June 28, 2015
“I Feel Fine” was the song that sold me on the Beatles. The guitar feedback at the beginning was groundbreaking in 1964. When you add in the flip side “She’s A Woman,” which reached number four on the Billboard Hot 100, you have a spectacular single.
When “I Feel Fine” reached number one on December 26, 1964, it was their sixth chart topper. It spent three weeks in the number one position. The two sided hit single provided their 29th and 30th chart songs of the year.
“I Feel Fine” provided a fitting end to 1964 for the Beatles as no artist in the history of American music had enjoyed such a successful year, but the best was yet to come.
June 23, 2015
Chris Spedding has been one of the more noted and in-demand session guitarists of the last 40 years. He is much better known in his native England then the United States but has still recorded and toured consistently in America. He has now issued his 13th studio album titled Joyland.
Spedding is more of a heavy-handed guitarist in the Duane Eddy tradition than a light precision approach such as Eric Clapton or Mark Knopfler. It may not have the twang of Eddy but it is a full-bodied sound that he evokes from his instrument.
He has always been one of the best guitarists working on the music scene but wisely surrounds himself with an array of guest vocalists for his original compositions.
The album has a different and creative beginning. Actor Ian McShane provides the vocal for the spoken word title song.
His guitar work is consistent throughout the album so it is the guest vocalists that give the tracks their personality. Arthur Brown of “Fire” fame brings his rhythm & blue holler style to “Now You See It.” He has recorded with rockabilly artist Robert Gordon in the past and here he provides the vocal for “I Still Love You.” Bryan Ferry’s voice runs counterpoint to Spedding’s guitar work on “Gun Shaft City.”
Two instrumental probably represent his approach best. Early in his career he did some production work for the Sex Pistols and Glen Matlock joins him on “Café Racer.” “Heisenberg” is a pyrotechnic guitar romp with Smith’s guitarist Johnny Marr.
Chris Spedding is one of those musicians you have probably heard a number of times without realizing It. Every once in a while he steps out on his own and while he may not change the face of rock and roll, he brings a sophistication and joy to his music and in the final analysis, that will due.
June 23, 2015
Now in his seventh decade, Tony Joe White has traveled a lot of miles from the cotton farm near Oak Grove, Louisiana, where he was born. From 1967-1971, while signed to the Monument label, he released a number of albums containing his unique brand of swamp rock. He also became a noted songwriter producing his big hit “Polk Salad Annie,” plus such songs as “Willie And Laura Mae Jones” (Dusty Springfield), “Rainy Night In Georgia” (Brook Benton), and “For Ol’ Times Sake” and “I’ve Got A Thing About You Baby” (Elvis Presley).
Following his time with Monument, he spent nearly four years recording for the Warner Brothers label. Real Gone Music has now released his three albums and six non-album singles under the title The Complete Warner Bros. Recordings.
His 1971 self-titled debut album for the label began a change in his style and sound. “They Caught The Devil And Put Him In Jail in Eudora Arkansas” and “My Kind Of Woman” were songs for the southern bar scene late at night but gentle ballads “Copper Kettle” and “The Daddy” hinted at a new direction for his music. This push and pull between his old and new sound is best seen in “A Night In The Life of A Swamp Fox,” which never quite settles into a specific grove. The final result is some wonderful parts but a somewhat disjointed whole.
1972’s The Train I’m On finds him settled into a gentler sound. Produced by Jerry Wexler and Tom Dowd and surrounded by the session musicians of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, there is an ease and comfort to the music. The lyrics have a complexity and depth and have elements of blues, soul, and folk music. The acoustic nature of many of the tracks fits the music well as the album remains one of the strongest of his career.
1973’s Homemade Ice Cream was recorded in Nashville and continued his subdued approach. While there are a couple of rockers, “Saturday Night In Oak Grove Louisiana” and “No News Is Good News,” it is the simple songs that give the album its smooth and relaxed nature.
Four decades have passed since his time with Warner Brothers and the music holds up well. The trio of albums presents a different side to much of his recorded music and is well worth a listen.
June 21, 2015
Dusty Springfield was one of those artists who could sing the phone book and make it listenable. She released over a dozen solo albums during the course of her career, which led to her induction in both the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and the U.K. Music Hall Of Fame.
The height of her creativity probably occurred during her time with the Atlantic Label during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Dusty In Memphis (1969) and A Brand New Day (1970) are the epitome of blue-eyed soul and rank among the best releases of their era.
A third album was planned for the label but due to the failure of two singles and tensions with the Atlantic hierarchy, it was never released. Now Real Gone Music has raided the Atlantic vaults and assembled the music that was supposed to have been issued 44 years ago under the title Faithful.
The use of producer Jeff Barry and label staff writers take the album in more of a pop direction than her previous two releases for the label. Two Bobby Bloom compositions lead the way. “Haunted” is a passionate love song after the fact and “Nothing Is Forever” is a classic ballad.
The one soul-oriented song that would have been right at home on her other releases is “I’ll Be Faithful,” which is a piano based southern R&B piece. “Love Shine Down” was a rare excursion into the world of gospel. Even rarer is “Natchez Trace,” which is an all-out rocker with a gritty vocal.
Two hits of the day receive very different treatments. “You’ve Got A Friend,” one of 14 Carole King compositions recorded by Springfield, is given a simple and traditional treatment. On the other hand, Bread’s “Make It With You” is reinvented as a walk on the sensual side.
Four decades after its recording, Faithful takes its rightful place in the Dusty Springfield pantheon of albums. One of the tragedies of her life was her death at the age of 59, just two weeks before her induction into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Faithful is a belated testament to one of the better singers of her generation.
June 13, 2015
Jerry Williams, (1948-2005), or Jerry Lynn Williams, was an artist who never quite made it. Despite releasing several well-crafted and lyrical albums, he found virtually no commercial success. Today he is best remembered as a songwriter who contributed material for some of the blues elite including Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Bonnie Raitt. It was Clapton who brought him the most fame by recording nearly a dozen of his compositions including three for his Behind The Sun album and five for Pretending.
Back in 1979, when his hopes were high, he recorded the album Gone for the Warner Brothers label. Events transpired and due to animosity between him and the label, it was pulled from distribution. It eventually received a quick death and his commercial viability never recovered.
Gone has now resurfaced as one of the latest reissues by Real Gone Music. The sound has been remastered and is a huge upgrade over the old vinyl version. The liner notes by Bill Bentley give a complete history of Williams and the album.
While many people have heard his songs, it’s probably safe to say that very few have actually heard his voice. His sound is different from that of many of the artists who have covered his compositions. The title track would have fit the funky approach of the Motown label. He has a soulful voice and the funky rhythm section, plus the blasts of a brass section give it a very different feel.
Songs such as “Easy On Yourself,” “Call To Arms,” “Givin’ It For Your Love,” and “I’ve Got Dreams To Remember” continue his fusion of blues and soul. While the compositions themselves are fairly simple, he fills in the sound with a number of layers and creates a full and sophisticated sound.
Gone is one of those forgotten gems that seem to re-surface every so often. Jerry Williams may be gone but it’s good to see some of his music has survived.
June 13, 2015
Art Pepper, 1925-1982, was a drug addict, a sometimes convict, and one of the best jazz saxophonists to ever grace the planet.
He began his professional career at the age of 17. After playing in a number of groups and orchestras; he emerged as one of the leading jazz sax players of the 1950s. As a group leader he released dozens of albums during the next three decades until his death at the age of 56.
During 2012, Omnivore Recordings issues a series of limited Art Pepper vinyl LP’s of unreleased music. That material has now come to CD for the first time. Neon Art Volume 1 is the first of three releases.
The album only contains two songs but they stretch to 35 minutes. Both were recorded at Parnell’s in Seattle near the end of his life in 1981. He is accompanied by Milcho Leviev (piano), David Williams (bass), and Carl Burnett (drums). They formed a tight unit and according to the liner notes, it may be the only time this particular configuration played together.
“Red Car,” named after the first new car he ever bought, was originally released in 1977 but now returns in an extended 17 minute version. He was a west coast jazz artist who comes close to a bebop sound every once in awhile. “Red Car” also incorporates some funky blues elements into the performance. The extended length enables each musician to contribute a solo.
“Blues For Blanche” was originally issued on the 1980 album So In Love but here it returns in an 18 minute swinging extravaganza. Leviev’ piano work provides a nice counterpoint to Pepper’s sax. The length allows for a intricate ebb and flow to the music as the musicians explore all facets of the main melodies.
Art Pepper is a sometimes forgotten jazz musician but hopefully the three volume Neon Art series will beging to correct that oversight. While the album only contains 35 minutes of music, it more than makes up for it in quality.
June 13, 2015
Listening to classic Vanilla Fudge is like swimming in quicksand as everything is in slow motion. I’m old enough to remember their birth back in the late 1960s. Their heavy and slowed down versions of such songs as “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” “Shotgun,” and “Season Of The Witch” were unique at the time as they bridged the gap between the California psychedelic movement and the burgeoning heavy rock sound.
Bassist Tim Bogert retired in 2008, but original members Mark Stein (vocals and keyboards), Vince Martell (lead and rhythm guitar), and Carmine Appice (drums) have reunited to release Spirit Of ’67. They are joined by bassist Pete Bremy, who played with Appice in the early 1970s heavy rock band Cactus and has toured with the Fudge since 2008.
The band had their breakthrough in 1967 and toured with the likes of Cream, Led Zeppelin, and Jimi Hendrix. They revisit that year by recording 10 songs that were hits 48 years ago. They were always primarily a cover band, who took other peoples songs and twisted them all out of shape to fit their own odd vision of the musical world.
Keyboard driven tracks such as “Whiter Shade Of Pale” and “The Letter” are a trip back in time. Vinny Martel’s guitar feedback laden “Gimme Some Lovin” is a creative take on the old Spencer Davis Group tune.
The lightweight “I’m A Believer” is a stretch for the band’s approach and the soul classic “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” is better left alone. They are on more solid ground when they take solid rock songs such as “I Can See For Miles,” “Ruby Tuesday,” and “Break On Through (To The Other Side)” and modernize them in their own unique way.
The only original track is Stein’s “Let’s Pray For Peace.” It may be a little out of place within the context of the album but as a stand-alone song it would have fit “the summer of love” nicely.
Spirit of ’67 revisits a bygone era and the height of Vanilla Fudge’s popularity. They may not break any new ground but they cover the old very well.