I hope everybody is spending a groovy Sunday. To all the mamas, Happy Mother’s Day! None of us would be here without you! And to the papas and the kids, remember mothers are superheroes working hard every day, so please do not only be kind to them today but also during the remaining 364 days of the year!
Why don’t we all, the mamas, the papas and the kids, have some fun with another music time travel trip? As always, the magical time machine will take us to six different decades to listen to six tracks in different flavors. Let’s fasten our seatbelts and go!
Lester Young/There Will Never Be Another You
Our first stop today is June 1954 and what feels like a bar late at night with some relaxing jazz music by Lester Young. The American jazz tenor saxophonist and occasional clarinetist was born in Woodville, Miss. in 1909 and grew up in a musical family. By the age of ten, he already had learned the basics of the trumpet, violin and drums and joined the Young Family Band, touring with carnivals and playing in regional cities in the southwestern U.S. He first picked up the tenor saxophone in the 1920s and left the Young Family Band at the age of 18, since he no longer wanted to tour in the racially segregated Jim Crow South. Eventually, Young settled in Kansas City in 1933 and gained prominence playing in Count Basie’s band. Over the next 10-plus years, he also was in various other bands and recorded with Billie Holiday and Nat “King” Cole. In the ’50s, Young recorded a series of albums as a leader. Sadly, he passed away at the age of 49 in March 1959 from internal bleeding resulting from alcoholism. There Will Never Be Another You, a popular song with music by Harry Warren and lyrics by Mack Gordon, was included on Lester Young with the Oscar Peterson Trio, one of two compilation albums with that title released in June 1954. They were subsequently combined with music from a third album, The President, and reissued in 1956 as The President Plays with the Oscar Peterson Trio.
The Tragically Hip/Bobcaygeon
Next, we set our time machine to July 1998 and music by alternative rockers The Tragically Hip. Max from PowerPop recently featured the celebrated Canadian band, who in turn had been brought to his attention by Canadian fellow bloggers Dave from A Sound Day and DeKE from deKe’s Vinyl Reviews & More… – lots of cross-pollination happening in our blogger community, which is an important reason why I dig music blogging as much as I do! The Tragically Hip, formed in Kingston, Ontario in 1984, were the best-selling band in Canada between 1996 and 2016, yet they were much less recognized in the U.S. And, yes, you can call that a tragedy! During their 33-year run, which ended in October 2017 after the death of vocalist Gord Downie, the group released 13 studio albums, one live album, one compilation album, two video albums, two extended plays and a boxed set – Wikipedia had to count them all! There were also 54 singles. Nine of the Hip’s studio albums topped the Canadian charts and eight reached Platinum or multi-Platinum status there, not to mention Canada’s Walk of Fame, Canadian Music Hall of Fame, multiple Juno Awards and all the other accolades they received – a truly extraordinary record! Bobcaygeon is a great track off the Hip’s sixth studio album Phantom Power, which appeared in July 1998. Credited to the entire band, the tune also became one of the album’s five singles and is among their most enduring and beloved signature songs.
Cream/Outside Woman Blues
On with the trip to the ’60s and music by what may well have been the best power trio of all time. In November 1967, Cream released their sophomore album Disraeli Gears, less than a year after their debut Fresh Cream. During their short, less than 2.5-year recording career, Jack Bruce (bass), Eric Clapton (guitar) and Ginger Baker (drums) released four albums. By the time their final release Goodbye came out in February 1969, they already had disbanded. Given the oftentimes violent fights between Bruce and Baker, it’s actually a miracle they lasted as long as they did and all came out alive. In case you wonder why, you can watch the 2012 documentary Beware of Mr. Baker, which I did again the other day. It’s a fascinating and pretty sad film! Let’s hear Outside Woman Blues, written by folk-blues guitarist Arthur Reynolds who also first recorded it in 1929 as Blind Joe Reynolds. Mr. Slowhand did a nice job rearranging the tune for Cream.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers/Change of Heart
Time to pay a visit to the ’80s and one of my favorite artists of all time, who sadly has been gone for five-and-a-half years: Tom Petty. It’s safe to assume most if not all readers have heard about the guitarist and vocalist who hailed from Gainesville, Fla. where in 1976 he formed Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, together with Mike Campbell (lead guitar), Benmont Tench (keyboards), Ron Blair (bass) and Stan Lynch (drums). Campbell and Tench had been members of Petty’s previous group Mudcrutch, which he had started in 1970. At the time, they only released one poor-selling single before disbanding in late 1975. Petty ended up reviving Mudcrutch more than 30 years later and releasing two albums with them, Mudcrutch (2008) and Mudcrutch 2 (2016). Petty passed away in October 2017. His death was subsequently declared as “multisystem organ failure due to resuscitated cardiopulmonary arrest due to mixed drug toxicity.” Only a week earlier, Petty, who had been on potent painkillers for knee problems and a fractured hip and was also battling other health issues, had finished the final show of the Heartbreakers’ 40th-anniversary tour at the legendary Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. Change of Heart, written by Petty alone, appeared on Long After Dark, the fifth studio album by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released in November 1982. The tune also became one of three singles. Here’s a terrific live version I couldn’t resist using!
The Staple Singers/I’ll Take You There
For our next stop in the ’70s, we don’t need to set our time machine and instead can rely on The Staple Singers to take us there. Our specific destination is February 1972. That’s when the gospel, soul and R&B vocal group put out Be Altitude: Respect Yourself, which became their second-charting album, hitting no. 19 and no. 3 on the Billboard 200 and Soul charts (today known as Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums). At that time, the family group already had existed for 24 years and issued close to 20 albums. Be Altitude: Respect Yourself featured family patriarch Pops Staples and his children Cleotha Staples, Mavis Staples and Yvonne Staples. All have passed except for Mavis Staples, an amazing lady who remains active at 83 years and just embarked on a summer tour with dates until mid-September, mostly in the U.S. and a few in Europe! I’ll Take You There, written by Alvertis Isbell, became one of two no. 1 singles the group scored on the Billboard Hot 100, beating Respect Yourself, the other hit single from that album, which “only” reached no. 12 on the pop chart. Take us there!
The Lone Bellow/Gold
We have time for one more stop. Let’s finish our trip in the present, specifically in November 2022. The Lone Bellow are an Americana and roots trio that began as a song-writing project for Zach Williams (guitar, lead vocals). Following his wife’s temporary paralysis that resulted from an accident, Williams started writing a journal to cope with the situation. Urged by friends, he picked up the guitar and turned his journal entries into songs. After performing as a solo act in New York City, he joined with Brian Elmquist (guitar, vocals) and Kanene Donehey Pipkin (mandolin, bass, keyboard, vocals). In January 2013, the trio released their eponymous debut album. Fast-forward nearly 10 years to Love Songs for Losers, their fifth and most recent album. Here’s Gold, a roots rock tune with a dose of pop – quite catchy music and neat harmony singing!
This Sunday Six wouldn’t be complete without a link to a Spotify playlist of the above tracks. Hope there’s something that tickles your fancy!
Sources: Wikipedia; Mavis Staples website; YouTube; Spotify