The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

It’s Sunday and I hope everybody is feeling groovy. Let’s embark on another journey to the magical world of music to leave any worries behind, at least temporarily, or simply have a great time! As usual, the trip is eclectic, involving six tunes from different decades in different flavors.

Thelonious Monk/Ruby My Dear

Today, our time machine first takes us to the year 1951 and beautiful music by American jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk. The second most recorded jazz composer after Duke Ellington, Monk was active as a jazz performer mostly from the early 1940s until the mid-1970s. Apart from a sizable amount of releases under his name, Monk also recorded as a sideman with the likes of Art Blakey, Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins. During the final 10 years of his life, he only made a small number of appearances due to his declining health. Monk passed away from a stroke in February 1982 at the age of 64. Ruby My Dear, one of his many compositions that became jazz standards, was first recorded in October 1947 for Genius of Modern Music, a compilation of Monk’s first recordings as band leader for the Blue Note label, which exists in four different versions released at different times. The earliest came out in 1951. Aw, so soothing!

Tonio K./I Can’t Stop

Next, we jump to the late ’80s and a tune by Tonio K. The American singer-songwriter first entered my radar screen in December 2021 when I featured You, a gem he wrote together with John Shanks and Bob Thiele for Bonnie Raitt’s 12th studio album Longing in Their Hearts released in March 1994. K. (born  Steven M. Krikorian) has also penned tunes for Al Green, Aaron Neville, Chicago and Wynonna Judd, among many others. In addition to that he has released nine solo albums to date, something fellow blogger Max from PowerPop reminded me of the other when he posted about Life in the Foodchain, K.’s solo debut from 1978. This brings me to I Can’t Stop, a funky song from his fifth solo release Notes from the Lost Civilization, which came out in 1988. Beware, this song with its cool guitar and organ parts is pretty infectious and couldn’t have a better title!

The Youngbloods/Foolin’ Around (The Waltz)

No Sunday Six journey can leave out the ’60s. This time, our stop is January 1967, which saw the release of the eponymous debut album by The Youngbloods. Oftentimes, the American rock band is only remembered for their sole U.S. top 40 hit Get Together, which upon re-release in 1969 peaked at no. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. While they may have been a one-hit wonder, the group had other great songs. But they never achieved widespread popularity and disbanded in 1972. After a reunion in late 1984 for a brief tour, The Youngbloods broke up again in mid-1985. Coming back to their first album, here Foolin’ Around (The Waltz), written by co-founder Jesse Colin Young. If I see this correctly, this wasn’t released as a single – perhaps the unusual change from 4/4 to 3/4 time signature didn’t make it particularly radio-friendly.

Alice Cooper/School’s Out

The other day, I found myself listening to the radio in my car while running an errand when School’s Out by Alice Cooper came on. Christian couldn’t help himself but turn up the volume and sing along full throttle – it was probably a good thing no one else was around and all car windows were closed! This tune took me back to my school days and my only spontaneous protest against teachers when singing along to Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2) during a classroom party. When our classroom (English) teacher walked in, he briefly smiled before putting on a more serious facial expression. We quickly stopped singing. Anyway, that’s my longwinded intro to the great Alice Cooper tune, which first appeared in April 1972 as the lead single to the rock band’s fifth studio album with the same title – also a good reminder that before Alice Cooper (born Vincent Damon Furnier) started performing solo under this name in 1975, there was the band Alice Cooper, which 16-year-old Furnier co-founded in 1964 as The Earwigs with four high school mates to enter a local talent show. After cycling through a couple of other names, they became Alice Cooper in 1968. School’s Out, credited to all members of the band, became their biggest international hit and arguably their signature song. Feel free to scream along! 🙂

The Verve/Bittersweet Symphony

And we’re on to the ’90s and Urban Hymns, the third studio album by English Britpop band The Verve, which appeared in September 1997. Seven years after their formation, not only did it bring them their first no. 1 album in the UK but also broad international sales and chart success. In fact, Urban Hymns became the group’s biggest seller and the 19th best-selling album in UK chart history. It almost didn’t happen. After The Verve had gone through some physical and mental turmoil, frontman and lead vocalist Richard Ashcroft broke up the group in September 1995. While he reunited with two of their members a few weeks thereafter, guitarist Nick McGabe at first refused to return. In early 1997, Ashcroft changed the guitarist’s mind, and he rejoined the band for the ongoing Urban Hymns recording sessions. But the group’s biggest success couldn’t prevent their second split in April 1999. They reformed one more time in 2007 and released one additional album the following year before breaking up again in 2009 – this time for good. Bittersweet Symphony, written by Ashcroft, first appeared as the lead single from Urban Hymns in June 1997. But the single’s success was, well, bittersweet. Following a lawsuit finding The Verve illegally had taken a sample from a 1965 version of The Rolling Stones’ The Last Time by The Andrew Oldham Orchestra, all royalties were relinquished and Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were added to the songwriting credits. In 2019, after the death of Allen Klein, the Stones’ manager at the time of the litigation, Jagger and Richards ceded the rights to Ashcroft.

Jonathan Wilson/Love to Love

And once again, another Sunday Six trip is reaching its final destination, which takes us to the current century. When my former German bandmate and longtime music buddy recently recommended that I check out Fanfare, the second studio album by Jonathan Wilson, the name rang a distant bell. I couldn’t help and search my blog, which revealed Wilson produced Misadventures of Doomscroller, the excellent eighth studio album by American rock band Dawes, which I reviewed here in early January. Apart from his work as a producer for 10-plus years, Wilson has also released a series of solo albums and EPs since 2007. The above-noted Fanfare came out in 2013. Here is Love to Love, which like most other tunes on the album was solely written by Wilson. I’m really beginning to like this man!

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube; Spotify

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The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

Welcome to another installment of The Sunday Six, my weekly zig-zag excursions celebrating music I dig from different genres, spanning the past 70 years or so. I think I put together another nice and eclectic set of six tracks, including jazz, heartland rock, ’60s British rock, ’80s pop, ’90s alternative rock and some kickass hard rock & roll from 2014. Let’s play ball!

Thelonius Monk/‘Round Midnight

Starting us off today is beautiful soothing jazz by Thelonious Monk. This pick was inspired by fellow blogger Lisa from Tao Talk, who not only impresses me with her poetry writing but her music picks she oftentimes uses to accompany her poems – like in this case, a great jazz piece by Charlie Haden and Chet Baker. When I checked out the corresponding album, I noticed another track called ‘Round Midnight. Instead of taking this rendition, I decided to go with the original composed by jazz pianist Thelonious Monk. The track has become a standard that has been recorded by many jazz musicians. Apparently, there is some debate when Monk wrote it. The earliest noted date is 1936 when he was just 19 years old. Other accounts put it to 1940 or 1941. Trumpeter Cootie Williams was the first artist who recorded the tune in August 1944. Monk’s earliest recording is on a compilation titled Genius of Modern Music Vol. 1 from 1951.

John Mellencamp/A Little Night Dancin’

While it’s safe to assume most readers have heard of John Mellencamp, I imagine this may not necessarily include his pre-1980s music. My entry to the heartland artist was his 1985 Scarecrow album. Only in the ’90s did I begin to explore Mellencamp’s earlier catalog including John Cougar, his third record from July 1979. Prior to the release of Mellencamp’s debut album Chestnut Street Incident in October 1976, his manager Tony Defries had changed his name to Johnny Cougar, convinced an artist with the last name Mellencamp wouldn’t generate much interest. Mellencamp who hated the name kept “Cougar” through Scarecrow before finally adopting his real name John Mellencamp for the follow-on release The Lonesome Jubilee from August 1987. Here’s A Little Night Dancin’, the opener of the John Cougar album. The tune was also released in 1980 as a single but didn’t match the U.S. chart performance of I Need a Lover. While the latter reached no. 28 on the Billboard Hot 100, A Little Night Dancin’ stalled at no. 105. Still, not only do I dig that tune, but I also think it’s much better than I Need a Lover. I can hear a bit of a Van Morrison vibe in this song. Fifteen years later, Mellencamp recorded an excellent cover of Morrison’s Wild Night for his 1994 studio album Dance Naked. Perhaps that’s for a future installment.

Small Faces/Sha-La-La-La-Lee

In last week’s Sunday Six, I did something I rarely do – skip the ’60s, my favorite decade in music apart from the ’70s. I vowed not to repeat it this time, so here’s a tune I’ve loved from the very first moment I heard it during my teenage years back in Germany: Sha-La-La-La-Lee by Small Faces. It’s from the English rock band’s eponymous debut album that came out in May 1966. The song was written by co-producer Kenny Lynch together with Mort Schuman. The band’s initial line-up included Steve Marriott (vocals, guitar, harmonica, keyboards), Ian McLagan (keyboards, vocals, guitar, bass), Ronnie Lane (bass guitar, vocals, guitar) and Kenney Jones (drums, percussion, vocals). In March 1968, the Small Faces disbanded and Marriott went on to form Humble Pie with Peter Frampton. McLagan, Lane and Jones teamed up with former Jeff Beck Group members Ronnie Wood (guitar) and Rod Stewart (vocals) and became Faces. Small Faces reemerged in 1975 after Faces had broken up. They recorded two more albums before disbanding for good in 1978.

Madonna/La Isla Bonita

Here’s a pick that might surprise some folks who visit my blog more frequently. While I’m not a fan of Madonna, there is no denying she’s one of the most influential pop artists of our time. And, yes, while I can’t necessarily say the same for other ’80s tunes I used to dig at the time, I still like some of her songs. This includes the catchy La Isla Bonita, which always puts me in a holiday mood. The track is from Madonna’s third studio album True Blue that came out in June 1986. She co-wrote and co-produced the entire record with Stephen Bray and Patrick Leonard who also collaborated with Madonna on some of her other albums. La Isla Bonita also became the record’s fifth and final single and yet another major hit in the U.S. , Canada, Australia and various European countries.

The Cranberries/Linger

Next let’s jump to the ’90s and Irish alternative pop rock band The Cranberries. Initially, the group was formed as The Cranberry Saw Us in mid-1989 by brothers Noel Hogan (lead and rhythm guitar) and Mike Hogan (bass), together with Fergal Lawler (drums) and Niall Quinn (vocals). Following Quinn’s departure in early 1990, Dolores O’Riordan joined the band as lead vocalist, completing the line-up that in April 1991 became The Cranberries. In March 1993, they released their first full-length album Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? The record became a major success, topping the charts in Ireland and the UK, and placing in the top 20 in the U.S., Canada, New Zealand and some European countries. After four additional albums, The Cranberries went on hiatus in September 2003. They reunited in 2009 and recorded two more albums until the sudden death of O’Riordan in January 2018, who drowned in a London hotel bathtub due to sedation by alcohol poisoning. In April 2019, The Cranberries released their final album In the End, which featured O’Riordan’s vocals taken from demo tapes that had been recorded prior to her death. Here’s the beautiful Linger from the above mentioned debut album. It was also released as a single and became their first major hit, peaking at no. 3 in Ireland, and reaching no. 4, 8 and 14 in Canada, the U.S. and the UK, respectively.

AC/DC/Play Ball

Is it really time to wrap up things again? It is since I’d like to keep these installments to six tunes; otherwise, I could go on forever! But there’s always the next installment! I trust Australian rockers AC/DC need no further introduction. After much drama, including the death of co-founding member and rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young in November 2017 and vocalist Brian Johnson’s forced departure in April 2016 during the band’s tour that year due to hearing loss, against all odds, AC/DC officially reunited in September 2020 and released their 17th studio album Power Up in November that year. There are so many great AC/DC tunes to pick from. I haven’t even mentioned Bon Scott, their original lead vocalist! I decided to go with what I consider a true late career gem: Play Ball, off AC/DC’s 16th album Rock or Bust from November 2014. It was the first record without Malcolm Young who had been forced to retire in 2014 due to dementia and been replaced by his nephew Stevie Young. This is classic AC/DC – tight kickass rock & roll!

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube