It’s Sunday and I hope you’re feeling groovy. Once again, I’d like to invite you to accompany me on another excursion to visit music from different decades in different flavors. As always, the time machine will make six stops. Fasten your seatbelts and off we go!
Bob Brookmeyer & Stan Getz/A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square
Our first stop takes us to the fall of 1961. That’s when jazz musicians Bob Brookmeyer (valve trombone, piano) and Sten Getz (saxophone) got together for a studio album appropriately titled Recorded Fall 1961. Brookmeyer, who began playing professionally in his teens in the 1940s, was a pianist in big bands led Tex Beneke and Ray McKinley, before focusing on valve trombone beginning in the early 1950s. Over a 50-year-plus recording career, he has released numerous albums as leader or co-leader and worked as a sideman for Manny Albam, Gerry Mulligan and Jimmy Giuffre, among others. Getz first gained prominence in the late 1940s playing in Woody Herman’s big band. Influenced by João Gilberto and Antônio Carlos Jobim, the tenor saxophonist also helped popularize bossa nova in the U.S. Recorded Fall 1961 was the fourth of six albums on which Getz and Brookmeyer worked with each other. The record also featured Steve Kuhn (piano), John Neves (double bass) and Roy Haynes (drums). Here’s their beautiful rendition of A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, a British romantic popular song written in 1939 and published the following year, with lyrics by Eric Maschwitz and music by Manning Sherwin.
For this next tune, let’s jump 57 years forward into the current century. In September 2018, Lenny Kravitz released his 11th studio album Raise Vibration, his most recent to date. Following challenges in his early career, where some clever music industry officials told him he didn’t sound “black enough” while others opined his music embraced too many influences of artists like Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles, the American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and actor has established himself with more than 40 million records sold worldwide and multiple awards. After Kravitz had finished the supporting tour of his 2014 album Strut, he was uncertain about his musical direction. At the same time, he rejected the advice from others to collaborate with producers and songwriters who know how to score hits. Low turned out to be the catalyst that spurred the artistic creativity that led to Raise Vibration, which I previously reviewed here. Like most other tracks on the album, the groovy tune was solely written by Kravitz. The “oohs” in the song are posthumous vocals by Michael Jackson.
The Guess Who/These Eyes
These Eyes by The Guess Who is a tune I must have earmarked for a Sunday Six several months ago, but for some reason, I didn’t use it until now. The Canadian rock band’s origins go back to 1958 when Winnipeg singer and guitarist Chad Allan formed a local group called Allan and the Silvertones. In January 1965, the band, then called Chad Allan & The Expressions, released their debut album Shakin’ All Over. The group’s cover of the Johnny Kidd & the Pirates song also became their fourth single. The band’s American label Quality Records thought it would be clever to disguise their name by crediting the tune to Guess Who? Not only did the publicity stunt work but it also gave birth to their new name. These Eyes, co-written by band members Randy Bachman (lead guitar, backing vocals) and Burton Cummings (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, keyboards, flute except), appeared on The Guess Who’s fourth studio album Wheatfield, which came out in March 1969. It was also released as a single and became the group’s highest-charting tune in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100 at the time, reaching no. 6. In Canada, it climbed to no. 7, marking their fourth top 10 hit. The Guess Who are still around as a touring act, including original drummer Garry Peterson, and maintain a fairly busy touring schedule.
If you brought up traffic in May 1994, our next stop, I think most folks would have assumed you were referring to cars, not the English rock band that had broken up for the second time in 1974. Following the reunification of the surviving members of Traffic for a one-off tour in 1994, Steve Winwood and Jim Capaldi decided to revive their writing collaboration. They had maintained a working partnership since Traffic’s second break-up, with Winwood playing at least on one track of most of Capaldi’s solo albums. This resulted in Far From Home, an album they released as Traffic. Between the two of them, Winwood and Capaldi played nearly all of the instruments. Here’s the groovy opener Riding High, which all except one of the other tracks was co-written by the partners. Unfortunately, Capaldi passed away in January 2005 at the age of 60.
Crosby, Stills & Nash/Wasted On the Way
By the 1980s, it’s fair to say the greatest days of Crosby, Stills & Nash were behind them. This doesn’t mean they had lost their ability to sing in sweet perfect harmony and record great songs. One example I was reminded of the other day is Wasted On the Way, a beautiful tune penned by Graham Nash. It was included on CSN’s fourth studio album Daylight Again, released in June 1982. While it generally didn’t match the performance of the predecessor CSN, both in terms of chart placement and sales, Daylight Again did pretty well, especially in the U.S. where it climbed to no. 8 on the Billboard 200 and sold one million copies by January 1993, gaining Platinum certification. They went on to release four additional albums, including two with Neil Young. This harmony singing is just sheer magic!
And this, my friends, once again brings us to the sixth and final stop, in the ’70s. American punk-era rock band Television first entered my radar screen last year when fellow blogger Max from PowerPop featured Marquee Moon, the cool title track of their debut album that came out in February 1977. On that same record was another tune titled Friction. In fact, I could have picked pretty much any other song from that great album. Like Marquee Moon, Friction was written by Tom Verlaine, the group’s frontman, lead vocalist, guitarist and keyboarder. Technically, Television are still around, though their status looks in doubt with the death of Verlaine from cancer on January 28 this year.
Last but not least, here’s a Spotify playlist featuring all the above tracks. Hope there’s something you dig!
Sources: Wikipedia; The Guess Who website; YouTube; Spotify