Slaves And Masters by Deep Purple

December 28, 2011

Some people just can’t get along and so it was, is, and probably always shall be for Ian Gillan and Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple fame. The fou-year reunion of the classic Mark II line-up of Deep Purple came to an acrimonious end during 1989 when either Gillan was fired by Blackmore or quit on his own, which really didn’t matter as the band was in need of a new lead singer by then.

Enter Joe Lynn Turner and the formation of the Mark V line-up. He had been the lead singer of Blackmore’s solo band Rainbow, 1980-1984. His stint in Deep Purple would be fairly short, 1989-1992, and produced only one studio album. When I rank the singers that have fronted Deep Purple; Turner probably lands on the bottom. He is an excellent singer in his own right but his voice was different from what one was accustomed to hearing from Deep Purple. It is gritty and in some ways more mainstream than the sonic nature of Ian Gillan and David Coverdale.

With Turner hired as the singer, the band went in to the studio and released Slaves And Masters during October of 1990 before setting off on a very successful and lucrative tour schedule during 1991. The album remains an afterthought in the large Deep Purple catalogue. It was a little too slick and polished in places as the band moved in a commercial direction. It ended up sounding like a cross between a Rainbow and a Deep Purple album that did not reflect the best of either.

Oddly I find the best of the album bunched at the beginning as the first three tracks are all pretty good. “King Of Dreams,” “The Cut Runs Deep,” and “Fire In The Basement” all come the closest to Deep Purple’s brand of classic hard rock. Blackmore’s guitar solos and Lord’s keyboard runs harp back to the Deep Purple of old. The instrumentals kept Turner’s vocals under control and if all the tracks could have gone in this direction, the album would have been more representative of the band’s legacy.

The final six tracks are basically generic filler. They even stoop to ripping off some Kiss riffs on a couple of tracks. While in and of themselves they may not be terribly offensive, they are certainly not up to the band’s past standards.

The life of the Mark V line-up would be brief. A surprise new lead singer was coming and stability was in the band’s future. No doubt there are people in the Deep Purple universe who will praise this album, but in the final analysis it is only for fans who want everything Deep Purple.

Article first published as Music Review: Deep Purple – Slaves And Masters on Blogcritics.

The Gypsy 78 by The Ink Spots

December 27, 2011

“The Gypsy” began its journey in England, where written by Billy Reid, it was recorded by his orchestra with vocalist Dorothy Squires.

A good song is a good song song so it was imported across the Atlantic to the United States. It was recorded by Dinah Shore who reached number 2 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Charts and Sammy Kaye who took it to number four. While these were big hits, none came close to matching the version by The Ink Spots.

The Ink Spots were one of the most successful vocal groups of the 1930s and 1940s. They were a rare back group that was popular with white audiences.

Their recording of “The Gypsy” was the number one single of 1947. It reached nuber one, May 25, 1946, and remained in that position for ten weeks.

It was typical of their style. The tenor would sing the whole song, followed by the bass saying the words, and then the tenor would finish with by singing a few more lines. In this case it was golden.

Wooden Heart 45 by Joe Dowell

December 27, 2011

G.I. Blues was Elvis Presley’s first film after being released from the U.S. Army. It would top the album charts in the United States. Elvis released one of the songs from the soundtrack, “Wooden Heart (Muss I Denn)” as a single in England. It became a huge hit topping the U.K. charts for six weeks. For some reason, it was not issued as a single in the United States at the time.

Enter Joe Dowell from Bloomington, Indiana. As a 21 year old, he signed a recording contract with Shelby Singleton’s brand new Smash label. His first recording session included a cover of Presley’s “Wooden Heart (Muss I Denn).” The song was released June 26, 1961, as the label’s first single.

Exit Bobby Lewis. The summer of 1961 had been very kind to Mr. Lewis as his song “Tossin’ and Turnin’” had spent seven consecutive weeks at the top of the Billboard Magazine Pop Singles Chart. It was named the number one single of the year. All good things must eventually come to an end, and so it was for “Tossin’ and Turnin’” on August 28, 1961.

Joe Dowell and his label grabbed the brass ring the first time out as their version of “Wooden Heart” reached number one on that date and remained there for one glorious week.

The song was a re-working of an old German folk tune. The lyrics were sung in both English and German. Dowell’s release was a smooth pop/easy listening hit and a little different from Elvis’ film version. Ray Stevens’ organ, which sounded like an accordion, was the main instrumental sound. Dowell’s voice was made for this type of song as he had a laid back style with nice tone.

He would have another couple of lesser hits but would eventually be dropped by the label he helped make successful. He went into advertising and became a spokesman for a bank in addition to performing occasionally. He is currently considering a return to the recording studio.

Elvis finally released his version as the B-side of his 1964 Christmas single, “Blue Christmas,” which made for an odd combination. It was too late because in the United States “Wooden Heart” will always be associated with Joe Dowell.

Michael by The Highwaymen

December 27, 2011

The year 1961 produced a variety of number one hits typical of the pre-Beatles era. They ranged from the easy listening of Bert Kaempfert and Lawrence Welk (“Wonderland By Night” and “Calcutta”), to the dance tune of Chubby Checker (“Pony Time”), to the doo-wop of The Marcels (“Blue Moon”), to the rock ‘n roll of Del Shannon (“Runaway”). Add in Elvis Presley, Ricky Nelson, Roy Orbison, plus the number one song of the year, “Tossin’ And Turnin” by Bobby Lewis, and you have a lot of different sounds and styles.

The trend continued when a folk song made a rare appearance at the top of the Billboard’s Pop Singles Chart, September 4, 1961. That track, “Michael” by The Highwaymen, would remain in that position for two weeks.

“Michael, Row The Boat Ashore” was an African-American spiritual that became popular during the American Civil War. During the 1950s, folk artists Pete Seeger and The Weavers recorded the song and performed it regularly in concert. It was The Highwaymen, however, who produced the most memorable version.

The group was formed during 1958 by five freshmen at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. They had to have been one of the most educated bands ever to reach number one: Bob Burnett (Harvard Law), Steve Butts (Ph.D. Columbia in Chinese Politics), Steve Trott (Harvard Law), Chan Daniels (Harvard Business), and lead singer Dave Fisher (a plain over Wesleyan graduate who would become a career musician, session player, and songwriter) released eight albums and charted five singles before breaking up in 1964.

The Highwaymen were a classic folk group and an important part of the late 1950s and early 1960s folk revival. Their harmonies on traditional folk tunes made the music more palatable to a pop audience and helped folk music crossover into the mainstream.

Their cover of “Michael Row The Boat Ashore,” which they shortened to just “Michael,” was their crowning commercial achievement as it sold over one million copies in The United States and topped the singles charts in both the USA and Great Britain. Their peppy version of the old standard remains the definitive version.

The group, minus Daniels (who passed away during 1975), re-formed in 1987 for their 25th college reunion. This led to them playing 10-15 concerts a year until Fisher’s death during 2010.

The Highwaymen were an influential folk group who managed to produce one of the better selling folk singles in music history. A half century ago this year, they were on top of the music world.

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Kentucky Woman 45 by Deep Purple

December 27, 2011

Neil Diamond had a hit single with “Kentucky Woman” during late 1967 when it reached number 22 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart.

The song returned to the singles charts a year later in a far different form. The hard rock band, Deep Purple, gave it a hard rock treament and move it far from its pop origens. Their version reached number 38.

It remains a rare song where two different treatments were both excellent.

Lay Down (Candles In The Rain) 45 by Melanie

December 26, 2011

Ater performaning at Woodstock, Melanie Safka wrote a ringing pop/folk song about the experience of singing before 400,000 people in the rain, while they held up candles.

“Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)” was a big hit reaching number six on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart. It would go on to be adopted by the anti-war movement of the Vietnam War era.

It would be the signature song of her career and a memorable single release from the early 1970s.

Cherry Bomb 45 by The Runaways

December 26, 2011

The Runaways were an all teen girls band from the mid-1970s. The put out a tough image and played all their own instruments. Their hard rock sound found moderate success in the United States but in Japan they were stars. The core band consisted of vocalist Cherie Currie, guitarist Joan Jett, guitarist Lita Ford, drummer Sandy West, and bassist Jackie Fox.

“Cherry Bomb” was their bigest hit in Japan. It capitalized on their teen teese approach, which garnered them tens of thousands of male fans. It was Currie who emerged as the heart-throb of the band.

Ford and especially Joan Jett have gone on to solo careers. While not chosen, Jett was nominated for The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fall in 2011.