October 30, 2013
Bottom Of The Charts: The Five Whispers
Every Halloween, “The Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett makes a comeback. It topped the Cashbox Magazine Pop Chart for three weeks during late October and early November 51 years ago. It sold over one million copies in the process. But what was going on at the bottom of the charts 51 years ago.
Enter Bobby and Larry Black. There were primarily country musicians for most of their career. Bobby played with the likes of Commander Cody, The New Riders Of The Purple Sage, and Asleep At The Wheel. They both played with Johnny Cash and Barbara Mandrell. Early in their careers, they formed a number of groups and released several singles. The Tripletts (Dore label), The Five Whispers (Dolton), The Tides (Dore), The Green Beans (MGM), and The Country Cut-ups (Mercury) were all products of the Black Brothers.
It was The Five Whispers that almost brought them some fame. They released the single “Midnight Sun” in 1962 and on October 20, 1962, it made its Cashbox debut at number 100. One week later it moved up a notch to number 99 and then disappeared.
While they were country artists, “Midnight Sun” fell into the surf instrumental category. I don’t know how many surf songs featured a steel guitar but Bobby Black used it as the lead instrument. They were supported by drummer Jack Greenback.
Time has regulated the record to collector conventions and Ebay listings but just over a half century ago, The Black Brothers appeared on the Cash Box Charts.
October 30, 2013
Tommy Keene has traveled in a very different direction for his 10th studio album. While he has covered other artist’s material in the past, he has now issued an entire album of cover songs.
Excitement At Your feet allows him to tackle material by The Who, Bee Gees, Rolling Stones, Roxy Music, Big Star, Donovan, Echo & The Bunnymen, and more. There is a twist, however, because except for Donovan’s “Catch The Wind,” he delves deep into the various artists catalogue for material. Songs such as “Much Too Much” (The Who), “I Laugh In Your Face” (Bee Gees), “Ride On Baby” (Rolling Stones), “The Puppet” (Echo & The Bunnymen), “Out Of The Blue” (Roxy Music), may not be well-known songs but they challenge him in ways his own compositions do not and after close to three decades in the music industry, it’s good to be challenged.
He adapts to some of the material and changes some to fit his style. He leaves his comfort zone at times and not everything is successful but it is one of his better and certainly more adventurous albums.
He has always been a power pop wizard but many times brings a harder edge to his sound. He fares best on the Who, Roxy Music, and Rolling Stones covers. His voice is more than competent and he has always been a first-rate guitarist. The only real loss on an album of this type is his own excellent story telling ability.
Excitement At Your Feet is a very different listening experience than the usual for a Tommy Keene album but is well-worth exploring.
October 30, 2013
Lou Pride, 1944-2012, deserved better from the music buying public. During the course of his five decade career, he produced a number of albums that featured his brand of smooth soul and rhythm & blues, which found limited commercial success. His final album, recorded shortly before his death, will be released October 15; under the title Ain’t No More Love In This Place.
From the opening blast of classic-style Motown horns on the title track, to the funky vocal on “I Didn’t Take Your Woman,” to his buttery smooth vocals on such tracks as “Never,” “Take It Slow,” “Love Come To Me,” and “Key To The World,” to the poignant farewell of the last track, a cover of Simply Red’s “Holding Back The Years;” it is a wonderful journey through the voice and style of a many times underappreciated artist.
It is an album that benefits from the production as they get the mix just right. It allows the instruments and vocals to each have clarity but not intrude upon each other.
Pride is a son of Chicago’s North Side and began singing in his local Baptist Church, while absorbing the local rhythm & blue scene. He spent more time on the concert stage than in the studio, which may have hindered his commercial success, but it enabled him to develop a sound and style that was among the best in the business.
Ain’t No More Love In This House is a fitting epitaph for a an artist who plied his craft for years. Hopefully it will bring him some belated notoriety.
October 27, 2013
There is little left to say about the career of Paul Simon. He was one-half of the legendary duo of Simon & Garfunkel, plus his solo career has resulted in dozens of hit albums and singles. Throw in eight Grammy Awards, two inductions into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, induction into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame, induction into the American Academy Of Arts And Sciences, 39 BMI Awards, named in 2006 by Time Magazine as “100 People Who Shaped The World,” and a Kennedy Center Honors recipient and you have one of the most famous and respected figures in American music.
Now Legacy Records has released Paul Simon – The Complete Albums Collection, which is a 15-disc box set containing his 12 studio and two live concert albums. They cover his entire solo career from 1965’s The Paul Simon Songbook to 2011’s So Beautiful, Or So What.
Coinciding with the box set release is a one disc compilation titled Over The Bridge Of Time: A Paul Simon Retrospective (1964-2011). While all the material has been available on a number of occasions, it is the first time that Simon & Garfunkel material has been combined with his better known solo work. The songs are sequenced chronologically beginning with Simon & Garfunkel’s first hit, “Sounds Of Silence” and ending with the recent “Love And Hard Times.”
There is nothing new here but the 20 tracks are a wonderful ride through his career. “The Boxer,” “Cecelia,” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water” set up such well-known solo songs as “Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard,” “50 Way To Leave Your Lover,” “Slip Slidin’ Away,” “Late In The Evening,” and “You Can Call Me Al.”
Each of the songs stands on their own but they also make you yearn for more. Simon’s career is filled with well-known and not so famous material and to really appreciate his genius, it is necessary to dig deep into his catalogue of albums.
Still, Over The Bridge Of Time: A Paul Simon Retrospective (1964-2011) serves the purpose of whetting the appetite with many of the definitive songs of the last half century. It presents Paul Simon at his most memorable.
October 24, 2013
And now, all the way from Oslo, Norway, we have Kosmoratik and their second album Bridges and Boats.
The band is a trio composed of vocalist Lise Lotte Agedal, vocalist/songwriter Elvin Johansen, and songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Odd Gunnar Freysland, plus assorted back-up musicians.
There is a lot to like here but the band never really settles into one style and sound. Some of the tracks are excellent individual pieces but do not blend into an integrated whole. The band was formed in 2011 and this is their second album. As such, they seem to be exploring different directions, which make for an interesting but sometimes disjointed release.
Tracks such as “Bridges and Boats” and “Metadata” are laid back and the vocals almost run counter point to the melodies. In some ways, it creates a double melody with the structure of the songs.
One of the superior tracks is “Be Here Now,” which starts gently but builds as the guitars come in until it evolves into an American psychedelic rock piece. It is followed by “Be,” is a nice pop song and features Lise’s clear and beautiful lead vocal. Both tracks form bookends of what the band does best.
Their music all comes together with “The Strangest Dream,” which combine elements of psychedelic rock and Lise’s pop voice. It may be a direction the band wants to pursue as their career progresses.
Kosmoratik is a band that will hopefully continue to grow and mature and Bridges And Boats will be a link in their chain.
October 24, 2013
There seems to be a lot of Jimi Hendrix concert material in the vaults as it has been released on a regular basis during the past 12 months, starting with a celebration of what would have been his 70th birthday, November 27, 2012, and continuing to the present day.
The question is; does the world need another Hendrix concert release? While Hendrix would constantly change his songs through improvisation, the same songs are repeated on many of the releases. On the positive side, Hendrix was one of the seminal musicians in rock history and any new material is always welcome.
Miami Pop Festival is the first-time release of one of his more memorable concerts. It includes the first recorded stage performances of “Here My Train A Comin’” and “Tax Free.”
The Miami Pop Festival was the first major rock festival on the east coast. It took place in May of 1968 and one of the promoters was Michael Lang, who would become one of the organizers of Woodstock. Hendrix was a superstar and the concert headliner when he took the stage at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Florida.
He played two sets at the festival and one complete show is presented. It enables the listener to appreciate a full concert by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. There are also two bonus tracks taken from the afternoon show.
The set list is familiar to his fans. There is the rock of “Fire” and “Foxey Lady,” the electric blues of “Red House,” a laid-back version of “Hey Joe,” and the pyrotechnic performance of the concert ending “Purple Haze.”
The sound is better than expected given the technology of the day. The selection of archival photos is a worth-while addition to the Hendrix legacy.
Miami Pop Festival catches Hendrix just after the release of Axis: Bold As Love. It may not reveal anything earth-shaking about him but it is a fine presentation of his sound and skills.
October 18, 2013
Cold Satellite is one of the more innovative, or odd if you are so inclined, groups in the music industry. It is based on the relationship that has developed between Jeffrey Foucault and Lisa Olstein. They don’t work together, record together, or perform together. Olstein is an award-winning poet who writes for Foucault. He then takes her words and sets them to music. Next he then enters the studio with his band composed of drummer Billy Conway, bassist Jeremy Curtis, guitarist/pianist Dave Goodrich, and pedal steel guitarist Alex McCullough to bring their separate visions to fruition.
Their first album, 2010’s Jeffrey Foucault: Cold Satellite was built around some poems and fragments, which Foucault cobbled together into finished songs. It had a distinct country blues flavor. Now they have returned with their second album Cavalcade.
Olstein’s approach has changed and matured. Her latest contributions straddle the line between poetry and song lyrics, which make it a different but more polished release. The only difficultly is they are not Foucault’s words. He adapts his music to her lyrics, which takes the music in a number of directions including rock, country, and blues. There is a dis-connect because of the constant changes in style but when approached as stand-alone tracks, many of the songs are very good.
“Necessary Monsters,’ which is about pregnancy is a stretch for him. On the other hand, “Silver Whips” is crackling rock and roll. Other tracks of note include “Sleepers Wake,” “Bomblet,” and “Every Boy, Every Blood.”
They are a strange pair. It is artistic poetry meeting modern rock and roll. The results may be a little scattered at times but they are always interesting.