It’s Sunday, folks, and I’d like to invite you to join me on another time-travel journey into the amazing world of music. For first-time visitors, our eclectic trip will include six stops in six different decades and involve music in different flavors. Are you with me? All aboard, buckle your seatbelt and let’s go!
Cindy Blackman Santana/Passage
Our first stop today is in May 1998 and some groovy jazz music by Cindy Blackman Santana (then still Cindy Blackman). I first came across this amazing drummer in 2014 while watching this clip of Lenny Kravitz, a longtime favorite artist. At first, I primarily paid attention to him before noticing this stunning African American lady on the drums. Then, as oftentimes happens, I was on to other music and “forgot” about Blackman until fellow blogger Lisa from Tao Talk prompted me to think of female artists in connection with her excellent Women Music March series. I already committed to pen a contribution for the 2024 run about Blackman who was introduced to the drums as a seven-year-old when she spotted a drum kit at a friend’s house and began playing. Soon thereafter, she joined the school band and persuaded her parents to get her toy drums. At age 11, she studied at Hartt School of Music in Hartford, Conn. and two years later started developing an interest in jazz after she had listened to Max Roach. She got her first professional drum kit at age 14 and subsequently moved to Boston to study Berklee College of Music. I just love everything about this story! In 1988, then-29-year-old Blackman released her debut album as a leader, Arcane, which mostly featured her own compositions. In 1993, she met Lenny Kravitz and was featured in the official video of his great hit single Are You Gonna Go My Way. Yep, she surely did and became his touring drummer for the next 18 years! In December 2010, she married that other famous guitarist, and they remain together to this day. Going back to May 1998, here’s Passage, an original Blackman composition from her studio album In the Now. Blackman was backed by top-notch jazz musicians, including saxophonist Ravi Coltrane (son of John Coltrane), Ron Carter (bass) and Jacky Terrasson (piano, Fender Rhodes).
Dr. Feelgood/Down At the Doctors
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like going to the doctor, though I’m pretty quick with unsolicited advice to friends, telling them they should go if something bugs them. Miraculously, my reluctance tends to vanish pretty quickly when the treatment is music, so let’s next travel to October 1978 for a shot of R&B. Our doctor are kickass British pub rockers Dr. Feelgood. Fittingly, the treatment is called Down At the Doctors, a great blues rocker penned by Mickey Jupp. They recorded it for their sixth studio album Private Practice, best known for Milk and Alcohol, which became the band’s best-performing single. Founded in 1971, Dr. Feelgood are still around as a touring act, though with none of the co-founders. That said, three of the current members – Gordon Russell (lead and slide guitars, backing vocals), Phil Mitchell (bass, acoustic guitar, backing vocals) and Kevin Morris (drums, percussion, backing vocals) – first joined in 1983, a whopping 40 years ago! Lead vocalist and harmonica player Robert Kane has been with the group since 1999. Okay, let’s get some rock ‘n roll in the arm. While it’s not clear to me what happened to the eight bars on the piano, I know this: Down At the Doctors always makes me feel good!
Johnny Cash/Folsom Prison Blues
Charged up with a dose of R&B, let’s set our music time machine to October 1957 and the debut album by Johnny Cash. While for many years I essentially dismissed all country as hillbilly music, my obvious ignorance always had one exception. From the very first moment I heard Cash, I thought The Man in Black pretty much had the same coolness factor as early Elvis Presley. It also turned out the two artists started their recording career with producer Sam Phillips, founder of the legendary independent label Sun Records in Memphis, Tenn. Folsom Prison Blues, one of Cash’s best-known tunes, first appeared on Johnny Cash with His Hot and Blue Guitar! Nearly 10 years later, the tune also became the de facto title track of his first live album At Folsom Prison. On the original studio recording, Cash (vocals, rhythm guitar) was backed by lead guitarist Luther Perkins and upright bassist Marshall Grant, who ended up serving in that capacity for 25 years. In 1960, drummer W. S. Holland joined, and Cash’s backing band became known as The Tennessee Three. Folsom Prison Blues is a great example of that magic Sun Studios rockabilly sound. It also features one of the greatest storytelling lyrics I can think of: When I was just a baby/My mama told me son/always be a good boy/don’t ever play with guns/But I shot a man in Reno/ just to watch him die/When I hear that whistle blowing/I hang my head and cry – this is poetry!
Paul McCartney/I Don’t Know
While I love visiting music dating back 30, 40 and even more years, let’s not forget the current century. My proposition is September 2018, which saw the release of Paul McCartney’s 17th solo album Egypt Station. Sure, it’s no Band On the Run, but I would still call it a remarkable late career accomplishment and Macca’s best album in many years. Let’s check out I Don’t Know. The beautiful piano-driven ballad also became Egypt Station’s lead single in June 2018. Clearly, Paul’s vocals are weathered, but they are a perfect match for the tune, so I wouldn’t want them to sound any different! Last June, Macca turned 80. I had the thrill to see him at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey just a couple of days prior to his big birthday. He still had a ball on that stage!
Gang of Four/Call Me Up
Our next stop takes us to 1982 and Call Me Up, a cool tune by English post-punk band Gang of Four. Frankly, I can’t quite remember how I came across that song, off their third studio album Songs of the Free. I suspect my streaming music provider served it up as a suggestion after I had listened to Televison’s excellent studio debut Marquee Moon. Obviously, there are some stylistic similarities. Like all other tracks on Songs of the Free, Call Me Up was co-written by the group’s Andrew Gill (guitar, vocals) and Jon King (vocals, melodica). Sara Lee (bass, backing vocals) and Hugo Burnham (drums, percussion) completed their lineup of the band, formed in Leeds in 1976. Along with co-founders King and Burham, Lee remains a Gang of Four member to this day. In October 2021, David Pajo officially was announced as having joined the group. This came in the wake of Gill’s untimely death in February 2020 at the age of 64.
The Kinks/Got My Feet On the Ground
I hate to say it, but all things must pass, and once again we’re reaching the final destination of yet another Sunday Six. Let’s wrap up this trip with one of my all-time favorite bands, The Kinks. Together with The Who, they are early pioneers of punk, who influenced punk bands like Ramones and The Clash. In particular, I dig their ’60s music, which is convenient since we haven’t visited that decade yet on this trip – something that simply cannot occur, as long as I operate the time machine! So here are The Kinks with Got My Feet On the Ground, a deeper but nevertheless great cut. Co-written by the oftentimes feuding brothers Ray Davies (lead vocals, guitars) and Dave Davies (vocals, electric guitar), the song is off the group’s sophomore album Kinda Kinks. It’s one of the tracks featuring Dave on lead vocals. While The Kinks never formally split, the combative brothers’ relationship further deteriorated after their final show in 1996. But, dare I say it, things seem to have improved more recently, with media reports suggesting they have been talking to each other. Inevitably, this brings up the question about a formal reunion. “Ray and I have spoken about it,” Dave Davies told British online paper The Independent in July 2022, adding, “It’s possible!” We shall see!
Sources: Wikipedia; The Independent; YouTube; Spotify