Let The Good Times Roll by Caesar & Cleo (Sonny & Cher)

February 28, 2013

let the good times roll caesar & cleo

All careers start somewhere. For Sonny & Cher, it was in 1963 when they released “Let The Good Times Roll” on the small Vault Label. It was later picked up by the Reprise label but neither received any chart action.

Two years later their first chart single hit the jack pot when “I Got You Babe” topped the BILBOARD MAGAZINE Hot 100. And so, “Let The Good Times Roll” was lost to music history – almost.

Don’t Be Cruel/Hound Dog 45 by Elvis Presley

February 27, 2013

Elvis Presley had burst upon the American music scene during early 1956 with his huge hit single, “Heartbreak Hotel.” That was just a warm-up for the biggest hit single of his career.

“Don’t Be Cruel/Hound Dog” was a two-sided hit that was not only the number one single of the 1950s but it would be the biggest chart single until 1992.

Biggest Sellers In Stores Chart – 7/18/56 – 11 weeks at number one.
Most Played By Disc Jockeys Chart – 9/8/56 – 8 weeks at number one.
Most Played In Jukeboxes Chart – 9/1/56 – 11 weeks at number one.
Billboard Top 100 Chart – 9/15/57 – 6 weeks at number one.

Both songs were recorded July 2, 1956. It took 28 takes to get “Don’t Be Cruel” right and 31 for “Hound Dog.” They remain two of Elvis’ most recognizable hits.

My Prayer by The Platters

February 27, 2013

The Platters were formed in 1953. Their most famous line-up consisted of Tony Williams, Paul Robi, Herb Reed, David Lynch, and Zola Taylor. They were one of the most successful vocal groups of the rock and roll era placing 40 singles on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Hot 100 Pop Singles Chart.

Their sound bridged the gap between the early 1950s and the rock era. They were a classic vocal group. They may have been black but their sound resonated with the mainstream white audiance.

“My Prayer” was a number two hit for Glenn Miller in 1939. There version was released during the summer of 1956 and topped all four BILLBOAED Singles Charts in addition to the Rhythm & Blues Chart.

Best Sellers In Stores Chart – 7/4/56 – 2 weeks at number one
Most Played By Disc Jockeys Chart – 7/18/56 – 3 weeks at number one.
Most Played In Jukeboxes Chart – 7/25/56 = 1 week at number one.
Hot 100 Chart – 7/18/56 – 4 weeks at number one.

Tony Williams lead vocal just soared over the harmonies. It was their second of four number one hits.

People, Hell and Angels by Jimi Hendrix

February 26, 2013

More Jimi Hendrix from the vault will be released March 5, 2013. People, Hell and Angels gathers a dozen previously unreleased performances that focus on his work outside of the Experience. Sidemen Buddy Miles, Billy Cox, Stephen Stills, Lonnie Youngblood, Larry Lee, and a host of others (including Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell) all lend a hand on this disparate group of material.

While many of these tracks were never meant for public release, they feature some fine guitar play as they find Hendrix experimenting with new styles and sounds. Some tracks are stripped to basics but others add a second guitarist and other instruments to give them a fuller sound.

During December of 1969, Hendrix, bassist Billy Cox, and drummer Buddy Miles returned to the studio to record four tracks. One of the songs was “Earth Blues,” which was released on the Rainbow Bridge album after his death. It featured backing vocals by the Ronettes, guitar overdubbing, and Mitch Mitchell re-recording the drum parts. The song returns as a raw funky version featuring only the three primary musicians.

“Somewhere” is another song that has been released in a number of forms, all of which underwent studio tinkering after Hendrix’s death. This is a very precise rendition powered by Stephen Stills’ bass playing, which forms an underpinning for Hendrix’s wah-wah guitar sound.

Hendrix always had an affinity for the blues. He takes the old Elmore James tune “Bleeding Heart” and changes the tempo. It is Hendrix at his guitar best with only a basic rhythm section in support.

An interesting track is the nearly seven-minute “Let Me Move You,” recorded during March of 1969. During the mid-1960s Hendrix had been a session musician for Lonnie Youngblood and now the roles were reversed. Youngblood provided the vocal and his sax runs are the perfect foil for Hendrix and his guitar. The track also was one of the first times Hendrix used a 16-track recording process.

“Crash Landing” is another track that has undergone a number of transitions, the most famous being on the posthumous 1975 album that bears its name. That version featured overdubbing by studio musicians. This track has now been taken from the original master with drummer Rocky Isaac, bassist Billy Cox, and unfortunately an organist whose name has been lost to history. It has a stark and simpler feel from the versions that have preceded it.

Albert and Arthur Allen were friends with Hendrix and members of first The International G.T.O.’s and then the Ghetto Fighters. Hendrix invited them to sing background on “Freedom” and “Dolly Dagger.” They brought a third song with them, “Mojo Man.” Albert Allen provided the vocal and Hendrix both guitar parts, which were spliced together by his long time engineer Eddie Kramer.

People, Hell and Angels may not be a cohesive album but it provides insight into the mind of Jimi Hendrix as his time with The Experience came to an end. The liner notes give an excellent overview of each track

Stoned Soul Picnic 45 by The Firth Dimension

February 25, 2013

stoned soul picnic

The Fifth Dimension may have been a black vocal group but many of their biggest hits came very close to pure pop.

Marilyn McCoo, Billy Davis Jr, Florence LaRue, Lamont McLemore, and Ron Towson came together in 1966 and during the next ten years had 30 singles chart on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Hot 100 Pop Singles Chart.

“Stoned Soul Picnic” was released during the late spring of 1968. It was a breezy pop number and peaked at number three on the Hot 100. It helped tp solidify their reputation as one of the leading pop groups of the second half of the 1960s.

Electric by Richard Thompson

February 23, 2013

Richard Thompson was an important part of the original Fairport Convention during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Their fusion of electric folk and rock resulted in some of the most creative music of the era and established a new sound in British music. After leaving the band in 1971, he produced a series of brilliant albums with his then wife, Linda, for the next decade. Since 1983 he has been issuing solo albums that have continued to explore his unique brand of folk and rock.

His latest album, Electric, was released February 11th. It comes as both a regular and deluxe CD. There is also a vinyl version if you are so inclined. The deluxe edition contains an extra disc of material and is the recommended version.

If there is one thing that has been consistent throughout his career, it is his ability to play the guitar. Whether it is an acoustic or electric guitar, his sound is unique and immediately identifiable. While there as some guests, he keeps the music simple. His chief support is drummer Michael Jerome and bassist Taras Prodaniuk, who also provide the background vocals. This simple rhythm section keeps the focus on Thompson and he shines throughout the release.

Tracks such as “Stony Ground,” “Sally B,” “Stuck on the Treadmill,” “Good Things Happen to Bad People,” and “Straight and Narrow” are a guitar lover’s delight. The solos may be a little short at times, but the songs are structured so they can be extended or used as a jumping off place for some improvisation when performed on stage.

His lyrics are not the most upbeat as they are moody and explore such topics as financial problem, relationships, and the ills of life. They are always incisive as he examines the world around him. At times his stories are enhanced by his wry wit.

A track that runs counterpoint to what surrounds it is “The Snow Goose.” It is an acoustic piece that features some vocals by Alison Krauss.

The second disc may not have the cohesive excellence of the first, but “Will You Dance Charlie Boy,” “I Found a Stray,” and “The Rival” are melodic and rootsy and would have fit in fine on the first disc.

Richard Thompson’s career is well into its fifth decade. Electric proves that his creative juices are still flowing and his technical ability remains intact. Electric is a must for fans and a fine introduction for anyone not familiar with his music.

Article first published as Music Review: Richard Thompson – Electric on Blogcritics.

Goodnight My Love 45 by The Happenings

February 22, 2013

goodnight my love

During the late 1960s, 1966-1969, The Happenings placed nine singles on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Hot 100. They were very similar to the Four Seasons. Bob Miranda’s lead falsetto was backed by the tight harmonies of the other singers.

While their biggest hits, “See You In September” and “Go Away Little Girl” were smooth pop pieces. “Goodnight My Love,” on the other hand, had an odd beat to the song’s structure. Released during late September of 1966, it stalled at number 51 on the Hot 100.

Bob Miranda is still touring with The Happenings even though the hits stopped in 1969.

Tijuana Bible by Justin Welch

February 21, 2013

Singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Dustin Welch has returned with his second album Tijuana Bible. It may seem like an odd title but it fits much of the album’s content well. A Tijuana Bible is a term that originated in the 1930s work camps of the Great Depression. They were anonymous pornographic comic strips that many times were take-offs on popular comic characters of the day. They were issued in various forms until the early 1960s.

Welch’s lyrics tend to travel on the dark side of life. Here he plays the part of a devious, mysterious, wicked, and always interesting carnival barker. His stories are more concerned with sinners than saints as he spins his tales of the lost, broken, and fragile.

While his music may move in a folk and Americana direction at times, he is at heart a rocker and sometimes he moves in a fairly hard direction. He accompanies himself on the acoustic guitar, banjo, and gut-string guitar. Some of his backing musicians are electric guitarist Jeremy Nail, violinist Trisha Keefer, keyboardist Scott Bucklin, bassist Steve Bernal, and drummer Eldridge Goins. They are a tight group who can be either subtle or thunderous as the occasion calls for.

From the frantic riffs of the opening track, “Ash & Iron,” which he wrote with his father Kevin Welch, to the wailing of the final, title track, Welch takes you on an interesting journey through his mind and music. He has managed to cloak his stories in pulsating rhythms that provide a fine counterpoint to each other.

The album was recorded in three days with minimal overdubs, which gives it a live feel. There is intensity to his music and the simple recording process served his music well.

Welch has moved in a number of directions during his career, as he has played in a number of bands, including the country band the Swindlers and the west coast Celtic punk band, the Scotch Greens. He has used these experiences to build his style and sound.

Lyrically, Tijuana Bible is not an album for the faint of heart but the catchy, and at times, hook-laden music brings it all back toward the midstream. In the final analysis, if you are looking for something inventive and a little different then this may be an album for you.

Solitary Man 45 by Neil Diamond

February 20, 2013

solitary man

All careers have to start somewhere. Neil Diamond began writing songs during the early 1960s but “Solitary Man” was the first chart single of his career under his own name.

Diamond was signed to the Bang label and released “Solitary Man” during early May of 1967. It peaked at number 55 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Hot 100.

It may not have been a big hit but 55 more chart singles would follow making him one of the most successful male solo artists of the rock and roll era.

Circle of Love by The Steve Miller Band

February 19, 2013

During the 1970s Steve Miller had become a star. Fly Like An Eagle and Book of Dreams were smooth pop/rock albums that produced a number of memorable hit singles and each sold several million copies. They were followed in 1978 by his Greatest Hits 1974-78 album, which has sold close to 13 million copies in the United States. On the heels of these three albums came Circle of Love.

Miller had not issued a new studio album in almost five years so there was a great deal of anticipation prior to the release of Circle of Love. What his fans got was two very different half albums. The first side of the original vinyl release was comprised of four catchy if dissimilar tracks. The second side of the vinyl release was one 16-minute song that was very different from just about anything else Steve Miller has ever released.

It was a simpler album in many ways as it was just vocalist/guitarist Miller and his three member backing band consisting of keyboardist Byron Allred, bassist Gerald Johnson, and drummer Gary Mallaber.

The first track, “Heart Like a Wheel,” was a catchy pop piece in which Miller layered his vocals. It may have veered in a rockabilly direction but was close to his classic 1970s material. It was released as a single with moderate success. The six-minute title song was the weakest song on the first side as it dragged a bit and was a miss as a single. The short two-minute “Baby Wanna Dance” was the hit single that never was and would have fit in well with either of his two big selling studio albums.

“Macho City” started off well as a searing political statement about the issues in El Salvador and Afghanistan at the time but then drifted off into an extended funk/pop instrumental. It was a song that people tended to like or hate with little middle ground. Today the first part seems dated and the last 10 minutes sort of fades into the background music category.

Circle of Love was listenable but paled next to the albums that surrounded it. It is a Steve Miller album for fans who want everything Miller-related.

Article first published as Music Review: Steve Miller Band – Circle of Love on Blogcritics.