The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

Welcome to another installment of The Sunday Six where I’d like to present six songs from the past six decades or so. The rules are there are no rules, and pretty much any music genre goes, as long as I like the track. I suppose this means the outcomes may vary. At the end of the day, my goal is to celebrate great music, which can come in many different flavors.

Kenny Burrell/Saturday Night Blues

I’d like to start today’s mini-journey with a great bluesy jazz instrumental by American jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell. Burrell started picking up the guitar in 1943 as a 12-year-old. Among his influences were jazz guitarists Charlie Christian, Oscar Moore and Django Reinhardt. Burrell’s recording debut occurred in 1951 with Dizzy Gillespie’s sextet while he was a student at Wayne State University. The first album he recorded under his own name was Introducing Kenny Burrell, released in September 1956. Subsequently, an enormous amount of additional records appeared, both featuring Burrell as a leader, as well as a sideman to many other jazz artists, especially organist Jimmy Smith. Saturday Night Blues is from Midnight Blue, a Burrell album from May 1963. Other musicians on the recording include Stanley Turrentine (tenor saxophone), Major Holley (bass), Ray Barretto (conga) and Bill English (drums). This tune may be called Saturday Night Blues, but for me, it works just as well for a Sunday morning!

Robert Palmer/Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley

British songwriter and vocalist Robert Palmer joined his first band The Mandrakes in 1964 as a 15-year-old high school student. After playing in two other groups, he co-founded soul/rock band Vinegar Joe in 1971. Follwing three albums, the group disbanded in 1974, and Palmer launched a solo career. In 1984, he formed English-American supergroup The Power Station, together with Duran Duran members Andy Taylor (guitar) and John Taylor (bass), as well as former Chic drummer Tony Thompson. The following year, Palmer left the group that subsequently disbanded to record his next solo album, the highly successful Riptide. It featured the single Addicted to Love, which became a no. 1 in the U.S. and Australia, as well as a top 5 hit in the UK, Ireland, Canada and New Zealand. Palmer recorded six additional solo albums and one 1996 reunion album with The Power Station. He died from a sudden heart attack in Paris in September 2003. Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, written by Allen Toussaint, is the groovy title track from Palmer’s debut solo album that came out in September 1974.

Tracy Chapman/Give Me One Reason

For this next pick, let’s jump to the ’90s and a great tune by Tracy Chapman I recall the song somewhat surprised me coming from her at the time it appeared. The singer-songwriter from Cleveland, Ohio burst on the scene in April 1988 with her eponymous folk-oriented debut album. Her singles Talkin’ ‘about a Revolution and especially Fast Car struck a chord with many listeners, including this blogger. Chapman has since released seven additional studio albums and two compilations. According to this website, Chapman is still in the music business but not really active lately. From a 2015 interview: “Being in the public eye and under the glare of the spotlight was, and it still is, to some extent, uncomfortable for me, but there are some ways by which everything that has happened in my life has prepared me for this career. That has made me perhaps not the ideal person for this job.” I certainly hope we’ll hear more from Tracy Chapman. For now, let’s listen to Give Me One Reason, a terrific blues tune penned by Chapman. It appeared on her fourth studio album New Beginning from November 1995.

Meat Loaf/Dead Ringer for Love

As widely reported, Meat Loaf passed away during the night of January 20 to January 21. While it’s safe to assume his operatic, heavily produced output isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, many people bought his music. How many? How about 65 million-plus records sold worldwide! Meat Loaf whose real name was Michael Lee Aday was rock opera on steroids. His bombastic productions were somewhat comparable to Queen and ELO. Altogether, the Texan released a dozen studio albums between October 1977 (Bat Out of Hell) and September 2016 (Braver Than We Are). Aday struggled with health issues, including severe back problems, which largely sidelined him since the mid-2010s. I recall reading somewhere last year that he was working on new music. Here’s one of my favorite Meat Loaf songs: Dead Ringer for Love from his sophomore album Dead Ringer that appeared in September 1981. Written by Aday’s longtime songwriter Jim Steinman, who passed away in April of last year at the age of 73, the tune features Cher on vocals. Hot patootie, bless your soul, I really loved your rock & roll!

Lenny Kravitz/The Chamber

I trust most readers have heard of American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and actor Lenny Kravitz. Following challenges in his early career, where some clever music industry officials told him he didn’t sound “black enough” (what does this even mean?!) while others opined his music embraced too many influences of terrible artists like Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles (you just can’t make this stuff up!), Kravitz has established himself with more than 40 million records sold worldwide and multiple awards. I think these smartass industry folks have since shut up. Here’s a cool groovy tune called The Chamber from Kravitz’s 10th studio album Strut released in September 2014. It was co-written by Kravitz and Craig Ross, who also played guitar and handclaps on the album. The song had first appeared in June that year as the lead single. Be careful, boys and girls, the video may harm you. And, Lenny, how could you, that bass groove sounds way too much like Chic!

Parquet Courts/Watching Strangers Smile

And once again this brings me to the sixth and final pick for this installment, a tune by Parquet Courts. ‘Who?’ you might think? I kind of had a similar initial reaction when I stumbled upon this New York City-based rock band, founded in 2010 by then-University of North Texas students Andrew Savage (vocals, guitar) and Austin Brown (vocals, guitar, keyboard). Sean Yeaton (bass, backing and lead vocals) and Max Savage (drums, percussion, backing vocals) completed the line-up, which remains in place to this day. Wikipedia notes the group’s music has been characterized as indie rock, post-punk, art punk and garage punk. To date, Parquet Courts have released eight studio albums. Here’s what appears to be their most recent tune, Watching Strangers Smile, a non-album single that came out on January 12 this year. I think it sounds pretty cool – check it out!

Here’s a Spotify playlist featuring all of the above picks. Hope you find something that’s for you.

Sources: Wikipedia; About Tracy Chapman website; YouTube; Spotify

Clips & Pix: Keb’ Mo’/The Worst Is Yet To Come

Here’s a pretty cool tune from somebody I admire as an excellent musician and songwriter, who also seems to be a pretty regular person – not necessarily something you can say about other well-known music artists: The Worst Is Yet To Come by Kevin Roosevelt Moore, artistically known as Keb’ Mo’. Co-written by him, Heather Donovan and Pete Sallis, the song is the opening track of Mo’s 12th studio album BLUESAmericana from April 2014.

The fact I’m highlighting this tune at this time probably isn’t a coincidence. The lyrics seem to ring true in my life lately. I spare you the details other than saying it’s to the point where I’m waiting for the next “mini disaster” to happen and laughing out loud once it does. I don’t mean to trivialize and wish my recent misfortunes were comparable, but just before starting to write this post, I flipped a light switch and guess what happened: The last working bulb of my ceiling fan burst!

But you know what? There are so many people out there who are truly hurting. These days, some are forced to work without even getting a paycheck since the so-called leader of this country is having a tantrum. That’s bad! My recent challenges don’t even register by comparison. I’m glad to be alive, have a job for which I actually get paid, and be able to provide a safe home to my family. That’s all that matters. As for my “mini-catastrophes”? Fuck them!

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube

What I’ve Been Listing to: Keb’Mo’/That Hot Pink Blues Album

Live album showcases Mo’s signature style mixing blues with pop and soul

These days, the blues seems to be on my mind a lot. I’m happy to report though that my mental state hasn’t changed – I’m still crazy about great music, and music is my doctor! Plus, when it comes to Keb’ Mo’, the blues rarely makes you feel down.

Born Kevin Roosevelt Moore on October 3, 1951 in South Los Angeles, Calif., Keb’ Mo’ initially broke through in 1994 with his eponymous second studio album. While the blues forms the backbone of most of his music, Mo’ has frequently mixed in other genres, including pop, soul and jazz throughout his 35-year-plus recording career.

Keb Mo

Country and delta blues hard core fans may dismiss Mo’s breed of the blues, but I like the fact that he’s been broadening the genre. In this regard, he reminds me a bit of Taj Mahal, who has mixed acoustic blues with folk and roots music from around the world, such as reggae, zydeco, West African and even Hawaiian music. To be clear, I also love pure country and delta blues but can always listen to artists like Lightnin’ Hopkins, Sleepy John Estes and Robert Johnson.

I’m still relatively new to Keb’ Mo’ and only started paying closer attention to him when he and Taj Mahal released their collaboration album TajMo in May this year. I previously shared my thoughts on this outstanding record here. I’ve also been motivated to explore Mo’ more deeply, since I’m going to see him and Mahal next Thursday as part of their ongoing tour.

After listening into various of Mo’s 16 albums to date, I decided to highlight his latest solo record, which captures live performances from his 2015 tour. According to the bio on his web site, That Hot Pink Blues Album “began as almost an afterthought and an assortment of concert gems “for the fans,” because his front of house engineer decided to hit “record” at the beginning of each show.” The album ended up with 16 tracks captured from shows in nine different cities.

Keb Mo and Band

The live record presents tunes from throughout Mo’s career and, as such, is a great introduction to his music. Following are some of the songs I’d like to highlight.

The opener Tell Everybody I Know is written by Mo’ and first appeared on his above mentioned 1994 eponymous album. His guitar-playing has a bit of a J.J. Cale feel to it. I also love the keyboard part!

Next up is Somebody Hurt You. Co-written by Mo’ and John Lewis Parker, the track was included on BLUESAmericana, Mo’s 14th album released in 2014. The tune is a relaxed mid-tempo blues that showcases Mo’s electric guitar skills. The great background vocals add a nice dose of soul.

The Worst Is Yet to Come, another tune from BLUESAmericana, is one of the highlights on the album. Mo’ co-wrote this song with Heather Donovan and Pete Sallis. The amazing groove of this mid-tempo electric blues just makes you want you start moving. It’s another nice illustration of Mo’s electric guitar skills.

Government Cheese stands out to me for its seductive funky groove. Written by Mo’, the song first appeared on 2009’s Live of Mo’, his first live album. The track also includes an unexpected Moog-sounding keyboard part.

The last tune I’d like to highlight is More Than One Way Home. Written by Mo’ and John Lewis Parker, the song illustrates Mo’s pop side. He recorded it first for Just Like You, his third studio album from 1996, which won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album. He won two more, in 1998 and 2005, and had various additional Grammy nominations. The catchy pop jazz track features a nice electric slide guitar and a cool bass solo.

Before wrapping up this post, I’d also like to acknowledge Mo’s excellent back-up band: Michael B. Hicks (keyboards) Stan Sargeant (bass) and Casey Wasner (drums). Hicks is known in the funk and soul scene in Nashville, where Mo’ resides, and beyond the city. In addition to touring with Mo’, Hicks also records his own music. In 2013, he released an album called This Is Life, together with an 18-piece funk group, Mike Hicks and the Funk Puncs. Sargeant is a prominent session and touring bassist, who has worked with an impressive array of music artists like Dolly Parton, Vanessa Williams, Leonard Cohen, Jonathan Butler, David Benoit and Al Jarreau. He also released a solo record in 2014, a pop jazz album. Like Mo’, Wasner is a multi-instrumentalist. He also produced Mo’s BLUESAmericana album and writes his own music.

Sources: Wikipedia, Keb’ Mo’ website, Mike Hicks website, Stan Sargeant web site, Casey Wasner website, YouTube