Posts Tagged ‘Atlantic’

Dr. John: The Atco/Atlantic Singles 1968-1974

Saturday, November 21st, 2015

DrJohn_TheAtcoAtlanticSinglesThe singles that led to Dr. John’s brief mainstream fame

As an artist primarily known for albums and live performance, it’s hard to imagine anyone but the most ardent Dr. John record collectors being able to name more than two or three of his singles. “Right Place Wrong Time” comes easily to the mind of anyone who was around for its original run up the chart to #9. But other than that, what? Well, it turns out that several of Dr. John’s iconic album tracks – “Iko Iko” from 1972’s Gumbo and “Such a Night” from 1973’s In the Right Place – were also released as singles, though neither had the chart success of “Right Place Wrong Time.” So that’s three. And yet, during Dr. John’s stay on Atco and Atlantic, he actually released a half-dozen more singles, all of which are collected here – A’s, B’s and alternate flips, along with several UK- and promo-only sides.

One has to wonder who Atlantic thought was going to play these singles; particularly since they didn’t often differ greatly from the album cuts prefered by FM. “Iko Iko” was trimmed by a minute, “I Walk on Gilded Splinters” was trimmed and split into two parts, and “Wang Dang Doodle” was excised from the Mar Y Sol concert album, but the rest seem closely aligned with the albums. Of interest to collectors will be a few rarities offered here, highlighted by “The Patriotic Flag Waver.” On this 1968 single, presented in the long mono promo cut, Dr. John manages to combine a children’s chorus, “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” “America the Beautiful,” social commentary and New Orleans funk. Even more rare is Dr. John’s guest appearance, alongside Eric Clapton, on the original 1972 single version of labelmate Buddy Guy’s “A Man of Many Words.

The collection pulls together Dr. John’s singles, EP and promo-only sides, and both B sides of “Oh, What a Night,” which featured “Cold Cold Cold in the U.S. and “Life” in the U.K. Presented in roughly (though not strictly) chronological order, the singles tell the story of Dr. John’s early years as the Night Tripper, his ex-pat Los Angeles edition of New Orleans soul, and his brief intersection with mainstream fame. It’s an unusual lens to place on the career of an artist better known for albums and live performances, but as a quick look at his seven years on Atco, it’s surprisingly good. The albums are out there to be had, but hearing the years compressed into a generous 71 minutes is a worthwhile trip. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

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Ray Charles: Live in France 1961

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Ray Charles live in 1961 at the height of his powers

1961 was a banner year for Ray Charles. The crossover seeds he’d sewn with Atlantic on 1959’s The Genius of Ray Charles had led him to bigger bands and orchestras and a contract with ABC. In 1960 he’d notched his first #1 on the pop chart with a cover of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Georgia on My Mind,” and by 1961 the demand for his concert appearances finally brought him to Europe, where he headlined the second-annual Antibes Jazz Festival in southeastern France. Charles performed four dates with the classic lineup of his octet, featuring Hank Crawford (alto sax), David “Fathead” Newman (tenor sax and flute), Leroy Cooper (baritone sax), Phillip Guilbeau (trumpet), John Hunt (trumpet), Edgar Willis (bass), Bruno Carr (drums) and the Raelettes (Gwen Berry, Margie Hendrix, Pat Lyles and Darlene McCrea).

The two full dates captured here – July 18th and 22nd – split their set lists between earlier titles recorded for Atlantic and then recent sides for ABC. The two sets repeat a few titles (“Let the Good Times Roll,” “Georgia on My Mind,” “Sticks and Stones” and crowd-rousing versions of Charles’ first crossover hit, “What’d I Say”), but also add unique titles, including a swinging take of Charles then-current Latin-rhythm single “One Mint Julep” a celebratory performance of “Hallelujah, I Love Her So” (with Newman stepping to the front for a short solo), and a cover of Nat King Cole’s “With You On My Mind.” The band’s instrumental tunes give Charles an opportunity to show off his considerable talent as a pianist, and the fluidity with which the shows move between jazz, blues, R&B, gospel and pop is mesmerizing.

The two sets are augmented by six bonus performances culled from shows on the 19th and 21st, bringing the total program to a satisfying 105 minutes. Originally filmed (not videotaped) for French public television, these performances have been unseen for nearly fifty years. The black-and-white footage is neatly edited, with interesting close-ups of the instrumentalists and images of the sunglasses-wearing cigarette-smoking audience. The audio is crisp, well-balanced mono with only a few inconsequential artifacts, including Charles’ enthusiastic foot stomping rattling his microphone stand on “Let the Good Times Roll.” This is a terrific archival discovery and a must-see for Ray Charles fans! [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

Tom Dowd and the Language of Music

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

tomdowd_thelanguageofmusicExtraordinary musical figure, adequate documentary

Tom Dowd (1925-2002) was best known to top-flight jazz, soul and rock musicians, and detail-oriented music fans who read through all of an album’s liner notes. Dowd’s credits as engineer or producer can be found on back covers and in CD booklets of seminal recordings by Ray Charles, Ruth Brown, Joe Turner, LaVern Baker, The Clovers, The Drifters, The Coasters, Bobby Darin, John Coltrane, MJQ, Ornette Coleman, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Machito, Roland Kirk, George Shearing, Charlie Mingus, Cream, Eric Clapton, Buffalo Springfield, Sonny & Cher, The Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd, to name just a very few.

Dowd was one of the critical elements behind Atlantic’s ascendancy in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and helped Stax find their audio groove. He was both an engineer and a producer, but more importantly he was a studio catalyst whose musical sensibility and golden ears led musicians to their best work, which he then captured on tape. Fellow producer Phil Ramone calls Dowd a “coach,” and his multiple roles as engineer, producer and musical confidant are echoed by the likes of Eric Clapton and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Billy Powell. It was Dowd who suggested the unusual downbeat that marks Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love,” it was Dowd who captured the energy of the Allman Brothers at the Fillmore East, and it was Dowd who first captured on tape everything Otis Redding had to offer, resulting in the seminal album Otis Blue.

Dowd’s career spanned the early days of direct-to-disc recording, in which the balance of musicians was engineered live, through mono and half-track stereo (the latter of which Dowd was one of the first to use for LP production), through overdubbing on multi-track tape, to the unlimited tracks, automation and editing possibilities of today’s digital studios. His biggest step forward was the introduction of an eight-track recorder at Atlantic, which revolutionized the way pop music was recorded, and in turn the music itself. The ability to record first and mix later freed engineers to focus on sound capture, and the ability to lay down individual tracks at different times divorced recording from the aesthetic of a live band.

This documentary is filled with the music of Dowd’s productions and features interviews with Dowd, Ahmet Ertegun, Jerry Wexler, Ray Charles, Mike Stoller, Phil Ramone, Eric Clapton, members of the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd, and others. There’s superb archival photos and film footage, including snippets of Dowd working in the studio and control room and performance footage of Booker T & The MGs, Otis Redding and more. There’s a wonderful shot of the Baldwin piano on which Jim Gordon played “Layla,” and a recitation of the instrument’s other guests, including Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Gregg Allman, Billy Powell, and Dr. John.

There’s a lot of great material here, but like the sequence in which Dowd fiddles with the individual tracks of “Layla,” the film doesn’t gel into a coherent statement. The staged studio recreations feel like a cheat, and the super congenial tone, though apparently representative of Dowd’s temperament, turns this into more of a tribute than a documentary This film is worth seeing for the archival footage and newly struck interviews, but while it provides context for Dowd’s work, it’s not nearly as moving as his actual music. DVD extras include three deleted scenes, additional interview clips, a photo gallery and a “making of” showing the set-up for filming the recording studio recreations. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]