News for July 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/1/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Our Man Higgins” by Lee Morgan

When an edited version of trumpeter Lee Morgan’s signature song, “The Sidewinder” was released as a single in 1964, it became the song that resuscitated Blue Note Records, literally saving the company from bankruptcy. As a result, Blue Note hounded Morgan to come up with another song that could do the trick again.

The soul-jazz title track from the album Cornbread was the song Morgan came up with, and while it captures the groovilicious feel of “The Sidewinder,” it failed to do the trick on the charts.

The album was recorded on September 18, 1965 and features the hard-bop playing of Lee Morgan on trumpet, Herbie Hancock on piano, Jackie McLean on alto sax, Hank Mobley on tenor sax, Larry Ridley on bass and Billy Higgins on drums. All of the album’s songs were composed by Morgan except “Ill Wind,” which is a standard by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler.

Before, “The Sidewinder,” Lee Morgan’s hard-bop trumpet playing figured prominently on sides by Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, trombonist extraordinaire Granchan Moncur, the king of the Hammond B3 Jimmy Smith, bebop legend Dizzy Gillespie and as a sideman to John Coltrane on his classic album “Blue Train.” During his stint at Blue Note, Morgan cut 24 albums as a leader and played on sessions by Hank Mobley, Jimmy Smith, Art Blakey, Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock, to name but a few.

While the title track to Cornbread was the one Blue Note had its hopes set on to shift copies of the record at retail, the record includes a wealth of great tunes including today’s blistering, hard-driving Song Of The Day, his signature samba ballad “Ceora,” the sweet and sensitive “Ill Wind” (which gets the Miles treatment with Morgan on muted modal horn and Hancock playing a wondrous piano solo), and the album’s hard-bop closer “Most Like Lee.”

Morgan lived most of his adult life as a heroin addict, which unfortunately led to his murder at the hands of Helen More, his common-law wife. On February 19, 1972, More walked into a New York City club called Slugs, and shot him point blank as he was getting ready to begin his set on stage. While his injuries weren’t at first fatal, the ambulance service was afraid to go to the neighborhood where the club was, and by the time they got there, Morgan had bled to death at the age of 33.

Edited: July 31st, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 7/31/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Stay Away From Downtown” by Redd Kross

Great power pop artists: Raspberries, Sweet, Cheap Trick, Big Star, The Cars, The Knack, Rockpile, Let’s Active, The dBs, Squeeze, Nick Lowe, The Smithereens, Marshall Crenshaw, Matthew Sweet, Guided By Voices, Fountains Of Wayne, The Minus Five, Apples In Stereo…REDD KROSS!

How is it that some of the catchiest power pop ever committed to vinyl has gone so unnoticed by so many for so long?

Such is the case of Redd Kross’ latest album Researching The Blues, which was released last year to little fanfare and even less sales. Great albums should get noticed, and while there were plenty of write-ups that accompanied Redd Kross’ first album in a decade, the record barely made a dent on the imagination of the American music-buying public.

Red Cross (their original name) formed out of the ashes of late ‘70s West Coast band The Tourists, and has had a long, storied career with numerous lineup changes and two constant members, brothers and pop culture savants, Jeff and Steve McDonald. The group’s debut album, Born Innocent, had a cover of a Charles Manson song, and odes to Linda Blair, Jim and Tammy Faye Baker and Tatum O’Neal.

Shortly after its release, the group was threatened by a lawsuit from The American Red Cross, so they changed their name to Redd Kross in tribute to actor/comedian Redd Foxx. Their name really had nothing to do with The American Red Cross in the first place; rather it was a reference to Linda Blair’s masturbation scene from the movie The Exorcist.

Their 1984 album Teen Babes From Monsanto was an all-covers affair, including versions of “Deuce” by Kiss, “Citadel” by The Rolling Stones and “Saviour Machine” by David Bowie, and their cover of “Sunshine Day” by The Brady Bunch was featured in the movie Desperate Teenage Lovedolls.

In 1987, the group released their masterwork, Neurotica which included odes to childhood cartoons and even a song about breakfast cereals (“Frosted Flake”). The album should have been a huge hit, however their RCA distributed record label, Big Time Records, was having financial difficulties that led to its demise, leaving the record shipwrecked without a significant audience.

Another covers collection called Alien Sleestaks From Brazil followed under the group moniker Tater Totz, including a version of The Beatles’ “I’ve Just Seen A Face” (with Danny Bonaduce on vocals), Yoko Ono’s “Don’t Worry Kyoko,” “The Rolling Stones’ “Sing This All Together,” and a medley of “Give Peace A Chance” by John Lennon fused with “We Will Rock You” by Queen.

They signed with Atlantic Records in 1990 and released the album Third Eye and toured to support it with Pearl Jam member Jack Irons on drums. Two more independent albums followed during the 1990s, Phaseshifter (1993) and Show World (1997), for which they toured incessantly to support resulting in marginal sales and shrugged shoulders.

The band went dormant after the Show World tour for nine years until 2006 when the Neurotica lineup of Jeff McDonald, Steven McDonald, Robert Hecker and Roy McDonald reunited for a series of one-off shows and festival dates.

While fans of the group rejoiced upon hearing of their reunion shows, no new music was offered up until last year’s stellar new album Researching The Blues. The album was actually recorded back in 2007 while the group was just beginning to play shows after their hiatus, but wasn’t released until February of 2012.

The tight and energetic collection oozes with hooky songs including today’s sticky-sweet Song Of The Day, the McCartney-esque “Meet Frankenstein,” “The New Temptations” that could have fit comfortably on Cheap Trick’s In Color, “Uglier,” a co-write by Steve McDonald and his wife Charlotte Caffey of The Go-Gos, and the Byrdsy “Winter Blues” and “Dracula’s Daughter.”

Some of the group’s poppiest material can be found on this sticky platter, yet once again, the American public has chosen to ignore this great group and album.

Edited: July 30th, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Edited: July 29th, 2013

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

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

Originally posted on August 28, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edited: July 28th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 7/28/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “My God Is The Sun” (Live On Letterman) by Queens Of The Stone Age

I wrote about Queens Of The Stone Age’s latest album …Like Clockwork several weeks ago proclaiming it as one of the best of the year, and I’ve been playing it incessantly since its release. There are so many great tracks on this album, that I’ve chosen another song to run with my original piece. I am very much looking forward to seeing QOTSA’s set next weekend at Lollapalooza…

Great modern classic “rawk” records:

Superunknown by Soundgarden, “The Black Album” by Metallica, Nevermind by Nirvana, Mellon Collie by Smashing Pumpkins, Blood Sugar Sex Magic by Red Hot Chili Peppers, Icky Thump by White Stripes, American Idiot by Green Day, All That You Can’t Leave Behind by U2, Kid A by Radiohead, A Ghost Is Born by Wilco, Funeral by Arcade Fire, Bothers by The Black Keys and even Rated R by Queens Of The Stone Age — Each group is closely defined by their lead singers, and each lead singer has a classic, unique sound of their own.

One of the best rock albums to come down the pike in recent memory is …Like Clockwork by Queens Of The Stone Age. The album is certainly one of the best albums to come out this year, a year that already includes exceptional records like Random Access Memory by Daft Punk, II by Unknown Mortal Orchestra, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic by Foxygen, The Terror by Flaming Lips, Mosquito by Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Wonderful Glorious by Eels, The Next Day by David Bowie and The 20/20 Experience by Justin Timberlake.

Up until now, QOTSA’s signature record was Rated R, an album they’ve spent the rest of their career up trying to top in vain. With Homme back at the helm, QOTSA have made their defining album, an album many never thought they had in them, and an album that not coincidentally, topped the U.S. charts in its first week of release.

The backstory includes a 13-day hospital stay for Josh Homme who was recovering from severe complications of routine knee surgery that saw him almost die. The event sent Homme into a four month tailspin of depression and recuperation.

The band, featuring Josh Homme on vocals and guitar, Troy Van Leeuwen on guitar, Dean Fertita on keyboards, Michael Shuman on bass and Joey Castillo on drums, picked up the pieces in 2011, reissued its debut album and toured behind the reissue playing it in its entirety on stage every night,  gaining Homme the inspiration to begin recording …Like Clockwork.

Dave Grohl, who had played drums on Songs For The Deaf returned to the fold to replace longtime drummer Joey Castillo, whom Homme fired during the sessions. Other returning members included bassists Nick Oliveri and Alain Johannes, and vocalist Mark Lanegan.

Several special guest vocalists also turn up on the album including Elton John who contributed vocals to “Fairweather Friends” (which was co-written by Mark Lanegan of Screaming Trees), Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails) lent his vocals on “Kalopsia” which is one of the group’s all-time great ballads featuring a lead vocal reminiscent of Adrian Belew in full-on “Matte Kudesai”/King Crimson mode, and Jake Shears of Scissor Sisters on “Keep Your Eyes Peeled.”

And the album is chock full of classic sounding rock goodies including “I Sat By The Ocean,” which features a “…like clockwork” precision backbeat courtesy of Joey Castillo, the quasi-psychedelic stoner sludge opener “Keep Your Eyes Peeled,” and the riff-happy “My God Is The Sun.”

Josh Homme is one of the greatest voices in rock music today. (Think David Bowie, Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell and Adrian Belew for starters.) And with their latest album, QOTSA have not only created what will easily be one of the best records of the year, but also one for the ages, right up there with the list of albums at the top of this article.

Edited: July 27th, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edited: July 27th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 7/26/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “She Knows Me Too Well” by The Beach Boys

The 1966 release of The Beach Boys’ masterwork Pet Sounds ushered in a new mature era for the band. Gone were the simple, innocent paeans to girls, fun, sun and cars, and in their place was a new mature sound complete with lyrics reflecting feelings of ennui and uncertainty for the future, combined with complex musical arrangements and instrumentation.

Under closer inspection, the seeds of Pet Sounds were sown on the two previous Beach Boys album, Beach Boys Today! and Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!) where glimmers of the new mature sound materialized, making those two platters every bit as potent and, dare I say it, as good as the coveted masterpiece that followed.

Beach Boys Today! Was still pretty much steeped in that good old Beach Boys sound, especially on songs like “Do You Wanna Dance,” “Dance Dance Dance,” “I’m So Young” and “Help Me, Rhonda.”  These songs reflected the feelings of teenage innocence that put the band on the map in the first place.

However, behind the scenes things were changing. Certainly, drug use by the band members played a huge part in the maturation of their sound, but they were also beginning to outgrow the dominance of Murray Wilson (their dad), who was a constant impediment to the progress the group was making in the studio.

This can be heard in session tapes for “Help Me, Rhonda” where Murray is constantly badgering and inserting his influence into the proceedings, much to the chagrin of the band and especially Brian. This was not a new occurrence for the group; they had to put up with Murray’s presence at their sessions since their inception. But during this session you can here the members of the group cracking wise behind Murray’s back about his suggestions.

Things finally come to a head when (probably) for the first time in his career, Brian has the confidence to tell his father off and sternly ask him to leave the studio. All of this is invisible when playing back the final product, but it is all captured on tape for posterity giving fans a taste of the underbelly of one of their most jovial performances.

Several of the songs on Beach Boys Today! (released in March of 1965) reflect a new mature sound, especially on the wondrous single “When I Grow Up (To Be A Man)” where Brian tackles his uncertainty about the future in the lyrics, while making it all seem easy with its tight intricate harmonies. You can also hear Wilson’s compositional sophistication in the arrangements of “In The Back Of My Mind” and “Don’t Hurt My Little Sister.”  In the plaintive “Please Let Me Wonder,” the aforementioned feelings of ennui that began to underpin Wilson’s entire being are perfectly encapsulated.

The first half of the follow up album, Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!)  (released in June of 1965), takes a giant step backwards with a clutch of songs that hearken back to the group’s more innocent sound including “Salt Lake City,” “The Girl From New York City,” “Amusement Parks U.S.A.” and “Then I Kissed Her.” And even though jubilance can be heard pouring forth from the record’s grooves, the sounds on the flip side of the platter tell a completely different story.

The second side of the record acts as a fairly accurate precursor of what was to come the following year on Pet Sounds. By this point, The Beach Boys’ touring schedule was pretty much non-stop, and Brian felt intense pressure to come up with more hit singles and albums to meet the demands that Capitol Records put upon him. As a result, Wilson began having panic attacks on the road and found it hard to deal with the intense pressure.

You can hear the pressures of being an in-demand Beach Boy wreaking havoc on him in the songs themselves. Sure, the group was still singing about relationships and girls, but the complex arrangements and instrumentation pointed the group in a new, stylistically bold direction that they would take once Brian Wilson pulled himself off of the road and camped himself inside the studio. You can hear it in the overall feeling of depression and dread inherent in one of their all-time greatest tracks, “Let Him Run Wild.”

Wilson’s arrangements were becoming more sophisticated as heard in the spectacular orchestral intro to “California Girls,” and in “The Little Girl I Once Knew,” which has several false stops that confused DJs who ultimately took a pass on playing it on the radio. And the album’s one goof track “I’m Bugged At My Old Man” wasn’t really a joke after all.

During the tour behind these albums, Wilson’s panic attacks became too much to bare, ultimately forcing him to leave the touring band for good. Glen Campbell was brought in as his replacement on the road and Brian Wilson set up shop full time in the studio to work. The results can be heard on Pet Sounds.

Edited: July 25th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 7/18/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “I’d Rather Be Blue Over You (Than Be Happy With Somebody Else)” by Fanny Brice

She was the original “Funny Girl.”

Most people know today’s Song Of The Day from Barbra Streisand’s recording as featured in the musical Funny Girl. In it, Streisand plays the part of Fanny Brice who was a famous recording artist, comedienne and star of radio, stage and screen. Her real name was Fania Borach and she was born in New York City in 1891.

Brice got her start in burlesque and was hired in 1910 by Florence Ziegfeld to perform in the Ziegfeld Follies where she performed comic routines lampooning popular stage dancers which included her trademark parody of a dying swan ballet. Brice appeared in numerous annual Follies and it was in these shows that she introduced her two signature songs “My Man” and “Second Hand Rose.”

She recorded many records for Victor and Columbia and today’s Song Of the Day was originally recorded for Victor in 1928. She starred on Broadway in Fioretta, Sweet And Low and Billy Rose’s Crazy Quilt, and her film credits include Everybody Sing with Judy Garland and Ray Bolger, The Great Ziegfeld and Ziegfeld Follies.

However, Brice’s biggest fame came from the popular radio show, The Baby Snooks Show, in which she performed the part of the title toddler for over 20 years. She began performing in the character of Baby Snooks at parties as early as 1910 where it was so popular, she decided to bring it to radio.

While she was one of the biggest stars of her era, Brice’s personal relationships were fraught with pain and uncertainty.  She was married three times. Her first husband was Frank White, a barber, whom she met in 1911. That marriage lasted only a few days.

Her second husband was Julius W. “Nicky” Arnstein, a conman who relentlessly sponged off of her. He was imprisoned for 14 months on a wiretapping charge before they got married, and six years into their marriage, Arnstein was charged as part of a gang who were involved in a five million dollar Wall Street bond theft. Rather than turn himself in, Arnstein went into hiding and then fought the charges for four years taking a huge toll on Brice’s finances. Ultimately, he served an additional three years in prison and upon his release; he completely disappeared leaving Brice and their children behind for good. It was this marriage that formed the basis for the plot of the musical Funny Girl.

Her third marriage was to songwriter/producer Billy Rose in whose Crazy Quilt Review she starred. That marriage also didn’t last.

With the advent of television, Brice tried to take her Baby Snooks character to the small screen, but soon found that the character didn’t translate to the visual medium. In 1950, she returned to radio as Baby Snooks in Tallulah Bankhead’s The Big Show along with Groucho Marx and Jane Powell. Six months later, she died from a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 59.

Her life was portrayed on stage and screen several times. The 1939 film Rose Of Washington Square starred Tyrone Powers and Alice Faye. Unhappy with how she was portrayed, she sued 20th Century Fox and won an invasion of privacy lawsuit, forcing them to pull several scenes and key musical numbers from the film.

Her story was taken to Broadway in the form of the musical Funny Girl in 1964. The musical was produced by Ray Stark, who was Brice’s son-in-law, and it sported a score written by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill. The musical also featured several songs originally recorded by Brice including today’s Song Of The Day. It was nominated for eight Tony Awards in 1964 and catapulted Streisand to stardom.

The 1968 film adaptation of Funny Girl was directed by William Wyler and starred Streisand reprising her role of Brice with Omar Sharif as Nicky Arnstein. The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards, and Streisand took the trophy home for best actress.

The 1975 sequel, Funny Lady also starred Streisand and Sharif as Brice and Arnstein, and James Caan played the part of Billy Rose. The music was written by John Kander and Fred Ebb (who also wrote the music to Cabaret). The film was nominated for five Academy Awards and six Golden Globes.

While none of the adaptations of her life were completely accurate, they did ensure that the legend of Fanny Brice would be remembered forever.

Edited: July 24th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 7/24/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Melt Away” by Brian Wilson

The fact that Brian Wilson’s eponymously titled album was ever completed was seen as nothing short of a miracle back in 1988 when it appeared in the record racks.

After more than a decade of inactivity in which Wilson spent most of his time in bed doing nothing, he came under the around the clock care of Dr. Eugene Landy who got him out of bed, put him on an exercise regimen and got him back into the studio.

Brian Wilson was paired with Beach Boy aficionado Andy Paley who produced the sessions, however like Murray Wilson (Brian’s dad) before him, Dr. Landy was a constant impediment to the album’s progress, bribing Wilson to do what he wanted (including changing lyrics to his liking) with milkshakes and hamburgers.

In fact, there are unreleased tapes known to collectors as “The Hamburger Tapes” in which Landy bribed Wilson to compose songs in exchange for hamburgers.  Controversially, Dr. Landy also took writing credits for himself and his girlfriend on many of the song from this album, which after a legal battle were later removed.

The album was met with unanimously positive reviews upon its release and it includes a strong set of songs including the now-classic “Love And Mercy,” “Baby Let Your Hair Grow Long,” “Night Time,” “Let It Shine” (co-written by Jeff Lynne), the eight minute multi-part suite “Rio Grande” and today’s Song Of The Day which was released as the album’s second single.

Although Landy’s ways were controversial and somewhat underhanded, he did manage to get Wilson’s creative mojo back to be share with the world.

Edited: July 23rd, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 7/23/13 – Pitchfork Music Festival – Recap Days 2 & 3

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Champagne Coast” by Blood Orange – Pitchfork Music Festival 2013 – Days 2 & 3 Recap

There’s really nothing truly new and original going on in new music today, and the adage “everything old is new again” was truly on full display throughout the three-day Pitchfork Music Festival. Several threads can be drawn through the music presented at Pitchfork this past weekend, and all of them point towards the past.

First and foremost, 70s Punk Rock is alive and well, specifically in sets by Savages, Wire and Parquet Courts. The all girl UK punk band Savages, whose debut album Silence Yourself is considered one of the best albums to come out this year, offered up a pummeling set of tightly wound angry girl punk rock. Here’s a band that doesn’t let up for one moment, especially their rigid lead singer Jehnny Beth, whose voice and delivery is reminiscent of Patti Smith. At one point she remarked that it was time to loosen up, which kind of cracked me up because she doesn’t seem like the type that would know where to begin to loosen up.

I wrote about Parquet Courts’ debut album, “Light Up Gold” several months ago and that exceptional album informed their Pitchfork set. With a sound that is eerily similar to The Jim Carroll Band and Gang Of Four, Parquet Courts’ songs of disenfranchisement and joblessness came fast and furious, one after another without pause. On stage the band is every bit as good as they are on their debut album.

Wire’s set was discussed in my previous post reviewing the first day of music, but suffice it to say that Wire were one of the few bands who weren’t really bringing ‘70s punk rock back for today’s audience, they were just doing what they’ve been doing since their inception in 1976.

Elements 70s Disco and ‘80s dance music, or what I like to call the Daft Punk effect, were present in sets by Solange, Blood Orange and Chairlift.

Solange Knowles is Beyoncé’s sister, and while Beyoncé comes off like a suave and sophisticated woman of the world, Solange’s persona is more “Jenny On The Block.” Wearing a tie-dyed pantsuit with a huge soul sister afro to match, Solange’s sound would have fit comfortably on a late-70s urban radio station and she provided a much-needed repast from much of the harder sounding bands that dominated the festival’s lineup.

Blood Orange is one of the many working monikers of UK artist Devonté “Dev” Hynes who also records under the moniker Lightspeed Champion. Hynes was originally a member of the band Test Icicles and has worked with artists as varied as Florence And The Machine (on their album Lungs), Van Dyke Parks and Solange, with whom he is currently collaborating. As Blood Orange, Hynes’ old-school soul sound melded ‘70s disco and ‘80s Prince into a well-received afternoon set that included special guest Caroline Polachek of Chairlift, and had all those in attendance dancing.  Their latest album is called Coastal Grooves.

Chairlift are a Brooklyn-based duo consisting of Caroline Polachek (vocals and synths) and Patrick Wimberly (drums, bass, keyboards).  Polachek has worked with the likes of Washed Out, Flosstradamus and Das Racist, and their 2008 song “Bruises” was used in an iPod Nano commercial. Their afternoon set dipped into ‘70s disco territory, but there was just as much early ‘80s MTV synth pop happening in their sound, especially when they incorporated Modern English’s hit “I Melt With You” into one of their own songs. Chairlift began their set with an operatic number that highlighted Polachek’s pliable voice, and although the opener fell flat, their danceable synth-heavy sound, which was also reminiscent of the more progressive leanings of Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush, won the audience over.

One of the finest bands to play this year’s festival was Toro Y Moi who is producer/songwriter Chazwick Bradley Bundick with a band. The group showed great musical chops as they performed a unique brand of ‘90s dance rock that was often reminiscent of LCD Soundsystem. The group is currently touring behind their latest album Anything In Return.

Women rockers ruled the roost throughout this year’s festival with several high-powered performances including Savages and Bjork, whose sets I’ve already addressed, as well as Waxahatchee, M.I.A. and The Breeders.

It didn’t seem like a big deal when I first heard that The Breeders were getting back together to tour behind the 20th anniversary of the release of their Last Splash album. I’ve always liked the album, but I never thought it made the kind of impact back in 1993 that would warrant an anniversary tour twenty years later. However, when the current lineup of sisters, Kim and Kelly Deal, plus Josephine Wiggs and Jim Macpherson took the stage, they were given a returning hero’s welcome by an audience hungry to hear the record come alive on stage. Kim and Kelly Deal’s baby-doll voices sounded exactly as they did years ago on the record, and their thoroughly enjoyable performance was accented by Kim Deal’s spaced-out comments.

While the world awaits the much-delayed release of M.I.A.’s fourth album Matangi, the Pitchfork audience was treated to a beat-heavy set that instantly propelled us into kinetic motion as she gamely worked the stage augmented by dancers, spinning lights and woofer-splitting sonic boom bass.

One of the bands spawned by The Breeders is Waxahatchee. The group is the brainchild of Katie Crutchfield who previously performed in a band with her twin sister Allison called the Ackleys. Now, Katie has gone her own way with Waxahatchee featuring Cook-Parrott on bass and Keith Spencer on drums. What we heard of their set leaned heavily on their second album Cerulean Salt with a lo-fi sound inspired by Velvet Underground, Guided By Voices, Fugazi and The Breeders.

With all the new cutting edge music provided by Pitchfork, there was still a fair amount of the bill saved for veteran acts including Wire, Swans, Yo La Tengo, Bjork, The Breeders and Belle and Sebastian. I totally did not get Swans brand of sludgy noise drone, and part of the reason was I was at the opposite stage listening to their set instead of watching them perform.

Yo La Tengo’s set was far more subdued than the many sets I’ve seen this band do in the past, probably because their recent album Fade is pretty laid back. But when Ira Kaplan and James McNew traded their acoustic guitars for electric and then launched into a cover of The Beach Boys’ classic “Little Honda,” their set reached its usual metallic heights, energizing an audience that was wilting in the summer heat with layers of feedback.

I only caught the first few songs of Belle And Sebastian’s set, but the word in the crowd was that they were really good. Also up for grabs was a smattering of hip hop courtesy of Lil B and Killer Mike. We checked both artists out during their sets, but didn’t stay long enough to have an opinion either way.

And then there is the media darlings known as Foxygen. This was the second time I’ve seen them, and as much as I love their latest record, lead singer Sam France’s shtick of being unpredictable has become the central focus of the act totally upstaging the music. It’s a shame, too, because they have great songs to offer, but with France jumping around in pajama pants that left nothing to the imagination (OK, the guy is well-hung), climbing on the stage scaffolding and jumping off, and talking to the audience like a kid starving to be the center of attention, the rest of the band and their music have sadly taken a back seat.

Well, that’s another Pitchfork Music Festival in the books. Well worth the price of admission, and a great opportunity to catch up with other serious music fans. And when all was said and done, and in spite of her set being cut short by 25 minutes, Bjork provided the most original sound and best set of the entire festival.

Edited: July 22nd, 2013

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Break Away” by The Next Exit

Here’s a slab of psycho-delicatessen from the original “Fab Four!”

What’s in a name?

The Next Exit recorded two psychedelic singles for Warner Bros. Records in 1968 that went nowhere on the charts, and for some, that would’ve been the end of the story. However, The Next Exit’s convoluted history had them recording numerous singles under a myriad of names for many years, and at the end of the day, they still found no commercial success.

Today’s Song Of The Day is a prime slab of psychedelia that in a perfect world would have made The Next Exit household names. The track was originally released as the B-side of the group’s second Warner Bros. single which was produced by Jay Siegal of The Tokens and was to be featured in a major motion picture.

The Next Exit began as a group called The Midknighters who formed in Kansas City in 1959 by Bob Theen and Alex Love. The band changed their name to The Fabulous Four Jacks and then shortened it to The Fabulous Four. By the time of their second record in 1961, they shortened their name again to The Fab Four.  Jeff Mann (guitar) and Bill Bryant (keyboards) joined the band in 1963 and the group stayed together as a unit for the next fifteen years recording singles for Coral, Decca, Warner Bros. and Capitol Records.

In 1967, the band was summoned to New York to record a single for Warner Bros. Records that was to be used in the film Butterflies Are Free. The single was “I’m The Only One” b/w “Break Away” which was produced by Jay Siegel of The Tokens who were at the time also signed to Warner Bros.

“Breakaway” didn’t make it into the film, but a single verse of “I’m The Only One” was performed acoustically by one of the film’s characters. The group was invited to return to New York to record more sides for a proposed album, but the band couldn’t make the trip.

Upon returning to Kansas City, they recorded one more record as The Fabulous Four, and then returned to the studio to record another psychedelic single, “Mustache In Your Face” b/w “The Electric Hand,” produced by Michael “Quint” Weakley (drummer for The Electric Prunes) under the band name Pretty.

By 1970, the band found themselves in the studio again recording the single “Linda Was A Lady” b/w “Red Tower Road” under the name Kansas City for Capitol Records subsidiary Trump Records. The single was produced by Tommy Cogbill and the legendary Chips Moman.

After the single went nowhere, the band continued gigging under The Fabulous Four name until 1974 when they decided to call it a day. They reunited one more time to play for a fundraiser in 2007, and the following year Bob Theen, Jeff Mann, Mike Myers, Mark Higbee and their original drummer Alex Love were inducted into the Kansas Music Hall Of Fame.

Today’s Song Of The Day can be found on the exceptional Andrew Sandoval compilation Hallucinations: Psychedelic Pop Nuggets From The Wea Vaults which was originally released in 2004 on the Rhino Handmade label.

Thanks to for help in preparing this piece.

Edited: July 21st, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 7/20/13 – Pitchfork Day 1 Recap

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Hidden Place” by Bjork – Pitchfork Music Festival 7/19/13 – Day One

With the impending threat of massive thunderstorms due to lower the temperature from 97 to the low 80s, my fourth Pitchfork Music Festival got off today with three great sets by Mac Demarco, the legendary industrial punk  band Wire and the main reason to go to Pitchfork this year, a rare set by Iceland’s favorite star Bjork.

Normally when I go to Pictchfork, I like to shop around for sounds from stage to stage in an effort to hear as many different bands as possible. But with Wire and Bjork playing on the same stage, we decided to go directly to that stage and remain there for most of the afternoon seeing three complete sets from a prime advantage up front and center while hearing the music from the opposite stage during down times.

Mac Demarco is a Canadian singer/songwriter who comes off like a good-time Ben Folds with a goofy smile and funky rhythm guitar sound. What sets him apart from many in music today is his very real sense for melody and song craft as evidenced by originals like “Cooking Up Something Good” and “The Stars Keep Calling My Name” from his latest album Mac Demarco 2.

Equally endearing are the hilarious piss take covers he and his eager band spontaneously launch into like BTO’s “Takin’ Care Of Business,” Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” Eric Clapton’s “Cocaine” and a hard-core run-through of The Beatles’ “Blackbird.” As a relative old-timer compared to the many 20-somethings around me, it’s a gas to see that indeed classic rock isn’t dead after all.

Probably the most veteran and influential band on this year’s entire Pitchfork bill is Wire. Wire originally formed in 1976 and has been recording on and off (give or take 5 or 10 years) since its inception. Their classic 1977 debut album Pink Flag is considered one of the most original albums to come out of the British punk scene according to

The current lineup includes original members Colin Newman, Graham Lewis and Robert Grey (aka Robert Gotobed) with touring member since 2010 Matt Simms. The group played songs from their latest album Change Becomes Us (released earlier this year). The album consists of reworked versions of unfinished songs circa 1979-1980, and the group shot through their 45 minute set like the young punks they once were.

After much anticipation, Bjork took the stage wearing a huge quilled helmet headdress with a metallic gold dress, sparkly black tights and silver reflecting disco ball shoes. Joining her on stage was a harem of vestal virgins/12-piece female choir dressed in colorful hoodie robes and dresses who stood huddled in the center of the stage gyrating to the music while adding celestial backing vocals.

You don’t have to tell me that Bjork is an acquired taste; I know that she’s not for everyone. But I acquired the taste when Bjork was a member of Sugarcubes in the mid-1980s and have followed her career ever since.  I enjoy her albums and have wanted to see her perform in person for many years.

Her performance didn’t disappoint. She’s a deliberate singer with charisma and a heck of a powerful voice which she uses to command the audience as she moves from one side of the stage to the other looking directly into the audience. Her set included several songs from her last album Biophelia including “Crystalline,” “Thunderbolt” and “Moon,” as well as today’s Song Of The Day “Hidden Place” from her 2001 masterpiece, Vespertine.

Unfortunately, 65 minutes into her set, the threat of thunderstorms became a real concern and the powers that approached Bjork between songs to tell her that she would have to leave the stage. When she made the announcement to a chorus of boos, she remarked that “they don’t do this in Iceland…”

It was a good call; we no sooner reached our car when the skies opened up with some of the most vivid lightning I’ve seen in a while, making me think that perhaps it was all in response to the artistry of Bjork.

Edited: July 20th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 7/19/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “The Facts Of Life” by Talking Heads

By 1988, Talking Heads were restless and running out of fuel. The band members were somewhat fed up with each other, and were not happy with the conventional pop direction that their previous two albums took them in.

For their final album called Naked, the group worked with producer Steve Lillywhite and decamped to France to record with the support of a host of East African, British, Irish and Caribbean musicians. Before leaving for Paris, the band worked up 40 basic improvisational rhythm tracks as a jumping off point in the studio. In Paris, the group would jam on one of the tracks each day and select the best take at the end of the day to use as the basis for a new song.

When the band returned to New York, David Byrne sang along with each track phonetically until lyrics and melodies developed, and then the rest of the band came in to overdub their parts onto the basic tracks. This improvisational method of recording was much more in line with records like Fear Of Music and Remain In Light; however, those albums have a very loose feel while Naked’s tune stack is tighter and far more structured.

Lyrically, the overall theme of Naked has to do with the survival of our planet and how the human race has placed a giant monkey on the back of the world that we can’t escape or control.  The album’s title and cover were loosely based on a Chinese proverb; “If there is no tiger in the mountains, the monkey will be king,” which is printed on the inside of the cover, and monkeys turn up numerous times in the lyrics to the songs.

The album opens with the apocalyptic James Brown funk of “Blind,” featuring the propulsive rhythm section of Chris & Tina Weymouth with Byrne ranting lyrics like “He’s hurt / He’s dying / Claimed he was a terrorist / Claimed to avert a catastrophe / Someone should’a told him / That the buck stops here / No one ever said / That he was involved with thieves / And they’re blind,” on top of it all at his most annoying best.

The hilarious first single, “(Nothing But) Flowers,” tackles the human tendency to get back to the garden. The song’s protagonist lives in a world where the modern conveniences of today like “Dairy Queens and 7-11s” are replaced with fields of grass and flowers restoring the world to its original splendor, only to find it too inconvenient without them. The song was accompanied by a terrific video and featured Kirsty MacColl on backup vocals and Johnny Marr of The Smiths on guitar. Marr’s guitar work can also be heard on the tracks “Ruby Dear,” Mommy Daddy You & I” and “Cool Water.”

Several songs on the album including “Mr. Jones,” “Ruby Dear” and “Big Daddy” have a distinct Latin influence pointing toward the direction that David Byrne would later take for his solo record Rei Momo the following year. The totally refreshing and buoyant “Totally Nude” has a fluid African guitar feel courtesy of Yves N’Djock that is in a similar vein to what Paul Simon had done several years earlier on his Graceland album, but far more danceable.

While the first half of the album features lighter, more danceable fare, the album’s second half turns very dark typified by tracks like “Mommy Daddy You And I,” “The Democratic Circus,” “Bill” and today’s Song Of The Day. “The Facts Of Life” begins with a dank, industrial sound courtesy of Jerry Harrison, and then shifts from a minor key to a major key halfway through to let some much needed light in. Monkeys once again turn up in the lyrics which talk about how we are nothing more than machines of love – “Monkey see and monkey do / Making babies, eating food  / Smelly things, pubic hair / Words of love in the air…The facts of life / The facts of life / A masterpiece / Biology…Machines of love / Machines of love.”

The huge list of guest musicians that turn up here almost sink the contributions of the rest of the group making this record sound more like a David Byrne solo album than a proper Talking Heads record, and indeed several months after its release, the group opted to call it a day.

Edited: July 18th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 7/18/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “The Horse” by Cliff Nobles & Co.

Cliff Nobles was a gospel singer from Alabama who relocated to Philadelphia to break into the recording industry. He was quickly signed to Atlantic records where he recorded three singles: “My Love Is Getting Stronger,” “Let’s Have A Good Time” and “Your Love Is All I Need” that failed to find any action on the charts.

As a result of his affiliation with Atlantic, he was signed to a local Philadelphia record label called “Phil-L.A. of Soul Records” by independent producer Jesse James and formed the group Cliff Nobles & Co. consisting of Benny Williams on bass, Bobby Tucker on guitar, and Tommy Soul on drums.

The group’s second single was “Love Is All Right” b/w “The Horse.”  The single did not feature the playing of Nobles regular band but, instead, featured a group of Philadelphia session musicians put together by Leon Huff called the James Boys who went on to become the Sigma Sound house band MFSB.

While “Love Is All Right” made no waves on the charts, DJs began play the instrumental track and today’s Song Of The Day on the flip. “The Horse” was merely the instrumental backing track to “Love Is All Right” and Cliff Nobles was nowhere to be found on the record.

The song began to climb the charts, peaking at #2 on both the Hot 100 and R&B charts in July of 1968, and went on to sell a million copies.  The label released the album The Horse and several instrumental follow-up singles credited to Cliff Nobles & Co. in which he also did not appear.

After his music career was over, Nobles worked in construction and later in the electricity generation industry. He died in Norristown, Pennsylvania in October 2008, at the age of 67, leaving behind this indelible and instantly recognizable instrumental classic.

Edited: July 17th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 7/17/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Good Shepherd” by Jefferson Airplane

The epiphany of an eight year old…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edited: July 16th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 7/16/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Soulful Strut” by Young-Holt Unlimited

It was a breath of funked out fresh air when “Soulful Strut” hit the charts in 1968, and today the song is one of the most refreshing instrumentals of all time.

Eldee Young (bass) and Isaac “Red” Holt (drums) were Chicago musicians who made up the rhythm section for The Ramsey Lewis Trio. After gigging with Lewis for ten years and scoring the monster hit “The In Crowd,” Young and Holt left to form their own jazz combo called The Young-Holt Trio with pianist Don Walker.

Together, the trio scored a top 20 R&B hit with “Wack Wack,” and recorded several records for the Brunswick record label. By 1968, Young and Holt replaced Walker with Ken Chaney and renamed the group Young-Holt Unlimited in an effort to sound more current and tap into the youth market with their recordings.

Today’s Song Of The Day got its start as the backing track of “Am I The Same Girl,” a minor hit by Barbara Acklin (#33 R&B/#79 Pop) which was written by Eugene Record (Acklin’s husband) and Sonny Sanders. Acklin was a Chicago soul singer who scored numerous hits on her own, but is perhaps best known as the co-writer (with Record) of the Chi-Lites’ smash hit “Have You Seen Her.”

It was Brunswick Records producer Carl Davis who got the idea to remove Acklin’s voice from “Am I The Same Girl” and to release it as an instrumental. Acklin’s vocal was replaced with a piano solo played by Floyd Morris and the instrumental was renamed “Soulful Strut.”  The instrumental version was released before Acklin’s “Am I The Same Girl” and it climbed all the way to the #3 position on both the R&B and pop charts.

The single was credited to Young-Holt Unlimited; however it is believed that the backing track was actually performed by the Brunswick Records studio band with neither Eldee Young nor Red Holt present on the track. At least three other songs from Young-Holt Unlimited’s Soulful Strut album were originally Acklin backing tracks including “Please Sunrise,” “Love Makes A Woman” and “Just Ain’t No Lovin’.”

As a vocal, “Am I The Same Girl” was covered by both Dusty Springfield and Swing Out Sister, who both scored minor charts hits with their versions (although Swing Out Sister’s version did top the adult contemporary charts). As an instrumental, “Soulful Strut” was later covered by George Benson in 1979, and again by Grover Washington Jr. in 1996. The song has also been sampled by 2 Live Crew and The Beastie Boys, and Joss Stone used the track as the basis for her 2005 track “Don’t Cha Wanna Ride.”

Edited: July 15th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 7/15/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Sail Away” by Bobby Darin

By 1972, Bobby Darin was long past his “Splish-Splash” rock ‘n’ roll beginnings and the supper club success that followed. He’d moved from his successful home at Atco records to the new confines of Capitol records where the supper club hits began to dry up.

The late ‘60s was a turbulent time in our country and, especially in Darin’s life. He was deeply dedicated to supporting Bobby Kennedy in his 1968 bid for the presidency, and was present at the Ambassador Hotel the night he was assassinated.

Shortly thereafter, he was told that the girl he thought was his sister was actually his mother, and that he’d been brought up by his grandparents and not his parents. If you find this scenario confusing, you can imagine how much it blew Darin’s mind, sending him into seclusion.

With his personal issues as a backdrop, Darin launched his own Direction Record label in 1969 whose goal was to release records with messages that reflected his political views and supported the direction he thought the country should be going in. During his live shows of the time he refused to take requests for “Mack The Knife” and his other hits, choosing to perform his own original folk songs. Needless to say, his Direction Records period turned Darin’s career in the wrong direction…

Darin’s health was also failing. As a child, he suffered from rheumatic fever which severely weakened his heart muscle, making him see his whole career as a race against time. He underwent surgery in 1971 in an effort to improve his condition.

During the early 1970s, Motown Records was also in transition, moving its headquarters away from Detroit to California where Berry Gordy was directing Diana Ross in the film Lady Sings The Blues. Darin signed with the label in 1970 with the hope of moving in a more soulful direction to revive his career, and was also soon back on TV again hosting The Bobby Darin Amusement Co. variety show on NBC.

Motown recorded Darin in concert for a planned and then shelved album release called Live At The Desert Inn and instead chose to release two non-LP Motown singles (including a cover of Bob Dylan’s “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” released as a B-side). In 1972, the label released his eponymously titled debut album for Motown featuring several original tunes, as well as some well-chosen covers including Cat Stevens’ “Hard Headed Woman,”  and Randy Newman’s “Sail Away” (today’s Song Of The Day), which were both coupled together for a single release that ultimately failed to chart.  A second single, “Average People” b/w “Something in Her Love” met a similar fate as did the album, which quickly faded into obscurity.

The album was the last Bobby Darin record to be released during his lifetime. In 1973, Darin contracted sepsis after a dental visit that weakened his system, sending him into the hospital where he underwent two surgeries to repair both artificial heart valves. He died during surgery on December 20th 1973 at the age of 37.

Edited: July 14th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 7/14/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” by Bob Dylan and his Band from the “Americanarama Festival” 2013

We live in the day and age of festivals. For music fans, festivals offer bang for the buck providing the opportunity to see numerous bands that you might not ever get to see otherwise at one time and in one place. For musicians, they open up the possibility of gaining a wider audience, particularly with festivals like the annual Pitchfork Music Festival that will be taking place here in Chicago next weekend.

With a roster consisting of mostly up and coming artists, Pitchfork provides a bonanza for inquiring fans who want to discover music they’ve never heard before.  However, problems arise when a festival offers a group of well established artists who can fill smaller venues by regularly touring and playing to their fan base. With that in mind, the Americanarama Festival rolled into the Chicago market last night with a made-for-aging-rock-fans bill consisting of Bob Dylan, Wilco, My Morning Jacket and Richard Thompson.

While it was indeed a dream lineup, problems arise when the artists are forced to truncate their normal set lists to fit the schedule, resulting in not enough time afforded to acts that deserve it. Case in point was Richard Thompson’s criminally short (30 minute) opening set. Thompson and his Electric Trio consisting of Taras Prodaniuk on bass and Michael Jerome on drums took the stage to a sparse audience, and made the best of his time by performing several tracks from his latest album Electric including “Sally B” and “Stuck On A Treadmill,” plus his classic “Tear Stained Letter.” And while his set was performed well and well received by those in attendance, an artist of Thompson’s stature surely deserves better than a perfunctory 30-minute slot with no encore.

Almost immediately after Thompson exited the stage, My Morning Jacket’s set began. Although I’ve been a fan of My Morning Jacket since their first record, they were the only band on the bill that I’d never seen before. ..and of the four bands tonight, they put on the most satisfying set. Jim James was in fine voice as he caterwauled around the stage, and their 75-minute set included fan favorites like “Circuital,” “The Dark” and “Masterplan.” But when they launched into “I’m Amazed” and followed it with “Victory Dance” their set really took off, making them the band to beat on this night.

Wilco took the stage next to the enthusiastic cheers of a hometown crowd.  And what a treat it was to see them generously share the stage with the opening acts by bringing Richard Thompson out for a guitar-laden extended version of the Fairport Convention classic “Sloth,” as well as the Wilco tracks “That’s Not The Issue” and “California Stars.” Several tunes later, My Morning Jacket joined them for a stomping version of Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl.”

As usual, Wilco’s set started out very subdued and on this night really didn’t’ begin to catch fire until several songs in with “The Art Of Almost” from their latest album, The Whole Love.  Nels Cline was at his usual manic greatness adding the element of Krautrock feedback to “Misunderstood” and playing an extended lyrical solo during a great version of “Impossible Germany” from Sky Blue Sky.

We also got Wilco classics like “Hummingbird” and “Misunderstood,” plus two more songs from their latest album, “Born Alone,” and “Dawned On Me,” that will probably become stalwarts of their set for years to come. While Wilco’s set was immensely enjoyable, by adding the cameos and pairing down their usual two and a half hour stage time to 75 minutes, the flow of their set seemed a little disjointed.

Dylan came out next and was enigmatic as ever as he barked the lyrics to a somewhat bewildered audience. As a result, the crowd began to disperse early his set which is a shame because he was far better than I thought he would be, and let’s face it, he’s Bob Fucking Dylan!

It’s been at least seven years since I’ve seen Dylan in concert and while it’s true his voice is pretty much shredded to pieces, his crack band featuring Tony Garnier (bass), Charlie Sexton (guitar), Stu Kimball (guitar), Donnie Herron (pedal steel) and George Receli (drums) more than compensate. Dylan was animated throughout and stuck to singing, playing the piano and harmonica. Unlike his late 1980s shows where his vocals were an unintelligible jumble, this night found him enunciating the lyrics clearly on such classics as “You Belong To Me,” “Tangled Up In Blue,” “Simple Twist Of Fate” and today’s Song Of The Day, “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” (The video shown here from an earlier date of the tour is dark, but provides an idea of how he’s singing these days).

Dylan dipped into his latest record several times with credible versions of “Duquesne Whistle,” “Early Roman Kings” and “Soon After Midnight,” and pretty much focused on late-period classics for the rest of his set including “Love Sick” from Time Out Of Mind, “Beyond Here Lies Nothin’” from Together Through Life, “Thunder On The Mountain” from Modern Times and “High Water (For Charley Patton)” from Love and Theft.

While Dylan has been playing the exact same set on every date of this tour, on this night he changed his encore from “Blowin’ In The Wind” to “Ballad Of A Thin Man,” sending the faithful who stayed to the end home on a high note.


My Morning Jacket Setlist:

1. The Dark

2. Circuital

3. Magheeta

4. Golden

5. Slow Slow Tune

6. Masterplan

7. I’m Amazed

8. Victory Dance

9. Wordless Chorus

10. Phone Went West

11. One Big Holliday


Wilco Setlist:

1. At the Window, Sad and Lonely

2. When the Roses Bloom Again

3. What Light

4. Misunderstood

5. Poor Places

6. Art of Almost

7. Sloth (with Richard Thompson)

8. California Stars (with Richard Thompson)

9. That’s Not the Issue (with Richard Thompson)

10. Hummingbird

11. Impossible Germany

12. Cinnamon Girl (with My Morning Jacket)

13. Born Alone

14. Dawned on Me


Bob Dylan Setlist:

1. Things Have Changed

2. Love Sick

3. High Water (For Charley Patton)

4. Soon after Midnight

5. Early Roman Kings

6. Tangled Up in Blue

7. Duquesne Whistle

8. She Belongs to Me

9. Beyond Here Lies Nothin’

10. A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall

11. Blind Willie McTell

12. Simple Twist of Fate

13. Thunder on the Mountain

14. All Along the Watchtower


15. Ballad Of A Thin Man

Edited: July 13th, 2013

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

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “I Sat By The Ocean” by Queens Of The Stone Age

Great modern classic “rawk” records:

Superunknown by Soundgarden, “The Black Album” by Metallica, Nevermind by Nirvana, Mellon Collie by Smashing Pumpkins, Blood Sugar Sex Magic by Red Hot Chili Peppers, Icky Thump by White Stripes, American Idiot by Green Day, All That You Can’t Leave Behind by U2, Kid A by Radiohead, A Ghost Is Born by Wilco, Funeral by Arcade Fire, Bothers by The Black Keys and even Rated R by Queens Of The Stone Age — Each group is closely defined by their lead singers, and each lead singer has a classic, unique sound of their own.

One of the best rock albums to come down the pike in recent memory is …Like Clockwork by Queens Of The Stone Age. The album is certainly one of the best albums to come out this year, a year that already includes exceptional records like Random Access Memory by Daft Punk, II by Unknown Mortal Orchestra, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic by Foxygen, The Terror by Flaming Lips, Mosquito by Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Wonderful Glorious by Eels, The Next Day by David Bowie and The 20/20 Experience by Justin Timberlake.

Up until now, QOTSA’s signature record was Rated R, an album they’ve spent the rest of their career up trying to top in vain. With Homme back at the helm, QOTSA have made their defining album, an album many never thought they had in them, and an album that not coincidentally, topped the U.S. charts in its first week of release.

The backstory includes a 13-day hospital stay for Josh Homme who was recovering from severe complications of routine knee surgery that saw him almost die. The event sent Homme into a four month tailspin of depression and recuperation.

The band, featuring Josh Homme on vocals and guitar, Troy Van Leeuwen on guitar, Dean Fertita on keyboards, Michael Shuman on bass and Joey Castillo on drums, picked up the pieces in 2011, reissued its debut album and toured behind the reissue playing it in its entirety on stage every night,  gaining Homme the inspiration to begin recording …Like Clockwork.

Dave Grohl, who had played drums on Songs For The Deaf returned to the fold to replace longtime drummer Joey Castillo, whom Homme fired during the sessions. Other returning members included bassists Nick Oliveri and Alain Johannes, and vocalist Mark Lanegan.

Several special guest vocalists also turn up on the album including Elton John who contributed vocals to “Fairweather Friends” (which was co-written by Mark Lanegan of Screaming Trees), Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails) lent his vocals on “Kalopsia” which is one of the group’s all-time great ballads featuring a lead vocal reminiscent of Adrian Belew in full-on “Matte Kudesai”/King Crimson mode, and Jake Shears of Scissor Sisters on “Keep Your Eyes Peeled.”

And the album is chock full of classic sounding rock goodies including today’s Song Of The Day, “I Sat By The Ocean,” which features a “…like clockwork” precision backbeat courtesy of Joey Castillo, the quasi-psychedelic stoner sludge opener “Keep Your Eyes Peeled,” and the riff ‘n’ ready rocker “The Vampyre Of Time And Memory.”

Josh Homme is one of the greatest voices in rock music today. (Think David Bowie, Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell and Adrian Belew for starters.) And with their latest album, QOTSA have not only created what will easily be one of the best records of the year, but also one for the ages, right up there with the list of albums at the top of this article.

Edited: July 13th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 7/12/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “In The Summertime” by Mungo Jerry

Today’s Song Of The Day topped the charts in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Switzerland and the U.K. upon its release in 1970, however it only climbed to the #3 position on the Billboard Singles Chart in the U.S.

It is also one of the most-played and recognizable summer songs of all time, selling well over 30 million copies worldwide. Yet, most people know little to nothing about Mungo Jerry, the artist who recorded it in 1970.

Mungo Jerry was a British good-time blues, skiffle and jug band that had an ever-changing lineup right from their inception with one constant member, Ray Dorset. The group’s signature song was an off-the-cuff concoction written by Dorset in twenty minutes while on break from work. The group’s original lineup (and the one on today’s Song Of The Day) included Ray Dorset on guitars and vocals, Colin Earl on piano, Mike Cole on stand-up bass and Paul King on banjo, kazoo and jug.

The band took its name from T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book Of Practical Cats (the same book that inspired the musical Cats). One portion of the work included poems about “Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer,” hence the name Mungo Jerry.

While considered a one-hit wonder in America, the band actually had a very successful run of hit singles in the U.K. well into the seventies including “In The Summertime” (#1/1970), “Baby Jump” (#1/1971), “Lady Rose” (#5/1970), “You Don’t Have To Be In The Army To Fight In The War” (#13/1971), “Alright, Alright, Alright” (#3/1973) and “Long Legged Woman Dressed In Black (#13/1974).

The song received a renewed worldwide chart life when it was covered by reggae dancehall vocalist Shaggy in 1995 on his album Boombastic, where it once again climbed to #3 on the U.S. charts. With the prevalence of faux good-time folk bands like Mumford And Sons currently all the rage, maybe the timing is right for the song to finally top the charts here in America…you never know…

Edited: July 11th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 7/11/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Easy Come Easy Go” by Cass Elliot

Only in the 1960s could someone as robust as Cass Elliot become an equally big star. Sure, she had talent to burn and a set of unrivalled pipes, but in this day and age of the thinner than thin in showbiz, she just would not have stood a chance…and a shame it would have been indeed.

The former Ellen Cohen was born in Maryland and got her start as part of the folk trio, The Big Three along with Tim Rose and James Hendricks, whom she was married to for a time in an effort for him to avoid the draft. When Rose left the group in 1964, future Lovin’ Spoonful member Zal Yanovsky and Denny Doherty joined their ranks and they became The Mugwumps who cuts some sides for Warner Bros. Records the same year.

Shortly thereafter, Yanovsky joined forces with John Sebastian while Doherty joined The New Journeymen who counted John Phillips and his wife Michelle amongst their ranks. After Cass joined the fold, the group would soon become The Mamas And The Papas. Of course you can listen to their track,“Creeque Alley” to have the blanks filled in for you.

Cass was the ultimate hippy chick and center of the hip L.A. cognoscenti moving in the same circles as David Crosby, Steve Stills, and Graham Nash. In fact according to Stills, the trio first sang together while at a party at Cass’ house (although Nash and Crosby insist that the meeting took place at Joni Mitchell’s house). Nevertheless, it would only be a matter of time before Cass would record on her own, and with the help of extensive television work, she began to score hits. Her records were pure pop affairs cut at Western Recorders in LA in the late 60s and early 70s featuring a who’s who of wrecking crew favorites including on this track Hal Blaine, Joe Osborne, Larry Knechtel, Steve Barri and Carol Kaye.

This song is better known for Bobby Sherman’s version than Cass’, but I think the 1971 production values and arrangements on this version make it much better. It is originally from her album Bubble Gum, Lemonade &…Something For Mama whose cover image was framed in chewed bubble gum.

Elliot died in London in 1974 of a heart attack (and not from choking on a ham sandwich) in the same flat that Keith Moon would die, at the same age four years later.

Edited: July 10th, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edited: July 9th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 7/9/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Message From The Country” by The Move

Formed in the mid-1960s by Roy Wood, The Move was a quintessentially British rock band, and as a result had trouble crossing over to these shores with any commercial impact.

Yet, at home they scored such hits as “Blackberry Way,” “I Can Hear The Grass Grow,” “Flowers In The Rain,” “Fire Brigade” and “Do Ya.”

They were a band whose personnel was constantly in flux, and this incarnation of The Move features members Jeff Lynne and Bev Bevan.

Shortly after the release of this song from their final album, Wood, Lynne and Bevan formed Electric Light Orchestra. After one record together, Wood departed their ranks to form Roy Wood’s Wizzo…of course, ELO went on to become superstars of the 1970s.

Original post:  3/1/11

Edited: July 8th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Up The Neck” by Pretenders

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This song exudes pure sexuality in its imagery although the lyrics tell a different story…”Lust turns to angers, a kiss to a slug…”

Chrissie Hynde was just amazing during this era and their debut album remains a solid 5-star classic to this day. Here is the original line up of the band in Paris featuring the essential guitar work of James Honeyman-Scott, Pete Farndon on bass and Martin Chambers on drums.

Original post: 8/17/11

Edited: July 7th, 2013

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

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Clean Up Woman” by Betty Wright

She doesn’t do windows, and for that matter she doesn’t even clean houses. But the “Clean Up Woman” of Betty Wright’s top-ten hit from 1971 sure ‘nuff cleaned up on the charts!

Bessie Regina Norris (aka Betty Wright) got her start as a three year old member of her family Gospel group The Echoes Of Joy who recorded albums during the early 1960s. By the time she was a young teen, she was scoring minor regional hits including her first Top 40 hit in 1968 with “Girls Can’t Do What the Guys Do” and an album called My First Time Around.

But it wasn’t until the age of 17 in 1971, that Betty Wright scored her signature hit (and today’s Song Of The Day) “Clean Up Woman.”  The song was  written by Clarence Reid and Willie Clark a became a huge hit (#2 R&B, #6 Pop) which went on to be one of the most sampled records of all time sporting appearances on hit recording by Afrika Bambaattaa, SWV, Mary J. Blige and Sublime.

Throughout the 1970s, Wright struggled to come up with a record as potent as “Clean Up Woman,” but managed to score with a self-penned hit “Baby Sitter” (#6 R&B, #50 Pop) and “Let Me Be Your Lovemaker” (#10 R&B, #50 Pop) that exemplified her ease singing in the whistle register (the highest register of the human voice).

But it wasn’t until she began to release disco records that Wright’s career began its second resurgence with the Grammy Winning Best R&B song “Where Is The Love,” which was co-penned by Harry Wayne Casey and Richard Finch of KC & The Sunshine Band.

She had greater success overseas, particularly in the U.K. with her 1974 disco album Danger! High Voltage!  The album included the hits “Shoorah! Shoorah!” and “Tonight Is The Night,” which charted twice in a studio version and then again as a live version with monologue that climbed to #11 on the R&B charts in 1978.

Wright also recorded a duet with Alice Cooper in 1978 and opened for Bob Marley during his Survival Tour. After success with the Stevie Wonder written hit “What Are You Gonna Do With It,” she also contributed vocals to the Richard “Dimples” field hit “She’s Got Papers On Me.”

In the late 1980s, Wright formed her own “Miss B” record label and became the first black female to score a gold album on her own label with Mother Wit. In 2006, she was appointed by Sean Combs as a mentor on the TV show Making Of The Band leading to work contributing songwriting, backing vocals, production, and engineering work to albums by Gloria Estefan, Erykah Badu, Regina Belle, David Byrne, Jennifer Lopez, Lil Wayne and Joss Stone (whose Mind, Body & Soul album won a Best Pop Album Grammy Award).

Her 2011 album, Betty Wright: The Movie was recorded with The Roots and was nominated for a Grammy Award, as was the single “Surrender.” With a glorious set of pipes, and tons of talent to spare, Betty Wright is one “Clean Up Woman” who continues to leave a spotless legacy in her wake.

Edited: July 7th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 7/5/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Reggaejunkiejew” by Ween

This is the 2003 “All Request Live” version of a song originally released on the 1994 “Pure Guava” record by Ween.

Before anyone gets too excited, I’m a Jew and so is Aaron Freeman (aka Gene Ween), so don’t get it in your head that this track is slamming Jews, Rastas or even junkies. It’s just Ween, well, being Ween.

The band has musically touched on its Jewishness before with the song “I Can’t Put My Finger On It” from the album “Chocolate And Cheese” that usually features an extended Klezmer intro in concert. And Freeman has been getting back in touch with his Jewish roots by studying to be a Bar Mitzvah.

The 1994 “Pure Guava” version of this song is a bedroom recording that hangs on its choppy bass line with lots of electronics and modified vocals, as was the stoner Ween tradition of the day. This version is far more freewheeling in its execution and features some stunning shredding courtesy of Mickey Melchiondo (aka Dean Ween).

The “All Request Live” record was recorded live in the studio and broadcast over the internet in 2003, a novelty for the time. All of the songs included on the broadcast and record were requested by fans.

Sadly, Ween broke up several years ago, and while Aaron Freeman resurfaced with an album of Rod McKuen covers, nothing has been heard from Mickey Melchiondo. Perhaps, he’s too busy being a sea captain on his fishing boat to rock out.

Original post date: 9/8/12

Edited: July 4th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 7/4/13 – 4th Of July Playlist

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Saturday In The Park” by Chicago

Here’s my ultimate 4th Of July playlist:

  1. “This Land Is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie
  2. “America The Beautiful” by Ray Charles
  3. “Freedom” by Richie Havens
  4. “Saturday In The Park” by Chicago
  5. “One Time One Night” by Los Lobos
  6. “Pink Houses” by John Mellencamp
  7. “Rockin’ In The Free World” by Neil Young & Crazy Horse
  8. “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty
  9. “4th Of July” by X
  10. “4th Of July” by Aimee Mann
  11. “4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) – Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
  12. “Independence Day” – Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
  13. “Don’t Pull It Down” from the Broadway Musical Hair
  14. “America” – by Chita Rivera and Company, from the Original Soundtrack of West Side Story
  15. “Young Americans” by David Bowie
  16. “America” by Neil Diamond
  17. “American Tune” by Paul Simon
  18. “A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke
  19. “American Trilogy” by Elvis Presley
  20.  “Ragged Old Flag” by Johnny Cash
  21.  “The Star Spangled Banner” by Jimi Hendrix

Now add your tune to the list and publish on your Facebook feed…Happy 4th Of July!

Edited: July 3rd, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 7/3/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “All Er Nothin’” from the Original Soundtrack to “Oklahoma!”

The Broadway version of “Oklahoma!” opened in 1943 and ran 2, 212 performances. With music by Richard Rodgers and Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein III, the Pulitzer Prize-winning score gave us the standards “Oh What A Beautiful Mornin’,” “People Will Say We’re In Love,” “(Everything’s Up To Date In) Kansas City,” “The Surrey With The Fringe On Top,” “The Farmer And The Cowman” and the hit title song.

The 1955 Academy Award-winning film version starred Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones, Gloria Grahame, Gene Nelson, Eddie Albert and Charlotte Greenwood. Paul Newman, James Dean and Joanne Woodward all screen-tested for the film and were denied parts.

Here we have a Gene Nelson (as Will Parker)-Gloria Grahame (as Aldo Annie) duet with a great string arrangement and some of the most clever lyrics in the entire musical, opening a window to a sadly, by-gone era of articulate songwriting.

Originally posted 9/24/12

Edited: July 2nd, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 7/2/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Generation Landslide” by Alice Cooper

Some records just keep on getting better with time.

Alice Cooper’s 1973 album Billion Dollar Babies is certainly one such record with songs like “Elected,” the title cut (featuring a guest vocal from Donovan), “Sick Things,” “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” “Unfinished Suite” and today’s Song Of The Day.

And back in the day, the packaging of a record was just as important as what was pressed onto the plastic. This one was originally packaged like an alligator skin wallet complete with photos, a bill fold and an oversized billion dollar bill.  “In Alice We Trust,” indeed…

Alice Cooper originally started out as a band featuring singer Vincent Furnier along with Michael Bruce, Glen Buxton and Dennis Dunaway, until Furnier took on the name Alice Cooper for his own. He was one of the first “shock rockers” with a stage show that featured guillotines, baby doll corpses, snakes, electric chairs and lots of fake blood.

Like many of his generation, the fine line between the character of Alice Cooper and that of the real Vincent Furnier began to fade away, and as a result Cooper became an alcoholic caricature of himself as time went on. Once he cleaned up, Cooper traded in his addiction to alcohol for a much healthier addiction to golf.

With his alcoholic days long behind him, I saw him perform at the 9:30 Club in Washington DC during the late 90s, and his show featured all of the above named accoutrements. Not only were his music and vocals still spot on, but the spectacle was amazing.

At the time of the show, I was producing music compilations for Time Life Music. Following the show, I was brought onto his tour bus to meet him, and to show his appreciation for all of the tracks we licensed of his for Time Life compilations, he signed photos and album covers for us and gave us each a tour T-shirt.  He was a gracious host who was about as normal as you could imagine.

Edited: July 1st, 2013