The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

Happy Sunday and welcome to another excursion into the beautiful world of music. For most folks in the U.S., daylight savings began last night, so just in case, don’t forget to adjust your clocks. Should you feel a bit tired since you lost one hour of sleep, music is a great remedy. All aboard the time machine and let’s go back, Jack, do it again!

Wayne Shorter/Footprints

Today, our journey begins in October 1967 to commemorate the great Wayne Shorter who sadly passed away on March 2 at the age of 89. Frankly, had it not been for fellow blogger Music Enthusiast and his related tribute, I guess I would have missed it! Unlike Jeff Beck or Lynyrd Skynyrd co-founder Gary Rossington, who we lost on March 5, it seems Shorter’s death didn’t get comparable media attention. While Wayne Shorter wasn’t a guitarist, the jazz saxophonist and composer was a true rock star in my book. In addition to being a sideman playing with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and Miles Davis’ Second Great Quintet, Shorter started his recording career as a bandleader in 1959 with Introducing Wayne Shorter – the first of more than 20 additional albums he released in that role. In 1970, Shorter became a co-founder of Weather Report, co-leading the jazz fusion band with Austrian keyboarder Joe Zawinul until their breakup in 1986. After leaving Weather Report, Shorter continued to record and perform until his retirement in 2018 after a nearly 70-year career! Let’s celebrate this great musician with one of his best-known compositions that has become a jazz standard: Footprints, which first appeared on Shorter’s 10th solo album Adam’s Apple released in October 1967. He was backed by Herbie Hancock (piano), Reggie Workman (bass) and Joe Chambers (drums).

Dirty Honey/California Dreamin’

I realize smooth saxophone jazz may not be the best remedy to wake up if you’re really tired. Let’s travel to the current century and kick up the speed a few notches with music by one of the most exciting contemporary rock bands I know: Dirty Honey. Founded in 2017, this Los Angeles-based group reminds me of bands like AerosmithLed Zeppelin and The Black Crowes. Dirty Honey are Marc Labelle (vocals), John Notto (guitar), Justin Smolian (bass) and Corey Coverstone (drums). To date, they have released a self-titled EP (2019) and debut album (2021), as well as a bunch of singles. Here’s California Dreamin’, the kickass opener of their full-length debut, which came out in April 2021. Or are we actually listening to a moniker of The Black Crowes when they were at their peak? Damn, feel free to play along with air or real guitar!

Sting/All This Time

Okay, time for a little breather with Sting and All This Time. This beautiful tune, off the ex-Police frontman’s third full-length solo album The Soul Cages, takes us to January 1991. The Soul Cages is a concept album revolving around the 1987 death of Sting’s father, which led the English artist to develop writer’s block. The scary episode lasted several years, explaining the relatively long 4-year gap to its predecessor …Nothing Like the Sun. Soul Cages also was Sting’s first solo album to feature guitarist Dominic Miller who would become a longtime collaborator appearing on most of Sting’s albums thereafter, including his most recent The Bridge from November 2021. Like all except two tracks on The Soul Cages, All This Time was solely written by Sting.

Danny & The Juniors/At The Hop

Let’s put on our classic rock & roll dancin’ shoes and pay a visit to the year 1957. That’s when American doo-wop and rock & roll vocal group Danny & The Juniors scored their biggest hit single At The Hop. The group from Philadelphia was formed in 1955 and originally included Danny Rapp, Dave White, Frank Maffei and Joe Terranova. At The Hop was co-written by Artie Singer, John Medora and White. The seductive honky tonk piano-driven tune became the group’s only no. 1 single in the U.S., topping both the mainstream pop and R&B charts. Danny & The Juniors may have had only one hit but they certainly made it count. White and Terranova passed away in March 2019 and April 2019 and the ages of 79 and 78, respectively. Let’s join in the dance sensations that are sweepin’ the nation at the hop – ’50s rock & roll doesn’t get much better!

Tracy Chapman/Talkin’ Bout a Revolution

We’re four tunes into our current journey and haven’t featured the ’80s yet. My proposition this week is Tracy Chapman and one of her best-known songs from her eponymous debut album that came out in 1988. I still remember when the folk singer-songwriter seemingly out of nowhere burst on the scene in April that year with Fast Car, the album’s first single, and became an overnight sensation. Talkin’ Bout a Revolution, the record’s opener, was the second single released in July 1988. While it didn’t match the chart success of Fast Car, the tune was just as ubiquitous on the radio back in Germany. I dug Chapman’s music so much that I bought a songbook of the album for acoustic guitar. Given her relatively deep vocals, I was able to reasonably sing her tunes. While Chapman has not been active for many years, she has not officially retired from music. I believe her most recent “public appearance” was the night before the November 2020 U.S. Presidential elections on Late Night with Seth Myers with a clip of her performing Talkin’ ‘about a Revolution, asking Americans to vote. Man, this tune still gives me chills – so good!

Lynyrd Skynyrd/Free Bird

Once again, it’s time to wrap up another music time travel. And what could possibly be a better final stop than Free Bird, the epic Lynyrd Skynyrd track that closed out their debut album (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd), released in August 1973. Co-written by the southern rock icon co-founders Allen Collins (guitar) and frontman Ronnie Van Zant (lead vocals), the 9-minute-plus gem features the late Gary Rossington on rhythm and slide guitars. Rossington also was among the band’s co-founding members. He cheated death twice. In 1976, he was in a car accident, hitting an oak tree while under the influence of alcohol and other drugs. Luckily, nobody else got hurt in that accident. Rossington also survived the horrific plane crash on October 1977, which took the lives of Ronnie Van Zant, Skynyrd guitarist Steve Gaines, backing vocalist and Steve’s sister Cassie Gaines, as well as three others. Rossington played with the band’s current touring version until his death and was their only remaining original member.

Here’s a Spotify playlist of all the above goodies. As always, I hope there’s something you dig!

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube; Spotify

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