The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

I hope everybody is spending a great weekend. Once again, I’d like to welcome you to another Sunday Six. In case you’re here for the first time, in this weekly recurring feature, I stretch out musically speaking, visiting different decades and different genres over the past 70 years, six tunes at a time. All onboard and let’s go!

Clifford Brown & Max Roach Quintet/Joy Spring

Today, our little trip starts in December 1954 with beautiful music by two jazz greats: Trumpeter Clifford Brown and drummer Max Roach. Earlier that same year, Roach had invited Brown to join him in creating a quintet. By the time, they recorded Clifford Brown & Max Roach, which I believe was their band’s first album, the line-up also featured Harold Land (tenor saxophone), Richie Powell (piano) and George Morrow (bass). Unfortunately, the quintet was short-lived due to a tragic car accident that killed Brown in June 1956 at age 25. He was on his way to a gig in Chicago together with Powell whose wife Nancy drove the car. They both lost their lives as well. The quintet’s last official album Clifford Brown and Max Roach at Basin Street, recorded earlier that year, featured then-up-and-coming tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins. Here’s Joy Spring, a composition by Brown.

The Asylum Choir/Tryin’ to Stay ‘Live

The next stop on today’s journey is November 1971. That’s when the second and final album by Leon Russell’s (keyboards) and Marc Benno’s (guitar) studio project The Asylum Choir came out. Initially formed in 1967, they put out their debut Look Inside the Asylum Choir the following year. While The Asylum Choir II had been recorded in 1969, its release was delayed due to contract disputes. In fact, by the time the record finally appeared, they had already dissolved the project. Russell and Benno were backed by prominent session musicians, including Jesse Ed Davis (guitar), Carl Radle (bass), Donald “Duck” Dunn (of Booker T. & the M.G.’s) and Chuck Blackwell (drums). Here’s the great honky tonk rocker Tryin’ to Stay ‘Live, which was co-written by Russell and Benno.

R.E.M./Losing My Religion

Let’s continue our excursion with a stopover in the ’90s. Losing My Religion was the first R.E.M. tune that really got the alternative rock band from Athens, Ga. on my radar screen. While I remember the song was on the radio back in Germany all the time, I still dig it to this day. Credited to all members of R.E.M. – Bill Berry (drums, percussion), Peter Buck (guitar, mandolin), Mike Mills (bass, backing vocals) and Michael Stipe (lead vocals) – Losing My Religion is from the group’s seventh studio album Out of Time, which appeared in March 1991. According to Songfacts, R.E.M. were surprised about their record label’s decision to make the tune the album’s lead single. After all, it didn’t have a chorus and featured a mandolin as a lead instrument, not exactly your typical ingredients for a hit. Not only did it become the album’s best-performing single but the band’s most successful overall!

Taj Mahal & Keb’ Mo’/Don’t Leave Me Here

Four tracks into this Sunday Six it’s time to jump to the current century with some sizzling blues by Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’, who in May 2017 came out with a great collaboration album, TajMo. Together with Buddy Guy’s 2016 studio album Born to Play Guitar, it reignited my love for the blues, a genre I had first explored in my late teens after I had picked up the bass and joined a blues band – the start of my intense but short-lived band career! 🙂 I also caught Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’ in August 2017 during their tour that supported the album and have seen Guy three times since Born to Play Guitar. Here’s TajMo’s great opener Don’t Leave Me Here, which was co-written by the two artists and Gary Nicholson. I should add that while the tune has a traditional blues vibe, overall, TajMo, which includes elements of soul and world music, is an uplifting album. “Some people think that the blues is about being down all the time, but that’s not what it is,” Mahal said at the time. “It’s therapeutic, so you can get up off that down.” He added, “We wanted to do a real good record together, but we didn’t want to do the record that everyone expected us to do.”

Echo & The Bunnymen/Lips Like Sugar

Our next stop takes us back to the ’80s. In July 1987, Echo & The Bunnymen released their eponymous fifth studio album. While The English post-punk band had been around since 1978, if I recall correctly, it wasn’t until Lips Like Sugar that I heard of them for the first time. The catchy tune was co-written by band members Will Sergeant (guitar), Ian McCulloch (lead vocals, guitar, piano) and Les Pattinson (bass). Pete de Freitas (drums) completed their line-up at the time. Interestingly, it only reached no. 36 on the UK Official Singles Chart, lower than most of their earlier singles. After the band’s breakup in 1993, Sergeant and McCulloch reunited the following year. When Pattinson rejoined them in 1997, they decided to revive Echo & The Bunnymen. Ever since Pattinson exited again in 1999, Sergeant and McCulloch have continued to tour and record under that name.

Jerry Lee Lewis/Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On

Once again we’ve reached our final destination. The last tune is in memory of Jerry Lee Lewis, who passed away on Friday at the age of 87. Lewis was the last man standing of a generation of pioneering classic rock & roll artists who also included the likes of Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry and Little Richard. “The Killer” was known for his high-energy performances. After his popularity had taken off in 1957, his career was nearly derailed when it became known he was married to his 13-year-old cousin once removed while still being married to his previous wife. Lewis was blacklisted from the radio and his earnings were nearly wiped out overnight. Eventually, he managed to reinvent himself as a country artist. But scandal continued to follow him for much of his life. Here’s Lewis’ remake of Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On and his biggest hit, which was released as a single in April 1957. The tune was written by Dave “Curlee” Williams and first recorded by Big Maybelle in 1955.

Last but not least, here’s a Spotify playlist of the above tunes. Hope there’s something you dig.

Source: Wikipedia; YouTube; Spotify


16 thoughts on “The Sunday Six”

  1. My father had those Asylum Choir albums when I was little but I don’t remember ever really hearing them, and being too young I probably wouldn’t have liked them anyway. The album cover of one of them had a drawing of them two guys with this long crazy hair, and I remember it for that reason. Not sure if it was this album here or not. And he also had the solo albums by Mark Benno and Leon Russell from the same time, and I do know those albums. The Leon Russell album was blue I remember and had A Song For You on it that The Carpenters also did right about then. And the Marc Benno was really nice too, kind of like folk rockish. I even owned it myself at one time. I’m curious to hear this song that you have here to see if I remember it at all.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jerry Lee Lewis…he probably was the original bad boy of rock and no one held a candle to him in that department. I’ve been listening to his Live at the Star Club album…the performance and atmosphere is electric.
    The Asylum Choir sounds great!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I heard of that Star Club album and need to check it out. Jerry Lee Lewis was an incredible performer. It’s unfortunate his career was tarnished by scandal. I have to say the tought he was married to a 13-year-old girl who was a relative is really creepy!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That Star Club album is incredible. CB is the one that recommended it to me a while back…a super one. He wasn’t a poster boy for good living for sure.


  3. I remember reading Ginger Baker considered Max Roach the level of excellence he wanted reach as a drummer. Your first selection is the kind of jazz I love most. I was out in the kitchen when I heard Asylum Choir start and knew that was Russell. First time hearing of that combo. I recognize Jesse Ed Davis’ name as a (Native American) guitarist who was at the Concert for Bangladesh. Kind of surprising Losing My Religion was REM’s best overall single, but definitely good with an iconic video to go with it. TajMo great tune and I like what Taj says about blues not always having to be blue. I covered that Lips Like Sugar tune last year, here: It’s a good’n! No comment on the last choice. Can’t get the idea out of my head a grown man exploiting a 13 year old, sorry.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Lisa. I hear you on the last song and, frankly, was conflicted about the pick. You could rightly say it is inconsistent for me to complain about Van Morrison and Eric Clapton for spreading dangerous conspiracy theories and essentially avoid mentioning them because of that and then chosing to highlight Lewis. I love that song but obviously don’t condone his behavior.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. All good stuff! I remember an interview from decades ago… Jerry Lee Lewis said that when he died, rock’n’roll would die with him. Fingers crossed that he was wrong!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Good set highlighted by 2 of my favorite bands – REM and Echo & the Bunnymen. A lot of fans didn’t like the Echo album, it was a bit more straight pop than their earlier ones but I liked it . Both were great acts to see in the 90s too

    Liked by 2 people

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