Live At Tales From The Tavern by Jack Tempchin

September 30, 2012

Jack Tempchin is primarily known as a songwriter. He greatest fame came for his songs recorded by The Eagles and Glenn Frey; but other artists such as George Jones, Emmylou Harris, Trisha Yearwood, Tanya Tucker, Kate Wolf, Tom Rush, Richie Havens, and a host of others have recorded his material.

Every once in a while he steps out of the background and issues an album of his own. On September 25, he will release his eighth album titled Jack Tempchin – Live At Tales From The Tavern. It is the latest in the Tales From The Tavern series, which records artists in intimate settings at small clubs. Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Jon Dee Graham, Chris Hillman, and Steve Forbert have all recorded for the series and now Jack Tempchin joins their ranks.

His new release is a CD/DVD combo which presents him at his simple best as he sings a number of his well known songs and combines them with some newer material. It is just his voice, guitar, and harmonica, which puts a new spin on many of the tracks as it keeps the focus on the lyrics and his skill as a songwriter.

Two of his most famous Eagles compositions highlight the album. “Peaceful Easy Feeling” was made for his laid back approach but “Already Gone” is transformed from rock to a folk interpretation. Two songs associated with Glenn Frey, “The One You Love,” and “You Belong to the City,” receives similar treatment.

I had forgotten he wrote the Johnny Rivers hit, “Slow Dancing.” Here he presents a gentle version of Rivers’ mid-tempo pop rocker. When you add in such lesser known tunes such as “Bender,” “Loneliest Piano in Town,” “Jazzbird,” and “Jesus and Mohammed,” you have a fine collection of well-crafted songs.

Tempchin’s approach is about as laid back as they come, but he is perfect for a small club setting. His patter and stories between the songs only add to the atmosphere. Live At Tales From The Tavern is a heartfelt live presentation by Jack Tempchin of some of his notable material. It is a fine way to spend an hour.

Article first published as Music Review: Jack Tempchin – Jack Tempchin: Live At Tales From The Tavern on Blogcritics.

Live At Montreux: 1975-1993 by Etta James

September 30, 2012

I assume the first time I ever heard Etta James was when some oldies station played her hit “The Wallflower (Dance With Me Henry)” during the late 1960s. By the end of the decade she was sharing time on my turntable with the likes of The Beach Boys, The Beatles, and Led Zeppelin.

Jamesetta Hawkins (1938-2012) was a seminal music figure during the mid-1950s as she was a connector between classic rhythm & blues and rock and roll. While she never really crossed totally over to a rock format, her style and sound helped to clear the way for artists who would follow.

Her recording career began during 1954 and continued to near her death. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease during 2008 but managed to issue her final album, The Dreamer, in 2011.

If there is anything better than Etta James in the studio, it is Etta James on stage. She was a constant presence at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Eagle Rock Entertainment has now gathered 11 of her performances spanning four appearances at the festival, 1975-1993.

She always had a strong blues foundation and “Dust My Broom” (1975) and “Sugar on the Floor” (1989) returns her to those roots. The six performances, recorded July 15, 1993, have a cohesiveness that is somewhat missing from the second half of the release as they tend to fit together well. Songs such as “I Just Wanna Make Love to You,” “Come to Mama,” and “A Lover Is Forever” explores the gritty and passionate R&B side of her career.

The two most interesting tracks are from her 1975 appearance. The nine-minute “Respect Yourself” and the 10-minute “W.O.M.A.N.” find her at the height of her career and demonstrate how she could work a crowd for an extended period of time.

The album purports to present the best of her Montreux performances. Personally I would prefer to have the entire performances rather than just various songs from a number of sets and years. Whether any more of her material exists from these shows is unknown to me at this time, but the recording of older Montreux shows was spotty.

Still, it’s nice to have the debut of these songs as they present a fine introduction to her music. Etta James passed away January 20, 2012, and Live At Montreux: 1975-1993 is a statement that her like may not pass this way again.

Article first published as Music Review: Etta James – Live At Montreux 1975-1993 on Blogcritics.

When I Fall In Love 45 by The Lettermen

September 30, 2012

Jim Pike, Tony Butala, and Bob Engemann formed The Lettermen in 1958 and during the 1960s they became one of the kings of harmonic pop. They placed 21 singles on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart, 1961-1971. More amazing was their album sales as they had 32 consecutive album releases reach the BILLBOARD Pop Album Chart.

“When I Fall In Love” was a top 20 hit for Doris day back in 1952. They remained true to her version but added their tight harmonies to the mix. Released as a single, it reached number seven on the BILLBOARD Singles Chart. It also reached number one on the Adult Contemporary Chart.

Tony Butala now owns The Lettermen name and they are still out on the road.

Your Mama Don’t Dance 45 by Loggins & Messina

September 29, 2012

A funny thing happened to Kenny Loggins after he was signed to the Columbia Label as a solo artist. He ran into Jim Messina who had played with The Buffalo Springfield and Poco. A duo would be formed and between 1972-1976, they would sell millions of albums and place 10 singles on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart.

Their highest charting single was “Your Mama Don’t Dance,” which was released during late 1972 and peaked at number four on the BILLBOARD Singles Chart. It was just about a perfect rock/pop song with impeccable harmonies. It remains a highlight of their career.

After spliiting with Messina during 1972, Loggin swould go on to a successful solo career, highlighted by his huge number one hit, “Footloose.”

Susie Darlin’ 45 by Tommy Roe

September 28, 2012

Tommy Roe’s first chart hit went all the way to number one when “Shiela” spent two weeks at the top of the charts during the summer of 1962.

His follow-up single was not as successful but in many ways was a better listen. Today Roe is remembered for his bubblegum hits of the late 1960s but during his early career he could rock every now and then. “Susie Darlin'” was a nice little rocker that was catchy and stayed in your mind. It peaked at number 35 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart during late 1962.

Roe would move to England during the mid-1960s and when he returned to the United States in 1969 his sound was very different.

Mr. Sandman by The Chordettes

September 27, 2012

1954 was comning to an end and The Chordettes would have the last number one song of the year and the first of 1955. Their “Mr. Sandman” would be the only number one song of their career and while not issued during the rock and roll era, it would always be associated with that time period.

The Chordettes formed during 1946 as a folk group similar to The Weavers but quickly evolved into a traditional vocal group. There were a number of personnel changes but the four some that sung on “Mr. Sandman” were Janet Ertel, Carol Buschmann, Dorothy Schwartz, and Lynn Evans.

It was a huge hit topping all three BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Charts.

Best Sellers In Stores Chart – 12/18/54 – 7 weeks at number one.
Most Played By Disc Jockeys Chart – 11/27/54 – 6 wweks at number one.
Most Played In Jukeboxes Chart – 12/18/54 – 4 weeks at number one.

The Chordettes would almost make it back to the top of the charts in 1958 when “Lollipop” spent two weeks at number two. They would disband in 1961.

You Don’t Own Me (HipPocket Records) by Lesley Gore

September 26, 2012

Hip pocket records were small 4 inch flexi-discs that would play on regular stereo systems plus record players made especially for the discs. They were produced during the 1960s but never really caught on.

Most of the major labels of the day produced the discs and ones by such artists as The Beatles and The Beach Boys are fairly collectable today.

The best thing about the releases was they came with picture covers. Lesley Gore was one of America’s female sweethearts during the 1960s. Pictured here is her hit single, “You Don’t Know Me,” which was released during late 1963 and spent three weeks at number two on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart during early 1964. It was a much better picture than her regular black and white picture sleeves for the Mercury Label.

Wishin’ and Hopin’ 45 by Dusty Springfield

September 25, 2012

Sometimes life is unfair and so it was for Dusty Springfield when she passed away just before she was inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

She was a member of the Springfields with her brother Tom, and Tim Field, 1960-1963,who produced a top 20 hit with “Silver Threads and Golden Needles.

Her solo career lasted until near her death. She placed 16 singles on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart in the United States, 1964-1969, with three making the top ten.

“Wishin’ and Hopin'” was a pleasant pop song released during the summer of 1964. It had a somewhat odd beat with a cute vocal. It reached number six on the BILLBOARD Chart. Springfield always had a sophistication about her that many artists of the 1960s lacked.

Just A Song Before I Go by Crosby, Stills & Nash

September 24, 2012

The Music of Crosby, Stills & Nash was just about the smoothest in rock history. Stephen Stills, David Crosby, and Graham Nash had voices that were meant to sing together. As a trio they were inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1997.

They had a number of classic singles but “Just A Song Before I Go” was their biggest single hit. Classic harmonies over a simple refrain with mid-tempo music made it an enjoyable listen. It stayed on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart for 21 weeks during the summer of 1977, peaking at number seven.

The trio is still on the road both as solo artists and together.

Over With You by Steve Forbert

September 23, 2012

Steve Forbert is now over 30 years into his career and has just released his 14th studio album. He does not re-invent the wheel with Over With You. While the topics may have changed with the passage of time, his music has remained essentially the same. If you like one Steve Forbert album, the chances are you will like them all.

He is basically a singer/songwriter who treads the line between folk and pop. It all coalesces into his unique brand of roots or Americana music.

His newest release is a sparse affair, which keeps the focus on his strength as a songwriter. He has always had the abilty to write poetic lyrics that tell a story. Here he writes and sings about love and relationships and the pain and sorrow that accompanies them many times. It is one of the more personal albums of his career.

Musicians Ben Sollee (cello and bass), Jason Yates (keyboards), Michael Jerome (drums), and Sheldon Gomberg (electric and upright bass) provide the basics. A highlight is the cello work by Sollee, which adds some unique depth and textures to some of the material.

The first and last tracks are a microcosm to what lies in between. “All I Asked of You” is a bleak introduction to the album as it sets the tone for some of the painful observations that will follow. “Sugarcane Plum Fairy,” possibly the album’s strongest track, is a sprawling piece that traces the renewing of an old relationship, which ends in some unsettling realizations.

If there is one thing he has always been able to do, it is write a song and there are really no week tracks among the ten contained on the album. “In Love With You” has a bluesy feel to it with guest Ben Harper providing some tasty slide guitar. “Can We Get Together” looks at long distance relationships. “Baby I Know” is a welcome relief as it finds his wit shining through in this up-tempo romp.

The years have passed for Steve Forbert and he has produced a mature but solemn album. It ultimately proves to be another interesting stop on his life’s journey. It’s worth going along for the ride.

Article first published as Music Review: Steve Forbert – Over With You on Blogcritics.