Including Miles and Miles by The Heavy Heavy in my most recent Sunday Sixfeature made me listen to Life and Life Only, the June 2022 EP, on which the tune by the UK band initially appeared. After starting to check it out, I quickly realized their retro-inspired rock sound is right up my alley.
Led by Will Turner and Georgie Fuller, the five-piece group from the seaside resort town of Brighton in Southern England create what their Bandcamppage describes as “unfettered rock-and-roll that warps time and space, sitting at the reverb-drenched collision of psychedelia and blues, acid rock and sunshine pop.” Their website name-checks Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac, The Rolling Stones, British Invasion pop acts like The Hollies and folk-blues duo Delaney & Bonnie. I would add The Mamas and the Papas and Jefferson Airplane.
I noticed there’s another recent release by The Heavy Heavy, which is also titled Life and Life Only. This album, which came out in March, combines the songs of the EP with four additional tracks, including covers of tunes by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Father John Misty and Jonathan Wilson, as well as a live and an acoustic version of two original songs.
Apparently, The Heavy Heavy are pretty prolific. Their website refers to “hundreds of songs” they have written and recorded in just the past two years. They have also toured “relentlessly” in the United States and Europe and appeared on U.S. national television, including CBS Saturday Morning, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. That certainly ain’t no joke!
Let’s get to some music from the album version of Life and Life Only. Here’s the cool opener All My Dreams. The gorgeous multipart harmony vocals and the retro organ sound are a total turn-on. Immediately, it feels like traveling back to the late ’60s!
Go Down River is the first track Fuller and Turner recorded as The Heavy Heavy. “I’d had this song a while and couldn’t quite finish it, but then once Georgie added her vocals it all came together,” Turner recalls on their website. “The male-female harmonies gave it this whole new sound; it just felt like lying in the green grass on a hot sunny day.” Another outstanding tune!
Man of the Hills is “a groove-heavy homage to Turner’s otherworldly hometown” of Malvern, notes the group’s website. While I’m not familiar with the spa town in the English countryside of Worcestershire, I know this: This song certainly rocks!
Since I just covered Miles and Miles I’m skipping it here and go the catchy Why Don’t You Call, which features more seductive harmony singing.
Frankly, I could highlight any of the album’s remaining tunes. I’d like to leave you with one more track, which is one of the aforementioned covers: Real Love Baby, written by Joshua Tillman, aka Father John Misty, who recorded and released it first as a non-album single in 2016.
Life and Life Only is beautiful with a seductive late ’60s flower power vibe. It’s perfectly timed for summer. Here’s a Spotify link to the album.
Sources: Wikipedia; The Heavy Heavy website; The Heavy Heavy Bandcamp page; YouTube; Spotify
This post first appeared last week on A Sound Day, a great blog by Dave as part of his fun Turntable Talkfeature, where he invites contributions from other bloggers on a topic he proposes. His latest ask, which he playfully titled ‘Feels Like the First Time,’ was to write about the first album we ever bought. In this republished version of the post, I altered the feature image and added one of the embedded images. I also adjusted the formatting of the post to fit the style of this blog.
Thanks, Dave, for inviting me back for another Turntable Talk contribution. Your recurring feature truly is a gift that keeps on giving. I particularly enjoy reading the posts from fellow bloggers and the insights I gain in both their music tastes and personalities. And since I love writing about music, of course, it’s also fun sharing my own two cents.
This time, Dave asked us to reflect on the first album we bought, whether on vinyl, CD or in other formats. Jeez, I oftentimes can’t recall what I did the previous day, so remembering what I did some 45-plus years ago seems to be impossible. So, I decided to take some liberty with the topic.
While I really can’t remember the first record I bought with my own money, which to be clear would be my monthly allowance or any German Marks I received as a gift for my birthday or Christmas, I’m fairly certain three records were among the very first I owned and still do to this day!
Two of them are pictured below.
I believe The Beatles compilation I bought with my “own” money. The greatest hits sampler by The Everly Brothers, on the other hand, was a gift.
Obviously, I could have picked The Beatles, my all-time favorite band. But I’ve written multiple times about them, including once for Turntable Talk. That’s the main reason I picked the following record. Plus, given Elvis Presley was my first and only childhood idol before I discovered the four lads from Liverpool, there’s a high probability I owned Elvis’s 40 Greatest prior to getting the Beatles compilation.
Before I get to the record, let me tell you a little bit about my obsession with Elvis as a kid back in Germany. While my six-year-older sister introduced me to some of the greatest music ever recorded, such as Carole King’sTapestry, Pink Floyd’sWish You Were Here and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’sDéjà Vu, the “King of Rock and Roll” was my own discovery.
I must have “met” the man for the first time on the radio. We’re talking about 1976 or 1977, when I was 10 or 11 years old. I can’t recall specifically what it was that grabbed my attention in ways no other music had done before then. Mind you, I didn’t understand or speak any English, so I was reacting to Elvis’ amazing voice, as well as the cool groove and incredible energy projected by tunes like Tutti Frutti and Jailhouse Rock.
I became truly infatuated with Elvis and wanted to know everything about him. Obviously, there was no Internet back then, so I couldn’t simply ask Mr. Google or check Wikipedia! I do recall reading a bio published in paperback but sadly don’t remember the author or the title. Mr. Google didn’t help either, but since that bio included Elvis’ death in August 1977, obviously, it must have appeared thereafter – I assume sometime in 1978.
I also watched Aloha from Hawaii via Satellite on German TV. Given the original broadcast aired in 1973, it must have been a re-run, likely in the wake of Elvis’s passing. I also recall watching the Western Flaming Star (1960). Elvis starred in many movies, most of which were forgettable. I would say Flaming Star and Jailhouse Rock (1957) were among the best ones.
My obsession with Elvis culminated in attempts to impersonate the King in front of the mirror. I would even put grease in my hair. Once I also “costumed” as Elvis during the so-called Karneval season, which is prominent in the Rhineland, the area where I grew up, especially in the cities of Cologne, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Aachen and Mainz. Costuming, dancing, parades, drinking and happiness (or is it really forced silliness?) are part of the celebration, which reaches its climax in the week leading up to Ash Wednesday when ‘everything is over,’ as the Karneval fans say.
Once I started picking up the guitar as a 12- or 13-year-old, incorporating the instrument became part of my Elvis impersonation package. One of the first Elvis tunes I learned was (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear. My poor parents really had a lot to endure!
Okay, I think you get the picture. I idolized Elvis, of course in an innocent childish way.
Time to finally get to some music and the aforementioned compilation, which according to Discogs was released in 1978. I know I got it as a present for Christmas, and we’re likely talking about the holiday that same year.
As also noted above, I still own that copy. While a bit worn it’s still playable. To prove it, I’ll leave with clips of four tunes I captured myself, one from each side of the double LP.
Side 1, Track 7: (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear (1957) – of course, I couldn’t skip that one!
Side 2, Track 2: Hard Headed Woman (1958) – this song just rocks; love the cool guitar solo by the great Scotty Moore!
Side 3, Track 10: Can’t Help Falling In Love (1961) – call it schmaltz, but that tune is a true beauty, which literally has brought me to tears!
Side 4, Track 8: Suspicious Minds (1969) – one of my all-time favorites I couldn’t skip!
While since those days back in the second half of the ‘70s I’ve become a bit more mature (I think!) and no longer idolize Elvis, or anyone else for that matter, I still enjoy much of his music. I also think Elvis was an incredible performer, especially in the ‘50s before joining the U.S. Army in March 1958 for his military service.
First new album in seven years tackles life, love and politics
Let me get to the point right away. Graham Nash sounds absolutely amazing on Now, his seventh solo album and first in seven years, which came out last Friday (May 19). Prior to Now, sadly, I only knew Nash as a brilliant member of Crosby, Stills & Nash, sometimes enhanced by Neil Young, as well The Hollies. Unlike Young and to some extent Crosby, I didn’t follow Nash’s solo career, which he launched in 1971. That will change now – no pun intended!
“I find myself in between totally in love and totally pissed off,” Nash toldBillboard in what could be called a perfect summary of the album. The feelings of love refer to artist and photographer Amy Grantham who Nash married in April 2019 after leaving his second wife, American voice actress Susan Sennett in 2016. The “pissed” aspect reflects Nash’s activist side, which is still burning in his belly, 50-plus years after he wrote Chicago to support the so-called “Chicago Eight” who were charged with conspiracy over anti-Vietnam War protests disrupting the 1968 Democratic National Convention in the windy city.
Let’s take a closer look at Nash’s new set of songs. He kicks it off with what essentially is the album’s title track Right Now. The nice mid-tempo rocker also became the lead single on February 21. In a press release record label BMG issed at the time, Nash said, “I believe that my new album Now is the most personal one I have ever made.” I particularly love the guitar action by Shane Fontayne and Thad DeBrock, as well as the work by Todd Caldwell, Nash’s longtime keyboardist who also produced the album.
On A Better Life, Nash asks parents to leave a better life for their children. The inter-generational message is somewhat reminiscent of Teach Your Children, a song Nash wrote in 1968 while still being a member of The Hollies. It first appeared in March 1970 on Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’sDéjà Vu album. Nash’s vocals sound sweet, especially when he harmonizes with himself!
On the country-flavored Stars & Stripes, a tune with a CSN vibe and beautiful pedal steel work by DeBrock, Nash muses about the seemingly never-ending conflict and division among people. At the same time, he’s not entirely pessimistic. “Thank God that I do live in America – a very beautiful country with many faults, and so much more going for it.” Nash toldVariety. “I know that here that I have the right to speak my mind, even if people don’t agree with me.” Let’s hope that will always continue to be the case!
Stand Up, a second single that appeared ahead of the album, is another tune revealing Nash’s activist side by asking people to play an active role in society, not sit on the sidelines: Stand up for what you believe/Stand up for those you love/Stand up for what you want/Stand up for what you need/stand up, take a stand/ lend a hand, if you can.
Buddy’s Back is a beautiful tribute to the amazing Buddy Holly. Appropriately, the tune features vocals by Allan Clarke, who together with Nash co-founded a duo in the late 1950s, which in 1962 evolved into The Deltas, a band that in December of the same year renamed themselves as The Hollies. The name reflected their admiration for Hollie. Obviously, the tune’s Buddy Holly vibe isn’t a coincidence. Man, I love this!
The last track I’d like to call out is I Watched It All Come Down. According to Billboard, the album’s oldest track addresses Nash’s “occasionally turbulent relationships with Crosby, Stills and Young.” Nash explained, “Basically, it’s about my delight with the music that we made all these years and dissatisfaction because we could’ve done more.” The pretty string quintet arranged by Cladwell gives the tune a chamber pop feel.
“I just want people to know you can still rock at 81,” Nash said to Billboard. “I’m 81 now, for f–k’s sake! Holy sh-t! And I’m very happy in my life. I’ve been around a long time, as you know. I’ve made some fine music in my life, with my fantastic musical partners. And I feel there’s still more of it coming.” Here’s a Spotify link to the album:
And, btw, Nash doesn’t keep it to new music only. Since mid-April, he has been on the road for the Sixty Years of Songs & Stories Tour. I completely missed it, including the recent opportunity to see him in New York City where he played City Winery for three consecutive nights! Upcoming dates in June include gigs in California, Arizona and Colorado. The current schedule is here.
While my music history series is an irregular feature, this time, I did not want to wait for another 10 weeks before putting together the next installment. Plus, May 4 turned out to be a date I had not covered yet. As always, this content reflects my music taste and is not meant to present a full accounting of events.
1956: Rockabilly and early rock & roll pioneer Gene Vincent recorded what would become his signature song at Owen Bradley’s studio in Memphis, Tenn.: Be-Bop-a-Lula. Vincent wrote the music in 1955 at US Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Va. while recuperating from a motorcycle accident. The song is also credited to his manager Bill “Sheriff Tex” Davis who claimed he wrote it together with Vincent. Another version is the lyrics were penned by Donald Graves who Vincent met at the hospital and Davis subsequently bought out his rights to the tune. To make things even more confusing, in yet another version, Vincent maintained he came up with the tune’s words, which were inspired by a comic strip called Little Lulu. What is undisputed is that once released in June 1956, Be-Bop-a-Lula became Vincent’s biggest hit in both the U.S. and the UK, peaking at no. 7 and no. 16, respectively.
1967: The Young Rascals (who later became known as just The Rascals) reached the top of the U.S. pop charts with Groovin’, the title track of their third studio album released in July of the same year. The tune was co-written by band members Felix Cavaliere (lead and backing vocals, keyboards) and Eddie Brigati (backing and lead vocals, percussion). Gene Cornish (guitar, harmonica, backing and lead vocals, bass) and Dino Danelli (drums) completed the group who were still in their original lineup. Groovin’, their second big hit after Good Lovin’ (February 1965), reflected Cavaliere’s newfound interest in Afro-Cuban music. The tune featured a conga and a Cuban-influenced bassline played by prominent session musician Chuck Rainey, one of the most recorded bass players who also worked with the likes of Aretha Franklin, Steely Dan and Quincy Jones. Groovin’ also became The Young Rascals’ highest-charting single in the UK (no. 8) and Australia (no. 3).
1970: A peace rally at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio against the U.S. incursion into Cambodia ended in what became known as the May 4 massacre or the Kent State massacre. After more than 300 students had gathered on campus to protest the expansion of the Vietnam war, 28 National Guard soldiers emerged and fired tear gas at the crowd, followed by about 67 rounds of bullets over 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others. Unbeknownst to the protesters, Ohio Governor Jim Rhodes had stationed the National Guard on campus and declared martial law, superseding First Amendment rights and making any assembly illegal. Among the protesters was Jerry Casale who subsequently became a co-founder of the band Devo. Another student who was there that day decided to drop out of school, work as a waitress for a while and eventually head to England to form a rock band. Her name: Chrissie Hynde, of the Pretenders. But the most immediate outcome of the May 4 massacre was the song Ohio, written by Neil Young, and released as a single by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young in the wake of the shooting.
1987: Prominent blues harmonica player and vocalist Paul Butterfield, best known as the founder and leader of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, died from a drug overdose in his Los Angeles apartment at age 44. Butterfield formed the Paul Butterfield Blues Band in 1963. Between 1965 and 1971, they released a series of studio and live albums. After their breakup in 1971, Butterfield formed a new group, the short-lived Paul Butterfield’s Better Days, who put out two albums. Afterward, Butterfield launched a solo career. In 1986, he released his final studio album, The Legendary Paul Butterfield Rides Again, an unsuccessful comeback attempt with an updated rock sound. Butterfield’s physical and financial condition started to deteriorate in the early ’80s after he became addicted to heroin, a possible attempt to ease symptoms from serious and painful intestinal inflammation. Here’s Paul Butterfield Blues Band’s rendition of Robert Johnson’sWalkin’ Blues, off their sophomore album East-West, featuring guitarist Mike Bloomfield.
1991: Texas Governor Ann Richards declared ZZ Top day in the Lone Star State. According to an article in the Deseret News, which weirdly is a Utah paper, Richards led a Capitol ceremony honoring the Houston-based rock band, which ended its 120-city “Recycler” tour in Austin Friday.”You’ve heard me talk an awful lot about how proud Texas is of its music industry,” Richards said. “I can’t think of a group better than ZZ Top.” While setlist.fm doesn’t include ZZ Top’s above-noted May 3, 1991 Austin gig, it lists their show in Lubbock, Texas the night before – close enough! Here’s one of the tunes they played, Concrete and Steel, the opener of Recycler, their 10th studio album released in October 1990 – sounds like it was inspired by Sharp Dressed Man.
Sources: Wikipedia; Songfacts Music Calendar; This Day In Music; Deseret News; Setlist.fm; YouTube
All Roads Lead Home is compilation of new songs each member wrote and recorded individually
After 53 years, the current members of Crazy Horse and their on-and-off leader throughout this period Neil Young decided to do something they had never done before: Instead of creating new music together, they each recorded songs individually and compiled them on a new album, All Roads Lead Home, which appeared last Friday (March 31). For the first time, they also released music as Molina, Talbot, Lofgren & Young. Inevitably, it makes you think of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
Ralph Molina (drums) and Billy Talbot (bass), the only consistent members of Crazy Horse since the band’s official inception in 1969 on Young’s sophomore album Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, and Nils Lofgren (guitar) who first joined in 1970, each wrote three tunes. Young contributed a solo version of Song of the Seasons, a tune that first appeared on the album Barn, which he released with Crazy Horse in December 2021. I reviewed it here at the time.
The four artists pointed to the dreadful pandemic to explain their approach. Sure, travel restrictions would have made gathering more challenging, not to mention the fact that getting sick would have put each gentleman at significant risk – after all, they aren’t exactly 18 any longer! Yet, modern technology could have overcome physical separation. Simply put, they could have recorded their parts individually and exchanged them via digital files. Of course, the latter would be hard to imagine for a band like Crazy Horse who have been known to create music together in the moment – a spontaneous approach that while it resulted in various outcomes has served them well overall!
In their review, Ultimate Classic Rock rightly notes All Roads Lead Home feels like “four solo records collected in a single home”. They add, “That makes for a scattered and occasionally unfocused listen, already a characteristic of recent Young and Crazy Horse albums.” That doesn’t bother me at all. True, there’s no apparent overarching vision or theme here, but I actually think the resulting variety of the songs enriches the listening experience. Also, unlike Neil Young and Nils Lofgren, frankly, I hadn’t exactly thought of Ralph Molina and Billy Talbot as songwriters. Looking at previous albums released by Crazy Horse without Neil Young, such as Crazy Moon (1978) and Left For Dead (1989), reveals Molina and Talbot had done some occasional writing in the past.
I’d say ’nuff talk, let’s get to some music! The opener Rain is one of the songs by Talbot who also provides lead vocals in addition to acoustic guitar and piano – the first time I recall hearing Talbot sing! He’s backed by the Billy Talbot Band featuring Matt Piucci (electric guitar, organ, acoustic guitar, vocals), Michael Hamilton (electric guitar, acoustic guitar, baritone bass, vocals), Mark Hanley (slide guitar, electric piano, vocals), Ryan James Holzer (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, vocals), Jack Hughes (organ, piano, vocals), Tommy Carns (bass guitar, steel guitar, vocals) and Stephen Junca (drums, vocals). According to Talbot’s website, the Billy Talbot Band has been around since 2004 when he launched his solo career with the album Alive in the Spirit World – who knew! This all works for me!
You Will Never Know was penned by Lofgren. He also sings lead vocals and plays all instruments, including guitars, keyboards, bass, drums and percussion. One of his brothers, Tom Lofgren, who is a musician as well and performs with his brothers Mike Lofgren and Mark Lofgren in a trio known as The Lofgren Brothers, is credited with vocals. I love Nils’ slide guitar work on this song, which has a bit of an Eagles vibe, especially once Tom sings harmony vocals. Love Will Keep Us Alive anybody?
Here’s Young’s aforementioned solo version of Song of the Seasons. You could say supplying only one tune that isn’t even new is a bit of a measly contribution. Again, I’d like to see the upside here. While Neil Young is very well-known as a prolific singer-songwriter, the same cannot be said about Ralph Molina and Billy Talbot. As such, I like the fact that both guys are given room for three tunes each on the album! Coming back to Song of the Seasons, apart from singing, Young plays guitar and harmonica, making it classic acoustic Neil Young. This stripped-back approach and sound is a key reason why I fell in love with him in the first place many moons ago!
One of the album’s highlights is Look Through the Eyes of Your Heart, written by Molina. With its rugged sound, it’s got a Crazy Horse vibe, though perhaps not as rugged as you could imagine it when Young goes grunge. Like Talbot, Molina who sings lead chose to be backed by musicians other than his Crazy Horse bandmates: Marco Cecilia (guitars), Francesco Lucarelli (tremolo guitar), Anthony Crawford (acoustic guitar) and Marco Melino (drums). Backing vocals are provided by Brad Stock and Sonny Mone. I like how this tune came out!
Let’s do one more, The Hunter, another song co-written by Talbot. Like in his previous above tune, Talbot is singing lead and playing piano and guitar on this ballad, with backing by members of the Billy Talbot Band. In this case, the line-up is slightly modified and includes Payton Jerde (bass, vocals) in addition to Holzer, Hamilton, Junca and Hughes. In a post on Neil Young’s website neilyoungarchives.com Talbot explains the tune which he co-wrote with Ryan James Holzer came out of sessions with the band in late 2017. Once again, I have to say I’m impressed with the outcome!
So, what do you think? While All Roads Lead Home doesn’t break new musical ground, I feel it’s not only a pleasant listening experience, but it also elevates the profiles of Ralph Molina and Billy Talbot as songwriters. And, who knows, perhaps the Crazy Horse formula has changed forever! Plus, who would have thought we’d see another band that has “& Young” as part of their name!
The last words shall belong to the members. “After Billy and I talking, we finally realized it was time to have our own album together..along with Nils, and the big guy, we thank wholeheartedly, adding a song,” Molina said in the aforementioned post on neilyoungarchives.com. “We now have what we feel is a good one.”
“I loved working on the All Ways Lead Home project,” Lofgren stated. “Thrilled to share it now. After 53 years of friendship and music, it was a joy to participate.”
“Playing with these guys for over 50 years is one of the greatest joys of my life,” added Young.
The album isn’t available on Spotify, most likely because of Young’s well-publicized beef with the streaming platform (you can hear his explanation in this interview snippet with Howard Stern), though you can stream it on Apple Music and I assume other platforms. Following is the tracklist:
01 Rain (Billy Talbot) 02 You Will Never Know (Nils Lofgren) 03 It’s Magical (Ralph Molina) 04 Song Of The Seasons (Neil Young) 05 Cherish (Billy Talbot) 06 Fill My Cup (Nils Lofgren) 07 Look Through The Eyes Of Your Heart (Ralph Molina) 08 The Hunter (Billy Talbot) 09 Go With Me (Nils Lofgren) 10 Just For You (Ralph Molina)
Sources: Wikipedia; Ultimate Classic Rock; Billy Talbot website; neilyoungarchives.com; YouTube
Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time
Another Sunday is upon us and I hope everybody is feeling groovy. It’s time again to embark on another trip to visit music from different decades and in different flavors, six tunes at a time. Let’s do it!
Lou Donaldson/That Good Old Feeling
Our first stop today is June 1957, which saw the release of Wailing With Lou, a studio album by Lou Donaldson. The American jazz alto saxophonist who is now 96 years officially retired in 2017 after a 64-year career as an active performer. Here’s an excerpt from the bio on his website: Jazz critics agree that “Sweet Poppa Lou” Donaldson is one of the greatest alto saxophonists of all time. He began his career as a bandleader with Blue Note Records in 1952 and, already at age 25, had found his sound, though it would continue to sweeten over the years — earning him his famed nickname –“Sweet Poppa Lou.” He made a series of classic records for Blue Note Records in the 50’s and takes pride in having showcased many musicians who made their first records as sidemen for him: Clifford Brown, Grant Green, Blue Mitchell, Donald Byrd, Ray Barretto, Horace Parlan, John Patton, Charles Earland, Al Harewood, Herman Foster, Peck Morrison, Dave Bailey, Leon Spencer, Idris Muhammad, and others. Coming back to the above-mentioned album, here’s the beautiful Donaldson composition That Good Old Feeling. The recording featured various of the above-listed jazz musicians, including Bryd (trumpet), Foster (piano) and Morrison (bass), along with Art Taylor (drums).
The Blasters/Crazy Baby
After having been eased in with smooth jazz, let’s visit 1980 and pick up the speed with great music by The Blasters. I first read about this American roots rock band on Cincinnati Babyhead’sblog. Formed in Downey, Calif. in 1979 by Phil Alvin (vocals, guitar) and his brother Dave Alvin (guitar), together with John Bazz (bass) and Bill Bateman (drums), the group had an initial 6-year run before they first broke up. Various incarnations of The Blasters have since been led by Phil Alvin who together with Bazz has been the only constant member. The current line-up also includes cofounder Bateman who rejoined in 2008. Crazy Baby, co-written by Ron Volz and Ron Wemsman, appeared on the band’s 1980 debut album American Music. It’s got a cool retro rockabilly vibe!
Bee Gees/To Love Somebody
Time to go back to the ’60s and a beautiful early song by the Bee Gees. Co-written by Barry Gibb and his brother Robin Gibb, To Love Somebody first appeared in June 1967 as the second upfront single of the group’s international debut studio album Bee Gee’s 1st, which came out in July of the same year. Prior to that, they had released two albums in their native Australia only. To Love Somebody reached no. 17 in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100 and no. 49 on the UK Official Singles Charts. Ten years later, the Bee Gees would rule the charts in both the U.S. and the UK, as well as many other countries with their no. 1 soundtrack album Saturday Night Fever, which spawned multiple no. 1. singles. Oftentimes, the Bee Gees are associated with the disco era, but early songs like To Love Somebody show there was much more to the group. You can read more about the Bee Gees in my four-part series from December 2020 here, here, here and here.
Now, let’s set our music time machine to the current century, more specifically to October 2020. That’s when Americana and country rock band Cordovas released their third full-length studio album Destiny Hotel. The four-piece group from East Nashville, Tenn. first entered my radar screen in the summer of 2018 when I caught them during a free concert in a park not far from my house. Their multi-part harmony singing proved to be an immediate attraction. So was their sound that reminds me of bands like Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, The Band, Grateful Dead, Eagles and Little Feat. Led by bassist Joe Firstman, Cordovas have been around for more than 10 years. Here’s the album’s opener High Feeling. These harmony vocals and the warm sound are right up my alley!
Pink Floyd/Us And Them
This past Wednesday marked the 50th anniversary of The Dark Side of the Moon, one of my favorite Pink Floyd albums, an appropriate occasion to go back to March 1, 1973. Developed during live performances before work in the studio began, the eighth studio release by the British psychedelic and progressive rock band was a concept album revolving around dark human themes, such as conflict, greed, time, death and mental illness. One of the most critically acclaimed albums of all time, The Dark Side of the Moon is a sonic gem that not only represents one of the peaks in Floyd’s recording career but also a highlight in sound engineering provided by Alan Parsons. It catapulted Pink Floyd to international stardom and perhaps somewhat ironically made its members pretty wealthy. For more on this album, you can read an excellent recent post by fellow blogger Bruce from Vinyl Connections. Us And Them, composed by Richard Wright with lyrics by Roger Waters, became the album’s second single in February 1974 after Money from May 1973. A reissue, The Dark Side of the Moon 50th Anniversary, is set to appear on March 24. Among others, the box set includes remastered edits of the studio album and The Dark Side of the Moon Live at Wembley 1974.
And once again it’s time to wrap up another musical journey. For the last stop, our time machine takes us to September 1995. Alternative country and Americana rock band Son Volt first entered my radar screen in July 2021 when their most recent studio album Electro Melodier appeared. Singer-songwriter and guitarist Jay Farrar formed the group in 1994 after the breakup of Uncle Tupelo, another alt. country outfit he had co-founded in 1987. To date, Son Volt have released 10 albums. Apart from Farrar, the current members include Chris Frame (guitar), Mark Spencer (keyboards, steel guitar), Andrew DuPlantis (bass) and Mark Patterson (drums). Route, penned by Farrar, is a nice crunchy rocker off their 1995 debut album Trace. It’s got a Neil Young and Crazy Horse vibe, which in my book usually is a great thing!
This post wouldn’t be complete without a Spotify playlist that includes all featured tunes. I gladly oblige and hope there’s something you dig!
Shining a light on influential singer-songwriter’s late-stage career
Last week (January 18), David Crosby sadly passed away at the age of 81, which according to a family statement came “after a long illness.” By now it’s safe to assume this isn’t news to anybody, given the significant number of obituaries that have appeared in the wake of his death. As such, I’m not going to write yet another summary of the influential singer-songwriter’s eventful private life and career. Instead, I’d like to highlight Crosby’s music, particularly his last nine years, during which he was pretty prolific.
When reflecting on David Crosby, I feel it’s fair to say most people primarily think of him as a co-founder of the Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash/Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Some perhaps also recall his February 1971 solo debut If I Could Only Remember My Name and his ’70s collaborative albums with CSN bandmate Graham Nash. But unless you’ve followed him more closely, his post-’70s output is probably less familiar. I certainly belong to that group.
In January 2014, Crosby released Croz, his fourth solo album and first such effort in 20 years, beginning a remarkably productive late stage in his career. On several occasions over the past couple of years, he noted his remaining time was limited, so he wanted to focus on music as much as possible. And that he certainly did. After Croz four additional studio albums appeared between October 2016 and July 2021. In his final interview with Songfacts two months ago, Crosby also revealed he had completed another studio album with his so-called Lighthouse Band, to be titled Hello Moon, and was working on two additional albums. This didn’t include the then-forthcoming live release David Crosby & the Lighthouse Band Live at the Capitol Theatre, which has since appeared on December 9.
Following I’m highlighting one song from each of Crosby’s last five studio albums. While I don’t want to guarantee these are the best tracks, I can confidently say I dig each of these songs. In any case, of course, it’s all pretty subjective. I’m also including a career-spanning playlist focused on songs Crosby wrote or co-wrote, as opposed to tunes on which he sang and/or played guitar. That is by no means to undermine his important role as a vocalist and musician. The Byrds and CSN/CSNY wouldn’t have sounded the same without Crosby’s vocal and instrumental contributions.
Set That Baggage Down – Croz (January 2014)
Crosby wrote that tune together with English guitarist Shane Fontayne who has been active since the ’70s and worked with the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Ian Hunter, Joe Cocker, Graham Nash and Mick Ronson. “That’s a thing you learn in AA [Alcoholics Anonymous – CMM],” Crosby told Rolling Stone, as noted by Songfacts. “I went there for about fourteen and half years. You have to look at what got you there. You have to look at the mistakes, and I made some horrific ones, and then you have to learn from them, figure out how to not wind up there again. You have to set that baggage down and walk on. If you spend all your life looking over your shoulder at the things you did wrong, you’re gonna walk smack into a tree.”
Somebody Other Than You – Lighthouse (October 2016)
This political tune, co-written by Crosby and Snarky Puppy bandleader Michael League, appears on Lighthouse, Crosby’s first album with what became known as his Lighthouse Band. In addition to League, the group also featured vocalist and songwriter Becca Stevens and Michelle Willis, a Canadian singer-songwriter and keyboarder. “There are these politicians in Washington who are run by the corporations, ’cause corporations gave them the money to get elected, and they send our kids off to war,” Crosby explained to Classic Rock magazine, according to Songfacts. “I’m deeply offended by the fact that these politicians send your kids and not theirs.”
Sky Trails – Sky Trails (September 2017)
Sky Trails is the title track of Crosby’s sixth solo album, which appeared less than 12 months after the predecessor. Sky Trails also became the name of Crosby’s second band, which featured his son James Raymond who also produced various of Crosby’s albums, and “anybody we decide we want to work with,” as Crosby put it to Songfacts during his above final interview. In the case of this tune, it was Becca Stevens who co-wrote it with Crosby. “We both spend a lot of time on the road,” Crosby told Billboard magazine, as documented by Songfacts. “And when you’re on the road, after the second or third week you don’t know where you are. You’re out there somewhere, and all the cities look roughly the same, and you lose track.” My full review of Sky Trails is here.
1974 – Here If You Listen (October 2018)
1974, a partially wordless song, was co-written by Crosby and his Lighthouse Band members Becca Stevens, Michelle Willis and Michael League, and appeared on Here If You Listen, the second album Crosby made with the group. The title is a nod to a demo of the song, which Crosby recorded in 1974. “It was a song without words that I was fooling around with,” he toldSongfacts. “I used to do that a lot: I’d have a set of changes but I didn’t have a set of words, so I would stack vocals like horn parts. I’m basically doing a horn record with voices. I had a bunch of those.”
Rodriguez For a Night – For Free (July 2021)
The last tune I’d like to highlight is Rodriguez For a Night, a great track from Crosby’s eighth and most recent solo album. A longtime Steely Dan fan, Crosby had long sought to collaborate with Donald Fagen. It finally happened with this tune, for which Fagen provided the lyrics while Crosby’s son Raymond James wrote the music with some help from his father. “[Fagan] just sent the words and stood back to see what would happen,” Crosby told Uncut magazine, according to Songfacts. “He knew what our taste was and he knew what we would probably try to do. He’s an extremely intelligent guy and I think he knew what would happen. We know his playbook pretty well, so we deliberately went there – complex chords, complex melodies. We Steely Damned him right into the middle of this as far as we could! And fortunately, Donald liked it, so I couldn’t be more grateful.”
Last but not least, here’s the above-noted career-spanning playlist. Crosby named Eight Miles High (and Turn! Turn! Turn!) when asked to identify the ultimate Byrds song during the above Songfacts interview. Separately, Songfactsnotes Crosby thought Everybody’s Been Burned was “the first actually passable song that I wrote,” quoting him from an interview with his friend Steve Silberman, an American journalist with whom he hosted a podcast.
Music fellow blogger Dave from A Sound Day has a great recurring feature, Turntable Talk, for which he invites other bloggers to contribute their thoughts about a given topic. This time, he called it “Those Were the Days My Friend,” I guess a nod to the tune popularized by Mary Hopkin in 1968. Or as he summed it up: Simply put, we’re asking the contributors to write about “music’s best year.” Following is my contribution, which first ran on Dave’s blog yesterday. For this post, I added some clips, as well as a Spotify playlist at the end.
Here we are with another great topic for Turntable Talk – thanks for continuing to host the fun series, Dave, and for having me back.
Interestingly, when prompted to think about what I feel is the best year in music, I instantly had the answer – or so I thought until I started having second thoughts.
Admittedly, this is typical for me who oftentimes tends to overthink things. That’s why I also keep emphasizing that I’m “ranking-challenged.” Anyway, after careful agony, guess what happened? I stuck with my initial spontaneous choice: 1969 – what an amazing year in music!
From an overall perspective, the year saw two epic moments and a less-than-glorious event: The first was the three-day Woodstock festival in mid-August with an incredible line-up of bands and artists, such as Santana, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Who, Joe Cocker, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Jimi Hendrix. Can you imagine a music event of that caliber these days?
At the same time, I don’t want to romanticize things either and will add it was probably a near-miracle Woodstock didn’t end in complete disaster, given the overcrowding and horrible sanitary conditions. Also, let’s not forget the three lives that were lost: two drug overdoses and another fatality when a 17-year-old sleeping in a nearby hayfield was run over by a tractor.
Then there was that other concert by one of the bands who would decline to perform at Woodstock: On January 30, 1969, The Beatles played an impromptu gig on the rooftop of their Apple Corps headquarters in London. Commonly known as the rooftop concert, it became their final public appearance as a band.
Speaking of concerts, again, I’d be remiss in not to least briefly acknowledging The Rolling Stones’ performance at Altamont Speedway in California on December 9, 1969. The gig became infamous for its violence, including a fan who was stabbed to death by members of the biker gang Hells Angels who had been hired to provide security for $500 worth of beer. I guess you can put this mind-boggling arrangement into the ‘you can’t make up this stuff’ and ‘what were they thinking?’ departments!
Next, I’d like to highlight some of the great albums that were released in 1969. Looking in Wikipedia, I easily came up with 20-plus – obviously way too many to cover in this post. As such, I decided to narrow it down to five. I’m briefly going to touch on each in the following, in chronological order. I’m also picking one track from each I like in particular.
January 5: Creedence Clearwater Revival released their sophomore album Bayou Country, the first of three(!) records they put out in 1969. Here’s Proud Mary, which like all other songs except one was written by John Fogerty.
May 23: The Who put out their fourth studio album Tommy, Pete Townshend’s first rock opera. While the production oftentimes feels unfinished, the double LP is a gem. One of my favorite songs has always been We’re Not Gonna Take It. Like most of the other tunes, it was solely penned by Townshend.
September 23: Of course, it was a forgone conclusion any favorite year in music while The Beatles were still together would include one of their albums. In this case, it’s Abbey Road, which actually was their final record, even though it appeared prior to Let It Be. Two of the best tracks on the album were written by George Harrison. Here’s one of them: Something.
August 22: Santana’s eponymous debut album was released in the wake of the band’s legendary performance at Woodstock. Here’s the amazing instrumental closer Soul Sacrifice.
October 22: Last but not least, on that date, Led Zeppelin released their sophomore album Led Zeppelin II, only nine months after their January 12 debut. One of my all-time favorite Zep tunes is Whole Lotta Love, initially credited to all members of the band, with the subsequent addition of Willie Dixon. Once again, unfortunately, it took litigation to give credit where credit was due!
In the final section of this post, I’m going to look at a few additional great songs that were released as singles in 1969.
First up are The Rolling Stones and Honky Tonk Women, a non-album single that appeared on July 4. Co-written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, it was the first of two versions of the song. The second version, Country Honk, which has slightly different lyrics, appeared on the Stones’ Let It Bleed album that came out on December 5 of the same year.
Suspicious Minds is one of my all-time favorite tunes performed by Elvis Presley, which was released on August 26 as a single. Written and first recorded by American songwriter Mark James in 1968, Suspicious Minds topped the Billboard Hot 100, giving Elvis his first no. 1 on the U.S. pop chart since 1962, helping revive his chart success in America, following his ’68 Comeback Special, a concert special that had aired on NBC on December 3, 1968. The song also was a major hit in many other countries.
Let’s do two more: First up is Reflections of My Life by Scottish band Marmalade, a song I loved from the very first moment I heard it on the radio back in Germany many moons ago. Co-written by the group’s lead guitarist Junior Campbell and vocalist Dean Ford, this gem was first released as a single in the UK on November 14 and subsequently appeared on their 1970 studio album Reflections of the Marmalade.
I’d like to close out this post with what remains one of my favorite David Bowie songs to this day: Space Oddity. Written by Bowie, the tune was first released as a single on July 11. It also was the opener of his sophomore eponymous album, which subsequently became commonly known as Space Oddity because of the song and to distinguish it from Bowie’s 1967 debut album, which was also self-titled. Bowie’s tale of fictional astronaut Major Tom was used by the BBC during its coverage of the Moon landing.
I can hardly think of another year in music that was as rich as 1969. That said, I was considering 1971. And 1972 didn’t look shabby either. Now that I think about it, let me go back to further reflect!😊
Following is a Spotify playlist of the above and some additional tunes from 1969.
Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time
Is it really Sunday again? What happened to the bloody week? Okay, let’s try this again: Happy Sunday and I hope everybody had a great week and is enjoying an even better weekend! Nearly anything you can do gets better with great music, so I invite you to join me on another time travel trip. As usual, I’m taking you to six different stops. Are you in? Let’s go!
Duke Ellington & John Coltrane/In a Sentimental Mood
What do you get when combining jazz piano great Duke Ellington and saxophone dynamo John Coltrane? Well, Duke Ellington & John Coltrane, a collaboration album released in January 1963, and the first stop on our journey today. Jazz artists love to team up, and this record is one of many collaborative efforts Sir Duke undertook in the early 1960s, which also included artists, such as Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, Max Roach and Charles Mingus. Rather than a big band setting, it placed Ellington in a quartet, which in addition to Coltrane featured Jimmy Garrison or Aaron Bell (bass) and Elvin Jones or Sam Woodyard (drums). My specific pick is In a Sentimental Mood, which Ellington had composed more than 25 years earlier in 1935, with lyrics written by Manny Kurtz. I guess Ellington’s manager Irving Mills was in the mood for a percentage of the publishing and gave himself a writing credit!
The Jayhawks/Martin’s Song
Our next stop takes us to September 1992 and Hollywood Town Hall, the third studio album by The Jayhawks. Since “discovering” them in August 2020, I’ve come to dig this American alt. country and country rock band. Initially formed in Minneapolis in 1985, The Jayhawks originally featured Mark Olson (acoustic guitar, vocals), Gary Louris (electric guitar, vocals), Marc Perlman (bass) and Norm Rogers (drums). By the time Hollywood Town Hall was released, Rogers had been replaced by Ken Callahan. After four additional albums and more line-up changes, the group went on hiatus in 2004. They reemerged with a new formation in 2019, which still includes Louris and Pearlman. Going back to Hollywood Town Hall, here’s the album’s great closer Martin’s Song, penned by Olson and Louris.
Stephen Stills/Right Now
How ’bout some ’70s? Ask and you shall receive! My pick is Stephen Stills – yep the guy who co-founded Canadian-American rock band Buffalo Springfield with that Canadian fellow Neil Young in 1966, and two years later got together with David Crosby and Graham Nash to form Crosby, Stills & Nash. In 1969, they added Young, became Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, played Woodstock and released the classic Déjà Vu in March 1970. Following CSNY’s success, Stills launched a solo career, just like the other three members of the group. In late 1971, he teamed up with Chris Hillman (formerly of The Byrds) to form the band Manassas. The group also included Al Perkins (steel guitar, guitar), Paul Harris (keyboards), Calvin “Fuzzy” Samuels (bass, backing vocals), Joe Lala (percussion, backing vocals) and Dallas Taylor (drums). Their eponymous debut from April 1972 was the first of two studio albums the group released, as Stephen Stills/Manassas – I assume for name recognition reasons. Plus, Stills wrote or co-wrote all except one of the tunes. Right Now is among the songs solely penned by him – love that tune!
Paul Simon/You Can Call Me Al
In August 1986, Paul Simon released what remains my favorite among his solo albums: Graceland. Evidently, many other folks liked it as well, making it Simon’s best-performing album, both in terms of chart success and sales. It also won Grammy Awards for Album of the Year (1987) and Record of the Year (1988) – confusing titles! While the first honors an album in its entirety, the second recognizes a specific track. Graceland features an eclectic mixture of musical styles, including pop, a cappella, zydeco, isicathamiya, rock and mbaqanga. The album involved recording sessions in Johannesburg, South Africa, featuring local musicians. Therefore, it was criticized by some for breaking the cultural boycott of South Africa because of its policy of apartheid. One can only imagine what kind of firestorm a comparable activity would likely unleash nowadays with so much polarization boosted by social media! If I would have to pick one track from the album, I’d go with You Can Call Me Al, an infectious tune that among others features a crazy bass run by South African bassist Bakithi Kumalo.
Let’s keep the groove going with guitarist, songwriter, actor and (unofficial) music professor, the one and only Steven Van Zandt, aka Little Steven or Miami Steve. Van Zandt gained initial prominence as guitarist in various Bruce Springsteen bands, such as Steel Mill, Bruce Springsteen Band, and, of course, the mighty E Street Band. In 1981, Van Zandt started fronting an on-and-off group known as Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul. The following year, while still being an official member of the E Street Band, he released his debut solo album Men Without Women, credited as Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul. In April 1984, just before the release of the Born in the U.S.A. album, Van Zant officially left and recorded a series of additional solo albums. After a brief stint in 1995, he permanently rejoined Springsteen’s backing band in 1999. He also got into acting, which most notably included his role as mafioso and strip club owner Silvio Dante in the American TV crime drama series The Sopranos. This finally brings us to Soulfire, his sixth solo album from May 2017. The great title track was co-written by Van Zandt and Anders Bruus, the former guitarist of Danish rock band The Breakers. Here’s a cool live version!
And once again, we’re reaching our final destination of yet another Sunday Six excursion. For this one, let’s go back to the ’60s with some raw garage rock by The Sonics – coz why not! Formed in Tacoma, Wa. in 1960, they have often been called “the first punk band” and were a significant influence for American punk groups like The Stooges, MC5 and The Flesh Eaters. Cinderella is a track from the band’s sophomore release Boom, which appeared in February 1996. The tune was written by Gerry Roslie, the group’s keyboarder at the time. The line-up on the album also included founding members Larry Parypa (lead guitar, vocals) and his brother Andy Parypa (bass, vocals), along with Rob Lind (saxophone) and Bob Bennett (drums). Based on Wikipedia, The Sonics still appear to be around, with Roslie, Lind and Larry Parypa among their current members.
Of course, this post wouldn’t be complete without a Spotify playlist of the above tracks. Hope there’s something for you!
Happy Wednesday! Are you ready for another imaginary desert island trip? To me that sounds like an attractive proposition, except once again, I have the near-impossible decision to make which one song to take with me – not an album, just one tune!
For first-time visitors of this weekly feature, there are some additional rules to the madness. And they don’t make picking a song any easier. At the same time, going through this exercise is kind of fun, since I usually end up highlighting music I haven’t covered before or only noted in passing.
My pick must be by an artist or band I’ve only rarely written about or not covered at all. Additionally, I’m making the selections in alphabetical order, and I’m up to “p.” This means eligible artists (last name) and bands must start with that letter.
Looking at my music library revealed artists and bands like Tom Petty, Pink Floyd, The Pointer Sisters, The Police, Elvis Presley, Pretenders, Prince and Procul Harum. And my pick is Barbados by Poco.
Admittedly, I’m bending my own rules a bit this time, since I covered Poco before (though rarely), unlike Plain White T’s who also showed up in my search, and I do like Hey There Delilah. But the desert island theme and a tune titled Barbados just looked like a perfect fit. And I think it’s a great song!
Barbados was written by Paul Cotton, Poco’s lead guitarist and one of the band’s vocalists, who first joined the group in 1970. The tune appears on their 11th studio album Legend, released in November 1978. My former German band mate and longtime music buddy gave me this great record on vinyl in the late ’80s. I still own that copy!
I loved Barbados and the entire Legend LP from the get-go, and it was actually my introduction to Poco. It’s puzzling to me why Barbados was never released as a single. Three other tunes were, including the title track, Heart of the Night and Crazy Love. The last tune became Poco’s biggest hit. In the U.S., it topped Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart and reached no. 17 on the mainstream Hot 100. In Canada, the tune peaked at no. 4 on the adult contemporary chart and climbed to no. 15 on the main pop chart.
Interestingly, I couldn’t find any more information on Barbados. Songfacts instead features a song of the same title from 1975 by a British duo called Typically Tropical. Apparently, “their” Barbados, the duo’s debut single, became a no. 1 in the UK. Since they obviously don’t own the name “Barbados”, I really can’t imagine this had anything to do with the decision not to release Poco’s song as a single.
Poco were one of two bands that emerged in 1968 following the break-up of Buffalo Springfield. The group’s former guitarists Richie Furay and Jim Messina formed Poco, together with Rusty Young (pedal steel guitar, banjo, dobro, guitar, mandolin, vocals), Randy Meisner (bass, vocals) and George Grantham (drums, vocals).
Meanwhile, Stephen Stills, David Crosby and Graham Nash founded Crosby, Stills & Nash. Neil Young launched his solo career and, of course, later joined CSN on various occasions, resulting in the mighty Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Buffalo Springfield might as well have been called “Buffalo Springboard”!
Poco are considered to be one of the pioneers of country rock, years before the Eagles popularized the genre. Their debut album Pickin’ Up the Pieces came out in May 1969. By the time it appeared Meisner already had left the group, angered by Furay’s insistence to be excluded from the final mix playback sessions for the album – egos in music! Meisner went on to join the Stone Canyon Band and became a founding member of the Eagles in September 1971.
Meisner was replaced by Timothy B. Schmit who later joined the Eagles as well. Messina left Poco in 1970 and was replaced by Cotton. The group’s line-up kept changing. It took Poco until their third release, a live album, to enjoy some chart success: No. 26 and no. 42 on the U.S. and Canadian charts, respectively. Appropriately, the album was titled Deliverin’.
Poco were active until April 2021 when Rusty Young passed away at the age of 75. Technically, he had retired in late 2013 but participated in reunion concerts thereafter. Paul Cotton died in August that year. He was 78. Altogether, Poco released 19 studio albums, nine live records and multiple compilations. In January 2015, Poco were inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame. Unlike the Eagles, who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, Poco has yet to receive that recognition.