Incense And Peppermints, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Ed King

December 1, 2020

“Incense And Peppermints” was one of those songs that was catchy but which had lyrics that made no sense. It was just a series of words that rhymed. The lead vocal was originally sung by a friend happened to drop by the studio. The band quickly broke-up but re-formed in 1985 and several original members are still playing with the band today. They even issued a new album in 2012.

The big winner was lead guitarist Ed King. He was lucky enough to join Lynyrd Skynyrd after leaving the Strawberry Alarm Clock. He was also lucky enough to write the eternal radio rock song “Free Bird.” He was really lucky to leave the band just before the famous plane crash. And he was luck to be a part of a number one song.

“Incense And Peppermints” entered the Hot 100 at number 88, September 30, 1967. It became the number one song in the nation for the week of November 25, 1967.

I Can Hear Music: The 20/20 Sessions By The Beach Boys

November 5, 2020

Following on the heals of their Friends Sessions comes I Can Hear Music: The 20/20 Sessions. The Beach Boys owed the Capital label one last album before moving own to their own label. The original 20/20 may not have been their most creative release as  it contained a number of previously released singles, a few light weight new songs, and tracks that had been sitting in the vaults. Despite its haphazard nature, it was a solid release. It may not have had an overall cohesiveness but the songs, when taken individually, are better than the whole.

I Can Hear Music: The 20/20 Sessions is only for the hardcore Beach Boys fan, who wants absolutely everything by the band.

There are very few completed songs as the 40 tracks consist mostly of demo’s, early versions, and acapella takes before the music was added. There is an early mono single release of Ersel Hickey’s “Bluebirds Over The Mountain,” and an alternative stereo mix of “Do It Again,” but the gem is “All I Want To Do” with the lead vocal by Dennis Wilson, which is another reminder of just what a beautiful voice he possessed.

There is always an appreciation of the Beach Boys just singing without instruments. It puts the focus squarely on the purity of their voices and the harmonies they created. Their big hit “Do It Again,” “I Went To Sleep,” “Time To Get Along,” “We’re Together Again,” “Never Learn Not To Love,” and “Ol Man River” all retain a simplicity without instruments.

There are a number of rarities that fill in some gaps in their musical history. “Rendezvous” is an early version of “Do It Again,” while “Cottonfields” is presented with backing vocals only.

I’m not sure how many times someone will listen to I Can Hear Music: The 20/20 Sessions” but it does fill in some of the gaps in the bands history. As the 1960s drew to a close, the Beach Boys would leave their label and classic sound behind. This is basically a historical release that brings the first phase of their career to a close.

Paperback Writer By The Beatles

December 27, 2018

The Beatles “Paperback Writer” followed the Rolling Stones “Paint It Black” as the number one song in the United States and all was right with the music world, at least in 1966.

“Paperback Writer” was primarily a Paul McCartney composition. It was written due to a family member’s request to not write another love song.

There has always been a question as to who played lead guitar on the song; McCartney or Harrison.

The song reached number one in a number of countries, including the United States for two non-consecutive weeks beginning June 25, 1966.

Thirteen By The BoDeans

October 2, 2017

Kurt Neumann and Sam Llanas met in 1980 and the BoDeans were born in 1983. There debut album, Love & Hope & Sex & Lies brought them commercial success and established them as a cutting edge band. Llanas left in 2011 but Neumann continues to front the band and shortly will release the their 13th album, appropriately titled Thirteen.

The BoDeans have always fused Roots rock and alternative rock into their music. Thirteen tends to be more in the roots category as Neumann has created a series of thoughtful and melodic songs. He and the band recently became involved with the Netflix series The Ranch, and the style of the album keys off the laid back nature of the series. “My Hometown” and several other tracks appeared on the show and form the foundation of the album.

Songs such as “Maggie’s Bar,” “Headed Back In Time,” “Nowhere Fast,” and “Way Back In Time” have a wistful appeal as they tell stories of the American heartland.

Thirteen is a fine addition to the BoDeans catalogue of music. It proves that the band is alive and well during the fourth decade of their existence.

Playing The 60’s By Mads Tolling

March 21, 2017

Mads Tolling is a Danish classically trained violinist currently living in San Francisco. After touring with jazz bassist Stanley Clarke and an eight years stint and two Grammy Awards with the jazz string ensemble the Turtle island Quartet; he is now on his own.

His press release states that his new release, Playing The 60s “draws material from the era evoked by the award-wining series AMC series Mad Men.”  I’m not sure how much the series influenced the song selection but Tolling manages to take an eclectic group of sixties material and give them jazz interpretations.

The violin is a rarely used jazz instrument but in the right hands it and setting, it can provide an interesting sound. He surrounds himself with keyboardist/accordion player Colin Hogan, bassist Sam Bevan, drummer Eric Garland, and singers Kalil Wilson, Spencer Day, and Kenny Washington. Also on hand as a guest is his former boss Stanley Clarke. Together they provide a nice foundation for Tolling to improvise on the various melodies.

Television themes such as “Peter Gunn,” “Hawaii 5-0,” :Mission Impossible,” “The Pink Panther,” and “Meet The Flintstones” are modernized nostalgic pieces.

The old Herb Alpert hit, “A Taste Of Honey,” undergoes a number of tempo changes and concludes with a tasty drum solo. “Beautiful Savior” is an old German hymn that is a vehicle for a violin/bass duet between Tolling and Clarke. Perhaps the most interesting track is his Latin version of the rock classic “All Along The Watchtower.”

The vocal tracks travel in a number of directions. Spencer Day gives an understated vocal on “The Look Of Love.” Kalil Wilson fuses a soul vocal with a jazz foundation on “My Girl.” Kenny Washington presents the most traditional interpretation with “What A Wonderful World.”

Mads Tolling’s sound is a little unusual but is brilliant in places. His ability to use his jazz training as the impetus for his jazz sets him apart from most of his contemporaries. Playing The 60s is a nice introduction to a musician with an unusual approach to his craft.

Dusty Road By Brothers Brown

December 27, 2016


Guitarist/singer Paul Brown and keyboardist producer Paul Brown are not the same person. They are both member of the Brothers Brown band but they are not brothers. What they and bassist David Santos and drummer Peter Young are, is a solid rock and blues band who remind me of a mellow Allman Brothers.

Their sound is an easy and laid back light blues. They may not have elongated improvisations; rather they improvise within a tighter or shorter context and structure.

The best tracks from their Dusty Road release are “Hurricane” with some nice slide guitar work by guest Paul Barrere of Little Feat, The slow groove of “Love Sake” and the nice bluesy jam style of “Cup Of Tea.”

The Brothers Brown have produced a relaxing album, so put your feet up and give it a listen or two.

Surburban Ghosts By Downes Braide Association

December 13, 2016

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Progressive rock music veteran Geoff Downes (Yes, The Buggles, and Asia) and songwriter/singer/producer Chris Braide (Beyoncé, Brittney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and more) met several years ago and joined forces to release Pictures Of You. Now there busy schedules have allowed them to fid the time to release their second album titled Suburban Ghosts.

The lyrics are more somber and reflective than their first release but given the fact you have a songwriter/producer and progressive rock legend creating music together, the music is melodic, the harmonies tight, plus there is plenty of layering of the sound.

Songs such as the “Suburban Ghosts” trilogy, “Machinery Of Fate,” and “Dreaming Of England” are all pleasant, well produced progressive pop and rock. If Downes and Braide had more time, they could probably produce albums such as this on a regular basis as it has a laid back, smooth, and effortless feel.

In the last analysis, Suburban Ghosts may not change the course of rock music but it makes it a little more fun. A well-produced and excellent release by two veterans of the music wars.

Over And Over By The Dave Clark Five

July 25, 2016


The Dave Clark Five, for a short time, were considered the equal of the Beatles. While that comparison did not last, they did go on to place 16 singles in the American Top 30, which would ultimately propel them into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

Today the band is best remembered for such hits as “Bits And Pieces,” “Glad All Over,” “Because,” and ‘Catch Me If You Can,” but their only number one American hit was a remake of Bobby Day’s 1958 single “Over And Over.”

The songs delivered a wonderful Christmas present as it reached number one for the week of December 25, 1965.

The Dave Clark Five disbanded in the early 1970’s and were a very rare group in that they never performed again.

A Little On The Windy Side By Paul Williams

November 8, 2015

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Many people relate to Paul Williams the songwriter, who wrote hit songs for The Carpenters (“I Won’t Last A Day Without You,” “Rainy Days And Mondays,” and “We’ve Only Just Begin”), Three Dog Night (“Out In The Country,” “An Old Fashioned Love Song,” and “Family Of Man”), and dozens of others. Some relate to Williams the actor, who appeared in several dozen films, most famously as Little Enos Burdette in the Smokey And The Bandit films. Finally, some people are addicted to Paul Williams the singer and performer who has issued over 20 albums.

During 1979, he issued his only album for the Portrait label. The album and the label disappeared soon afterwards.  Now, A Little On The Windy Side has been resurrected with four bonus tracks, a vibrant and clear sound, and a nice booklet that presents a history of Williams and his music.

William has always been a master composer. His singing voice is adequate but takes some getting used too. While he has written some rock songs, his albums fall into the easy listening/pop category. They are well-intentioned light pieces of musical fluff that entertain for a time and make you smile.

The only cover tune is a simple take on “Moonlight Becomes You” from the great American songbook. He gives it a light disco groove and adds some strings around the edges.

The center of the album is five songs written with Kenny Ascher. There is the laid back ballad “The Gift” and the shiny “A Little Bit More.” The upbeat “For Goodness Sake” should have been released as a single as it just stays in your mind.

In some ways the album has a cobbled together feel as three songs first appeared in films and another is an updating of 1972’s “Another Fine Mess,” which was a country hit for Glen Campbell.

The best of the bonus tracks are a gospel flavored “When The River Meets The Sea,” which was written for a Jim Henson special and an unusual direction for Williams and his simple take on “Love Conquers All,” a composition originally recorded by Seals and Crofts.

A Little On The Windy Side may not be his best work but is very representative of the many facets of his career. He still has a committed fan base who will no doubt appreciate this reissue.

Good Lovin’ 78 by Dickey Lee

August 31, 2011

Dickey Lee has had three phases to his career. He is best remembered as a pop singer who produced such songs of anguish as “Patches” and “Laurie” during the early to mid-1960s. He would go on to become a country artist who charted 29 singles.

What people forget was he started as a rockabilly artist on the legendary Sun label, which was the home of Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee lewis and others.

He signed with the label during 1957 and I’m sort of amazed he had a release issued as a 78. I am assuming it was also issued as a 45 as 78’s were on the way out at the time.

“Good Lovin'” did not receive any chart action and his time with Sun was brief. Still, it was a part of some of the best music of his career.