The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random songs at a time

Another Sunday morning means it’s time for another selection of six tunes that don’t reflect any overarching theme. Pretty much anything is fair game as long as I like it. In general, I also aim to make these posts a bit eclectic. This installment includes beautiful new age style harp music (a first!), soulful blues, country rock, pop, pop rock and edgy garage rock.

Andreas Vollenweider/Behind the Gardens, Behind the Wall, Under the Tree…

Andreas Vollenweider is a harpist from Zurich, Switzerland. His instrument is no ordinary harp but an electro-acoustic harp he created. A New York Times article from October 1984 characterized his music as “swirling atmospheric”, evoking “nature, magic and fairy tales.” This story appeared ahead of Vollenweider’s U.S. tour debut at the Beacon Theatre in New York City in October of the same year. According to Wikipedia, he was introduced by Carly Simon who had come across his music the previous year. Vollenweider ended up collaborating with Simon 10 years later on his first album to include vocals. He also has worked with Luciano Pavarotti, Bryan Adams and Bobby McFerrin, among others. Behind the Gardens, Behind the Wall, Under the Tree… is the title track of Vollenweider’s second studio album from 1981. To date, he has released 13 additional albums. Until the other day when I randomly remembered his name, I had completely forgotten about Vollenweider and his beautiful and relaxing music. It’s perfect to kick off a Sunday morning.

Chicken Shack/I’d Rather Go Blind

My dear longtime friend and music connoisseur from Germany pointed me to this beautiful song recently. Coincidentally, around the same time, Music Enthusiast mentioned the band Chicken Shack in an installment of his previous four-part series about Fleetwood Mac’s middle period. So what’s the connection between Chicken Shack and the Mac you might ask? Christine Perfect (later Christine McVie) who sang lead and played keyboards in Chicken Shack before recording her eponymous solo album Christine Perfect and joining Fleetwood Mac in late 1970. Chicken Shack released I’d Rather Go Blind as a single in 1969, scoring a no. 14 on the British charts. Written by Ellington Jordan, the tune was first recorded by Etta James in 1967 and appeared on her seventh studio album Tell Mama from February 1968. Perfect’s vocals on Chicken Shack’s cover are – well – just perfect! BTW, Chicken Shack are still around, with the current lineup including founding member Stan Webb (guitar, vocals).

Blue Rodeo/Hasn’t Hit Me Yet

Canadian country rock band Blue Rodeo were founded in 1984 in Toronto. They were formed by high school friends Jim Cuddy (vocals, guitar) and Greg Keelor (vocals, guitar), who had played together in various bands before, and Bob Wiseman (keyboards). Cleave Anderson (drums) and Bazil Donovan (bass) completed the band’s initial lineup. After gaining a local following in Toronto and signing with Canadian independent record label Risque Disque, the group released their debut album Outskirts in March 1987. They have since released 14 additional studio albums, the most recent of which, 1000 Arms, came out in October 2016. Blue Rodeo have enjoyed significant success in Canada. Hasn’t Hit Me Yet was co-written by Keelor and Cuddy who together with Donovan are part of Blue Rodeo’s current lineup. The tune is included on the band’s fifth studio album Five Days in July from October 1993, their best-selling record in Canada to date.

Bruce Hornsby & The Range/The Way It Is

The debut album by American singer-songwriter and pianist Bruce Hornsby with his backing band The Range quickly became one of my favorites when it came out in September 1986. After I hadn’t touched it in many years, I listened to it again about a week ago – turns out I still like it. Hornsby went on to record two additional albums with The Range. His fourth studio album Harbor Lights from April 1993 was the first solely credited to him. Four additional solo albums and four albums with his touring band The Noisemakers have since come out. Hornsby also was a touring member of the Grateful Dead in the early ’90s and has collaborated with numerous other artists. After his first two albums with The Range, Hornsby had dropped off my radar screen. Here’s the title track of his debut. Both the album and the tune enjoyed major international chart success. Not hard to understand way – it’s pretty catchy pop.

Rainbirds/Blueprint

For some reason, the above Chicken Shack tune trigged my memory of German pop rock band Rainbirds. Other than the fact that both tunes feature female vocalists, they really don’t have anything in common – funny how the brain sometimes works! The group around singer-songwriter Katharina Franck, which was formed in Berlin in 1986 and named after a Tom Waits instrumental, enjoyed significant success in Germany with their first two albums. After the band dissolved in 1999 and Franck pursued a solo career, Franck reformed the group in 2013 with a new lineup. Another album appeared the following year. While Rainbirds haven’t released new music since, the group still appears to exist. Blueprint, co-written by Franck (guitar, vocals) and fellow band members Michael Beckmann (bass) and Wolfgang Glum (drums), is from Rainbirds’ eponymous debut album released in January 1987.

The Kinks/All Day and All of the Night

I felt this Sunday Six needed a dose of real rock. The Kinks and All Day and All of the Night looked like a great choice. I love the raw sound, which is very much reminiscent of You Really Got Me, the band’s third single from August 1964 and their first no. 1 in the UK. Written by Ray Davies, All Day and All of the Night came out in October of the same year. It almost matched the success of You Really Got Me, climbing to no. 2 on the British charts. In the U.S., both tunes peaked at no. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100. Oh, get ’em hard!

Sources: Wikipedia; The New York Times; YouTube

What I’ve Been Listening to: Rory Gallagher/Blueprint

This 1973 gem started the period that brought the Irish blues rocker his biggest successes

While I enjoy exploring different types of music on the blog, somehow the journey always seems to lead back to the blues and great guitarists who contributed to the genre. Undoubtedly, one of the finest craftsmen in this context is Rory Gallagher, though I’m not sure the Irish blues rocker has always gotten the recognition he deserves.

Blueprint was Gallagher’s fourth studio album, which was released in February 1973. It was the first of five records with then-new drummer Rod de’Ath and the addition of a keyboarder, Lou Martin. Rounding out the four-piece was bassist Gerry McAvoy with whom Gallagher had played since 1970, following the breakup of Taste, a blues rock and R&B power trio Gallagher had founded in 1966.

All you need to hear are the opening bars of the album’s first song Walk On Hot Coals, and you know you’re listening to one hell of a guitarist. Here is a cool clip of a live performance on The Old Grey Whistle Test. And, by the way, Gallagher could sing as well!

Next up is Daughter of the Everglades, which takes things down a notch. It features Gallagher on both acoustic and electric guitar. The man was a multi-instrumentalist. In addition to guitar, Gallagher also played the mandolin, harmonica and occasionally the saxophone. And, by the way this virtuoso was entirely self-taught!

Banker’s Blues is a great acoustic blues written by American blues singer, songwriter and guitarist Big Bill Broonzy. According to SecondHandSongs, Broonzy originally recorded and released the tune in 1931. Apart from the great music, you just gotta love the lyrics: “If you got money in the bank/Don’t let your woman draw it out/Cause she’ll take all your money…and/Then she’ll kick you out.” Here’s a great clip of Gallagher performing the tune live on Rockpalast, all by himself with just an acoustic guitar – that’s all you need!

Another tune I’d like to call out is Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, the longest track on the album. It’s an 8-minute-and-26-second blues rock tour de force with a great riff. I also love Martin’s keyboard work.

From Blueprint Gallagher went on to release eight additional studio records and two live albums. After collapsing during a show in Rotterdam, The Netherlands in January 1995, Gallagher was hospitalized in London with liver failure. Following what initially looked like a successful liver transplant, he got a bacterial infection and passed away on June 14, 1995. He was only 47 years old.

Gallagher may be long gone but his impressive legacy continues to live on. In 2015, Rolling Stone ranked him at no. 57 on their list of 100 Greatest Guitarists. Being included in the same list with other guitar legends like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, B.B. King, Chuck Berry and Duane Allman, just to name a few, speaks for itself. And while the ranking perhaps matters less than being in the list, I’m still a bit surprised Gallagher didn’t come in at a higher spot. For example, I don’t quite get how John Lennon was ranked ahead of Gallagher at no. 55. And I’m saying this as a huge fan of Lennon who undoubtedly was one of the greatest songwriters. But frankly to rank him as one of the greatest guitarists is a bit of a stretch to me.

Rory Gallagher
Gallagher with his signature beaten up sunburst 1961 Fender Stratocaster

During a 1973 interview with Beetle Magazine, which is reprinted on his offical website, Gallagher commented on what Rolling Stone in the above ranking called his non-stop touring ethic: “I’d like to work six nights a week, basically because this is not just a job with me, it’s my entire life. I enjoy what I do and I like to think that others do, too. It’s really inhuman the way some bands will retreat to the countryside for years on end and leave their audiences with nothing but their latest albums.”

Sources: Wikipedia, SecondHandSongs, Rolling Stone, Rory Gallagher website, Beetle Magazine, YouTube