The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

Is it really Sunday again? What happened to the bloody week? Okay, let’s try this again: Happy Sunday and I hope everybody had a great week and is enjoying an even better weekend! Nearly anything you can do gets better with great music, so I invite you to join me on another time travel trip. As usual, I’m taking you to six different stops. Are you in? Let’s go!

Duke Ellington & John Coltrane/In a Sentimental Mood

What do you get when combining jazz piano great Duke Ellington and saxophone dynamo John Coltrane? Well, Duke Ellington & John Coltrane, a collaboration album released in January 1963, and the first stop on our journey today. Jazz artists love to team up, and this record is one of many collaborative efforts Sir Duke undertook in the early 1960s, which also included artists, such as Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, Max Roach and Charles Mingus. Rather than a big band setting, it placed Ellington in a quartet, which in addition to Coltrane featured Jimmy Garrison or Aaron Bell (bass) and Elvin Jones or Sam Woodyard (drums). My specific pick is In a Sentimental Mood, which Ellington had composed more than 25 years earlier in 1935, with lyrics written by Manny Kurtz. I guess Ellington’s manager Irving Mills was in the mood for a percentage of the publishing and gave himself a writing credit!

The Jayhawks/Martin’s Song

Our next stop takes us to September 1992 and Hollywood Town Hall, the third studio album by The Jayhawks. Since “discovering” them in August 2020, I’ve come to dig this American alt. country and country rock band. Initially formed in Minneapolis in 1985, The Jayhawks originally featured Mark Olson (acoustic guitar, vocals), Gary Louris (electric guitar, vocals), Marc Perlman (bass) and Norm Rogers (drums). By the time Hollywood Town Hall was released, Rogers had been replaced by Ken Callahan. After four additional albums and more line-up changes, the group went on hiatus in 2004. They reemerged with a new formation in 2019, which still includes Louris and Pearlman. Going back to Hollywood Town Hall, here’s the album’s great closer Martin’s Song, penned by Olson and Louris.

Stephen Stills/Right Now

How ’bout some ’70s? Ask and you shall receive! My pick is Stephen Stills – yep the guy who co-founded Canadian-American rock band Buffalo Springfield with that Canadian fellow Neil Young in 1966, and two years later got together with David Crosby and Graham Nash to form Crosby, Stills & Nash. In 1969, they added Young, became Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, played Woodstock and released the classic Déjà Vu in March 1970. Following CSNY’s success, Stills launched a solo career, just like the other three members of the group. In late 1971, he teamed up with Chris Hillman (formerly of The Byrds) to form the band Manassas. The group also included Al Perkins (steel guitar, guitar), Paul Harris (keyboards), Calvin “Fuzzy” Samuels (bass, backing vocals), Joe Lala (percussion, backing vocals) and Dallas Taylor (drums). Their eponymous debut from April 1972 was the first of two studio albums the group released, as Stephen Stills/Manassas – I assume for name recognition reasons. Plus, Stills wrote or co-wrote all except one of the tunes. Right Now is among the songs solely penned by him – love that tune!

Paul Simon/You Can Call Me Al

In August 1986, Paul Simon released what remains my favorite among his solo albums: Graceland. Evidently, many other folks liked it as well, making it Simon’s best-performing album, both in terms of chart success and sales. It also won Grammy Awards for Album of the Year (1987) and Record of the Year (1988) – confusing titles! While the first honors an album in its entirety, the second recognizes a specific track. Graceland features an eclectic mixture of musical styles, including pop, a cappella, zydeco, isicathamiya, rock and mbaqanga. The album involved recording sessions in Johannesburg, South Africa, featuring local musicians. Therefore, it was criticized by some for breaking the cultural boycott of South Africa because of its policy of apartheid. One can only imagine what kind of firestorm a comparable activity would likely unleash nowadays with so much polarization boosted by social media! If I would have to pick one track from the album, I’d go with You Can Call Me Al, an infectious tune that among others features a crazy bass run by South African bassist Bakithi Kumalo.

Little Steven/Soulfire

Let’s keep the groove going with guitarist, songwriter, actor and (unofficial) music professor, the one and only Steven Van Zandt, aka Little Steven or Miami Steve. Van Zandt gained initial prominence as guitarist in various Bruce Springsteen bands, such as Steel Mill, Bruce Springsteen Band, and, of course, the mighty E Street Band. In 1981, Van Zandt started fronting an on-and-off group known as Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul. The following year, while still being an official member of the E Street Band, he released his debut solo album Men Without Women, credited as Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul. In April 1984, just before the release of the Born in the U.S.A. album, Van Zant officially left and recorded a series of additional solo albums. After a brief stint in 1995, he permanently rejoined Springsteen’s backing band in 1999. He also got into acting, which most notably included his role as mafioso and strip club owner Silvio Dante in the American TV crime drama series The Sopranos. This finally brings us to Soulfire, his sixth solo album from May 2017. The great title track was co-written by Van Zandt and Anders Bruus, the former guitarist of Danish rock band The Breakers. Here’s a cool live version!

The Sonics/Cinderella

And once again, we’re reaching our final destination of yet another Sunday Six excursion. For this one, let’s go back to the ’60s with some raw garage rock by The Sonics – coz why not! Formed in Tacoma, Wa. in 1960, they have often been called “the first punk band” and were a significant influence for American punk groups like The Stooges, MC5 and The Flesh Eaters. Cinderella is a track from the band’s sophomore release Boom, which appeared in February 1996. The tune was written by Gerry Roslie, the group’s keyboarder at the time. The line-up on the album also included founding members Larry Parypa (lead guitar, vocals) and his brother Andy Parypa (bass, vocals), along with Rob Lind (saxophone) and Bob Bennett (drums). Based on Wikipedia, The Sonics still appear to be around, with Roslie, Lind and Larry Parypa among their current members.

Of course, this post wouldn’t be complete without a Spotify playlist of the above tracks. Hope there’s something for you!

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. After a two-week hiatus, it’s nice to get back into the blogging groove again. At the same time, taking a break wasn’t a bad thing, especially in this case where I used some of the time for a long-sought vacation in Germany to see some family and friends again. Following is a small collage of photos from my visit.

From top left clockwise: Karlsruhe Palace; village of Buschhoven, in which I grew up; Frankfurt/Main; and Königstein, a health spa in the Taunus region close to Frankfurt

Time to get to some music. Three of the picks are inspired by my recent visit to Germany.

Sonny Rollins/In a Sentimental Mood

Our journey today starts with beautiful music by American tenor saxophone great Sonny Rollins, who is widely recognized as one of the most important and influential jazz musicians. Over an incredible 70-year-plus career, Rollins has recorded more than 60 albums as a leader and appeared on many additional records as a sideman. He has played with the likes of Charlie ParkerMiles DavisDizzy Gillespie,  Thelonious MonkMax Roach and Modern Jazz Quartet. In a Sentimental Mood, composed by Duke Ellington, Manny Kurtz and Irving Mills, is among Rollins’ earliest recordings as a leader. It appeared on a 1956 compilation album, Sonny Rollins with the Modern Jazz Quartet. On this particular tune, he was backed by John Lewis (piano), Milt Jackson (vibraphone), Percy Heath (bass) and Kenny Clarke (drums). My kind of music to ease into a Sunday morning.

Wolf Maahn/Irgendwo in Deutschland

Next, we jump to 1984 and the first German-language song featured in The Sunday Six: Irgendwo in Deutschland (somewhere in Germany), the title track of the third studio album by German rock artist Wolf Maahn. The singer-songwriter, actor and producer, who was born in Berlin in 1955 and grew up in Munich, initially started his music career in 1976 as a founding member of the Food Band. Mixing soul, jazz, pop and rock, this group sang in English. Wolf Maahn’s “German language music career” kicked off in the early ’80s with the studio album Deserteure. He gained broad national popularity in the mid ’80s, starting with the Irgendwo in Deutschland album. I listened to that song in my rental car on the day I arrived in Germany. That’s when I decided I would feature it in a Sunday Six.

Arthur Conley/Sweet Soul Music

I’m in the mood for some soul and the other day I remembered a tune I’ve always loved, loved: Sweet Soul Music, a big U.S. hit for Arthur Conley in 1967, climbing to no. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. In the UK, it peaked at no. 7 on the Official Singles Chart. The song, which also became the title track of an album Conley released the same year, was co-written by him and Otis Redding – and Sam Cooke. It’s a version of Cooke’s Yeah Man, a tune that appeared on Cooke’s first posthumous studio album Shake from January 1965. Initially, they didn’t give him any credit. Cooke’s estate eventually sued Conley and Redding and received songwriting credit and a settlement.

Del Amitri/Always the Last to Know

During my visit to Germany, I met my former bandmate and longtime music buddy who always gives me great trip listening tips. The next two picks are inspired by him. First, he reminded me of Scottish alternative rock band Del Amitri, who were formed in Glasgow in 1980. During their initial run until 2002, they released six studio albums and two compilations. Since the band reemerged from hiatus in 2013, it looks like they have mainly been a touring act. Only one live record, one compilation and one studio album have since appeared. Always the Last to Know takes us back to their third studio album Change Everything released in June 1992. Written by Justin Currie (vocals, guitar, piano), who remains with Del Amitri to this day, the tune also became the album’s lead single in April 1992 – a nice melodic pop rock tune!

The Sadies/Stop and Start

This next pick is from the new album by Canadian band The Sadies, Colder Streams, released on July 22. From their AllMusic bio: One of the most accomplished bands to emerge from the North American indie and roots rock scene, the Sadies are an eclectic group founded by brothers Dallas Good and Travis Good, who crafted a distinctive sound, absorbing influences from traditional country, surf music, and garage rock, and blending them into something unique with their estimable instrumental skills. The band’s best work emphasized mood as much as melody, and they were open to collaboration with artists they respected, cutting albums with Neko Case, John Doe, Gord Downie, and Andre Williams. Here’s Stop and Start, credited to all four members of the band at the time of the recording. Sadly, Dallas Good died unexpectedly on February 17, 2022, at the age of 48 from a recently detected heart condition.

The Knack/My Sharona

And once again, we’ve reached the final stop of yet another Sunday Six. Let’s wrap up with a fun tune by Los Angeles power pop band The Knack: My Sharona, their first single that became an international sensation, topping the charts in the U.S., Canada and Australia, peaking at no. 3 in New Zealand and reaching the top 10 in the UK, Switzerland, Spain and Italy. The song’s huge popularity also propelled the band’s debut album Get the Knack to no. 1 in the U.S., Canada and Australia – a level of success the band never managed to replicate. After their third album, they split for the first time in mid-1982. The Knack had a few reunions thereafter until their permanent end in February 2010, following the death of the band’s lead vocalist and guitarist Doug Fieger from cancer at the age of 57.

Here’s a playlist of the above tunes. Hope there’s something there you like.

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube; Spotify