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.

Return Of The Wildest by Louis Prima Jr.

September 23, 2012

The apple may not fall far from the tree but every once in a while it bounces a little. Louis Prima Jr. has just released his debut album, which would have made his famous dad proud.

Louis Prima was a larger than life entertainer who was an energetic performer and recording artist who sold tens of millions of records. He fused big band and jazz music into a unique mix and, with and without vocalist Keely Smith, produced a sound that was perfect for the Las Vegas stage.

Prima Jr. has now taken a number of his father’s best known songs and combined them with a few deeper tracks from his dad’s extensive catalogue of music to form the basis for his first album. He is supported by a tight band that is the product of years of touring. In addition, he is wise enough to complement his own vocals with Sarah Spiegel, which gives it a Keely Smith dynamic.

The album’s title, Return Of The Wildest!, pays homage to his father’s 1956 Grammy Hall Of Fame album The Wildest. He does not just reproduce the music note for note but instead updates it. While the brass is still present, the bass, drum, keyboards, and guitar add a rock element to the mix. It all adds up to a modernized Prima sound.

Right from the opening track, the energy is present. “Oh Babe” was written by his father and here the sax and guitar mix supports his vocal as it builds to a crescendo of what can best be described as swing rock. The old classic, “Night Train,” succumbs to a slowed down and bluesy interpretation.

The tracks that feature Spiegel as a vocalist lend an added dimension to the music. Her voice is a clear and powerful instrument that can be both rock and sultry at the same time. “A Sunday Kind of Love,” “I Want You to Be My Baby,” and “You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me” all demonstrate her importance to the overall sound.

The final two tracks, “Jump, Jive an’ Wail” and “Just a Gigolo-I Ain’t Got Nobody” would be equally at home in the Vegas casino or in the smoky speakeasy. Like many of the tracks, they were recorded just about live in the studio and are a fine presentation of his stage act.

Thirty-four years after Prima Sr. passed away, his son has revitalized his legacy with a reimaging of his music. It will make you want to dance, jump, jive, and wail.

Article first published as Music Review: Louis Prima Jr. – Return Of The Wildest! on Blogcritics.

Dancing In The Street 45 by Martha and the Vandellas

September 22, 2012

Martha and the Vandellas are often and underrated and sometimes under appreaciated vocal group but during the 1960s they placed 21 singles of the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart.

Martha Reeves, Annette Beard (replaced by Betty Kelly in 1964), and Rosealand Ashford formed the Vandellas during the early 1960s. THey quickly signed to the Gordy label and had their first chart Hit, “Come And Get These Memories,” during 1963.

Their biggest hit and one of the better known soul hits of the 1960s was released during the summer of 1966. “Dancing In The Street,” would peak at number two on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart and sell over one-million copies.

It is a song that is still recognizable today. The ringing refrain was perfect for AM radio at the time and remains so today.

I Need You Now by Eddie Fisher

September 21, 2012

1954 was coming to an end and Eddie Fisher had another number one hit helping to cenment his status as one of the surperstars of the pre-1950s rock ‘n’ roll era. In fact only he and Rosemary Clooney had two number one hits during the year.

Fisher is many times a forgotten superstar of the era but his singles sold tens-of-millions of copies. He charted 36 songs, 1948-1954. He also had his own television series, 1953-1957.

“I Need You Now” topped all three BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Charts.

Best Sellers In Stores Chart – 11/13/54 – 3 weeks at number 1.
Most Played By Disc Jockeys Chart – 11/13/54 – 2 weeks at number one.
Most Played In Jukeboxes Chart – 12/4/54 – 2 weeks at number one.

It was a peppy up-tempo pop tune that was typical of the music of the era. The advent of rock ‘n’ roll and marital problems signaled the end of his huge commercial success.

The Pied Piper 45 by Crispian St. Peters

September 21, 2012

Crispian St. Peters, 1939-2010, had only three chart hits in the United States and his native country, England. His greatest noteriety came when he boasted he was bettter than The Beatles and Elvis Presley, which in retrospect was not a wise move at the time although he stated he was kidding.

His biggest hit in The United States came during the summer of 1966, when “The Pied Piper” reached number four on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart. It reached number five in England and number one in Canada. It was a ringing pop tune that was perfect for AM radio at the time. It was one of those songs that was catchy and stayed in your mind.

He would never have a chart hit after 1967 but would continue performing until suffering a stroke during 1995, which signaled the end of his career. It was a single I purchased at the time of its release and every once in a while it still receives a spin or two on my turn table.