of the recording of this Gershwin favorite in 1938, Freeman had left the ranks of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and joined Benny Goodman’s band for a spell before forming his own Suma Cum Laude Orchestra in 1939. This recording is from a session that took place on January 17th, 1938 with Jess Stacy on piano and George Wettling on drums. What strikes me about this recording is the inventive drumming on Wettling’s part and the positively rollicking piano playing of Jess Stacy while Freeman lays out on the tenor sax. His reentry into the song propels it to a whole new level. I pulled this from a Commodore Records album I have featuring sixteen recordings from January through November 1938 by this group. The album was released in 1979 under the title “Three’s No Crowd,” and the performances therein are nothing short of stunning in their interplay and high level of musicianship. The album was produced the legendary Milt Gabler, the owner of the Commodore Record who produced everybody from The Andrews Sisters (“Rum And Coca-Cola”) and Billie Holiday (“Lover Man”) to Bill Haley & His Comets (“Rock Around The Clock”) and Brenda Lee (“I’m Sorry”).
Edited: November 17th, 2012
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Don’t Let’s Start” by They Might Be Giants
You can’t bottle creativity, but in the case of They Might Be Giants, you certainly can buy it! They were two wild and crazy nerd-boys when they burst onto the scene in the 1980s, we just didn’t realize how wild and crazy they really were. The two Johns: Flansburgh and Linnell have always looked at the world through different glasses than the rest of us, and it has manifested itself in some of the most creative ways to hear music. Case in point was “Dial-A-Song,” where you could call a phone number and hear a new original song on an answering machine…every day! The call was to a Brooklyn exchange, so they came up with the tag line “Free when you call from work” to publicize the service. This went on for many years. Dial-A-Song got them signed to their first record deal and today’s Song Of The Day comes from their debut album released in 1986. Once they conquered your telephone, it was only a matter of time before TMBG discovered the internet where they were amongst the first groups to use the medium to publicize and distribute their music. With songs like “Birdhouse In Your Soul,” “Dinner Bell,” “Why Does The Sun Shine (The Sun Is A Mass Of Incandescent Gas),” and “Older” in their repertoire, it was only a matter of time before they got into the children’s music game releasing the album “No!” in 2002. They’ve since released several more children’s record insuring that their original fan base would take their kids to see them some day. Indeed, I fulfilled my duty as a parent and took my own kids to see them in 2002 when they were eight and five years old respectively. On the road, they perform adult and kids shows at every tour stop and they also have a penchant for debuting newly written songs about each town they’re performing in each night. The two Johns are still very active today on stage and off where they regularly record and release enjoyable and inventive podcasts. If you’ve never heard their records or seen their shows, you really should before you grow up, or even worse, they do!
Edited: November 16th, 2012
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “St. James Infirmary” by Anat Cohen – Whatever happened to the prominence of the clarinet in Jazz? Sure, the clarinet is still the front-and-center instrument in Klezmer music, but over the years the clarinet’s prominence in Jazz has shrunken to the point of non-existence, only to be replaced by the soprano or alto saxophone. There was a time when the clarinet was THE featured Jazz instrument, making the likes of Johnny Dodds, Sidney Bechet, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Woody Herman and Pete Fountain stars, but those days have seemingly disappeared. Enter Israeli-born Anat Cohen…not only is she a female in the male-dominated world of Jazz instrumentation, but her featured instrument is a clarinet. When she arrived in the U.S. in 1996, Cohen was known more for playing the sax with the Brazilian Choro Ensemble and the Louis Armstrong Centennial Band. The last few years saw her begin to favor the clarinet over the sax, and her last few albums featured only her clarinet playing. Here we have a version of the standard “St. James Infirmary” recorded at the Village Vanguard in New York City from a 2009 show billed as “Benny Goodman…And Beyond.” The recordings of the show resulted in the 2010 album “Clarinetwork,” featuring Benny Green on piano, Peter Washington on bass and Lewis Nash on drums. She just recently released a new album called “Claroscuro.” More on that recording in the future…
Edited: November 15th, 2012
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “New World Rising/Ocean Breakup (Reprise)” by Electric Light Orchestra
By 1973 and the release of “On The Third Day,” ELO had literally rid themselves of all the Wood (Roy Wood, that is) from the lineup, and the band was firmly under the artistic direction of Jeff Lynne. The record was far more progressive in its arrangements, and the music acquired a melodic flair attributed to the group’s new leader. Lynne’s goal of seamlessly melding classical music motifs and instrumentation into a traditional rock format was accomplished with the record’s first side, which was a continuous suite featuring intricate string parts tying the tracks together. The album was by far, the group’s most consistent record, even though it didn’t soar to the commercial heights of their later albums. In America, the album was also known as the “belly button” album because of its Richard Avedon cover photo with the band showing off what they probably thought was an alluring part of their anatomy. In England, the album sported a cover designed by Hipgnosis (see video image) who were famous for designing album covers for Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, 10cc, Yes, Bad Company, T. Rex and Black Sabbath, to name but a few. Americans wouldn’t see the original album art until the record was re-mastered and re-released on CD in 2006.
Edited: November 14th, 2012
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “African Reggae” by Nina Hagen Band
Hagen grew up in German and came from an artistic family. Her stepfather was Wolf Biermann, a radical folk singer and songwriter who influenced her individuality as a performer. Whe formed her first band, Automobil, in the 1970s and they quickly became one of the country’s premier rock bands. After leaving Germany, she settled in England and fell in with fellow punk rockers The Slits and The Sex Pistols. Upon returning to Germany in the late ‘70s, she formed the Nina Hagen Band and released her first album which featured a cover of The Tubes’ “White Punks On Dope.” Always the provocateur, she created quite a stir when she appeared on a European talk show and simulated masturbation during her interview, forcing the talk show host to step down in the incident’s wake. Hagen’s first U.S. record was a 10” EP released in 1980 featuring tracks from her first two European albums, including a cover of Lene Lovich’s “Lucky Number,” the aforementioned Tubes cover, her own “Superboy” and this amazing reggae track.. She continues to record and release records mostly under the radar in this country, but her look and her sound proved profoundly influential during the early days of the Punk movement.
Edited: November 13th, 2012
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “We Got The Beat” by The Go-Go’s
When they burst onto the scene in 1980, a New Wave girl group was indeed a novelty. While their sound harked back to the first wave of girl groups from the 1960s, these ladies could also write their own material and play their instruments. The Go-Go’s rose from the same fertile LA punk scene as the group X, whom they shared rehearsal space with. Lead singer, Belinda Carlisle, had briefly been a member of The Germs before joining forces with Jane Wiedlin (guitar), Charlotte Caffey (guitar, keyboards), Gina Schock (drums) and Kathy Valentine (bass) to form what would become one of the most successful New Wave groups of the era. I caught the band in concert as an opening act for The Specials at the Pier in New York City in 1980, before the release of their fine debut album “Beauty And The Beat.” Right from the onset the group had charisma to burn and enough first-rate material to propel them straight to the top. Superstardom ensued with this hit and “Our Lips Are Sealed,” as did the legendary drug-fueled debauchery that took place on the road. Their second album “Vacation” was well received and spawned a few hits, but did not have the chart dominance of the debut. By the time of their third album, 1984’s “Talk Show” and its hit “Head Over Heels,” the group began to disintegrate in a fog of drug addiction and acrimony. Once the group broke up, Belinda Carlisle had the most success scoring several hits including the chart-topping “Heaven Is A Place On Earth.” Jane Wiedlin also scored a hit with “Rush Hour,” and appeared in several films while the rest of the band members released records that were largely met with indifference. The band would regroup several times over the years for lucrative reunion tours.
Edited: November 12th, 2012
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “One Of These Nights” by The Eagles
I don’t really like The Eagles. I always got the feeling that they really didn’t like each other, and through the years and many over-priced reunions later we’ve come to find that they really didn’t like each other much anyway. As for their sound, The Byrds and Burritos got there first and did it much better. That said, they are responsible for a clutch of classic rock staples, and they really sounded good amongst the backdrop of classic 70s FM rockers like Steve Miller Band’s “Fly Like An Eagle,” Electric Light Orchestra’s “Telephone Line,” Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon,” Paul McCartney & Wings’ “Listen To What The Man Said,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run,” Elton John’s “The Bitch Is Back,” Billy Joel’s “Movin’ Out” and Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.” Such was the state of FM rock when I was in middle school, when a new John Lennon release like “Rock And Roll” was big news, waving your lit Bic lighter in the air at the end of a concert wasn’t ironic, and practically everyone was issued their very own copy of “Frampton Comes Alive.”
Edited: November 11th, 2012
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Just A Song Before I Go” by Crosby, Stills & Nash
The release of 1977’s “CSN” album signaled a comeback for the trio during a time when like-minded artists like Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, Jackson Browne, James Taylor, America and many others of that ilk were seeing their biggest successes. The airwaves were chock full of mellow singer-songwriter rock, and the group’s now-matured hippie idealism put the trio right back on top. It didn’t hurt that they came up with a pretty strong collection of songs including Stills’ “Dark Star” and “See The Changes,” Crosby’s “Shadow Captain” and “In My Dreams,” and this gem by Nash, plus his classic “Cathedral.” Sadly, it would be the last time that Crosby, Stills & Nash would fashion a collection this solid.
Edited: November 11th, 2012
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Walk Like A Giant” by Neil Young & Crazy Horse
At the beginning of “Year Of The Horse,” the live Neil Young and Crazy Horses album from 1996, a fan yells “It all sounds the same!” to which Neil Young responds “It’s all one song.” No truer words have been uttered by the artist himself to describe his latest offering, the somewhat turgid “Psychedelic Pill.” Neil has been on a roll this year , releasing a live concert DVD, his biography “Waging Heavy Peace,” and two new records with his trusty band Crazy Horse. The release of “Americana,” which came out several months ago, found a fully rejuvenated Crazy Horse crunching through reimagined and reworked versions of American folk songs. While the idea of the record sounded bad on paper, it worked to great effect as many of Young’s concept albums do. Neil and the Horse knocked out “Psychedelic Pill” in the same sessions as “Americana,” yet the Horse of this record sounds tired and old. Case in point is the album’s opener “Drifting Back.” A 27-minute track should take you places, yet this one is dead on arrival with some of Young’s most ridiculous stream-of-consciousness lyrics. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, not everything that crosses your lips is golden, Neil. Some judicious editing is in order here. Now don’t get me wrong here, I love Neil Young and have followed every twist and turn his career has taken me though for 40 years. I admire his desire to please himself artistically first, which in turn has made him one of the most interesting musicians of all time. And there are a few good songs here including the gentle “For The Love Of Man” and “Ramada Inn,” an epic length rumination of long-term marriage. There is also one bona-fide classic amongst the ruin in the blistering “Walk Like A Giant,” which at times recalls “Hey, Hey My, My” and actually has some melody amongst its 16-minute heft. But the rest of this over long double disc is chock full of the been there, done that, really tired of this that Neil can do in his sleep…and it does sound like what we have here are the warm-ups and “let’s get reacquainted” jamming that bands do to get into shape before recording the real record, rather than the real record itself.
Edited: November 9th, 2012
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Rednecks” by Randy Newman
Here is what Randy Newman had to say about the lead song from his 1974 masterpiece “Good Old Boys”: “I wrote ‘Rednecks’ soon after I saw Lester Maddox (Georgia Governor from 1967-1971) on the Dick Cavett Show. They sat Maddox next to Jim Brown, a black man and one of the greatest football players of all time. It looked like in a fair fight Brown would whip Maddox pretty bad; Brown had about 40 pounds, half a foot, and 30 years on him. The audience hooted and howled, and Maddox was never given a chance to speak, let alone put on the gloves. It bothered me, so I wrote the song, and Northerners have recognized ever since that they are as guilty of prejudice as the people of the South. I’m sure glad I wrote it. I wrote “Marie, “Rollin’,” “Birmingham,” and “Mr. President (Have Pity On The Working Man)” for the same character.” “Good Old Boys” had its origin as a musical piece called “Johnny Cutler’s Birthday” that featured most of the source material for “Good Old Boys” and several other songs that didn’t make the final cut. Newman went into the studio in early February of 1973 to lay down one-take piano versions of each song and a draft of the story line for the intended “Cutler” album. The tape was never meant for release, and remained in the can until the deluxe “Good Old Boys” CD reissue from Rhino Records in 2002. Listening to the “Cutler” tape gives one a real appreciation of how Newman thinks, as well as a window into the creative process he uses in developing the rich character studies of his songs. If you’ve never heard the whole “Good Old Boys” album, you are missing out on a humorous, tongue-in-cheek American treasure.
Edited: November 8th, 2012
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Yes We Can-Can” by Allen Toussaint
He is one of New Orleans’ favorite sons, responsible for penning a jukebox full of classics that have spun gold for those who have recorded them. Songs like “Mother-In-Law” (Ernie K-Doe), “Working In The Coal Mine” (Lee Dorsey, Devo), “Fortune Teller” (Benny Spellman, Rolling Stones, The Who), “Southern Nights” (Glen Campbell), “Java” (Al Hirt), “Whipped Cream” (Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass), “Sneaking Sally Through The Alley” (Robert Palmer), “What Do You Want The Girl To Do” (Boz Scaggs) and this song recorded by The Pointer Sisters have poured out of his pen and up the charts for numerous artists over the years, and these are just the tip of his ice berg of hits. Toussaint has also contributed his arrangement and production talents to a stellar list of albums including Paul McCartney & Wings’ “Venus And Mars,” Labelle’s “Nightbirds,” The Band’s “Rock Of Ages,” “Cahoots” and “The Last Waltz” and Boz Scaggs’ “Silk Degrees.” Post Katrina, he recorded an essential album with Elvis Costello (“The River In Reverse”) and his latest endeavor is “The Bright Mississippi,” an exceptional traditional New Orleans jazz band album.
Edited: November 7th, 2012
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Streamline” by Artie Shaw
“Benny Goodman played clarinet, I played music.” Such was the animosity between the two main clarinet-playing band leaders during the height of the big band era. While both musicians were exemplary, Artie Shaw was far more inventive in his soloing, composition style, use of instrumentation and crucially, in the arena of arrangements. Shaw held a general disdain towards his audience and the notion of celebrity, putting his boundary-stretching artistic sensibility ahead of commercial sales. His experimentation with strings led to a melding of Jazz and Classical styles creating a wholly new and original listening experience. Here, Shaw’s clarinet solo soars atop a stunning string arrangement designed to keep this sleek 1936 recording moving along at a frantic, streamlined pace.
Edited: November 6th, 2012
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Elected” by Alice Cooper
Vote early and vote often! (Well, forget about the often part, I’m sure Florida will come up with some other way to try to steal this election.) Song Of The Day firmly endorses Barak Obama! No matter whom you are supporting, vote for Obama! Slipped again, no matter who you support, please go out and vote. It’s your civic duty and one of the key rights our forefathers fought for! I’m sure lots of people are posting this song today, so while you’re at it, vote for Alice too!
Edited: November 5th, 2012
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “When I’m President” by Ian Hunter & The Rant Band
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 stellar albums in a row, culminating in one of this year’s very best albums “When I’m President.” Perfectly timed to an election year, the British-born Hunter has learned a few things about American politics and the way things are to pull off a track as ballsy as this. Hats off to Hunter and company for seeing things as they should be and laying it on the line with a backbeat.
Edited: November 4th, 2012
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Hard Hard Year” by The Messengers
I’ve been listening to late ‘60s Garage Rock all day via an exceptional compilation of tracks originally released on the U.S.A. and Destination record labels out of Chicago. U.S.A. is known to most as the label that released The Buckingham’s classic chart-topping 1967 single “Kind Of A Drag.” Sundazed Records, a collector’s label that specializes in well-researched compilations and re-issues of classic albums on vinyl, released an essential 3-LP set featuring 40 recordings from the two labels’ vaults several years ago. The Messengers formed out of a dorm at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin by bass player and vocalist Greg Jeresek. The band signed with U.S.A. before moving on to Motown Records with little hit success. In their wake, they left a clutch of great 45s, especially this superb slice of Psychedelia. Spinning this collection is like going through a parallel universe late ‘60s hit parade that could have been…there are so many great tracks, that with better circumstances should have been bumping up against hits by The Rascals and The Monkees pouring out of transistor AM Radios during the late ‘60s.
Edited: November 3rd, 2012
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Mulberry” by Yoko Ono, Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore
Yoko Ono — You either love her, or you so totally loathe her that you can barely put your hate into words. As for me, I think she’s about as original and daring as they come…in the best way possible. Yoko, of course, was the Fluxus artist who married John Lennon and got a raw deal when she was wrongly credited with breaking up The Beatles. That said, Paul McCartney recently stated that Yoko had little to do with their demise. Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon were husband and wife for many years, and are founding members of art-rock-punk band Sonic Youth. As for the music…what would you expect from this, not unlikely, trio! Yoko has been releasing Dada records like this since the 1960s, while Sonic Youth have been there and done that as well throughout their storied punk career. Together, the three have released one of the most adventurous and challenging records this year called “YokoKimThurston,” chock full of installation music for the not-so-faint-of-heart. Not everyone’s cup of tea for sure, but what they’re doing is just the tonic for those of us who have been Biebered and Aguliera’d to distraction.
Edited: November 2nd, 2012
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Who Wants Ice Cream” by Ravi Coltrane
In 1965, while John Coltrane was giving birth to his masterpiece “A Love Supreme,” his wife Alice was giving birth to their son Ravi. Sure, it’s in the blood…and it can’t be easy being a Jazz saxophonist whose father was a legend, but throughout the years, Ravi Coltrane has steadily carved out his own space in the world of Jazz. And if you don’t already think he’s arrived, his latest album “Spirit Fiction” should seal the deal for anyone with adventurous ears. Coltrane sessioned during his formative years with the likes of his mentor, Steve Coleman, Branford Marsalis, McCoy Tyner, Kenny Barron, Carlos Santana, Pharoah Sanders, Herbie Hancock, Stanley Clarke and many others before forming his own solid support team of Ralph Alessi on trumpet, Geri Allen on piano, James Genus on bass and Eric Harland on drums. Together, this group has recorded several albums and have fashioned one of the best Jazz albums this year lacking pretension while highlighting dynamic chops to spare.
Edited: November 1st, 2012