Yearend Musings Part 2

A look back on new albums released in 2022

For the last time this year, I’d like to wish everybody a happy Saturday. I’m back from my short Christmas hiatus with the second installment of my two-part year-end review of new music released in 2022. Part 1 focused on new songs. In this post, I’m taking a look back at my six favorite albums of the year.

Altogether, I reviewed approximately 20 albums that were released over the course of the past 12 months. This count doesn’t include reissues like Neil Young’s nice Harvest 50th Anniversary Edition or other new releases of old music, such as Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ Live at the Fillmore (1997), an excellent box set I can highly recommend checking out. Mirroring the approach I took for 2022 new songs, I’m doing this in chronological order.

Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio/Cold As Weiss

Kicking off this year-end revue with an all-instrumental album may seem to come a bit out of left field, given I’m a huge fan of vocals, but Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio and their groovy Hammond-driven jazz was love at first sight. Plus, if you’re a more frequent visitor of my blog, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that instrumental music no longer is a rarity on these pages. Cold As Weiss, released on February 11, is the third studio album by this great trio, who apart from Delvon Lamarr (Hammond organ) features Jimmy Jones (guitar) and Dan Weiss (drums). Aka. DLO3, the trio has been around since May 2015 and describes their music as a “soul-jazz concoction”, blending 1960s organ jazz stylings of Jimmy Smith and Baby Face Willette; a pinch of the snappy soul strut of Booker T. & The M.G.’s and The Meters; and sprinkling Motown, Stax Records, blues, and cosmic Jimi Hendrix-style guitar. Let’s listen to Get Da Steppin’. My full review of this fun album is here.

Here’s a Spotify link to the entire album:

Goodbye June/See Where the Night Goes

Classic rock may no longer be in the mainstream, but it sure ain’t dead. Just ask Goodbye June from Memphis, Tenn., who have been helping carry the torch since 2005. The band is a family affair, comprised of cousins Landon Milbourn (lead vocals), Brandon Qualkenbush (rhythm guitar, bass, backing vocals) and Tyler Baker (lead guitar). On February 18, their fourth studio album See Where the Night Goes came out. The group’s sound, which is reminiscent of AC/DC, is a great listening experience. Check out the neat opener Step Aside below and my full review of the album here. Goodbye June truly rock!

Spotify album link:

Bonnie Raitt/Just Like That…

Frequent visitors of the blog and folks who know my music taste otherwise probably won’t be surprised to see Bonnie Raitt in this year-end post. I think her 21st studio album Just Like That…, which appeared on April 21, may well be her best to date in a now 51-year-and-counting recording career. If I would have to name my 2022 album of the year, Raitt’s first new release in more than six years would be it! Since this amazing lady first entered my radar screen with the outstanding Nick of Time in 1989, I’ve really come to dig her smooth slide-guitar playing, her voice and, of course, the songs most of which are renditions of tunes written by other artists. Here’s the Stonesy Livin’ For the Ones, a tune for which Raitt wrote the lyrics to music from longtime guitarist George Marinelli. Here is my full review of the album, a true gem that is a must-listen-to for Bonnie Raitt fans.

Spotify album link:

Jane Lee Hooker/Rollin’

Shortly on the heels of Bonnie Raitt, Jane Lee Hooker released their third studio album Rollin’ on April 29. I first experienced the great New York-based blues rock-oriented band during a free summer-in-the-park concert on the Jersey shore in August 2017 when they still were an all-female group and was immediately impressed by their infectious energy. All members remain, except for original drummer Melissa “Cool Whip” Houston who departed in 2020 and has been replaced by ‘Lightnin’ Ron Salvo. Earlier this year, I saw Jane Lee Hooker during a release party in New York City for the new album and can confirm the band’s only gent is a great fit. Rollin’ offers their familiar hard-charging electric guitar-driven blues rock, as well as some new elements, including acoustic blues and vibes of soul. A great illustration of the band’s more refined sound is the beautiful soul-oriented rock ballad Drive. My review of the full album is here.

Spotify album link:

Tedeschi Trucks Band/I’m the Moon

I’m the Moon, a four-album series, is the most ambitious studio project to date by Tedeschi Trucks Band and probably of 2022 overall. Each of the four installments, released individually between June and August, had a 30-minute-plus companion film. The entire project, which features 24 songs, became available as one collection on September 9. I’m the Moon was inspired by a 12th-century Persian poem – intriguingly the very same poem that also inspired one of the greatest blues rock albums of all time: Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, by Derek and the Dominos. You can read my two-part review of this impressive project here and here. Following I’d like to highlight Hear My Dear, the lead track of the first album. This gem was written by the group’s co-leaders and wife and husband Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks, along with the band’s keyboarder Gabe Dixon who is also one of their vocalists.

Spotify album link:

Buddy Guy/The Blues Don’t Lie

I’d like to wrap up this post with one of my absolute blues guitar heroes, Buddy Guy, who at 86 years young can still rock with the ferocity of Jimi Hendrix. On September 30, Guy released his 19th studio album The Blues Don’t Lie. The date coincided with the 65th anniversary of the legendary guitarist’s arrival in Chicago from Louisiana. Once again produced by longtime collaborator Tom Hambridge who also plays drums, the album features guest appearances by Mavis StaplesJames TaylorElvis CostelloJason Isbell and Bobby Rush. Most importantly, The Blues Don’t Lie truly fires on all cylinders. You can find my full review here. Perhaps the song that best sums up Buddy Guy is the opener I Let My Guitar Do the Talking, a cowrite by Guy and Hambridge. Damn, check this out!

Spotify album link:

Last but not least, I’d like to thank my fellow bloggers and other visitors for reading my blog and taking the time to comment, and would like to wish all of you a Happy, Safe and Healthy New Year! And let’s keep on bloggin’ in the free world in 2023!

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube; Spotify

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Song Musings

What you always wanted to know about that tune

It’s Wednesday again and, as such, time to take a closer look at another tune I haven’t covered or only mentioned in passing. This week, I decided to dig into the catalog of Jackson Browne. Since the singer-songwriter entered my radar screen with Running On Empty many moons ago, I’ve enjoyed listening to him on and off over the decades.

Rock Me On the Water is a great tune from Browne’s eponymous debut album, which came out in January 1972. Penned by him like the remaining nine tracks, the song also became the record’s and Browne’s second single in July of the same year. Like his debut single Doctor, My Eyes, it made the U.S. charts, reaching no. 48 on the Billboard Hot 100, not as high as its predecessor that peaked at an impressive no. 8.

Like on the album overall, Browne had impressive guests. In the case of Rock Me On the Water, David Crosby and Graham Nash provided backing vocals. Among others, the recording also featured top-notch session musicians Craig Doerge (piano), Leland Sklar (bass) and Russ Kunkel (drums), who would play on many other Browne albums as well. They were all part of The Section, the de facto house band of record label Asylum, whose members collectively or individually played on countless records by artists, such as Carole King, James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, Joni Mitchell and Warren Zevon.

Jackson Browne is the first of 15 studio albums issued to date by Browne who continues to go strong 50 years into his recording career. His most recent album Downhill From Everywhere, released in July 2021, earned a 2022 Grammy Award nomination in the Best Americana Album category. Los Lobos’s Native Sons, a great album I reviewed here, ended up winning the category – certainly a worthy winner!

Following are some additional tidbits from Songfacts:

Jackson Browne uses biblical imagery in this song, where he makes a point that salvation can be attained outside the church.

“It’s got an apocalyptic theme running through it and it’s meant to be kind of a gospel song,” he said in a radio interview. “I employ this gospel language: ‘stand before the father,’ ‘sisters of the sun.’ But it’s turning that around 180 degrees so it’s not about religion, it’s about society.”

“You have to have an idea in a gospel song,” he added, “and if it’s not going to be Jesus, it has to at least be salvation. It’s a way of lovingly, and in a friendly way, refuting the traditional and conventional messages of redemption having to do with the straight and narrow. I staked a lot on that song because it was that combination of social awareness and paying attention to what’s going on around you with that inner search for spiritual meaning.”

Browne wrote this song around 1970, before he started work on his debut album. He was well known as a songwriter at this point, with songs recorded by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Byrds, and Nico. “Rock Me On The Water” was first recorded in 1971 by Johnny Rivers, then later that year by Brewer & Shipley.

Linda Ronstadt released this song on her self-titled third album early in 1972, around the same time the song appeared on Browne’s album. Her version was the first released as a single, and it went to #85 in March, making it the first song written by Jackson Browne to reach the Hot 100.

Sources: Wikipedia; Songfacts; YouTube

The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

It’s Sunday, folks, and hope everybody is enjoying their weekend. I’m happy to embark on another excursion into the great world of music, “visiting” six great tracks from different decades. Hope you’ll join me.

Dooley Wilson/As Time Goes By

Today, our little journey starts all the way back in 1942 with what has to be one of the greatest motion picture soundtrack songs of all time. I actually cannot believe it took me more than six years to cover As Time Goes By, which of course was featured in what probably is the movie I’ve watched most often: Casablanca starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid and Peter Lorre. The plot, the filming, the amazing cast – call me a silly sentimentalist, but they just don’t make them like this anymore! As Time Goes By was written more than 10 years earlier in 1931 by Herman Hupfeld for a Broadway musical called Everybody’s Welcome. The tune was first performed by Frances Williams when the show opened on October 31, 1931. The first recording by Rudy Vallée occurred in July 1931. But it was American actor, singer and musician Dooley Wilson whose performance in Casablanca (as Sam) made the song a household name. Play it, Sam, play As Time Goes By.

Steely Dan/Aja

It’s really tough to follow a timeless classic like As Time Goes By, so we have to go to arguably the best album by one of the most sophisticated jazz pop-rock bands I know: Steely Dan and their gem Aja. Released on September 23, 1977, the album recently hit its 45th anniversary. As a fan of the Dan, I’ve covered the ingenious partnership of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker and music from their sixth studio recording many times, for example here and here. But this is the first time I feature the album’s title track in The Sunday Six. Like all other tracks on Aja, it was co-written by Becker and Fagen. If I see this correctly, it’s the album’s only tune that didn’t appear separately on a single at the time.

Son Volt/Drown

Alrighty, time for some rock, coz you just can’t live without it! Son Volt only entered my radar screen last year when the alternative country and Americana rock band released their latest album Electro Melodier. It was love at first sight! The group around singer-songwriter and guitarist Jay Farrar was formed by him in 1994 after the breakup of Uncle Tupelo, another alt. country outfit he had co-founded in 1987. Son Volt’s studio debut Trace appeared in September 1995, which I covered here. To date, the band has released 10 albums. In addition to Farrar, the current members include Chris Frame (guitar), Mark Spencer (keyboards, steel guitar), Andrew DuPlantis (bass) and Mark Patterson (drums). One of my favorite tunes on Trace is Drown, which all except one of the additional tracks on the album was penned by Farrar.

The Prisoners/Hurricane

Are you still with me? If you haven’t done so already, buckle your seatbelt, since it’s gonna get stormy and, as such, the ride could get a bit bumpy with great retro-style garage rock by The Prisoners. I have to give a shoutout to fellow blogger Max from Poper Pop, who brought the British band on my radar screen when he recently featured one of their tunes. Formed in 1980 in Rochester, England, The Prisoners released four albums during their initial run that latest until 1986. They subsequently reformed for several live gigs and issued a one-off single in 1997, which is likely their final release. Since the group broke up, their members Graham Day (vocals, guitar), James Taylor (organ), Allan Crockford (bass) and Johnny Symons (drums) played in a broad range of other bands. Perhaps most notable were The Solarflares, who featured Day and Crockford and essentially reprised the sound of The Prisoners. Here’s The Hurricane, written by Day and off The Prisoners’ 1983 sophomore album The Wisermiserdemelza – my kind of garage rock!

Nyati Mayi & The Astral Synth Transmitters/Cry Woman

How about some African music that sounds shall we say a bit different than what I usually feature? As far as I know, not even fellow blogger Graham from Aphoristic Album Reviews, who in my book has an encyclopedic knowledge of music and, among others, features artists from Africa and other non-English speaking regions and countries, has covered this act. According to this review on Pan African Music, Nyati Mayi & The Astral Synth Transmitters are a duo comprised of Nyati Mayi, a Congolese singer who plays a stringed instrument called the lulanga, and soFa, a Belgian DJ and producer, aka the Astral Synth Transmitters and soFa elsewhere. Apparently, soFa became aware of Mayi’s music via social media and remixed one of his tracks. Their partnership evolved into Nyati Mayi & The Astral Synth Transmitters and their first album Lulanga Tales, which appeared last month on September 16 – I love these types of stories! Here’s a track from their debut titled Cry Woman. I find this music very relaxing, almost meditative. Check it out!

The Chambers Brothers/All Strung Out Over You

For our final stop today, let’s go back to the ’60s and some groovy psychedelic soul by The Chambers Brothers. Formed in Los Angels in 1954 as a four-piece, the group of four brothers initially focused on performing folk and gospel music throughout Southern California. They remained little known until 1965 when they started to perform in New York. American folk, blues and jazz artists Barbara Dane, who toured with The Chambers Brothers, introduced them to Pete Seeger who in turn helped them put on the bill of the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. By the time they released All Strung Out Over You as a single in December 1966, the group – George Chambers (washtub bass, electric bass), Lester Chambers (harmonica), Willie Chambers and Joe Chambers (guitar) – had added drummer Brian Keenan. Written by Rudy Clark, the tune also became the opener of The Chambers Brothers’ debut album appropriately titled The Time Has Come, which appeared in November 1967. They recorded seven additional studio albums until 1975. George Chambers and Keenan passed away in October 2019 and October 1985, respectively.

Here’s a Spotify playlist of the above tunes. Hope there’s something you dig and you’ll be back for the next trip. In fact, selfishly, I hope it’s going to be before then!

Sources: Wikipedia; Pan African Music; YouTube; Spotify

Buddy Guy Fires On All Cylinders On New Album

“The Blues Don’t Lie” coincides with 65th anniversary of legendary guitarist’s arrival to Chicago

Last Friday (September 30), Buddy Guy’s anticipated new album The Blues Don’t Lie came out. Once I started listening to what is yet another late-career gem by the now 86-year-old blues guitar dynamo, I literally couldn’t stop. Sure, Guy doesn’t reinvent the blues, but you can be damn sure the man still got the blues, firing on all cylinders and leaving no doubt he was born to play the guitar.

The release date of the album, Guy’s 19th, coincided with the 65th anniversary of his arrival to Chicago from Louisiana to pursue his calling to play the blues. Once again, production was handled by the great Tom Hambridge, Guy’s longtime collaborator, who also played the drums and co-wrote most of the original tunes.

The Blues Don’t Lie also features notable guests, which according to this review in Rock & Blues Muse include Mavis Staples, James Taylor, Elvis Costello, Jason Isbell and Bobby Rush. Reese Wynans, a former member of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s backing band Double Trouble, plays keyboards – certainly an impressive cast, but frankly, which musician who digs the blues wouldn’t want to record with Buddy Guy?

I’d say it’s finally time to take a closer look at some of the music on this new album. The opener I Let My Guitar Do the Talking provides a perfect entry point. Co-written by Guy and Hambridge, the tune recalls the above-noted 65th anniversary of Guy’s arrival to the windy city. Now let his guitar do the talking. Check it out – damn!

If I don’t have your attention by now, this post may not be for you. Or maybe give it one more try? How about The World Needs Love, the only tune solely penned by Guy. Sadly, Guy’s words ring very true: The world needs love like never before/The world needs love like never before/People are hurtin’ and killin’ people/People they don’t know…This tune is a great example that the soft-spoken Guy is a great vocalist, in addition to being a killer guitar player!

I’m skipping Guy’s amazing duo with Mavis Staples since I recently covered it here and go right to another guest appearance: Symptoms of Love featuring Elvis Costello. The tune was co-written by Richard Fleming, another longtime collaborator, and Hambridge.

Are you ready for some funky blues? Ready or not, here’s What’s Wrong With That featuring Bobby Rush. Of course, there’s nothing with that! The smoking hot tune, another Fleming-Hambridge co-write, is one of my early favorites.

In addition to 13 original tracks, The Blues Don’t Lie includes three covers. Here’s one of them, which I have a feeling deep inside you may have heard of before: I’ve Got a Feeling, by four lads from Liverpool called The Beatles. The combination of two unfinished songs – Paul McCartney’s I’ve Got a Feeling and John Lennon’s Everybody Had a Hard Year – appeared on Let It Be, the final released (though not the final recorded) album by The Beatles that came out in May 1970. I’ve also got a feeling Sir Paul likes this groovy rendition.

Let’s do one more, another cover: King Bee, a swamp blues classic written by James Moore, aka. Slim Harpo, who also first released it in 1957. The tune has since been recorded by numerous other artists, such as The Rolling Stones, Muddy Waters and even early Pink Floyd, who at the time (December 1964) were still called The Tea Set. It’s notable to recall Syd Barrett derived the name Pink Floyd by combining the first names of two blues musicians who were part of his record collection: Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. I love Guy’s stripped-back acoustic delivery and his slightly fragile vocals. So good! You also gotta love his final words: “Is that enough? [laughs] All right.”

If you’re still with me, I would encourage you to check out the entire album. Here’s a Spotify link:

So what’s Buddy Guy’s reaction to The Blues Don’t Lie? One clue is the album’s opener: I don’t say too much/I let my guitar do the talking…Another is the following image that accompanied a recent tweet. As they say, a picture speaks more than a thousand words!

Sources: Wikipedia; Rock & Blues Muse; YouTube; Spotify

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Happy Saturday and welcome to another Best of What’s New installment. All picks are from albums that came out yesterday. Without further ado, let’s get to it!

Kolby Cooper/Woke Up Hungover

Kicking us off today is Kolby Cooper, a young country singer-songwriter from East Texas. Here’s more from his Apple Music profile: Possessing a honeyed twang and an enduring affection for the smoother sounds of ’90s country, Kolby Cooper wasn’t as gritty as some of his peers on the Red Dirt circuit of the Southwest during the last days of the 2010s...Kolby Cooper started playing guitar at the age of 12, inspired equally by classic country and ’90s alt rock. His adolescence turned out to be tumultuous. His father died of cancer when Cooper was 14 and shortly afterward, he started writing songs, eventually finding his way to local talent competitions. When he was 18, Cooper became a father and husband in short order. Initially, he planned to attend nursing school but he decided to give the music business a shot. His 2017 debut single Every Single Kiss was followed by an EP, Vol. 1, in February 2018, and Cooper’s first full-length album Good Ones Never Last in 2019. Woke Up Hungover is a tune from his second and latest album Boy From Anderson County To The Moon – country rock with a pleasant dose of pop!

Cass McCombs/Music Is Blue

Cass McCombs is an eclectic singer-songwriter hailing from California. After playing in numerous bands in the Bay Area and Pacific Northwest during the ’90s, McCombs launched a solo career in 2001 with his debut EP Not The Way E.P. Two years later, A, his first of now 10 studio albums appeared. McCombs’ music has blended elements of different genres, such as rock, folk, psychedelic and alt country. Music Is Blue is the opener of his new album Heartmind. As happens most of the time with artists I feature in Best of What’s New, I’m completely new to Cass McCombs, but I sure like what I’m hearing here!

Silversun Pickups/Stillness (Way Beyond)

Silversun Pickups are an indie rock band from Los Angles, formed in 2000. Five years later, they released their debut EP Pikul. Their debut album Carnavas made the U.S. Billboard 200, reaching no. 80, and peaked at no. 5 on the Independent Albums chart. It has since been certified Gold in the U.S. The group’s sophomore album Swoon peaked at an impressive no. 7 on the Billboard 200 and topped the Independent Albums chart. It also enjoyed success outside the U.S., especially in Australia and Canada where it climbed to no. 14 and no. 23, respectively. The group’s current line-up includes founding members Brian Aubert (lead vocals, guitar) and Nikki Monninger (bass, backing vocals), along with Joe Lester (keyboards, guitar) and Chris Guanlao (drums, percussion) who joined in 2002. This brings me to Stillness (Way Beyond), the first track of their sixth and latest studio album Physical Thrills. Like the other 13 songs on the album, it’s credited to all four members of the band. I like it – check it out!

Early James/Pigsty

My final pick for this week is new music by Early James (born Fredrick James Mullis Jr.), a singer-songwriter from Alabama. Shortly after he had received his first guitar as a Christmas present at the age of 15, he started writing his own songs. James Taylor and Johnny Cash were among his early influences. Here’s more from his AllMusic bio: Early James draws from a deep well of American roots music. Backed by upright bassist Adrian Marmolejo, James’ expressive voice and stripped-down blend of Southern blues, country, folk, and jazz evokes Jason Isbell by way of early Tom Waits and Harry Chapin. In 2019, James inked a deal with Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound and headed into the studio to lay down tracks for a debut album. The deeply southern and luminous Singing for My Supper, which featured a full-band, was released in 2020. James is now out with his sophomore album Strange Time To Be Alive, and based on what I’ve heard thus far, it sounds mightily sweet. Here’s a sample: Pigsty.

Of course, this post wouldn’t be complete without a Spotify playlist that features the above and a few other tunes.

Sources: Wikipedia; Apple Music; AllMusic; YouTube; Spotify

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Welcome to the latest installment of my new music revue. As still oftentimes happens, even after having done this weekly feature for about two years, all of my picks represent artists who are entirely new to me. Unless noted otherwise, the tracks appeared on albums that were released yesterday (March 25).

Camp Cope/Running With the Hurricane

Kicking things off are Aussie alternative rock trio Camp Cope from Melbourne. Formed in 2015, the all-female group includes singer-songwriter and guitarist Georgia “Georgia Maq” McDonald, Kelly-Dawn Hellmrich (bass) and Sarah “Thomo” Thompson (drums). Apple Music characterizes Camp Cope’s music as “an angst-ridden sound sitting somewhere between confessional folk-punk and lo-fi pop-punk.” The trio released their eponymous debut album in April 2016. Their sophomore effort How to Socialise & Make Friends from March 2018 marked their breakthrough in the land from down under, reaching no. 6 on the domestic charts. Camp Cope have also toured the U.S. and Europe, which included a headlining tour of North America in 2019. Running With the Hurricane, credited to the entire band, is the pleasant title track of their third and latest album.

Wallows/Missing Out

Wallows are an alternative rock band based in Los Angeles. Here’s more from their Apple Music profile: Wallows’ synth-spiked, sun-soaked indie rock captures an aching nostalgia for romances come and gone, and all the innocence lost in between. It’s a sound inspired by the Los Angeles-based trio’s own evolution: The members have experienced many of their growing pains together, after all. As preteens, singers/guitarists Dylan Minnette and Braeden Lemasters met drummer Cole Preston in Santa Clarita, California, and founded Feaver (who played 2011’s Warped Tour), which became The Narwhals and eventually Wallows in 2017. The group’s debut studio album Nothing Happens yielded the single Are You Bored Yet?, which peaked at no. 2 on Billboard’s Alternative Airplay chart. Missing Out, written by Tevin Toriano Walls, is a track from Tell Me That It’s Over, the second and new full-length record by Wallows.

The Wilder Blue/Feelin’ the Miles

There were many country releases this week, including the eponymous sophomore album by Texas five-piece The Wilder Blue. According to their website, the band features Zane Williams (lead vocals), Paul Eason (lead guitar), Andy Rogers (multi-instrumentalist), Sean Rodriguez (bass) and Lyndon Hughes (drums). It sounds like the band came together in 2019. Their debut album Hill Country appeared in May 2020. Here’s Feelin’ the Miles, a nice laid-back track written by Williams.

Jensen McRae/Take It Easy

Jensen McRae is a singer-songwriter originally hailing from Santa Monica, Calif. McRae who is of Black and white Jewish descent has been singing since her childhood and began taking piano lessons as a 7-year-old. She also plays guitar. Her early influences included Carole King, James Taylor, Stevie Wonder and Alicia Keys. McRae who has been compared to folks artists like Tracy Chapman has described her music as “folk-alternative-pop”. Her debut EP Who Hurt You? came out in June 2021. On March 22, McRae released her first full-length album Are You Happy Now? Here’s Take It Easy, which like all other songs on the record was solely written by McRae. I’m really impressed with this young lady who sometimes reminds me a bit of Joni Mitchell. Check out Wolves, which is included in the below Spotify playlist.

Last but not least, here’s the aforementioned Spotify playlist.

Sources: Wikipedia; Apple Music; The Wilder Blue website; YouTube; Spotify

Neil Young’s Harvest Turns 50

On February 1, 1972, Neil Young released his fourth studio album Harvest. The 50th anniversary of what is among my all-time favorite Young records almost escaped my attention. I mistakenly had assumed the release date was February 14.

Young recorded Harvest following the breakup of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young in July 1970 after the end of their tour that year, which had strained relationships among the four members. It would take until 1974 before they would get back together again for a reunion tour.

For Harvest Young assembled a backing band he called The Stray Gators. The members were Jack Nitzsche (piano), Ben Keith (steel guitar), Tim Drummond (bass) and Kenny Buttry (drums). In addition to The Stray Gators, Harvest featured various notable guests, including James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt and, interestingly, each of Young’s former CSNY’s bandmates.

Let’s take a look at some of the songs. Side one kicks off with the beautiful Out on the Weekend. Like all other tracks, the tune was written by Young.

A Man Needs a Maid is a song about Young’s girlfriend at the time, the actress Carrie Snodgress. According to Songfacts, initially, the tune was coupled with Heart of Gold and played on piano. “It was like a medley,” Young said in [the autobiography – CMM] Shakey, “the two went together.”

Speaking of Heart of Gold, a post celebrating the 50th anniversary of Harvest wouldn’t be complete without this song. One of Neil Young’s best-known tunes, it also appeared separately as the album’s lead single in January 1972 and became his biggest hit. James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt provided backing vocals. Taylor also played banjo.

On to Side two. Here’s Old Man, a tune Young wrote about the caretaker of the ranch he bought in 1970 as a 25-year-old. Like on Heart of Gold, backing vocals were provided by Taylor and Ronstadt, with Taylor also contributing banjo. Songfacts quotes Ronstadt from an interview with music magazine Mojo: “I can’t remember why Neil wanted me to sing with him – I guess he just figured I was there and could do it – but we went in there and they were doing ‘Heart of Gold’ and ‘Old Man’ and I thought they were such beautiful songs.” Old Man also became the album’s second single in April 1972.

Another great tune on Side two is Alabama. According to Songfacts, This song can be seen as a follow-up to Young’s 1970 song “Southern Man” from After The Gold Rush. Canadian-born Young abhorred the idea of racism and spoke out – loudly – about his feelings. This song went unnoticed by most, but combined with the previous effort, it caused Lynyrd Skynyrd to pen their Southern Rock classic “Sweet Home Alabama” in response to Young’s assertions...In his 2012 autobiography  Waging Heavy Peace, Neil Young said of this song, “I don’t like my words when I listen to it today. They are accusatory and condescending, not fully thought out, and too easy to misconstrue.” Stephen Stills and David Crosby provided backing vocals.

The last song I’d like to highlight is The Needle and the Damage Done, a tune about heroin use and what this drug sadly will do to many who get into it. Young wrote this song about ex-Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten who struggled with heroin addiction. In fact, Young hired him in April 1972 to join rehearsals for his tour to support the Harvest album. But Whitten wasn’t up to the task and Young ended up firing him on November 18 that year, giving him $50 and a plane ticket to Los Angeles. Once Whitten got there, he overdosed on alcohol and Valium, which killed him – making Young feel guilty for many years.


Harvest topped the Billboard 200 for two weeks and became the best-selling album of 1972 in the U.S. While most music artists would have been pleased with such success, Neil Young felt alienated. He followed up Harvest with what became known as the “ditch trilogy”: the live album Time Fades Away (October 1973), as well as the studio records On the Beach (July 1974) and Tonight’s the Night (June 1975). While these three records didn’t match Harvest’s chart and sales performance, they became favorites of many Young fans.

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube

Paul Simon’s Eponymous U.S. Solo Debut Album Turns 50

Today, fifty years ago, Paul Simon released his eponymous solo album. His first record that appeared nearly two years after the break-up of his duo with Art Garfunkel was his second solo effort overall and the first to appear in the U.S. The Paul Simon Songbook from August 1965 had come out in the UK only. It would eventually be released in the U.S. in 1981 as part of a five-LP boxed set titled Collected Works.

Simon started work on the album in early 1971. For the reggae-influenced song Mother and Child Reunion, one of the reasons why I spontaneously decided to write about this 50th anniversary, he traveled to Jamaica. Simon liked reggae and listened to artists like Jimmy Cliff, Desmond Dekker and Bryon Lee. So he decided to record the tune with Cliff’s backing band at a studio in Kingston to make it sound more authentic. Afterward, he went to San Francisco to record some demos there.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the songs. Opening Side one is the aforementioned Mother and Child Reunion. The tune had also appeared as the album’s lead single on January 17, 1972, Simon’s first single as a solo artist. Songfacts notes that Simon wrote this in response to the Jimmy Cliff song “Vietnam,” where a mother receives a letter about her son’s death on the battlefield…Simon said of the song that it “became the first reggae hit by a non-Jamaican white guy outside Jamaica. Among others, the tune reached no. 4 in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100, no. 4 in Canada and no. 5 in each the UK and Australia.

When I listened to the ballad Duncan for the first time, it reminded me of Simon & Garfunkel’s El Condor Pasa, because of the beautiful pan flute fill-ins. It turns out those flutes were played by Los Incas, the same Andean group of musicians who had previously collaborated with Simon & Garfunkel on El Condor Pasa. Duncan was also released separately as the album’s third and final single in July 1972. It charted in the U.S. and Australia but didn’t match the success of Mother and Child Reunion.

Another tune from Side one I’d like to call out is Run That Body Down, which has a nice jazzy touch. Some notable backing musicians on that track include renowned jazz double bassist Ron Carter and guitarist David Spinoza who among others worked with John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr in the ’70s and produced James Taylor’s 1974 studio album Walking Man. Also, check out the great guitar solo by jazz guitarist Jerry Hahn, which starts at around 2:25 minutes.

Side two kicks off with one of Simon’s best-known songs and one of my favorites: Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard. The song’s meaning is unclear. Songfacts states, When asked what “Mama Pajama” saw that made her so distraught in this song, Paul Simon has said that he’s not exactly sure, but he assumed it was something sexual. Simon made up a crazy little story for the song, and named the main character Julio because it sounded like a typical New York neighborhood kid (Simon grew up in Queens). What Paul didn’t realize until years later was the impact the song had on Spanish-speaking listeners who were thrilled to hear a song coming out of America with a Latin name in the title. That’s how you do it: You just make up stuff, based on things you may have seen or read, and then have clever people debate what you meant. Bob Dylan anybody? Or how about Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen and Walter Becker? Julio also became the record’s second single. Its chart performance fell in-between Mother and Child Reunion and Duncan. It did best in Canada where it peaked at no. 6. On the U.S. and UK mainstream charts, it reached no. 22 and no. 15, respectively.

Next up: Peace Like a River. I decided to call out this song primarily because of Simon’s acoustic guitar playing, which blends folk with a dose of blues. Learning the acoustic guitar myself many years ago, I can definitely say he was one of the players I admired. The difference between Simon and myself: He became famous, while I always remained a closet acoustic guitarist! 🙂

The last tune I’d like to call out is a short instrumental titled Hobo’s Blues. Did I just say instrumental? No vocals, something I’m generally addicted to? Yep, sometimes you don’t need vocals. The standout here is French-Italian jazz violinist Stéphane Grappelli, the only musician on the track besides Simon on acoustic guitar. Pretty neat!

Paul Simon was co-produced by Simon and Roy Halee who had co-produced Simon & Garfunkel’s Bookends (April 1968) and Bridge over Troubled Water (January 1970) albums. He also had co-produced the tune Mrs. Robinson from the soundtrack of the motion picture The Graduate, for which he had won a Grammy Award.

The album was mostly well-received by critics. According to Wikipedia, even Robert Christgau had something positive to say, writing in the Village Voice, “this is the only thing in the universe to make me positively happy in the first two weeks of February 1972” – jeez, he must have been on some substance! And in Rolling Stone that year, Jon Landau called the album Simon’s “least detached, most personal and painful piece of work thus far — this from a lyricist who has never shied away from pain as subject or theme.”

The album, which in 1986 reached Platinum certification in the U.S., topped the charts in the UK, Sweden, Norway and Finland. Notably, it was Simon’s only no. 1 album in the UK in the ’70s. It would take until the fantastic Graceland from 1986 to reach the top spot again. In Canada and The Netherlands, Paul Simon climbed to no. 2, while in the U.S. and Australia, it reached no. 4 and no. 5, respectively. The record was ranked at no. 268 in Rolling Stone’s 2012 list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. It also made the list for the 2020 update, coming in at no. 425.

Sources: Wikipedia; Songfacts; Discogs; YouTube; Spotify

The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

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

Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble/Chitlins con Carne

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

Christine McVie/Got a Hold on Me

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

James Taylor/Fire and Rain

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

Them/Gloria

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

Elvis Presley/Heartbreak Hotel

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

Mark Knopfler/Prairie Wedding

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

Here’s a playlist of the above tunes:

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube; Spotify

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

It’s Saturday, which means the time has come again to take a fresh look at newly-released music. As more frequent visitors of the blog know, my favorite decades are the ’60s and the ’70s, which can make finding contemporary music that speaks to me a tough proposition. But after having written this weekly feature for some 20 months, I can safely say there’s still some new music out there I dig. Some weeks it’s a longer process to find it than others. This time, putting together the post went pretty quickly. My picks include some country, rock and indie rock. All tunes are on albums that were released yesterday (October 29).

Emily Scott Robinson/Things You Learn the Hard Way

I’d like to start with Emily Scott Robinson, who according to her website is a Colorado-based singer-songwriter: Robinson grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina, and turned toward guitar at age 13, after a summer camp counselor closed out the nights by playing songs by Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens, and Dar Williams every night. She taught herself to play in the early 2000s by printing guitar tabs from the internet and singing to CDs by Indigo Girls and James Taylor. But she didn’t pursue songwriting until after seeing Nanci Griffith perform in Greensboro in 2007… Graduating from Furman University with degrees in history and Spanish, Robinson took a job as a social worker and translator in 2011…In 2013, she found kindred spirits at Planet Bluegrass’ The Song School, a songwriting retreat in Lyons, Colorado, where other participants encouraged her talent, and just as importantly, showed her that being a touring musician could be a viable financial option. I wonder how many other young artists share that view. Robinson’s debut album Magnolia Queen appeared in 2016. Things You Learn the Hard Way is a track from her new album American Siren, a mix of bluegrass, country and folk. Like all other tunes on the record, the song was written by her – pretty music, and I also like Robinson’s voice.

Jerry Cantrell/Brighten

Jerry Cantrell is best known as lead guitarist, lead vocalist and the main songwriter of Seattle rock band Alice in Chains, which he formed in 1987. While I definitely know their name, I don’t believe I’ve heard any of their music. In addition to recording six albums with the group and collaborations with Ozzy Osborne and other artists, Cantrell has released four solo albums to date, starting with Boggy Depot from March 1998. Brighten, written by Cantrell, is the title track of his new album. Nice rocker!

Charlotte Cornfield/Blame Myself

Charlotte Cornfield is a Canadian singer-songwriter who was born in Toronto. According to Wikipedia, her music has been compared to the likes of The Band, Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt and Neil Young. Cornfield has also mentioned David Bowie, Joni Mitchell and Gillian Welch among her influences – many big names here! During her childhood, Cornfield played the piano, drums and French horn. Following her relocation to Montreal where she studied jazz drumming at Concordia University, Cornfield decided to pursue a professional career as a solo artist. Her debut EP It’s Like That Here came out in 2008. Her first full-length album Two Horses was released in March 2011. Blame Myself, penned by Cornfield, appears on her new album Highs in the Minuses, her fouth.

The War on Drugs/Change

The War on Drugs are an indie rock band that was founded in Philadelphia in 2005. Again, while I’m definitely familiar with their name, I can’t identify any of their songs. According to their profile on Apple Music, the group has been a vehicle for singer-songwriter Adam Granduciel, whose synth-infused folk-rock storytelling has drawn comparisons to Bruce Springsteen. The War on Drugs began as a duo with Granduciel and singer-songwriter Kurt Vile, who appeared on 2008’s debut Wagonwheel Blues before making a name for himself as a solo artist. Their breakout LP Slave Ambient, which landed at No. 5 on Billboard’s Heatseekers Albums chart, was named on Pitchfork’s list of the Top 50 Albums of 2011. This brings me to the band’s fifth and new studio album I Don’t Live Here Anymore. Here’s a great tune called Change, co-written by Granduciel, together with band members Anthony LaMarca (guitar, percussion, drums, vibraphone, pedal steel guitar) and Dave Hartley (bass, guitar). Based on this and a few other songs I’ve heard from the new album, I want to further explore this band.

Sources: Wikipedia; Emily Scott Robinson website; Apple Music; YouTube