Welcome to another Sunday Six! I don’t know about you, but after a very busy week on the work and other fronts, I really needed this weekend. And what better way to relax on a Sunday morning (in my neck of the woods) than doing some time travel into the wonderful world of music. For folks in other geographic locations, this also works during other times of the day and night, so hope you all are going to join me. As usual, we do this six tunes at a time.
John Jenkins, Clifford Jordan and Bobby Timmons/Cliff’s Edge
When I came across Bobby Timmons in a post on fellow blogger Bruce’s Vinyl Connections, I immediately decided to earmark the American jazz pianist for a Sunday Six. Timmons who helped create a style called soul jazz started his career in Philly in the early ’50s. From July 1958 to September 1959 and February 1960 to June 1961, he was a sideman in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. In between, he was part of Cannonball Adderley’s band. His first album as leader or co-leader, Jenkins, Jordan and Timmons, appeared in 1957. Sadly, Timmons passed away from cirrhosis in March 1974 at the young age of 38. Let’s listen to Cliff’s Edge, a composition by jazz tenor saxophonist Clifford Jordan, included on the above-mentioned album Timmons recorded with Jordan and alto saxophonist John Jenkins. They were backed by Wilbur Ware (bass) and Dannie Richmond (drums) – my kind of music to kick off a Sunday morning!
Nick Moss & The Flip Flops/Heavy On My Mind
Our next stop takes us to the current century and great blues by Chicago blues and electric blues artist Nick Moss, another artist I had not heard of until recently. Active since 1990, Moss has released 11 studio and two live albums to date. After playing bass in the groups of blues guitarists Buddy Scott and Jimmy Dawkins, as well as The Legendary Blues Band, formed by backing musicians of Muddy Waters, Moss switched to lead guitar. In 1998, he launched his solo career with debut album First Offense, which was re-released in 2003, billed as by Nick Moss and the Flip Tops. That same year saw the group’s compilation Count Your Blessings. Here’s the great opener Heavy On My Mind. Yeah, baby, that’s what I call a neat blues shuffle!
Far Too Jones/Close to You
Time to pay a visit to the ’90s with a great tune by Far Too Jones, an American rock band from Raleigh, N.C. From their AllMusic bio: Comprised of singer Christopher Sprull, guitarists Jason Marks and Dave Dicke, bassist Alan Callahan, and drummer Scott MacConnell, Far Too Jones emerged from Raleigh, NC, quickly becoming one of the Southeast region’s most popular touring bands. A year after issuing their self-titled debut CD in mid-1995, they released Crawling Out from Under; a follow-up EP, Plastic Hero, yielded the local hit “Falling Back Down,” the success of which resulted in a deal with the Mammoth label. Picture Postcard Walls, Far Too Jones’ Mammoth debut, appeared in 1998. Shame and Her Sister was issued two years later. This brings me to Close to You, a track from the group’s aforementioned Picture Postcard Walls album released in June 1998. Credited to the entire band, the tune reminds me a bit of Hootie & the Blowfish.
Blood, Sweat & Tears/Spinning Wheel
Recently, on fellow blogger Dave’s A Sound Day, I declared 1969 as my favorite year in music. After looking at other Turntable Talk contributions, frankly, any other year between 1965 and 1975 would have been a great choice. One of the many great tunes released in 1969 was what became one of the best-known tracks by jazz rock group Blood, Sweat & Tears: Spinning Wheel, released in May 1969 as the second single from their eponymous sophomore album that had come out in December 1968. The tune was penned by David Clayton-Thomas who became the group’s lead vocalist in 1968 and remained in that role until 2004 with a few breaks in between. Blood, Sweat & Tears were originally formed in 1967 by Al Kooper (keyboards, vocals), Steve Katz (guitar, vocals), Jim Fielder (bass) and Bobby Colomby (drums). Subsequently, they were joined by Fred Lipsius (alto saxophone, piano) who recruited Dick Halligan (keyboards, trombone, horns, flute, backing vocals), Randy Brecker (trumpet, flugelhorn) and Jerry Weiss (trumpet, flugelhorn, backing vocals). Apparently, a version of Blood, Sweat & Tears is still around and is about to wrap up a tour, though none of their original members are part of the current lineup. Let’s get that wheel spinning – what a groovy tune!
Aretha Franklin/Freeway of Love
Our trip continues in the ’80s via road, but not any road. We shall take the Freeway of Love in a pink Cadillac with the queen of soul, Aretha Franklin, one of my favorite vocalists of all time. Franklin had the amazing ability to take pretty much any tune, great and perhaps not as great, and turn it into a decent song. Sure, when you think of Franklin, I Say a Little Prayer, (You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman, Think and R-E-S-P-E-C-T likely come to mind before Freeway of Love; but I’ve always enjoyed that tune from her 13th studio album Who’s Zoomin’ Who?, which came out in July 1985. Co-written by Jeffrey Cohen and Narada Michael Walden and produced by the latter, Freeway of Love features the great Clarence Clemons, the then-saxophonist from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. It gave Franklin her first top 5 hit on the U.S. mainstream Billboard Hot 100 (no. 3) since 1973’s Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do), which reached the same position. Yes, Freeway of Love can’t deny its ’80s production, but it still rocks!
Joe Cocker/The Letter
Once again we need to wrap up another journey, and this time, we’ll take an aeroplane, coz we ain’t got time to take no fast train. In August 1970, Joe Cocker released the live album Mad Dogs & Englishmen, which among many other gems included his rendition of The Letter. Similar to Aretha Franklin, once a tune received the Joe Cocker treatment, usually, it turned into something better. That certainly is the case with this song, which was written by American country musician, songwriter and record producer Wayne Carson and first recorded by U.S. rock band The Box Tops. They released it as their debut single in August 1967, topping the mainstream charts in the U.S. and Canada, and climbing to no. 5 in the UK – that’s what I call leaving a good first impression! While Cocker’s rendition couldn’t match that performance, it still gave him his first top 10 single in the U.S., reaching no. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100. It reached the same spot in Canada. In his native Britain, the tune peaked at a more moderate no. 39. Here’s the live version from Mad Dogs & Englishmen. Technically, the single was a studio, non-album recording, but that shall not bother us!
Following is a Spotify playlist featuring all of the above tunes. Hope there’s something you dig!
Sources: Wikipedia; AllMusic; YouTube; Spotify