Are you ready to escape your surroundings for a little while and embark on another imaginary trip into the magical world of music? If yes, you’ve come to the right place; if not, I hope you’ll stick around anyway! It’s amazing what music can do, especially on a rainy weekend like in my neck of the woods of central New Jersey, USA. Without any further ado, let’s start up the music time machine!
Our first stop leads us back to the year 1956 and some beautiful jazz by Swedish saxophonist Lars Gullin. He started out on the accordion and switched to the clarinet at age 13 before first embracing the alto saxophone. After moving to Stockholm in 1947, Gullin became a professional pianist, aiming to pursue a classical career. But in 1949 an unexpected tenure as the baritone saxophonist in Seymour Österwall’s band changed Gullin’s trajectory yet again, and this time he stuck with jazz. In the early ’50s, he was a member of Arne Domnérus’ septet and also started working with visiting American jazz musicians like James Moody, Zoot Sims, Clifford Brown and Lee Konitz. In 1953, Gullin formed his own short-lived group. In October 1955, he teamed up with Chet Baker for a European tour, which tragically involved the heroin-induced death of the group’s pianist Dick Twardzik. Sadly, Gullin developed his own addiction to narcotics, which eventually took his life in May 1976 at the age of 48. Here’s Fedja, a Gullin composition off his 1956 album Baritone Sax.
Marshall Crenshaw/Cynical Girl
Let’s next set our time machine to April 1982 and a neat artist I’ve started to explore recently, thanks to fellow blogger Rich who pens the great KamerTunesBlog where he featured Marshall Crenshaw and his 1983 sophomore album Field Day the other day. I instantly loved the American singer-songwriter’s catchy power pop and promptly covered Someday, Someway, a tune off his eponymous debut, which appeared in April 1982. It was a close decision between that tune and Cynical Girl, another song from that album I love. According to Wikipedia, the tune is a satire on the “mass culture” Crenshaw disliked, not about a specific girl.
Little Eva/The Loco-Motion
Time to go a little loco with one of my favorite early ’60s tunes: The Loco-Motion by Little Eva. It was one of the many great tunes by songwriting powerhouse Carole King and her husband and lyricist Gerry Goffin, who during the ’60s penned an impressive amount of hits for the likes of The Shirelles, Bobby Vee, The Chiffons, The Drifters, Herman’s Hermits, The Monkees and even The Animals. And, of course, Eva Narcissus Boyd, aka. Little Eva, the babysitter for King and Goffin, who became an overnight sensation with The Loco-Motion. Her debut single, released in June 1962, topped the U.S. pop and R&B charts and hit no. 2 in the UK. Initially, Goffin-King had written the tune for R&B singer Dee Dee Sharp but he turned it down, making Little Eva one of the most famous babysitters in pop history. What a timeless classic!
The Allman Brothers Band/It Ain’t Over Yet
This next pick is a bit out of left field. When you think of The Allman Brothers Band, tunes like Whipping Post, Melissa, Ramblin’ Man and the bouncy instrumental Jessica come to mind. It Ain’t Over Yet? Possibly not so much. I coincidentally came across that track a while ago and dug it from the get-go, so I earmarked for a Sunday Six. Co-written by Doug Crider and by the Brothers’ second keyboarder Johnny Neel, It Ain’t Over Yet became the closer of the group’s ninth studio album Seven Turns, released in July 1990 – their first after their second breakup in 1982. It Ain’t Over Yet, an appropriate title, also appeared separately as the album’s third single. Allen Woody’s slap bass playing gives the tune a bit of a funky vibe. Perhaps more familiar is the neat guitar work by Dickey Betts and Warren Haynes, and of course the vocals by the one and only Gregg Allman. Hope you dig that song as much as I’ve come to!
Alejandro Escovedo/The Crossing
Let’s go back to the current century and set our time machine to September 2018. I don’t recall how I came across that next tune and suspect it may have been served up as a listening suggestion by my streaming music provider. It’s another song that’s been on my list of earmarked tracks for a Sunday Six. Alejandro Escovedo, the son of a Mexican immigrant to Texas and a Texas native and, according to his website, one of 12 children, is an eclectic rock musician and singer-songwriter who has been recording and touring since the late ’70s. He played in various bands, such as punk groups The Nuns and Judy Nylon’s band, as well as country rock formation Rank and File, before releasing his 1992 solo debut Gravity, an alternative country and heartland rock-oriented outing. Fast-forward 26 years and The Crossing, the title cut of his 2018 studio album. You can find more about Escovedo’s story on his aforementioned website. For now, let’s listen to this excellent and haunting tune!
Sly And The Family Stone/Family Affair
And once again, it’s time to wrap up another trip. Our final destination takes us back to November 1971 and There’s a Riot Goin’ On, the fifth studio album by psychedelic funk and soul powerhouse Sly And The Family Stone. Mirroring other African American artists at the time like Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Curtis Mayfield, the record marked a departure from the group’s previous more upbeat songs by embracing sentiments like apathy, pessimism and disillusionment. The lead single Family Affair, which like all other tunes was written by frontman Sylvester Stewart (Sly Stone), became the group’s third and final no. 1 hit in the U.S. on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Best Selling Soul Singles (today known as Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs) charts. It also was their most successful international song, charting in Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands and the UK.
As usual, I’m leaving you with a Spotify playlist featuring the above tunes. Hope there’s something you dig!
Sources: Wikipedia; Alejandro Escovedo website; YouTube; Spotify