Big Star: In Space

January 16th, 2020

Expanded edition of reformulated Big Star’s 2004 return to the studio

After reformulating Big Star with the Posies John Auer and Ken Stringfellow in 1993, Alex Chilton eventually mustered up the interest to record a new album in 2004, and release it the following year. But in ways similar to Big Star’s third album (and to be fair, even the Chilton-led, mostly Bell-free Radio City), one might ask what it means to be a Big Star album. There is material here – largely from Auer, Stringfellow, and original Big Star drummer Jody Stephens – that harkens back to the band’s early-70s British pop inspired beginnings. But there are also strong currents of Alex Chilton’s rag-tag solo work, and his propensity to record cover songs. It’s difficult to hear this as continuous with the band’s earlier work, though there are moments; it’s not an erszatz doo wop band touring under someone else’s name, but it may be more accurate to think of this Big Star moniker as more ancestry than identity.

Despite having acceded to performing as Big Star, Chilton retained an uneasy relationship with the group’s earlier material. The new album was apparently born out of both his boredom with the narrow setlist he was willing to play on stage, and the opportunity to collaborate with bandmates with whom he enjoyed making music. After ten years of sporadic gigs, the group was really solid, rooted in the legacy material they performed, but not beholden to its ghosts. Chilton evidenced little interest is writing material for the new album that echoed his past, leaving it to his bandmates to mine the band’s legacy. Jon Auer and Jody Stephens’ co-writes touch most closely on the band’s earlier work, with both “Best Chance” and “February’s Quiet” offering guitar riffs and melodies that fit comfortably with the band’s first two albums. Stephens’ drumming on the former highlights just how fundamental he was to Big Star’s sound, and the closing chord of the latter song will provoke aural deja vu.

Chilton’s funky “Love Revolution” and “Do You Want to Make It” are more in line with his solo career than earlier Big Star, and the Olympics’ “Mine Exclusively” is just the sort of obscure cover that had long since become a Chilton trademark. Chilton’s post-Big Star penchant for spontaneous, raw performances threads through several tracks, including the rock ‘n’ roll rave-up “A Whole New Thing,” a ploddingly-delivered arrangement of Georg Muffat’s baroque “Aria, Largo,” and the cacophonous closer, “Makeover.” There’s craft to be heard, as on Ken Stringfellow’s Beach Boys’ pastiche “Turn My Back on the Sun,” but it’s not the sort of crystalline sounds the original band recorded in the early 1970s.

The original album is expanded on this 2019 reissue with a half-dozen bonus tracks that include songwriter demos, an a cappella take of Auer’s Beach Boys tribute, a rough mix of “Dony,” and “Hot Thing,” a track originally recorded by Big Star for their own tribute album Big Star, Small World. The demos are particularly interesting as working documents that sketch the initial inspiration and evolving views of the singer-songwriters. Liner notes from Auer, Stringfellow, co-producer/engineer Jeff Powell, assistant engineer Adam Hill, and Rkyo Records exec Jeff Rougvie offer first-person memories and warm anecdotes of what turned out to be a one-off studio effort. In retrospect, this is a nice coda to the Big Star legend, if not exactly a straightforward element of the canon. [©2020 Hyperbolium]

Laura Nyro: More Than a New Discovery

January 14th, 2020

Laura Nyro’s 1967 debut back on vinyl in its original mono mix

Laura Nyro was more than a new discovery on this 1967 debut, she was a wholly new musical entity, bringing together the songcraft of Tin Pan Alley, Broadway, blues, jazz and pop. Her lyrical and singing voices melded these strands into something wholly new, and years ahead of other singer-songwriters who’d venture into similar polymusical directions. Even more impressive is that her songs were strong enough to create space for both her authoritative original versions and the iconic hit covers of others. Nyro’s passionate reading of “And When I Die” is wholly satisfying, and uneclipsed by Blood, Sweat & Tears’ iconic cover. The same can be said for “Stoney End” (Barbara Streisand) and “Wedding Bell Blues” (The Fifth Dimension), both of which are equally remarkable as originals and covers. Originally released by Verve/Folkways, the album was reissued by Columbia (under the title The First Songs, with revised running order and cover art) with Nyro’s move to the major. The original formulation has had a few import CD reissues, and is now returned to vinyl in a limited-edition, violet-colored mono LP, with remastering by Vic Anesini from the original master tapes, and a new lacquer cut by Clint Holley. In addition to Nyro’s preferred mono mix, this reissue is also free of the reverb that Columbia added to The First Songs. This is a super souvenir for Nyro’s many fans! [©2020 Hyperbolium]

David Ball: Thinkin’ Problem

January 14th, 2020

Expanded 25th anniversary reissue of 1994 honky-tonk landmark

Having gained artistic and fan notoriety in Austin’s Uncle Walt’s Band, David Ball spent more than a decade searching for commercial success in Nashville. He recorded an album for RCA in 1988, but after the initial singles had only middling chart success, the album was vaulted until this 1994 Warner Brothers release broke nationally. The sessions offered uncompromising neotraditional country, just as the neotraditional movement was giving way to crossover sounds; but fans apparently hadn’t gotten the marketing memo, as the  album launched five country chart singles and sold double platinum. At the age of 41, Ball’s maturity – both musically and experientially – shows in music that’s rife with broken hearts that won’t stop loving, bittersweet memories that continue to surface, and emotional bruises salved with an alcohol liniment.

Produced by Blake Chancey and engineered by the legendary Billy Sherrill, the album is backed studio players who came together into a tight, twangy honky-tonk band of fiddle, steel, piano, drums and generous amounts of Telecaster. Ball’s voice was recorded without the sort of mid-90s studio effects that polished and pumped singers for radio, and it leaves his emotional connection to the lyrics exposed for everyone to hear. The record doesn’t sound anachronistic (even for its own time), but the throwback connections from Ball’s earlier work with Uncle Walt’s Band are clear. The album’s lone cover is a devastating take on Webb Pierce’s “A Walk on the Wild Side of Life,” opening with a haunted acapella intro that leaves the protagonist to forever stalk an empty house. Ball’s original material — reportedly winnowed down from a hundred songs over two years to the ten included on the original album – is superb.

The uptempo title track provided the first of five singles to make the country chart, falling just shy of the top at #2. The other four include the mid-tempo honky-tonk of “Look What Followed Me Home” and “Honky Tonk Healin’,” the slow, bluesy “What Do You Want With His Love,” and the pained ballad “When the Thought of You Catches Up to Me.” The album tracks are just as good, including the rockabilly-tinged “Down at the Bottom of a Broken Heart” and the Tex-Mex flavors of “Don’t Think Twice” that evoke Buck Owens, Doug Sahm, and the Mavericks.

Omnivore’s anniversary reissue adds eight demos that show just how hard the choice of ten album tracks must have been. Ball’s liner notes suggest “I’ve Got a Heart With Your Name On It” as George Strait-styled material, but the simply arranged demo and Ball’s heart-on-sleeve vocal are more in line with Nick Lowe’s post-Jesus of Pop singer-songwriter works. The old-timey “Goodbye Heartache, Hello Honky Tonk” and “The King of Jackson Mississippi” reach back to Uncle Walt’s Band more directly than the tracks that made the album, and “Give Me Back My Heart” has some incredibly fine, and surprisingly extensive guitar picking, for a demo. The original album’s appeal has proven timeless in its emotion and artistry, and augmented by period demos, this reissue is a must-have upgrade for fans. [©2020 Hyperbolium]

David Ball’s Home Page

Country Joe & The Fish: Live! Fillmore West 1969

January 6th, 2020

1969 farewell to Country Joe & The Fish’s classic lineup

Previously released on CD by Vanguard in 1994 (and in Italy on vinyl), this two-LP yellow-vinyl reissue commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of Country Joe & The Fish’s farewell performances at Bill Graham’s Fillmore West. By the time the band got to this three-day run they’d already seen the 1968 departure of bassist Bill Barthol (replaced here admirably by Jefferson Airplane’s Jack Cassidy), and they welcomed local guests David Getz on “It’s So Nice To Have Your Love,” and Jerry Garcia, Jorma Kaukonen, Steve Miller and Mickey Hart for a 38-minute jam on “Donovan’s Reef.”

When the band later reconvened for their 1969 album Here We Are Again, Gary Hirsh and David Cohen had also departed, and the group reassembled for Woodstock included a new rhythm section and organist. By the time of this farewell, the band had grown from the folk and blues-based Rag Baby EPs into an electric psychedelic powerhouse and a potent jam band. The group extends their studio material with instrumental interplay, unwinding “Flying High” into a 12-minute piece replete with bass solo, and, with Garcia and Hart helping out, stretching “Donovan’s Reef” into a 38-minute, extemporaneous essay.

Though only two years removed from the conventional length studio arrangements of I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die and Electric Music for the Mind and Body, the band had developed a free-form style for the stage that indulged the improvisational dynamics they’d developed together. Real Gone’s 1000-piece limited-edition reissue is delivered in a six-panel double-gatefold sleeve with liner notes from both the set’s original producer Sam Charters, and the reissue’s producer, Bill Belmont. A reformulated band would achieve widespread notice at Woodstock, but this farewell performance provides an important capstone to the original group’s run. [©2020 Hyperbolium]  

Country Joe McDonald’s Home Page

Tony Joe White: That on the Road Look “Live”

January 6th, 2020

Outstanding, yet long neglected, 1971 live set

Though originally planned for commercial release, this 1971 multitrack recording sat in Warner Brothers’ vaults for nearly forty years. Rhino Handmade released a limited edition CD in 2010, but it’s taken nearly another decade for these tapes to find a full retail release. Opening for Creedence Clearwater Revival, White is in great voice, his “whomper stomper” wah-wah pedal sets his electric guitar deep in the swamp, and he’s backed by a tight band that includes White’s longtime drummer Sammy Creason and organist Mike Utley, alongside MG’s bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn. Together they work through more than an hour of material that mixes selections from White’s earlier tenure on Monument and his then-current run for Warners, including “Rainy Night in Georgia,” “Willie and Laura Mae,” and a ten-minute version of “Polk Salad Annie.” White connects deeply with the folk side of his material in this small group setting, often setting down his electric guitar for an acoustic that leaves more room for the gritty, intimate soulfulness of his voice. This is an outstanding set that catches a unique artist on the rise, and a must-have for all of White’s fans. [©2019 Hyperbolium]

Tony Joe White’s Home Page

Various Artists: Land of 1,000 Dances – The Rampart Records Complete Singles Collection

January 3rd, 2020

Landmark catalog of the West Coast Eastside Sound

Like many regional music scenes, the West Coast Eastside Sound was a one-of-a-kind confluence of artists, managers, record labels, entrepreneurs, nightclubs, radio DJs, and commercial and social circumstances. As detailed in this set’s introductory liner notes and  label history, a key  sociological spark that informed the Eastside’s musical development was race restrictions in Los Angeles clubs that led African-American artists to gig on the Eastside. This seeded the area’s Mexican and Chicano musicians with an R&B foundation to which they added flavors of Rancheras, Nortenos, and Salsas, and jacked up with the energy of doo-wop and rock ‘n’ roll. Local labels, including Del-Fi, Chattahoochie, Whittier, Faro, Linda, Boomerang, Prospect, Valhalla, Gordo and Rampart built a recording scene, and it’s the latter’s catalog of singles that is featured here.

Eddie Davis, Rampart’s founder, first entered the music industry as a child member of the Robert Mitchell Boys Choir, appearing in a 1941 documentary (Forty Boys and a Song) and backing Bing Crosby in the 1944 film Going My Way. He joined the Navy in World War II, studied music at the College of the Pacific, owned a succession of restaurants, and returned to a quickly aborted singing career before founding his first label, Faro, in 1958. Faro led to the founding of Rampart in 1961 with the debut of Phil & Harv’s romantic ballad “Darling (Please Bring Your Love)” and its joyous New Orleans-tinged flipside cover of Cole Porter’s  “Friendship.”

Davis initially employed the mixed-race, Oxnard-based Mixtures as a backing band, but also pulled in A-listers from Los Angeles. A third label, Linda, was established in 1962, the same year that Davis branched into the promotion of teen dances. As with the Los Angeles club laws that incentivized bands to book shows on the Eastside, the city’s prohibition of for-profit teen dances led Davis to promote shows in Pomona’s Rainbow Gardens, outside the reach of the big city’s restrictions. And as with the club shows, the teen dances exposed the Eastside’s Mexican-American audiences, and more importantly,  its local musicians, to the cream of Los Angeles’ R&B acts.

Rampart’s early years included a Ray Charles-styled cover of “Home on the Range,” hot guitar and sax-led instrumentals, and with the Atlantics’ B-side “Beaver Shot,” the introduction of a horn section. The label hit its commercial apex with Cannibal & The Headhunters’ 1965 cover of Chris Kenner’s “Land of 1000 Dances,” memorably built on the incantory “Na, Na Na Na Na” improvisation, and on its original, uncut version, a revival-styled intro. Both the original and edited-for-radio single are included here. The single’s success led Cannibal and the Headhunters to television appearances and an opening slot on the Beatles 1965 U.S. tour – including shows at Shea Stadium and the Hollywood Bowl – yet the group was unable to extend their commercial breakthrough. Three follow-up singles, including the “1000 Dances” knockoff “Nau Ninny,” and the sunny, King Curtis-backed “Follow the Music,” failed to click, and the band moved on from Rampart to Date.

Rampart continued its releases  the 1960s with singles by the Atlantics, Souljers, Summits, and Four Tempos. There were Sam & Dave-styled duets, boogaloo workouts, uptempo soul, beseeching ballads, and even the socially-conscious philosophy of Pvt. Randy Thomas’ “The Great Crusade.” In 1968 the Village Callers released the oft-sampled (and recently “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” soundtrack featured) “Hector” with a sophisticated soul organ lead backed by a powerful rhythm track and horn chart. The soul turned swampier on the B-side “Mississippi Delta,” and the East Bay Soul Brass worked out with sax, trumpet and organ on “The Cat Walk.” The label continued to imaginatively mix 50s-styled  throwback ballads, airier mid-tempo late ‘60s soul, and foreground Latin flavors, pulling in both original and cover material for an evolving slate of artists.

A four year break from 1972 to 1976 found the label returning with the Eastside Connection’s update on the traditional “La Cucaracha,” and kicked off a short string of disco singles. The label’s sporadic subsequent releases included rock, new wave, uptempo Spanish-language synth dance numbers, but without the earthy soul of the earlier years essayed on the set’s first three discs. In addition to the introductory notes from Luis Luis J. Rodriquez and label history from Don Waller, the 102-page book includes a photo essay of Cannibal and the Headhunters on the road in shows promoted by Murray the K, Dick Clark and Motown, opening for the Rolling Stones and the Beatles in 1965, and performing on television’s Hullabaloo and It’s What’s Happening.

This is a rich document of a label born at the confluence of social circumstances, musical influences and commercial opportunity. Having the B-sides is particularly gratifying, as the label rarely shortchanged the flips – the Atlantics’ novelty “Sonny & Cher” B-side notwithstanding. To gain a full picture of the Eastside Sound, listeners will need to track down material from sister labels Faro and Donna, and key releases from Thee Midniters, The Romancers and other Eastside icons, but you could hardly find a better place to start enjoying and appreciating this unique moment in musical history than with this incredible set. Issued in a limited run of 1000, pick this one up before it becomes a collectors item alongside the original vinyl singles! [©2020 Hyperbolium]

Essential Reissues of 2019

January 2nd, 2020

Some of the best reissues of 2019. Click the titles to find full reviews and music samples.

Various Artists: The Bakersfield Sound

A towering achievement in musical archaeology, even when measured against Bear Family’s stratospherically high standard. Reissue producer Scott B. Bomar digs deeply into Bakersfield’s musical soil to explore the migrant roots that coalesced into the history, connections, influences and circumstances that forged the Bakersfield Sound. Ten discs, nearly three-hundred tracks, and a 224-page hardcover book essay the scenes development, how lesser-known players contributed to those who would become stars, and how the stars blossomed from their roots. Reissue of the year.

Various Artists: Cadillac Baby’s Bea & Baby Records – The Definitive Collection

Triple-disc set cataloging the riches of Narvel “Cadillac Baby” Eatmon’s Chicago-based labels, including Bea & Baby, Key, Keyhole, Ronald and Miss. Competing with Chess, Vee-Jay, Brunswick and Delmark in the early ‘60s, the entrepreneurial Eatmon sourced acts through his Show Lounge nightclub, and built a small, but artistically important catalog that includes blues, soul, R&B doo-wop and Latin-tinged numbers. The accompanying 128-page hardbound book includes a lengthy interview with Eatmon, alongside producer’s notes, liners, and artist profiles.

Blinky: Heart Full of Soul – The Motown Anthology

Sondra “Blinky” Williams may be Motown’s most widely heard unsung singer. She recorded dozens of sides for the Detroit powerhouse, but only a few ever made it to market. At the same time, she was heard weekly by millions of television viewers as Jim Gilstrap’s duet partner on the theme song to Good Times. Her many fans have lobbied for years to “free Blinky from the vaults,” and with Real Gone’s two-CD set, their wish has finally been granted.

Buck Owens and the Buckaroos: The Complete Capitol Singles 1971-1975

The third of three double-disc sets cataloging Buck Owens’ singles on Capitol. Though he didn’t have the same level of commercial success in the early 1970s that he’d had throughout the 1960s, his artistry was undimmed, and his omnivorous musical appetite was still unsated. Recording primarily in his own Bakersfield studio, he covered material from outside the country realm, and stretched out from his classic Telecaster-and-steel sound to incorporate pop, bluegrass and gospel. A strong and fulfilling chapter of the Buck Owens legacy.

Hank Williams: The Complete Health & Happiness Recordings

Third try is the charm. Williams’ 1949 radio transcriptions for patent medicine sponsor Hadacol have slowly been resuscitated and restored over a series of releases, culminating in this best-yet edition. In a year that saw Williams transition from the Hayride to the Opry, and evolve his material from a cover of “Love Sick Blues” to the iconic original “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” these eight shows capture Williams on a fast-moving train to stardom. This new restoration attends to both the physical issues of the source transcriptions and the aural issues of earlier remasters.

Van Duren: Waiting – The Van Duren Story

Following Big Star by a few years, Van Duren suffered the same lack of renown as his fellow Memphians. Though Big Star’s public renown grew over the decades, Duren has remained obscure. A limited edition Japanese reissue of his 1977 debut failed to spread the word, and his follow-up album remained vaulted for decades. But with this documentary soundtrack sampling the rich Badfinger/Rundgren sounds of his late-70s power-pop, Duren’s music may finally reach the sympathetic ears it deserves.

Uncle Walt’s Band: Uncle Walt’s Band

This springboard for Walter Hyatt, Champ Hood and David Ball was well-known in their adopted Austin, and among in-the-know music fans; but their instrumental finesse and joyous mix of country, jazz, folk, blues, bluegrass and swing was too sophisticated for reduction to a commercial concern. Omnivore’s reissue of the group’s 1974 debut polishes the brilliant gem by doubling the original track count with eleven bonus demos and live recordings.

Yum Yum: Dan Loves Patti

The conflagration of criticism and meta-criticism that burned this release to a crisp two years after its release is one of the stranger chapters in pop critic history. Yum Yum’s Chris Holmes was, according to his former roommate Thomas Frank, a prankster faking out his record company in a quixotic bid to supplant corporate Alternative Rock with finely crafted orchestral pop. Absurd on its face, Frank’s critique caught fire in an escalating war of meta-criticism. More than twenty years later, Holmes’ creation remains sweetly satisfying to those with a taste for candy.

Robin Lane & The Chartbusters: Many Years Ago

Triple-disc set pulling together the great Boston band’s entire first-run catalog, including pre-signing demos and an indie single, two albums and a live EP for Warner Brothers, a post-Warner EP, demos, session tracks, and live material. The music rings with the passion of its author and the intensity of the band’s playing.

The Strangeloves: I Want Candy

Three Australian sheep-farming brothers turned out to be a trio of New York songwriter-producers coping with the British Invasion. The authors of the Angels’ “My Boyfriend’s Back” turned themselves into a beat group with the earworms “I Want Candy,” “Cara-Lin” and “Night Time,” and waxed a full album of catchy Bo Diddley beats. Reissued on red vinyl, the original mono mix delivers an AM radio gut punch and an object lesson in the power of mid-60s mono vs. stereo.

Various Artists: That’ll Flat Git It! Vol. 32
Twenty-eight years and thirty-two volumes in, there is still life in Bear Family’s rockabilly anthology series. This latest edition takes a fourth trip into the vaults of Decca, Brunswick and Coral, and turns up a surprising number of worthy sides. The label’s typical attention to detail fills out a 39-page booklet with period photos, label reproductions, and knowledgeable liner notes by Bill Dahl.

In Memoriam: 2019

December 31st, 2019

Dr. John, 1941-2019

Some of the musicians, songwriters, producers, engineers, managers, agents, broadcasters, journalists, industry executives, and studio and club owners who passed away in 2019.

Listen to a selection of these artists on Spotify.

January
Pegi Young, singer-songwriter, and former wife of Neil Young
Daryl Dragon, keyboard player and producer (Captain & Tennille, Beach Boys)
Steve Ripley, singer, guitarist, songwriter and producer (The Tractors)
Alvin Fielder, jazz drummer
Eric Haydock, British bassist and founding member of The Hollies
Phil Thomas, country songwriter (“Me and the I.R.S.”)
Alan R. Pearlman, audio engineer and founder of ARP Instruments
Jimmy Hannan, Australian singer and television host
Clydie King, session and solo singer (Ray Charles, Bob Dylan)
Dave Laing, English writer, editor and broadcaster (Let It Rock)
Joseph Jarman, jazz musician (Art Ensemble of Chicago) and Buddhist priest
Larry Cunningham, R&B singer (The Floaters)
Bonnie Guitar, country singer and guitarist (“Dark Moon“) and label owner
Sanger D. “Whitey” Shafer, country songwriter (“All My Ex’s Live in Texas”)
Willie Murphy, blues musician, singer, songwriter and producer
Carol Channing, Tony winning actress, singer and dancer
Lorna Doom, punk rock bassist (Germs)
Rita Vidaurri, ranchera singer
Chris Wilson, Australian blues musician
Debi Martini, punk rock bassist and singer (Red Aunts)
Reggie Young, guitarist (Bill Black’s Combo, American Sound Studio)
Ted McKenna, Scottish drummer (Alex Harvey, Rory Gallagher)
Marcel Azzola, French accordionist (Jacques Brel, Edith PIaf)
Kaye Ballard, actress (The Mothers-in-Law) and singer
Edwin Birdsong, funk keyboardist
Maxine Brown, country singer and songwriter (The Browns)
Mike Ledbetter, blues singer and guitarist
Bruce Corbitt, speed metal singer (Rigor Mortis, Warbeast)
Terry Jennings, manager, publisher, author and son of Waylon Jennings
Andy Anderson, drummer (The Cure, Steve Hillage)
Michel Legrand, Oscar-winning French composer, conductor and jazz pianist
Paul Whaley, rock drummer (The Oxford Circle, Blue Cheer)needed]
James Ingram, R&B singer and songwriter
Harold Bradley, Nashville first call session guitarist

February
George Klein, disc jockey and friend of Elvis Presley
Lonnie Simmons, songwriter and producer (The Gap Band)
Harvey Scales, soul singer and songwriter (“Love-Itis” “Disco Lady”)
Joe Hardy, producer and engineer (ZZ Top, Replacements, Steve Earle)
Connie Jones, jazz trumpeter
Willy Lambregt, Belgian rock musician (The Scabs)
Kofi Burbridge, multi-instrumentalist (Tedeschi Trucks Band)
Ken Nordine, voice-over announcer, recording artist and radio host
Ethel Ennis, jazz singer
Skip Groff, record store and label owner, producer and DJ
Artie Wayne, songwriter, record producer, and industry executive
Fred Foster, producer (Roy Orbison) and label founder (Monument)
Gerard Koerts, Dutch keyboard player, songwriter and producer
Peter Rüchel, German co-founder of Rockpalast
Gus Backus, doo-wop (The Del-Vikings) and schlager singer
Jackie Shane, transgender soul singer (“Any Other Way” “Walking the Dog”)
Peter Tork, bassist, banjo player and singer (The Monkees)
Ira Gitler, jazz historian and critic
Mac Wiseman, bluegrass singer and guitarist
Mark Hollis, English singer and songwriter (Talk Talk)
Andy Anderson, 68, English rock drummer (The Cure, The Glove)
Doug Sandom, English drummer (The Detours, The Who)
Stephan Ellis, rock bassist (Survivor)
André Previn, Oscar-winning composer, pianist and conductor

March
Paul Williams, British singer (John Mayall, Juicy Lucy)
Al Hazan, pianist (B. Bumble and the Stingers)
Leo de Castro, New Zealand funk and soul singer
Keith Flint, English singer and dancer (The Prodigy)
Sara Romweber, rock drummer (Let’s Active)
James Dapogny, jazz musicologist and pianist
Mike Grose, British bassist (Queen)
Asa Brebner, guitarist, singer and songwriter (Modern Lovers, Chartbusters)
Charlie Karp, guitarist, songwriter, jingle writer and documentarian
Dave Aron, recording engineer and producer
Hal Blaine, session drummer (The Wrecking Crew)
Danny Kustow, English rock guitarist (Tom Robinson Band)
John Kilzer, singer, songwriter and minister
Shelly Liebowitz, record executive, promoter, producer and manager
Justin Carter, country singer
Dick Dale, surf rock guitarist (“Let’s Go Trippin’” “Miserlou“)
Dave White, rock ‘n’ roll singer and songwriter (Danny & the Juniors)
Bernie Tormé, Irish guitarist, singer and songwriter (Ozzy Osbourne)
Andre Williams, R&B singer and songwriter (“Shake a Tail Feather“)
Scott Walker, American-born British singer-songwriter (The Walker Brothers)
Ranking Roger, British singer (The Beat, General Public)
Stephen Fitzpatrick, British pop/rock musician (Her’s)
Audun Laading, Norwegian pop/rock musician (Her’s)
Joe Flannery, early booking manager for the Beatles
Bob Stewart, British radio broadcaster (Radio Luxembourg)
Margaret Lewis Warwick, country and rockabilly singer-songwriter
Billy Adams, rockabilly singer and songwriter (“Rock, Pretty Mama”)
Geoff Harvey, Australian composer and music director (Midday)
Nipsey Hussle, rapper (“Feelin’ Myself“, “FDT”)

April
Rick Elias, CCM musician (A Ragamuffin Band)
Kim English, house and gospel singer-songwriter
Shawn Smith, singer, songwriter and musician (Brad, Pigeonhed)
Tiger Merritt, singer and guitarist (Morning Teleportation)
Samuel Pilafian, classical, jazz, pop and rock tuba player
Jim Glaser, country singer and songwriter (Tompall & the Glaser Brothers)
Earl Thomas Conley, country singer-songwriter
Gary Stewart, music executive and archivist (Rhino Records, Apple)
Bobby Gale, Canadian radio DJ, record industry executive, promoter
Johnny Hutchinson, English rock and roll drummer (The Big Three)
Paul Raymond, English guitarist and keyboardist (UFO)
Les Reed, English songwriter (“It’s Not Unusual”), pianist and producer
Joe Terry, rock and roll singer (Danny & the Juniors)
Kent Harris, R&B songwriter (“Shoppin’ for Clothes”) and producer
Eddie Tigner, blues pianist, singer and songwriter
Jim Dunbar, radio broadcaster (WXYZ, WLS, KGO)
Dave Samuels, percussionist (Spyro Gyra)
David Winters, actor (West Side Story), dancer, choreographer (Hullabaloo)
Dick Rivers, French rock and roll singer (Les Chats Sauvages)
Michiro Endo, Japanese punk rock musician (The Stalin)
Phil McCormack, rock singer (Molly Hatchet)
Jah Stitch, Jamaican reggae singer
Russ Gibb, radio DJ, concert impresario (Grande Ballroom) and teacher
Boon Gould, English guitarist (Level 42)

May
John Starling, bluegrass vocalist, guitarist and songwriter
R. Cobb, guitarist (Classics IV, Atlanta Rhythm Section) and songwriter
Luther Jennings, gospel singer (Jackson Southernaires)
Preston Epps, percussionist (“Bongo Rock”)
Lee Hale, musical director and producer (The Golddiggers)
Peggy Lipton, actress, model, and singer
Glenn Martin, country songwriter (“Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone”)
Doris Day, actress, singer and animal welfare activist
Leon Rausch, western-swing singer (Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys)
Mike Wilhelm, rock guitarist, singer and songwriter (The Charlatans)
Chuck Barksdale, 84, R&B singer (The Dells)
Eric Moore, rock singer and bassist (The Godz)
Melvin Edmonds, R&B singer (After 7) and brother of Kenny Edmonds
Jake Black, Scottish singer-songwriter (Alabama 3)
Dan Mitchell, songwriter (“If You’re Gonna Play in Texas”)
Willie Ford, soul singer (The Dramatics)
Ralph Murphy, Canadian country songwriter
John Gary Williams, R&B singer (The Mad Lads)
Tony Glover, blues harmonicist (Koerner, Ray & Glover), writer and radio DJ
Jeff Walls, rock guitarist (Guadalcanal Diary)
Leon Redbone, singer, guitarist and songwriter
Roky Erickson, rock singer, guitarist and songwriter (13th Floor Elevators)

June
Mikey Dees, punk rock singer and guitarist (Fitz of Depression)
Dr. John, pianist, singer and songwriter
Spencer Bohren, blues and folk guitarist
Bushwick Bill, rapper (Geto Boys)
Jim Pike, pop singer (The Lettermen)
Chuck Glaser, country singer (Tompall & the Glaser Brothers)
Paul “Lil’ Buck” Sinegal, zydeco and blues musician
Lew Klein, television director and producer (American Bandstand)
Philomena Lynott, Irish author and mother of Phil Lynott
Jack Renner, American recording engineer (Telarc)
Elliot Roberts, music executive and manager (Neil Young, Joni Mitchell)
Jerry Carrigan, session drummer (Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section)
Dave Bartholomew, musician, bandleader and songwriter
Jeff Austin, mandolinist and singer (Yonder Mountain String Band)
Tony Hall, British music industry executive, writer and television host
Gary Duncan, rock guitarist (Quicksilver Messenger Service)

July
Sid Ramin, orchestrator, arranger and composer (West Side Story)
Alan Rogan, British guitar technician (The Who)
Vivian Perlis, musicologist and founder of Yale University’s Oral History of American Music
Martin Charnin, Tony-winning lyricist (Annie, Two by Two, Hot Spot)
João Gilberto, Brazilian singer-songwriter and guitarist
James Henke, music journalist and museum curator (R&R HOF)
Jerry Lawson, a cappella singer (The Persuasions)
Russell Smith, singer and songwriter (Amazing Rhythm Aces)
Johnny Clegg, South African singer and musician (Juluka, Savuka)
Pat Kelly, Jamaican rocksteady and reggae singer
Bill Vitt, drummer (Jerry Garcia, Merle Saunders)
Bob Frank, singer-songwriter
Art Neville, singer, songwriter and keyboardist (The Neville Brothers)
Ras G, hip hop producer and DJ
Harold Prince, theatre director and producer (West Side Story, Cabaret)

August
Ian Gibbons, English keyboardist (The Kinks)
D.A. Pennebaker, documentary filmmaker (Don’t Look Back, Monterey Pop)
Katreese Barnes, musical director (SNL) and songwriter (“Dick in a Box”)
Henri Belolo, French producer (The Ritchie Family, Village People)
Damien Lovelock, Australian singer and songwriter (The Celibate Rifles)
Bob Wilber, jazz clarinetist
Lizzie Grey, rock guitarist (London, Spiders & Snakes)
Danny Doyle, Irish folk singer (“The Rare Ould Times”)
David Berman, singer and songwriter (Silver Jews) and poet
Francesca Sundsten, bassist (The Beakers) and artist (King Crimson)
Freddy Bannister, English concert promoter (Knebworth)
Larry Taylor, bass guitarist (Canned Heat)
Clora Bryant, jazz trumpeter (International Sweethearts of Rhythm)
Reb Foster, radio DJ (KRLA) and band manager (The Turtles)
Mitch Podolak, Canadian folk music promoter (Winnipeg Folk Festival)
Neal Casal, guitarist, singer and songwriter (Ryan Adams, Willie Nelson)
Donnie Fritts, keyboardist (Kris Kristofferson) and songwriter

September
LaShawn Daniels, Grammy-winning songwriter (“Say My Name”)
Kylie Rae Harris, country singer
Dan Warner, Grammy-award winning guitarist (Julio Iglesias, Barry Gibb)
Jimmy Johnson, guitarist, producer and Muscle Shoals co-founder
Al Embry, manager and agent (Jerry Lee Lewis, George Jones)
Jeff Fenholt, musician, actor (Jesus Christ Superstar) and Christian evangelist
Daniel Johnston, singer, songwriter (“Walking the Cow“) and visual artist
Eddie Money, rock singer and songwriter
Julian Piper, English blues guitarist
Ric Ocasek, rock singer, songwriter, guitarist (The Cars) and producer
John Cohen, banjo player (New Lost City Ramblers) and photographer
Harold Mabern, jazz pianist and composer
Chuck Dauphin, country music journalist (Billboard)
Larry Wallis, English guitarist, songwriter and producer (Pink Fairies)
Yonrico Scott, drummer (The Derek Trucks Band)
Robert Hunter, lyricist (Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia, Bob Dylan) and poet
Richard Wyands, jazz pianist
busbee, songwriter (“My Church,” “Try”) and producer
Larry Willis, multi-genre pianist (Jackie McLean, Hugh Masekela)

October
Beverly Watkins, blues guitarist
Barrie Masters, rock singer (Eddie and the Hot Rods)
Kim Shattuck, singer, guitarist and songwriter (Muffs, Pandoras, Pixies)
Vinnie Bell, guitarist and inventor (electric 12-string and sitar)
Ed Ackerson, singer, songwriter and producer (Polara, Antenna)
Glen Brown, Jamaican reggae musician and record producer
Ginger Baker, English drummer (Cream, Blind Faith, Ginger Baker’s Air Force)
Larry Junstrom, rock bassist (Lynyrd Skynyrd, .38 Special)
Molly Duncan, saxophonist (Average White Band)
George Chambers, bassist and singer (The Chambers Brothers)
Dallas Harms, Canadian country singer and songwriter
Jay Frank, music industry executive (DigSin, UMG)
Steve Cash, singer, songwriter and harmonicist (Ozark Mountain Daredevils)
Bob Kingsley, radio broadcaster (American Country Countdown)
Ray Santos, Latin jazz saxophonist and composer
Nick Tosches, music journalist and novelist
Ed Cherney, producer and recording engineer
Joe Sun, country singer (“Old Flames Can’t Hold a Candle to You“)
Paul Barrere, guitarist and songwriter (Little Feat)

November
Marie Laforêt, French-Swiss singer and actress
Timi Hansen, Danish bassist (Mercyful Fate, King Diamond)
Gilles Bertin, French punk rock singer (Camera Silens) and bank robber
Robert Freeman, English photographer (With the Beatles, Help!, Rubber Soul)
Nik Powell, 69, British film producer, co-founder of Virgin Records
Jackie Moore, R&B singer (“Precious Precious”)
Papa Don Schroeder, radio station owner (WPNN) and record producer
Browning Bryant, singer, songwriter and teen heartthrob
Doug Lubahn, rock bassist (Clear Light, The Doors, Billy Squier)
Donna Carson, folk singer (Hedge and Donna)
Eddie Duran, jazz guitarist
Iain Sutherland, Scottish singer, songwriter and guitarist
Martin Armiger, Australian musician (The Sports) and composer
Irving Burgie, songwriter (“Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)”)
Billy Ray Reynolds, songwriter and guitarist (Waylon Jennings)

December
Stuart Fraser, Australian guitarist (Noiseworks)
Michael Lai, Hong Kong television and film composer
Jimmy Cavallo, rock ‘n’ roll singer and saxophonist
Jacques Morgantini, French blues producer and promoter
Greedy Smith, Australian singer, songwriter and keyboardist
Joe Smith, music industry executive (Capitol, Elektra, Warner Brothers)
Jerry Naylor, 80, rock ‘n’ roll singer (The Crickets)
Murray Bowles, music photographer (Green Day, Operation Ivy, Fang)
Marie Fredriksson, Swedish singer, songwriter and pianist (Roxette)
Gershon Kingsley, composer and electronic musician (“Popcorn“)
Jack Scott, Canadian rock ‘n’ roll singer and songwriter (“My True Love”)
Roy Loney, singer, songwriter and guitarist (Flamin’ Groovies)
Emil Richards, jazz, studio, film and television percussionist
Jud Phillips, music industry executive and recording engineer
Alain Barrière, French singer and Eurovision contestant (“Elle était si jolie“)
Kenny Lynch, English pop singer and actor
Arty McGlynn, Irish guitarist
Dave Riley, bassist (Big Black)
Allee Willis, songwriter (“September” “Neutron Dance”) and lyricist
Lee Mendelson, television producer and lyricist (“Christmastime is Here”)
Jerry Herman, composer and lyricist (Hello, Dolly!, Mame)
Sleepy LaBeef, rockabilly singer
Neil Innes, English Comedian musician and writer (Rutles, Bonzo Dog Band)
Norma Tanega, singer-songwriter (“Walkin’ My Cat Named Dog”) and artist

OST: Harper Valley P.T.A.

December 14th, 2019

The title hit, Barbara Eden and selections from Nelson Riddle’s score

A decade after Jeannie C. Riley topped the country chart with Tom T. Hall’s “Harper Valley P.T.A.,” the song was made into a feature film starring Barbara Eden. Eden had turned her early training as a singer, and the fame generated by I Dream of Genie, into a 1967 album for Dot and numerous appearances on television variety shows. For the soundtrack of this 1978 film she sang the Tom T. Hall songs “Mr. Harper” and “Widow Jones,” the latter released as a single. The album leads off with the stereo version of the title tune, and adds well-known songs by Jerry Lee Lewis (“High School Confidential”) and Johnny Cash (“Ballad of a Teenage Queen”) to Carol Channing’s cover of “Whatever Happened to Charlie Brown.” Of more interest to soundtrack collectors will be Nelson Riddle’s instrumental pieces, which include swing, late-night jazz and a classical pastiche. Unfortunately, though listenable, the fidelity of the Riddle tracks doesn’t match that of the rest of the album. Worth getting, but someone should take another look in the vault for better source material. [©2019 Hyperbolium]

Blinky: Heart Full of Soul – The Motown Anthology

December 14th, 2019

The most widely heard unsung singer at Motown

Sondra “Blinky” Williams may be simultaneously one of the most obscure soul singers of her era, and one of the most widely heard. “Obscure,” because Motown’s hit-seeking radar somehow missed the brilliance in the dozens of tracks they recorded on Williams and then buried in their vault. “Widely heard,” because Williams was heard by millions of television viewers each week as Jim Gilstrap’s duet partner on the theme song to Good Times. The daughter of a baptist minister, Williams grew up singing, directing and playing piano in church choirs. She performed with Andraé Crouch, Billy Preston and Edna Wright in the Cogic Singers, releasing several records on the Simpson and Exodus labels, but solo contracts pulled the group apart, with Williams recording an album for Atlantic.

Williams had previously crossed into secular music with a 1963 single (and a flip) under the nom de record “Lindy Adams,” and a 1964 single for Vee Jay that backed the spiritual “He’s Got the Whole World in his Hands” with “Heartaches.” She landed at Motown in 1968 under her high school nickname, Blinky, and debuted with the Ashford & Simpson-penned “I Wouldn’t Change the Man He Is.” An album of duets with Edwin Starr followed in 1969, along with three more singles  (one on Motown, and two on the label’s west coast imprint, Mowest), but despite opening for the Temptations and a spot in the Motortown Revue, the lack of a concerted promotional push left all of the releases to founder commercially.

Had this been the extent of Williams’ engagement with Motown, she might have been collected only by crate diggers, and remembered as a talent whose intersection with the label was artistically fruitful but commercially bare. What distinguishes Williams from other Motown shoulda-beens is the large number of finished, unreleased sides that were left in the vault alongside fascinating working tracks and live material. Motown rolled a lot of tape on someone they couldn’t (or more likely just didn’t) break, and the fervor of her fans (who mounted a now-successful “Free Blinky from the Vaults” campaign) reflects the riches that she recorded, rather than the limited sides that Motown actually released.

The two-disc set opens with Williams’ unreleased album Sunny & Warm, immediately provoking the question of what else Motown had going on that led them to leave this in the vault. To be fair to Motown, Williams’ album was slotted between Diana Ross’ eponymous 1970 solo debut, and the Jackson 5’s Christmas album, so Motown’s promotions staff was certainly busy. If it’s any consolation to Williams, Jimmy and David Ruffin’s I Am My Brother’s Keeper was in the same spot, though released on the subsidiary Soul label. Sunny & Warm opens with the single “I Wouldn’t Change the Man He Is” (which Williams can be seen performing on Chuck Johnson’s Soul Time USA), and features a new interpretation of Fontella Bass’ “Rescue Me,” produced by the song’s co-writer, Raynard Miner. Clay McMurray produced the gratified “This Man of Mine” and the questioning “Is There a Place,” and Ashford and Simpson’s “How Ya Gonna Keep It” (backed with a stunning, deep soul cover of Jimmy Webb’s “This Time Last Summer”) was slated to be the next single.

And then… nothing. No album, and no explanation. Williams kept plugging away, making a connection with Sammy Davis Jr., and touring with him while continuing to record for Motown. Disc one fleshes out the unreleased album with the singles Motown and Mowest released in 1972-73, live material (including a previously unreleased performance of “God Bless the Child”) from the Motortown Revue, and several tracks from anthologies and soundtracks that include a studio take of “God Bless the Child” that was released on 1971’s Rock Gospel – The Key To The Kingdom, and a commanding performance of the early blues  “T’Ain’t Nobody’s Bizness If I Do” from Lady Sings the Blues.

The set’s second disc includes twenty-two previously unreleased tracks recorded with a variety of Motown producers, including label material and covers. Among the latter is an original soul arrangement of Graham Gouldman’s “Heart Full of Soul,” and a thoughtful, extended cover of the Stylistics “People Make the World Go Round.” A few of the tracks are mastered with control room slates or musician count-ins, giving them the aura of work-in-process, but these are finished pieces that offer performances, arrangements and sound that are all up to Motown’s standards. Why were they left in the vault? Perhaps Williams’ gospel roots were too soulful for the pop-leaning Motown, but more likely she was a victim of the sheer volume of material that the well-oiled Motown machine could produce. Motown’s investment may not have yielded commercial returns, but the artistry of these sides is undeniable, and freed from the vault, they’re finally available for Williams’ longtime devotees to enjoy. [©2019 Hyperbolium]