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! ūüôā

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 the final Sunday Six of 2021 – can’t believe I’m writing this! To those celebrating, I hope you had a nice Christmas and are still enjoying the holiday season. To everybody else, hope you’ve been having a great time anyway! Today, this weekly recurring feature is hitting a milestone with its 50th installment. It’s another eclectic set of music touching the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and 2021. Ready for the last mini music excursion of the year? Let’s do it!

Frank Zappa/Pink Napkins

I’d like to start today’s music time travel with an artist I never thought I’d feature. While I recognize Frank Zappa was widely acclaimed, except for the weirdly catchy Bobby Brown Goes Down, I always found it difficult to listen to his music and never warmed to him. That being said, I’ve always known he was a pretty talented musician. When my streaming music provider served up Pink Napkins the other day, I was immediately intrigued by this guitar-driven instrumental. And, yes, I was quite surprised to learn I had just listened to Frank Zappa! Pink Napkins is from Son of Shut Up ‘n Play Yer Guitar, the second in a series of three all-instrumental albums released in May 1981, which subsequently appeared as a box set in 1982. It’s a very improvisational collection of what essentially are guitar solos. While hey there, people, you may wonder, wonder, why Zappa released a massive collection of guitar solos, dare I say it, I actually dig Pink Napkins!

Pink Floyd/Stay

Next is what I would call a deep track from Pink Floyd’s catalog. Stay, co-written by the band’s keyboarder Richard Wright and guitarist David Gilmour, was included on the group’s seventh studio album Obscured by Clouds that came out in June 1972. It was the soundtrack for a French motion picture titled La Vall√©e and directed by Iranian-born Swiss film director and producer Barbet Schroeder. Among others, he’s known for directing Hollywood films Barfly (1987) and Single White Female (1992). While Obscured by Clouds didn’t match the chart performance of the group’s two preceding records Meddle and Atom Heart Mother, it still reached a respectable no. 6 in the UK. By comparison, it remained, well, a bit more obscure in the U.S. where it stalled at no. 46. This was in marked contrast to Pink Floyd’s next album The Dark Side of the Moon.

Little Richard/Good Golly, Miss Molly

Okay, boys and girls, it’s time to get movin’ and groovin’ with some killer classic rock & roll by the great Little Richard: Good golly, Miss Molly, sure like to ball, whoo/Good golly, Miss Molly, sure like to ball/When you’re rockin’ and a rollin’/Can’t hear your momma call…Even though I’ve listened to Good Golly, Miss Molly countless times since I first heard it 40-plus years ago, I’m still amazed by Richard’s energy. This man was a force of nature and an incredible performer. Good Golly, Miss Molly was co-written by John Marascalco and producer Robert “Bumps” Blackwell. It was first recorded by Richard and appeared as a single in January 1958. It was also included on Richard’s eponymous sophomore album released in July of the same year.

The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band/Ways and Means

Let’s keep rockin’ and jump to 2021 and The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band. If you happened to read part 1 of my recent year-in-review feature, you may recall the name of this unusual country blues trio, which has been around since 2003. Ways and Means is the opener of Dance Songs for Hard Times, the trio’s energetic 10th studio album that came out back in April. Check out the official video, which is fun to watch. These guys are just amazing! Peyton is a really talented guitarist, and his singing ain’t too shabby either – my kind of reverend!

The Mamas & The Papas/Monday Monday

After two high-energy tunes, I’d like to slow it down a little with some beautiful sunshine pop from the ’60s. For the purposes of this feature, the tune really should have been titled “Sunday Sunday”, but I’ll gladly go with Monday Monday. The third single by The Mamas & The Papas, released in March 1966, became the L.A. vocal group’s only no. 1 in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100. Written by the group’s leader John Philipps, aka Papa John Phillips, the tune was a big hit outside the U.S. as well, reaching no. 2 in Austria, Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands; no. 3 in the UK; and no. 4 in Australia, among others. Monday Monday was also included on The Mamas & The Papas’ debut album If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears from February of the same year. I’ve always loved their beautiful harmony singing.

Bonnie Raitt/You

I’d like to wrap up this installment with one of my all-time favorite artists: Bonnie Raitt. Since I was introduced to her with Nick of Time in 1989, I’ve come to love her music and amazing slide guitar-playing. I also finally had a chance to see her in August 2016 in New Jersey. If you’re curious you can read more about the show here and watch a clip of the entire gig, which is still up! For this post, I’ve picked You, a beautiful tune from Raitt’s 12th studio album Longing in Their Hearts that appeared in March 1994. The song was co-written by John Shanks, Bob Thiele and Tonio K. (born Steven M. Krikorian). Bonnie Raitt will tour in 2022. Man, would I love to catch her again – we’ll see whether conditions are going to responsibly allow it!

Last but not least, here’s a playlist with the above tunes!

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube

What I’ve Been Listening To: Bonnie Raitt/Slipstream

I think Slipstream¬†is one of the gems in Bonnie Raitt’s close to 40-year recording career. I hadn’t heard the album in a while until this morning. Afterwards, I spontaneously decided to cover it.

Raitt is one of my favorite music artists, and I’ve written about her before. If you’re curious about her background, you can read more¬†here. In this post, I’d like to focus on the music from¬†Slipstream, Raitt’s 16th studio album released in April 2012. It came seven years after the predecessor Souls Alike, the last album for her longtime record company¬†Capitol Records. The album is the first issued on her independent label Redwing Records, which she launched in 2011.

Slipstream kicks off strongly with the groovy¬†Used To Rule A World. The tune also became one of two tracks that appeared separately as a single. It was written by singer-songwriter and session multi-instrumentalist¬†Randall Bramblett. In addition to Raitt, he has played with the likes of Gregg Allman, Robbie Robertson and Steve Winwood. Apart from Raitt’s funky guitar, I particularly dig the Hammond B3 part performed by Mike Finnegan. He’s another session musician with an impressive resume, including Jimi Hendrix, Joe Cocker, Buddy Guy, Etta James and Crosby, Stills and Nash, to name some.

Right Down The Line, the second single off the album, is a nice cover of a tune by Gerry Rafferty. The Scottish singer-songwriter included it on his sophomore album City To City from January 1978. That record is best known for the mega hit Baker Street, which makes me want to listen to the song and other music from Rafferty. I haven’t done that in a long time either – could become a separate blog topic in the future!

Down To You is another tune for which Bramblett got a credit. The other co-writers are George Marinelli, who also plays guitar, as well as Raitt who wrote the lyrics – her only credit on the album. But if you interpret songs, sing and play slide guitar like Raitt, I think it becomes a minor detail whether or not you actually write the songs. Marinelli, a founding member of Bruce Hornsby and The Range, has been part of Raitt’s band since 1993.

Raitt slows things down on Not Cause I Wanted To, a ballad about the breakup of a relationship. I wonder whether the tune, which was co-written by Al Anderson and¬†Bonnie Bishop, has some autobiographic connection. According to Wikipedia, Raitt’s marriage to actor Michael O’Keefe ended in divorce in late 1999, apparently because their careers caused them to spend much time apart.

The last tune I’d like to call out is Standing In The Doorway, another track on the quieter side. It was written by Bob Dylan, who included it on this 30th studio album Time Out Of Mind from September 1997. Interestingly, Slipstream also features another Dylan cover from the same record, Million Miles. When covering songs, Raitt oftentimes makes them her own, but in this case, she chose to stay¬†closely to the original – in any case, a beautiful take!

Slipstream entered the Billboard 200 at no. 6, making it Raitt’s highest-charting album in the U.S. in 18 years since 1994’s chart-topper Longing In Their Hearts. She also won Best Americana Album¬†for Slipstream at the 2013 Grammy Awards.

Sources: Wikipedia, Bonnie Raitt website, YouTube