Song Musings

What you always wanted to know about that tune

Hope your Wednesday is treating you nicely. It’s time to take a closer look at another song I’ve only mentioned in passing or not covered at all to date. The context for today’s pick is rather sad – the recent death of Christine McVie who suddenly passed away last Wednesday at the age of 79 after a short illness. The cause was not disclosed. While in Fleetwood Mac McVie oftentimes may have been overshadowed by Stevie Nicks, she wrote and sang some of the group’s most popular songs, including Everywhere, Little Lies, Don’t Stop, You Make Loving Fun and my pick for today: Songbird.

Songbird appeared on the Mac’s magnum opus Rumours, their 11th studio album released in February 1977. The beautiful tune also became the B-side to the record’s second single Dreams, which appeared in March 1977. Two of McVie’s above-noted songs, Don’t Stop and You Make Loving Fun, were A-side singles. Songbird should have been one as well, in my view.

Christine McVie (born Christine Perfect) joined Fleetwood Mac in 1970 after her departure from blues band Chicken Shack who had toured with the Mac, and the recording of her eponymous debut album Christine Perfect. By the time she became an official member of Fleetwood Mac, she had married bassist John McVie. In 1984, she released her second solo album, Christine McVie. By 1999, McVie had not only grown tired from touring but had also developed a phobia about flying, and decided to retire from music. She officially rejoined Fleetwood Mac in 2014 and was part of their last world tour that ended in Las Vegas in November 2019. Mick Fleetwood subsequently said it probably was the band’s last such tour.

In June 2022, Christine McVie released a solo compilation titled Songbird: A Solo Collection. The album features remixed versions of tunes from her above-mentioned 1984 solo album and In the Meantime, another solo record from September 2004, together with two previously unreleased tracks and the following orchestrated version of Songbird.

Last but not least, here’s a nice live version of Songbird, which became a beloved tune among Fleetwood Mac fans. It was often performed by McVie and guitarist Lindsey Buckingham as their show closer. This footage was captured in December 2014 at a gig in San Diego, Calif.

Following are some additional tidbits about Songbird from Songfacts.

Christine McVie said that this song held Fleetwood Mac together during their hard times while recording Rumours. Once the members heard this song, they thought about what they had been through and how much love they shared...

Christine McVie liked to pen her songs from another person’s point of view rather than writing about herself. She told Uncut: “If you take ‘Songbird’ as an example, that was written in about half an hour. If I could write a few more like that, I would be a happy girl. It doesn’t really relate to anybody in particular; it relates to everybody. A lot of people play it at their weddings or at bar mitzvahs or at their dog’s funeral. It’s universal. It’s about you and nobody else. It’s about you and everybody else. That’s how I like to write songs.”

Christine McVie penned the song after she woke up in the middle of the night with it in her head. She recalled to Mojo in 2015: “Stevie and I were in a condominium block and the boys were all in the Sausalito Record Plant house raving with girls and boozer and everything. I had a little transistorized electric piano next to my bed and I woke up one night at about 3:30 a.m. and started playing it. I had all, words, melody, chords in about 30 minutes. It was like a gift from the angels, but I had no way to record it. I thought I’m never gonna remember this. So I went back to bed, and couldn’t sleep. I wrote the words down quickly.

Next day, I went into the studio shaking like a leaf’ ’cause I knew it was something special. I said, ‘Ken, (Caillat, Rumours’ co-producer/engineer) put the 2-track on, I want to record this song!’ I think they were all in there, smoking opium.”

“Songbird” was recorded away from the studio at the University of California’s Zellerbach Auditorium with just McVie alone at the piano. The idea was to have it sound like she was singing alone after everyone had left a concert. It was recorded using a mobile unit.

Sources: Wikipedia; Songfacts; YouTube

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The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

Happy Sunday and welcome to another trip into the beautiful and diverse world of music, six tracks at a time. Hop on, fasten your seatbelts and let’s go!

Miles Davis/So What

Today, I’d like to start our journey in August 1959 with some early Miles Davis. I have to admit I find this more accessible than Bitches Brew and other of his later more experimental music I’ve heard. I guess I’m not alone. According to Wikipedia, many critics regard Davis’s Kind of Blue album as his masterpiece, the greatest jazz record, and one of the best albums of all time. In 1976, it became his first album to reach Gold certification in the U.S., and as of 2019, it has reached 5X Platinum. More importantly, the album’s influence reached far beyond jazz. None other than the great Duane Allman, guitarist of The Allman Brothers Band, said his soloing on songs like In Memory of Elizabeth Reed, “comes from Miles and Coltrane, and particularly Kind of Blue.” Pink Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright noted the chord progressions on Kind of Blue influenced the structure of the introductory chords to the song Breathe on their 1973 gem The Dark Side of the Moon. Meanwhile, Davis ended up viewing Kind of Blue and his other early work differently. During a 1986 interview, he said, “I have no feel for it anymore—it’s more like warmed-over turkey.” Here’s the album’s opener So What composed by Davis. BTW, Davis (trumpet) was in formidable company on the album, including saxophone greats John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley, pianists Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly, as well as Paul Chambers (double bass) and Jimmy Cobb (drums).

Christine McVie/One in a Million

For our next stop, we’re jumping 25 years ahead to January 1984. I trust Christine McVie (born Christine Perfect) doesn’t need much of an introduction. It’s safe to assume most folks know her as a long-term member of Fleetwood Mac. She joined the group as keyboarder and vocalist in 1970 after her departure from blues band Chicken Shack and the release of her first solo album Christine Perfect. Following the Mac’s 13th studio album Mirage from June 1982, they went on a temporary hiatus, giving McVie the time to record her second eponymous solo album, Christine McVie. She was backed by Todd Sharp (guitar, backing vocals), George Hawkins (bass, backing vocals) and Steve Ferrone (drums, percussion) who 10 years later would join Tom Petty’s band The Heartbreakers. Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham (guitar) and Mick Fleetwood (drums) had guest appearances on certain tracks, as had Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood. Clearly, McVie didn’t have any challenges to secure high-caliber talent for the album. Here’s One in a Million, co-written by her and Sharp. It’s one of the tunes featuring Winwood who in addition to synthesizer also provided lead and backing vocals. Nice pop-rocker!

The Moody Blues/Watching and Waiting

This next pick has been on my list of earmarked Sunday Six songs for several months – not quite sure what took me so long! Watching and Waiting is the beautiful closer of the Moody Blues’s fifth studio album To Our Children’s Children’s Children, released in November 1969. Co-written by band members Justin Hayward (vocals, guitar, sitar) and Ray Thomas (vocals, flute, tambourine, bass flute, oboe), the tune also appeared separately as a single. It didn’t chart, unlike the album, which climbed to no. 2 in the UK, no. 11 in Canada and no. 14 in the U.S. The band’s remaining members at the time were Mike Pinder (Mellotron, piano), John Lodge (bass) and Graeme Edge (drums, percussion). During a 2014 interview Hayward said, “when we heard that song in its studio beauty, we thought, “This is it! All of those people who had been saying to us for the past 3 or 4 years, “You’ll probably just do another Nights in White Satin with it” — no! We had shivers up the spine, and that kind of stuff. But when it came out and you heard it on the radio, you kept saying, “Turn it up! Turn it up!! Oh no, it’s not going to make it.” So it didn’t happen.”

Tom Faulkner/River On the Rise

On to the ’90s and Tom Faulkner, a great American singer-songwriter who isn’t exactly a household name. My former bandmate and longtime music buddy from Germany brought him and his excellent 1997 album Lost In The Land Of Texico on my radar screen last year, and this is the second track from that album I’m featuring on The Sunday Six. To date, Faulkner has only released two albums. His most recent one, Raise the Roof, appeared in 2002. For the most part, he has made his living with commercial music for radio and TV. According to this bio on last.fm, Faulkner has created hundreds of national jingles and scores, including some of the most memorable commercial music on television and radio. Most notably, he composed and sang the wildly popular “I Want My Baby Back” for Chili’s, a jingle that has since found its way into motion pictures (Austin Powers) and over a dozen major network TV shows. He also created the multi-award winning music theme for Motel 6 and Tom Bodett, the longest running commercial campaign in the history of advertising (23 years, 5 CLIOs, and counting). Check out River On the Rise, a nice bluesy tune!

Joe Jackson Band/Take It Like a Man

It’s time to feature a couple of songs from the current century, don’t you agree? First, let’s go to March 2003 and Volume 4, the 16th studio album by versatile British music artist Joe Jackson, released as Joe Jackson Band. For this project, Jackson (piano, organ, electric piano, melodica, lead vocals) brought back together his original backing band of Gary Sanford (guitar, backing vocals), Graham Maby (bass, backing vocals) and David Houghton (drums, backing vocals). And there’s definitely some of that cool vibe from Jackson’s first three albums Look Sharp! (January 1979), I’m the Man (October 1979) and Beat Crazy (October 1980). Over his now 50-plus-year career, Jackson has touched many different genres ranging from pub rock, new wave, swing, and jazz-oriented pop to even classical music. Here’s the album’s great opener Take It Like a Man, which like all other tunes was penned by Jackson.

Candy Dulfer/Jammin’ Tonight (feat. Nile Rodgers)

And once again, it’s time to wrap up. For this final track, we’re traveling back to the present and a funky tune by Dutch jazz and pop saxophonist Candy Dulfer: Jammin’ Tonight featuring Mr. funky guitar Nile Rodgers. Dulfer, the daughter of Dutch tenor saxophonist Hans Dulfer, began playing the drums as a five-year-old before discovering the saxophone a year later. Since the age of seven, she has focused on the tenor saxophone. By the time she was 11, Dulfer made her first recordings for her father’s jazz band De Perikels (the perils). Three years later, she opened up two European concerts for Madonna with her own band Funky Stuff. Two years later, in 1989, she duetted with Dave Stewart (of Eurythmics) on the worldwide instrumental hit Lily Was Here, from the motion picture soundtrack of the same name. The following year, she put out her solo debut album Saxuality. The above tune Jammin’ Tonight is from Dulfer’s forthcoming album We Never Stop, which is scheduled for October 28. Funky!

Last but not least, here’s a Spotify playlist featuring all of the above tunes. Hope there’s something for ya!

Sources: Wikipedia; last.fm; YouTube; Spotify

The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

I can’t believe it’s Sunday again – boy, this first week of 2022 flew by really quickly! Well, this means it’s time for another installment of my favorite weekly feature where I time-travel to celebrate music of the past and sometimes the present, six tunes at a time. Off we go!

Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble/Chitlins con Carne

Let’s kick it off with a great jazzy instrumental by Stevie Ray Vaughan, one of my favorite electric blues guitarists. Chitlins con Carne is from the fifth and final album of Vaughan and his backing band Double Trouble, appropriately titled The Sky Is Crying. This record appeared in November 1991, 14 months after Vaughan’s tragic and untimely death in a helicopter crash. He was only 35 years old – what a huge loss! Chitlins con Carne, composed by jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell, was first released on his 1963 album Midnight Blue. In case you’re curious you can check out the original here. Following is Vaughan’s excellent rendition!

Christine McVie/Got a Hold on Me

Christine McVie is best known as keyboarder, vocalist and songwriter of Fleetwood Mac, which she joined in 1970, coming from British blues band Chicken Shack. At the time she became a member of the Mac, she was the wife of bassist John McVie whom she had married in 1968. Their union fell apart after Christine had an affair with the band’s lighting engineer Curry Grant during the production of the Rumours album in 1976. Let’s just say there were many on and off relationships within Fleetwood Mac! Christine McVie wrote some of the band’s best-known songs, such as Don’t Stop, You Make Loving Fun (about her affair with Grant, though at the time she claimed it was about a dog!) and Say You Love Me. To date, she has also recorded three solo albums. Got a Hold on Me, co-written by her and Todd Sharp, is from her second solo effort Christine McVie, which came out in January 1984. I’ve always loved this pop-rock tune – simple and a bit repetitive, but quite catchy!

James Taylor/Fire and Rain

Last Sunday, I caught a great CNN documentary, Carole King & James Taylor: Just Call Out My Name, focused on their 2010 Troubadour Reunion Tour – I could still kill myself that I completely missed that tour! Anyway, one of the tunes they played was Fire and Rain, my favorite James Taylor original song. I also love his rendition of King’s You’ve Got a Friend. Fire and Rain is off Taylor’s sophomore album Sweet Baby James from February 1970. The tune also appeared separately as a single in August that year. It became his first hit, reaching no. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, no. 2 in Canada and no. 6 in Australia. It also charted in the UK (no. 48) and The Netherlands (no. 18). Here’s a beautiful live performance captured from the BBC’s In Concert series in November 1970. James Taylor, his smooth voice and his great guitar-playing – that’s really all you need!

Them/Gloria

Next, let’s jump back further to December 1964 and some dynamite British garage rock: Gloria by Them, a band formed in April 1964 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Fronted by Van Morrison (lead vocals, saxophone, harmonica), the group’s original line-up also included Billy Harrison (guitar, vocals), Eric Wrixon (keyboards), Alan Henderson (bass) and Ronnie Milling (drums). Gloria, penned by Morrison, was first released in November 1964 as the B-side to Baby, Please Don’t Go, Them’s second single. The tune was also included on the group’s debut album The Angry Young Them from June 1965, which in the U.S. was simply titled Them. This song’s just a classic. I wish I could say the same about Van Morrison these days!

Elvis Presley/Heartbreak Hotel

As frequent visitors of the blog may recall, my childhood idol was Elvis Presley who, btw, would have turned 87 yesterday (January 8). While I no longer idolize him or anyone else for that matter, I still dig Elvis, especially his early period. One of the coolest songs I can think of in this context is Heartbreak Hotel. Credited to Tommy Durden, Mae Boren Axton and Presley, the slow jazzy blues tune first appeared as a single in January 1956 and became Elvis’ first big hit. Among others, it topped the charts in the U.S., Canada and The Netherlands, and reached no. 2 in the UK. Heartbreak Hotel was also included on the compilation Elvis’ Golden Records from March 1958. In addition to Presley’s regular backing musicians Scotty Moore (electric guitar) and Bill Black (double bass), the recording featured Chet Atkins (acoustic guitar), Floyd Cramer (piano) and D.J. Fontana (drums). Feel free to snip along!

Mark Knopfler/Prairie Wedding

And once again, this brings me to the sixth and final track in this installment. It’s yet another tune my streaming music provider recently served up as a listening suggestion: Prairie Wedding by Mark Knopfler. The song is from the former Dire Straits frontman’s second solo album Sailing to Philadelphia that came out in September 2000. Written by Knopfler like all other tunes on the album, the track features Gillian Welch and her musical partner David Rawlings on backing vocals, as well as Guy Fletcher on keyboards. Fletcher also served in that role in Dire Straits from 1984 until the band’s final dissolution in 1995. Great tune with a nice cinematic feel!

Here’s a playlist of the above tunes:

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube; Spotify

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