The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

Is it really Sunday again? Yep, the calendar doesn’t lie. I hope everybody is spending a peaceful morning, afternoon, evening – wherever you are when reading this. The six picks in this installment of The Sunday Six include jazz fusion, classic style rock, psychedelic garage rock, folk, pop rock and pop, touching the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and the present. Hope you’ll find something you like.

Passport/Homunculus

Let’s start today’s music time travel to the year 1975 with music by German jazz fusion band Passport. I’d like to thank Bruce from Vinyl Connection for the inspiration. He included the group’s sophomore release Second Passport in a recent installment of his ongoing countdown of 1972 albums. Passport were formed by German saxophonist Klaus Doldinger in 1971. Doldinger who is also a known film music composer has had an amazing 70-year career and at age 85 doesn’t think of retirement. Passport, aka Klaus Doldinger’s Passport, are still active as well. Their most recent studio album of original music, Motherhood, appeared in 2020. Homunculus, composed by Doldinger, is a track from Cross Collateral, the second of two albums Passport released in 1975. In addition to Doldinger (saxophones, Moog synthesizer, electric piano, Mellotron), their line-up at the time included Wolfgang Schmid (bass, guitar), Kristian Schultze (keyboards) and Curt Cress (drums).

Fortune Child/Tie the Line

Let’s jump to the present and Tie the Line, the new single by Fortune Child, a cool-sounding classic rock style band founded last year in Jacksonville, Fla. From their website: …it is no secret that these lovers of good ol’ fashioned Rock were inspired by the likes of Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Alice in Chains, The Black Crowes and so many more. The four-piece band plans to take the Rock N’ Roll scene by storm, and to remind the people of what truly matters: the music itself. The band (Christian Powers/ vocals, Buddy Crump/ lead guitar, Melanie Jo/ drums, and Jon Ward/bass) has quickly garnered significant support from the Southeast US Rock N’ Roll scene opening for national touring acts such as Blacktop Mojo…It’s loud, it’s dirty, and it’s down-right badass…For 2022, the band has partnered with legendary rock producer Kevin Elson of Journey, Mr. Big, Europe, and Lynyrd Skynyrd to produce their full length debut album “Close to the Sun,” due out in early March. “Old-fashioned” kickass rock sounds like a great proposition to me in an era where rock often is called “dead.” Released on February 18, Tie the Line is the third single appearing ahead of Fortune Child’s above noted upcoming record.

Count Five/Psychotic Reaction

After some kickass rock from the present, how about jumping back 50-plus years for a dose of ’60s rock? Count Five were an American garage rock band formed in San Jose, Calif. in 1964. Initially known as The Squires, the group’s original formation included John Byrne (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), John “Mouse” Michalski (lead guitar), Kenn Ellner (backing and lead vocals, tambourine, harmonica), Roy Chaney (bass) and Craig “Butch” Atkinson (drums). The Count Five who during live performances were wearing Count Dracula-style capes only made one album, Psychotic Reaction, which appeared in October 1966. The title track, written by Byrne and subsequently refined by the band (hence credited to all members), was released as a single ahead of the record in June 1966. Climbing to no. 5 in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100 and no. 3 in Canada, the tune became the band’s only hit. It was included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll. Wikipedia notes the song was among the first successful psychedelic rock tunes, containing the characteristics that would come to define acid rock: the use of feedback and distortion replacing early rock music’s more melodic electric guitars. Neither the album nor any other songs by The Count Five came anywhere near to replicating the success of Psychotic Reaction, and the band broke up in 1969.

Gordon Lightfoot/Beautiful

More recently, a few of my fellow bloggers like Jim from Music Enthusiast and Lisa from Tao Talk have covered Gordon Lightfoot, which inspired my next pick. I best know the Canadian singer-songwriter and guitarist because of gems like If You Could Read My Mind, Sundown and The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, which were all chart-toppers in Canada during the first half of the ’70s. Now 83 years old, Lightfoot who has been called Canada’s greatest songwriter remains active. His impressive catalog to date includes 20 studio albums, a similar amount of compilations and three live records, among others. In May 2020, I included a song from Lightfoot’s most recent album Solo in a Best of What’s New installment. Beautiful, written by Lightfoot, is from his eighth studio record Don Quixote that came out in February 1972. The nice love song was also released as a single in May of the same year. It reached no. 13 and no. 58 on the Canadian and U.S. mainstream charts, respectively. The tune topped Canada’s adult alternative chart and climbed to no. 30 on the corresponding U.S. chart.

Eddie Money/Take Me Home Tonight

For this next pick, I’d like to go to the ’80s and American pop rock singer-songwriter Eddie Money. When Take Me Home Tonight popped up on the radio in Germany in 1986, I immediately loved the tune and decided to get the album, on which it appeared, Can’t Hold Back. Other than this record, Money’s sixth studio release from August 1986, and a few additional songs I don’t know his music. But I surely enjoy what I’ve heard. Take Me Home Tonight is credited to Mick Leeson and Peter Vale, along with Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry and Phil Spector who wrote The Ronettes’ Be My Baby, which was interpolated in the chorus of Money’s song. Apparently, this was the only charting track for him in Germany. Money clearly was much more successful in the U.S. and Canada where he had 12 and 9 top 40 hits, respectively during his 40-plus-year recording career. Sadly, Money died of complications from esophageal cancer at the age of 70 in September 2019.

Annie Lennox/Why

And once again we’ve reached the end of yet another musical mini-excursion. Today, the final stop takes us to the ’90s and a beautiful tune by Annie Lennox: Why off her solo debut album Diva from April 1992. Lennox recorded it after Eurythmics, her duo with Dave Stewart, had gone on hiatus, in 1990 and the subsequent birth of her first daughter Lola Lennox, who also became a music artist. To date, Lennox has released five additional solo records. In the late ’90s, Eurythmics came back together for another album, Peace, released in October 1999, and had occasional reunions thereafter. Diva became a huge chart and commercial success, topping the charts in the UK and reaching 4x Platinum certification there. In the U.S., it climbed to no. 23 on the Billboard 200 and reached 2X Platinum status. In March 1992, Why was released separately as the album’s lead single. The song also did well in the charts, reaching no. 5 in the UK and Ireland, no. 17 in Australia and no. 34 in the U.S.

And here is a Spotify playlist with the above tunes, as usual:

Sources: Wikipedia; Fortune Child website; YouTube; Spotify

When Two Make One

A playlist of songs by duos

The other day, fellow blogger Max from PowerPop posted about Cathy’s Clown, a great tune by The Everly Brothers. He wrote, “When Phil and Don would sing….their two voices would become one.” I couldn’t agree more! In this context, I thought about Simon & Garfunkel, another example of beautiful vocals in perfect harmony. Sometimes it takes two artists to make magic happen, not only when it comes to singing but also when creating music – a good topic for a post, I thought!

After doing a bit of research, I was quickly reminded of the large number of musical duos. The following doesn’t include one-offs. I’m also excluding songwriting partnerships like John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Carole King and Gerry Goffin, or Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, to name a few. All of my picks were or are permanent pairings. Apart from six tracks released in different decades, which are highlighted in the upfront, I’ve included numerous additional tunes in a playlist at the end of the post.

The Everly Brothers/Wake Up Little Susie

Since this post was inspired by an Everly Brothers tune, it felt right to kick things off with a song they performed. Wake Up Little Susie, co-written by Felice Bryant and Boudleaux Bryant, was my introduction to Don Everly and Phil Everly sometime during my teenage years back in Germany. First released as a single in September 1957, Wake Up Little Susie became their first no. 1 on the U.S. mainstream Billboard Hot 100. What a great acoustic rock & roll tune!

Simon & Garfunkel/The Sound of Silence

One of my favorite songs by Simon & Garfunkel is The Sound of Silence. Penned by Paul Simon, this gem is off their debut studio record Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. from October 1964. It was also released separately as a single in September 1965 and became their first hit, topping the Billboard Hot 100, climbing to no. 2 in New Zealand, and reaching no. 3 in each Australia and Austria. It also charted in a few other European countries.

Hall & Oates/She’s Gone

While Daryl Hall and John Oates have written many great tunes, I’m mostly drawn to their ’70s output. Here’s She’s Gone, a track from their sophomore album Abandoned Luncheonette that appeared in November 1973. The song was also released as a single that same month and became their first charting tune in the U.S., reaching no. 60 on the Billboard Hot 100. I’ve always loved its great soul vibe.

Eurythmics/Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)

When I think about duos and the ’80s, Hall & Oates, Tears For Fears and Eurythmics come to mind first. The first time I heard of Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart was in 1983 when they came out with Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This). Penned by Stewart and released in January that year, the tune became their first big hit. Among others, it topped the charts in the U.S. and Canada, and reached no. 2 in the UK, Ireland and New Zealand. While I’m generally not fond of synth pop, this is a pretty catchy tune and Annie Lenox’s voice is stunning!

Indigo Girls/Galileo

Amy Ray and Emily Saliers first met in elementary school and were performing together by the time they were in high school. After going separate ways, they again found themselves studying at the same institution (Atlanta’s Emory University) in the mid-’80s and became Indigo Girls. Galileo, written by Saliers, is from their fourth studio album Rites of Passage, which came out in May 1992. The tune was the first single off the record and their only top 10 hit in the U.S., reaching no. 10 on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks chart.

The White Stripes/Seven Nation Army

This brings me to the present century and the last tune I’d like to call out: Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes. Written by Jack White, it first appeared in March 2003 as the lead single of their fourth studio album Elephant released the following month. Seven Nation Army topped the Alternative Airplay chart in the U.S., making it one of the biggest hits of the duo, which also includes Meg White. I dig the song’s raw garage feel.

Last but least, here’s the above-mentioned playlist:

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube; Spotify

Hey, Hey, The Blues is Alright

I got this song/I’m gonna sing/I’m gonna sing it just for you/If you dig the blues/I want you to help me sing it, too/I want everybody to hear me when I say/The blues is back, and it’s here to stay.

The above intro from The Blues is Alright, a tune by Little Milton, nicely captures how I’m feeling as I’m writing this post. Of course, the blues has always never really left, though I guess it’s fair to say it had greater visibility when Milton released that song back in 1984 and Stevie Ray Vaughan was all the rage.

Sadly, Vaughan and Milton are no longer with us, not to mention the likes of B.B. King, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker, to name a few artists of the “old guard.” But over the past few months, exciting new blues music has been released. And as somebody who digs the blues, that truly makes me happy. Are you ready for some? Ready or not, here we go!

Robert Cray first appeared on my radar screen in 1988 with Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, the title track to his sixth studio album, a tune that grabbed me immediately. Fast-forward some 32 years and 18 records later to February 28 this year when Cray released That’s What I Heard. Produced by longtime collaborator Steve Jordan, who also plays drums and percussion, the great collection includes four original tracks and eight covers. The Robert Cray Band also features Richard Cousins (bass), Dover Weinberg (keyboards) and Terence F. Clark (drums). Here’s the opener Anything You Want, an original. Apart from being a decent guitarist, I think Cray also has a great soulful voice.

Ever heard of British blues-rock guitarist Joanne Shaw Taylor? Damn, that lady sounds smoking hot to me! Even though Taylor is only in her mid-30s, she has an impressive record. She was discovered at the age of 16 by Dave Stewart (of Eurythmics), who in 2002 invited her to tour in Europe with his band D.U.P. In 2009, Taylor’s debut album White Sugar appeared. Her latest release is Reckless Blues, an EP that came out two weeks ago on March 6. Here’s a great cover of Slow Dancing in a Burning Room, a tune John Mayer wrote and first recorded for his third studio album Continuum from September 2006.

Let’s move on to Frank Bey. Admittedly, I had never heard of him until earlier today, even though the man is 74 years old and, well, has been around for some time. According to his website, he began his singing career 70 years ago as a gospel singer – yep, we’re talking as a 4-year-old. At age 17, he joined the Otis Redding Revue. In the mid-70s, Bey became entangled in a legal battle with James Brown over one of his songs Brown had recorded without his permission. While the matter was settled out of court, it left Bey embittered, and he got out of the music business for 17 years. Then he returned and since 1998 has released six albums, the most recent of which is All My Dues Are Paid that appeared on January 17 this year. It’s warm and soulful. Here’s the tasty opener Idle Hands, featuring some cool wah-wah guitar and nice horn work, along with Bey’s great vocals and some hot gospel backing vocals. Check it out!

Ready for two more? Here’s Christone “Kingfish” Ingram with his new single Empty Promises, a live recording that came out on February 14. The 21-year-old from Clarksdale, Miss. released his debut album Kingfish last May and got rave reviews. It’s certainly no coincidence he has played with the likes of Buddy Guy, Keb’ Mo’, Eric Gales and Rick Derringer. I think we will hear many more great things from this super talented young artist. Empty Promises was written by blues and soul singer and guitarist  Michael Burks who passed away in May 2012 from a heart attack. He was only 54 years old.

The final tune I’d like to call out is by Tas Cru, another blues artist I had not heard of before either. While he doesn’t have a Wikipedia page, luckily, there’s a website. According to his bio, Cru is truly a blues eclectic who refuses to let his music be bound to just one blues style…with a repertoire of over 60 original songs from multiple albums and dozens of crowd-pleasing classics…Tas Cru is currently is based out of upstate New York and performs in multiple formats ranging from solo acoustic to a 7 piece-backing band. Cru’s most recent album, which was released on February 1, is titled Drive On. According to a review in Elmore Magazine, it’s his ninth and 11th overall, when including two blues-for-kids records he made. Here’s the funky title song featuring great horn and organ work. Don’t get fooled by the tune’s slow start. Keep listening!

Sources: Wikipedia; Robert Cray website; Joanne Shaw Taylor website; Frank Bey website; Tas Cru website; Elmore Magazine; YouTube

My Favorite Female Vocalists

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of vocals. Oftentimes, this becomes clear to me when listening to instrumental music. After a while, something seems to be missing. So I thought it would be fun to think about my favorite vocalists and feature some of them in a post. And since much of the blog is focused on male artists, I decided to keep the list to females. While I can’t deny a certain bias for artists I generally dig for their music, this selection first and foremost is based on vocal ability that grabs me. And with that let’s roll.

I’d like to kick things off with Annie Lennox, who of course is best known for Eurythmics, her pop duo with Dave Stewart, which became a powerhouse during the ’80s. Following Eurythmics’ hiatus in 1990, Lennox launched a solo career. Here’s Why, a beautiful tune that nicely showcases her amazing voice. She wrote this song for her solo debut album Diva released in April 1992.

Alicia Keys is an artist I rarely listen to, but every time I do what typically stands out to me is her vocal performance. One of her most compelling songs I know in this context is called Fallin’. Written by Keys, it was included on her debut record Songs in A Minor from June 2001. Listening to this tune gives me goosebumps!

Carole King needs no further introduction. I’ve been a fan from the first time I heard her 1971 album Tapestry. Since my sister who had this record on vinyl was a young teenager then, I must have been eight years old or so. I didn’t understand a word of English. But King’s beautiful music and voice were more than enough to immediately attract me. From Tapestry here is Way Over Yonder.

Next, I’d like to highlight an artist I bet most readers don’t know, though frequent visitors of the blog may recall the name of the band she’s in: Tierinii Jackson, the powerful lead vocalist of Southern Avenue. This contemporary band from Memphis, Tenn. blends traditional blues and soul with modern R&B. I’ve covered them on various previous occasions, most recently here in connection with a concert I saw. That lady’s voice is something else, especially live! Check out Don’t Give Up, a great tune co-written by Jackson and Southern Avenue guitarist Ori Naftaly. It’s from their eponymous debut album that came out in February 2017.

Another artist I dig both as a guitarist and a vocalist is Bonnie Raitt. In fact, I have to admit, I’ve really come to love her over the years, so there could be a bit of bias at play. But I don’t care what you may think, Raitt does have a great voice. One of my favorite songs she recorded is Angel from Montgomery written by John Prine. It appeared on Raitt’s fourth studio album Streetlights from September 1974.

Perhaps the artist with the most distinctive voice in this playlist is Stevie Nicks. No other vocalist I know sounds like her. The first tune that came to mind was Landslide, a timeless gem she wrote and recorded with Fleetwood Mac on their second eponymous studio album released in July 1975, the tenth overall in their long catalog.

An artist who to me was both an amazing performer and a great vocalist is Tina Turner – I say was, since she retired from performing in 2009. I was going to feature a song from her 1984 Private Dancer album, but then I thought what could possibly be better than her killer version of John Fogerty’s Proud Mary. Her initial recording is from 1971 as part of Ike & Tina Turner. Instead, I decided to select this clip capturing an amazing and extended live performance. I’ve been fortunate to see Tina Turner twice, including this tune. It was mind-boggling! Every now and then, she liked to do things nice and easy. But somehow she never ever seemed to do nothing completely nice and easy. Why? Because she liked to do it nice and rough. Go, Tina!

No list of my favorite female vocalists would be complete without Linda Ronstadt. Here is her beautiful cover of When Will I Be Loved. Written by Phil Everly, this great tune was first released by The Everly Brothers in May 1960, giving them a top 10 hit. Ronstadt’s version, which was included on her fifth solo album Heart Like a Wheel from November 1974, became even more successful, peaking at no. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. It’s not hard to see why!

The next artist in this playlist may be the biggest surprise, at least for folks who have read previous posts: Christina Aguilera. Yep, an artist I have never covered, since I generally don’t listen to her music. But I think she’s one of the best female vocalists I know. Beautiful is a powerful ballad written by Linda Perry, the former lead vocalist of 4 Non Blondes, who has a pretty decent voice herself. Aguilera recorded the track for her fourth studio album Stripped that appeared in October 2002. To me, singing doesn’t get much better!

This brings me to the final artist I’d like to highlight – Aretha Franklin. No playlist of female vocalists would be complete without the Queen of Soul either! In addition to being a songwriter, pianist and civil rights activist, Franklin was an incredible singer. Here’s her cover of the beautiful Sam Cooke song A Change Is Gonna Come from her 10th studio album I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You, released in March 1967. I was reminded of this great record by hotfox63, who covered it the other day.

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube