I’ll Play The Blues For You by Albert King

June 30, 2012

Albert King (1923-92) was one of the “kings” of the blues, along with B.B. and Freddie. His recording career began during 1962 and continued until his death in 1992. His most creative and commercially success period took place during his time signed to Stax Records, 1966-75. The eight studio albums released during his time with the label added up to one of the better catalogues of blues music in history.

The Concord Music Group has just resurrected one of his key albums, I’ll Play the Blues for You, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary. The album’s sound has been enhanced with 24-bit remastering, new liner notes by music historian Bill Dahl, plus four previously unreleased bonus tracks. He was backed by the post-Otis Redding Bar-Kays, The Movement (which supported Isaac Hayes), and the Memphis Horns.

The album was a unique mixture of hardcore blues and the funky grooves that were associated with the Stax label. Through it all, King delivered some of the smoothest vocals of his career.

The title track was a seven minute song that epitomized the release. It was a steady-building blues classic, combining his blues guitar play against the funk of The Movement and the clear blasts of the Memphis Horns. He added an extended monologue that united the two sections of the song. The track remained one of King’s signature songs the rest of his career.

“Angel Of Mercy” was a lesson in the art of slow blues. His pile-driving guitar lines just bludgeon the listener. Ann Peebles hit version of “Breaking Up Somebody’s Home” came to the attention of King, who took the song in a different direction as he turned it into a minor-key blues classic. “I’ll Be Doggone” was a huge hit for Marvin Gaye. They probably should have left out the overdubbed crowd response but his forceful version, right out of the Motown songbook, showed why rhythm and blues are words that go hand in hand. “Answer to the Laundromat Blues” was a sequel to his 1966 “Laundromat Blues.” The lyrics are somewhat dated, but the in-your-face guitar work is eternal.

Sometimes bonus tracks add little to a release, but the material included here is just about worth the price of admission by themselves. There is a stripped down version of “Don’t Burn Down the Bridge” minus the horns, plus an alternate performance of “I’ll Play the Blues for You,” with a different horn arrangement and no spoken interlude.

The other two bonus tracks are “I Need a Love,” a frenetic upbeat tune with the horns blasting away and an ominous vocal holding the song together, and the instrumental, “Albert’s Stomp,” which is more funky than bluesy.

I’ll Play the Blues for You presents Albert King at his best. It remains one of the important blues album releases from the early 1970s.

Article first published as Music Review: Albert King – I’ll Play the Blues for You [Remastered & Expanded] on Blogcritics.

The Song From Moulin Rouge by Percy Faith

June 30, 2012

If anyone can take credit for inventing the Easy Listening sound, it is probably Percy Faith (1908-1976). He used a big band foundation but substituted the brass section with lush strings.

The Song From Moulin Rouge was taken from the movie of the same name and topped all three BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Single Charts.

Best Sellers In Stores Chart – 5/16/53 – 10 weeks at #1.
Most Played By Disc Jockeys Chart – 5/16/53 – 8 weeks at #1.
Most Played In Jukeboxes Chart – 5/23/53 – 6 weeks at number one.

It was the number one song of 1953 which leads to a trivia question and answer. Percy Faith and Elvis Presley are the only artists to have the number one song of the year two times. Pretty good company for the old easy listening artist.

Walking In The Rain 45 by The Ronettes

June 30, 2012

The Ronettes are now members of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Veronica Bennett (later Ronnie Spector), Estelle Bennett, and Nedra Talley formed The Darlings during 1958 and later took the name Ronettes.

“Walking In The Rain” was their last big hit. Released during the early fall of 1964, it reached number 23 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart. It also reached number 29 on the Rhythm & Blues Chart.

It was written by Phil Spector, Barry Mann, and Cynthia Weil. It was a prime example of Spector’s Wall Of Sound approcach to recording. It was the only Phil Spector produced song to ever win a GRAMMY AWARD.

Tracks Of My Tears 45 by The Miracles

June 29, 2012

The Miracles formed at Northern High School in Detroit during 1955. The original group consisted of lead singer Smokey Robinson, Emerson Rogers, Bobby Rogers, Ronnie White, and Bobby Moore. Emmerson Rogers left before their first hit and was replaced by Robinson’s future wife, Claudette Rogers.

The Miracles, with and without Smokey Robinson as the front man, would place 46 singles on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart, 1959-1975.

“The Tracks Of My Tears” was one of the group’s and Robinson’s signature songs. Released during the early summer of 1965, it rose to number 16 on the BILLBOARD Pop Chart.

After leaving the Miracles Robinson embarked on a aolo career that has lasted down to the present day.

Give The People What They Want by The Kinks

June 28, 2012

I have always been amused by the title of The Kinks album, Give The People What They Want. Ray Davies and The Kinks did just the opposite for close to a decade with a series of concept albums. Even when they returned to a straight rock format and commercial success, Davies still traveled his own musical journey rather than pandering to the whims of music buying public.

Give The People What They Want was released in the U.S. during August of 1981 (January, 1982 in the U.K.). At the time, The Kinks were comprised of guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Ray Davies, lead guitarist Dave Davies, drummer Mick Avory, bassist Jim Rodford, and keyboardist Ian Gibbons.

The album was weaker than most of their recent rock albums. The music was catchy and in places was some of the hardest rock The Kinks would produce. The lyrics were some of the darkest of Ray Davies career. Death, killing, and abuse did not make for a pleasurable listen. Also missing were doses of Ray Davies wit and satire, which had saved similar material in the past. It all added up to a half-good album that ranks somewhere in the middle of their catalogue of music.

The album had a promising beginning. “Around The Dial” contained scathing commentary about how corporations controlled the programming of radio stations.

There were two superior tracks that found the band on solid ground. “Predictable” was about the bliss of monotony. Davies always had the capacity for creating songs about ordinary things. “Better Things” closed the album on a high note and was very different from what had preceded it. It was a catchy and charming ballad and a rare upbeat concoction by Davies.

Songs such as “Destroyer” and “Back To Front” may not have contained memorable lyrics but they found The Kinks exploring the outer edge of hard rock. On the other hand, tracks such as the chilling “Killer’s Eyes,” “A Little Bit Of Abuse,” “Yo-Yo,” and even the title track found the band exploring the dark side of life.

Give The People What They Want presented The Kinks moving into the 1980s with a much harder sound. If you can shut out the lyrics to some of the tracks, the album becomes a lot more palatable but it ultimately remains an album for Kinks fans who want it all.

Article first published as Music Review: The Kinks – Give The People What They Want on Blogcritics.

The Unbelieveable Guitar And Voice of Jerry Reed/Nashville Underground by Jerry Reed

June 28, 2012

Jerry Reed was a star during country music’s middle period, in between the southern drawl and twangy sound of the 1950s and ’60s and the power pop country music of the 1990s and 2000s. He may have been somewhat under appreciated during his lifetime but he was a guitar virtuoso, a gifted songwriter, and an energetic vocalist with good tone and style.

Despite all his accolades and success, for many people he will always be remembered as good ol’ boy trucker Cledus “The Snowman” Snow from the Smokey And The Bandit film series.

Real Gone Music has now reissued and combined his first two albums, The Unbelievable Guitar & Voice Of Jerry Reed and Nashville Underground. Those early albums established the style and sound that would carry him throughout his career.

His first album remains notable for two compositions recorded by Elvis Presley. “U.S. Male” and “Guitar Man” became hits for “The King” and Elvis brought Jerry Reed along to the recording sessions to provide some of the guitar work. His original take on “Guitar Man” contained a solo acoustic performance that introduced his instrumental dexterity. Likewise, “U.S. Male” contained some guitar runs and a tough-guy vocal. The instrumental “The Claw” was a showcase for his picking abilities.

Country music was very different back during the late ’60s and some of the tracks are a reflection of that era. “It Don’t Work That Way,” “You’re Young,” and “If I Promise” are typical country ballads of the time period.

Nashville Underground contained more traditional country fare and a few tracks where he branched out a bit. Chet Atkins was his early producer and mentor at the time and “Remembering,” “A Thing Called Love,” “and “Almost Crazy” reflected his string-laden foundation that was known as the “countrypolitan sound” at the time.

The centerpiece of the release was “Tupelo Mississippi Flash,” which was a semi-fictional tribute to Elvis. A trio of cover songs found Reed trying to expand his musical horizons. He just rolls through Ray Acuff’s classic “Wabash Cannonball.” He went in a gospel direction with Ray Charles’ “Hallelulujah I Love You So.” Finally, there was a personalized reading of the old folk song “John Henry.”

The return of these two early albums will hopefully help to resurrect the career of Jerry Reed and prove that he should be remembered as more than just Burt Reynolds’ sidekick. If you are a fan of country music, then this is a worthwhile buy as it contains some mighty fine pickin’.

Article first published as Music Review: Jerry Reed – The Unbelievable Guitar And Voice Of Jerry Reed/Nashville Underground on Blogcritics.

(How Much Is That) Doggie In The Window by Patti Page

June 28, 2012

Patti Page, at age 84, is still out on the road performing about 50 concerts a year.

She was one of the queens of music during the 1950s and placed 110 singles on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart during his career.

“(How Much Is That) Doggie In The Window” was one of her four number one hits. It was also one of the biggest hits of 1953 as it topped all three BILLBOARD Pop Charts.

Best Sellers In Stores Chart – 3/21/53 – 8 weeks at #1.
Most Played By Disc Jockeys Chart – 3/28/53 – 7 weeks at #1.
Most Played In Jukeboxes Chart – 4/11/53 – 6 weeks at #1.

It was a novelty type song that that were so popular during the 1950s. It may sound somewhat dated today but almost 60 years ago it ruled the music world in the United States.

Then He Kissed Me 45 by The Crystals

June 28, 2012

Phil Spector used two completely different groups as The Crystals and three lead singers, each of whom provided the lead vocal on some of their big hits.

It was Delores “La La” Brooks who was at the lead vocal helm of “Then He Kissed Me.” Released during the summer of 1963, it reached number six on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart in the United States and number two in the U.K. ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE ranked it as one of the 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time.

Written by Phil Spector, Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, it was almost like a movie in under three minutes. It was about the kiss to the marriage and is still a tale worth hearing.

Since I Lost My Baby 45 by The Temptations

June 27, 2012

“Since I Lost My Baby” may not be one of the best known songs by The Temptations or one of their biggest hits but it was one of their best.

David Ruffin supplied one of the better vocal performances of his career to the Smokey Robinson penned lyrics. Robinson produced the track and added strings and a thumping bass that were smooth and tough at the same time.

Released during the late summer of 1965, it rose to number 17 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart. A song well-worth finding.

Till I Waltz Again With You by Teresa Brewer

June 26, 2012

Teresa Brewer, 1936-2007 was a superstar during the 1950.s She placed 40 singles on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Charts but 33 were during the 1950s.

She had two number one hits during her career. The first was “Music Music Music” during 1951. The second was “Till I Waltz Again With You,” which topped all three BILLBOARD Singles Charts during 1953.

Best Sellers In Stores Chart – 2/14/53 – 5 weeks at number one.
Most Played By Disc Jockeys Chart – 2/14/53 – 6 weeks at number one.
Most Played In Jukeboxes Chart – 2/14/53 – 6 weeks at number one.

It was a song that reminded one of the big band era. While it may sound dated today, back in 1953 it topped the music world in the United States.