The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

It’s Sunday and I hope everybody is feeling groovy. Let’s embark on another journey to the magical world of music to leave any worries behind, at least temporarily, or simply have a great time! As usual, the trip is eclectic, involving six tunes from different decades in different flavors.

Thelonious Monk/Ruby My Dear

Today, our time machine first takes us to the year 1951 and beautiful music by American jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk. The second most recorded jazz composer after Duke Ellington, Monk was active as a jazz performer mostly from the early 1940s until the mid-1970s. Apart from a sizable amount of releases under his name, Monk also recorded as a sideman with the likes of Art Blakey, Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins. During the final 10 years of his life, he only made a small number of appearances due to his declining health. Monk passed away from a stroke in February 1982 at the age of 64. Ruby My Dear, one of his many compositions that became jazz standards, was first recorded in October 1947 for Genius of Modern Music, a compilation of Monk’s first recordings as band leader for the Blue Note label, which exists in four different versions released at different times. The earliest came out in 1951. Aw, so soothing!

Tonio K./I Can’t Stop

Next, we jump to the late ’80s and a tune by Tonio K. The American singer-songwriter first entered my radar screen in December 2021 when I featured You, a gem he wrote together with John Shanks and Bob Thiele for Bonnie Raitt’s 12th studio album Longing in Their Hearts released in March 1994. K. (born  Steven M. Krikorian) has also penned tunes for Al Green, Aaron Neville, Chicago and Wynonna Judd, among many others. In addition to that he has released nine solo albums to date, something fellow blogger Max from PowerPop reminded me of the other when he posted about Life in the Foodchain, K.’s solo debut from 1978. This brings me to I Can’t Stop, a funky song from his fifth solo release Notes from the Lost Civilization, which came out in 1988. Beware, this song with its cool guitar and organ parts is pretty infectious and couldn’t have a better title!

The Youngbloods/Foolin’ Around (The Waltz)

No Sunday Six journey can leave out the ’60s. This time, our stop is January 1967, which saw the release of the eponymous debut album by The Youngbloods. Oftentimes, the American rock band is only remembered for their sole U.S. top 40 hit Get Together, which upon re-release in 1969 peaked at no. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. While they may have been a one-hit wonder, the group had other great songs. But they never achieved widespread popularity and disbanded in 1972. After a reunion in late 1984 for a brief tour, The Youngbloods broke up again in mid-1985. Coming back to their first album, here Foolin’ Around (The Waltz), written by co-founder Jesse Colin Young. If I see this correctly, this wasn’t released as a single – perhaps the unusual change from 4/4 to 3/4 time signature didn’t make it particularly radio-friendly.

Alice Cooper/School’s Out

The other day, I found myself listening to the radio in my car while running an errand when School’s Out by Alice Cooper came on. Christian couldn’t help himself but turn up the volume and sing along full throttle – it was probably a good thing no one else was around and all car windows were closed! This tune took me back to my school days and my only spontaneous protest against teachers when singing along to Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2) during a classroom party. When our classroom (English) teacher walked in, he briefly smiled before putting on a more serious facial expression. We quickly stopped singing. Anyway, that’s my longwinded intro to the great Alice Cooper tune, which first appeared in April 1972 as the lead single to the rock band’s fifth studio album with the same title – also a good reminder that before Alice Cooper (born Vincent Damon Furnier) started performing solo under this name in 1975, there was the band Alice Cooper, which 16-year-old Furnier co-founded in 1964 as The Earwigs with four high school mates to enter a local talent show. After cycling through a couple of other names, they became Alice Cooper in 1968. School’s Out, credited to all members of the band, became their biggest international hit and arguably their signature song. Feel free to scream along! ūüôā

The Verve/Bittersweet Symphony

And we’re on to the ’90s and Urban Hymns, the third studio album by English Britpop band The Verve, which appeared in September 1997. Seven years after their formation, not only did it bring them their first no. 1 album in the UK but also broad international sales and chart success. In fact, Urban Hymns became the group’s biggest seller and the 19th best-selling album in UK chart history. It almost didn’t happen. After The Verve had gone through some physical and mental turmoil, frontman and lead vocalist Richard Ashcroft broke up the group in September 1995. While he reunited with two of their members a few weeks thereafter, guitarist Nick McGabe at first refused to return. In early 1997, Ashcroft changed the guitarist’s mind, and he rejoined the band for the ongoing Urban Hymns recording sessions. But the group’s biggest success couldn’t prevent their second split in April 1999. They reformed one more time in 2007 and released one additional album the following year before breaking up again in 2009 – this time for good. Bittersweet Symphony, written by Ashcroft, first appeared as the lead single from Urban Hymns in June 1997. But the single’s success was, well, bittersweet. Following a lawsuit finding The Verve illegally had taken a sample from a 1965 version of The Rolling Stones’ The Last Time by The Andrew Oldham Orchestra, all royalties were relinquished and Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were added to the songwriting credits. In 2019, after the death of Allen Klein, the Stones’ manager at the time of the litigation, Jagger and Richards ceded the rights to Ashcroft.

Jonathan Wilson/Love to Love

And once again, another Sunday Six trip is reaching its final destination, which takes us to the current century. When my former German bandmate and longtime music buddy recently recommended that I check out Fanfare, the second studio album by Jonathan Wilson, the name rang a distant bell. I couldn’t help and search my blog, which revealed Wilson produced Misadventures of Doomscroller, the excellent eighth studio album by American rock band Dawes, which I reviewed here in early January. Apart from his work as a producer for 10-plus years, Wilson has also released a series of solo albums and EPs since 2007. The above-noted Fanfare came out in 2013. Here is Love to Love, which like most other tunes on the album was solely written by Wilson. I’m really beginning to like this man!

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube; Spotify

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Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

There’s a good deal of recently released new music I came across today for this 10th and latest installment of the recurring feature. Two longtime acts, Alice Cooper and Scorpions, join four artists who are entirely new to me. From shock rock to bluegrass to blues rock, it’s all here. That kind of variety is exactly how I envisaged these posts to be when I started the series. Let’s get to it!

Alice Cooper/Don’t Give Up

While I don’t listen frequently to Mr. Shock Rock, I dig classics like School’s Out and No More Mr. Nice Guy. Alice Cooper’s latest single Don’t Give Up, which was released on May 15, certainly isn’t comparable to these aforementioned tunes, but I still find it sufficiently enjoyable. “”Don’t Give Up” is a song about what we‚Äôve all been going through right now and about keeping our heads up and fighting back together,” Cooper stated on his website. This video wouldn‚Äôt have been possible without you – and who knows, you might be in it!And whatever you do – “Don’t Give Up”” – okey dokey!

Scorpions/Sign of Hope

I’ve been meaning to write again about the German rock/pop metal band and guess I was looking for an occasion. Now I got one: Don’t Give Up, a new single that came out on May 14. Scorpions first entered my radar screen in 1984 with their ninth studio album Love at First Sting. Various songs from that record received heavy radio play in Germany, especially Rock You Like a Hurricane, Big City Nights and Still Loving You. While I don’t listen much to metal, what I always liked about Scorpions is how they blended heavy guitar rock with pop and catchy melodies. “We are working on lot‚Äôs of Hard‚Äėn Heavy Rockers for our new album these days,” reads a short statement from the band on their website. “…but because of the dramatic Covid-19 pandemic, we want to give you a little Sign of Hope that came straight from the heart in troubled times ‚Ķ stay healthy and safe ‚Ķ we love you ‚Ķ Scorpions.”

Margo Price/Twinkle Twinkle

This 37-year-old country singer-songwriter from Nashville is new to me. Based on Wikipedia, Margo Price grew up in Aledo, Ill. and moved to Nashville at age 20 in 2003 after dropping out of school. Her debut studio album Midwest Farmer’s Daughter appeared in March 2016. Twinkle Twinkle, a nice scorching rocker, is the second single from Price’s upcoming third album That‚Äôs How Rumors Get Started, produced by Sturgill Simpson. The song appeared on March 11. The release of the new album has been pushed back to July 10 due to COVID-19.

Brian Fallon/When You’re Ready

Brian Fallon is a 40-year-old singer-songwriter from Red Bank, N.J. While that’s only 30 miles from my house, I had never heard of this artist before either. It looks like he has been active since 1997 and released three studio albums and one EP to date. When You’re Ready is a pretty, soothing tune from his most recent album Local Honey released on March 27. Are you ready? ūüôā

Watkins Family Hour/Miles of Desert Sand

According to Wikipedia, Watkins Family Hour is a bluegrass musical collaborative led by Sara and Sean Watkins. The group began in 2002 as a monthly, informal musical  variety show with the Watkins siblings and their friends in the Los Angeles nightclub Largo. Their eponymous debut album, which consists entirely of covers, was released on July 24, 2015…and was produced by Sheldon Gomberg. Among others, Gomberg has worked with Charlie Musselwhite, Rickie Lee Jones, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Jackson Browne and Steve Forbert– quite impressive credentials! Miles of Desert Sand is from their most recent album Brother Sister from April 10, which based on Discogs appears to be their sophomore album. I really dig the warm sound of the fiddle and the harmony singing. Check it out!

Shawn Pittman/There Will Be a Day

Let’s end this post with some funky blues. There Will Be a Day is a hot groovy tune from Make It Right!, which according to Wikipedia is the 13th album by blues rock singer-songwriter Shawn Pittman, another artist I don’t believe I had heard of before. But I can tell you one thing: Based on the few songs I’ve sampled from that album, I’m ready for more! Pittman who was born and grew up in Oklahoma moved to Dallas at age 17. He had picked up the guitar in his early teens and got involved in the music scene at Schooners, a Dallas local club. In 1996 as a 22-year-old, Pittman self-recorded his debut album Blues From Texas, which was retitled Burnin’ Up for his national debut in 1997. Pittman has worked with musicians from Double Trouble, the former backing band of Stevie Ray Vaughan, as well as Kim Wilson, Gary Clark Jr. and Susan Tedeschi, to name a few others. Make It Right! was released on April 10. Pittman certainly embraced the title!

Sources: Wikipedia; Alice Cooper website; Scorpions website; Discogs; YouTube

On This Day In Rock & Roll History: August 28

1964:¬†The Beatles performed the first of two gigs at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in Queens, New York during the U.S. leg of their world tour that year. They played their standard 12-song set of original tunes largely drawing from the A Hard Day’s Night album, as well as rock & roll covers. The tunes¬†included Twist And Shout,¬†You Can’t Do That,¬†All My Loving,¬†She Loves You,¬†Things We Said Today,¬†Roll Over Beethoven,¬†Can’t Buy Me Love,¬†If I Fell,¬†I Want To Hold Your Hand,¬†Boys,¬†A Hard Day’s Night¬†and¬†Long Tall Sally. After the show, The Fab Four met Bob Dylan¬†who visited them in their suite at the Delmonico Hotel in New York City. Beatles biographer Jonathan Gould¬†noted the musical and cultural significance of the meeting, saying within six months, “Lennon would be making records on which he openly imitated Dylan’s nasal drone, brittle strum, and introspective vocal persona”; and six months after that, Dylan began performing with a backing band and electric instrumentation, and “dressed in the height of Mod fashion.” While the fact that great music artists influence each other isn’t exactly surprising, based¬†on The Beatles Bible’s account of that night, it seems to me John, Paul, George and Ringo primarily got stoned with Dylan who brought along some grass to smoke. Not really sure how much their condition allowed them to have meaningful conversations about music. Here’s some footage from the Forest Hills show, a great illustration of Beatlemania, which makes me wonder why The Beatles didn’t stop touring earlier.

1965: Exactly one year after The Beatles, Bob Dylan took the stage at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, marking the first night of a 40-date North American tour. Following a solo section, Dylan played an electric set. This all happened only about a month after he had rattled the “folkies” at the Newport Folk Festival. On that night in Forest Hills, Dylan’s electric backing band featured guitarist Robbie Robertson and drummer Levon Helm, who were then associated with a band called The Hawks, a predecessor to The Band.¬†Harvey Brooks¬†(bass) and Al Kooper (organ) rounded out the line-up. After the first two shows of the tour, Robertson and Helm insisted that their mates from The Hawks join Dylan’s backing band: Rick Danko¬†(bass),¬†Garth Hudson¬†(keyboards) and Richard Manuel (drums). Dylan agreed, and until May 1966, they would be billed as Bob Dylan and the Band. Here’s a clip of Like A Rolling Stone, which supposedly was captured from the Forest Hills gig. The sound quality is horrible, but, hey, it’s mighty Dylan and it’s historical!

1968: Simon and Garfunkel’s fourth and second-to-last studio album Bookends hit no. 1 on the UK Official Albums Chart Top 100, starting a five-week run in the top spot there. Apart from the title track, the record featured gems like America and the no. 1 U.S. single¬†Mrs. Robinson. Written by Paul Simon, the tune had become famous the previous year when it had been included in the American motion picture The Graduate. I’ve always loved the bluesy touch of that song.

1972: Alice Cooper¬†topped the British singles chart with¬†School’s Out, scoring his only no. 1 hit anywhere in the world. Credited to Cooper (lead vocals) and the members of his band at the time,¬†Michael Bruce (rhythm guitar, keyboards, backing vocals),¬†Glen Buxton (lead guitar), Dennis Dunaway (bass, backing vocals) and Neal Smith (drums, backing vocals), the tune was the title track of the band’s fifth studio album released in June 1972. School’s Out also became Cooper’s biggest chart success in the U.S., peaking at no. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100. According to Songfacts, Cooper during a 2008 interview with Esquire said, “When we did ‘School’s Out,’ I knew we had just done the national anthem. I’ve become the Francis Scott Key of the last day of school.” It’s also safe to assume, Cooper shocked some school principals and parents.

1981: British DJ, producer and band manager Guy Stevens passed away at the age of 38 years from an¬†overdose of prescription drugs he was taking to reduce his alcohol dependency – yikes! Among others, Stevens gave Procol Harum and Mott the Hoople their distinct names. He also co-produced The Clash’s fifth studio album London Calling from December 1979, together with Mick Jones, the band’s co-founder, lead guitarist and co-lead vocalist. Stevens also brought Chuck Berry to the U.K. for his first tour there in 1963. He also was the president¬†of the¬†Chuck Berry¬†Appreciation Society. According to Wikipedia, Stevens introduced lyricist Keith Reid to keyboarder Gary Brooker and told Reid at a party that a friend had turned “a whiter shade of pale”. Supposedly, these words inspired the song with the same title that was subsequently recorded by Brooker’s newly formed band Procol Harum and became a major international hit in 1967.

Sources: Wikipedia, This Day In Music, The Beatles Bible, Songfacts, YouTube

Clips & Pix: Alice Cooper/School’s Out

One of Mr. Shock Rock’s defining tunes

To say it right upfront, I know very little about Alice Cooper, so cannot claim to be a fan. Yet, I’m seeing him tomorrow night as part of a double feature with Deep Purple,¬†my favorite hard rock band since I was 14 or so, when I got the Machine Head album on vinyl – still own it to this day! Cooper’s School’s Out is one of a handful of his tunes I know and kind of think is cool. The following clip was captured back in May during a show in Ohio.

Credited to all members of the Alice Cooper Band, who in addition to Cooper included Michael Bruce (rhythm guitar, keyboards, backing vocals), Glen Buxton (lead guitar), Dennis Dunaway (bass, backing vocals) and Neal Smith (drums backing vocals), School’s Out was first released as a single in April 1972. It’s the title track of the band’s fifth studio album, which appeared in June that year.

The tune became Cooper’s first big hit, peaking at no. 7 on the U.S.¬†Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart and catapulting the album to climb to no. 2 on the Billboard 200. In the U.K., the song did even better, hitting no. 1 on the U.K. Singles Chart. In 2011, School’s Out was also ranked at 326 in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Sources: Wikipedia, Rolling Stone, YouTube