San Franciscan Nights 45 by Eric Burdon and The Animals

August 29, 2010

Eric Burdon and The Animals were inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1994. The had 19 singles reach The American charts yet only three reached the top ten. “See See Rider” hit number ten, their big hit “The House Of The Rising Sun” was number one for three weeks, and “San Franciscan Nights” rose to number nine during August of 1967.

The single hooked into the summer of love that was taking place in California at the time. It was a gentle ode to flower power and was totally unexpected given The Animals past history.

The song may sound a little dated today but remains one of their better releases.

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Jackson 45 by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood

August 28, 2010

If it weren’t for Nancy Sinatra, Lee Hazlewood would be primarily remembered as a songwriter and the producer of many of Duane Eddy’s instrumental hits.

He became Nancy Sinatra’s producer during the mid-sixties and wrote some of her biggest hits. “These Boots Were Made For Walking,” “How Does That Grab You Darling,” and “Sugar Town” were all from the fertile mind and pen of Hazlewood.

His career took an unexpected turn when he became her singing partner on four songs that reached The American singles charts. His deep and somewhat ominous baritone was the perfect foil for Sinatra.

The their biggest hit was “Jackson” which reached number fouteen during June of 1967.

“Jackson” was originally recorded by The Kingston Trio in 1963. Johnny Cash and June Carter would win a Grammy Award with the song in 1968. It is the Hazlewood/Sinatra version, however, that remains the difinitive version.

Lee Hazlewood would go on to a moderately successful career as a producer and recording artist but it was his duets with Nancy Sinatra that remain his defining releases.


I’m Yours 45 by Elvis Presley

August 26, 2010

“I’m Yours” was recorded June 6, 1961 but was not released until 1965 when it was placed on the soundtrack of the film TICKLE ME. It was released as a single and reached number 11 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE singles charts during August of 1965. It did top The American Easy Listening charts.

The interesting thing about the 45 pictured is, it is a white label RCA promo copy. Promotional 45’s were sent to radio stations for airplay. They were usually made differently than the commercial releases to prevent the stations from selling them. What happened of course was these different looking promo records became very collectable.

“I’m Yours” is an average release from Elvis but the label makes it a unique collectable.


The Good Old Fashioned Way by Hamper McBee

August 26, 2010

Hamper McBee was a man and artist of an America which has mostly disappeared. He was a moonshiner, carnival barker, comedian, and singer of songs.

As I listened to this album, in some ways I was reminded of the early Delta blues artists whose music was recorded by John and Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress during the thirties and forties. These field recordings are now an important part of American music history. Hamper McBee’s music is folk and country but he also tells stories and interprets traditional songs of many countries. He may be from the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee but his songs tell the story of America just as surely as those of the early blues artists.

He was first discovered by folk musician and musicologist Guy Carawan during 1962. The result was the long out of print album Cumberland Moonshiner released on the Prestige label during 1965. His only other studio album was Raw Mash: Songs and Stories of Hamper McBee released during 1978 by the Rounder label.

Hamper passed away in 1998 but he was not forgotten.The Good Old Fashioned Way is his first album in over three decades and the first time his music has been released in CD form. It combines music from his Rounder album, twelve unreleased tracks, and some stories that will never receive radio play.

He sings without any instrumental backing whatsoever. It is just his voice and the song. As such, the focuses are on the story and as he explains all his songs tell a story. He has a traditional folk voice. It is raw and from the mountains. His musical heroes range from Woody Guthrie to Burl Ives.

Songs such as “Streets Of Laredo,” “Black Jack Davy,” “John Hardy,” “Dark As A Dungeon” all are presented at their stripped down and basic best. Interspersed among the music are his stories. Responding to questions he gives a virtual autobiography of bits and parts of his life and of the culture of the Smokey Mountains. Drinking and Sheriff Bill Malone’s patrol car is a classic and funny example of his style and life.

Listening to Hamper McBee is a trip back in time when a song and its lyrics were not only the important thing but the only thing.The Good Old Fashioned Way is not a modern album but is an interesting one as it provides a document of an important part of American music history and culture.

Article first published as on Blogcritics.org


The Concert For Bangladesh by George Harrison

August 26, 2010

Many people today don’t realize what a big deal this concert was back in 1971. A former Beatle who was fresh off the overwhelming critical and commercial success of All Things Must Pass was organizing a concert for charity at the famous Madison Square Garden. He was bringing along another former Beatle plus the likes of Eric Clapton, Billy Preston, Leon Russell, and a host of other friends. The building rumor was that even Bob Dylan might perform.

The concert took place August 1, 1971. There were actually two performances at noon and 7:00 PM. It was a rare event that lived up to its hype, and yes, Bob Dylan did show up. A triple album,The Concert For Bangladesh, was issued during December of 1971. It would reach the number two spot on the American album charts and attain the number one slot in The United Kingdom. While the money would be held up for a number of years, eventually millions of dollars from the album and film would be donated to the designated charity.

Nearly thirty years have passed since this concert, but I still find it one of the better live releases in rock history. Once the listener gets past side one, the pacing is excellent and the musicianship first rate.

I have probably only played side one of the first disc of the original vinyl release just once, and am not sure if I made it completely through the whole 22 minutes. The Harrison/Ravi Shankar introduction is not the best start to the concert, and the sixteen minute “Bangla Dhun” is just too long and repetitive. Shankar was a sitar virtuoso, but the audience was there for the rock ‘n’ roll. It is more of a philosophical statement than exciting music.

The final five sides are excellent throughout. Harrison wisely places his songs throughout the show and allows his guests to perform in between. “Wah-Wah,” “My Sweet Lord,” and “Awaiting On You All” set the tone and allow the audience to become connected to the music. It is only then that Ringo Starr with “It Don’t Come Easy” and Billy Preston with “That’s The Way God Planned It” step into the spotlight.

Side five of the original release was given to Bob Dylan. Here he is backed by Harrison, Starr, and Leon Russell. His performance came at a time when he had rarely been performing live. He stuck to well known songs such as “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry,” “Blowin’ In The Wind,” “Mr. Tambourine Man,” and “Just Like A Woman,” forming the highlight of the show.

Harrison closes the concert with his Beatles hit “Something” and his latest solo release “Bangla-Desh,” which reached the American top thirty as a single.

The Concert For Bangladesh remains a grand gesture by George Harrison and friends. It is the early seventies at its musical and generous best.

Article first published as on Blogcritics.org


All Things Must Pass by George Harrison

August 25, 2010

All Things Must Pass remains one of the grand albums in music history. Released November 27, 1970 it helped bring the sixties to a close, while opening a new door to the seventies. It was philosophically, spiritually, and musically excellent and avoided some of the excess and preachiness that would plague some of his later releases.

George Harrison was the quiet Beatle always taking a back seat to Paul McCartney and John Lennon. While he recorded such songs as “Taxman,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Here Comes The Sun,” and “Something,” he had trouble placing his songs on Beatles albums. Little did people realize at the time but he had amassed a number of unissued quality songs.

George Harrison used his backlog of material to release the first triple album by a solo artist. Containing such hit singles as “My Sweet Lord” and “What Is Life” it would sell six million copies in The United States alone, and be the number one album in the country for seven weeks. It would also reach the top of the album charts in such countries as Canada, Norway, Australia, The United Kingdom, and Italy.

A virtual who’s who of rock’s finest musicians would back Harrison. Eric Clapton, Dave Mason, Peter Frampton, John Lennon, Klaus Voorman, Carl Radle, Billy Preston, Gary Wright, Ringo Starr, Alan White, Ginger Baker, Bobby Keys, and many more all brought their talents to the album. Even Phil Spector managed to keep himself under control and produced a polished album which fit the music well.

The two hit singles remain the most memorable tracks. “My Sweet Lord” topped the American singles charts for a month and was a wonderful spiritual interlude as The Vietnam War raged. I am still thrilled by Harrison’s opening riff on “What Is Life.” He was always a brilliant guitarist, but this fact would become more apparent after The Beatles dissolved.

“Wah-Wah,” “Hear Me Lord,” and the gospel tinged “Awaiting On You All” are all first rate. He pays homage to some groupies who formed the title of “Apple Scruffs.” Even the proprietor of Harrison’s mansion was immortalized by “Ballad Of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll).” He also includes a fine version of Bob Dylan’s “If Not For You.”

The third disc, titled “Apple Jam,” contains jams by some of the musicians who were present. They are more interesting than essential, but when you have so many artists together why not jam and see what happens? It can be considered a bonus disc, as it does not really fit in with the music of the first two discs. I find the best of the lot to be “Thanks For The Pepperoni” but all contain some interesting bits.

In the final analysis it remains George Harrison’s masterpiece and a hallmark album. All Things Must Pass, except the music contained here.

Article first published as on Blogcritics.org


Live In Istanbul Turkey by John Lee Hooker Jr.

August 25, 2010

So what does a person do when his father is one of the legendary bluesmen of the twentieth century? The answer is simple, he plays the blues.

John Lee Hooker was born in 1917 and worked as a sharecropper early in life. By the time he passed away in 2001 at age 83 he had become recognized as one of the seminal musicians in American music history. His sound and style was somewhat different from many of the Delta blues artists of his generation. He electrified his music similar to the early Chicago blues artists but also stripped it down. His use of chords was unique plus he added a little boogie to his blues. It all earned him induction into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1991.

There is an old saying that the apple does not fall far from the tree. This is true in some ways for John Lee Hooker Jr. but it did roll a little way after hitting the ground. He has not tried to mimic his father which would have been an impossible task. Instead he has used his father’s approach as a foundation and molded it into his own vision.

His music is smoother and his voice is stronger. His use of brass to fill in the gaps gives his music a full sound.

He lost a lot of years to addiction and hard living but his life and career is now back on track. Since 2004 he has released three studio albums which have received critical acclaim. He has now returned with his first live release.

John Lee Hooker Jr. has traveled a lot of miles, both metaphorically and literally, to record this album. Live In Istanbul Turkey is modern traditional blues at its best.

He wrote or co-wrote twelve of the fourteen tracks. Late in the set he covers his fathers “Boom Boom” and “Maudie.” His own material tells his stories and there is some humor included. He is innovative in the use of the lead guitar and brass as at times it gives the music a funky and rock touch. “Doin’ The Boogie,” “Funky Funk,” “One Eye Opened,” and particularly “Fed Up” are all excellent.

There is also a DVD included which contains an animated superhero playing the blues. It seemed completely out of place until I learned it carried on a previous concept. The song performed here is his classic “Extra-marital Affair.” It is interesting, entertaining, and probably non essential.

John Lee Hooker Jr. is a second generation blues practitioner who has continued to help the traditional blues evolve in the 21st century. Live In Istanbul Turkeyis a fine addition to the American blues legacy.

Article first published as on Blogcritics.org