Posts Tagged ‘James Brown’

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

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

One of the musical highlights of our 16 hour car trip from The Outer Banks of North Carolina back home to Chicago was listening Talking Heads’ live double album entitled The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads. The second half of the album features recordings from the 1980-81 Remain In Light tour when Talking Heads expanded from a quartet of David Byrne, Jerry Harrison, Tina Weymouth and Chris Franz to a 10-piece band adding Adrian Belew on guitars, Busta Cherry on bass, Bernie Worrell on keyboards, Joe Rossy on percussion and Dolette McDonald and Nona Hendryx on vocals.

By 1979, Brian Eno’s influence was felt all over the Heads’ music, especially on more atmospheric songs like today’s Song Of The Day originally from their Fear Of Music album. Eno’s input was beginning to create a chasm within the band because the rest of the group felt that he was monopolizing David Byrne’s attention. Today’s song’s title was changed from “Drugs” to “Electricity” by the time it was released on the album in 1979. Whatever tension Eno’s presence created also resulted in the band taking off in a far more interesting direction with a brand-new funkified line-up. The video portion of today’s posting shows the expanded Heads in action (particularly Belew) from a show broadcasted on TV from Rome in 1980. (Today’s Song of The Day begins at 20:00 into the 64-minute clip.) Having seen this version of Talking Heads several times in concert, it is well worth watching if you have the time.

By the time we got around to hearing the The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads album at the tail end of our trip it was as a follow-up to a most-enjoyable spin of XTC’s Black Sea. And it was just the tonic we needed to wield our way through Saturday night Chicago city traffic and back up to the northern suburbs. Home Sweet Home!

Edited: August 10th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Think” by The 5 Royales

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Think” by The 5 Royales

If ever a group deserved to be in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame, it should be The 5 Royales.

Not only were they a pioneering R’n’B and Doo Wop vocal group, but they had one of the greatest songwriters of the era in Lowman “Pete” Pauling as a member. Pauling wrote most of the Royales’ material and many of their songs went on to be big hits for others.

The 5 Royales were formed in North Carolina in the early 1950s and consisted of Lowman “Pete” Pauling, Jimmy Moore, Obadiah Carter, Otto Jeffries and Johnny Tanner. They recorded for King Records and had chart success with songs like “Monkey Hips And Rice,” “Baby Don’t Do It” and “Somebody Help Me.” But it was the songs that were penned by Pauling and recorded by others that really made them legends.

The group was responsible for introducing today’s Song Of The Day that later went on to be a big soul hit for James Brown. They also recorded the original versions of “Dedicated To The One I Love” made famous by both The Shirelles and The Mamas & The Papas, and “Tell The Truth” which was originally recorded by Ray Charles.

Edited: June 19th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 1/25/13

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Company In My Back” (Live Version from Kicking Television) by Wilco

Live albums. They are the most maligned recordings by critics, yet the fans just love them. You don’t believe me? Ask Peter Frampton, The Allman Brothers, Led Zeppelin, Yes, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Neil Young, Neil Diamond, Little Feat, The Who, Lou Reed, Cheap Trick and Kiss to name a few, who have made classic live albums and have benefitted from huge sales. Heck, live albums are so ingrained in our pop culture, that you can probably name each of the live albums I’m referring to above, just by the list of artists.

In the pantheon of music recordings, live albums live kind of a lowly life. For some they are seen as stop-gap product put out by artists who feel the need to keep their brand in the heads of their fans while they take the time to rejuvenate their creative juices between projects. Artists and record companies alike issue them in order to fulfill contracts. Many love live albums because they act as a souvenir and a powerful reminder of a great night out at a concert they’ve been to, or a concert they would have loved to have seen. Then there are those who love them because they provide an opportunity for us to hear a band stretch out and jam the way they never do in the studio, with warts and all.  And when an artist releases a live album, they get to create their own reality, by mixing applause and audience participation wherever they want, in order to heighten the “live” experience.

Perhaps, my favorite of all live albums is “Kicking Television” by Wilco, which is why I have singled it out for today’s Song Of The Day. The album was recorded over four days at the Vic Theater in Chicago (the band’s home turf) in May of 2005, and captures the group touring behind “A Ghost Is Born”, one of their best albums. It was also the first tour and record to feature the great guitarist Nels Cline and crucial multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone in the lineup. The addition of these two members had solidified the Wilco lineup, which remains the same to this day. The shows were also filmed for a proposed DVD, but it never came to fruition. While the record focused mainly on material from “Ghost” and “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,” it does offer a pretty good representation of what the band was about at the time. It also features some of the walls of feedback the band uses to great effect during performances. The double disc collection features 23 tracks, while the vinyl release adds an additional eight bonus tracks over the four record set.

Another one of the greatest live albums of all time is Talking Heads’ “Stop Making Sense” which captured the expanded version of the group on tour behind the album “Speaking In Tongues.” The show was captured on film from the Pantages Theater in Hollywood by Jonathan Demme in what most critics believe to be the very best concert film of all time. Having seen the tour when it came to the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in New York, I can attest to how great this version of the Heads was at the time.

Critics also generally agree that James Brown’s “Live At The Apollo” was one of the greatest live recordings of all time. The album was recorded at the Apollo Theater in Harlem in October of 1962, and was released by King Records the following year. Brown funded the recording himself when King records balked at the idea that a live record could make money for the company. While no live album could fully capture the power of the Godfather Of Soul in full action, this album does manage to capture a fair share of the excitement Brown was able to create on stage.

Some of my favorite live albums over the years include Lou Reed’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal” from 1974 which also had a sequel from the same Academy Of Music show in the album “Lou Reed Live” the following year. David Bowie’s “David Live” is one the critics particularly hated. The 1974 double album captured from the Tower Theater in Philadelphia while on tour behind “Diamond Dogs,” was reissued on CD several years ago with the correct running order of the show restored, making it much better listening experience. Then there’s Grateful Dead’s “Europe ’72” from the band’s first European tour where they introduced many new songs into their repertoire that are now considered classics. Last year, Grateful Dead productions released all of the concerts from the tour into a mammoth 73 CD set.

There are literally thousands of live albums littering the musical landscape, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the following favorites of mine including Neil Young’s “Rust Never Sleeps”/”Live Rust” albums recorded on tour in 1978, Kraftwerk’s “Minimum/Maximum” recorded in 2004 (it was also one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen for its visuals), Sam Cooke’s “Live At The Harlem Square Club 1963,” Simon & Garfunkel’s “Live In Central Park” (mainly because I was there), Roy Orbison’s “A Black And White Night” (featuring Orbison backed by an all-star band that included Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt, kd lang, Jackson Browne and many others), Gram Parsons and the Fallen Angels  “Live 1973” which was recorded at Ultrasonic Studios in Long Island for broadcast on WLIR FM, John Coltrane’s “Live At The Village Vanguard” from 1963, Miles Davis’ “Complete Cellar Door Recordings” from 1970, Bob Marley’s “Live” from 1976, Nirvana’s “MTV Unplugged” and Frank Zappa’s “Zappa In New York.”

OK, so I’ve covered my favorites and purposely excluded some of the classics. What are your favorite live albums and why?

Edited: January 24th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 1/11/13

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Silly Savage” by The Golden Toadstools

“Chuck Berry, strawberry, cranberry and dingleberry, baby!”

And so begins one of the most funked-up romps I’ve ever heard, this side of the Godfather Of Soul himself! Next to nothing is known about The Golden Toadstools, who originally released this one-off record written by Merlin Jones and Wayne Branham back in 1966. After doing much research I couldn’t come up with any information about who Jones and Branham are, who the group was or where they were from. All I could find is information about the record label that released this one of a kind record, which duly follows.

The record was released on the Minaret record label which was founded in Nashville in the early sixties by Herb Shucher, and then sold to Finley Duncan in 1966. Duncan leased the record to Shelby Singleton who re-released it in 1968.

Shelby Singleton ran Plantation Records (home of Jeannie C. Riley and the “Harper Valley P.T.A.”), and before that was a talent scout for Mercury Records responsible for finding hits by Paul and Paula (“Hey Paula”), Phil Phillips (“Sea Of Love”), The Big Bopper (“Chantilly Lace”), Bruce Channel (“Hey Baby”) and Johnny Preston (“Running Bear”). He purchased the legendary Sun label in 1969, the original home of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins, to name but a few, and continued to mine their treasured vaults until his death in 1977.

This song came into my orbit via a 79-track soul and funk playlist called Funky Niblets, that was given to me by my cousin. I’ve had this playlist on my iPod for several years now, and like the record itself, I couldn’t find any other information about who made the playlist or where it came from. The b-side to this single is called “Weeping River.” I’ve never heard it…

Dead ends never sounded so good.

Edited: January 10th, 2013

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

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

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

Edited: October 22nd, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 5/15/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Think” by The 5 Royales

If ever a group deserved to be in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame, it should be The 5 Royales. Not only were they a pioneering R’n’B and Doo Wop vocal group, but they had one of the greatest songwriters of the era in Lowman “Pete” Pauling as a member. Pauling wrote most of the Royales’ material and many of their songs went on to be big hits for others. The 5 Royales were formed in North Carolina in the early 1950s and consisted of Lowman “Pete” Pauling, Jimmy Moore, Obadiah Carter, Otto Jeffries and Johnny Tanner. They recorded for King Records and had chart success with songs like “Monkey Hips And Rice,” “Baby Don’t Do It” and “Somebody Help Me.” But it was the songs that were penned by Pauling and recorded by others that really made them legends. The group was responsible for introducing this song that later went on to be a big soul hit for James Brown. They also recorded the original versions of “Dedicated To The One I Love” made famous by both The Shirelles and The Mamas & The Papas, and “Tell The Truth” which was originally recorded by Ray Charles.

Edited: June 14th, 2012

Song Of The Day – 9/3/11

Song Of the Day – “The Crunge” by Led Zeppelin

My Rhino Records calendar proclaims that this month is Zeptember! Who am I to argue? Here we have the mighty Zep tapping into their inner James Brown with aplomb on this ultra-funky workout from their 1973 album “Houses Of The Holy.” “Where’s that confounded bridge?,” indeed!

Edited: September 3rd, 2011