The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

Happy Sunday and I hope everybody is doing well. Earlier this week, the passing of David Crosby at age 81 once again reminded us we shouldn’t take music artists of his generation who fortunately are still with us for granted. One consolation is their great music will live on as long as this planet exists – that’s one of the incredible beauties of this art form. Let’s celebrate with another excursion into the amazing world of music with six tunes and, yes, Crosby will be one of our stops.

Bobby Timmons/Moanin’

Today, our trip starts in 1960 with groovy music by Bobby Timmons. The American jazz pianist and composer, who started performing during the first half of the ’50s, was best known as a member of Art Blakey’s band The Jazz Messengers, who he first joined in 1958. After his initial stint with this group, he moved on to Cannonball Adderley’s band in October 1959. Timmons was instrumental in creating soul jazz, a subgenre blending influences from hard bop, blues, soul, gospel and R&B. Several of his well-known compositions were written while he was playing with the two aforementioned bands. One is Moanin’, which first appeared as the title track on a 1958 album by The Jazz Messengers. I’m featuring a version Timmons subsequently recorded for an album released under his name in 1960, This Is Here Is Bobby Timmons. On his first album as the sole leader, Timmons was backed by Sam Jones (bass) and Jimmy Cobb (drums).

The Rainmakers/Rainmaker

Let’s jump to the ’80s for our next stop and The Rainmakers, an American pop rock band from Kansas City. When my former bandmate and longtime music buddy from Germany first introduced me to them with their third studio album Tornado, released in 1987, I instantly loved their jangly guitar sound. Formed in 1983 as a three-piece bar band and fronted by singer-songwriter Bob Walkenhorst, The Rainmakers have put out seven studio albums to date. While their most recent release, Cover Band, dates back to 2015, The Rainmakers still appear to be around as a touring act. After two breakup periods from 1990 to 1994 and 1998 to 2011, the band has been together in their original lineup since 2011. In addition to Walkenhorst (guitar, vocals), their current members include Jeff Porter (guitar, vocals), Rich Ruth (bass, vocals) and Pat Tomek (drums). Here’s the seductive Rainmaker, off the aforementioned Tornado album.

Little Village/Take Another Look

Little Village were a supergroup founded in 1991 by Ry Cooder (guitar, vocals), John Hiatt (guitar, piano, vocals), Nick Lowe (bass, vocals) and Jim Keltner (drums). They had worked together on Hiatt’s eighth solo album Bring the Family (May 1987) and decided to form a dedicated band during a break from their own musical projects. Like most supergroups, Little Village were short-lived and only released one eponymous album in February 1992. After a supporting tour of the U.S. and Europe, they disbanded later that same year. While the album didn’t do well commercially, it received a nomination for the 1993 Grammy Award for Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or a Group. The record also peaked at no. 23 on the UK Albums Chart. Here’s Take Another Look, credited to Little Village and featuring Lowe on lead vocals.

Grateful Dead/Shakedown Street

Time to pay a visit to the ’70s with a funky tune by the Grateful Dead. While in July 2018, I jokingly declared I had evolved to become a Deadhead from a bonehead, the reality is my knowledge of the Dead remains fairly limited and mostly includes their earlier albums. As such, I had completely forgotten about Shakedown Street, the groovy title track of their 10th studio album from November 1978, produced by the great Lowell George who is best known as the original frontman of Little Feat. Composed by Jerry Garcia with lyrics by longtime collaborator Robert Hunter, the tune also appeared separately as a single, but like most of their other singles, it was dead on arrival and didn’t chart anywhere. The album performed better, reaching no. 41 and no. 42 in the U.S. and Canada, respectively. I guess the Dead were never about chart success in the first place. Regardless, I dig this funky tune, which soundwise reminds me a bit of 10cc’s Dreadlock Holiday. That tune predated Shakedown Street by about four months.

Los Lobos/Made to Break Your Heart

Our journey continues in the current century. We’re going to September 2015, which saw the release of Gates of Gold, the 15th studio album by Los Lobos. I would argue this group blending rock & roll, Tex-Mex, country, zydeco, folk, R&B, blues, brown-eyed soul, and traditional music such as cumbia, boleros and norteños, is not just another band from East L.A. where they were founded in 1973 as Los Lobos del Este de Los Angeles. They are also much more than La Bamba, their great rendition of the tune first popularized by Ritchie Valens. It became a no. 1 single for Los Lobos in the U.S. and many other countries in 1987 and remains their best-known song. They remain active to this day and released their most recent album Native Sons in late July 2021. I reviewed it here at the time. For now, let’s listen to Made to Break Your Heart. Co-written by David Hidalgo and Louie Pérez, two of the four co-founding members who are still with Los Lobos, the tune is the opener of the above-mentioned Gates of Gold.

Crosby, Stills & Nash/Long Time Gone

Time to wrap up another trip and come back to celebrate the music by David Crosby. In order to do that, let’s go back to May 1969 and the eponymous debut album by Crosby, Stills & Nash. Crosby who was a brilliant musician but had a volatile character co-founded CSN in 1968 together with Stephen Stills and Graham Nash, after he had been dismissed from the Byrds. With Nash joining from The Hollies and Stills coming from the dissolved Buffalo Springfield, CSN are an early example of a supergroup. They became even “more super” when Neil Young joined them as a fourth member in August 1969, just ahead of Woodstock. Among my favorite tunes on CSN’s debut is Long Time Gone, one of the album’s two songs solely penned by Crosby. Another gem on the record, Wooden Ships, was co-written by him, Stills and Paul Kantner. Stills also joined Crosby on lead vocals for Long Time Gone.

Last but not least, here’s a Spotify playlist of the above songs. As always, I hope there’s something that tickles your fancy.

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube; Spotify

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The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

Welcome to another Sunday Six where I take little journeys into the beautiful world of music, including different eras and different flavors, six tunes at a time. Hope you’ll join me!

Jeff Beck/Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers

Earlier this week, we lost one of the greatest guitarists in rock history, Jeff Beck, who suddenly passed away near his home in Southern England at the age of 78 from bacterial meningitis. As such, it feels right to start today’s mini-excursion in March 1975 and Blow By Blow. Beck’s second album that appeared under his name followed Beck, Bogert & Appice, the eponymous and only release by the short-lived power trio Beck had formed after he had dissolved the Jeff Beck Group. Beck gained initial prominence as a member of The Yardbirds where he succeeded Eric Clapton. For a short time, he intersected with Jimmy Page. Somewhere I read all three of these British ‘guitar gods’ grew up in the same geographic area. Unlike Clapton and Page, Beck never achieved huge chart success or record sales. It didn’t take away anything from his brilliance. Here’s his beautiful instrumental rendition of Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers, a tune written by Stevie Wonder. I was happy to see it’s Beck’s most streamed track on Spotify.

The Walkabouts/Nightdrive

We will visit the ’70s one more time. For now, let’s continue our trip with a stop in December 1994 and Setting the Woods On Fire, the seventh album by The Walkabouts. Before continuing, I’d like to give a shoutout to fellow blogger Hotfox63 who covered one of the band’s other records last December, which brought them on my radar screen. The Walkabouts were formed in Seattle, Wa. in 1984. Inspired by folk and country music from the likes of Townes Van Zandt, Neil Young and Johnny Cash, the group released 13 studio albums before they disbanded in 2015. Their rich sound also drew from other genres and artists, such as Scott Walker, Leonard Cohen and Jacques Brel. This brings me to Nightdrive, a song off the above-mentioned album. It’s credited to all members of the group, who at the time included co-founders Chris Eckman (vocals, electric & acoustic guitars, lyrics) and Carla Torgerson (vocals, acoustic & electric guitars, cello), along with Glenn Slater (piano, organ, accordion, loops), Michael Wells (bass guitar, harmonica) and Terri Moeller (drums, percussion, backup vocals) – love that tune!

R.E.M./It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

And we’re on to the ’80s with a song by R.E.M. I had earmarked for a Sunday Six several months ago. Coincidentally, fellow blogger Mike from Ticket to Ride just took a look back at the studio catalog of the American band that started in 1980 in Athens, Ga., and was active until 2011. While I like R.E.M. for their melodic songs and jangly guitar sound, I only know them based on certain songs and have yet to take a deeper dive into their albums. One of the tunes I’ve been aware of for a long time is It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine). Credited to all members and co-founders of the band – Michael Stipe (lead vocals), Peter Buck (guitar), Mike Mills (bass, keyboards, backing vocals) and Bill Berry (drums, backing vocals), the tune first appeared on R.E.M.’s fifth studio album Document released in September 1987, their most successful at the time. It also became the record’s second single but didn’t match the success of the lead single The One I Love. I’ve always dug both tunes.

Bruce Cockburn/Wondering Where the Lions Are

When I was recently in Germany, I met with my longtime friend and music buddy who has given me many great tips since the days when we were bandmates during the second half of the ’80s. One of the artists he mentioned during our recent get-together is Bruce Cockburn (pronounced KOH-bərn). Frankly, other than the name, I wasn’t familiar at all with the Canadian singer-songwriter and guitarist. Where do you start with an artist who has been active since 1967 and released 30-plus albums? Admittedly, I took a shortcut and checked Spotify. The most streamed tune there is Wondering Where the Lions Are. While I can’t tell you at this time whether it’s Cockburn’s best song, I liked it right away. Included on his 1979 album Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaw, the tune is his only U.S. top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, reaching no. 21. In his native Canada, it got to no. 39 on the mainstream chart and no. 7 on the adult contemporary chart. Overall, it looks like Cockburn has been most successful in his home country. Based on another album I heard, he appears to be pretty versatile and definitely is an artist I’d like to further explore. For now, here’s Wondering Where the Lions Are, which like all other tracks on the album was penned by Cockburn – a beautiful folk tune that reminds me a bit of fellow Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot!

Southern Avenue/Control

Time to pay a visit to the present. When it comes to contemporary artists one of the bands I keep coming back to are Southern Avenue. The group from Memphis, Tenn., which has been around since 2015, blends blues and soul with flavors of contemporary R&B. I also love the racial diversity they represent.  Southern Avenue are Israeli blues guitarist Ori Naftaly; three amazing African American ladies, lead vocalist Tierinii Jackson and her sisters Tikyra Jackson (drums, backing vocals) and Ava Jackson (backing vocals); white bassist Evan Sarver; and African American keyboarder Jeremy Powell. Tellingly, in 2016, they became the first new act signed to Stax Records in many years. Control, co-written by Naftaly and Tierinii Jackson, is from the band’s most recent third studio album Be the Love You Want, released in August 2021, which I reviewed here at the time. The funky tune also appeared separately as a single leading up to the album’s release. I find this music is full of soul and pretty seductive.

Byrds/So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star

The sixth tune means we’re once again about to reach the final stop of yet another music excursion. Let’s make it count with a ’60s gem by the Byrds: So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star. Co-written by co-founders Roger McGuinn (credited as Jim McGuinn) and Chris Hillman, the tune has been characterized by Byrds expert Tim Conners as “an acerbic, but good-natured swipe at the success of manufactured rock bands like the Monkees.” While I’m not a fan of how The Monkees came to be, I love their music. Plus, once Don Kirshner was out of the picture, the group’s members started playing their own instruments and getting more control over their music. So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star first appeared in January 1967 as the lead single of the Bryrds’ fourth studio album Younger Than Yesterday, which came out the following month.

Of course, this post wouldn’t be complete without a Spotify playlist featuring each of the highlighted six tunes. Hope there’s something for here!

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube; Spotify

The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

Good morning, afternoon, evening, night…in whichever time zone you are, I’d like to welcome you! Is 2023 already starting to feel old? Are you struggling with sticking to any new year’s resolutions? I hope you can put aside any such thoughts you may have and join me on another trip into the amazing world of music. Let’s all escape the present and have a great time together while it lasts!

Red Garland/Almost Like Being in Love

Today, our journey starts in June 1957 with some groovy jazz by pianist Red Garland. Born in 1923 in Dallas, Tx., Garland started playing the clarinet and alto. saxophone before switching to the piano in 1941. In the ’40s, he also had a short-lived career as a welterweight boxer. Garland who helped popularize the block chord style of playing in jazz piano, gained prominence when he joined the Miles Davis Quintet in 1954. In addition to Davis, it featured jazz greats John Coltrane, Philly Joe Jones and Paul Chambers. After leaving the quintet in 1958, Garland formed his own trio. They recorded with many other artists, such as Pepper Adams, Nat Adderley, Ray Barretto, Kenny Burrell and Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis. Garland continued to work until his death from a heart attack at age 60 in April 1984. Almost Being in Love, composed by Allen Jay Learner and Frederick Loewe, is a great track from Garland’s album Red Garland’s Piano. He was backed by Chambers (bass) and Art Taylor (drums). Feel free to snip along!

Toad The Wet Sprocket/All I Want

Our next stop takes us to the early ’90s and a great tune I was reminded of the other day when I coincidentally caught it on the radio: All I Want by Toad The Wet Sprocket. Formed in 1986 in Santa Barbara, Calif., this alternative rock band took their peculiar name from a Monty Python comedy sketch. After their first two albums, which didn’t receive much attention, the band broke through with their third studio release, Fear, which appeared in August 1991. That success was fueled by All I Want, the second single off the album and the group’s first to chart on the Billboard Hot 100, climbing to no. 15. Toad the Wet Sprocket had a few additional charting songs and disbanded in 1998 after their fifth album Coil. Yet they continued to work on and off until 2008. As of 2009, the band has officially reunited and released two additional albums to date. All I Want was written by Glen Philips (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, mandolin, keyboards), one of three founding members who remain with the group to this day. This jangly guitar sound and beautiful harmony singing are right up my alley!

The Georgia Satellites/Keep Your Hands to Yourself

Time to pay a visit to Atlanta, Ga. The year is 1986 and it’s the month of October. That’s when southern rock band The Georgia Satellites released their eponymous debut album. The record became their most successful to date, surging to no. 5 in the U.S. on the Billboard 200. In turn, that was thanks to Keep Your Hands to Yourself. Their biggest hit peaked at no. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and no. 3 in Canada. Elsewhere, it reached no. 20 in Australia and no. 69 in the UK. After two more albums and a few additional charting singles, the group went on hiatus in 1990. The Georgia Satellites reemerged in 1993, released another album in 1996, and have since been a touring act. Their current line-up features original member Rick Richards (lead guitar, backing and lead vocals), together with Fred McNeal (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Bruce Smith (bass, backing vocals) and Todd Johnston (drums). Keep Your Hands to Yourself was penned by the group’s original lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Dan Baird. That Stonesy rocker just makes me smile, but no touching, please!

Pink Floyd/See Emily Play

After three tunes into our current excursion, we must turn to the ’60s, one of my favorite decades in music. Our destination is the second single by Pink Floyd, See Emily Play. I love the early stage of the British group, formed in London in 1965 by Syd Barrett (guitar, lead vocals), Richard Wright (keyboards, vocals), Roger Waters (bass guitar, vocals) and Nick Mason (drums). See Emily Play, penned by Floyd’s initial leader and key songwriter Barrett, first appeared in the UK in June 1967 as a non-album single. This early gem was also included on the U.S. edition of the band’s debut album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, which came out in August of the same year. Unfortunately, it was the only album featuring Barrett as a full member of Pink Floyd. Due to heavy drug use and mental illness, his behavior became increasingly erratic and led to his departure in April 1968. At that time, David Gilmour had already joined the group. While Floyd’s June 1968 sophomore album A Saucerful of Secrets still included some contributions from Barrett, Gilmour had fully taken over on guitar. Sadly, Barrett passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2006, after he essentially had lived in obscurity since the late ’70s.

Bob Dylan/Tangled Up in Blue

On to the ’70s and an artist I trust needs no introduction. When it comes to Bob Dylan, I’ve always had sentiments ranging from admiration to indifference. If anything, I’ve regained appreciation of Robert Zimmerman since his most recent studio album Rough and Rowdy Ways. To me, it’s a late-career gem. One of Dylan’s earlier tunes I’ve loved from the very first time I heard it is Tangled Up in Blue. In fact, I would count it among my all-time favorites by the Nobel Prize-winning singer-songwriter. It first appeared as a single on January 17, 1975, three days ahead of the release of Blood On the Tracks. Initially, Dylan’s 15th studio album received mixed reviews, but as we’ve seen all too often, the critics came around and now regard it as one of his greatest albums. Fans apparently agreed all along. Blood On the Tracks became Dylan’s second album to top the U.S. charts. It also was no. 1 in Canada and reached the top 5 in the UK (no. 4), Spain (no. 3), Norway (no. 2) and The Netherlands (no. 5). Man, I just love that song!

Melissa Etheridge/Hold On, I’m Coming

Once again, we’re reaching the final stop of yet another music journey. For this last pick, we turn to the current century, though it’s a ’60s Stax tune. You see what I did there? I sneaked in another song from one of my favorite decades in music! In October 2016, Melissa Etheridge released Memphis Rock and Soul, a great tribute to Memphis soul label Stax. One of my favorite tracks on that album is her sizzling rendition of Hold On, I’m Coming. Co-written by Isaac Hayes and David Porter, the tune was first recorded by Sam & Dave. Released in March 1966, it became one of their biggest hits. And, yes, it’s been covered by many other artists, such as Aretha Franklin, Waylon Jennings and Tina Turner, but I just dig Etheridge’s funky version.

Of course, this post wouldn’t be complete without a Spotify list of the above goodies. Hope there’s something you like!

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube; Spotify

Yearend Musings Part 2

A look back on new albums released in 2022

For the last time this year, I’d like to wish everybody a happy Saturday. I’m back from my short Christmas hiatus with the second installment of my two-part year-end review of new music released in 2022. Part 1 focused on new songs. In this post, I’m taking a look back at my six favorite albums of the year.

Altogether, I reviewed approximately 20 albums that were released over the course of the past 12 months. This count doesn’t include reissues like Neil Young’s nice Harvest 50th Anniversary Edition or other new releases of old music, such as Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ Live at the Fillmore (1997), an excellent box set I can highly recommend checking out. Mirroring the approach I took for 2022 new songs, I’m doing this in chronological order.

Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio/Cold As Weiss

Kicking off this year-end revue with an all-instrumental album may seem to come a bit out of left field, given I’m a huge fan of vocals, but Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio and their groovy Hammond-driven jazz was love at first sight. Plus, if you’re a more frequent visitor of my blog, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that instrumental music no longer is a rarity on these pages. Cold As Weiss, released on February 11, is the third studio album by this great trio, who apart from Delvon Lamarr (Hammond organ) features Jimmy Jones (guitar) and Dan Weiss (drums). Aka. DLO3, the trio has been around since May 2015 and describes their music as a “soul-jazz concoction”, blending 1960s organ jazz stylings of Jimmy Smith and Baby Face Willette; a pinch of the snappy soul strut of Booker T. & The M.G.’s and The Meters; and sprinkling Motown, Stax Records, blues, and cosmic Jimi Hendrix-style guitar. Let’s listen to Get Da Steppin’. My full review of this fun album is here.

Here’s a Spotify link to the entire album:

Goodbye June/See Where the Night Goes

Classic rock may no longer be in the mainstream, but it sure ain’t dead. Just ask Goodbye June from Memphis, Tenn., who have been helping carry the torch since 2005. The band is a family affair, comprised of cousins Landon Milbourn (lead vocals), Brandon Qualkenbush (rhythm guitar, bass, backing vocals) and Tyler Baker (lead guitar). On February 18, their fourth studio album See Where the Night Goes came out. The group’s sound, which is reminiscent of AC/DC, is a great listening experience. Check out the neat opener Step Aside below and my full review of the album here. Goodbye June truly rock!

Spotify album link:

Bonnie Raitt/Just Like That…

Frequent visitors of the blog and folks who know my music taste otherwise probably won’t be surprised to see Bonnie Raitt in this year-end post. I think her 21st studio album Just Like That…, which appeared on April 21, may well be her best to date in a now 51-year-and-counting recording career. If I would have to name my 2022 album of the year, Raitt’s first new release in more than six years would be it! Since this amazing lady first entered my radar screen with the outstanding Nick of Time in 1989, I’ve really come to dig her smooth slide-guitar playing, her voice and, of course, the songs most of which are renditions of tunes written by other artists. Here’s the Stonesy Livin’ For the Ones, a tune for which Raitt wrote the lyrics to music from longtime guitarist George Marinelli. Here is my full review of the album, a true gem that is a must-listen-to for Bonnie Raitt fans.

Spotify album link:

Jane Lee Hooker/Rollin’

Shortly on the heels of Bonnie Raitt, Jane Lee Hooker released their third studio album Rollin’ on April 29. I first experienced the great New York-based blues rock-oriented band during a free summer-in-the-park concert on the Jersey shore in August 2017 when they still were an all-female group and was immediately impressed by their infectious energy. All members remain, except for original drummer Melissa “Cool Whip” Houston who departed in 2020 and has been replaced by ‘Lightnin’ Ron Salvo. Earlier this year, I saw Jane Lee Hooker during a release party in New York City for the new album and can confirm the band’s only gent is a great fit. Rollin’ offers their familiar hard-charging electric guitar-driven blues rock, as well as some new elements, including acoustic blues and vibes of soul. A great illustration of the band’s more refined sound is the beautiful soul-oriented rock ballad Drive. My review of the full album is here.

Spotify album link:

Tedeschi Trucks Band/I’m the Moon

I’m the Moon, a four-album series, is the most ambitious studio project to date by Tedeschi Trucks Band and probably of 2022 overall. Each of the four installments, released individually between June and August, had a 30-minute-plus companion film. The entire project, which features 24 songs, became available as one collection on September 9. I’m the Moon was inspired by a 12th-century Persian poem – intriguingly the very same poem that also inspired one of the greatest blues rock albums of all time: Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, by Derek and the Dominos. You can read my two-part review of this impressive project here and here. Following I’d like to highlight Hear My Dear, the lead track of the first album. This gem was written by the group’s co-leaders and wife and husband Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks, along with the band’s keyboarder Gabe Dixon who is also one of their vocalists.

Spotify album link:

Buddy Guy/The Blues Don’t Lie

I’d like to wrap up this post with one of my absolute blues guitar heroes, Buddy Guy, who at 86 years young can still rock with the ferocity of Jimi Hendrix. On September 30, Guy released his 19th studio album The Blues Don’t Lie. The date coincided with the 65th anniversary of the legendary guitarist’s arrival in Chicago from Louisiana. Once again produced by longtime collaborator Tom Hambridge who also plays drums, the album features guest appearances by Mavis StaplesJames TaylorElvis CostelloJason Isbell and Bobby Rush. Most importantly, The Blues Don’t Lie truly fires on all cylinders. You can find my full review here. Perhaps the song that best sums up Buddy Guy is the opener I Let My Guitar Do the Talking, a cowrite by Guy and Hambridge. Damn, check this out!

Spotify album link:

Last but not least, I’d like to thank my fellow bloggers and other visitors for reading my blog and taking the time to comment, and would like to wish all of you a Happy, Safe and Healthy New Year! And let’s keep on bloggin’ in the free world in 2023!

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube; Spotify

A Short Holiday Hiatus

Tonight I’m leaving for Germany to spend Christmas with my parents. Therefore, I’ve decided to put the blog on a short hiatus until my return close to the new year. In lieu of Song Musings, my weekly feature looking at tunes I’ve only mentioned in passing or not covered at all to date, I’m republishing a post that first appeared recently on Dave’s blog A Sound Day as part of his fun Turntable Talk series. The topic was perfect for this time of the year: “Songs of the Season”, i.e., writing about a Christmas/holiday song the invited participants love and why it has meaning to them. Following is what I contributed.

Once again, I’m happy to share my thoughts for Turntable Talk – thanks, Dave, for keeping this great feature going and inviting me back.

When I received the notification with the topic, it immediately took me back to my years growing up in Germany. I have fond memories of Christmas, which was a pretty big deal in my family.

For many years, we (my parents, my six-year-older sister and I) drove to Heidelberg to gather at my grandma’s (from my mom’s side) house. My dad picked up his parents, who also lived in Heidelberg, and we all celebrated Christmas eve (December 24) together.

The old town of Heidelberg with the Old Bridge over the river Neckar and the Heidelberg castle on the hill

Every year, my grandma got a Christmas tree – a relatively small but real tree with real candles – nothing like the scent of wax candles! On many occasions, my sister and I got to decorate the tree. While working we listened to my favorite mainstream radio station where they played song requests from listeners. Apart from straight pop songs, there were many, typically modern Christmas songs, such as John Lennon’s Happy Xmas (War Is Over), Chuck Berry’s Run Rudolph Run and Wham’s Last Christmas.

Christmas songs weren’t limited to the radio. My grandparents liked to sing traditional Christmas carols on December 24 in the evening before we exchanged Christmas presents. This was preceded by my dad lighting the candles on the Christmas tree and switching off all other lights in the room. It was a festive atmosphere I enjoyed, especially as a small child. I was also full of anticipation about opening presents, which would follow the singing!😊

This brings me to my Christmas song pick. There are many Christmas tunes I like, both traditional carols and modern Christmas songs. For this post, I decided to select a traditional Christmas carol performed by what I think probably is the best vocal group I know: Silent Night by The Temptations.

Composed in 1818 by Austrian church organist and composer Franz Xaver Gruber to lyrics by Joseph Mohr, an Austrian Roman Catholic priest and writer, Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht became a popular Christmas carol. It was first performed on Christmas Eve 1818 at St. Nicholas parish church in Oberndorf, a village in the Austrian Empire on the Salzach river in present-day Austria. In 1859, the Episcopal priest John Freeman Young, then serving at Trinity Church in New York City, wrote and published the English translation that is most frequently sung today, translated from three of Mohr’s original six verses.

Silent Night has appeared in various films and television specials. It has also been recorded by numerous artists, such as Nat King Cole, Percy Sledge, Elvis Presley, Mariah Carey and, of course, The Temptations. The mighty-sounding vocal group from Detroit included it on their second Christmas album Give Love At Christmas, released in August 1980.

In addition to being a beautiful song with an outstanding vocal rendition by The Temptations, Silent Night (Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht) has a special meaning to me. It is one of the carols my family and I used to sing each Christmas eve back in Germany.

Before signing off temporarily, if you celebrate it, Merry Christmas. If you don’t, have a great time anyway!

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube

Musings of the Past

Making Your Christmas Groove

It’s been about seven weeks since the last Musings of the Past, a feature that roughly runs once a month where I revisit previous posts published at a time when this blog was in its younger days. I guess I missed November! With the holiday season being in full swing, I thought this would be an opportune moment to republish a post from December 2017, which featured a variety of modern Christmas songs from various music genres. The Spotify playlist at the end wasn’t in the original post.

Making Your Christmas Groove

A list to get you into the mood for that most wonderful time of the year

When I was looking back at previous posts on the blog, I came across a list of Christmas rock, soul, rap and pop tunes I had put together last year [December 2016 – CMM]. For the most part, I still stand behind it and thought it would be fitting to publish a slightly updated version.

One of the things I liked to do during the Christmas holiday while growing up in Germany many moons ago was to listen to my favorite radio station, which was then called SWF III. At that time of the year, the DJs would frequently play song requests from listeners.

Not surprisingly, Christmas pop and rock songs were high in demand. Some of these tunes became seasonal anthems, such as Wham’s Last Christmas, Paul McCartney’s Wonderful Christmas Time and Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas. Okay, maybe these are not the most compelling examples, but these tunes come to mind first when I think about those times.

Some folks may cringe at the thought of pop and rock artists dressing up as Santa and performing Christmas songs, whether they are covers of traditional tunes or new songs with holiday themes. Others may get cynical about music artists and record companies suddenly discovering Jesus and Santa when people conveniently are willing to spend insane amounts of money on Christmas presents. I get all of that and being cynical about it is not unfounded.

I still think there are some great Christmas rock and pop songs that have come out over the years – in fact, make that over the decades! Plus, let’s be honest, while many traditional Christmas tunes have beautiful melodies, they don’t exactly groove. I don’t know about you, but I like listening to music that makes me want to get up and move – by the way, probably not such a bad thing during the holiday season when many folks like to indulge on food and drink. So how about rockin’ and rollin’ off that of these extra calories!

Below are clips of some of my favorite Christmas rock and pop tunes in no particular order: From John Lennon’s haunting Happy Xmas (War Is Over) to Chuck Berry’s rockin’ & rollin’ Run Rudolph Run to Run-D.M.C.’s cool rap Christmas in Hollis to AC/DC’s hard-charging Mistress For Christmas to a fantastic live version of Feliz Navidad with José Feliciano and Daryl Hall to the unforgettable James Brown and his funky Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto, these tunes come in many different genres!

John Lennon/Happy Xmas (War Is Over) (1971)

Chuck Berry/Run Rudolph Run (1958)

The Pogues/Fairytale Of New York (1987)

Run-D.M.C./Christmas In Hollis (1987)

AC/DC/Mistress For Christmas (1990)

José Feliciano & Daryl Hall/Feliz Navidad (2010)

James Brown/Santa Claus, Go Straight To The Ghetto (1968)

Otis Redding/Merry Christmas Baby (posthumous, 1968)

The Ravers/(It’s Gonna Be) A Punk Rock Christmas (1978)

Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band/Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (2007)

– End –

The original post, which was published on December 21, 2017, ended here. And, yes, I kept Springsteen’s version of Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, even though I snarkily commented the other day this tune has been overexposed – oh, well, it was part of the original post. Plus, it’s certainly not terrible!

The Spotify playlist is an addition. Instead of The Ravers, it features a rendition of It’s Gonna Be A Punk Rock Christmas by UK pop punk band Majorettes. Feliz Navidad is the studio version José Feliciano recorded in 1970, not the live performance with Daryl Hall captured in the clip. The playlist also includes some additional tunes. Season’s Greetings!

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube; Spotify

The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

Happy Sunday and hope you are spending a great morning, afternoon, evening, or night, in whichever timezone you are in. Let’s embark on another excursion into the great world of music. As always, we are doing this six tunes at a time.

The Sonny Stitt Quartet/Down Home Blues

Our first stop today is the year 1956 and New York Jazz, an album by American saxophonist Sonny Stitt. The bebop/hard bop player, who started his career in the early ’40s, was known for his warm tone, which can be heard on more than 100 albums. Some critics viewed him as a Charlie Parker mimic, especially during his early years, but he gradually developed his own sound and style. During the ’40s, he played alto saxophone in the big bands of Tiny Bradshaw, Billy Eckstine and Gene Ammons. He also led the Bebop Boys and Galaxy in 1946 and 1948, respectively. In the ’50s, he also played with other bop musicians, such as Horace Parlan, Bud Powell and Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis. This brings me to New York Jazz, one of the many albums Stitt recorded as a leader. His quartet also featured Jimmy Jones (piano), Ray Brown (bass) and Jo Jones (drums). Here is Down Home Blues, one of Stitt’s compositions.

Steely Dan/Josie

Let’s stay in the jazzy lane and add a dose of pop with a Steely Dan classic from September 1977: Josie, off what I feel is their Mount Rushmore, the Aja album. Starting with Katy Lied from March 1975, the Dan’s masterminds Walter Becker and Donald Fagen had abandoned the standing band concept in favor of recording with a revolving cast of top-notch session musicians. It certainly worked out nicely for them, though it also was an extensive effort, with Aja featuring nearly 40 musicians alongside Messrs. Becker and Faxen. Josie nicely illustrates the caliber of talent. In addition to Fagen (lead vocals, synthesizer, backing vocals) and Becker (guitar solo), the recording included Larry Carlton and Dean Parks (guitar), Victor Feldman (Fender Rhodes), Timothy B. Schmit (backing vocals), Chuck Rainey (bass) and Jim Keltner (drums).

Foo Fighters/Best of You

Time to pay a visit to the current century, more specifically June 2005. That’s when Foo Fighters issued their fifth studio album In Your Honor. At that time, the rock band from Seattle around former Nirvana drummer-turned-guitarist Dave Grohl had released a string of increasingly successful albums that enjoyed international chart success. In Your Honor was no exception, topping the charts in Australia and New Zealand, reaching no. 2 in the U.S., the UK and Ireland, and placing in the top 5 in Canada, Austria, Germany and The Netherlands. The double album also featured notable guests like John Paul Jones (ex-Led Zeppelin), Josh Homme (Queen of the Stone Age) as well as singer-songwriter and pianist Norah Jones. Here’s Best of You, credited to all four members of the band, who in addition to Grohl at the time also included Chris Shiflett (lead xuitar), Nate Mendel (bass) and Taylor Hawkins (drums). The tune also appeared separately as the album’s lead single on May 30, 2005. The Foos, who lost Hawkins in March this year due to his untimely death at the age of 50 and have honored their longtime drummer with a series of tribute concerts, appear to rock on.

Dire Straits/Industrial Disease

Our next stop are the ’80s with one of my favorite bands and an album for which I’ve gained a new appreciation, thanks in part to fellow blogger Graham from Aphoristic Album Reviews. In September 1982, Dire Straits released their fourth studio album Love Over Gold. It came two years after its predecessor Making Movies, which is one of my longtime favorites by the British rock band. Love Over Gold with its outstanding sound and Mark Knopfler’s cinematic songwriting was very well received. It became the group’s most successful album at the time, topping the charts in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Austria and The Netherlands, climbing to no. 2 in France, and reaching no. 4 in Germany. In the U.S., it fared more moderately with a no. 19 on the Billboard 200. In Canada, it got to no. 6. Industrial Disease became the second of two singles in November of the same year. It couldn’t match the chart success of the lead single Private Investigations. Interestingly, the two markets in which Industrial Disease charted were Canada and the U.S. American and Canadian audiences would enthusiastically embrace Dire Straits less than three years later when they released Brothers in Arms, their most successful album.

Collective Soul/The World I Know

We haven’t paid a visit to the ’90s yet, so let’s travel there now. March 1995 saw the release of Collective Soul’s eponymous sophomore album, aka the Blue Album to distinguish it from the southern grunge rock band’s 2009 release, which was also self-titled. While I had heard The World I Know before, I had forgotten about this great tune until recently when I coincidentally came across it. The sing is credited to lead vocalist and guitarist Ed Roland and the group’s original lead guitarist Ross Childress (Roland since disputed that Childress had any role in writing it – CMM). The official video, which includes a warning because of the depiction of attempted suicide (though the individual recognizes in time it would be wrong and does not go through with it), is pretty powerful. The World I Know was the fourth of five singles the album spawned. It became the group’s only no. 1 in Canada, and in the U.S., it topped Billboard’s Mainstream Rock and Adult Alternative Airplay charts. The single also made the top 20 in the mainstream Billboard Hot 100. Elsewhere, it reached no. 25 in New Zealand and no. 41 in Australia. Collective Soul are still around with Roland remaining part of the present line-up. In fact, they released a new album on August 12 this year, which I haven’t heard.

The Miracles/Shop Around

Recently, I saw Motown soul legend Smokey Robinson in Philadelphia. If you’re interested, I wrote about the amazing show here. One of the songs the now 82-year-old Robinson, who still is in great vocal and physical shape, did not perform to my regret and surprise is Shop Around. I’ve always loved this tune and thought it make for a great final stop of today’s music journey. Co-written by Robinson and Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr., the song first appeared as a single in September 1960 for Robinson’s vocal group The Miracles, aka Smokey Robinson and the Miracles from 1965 to 1972. It became their first no. 1 in the U.S. on the Billboard R&B chart. and one of their highest-charting singles on the Billboard Hot 100 where it climbed to no. 2. The Miracles were Motown’s first million-selling artists. Shop Around was also included on the group’s debut album Hi… We’re the Miracles, which appeared in June 1961.

Last but not least, following is a Spotify playlist featuring all the above goodies. Hope there’s something that makes you smile.

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube; Spotify

Smokey Shines at Philly Met

Motown legend takes audience on a miraculous journey with music and memories

Shop Around by The Miracles must have been among the very first Motown songs I heard many moons ago. Motown and the infectious groove of the tunes that came out of the Detroit label started my lifelong love of soul music. When I coincidentally saw a couple of months ago that Motown legend Smokey Robinson was touring and scheduled to play the Met in Philadelphia, I immediately got tickets – yes, it totally was an impulse purchase. Saturday night, the time had finally come, and ooo, baby baby, what a miraculous show it was!

Smokey Robinson. Where do you even start? Now 82 years young, the man has enjoyed a 67-year career and counting – 67 years! It all started in 1955 when he formed the first lineup of the Five Chimes, the group that a couple of years later would become The Miracles. In August 1957, Robinson and his band met Berry Gordy Jr., who in 1959 with Robinson’s encouragement borrowed $800 from his family to create Tamla Motown and changed music history.

In September 1960, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles became Motown’s first stars with Shop Around. Credited to Robinson and Gordy, the tune topped Billboard’s R&B Chart and became a no. 2 on the mainstream Billboard Hot 100. In the following years, Robinson continued to write hits for the group, including You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me, The Tears of a Clown (a co-write with Stevie Wonder) and I Second That Emotion, to name a few.

In the mid-’60s, Robinson also became Vice President of Motown Records, serving as in-house producer, talent scout and songwriter. Apart from The Miracles, he penned and produced hits for other Motown acts, such as The Temptations, Mary Wells and Marvin Gaye. Robinson also became a successful solo artist with hits like Quiet Storm (1976), Cruisin’ (1979), Being with You (1981) and Just to See Her (1987). According to his online bio, he has amassed writing credits for more than 4,000 songs.

Smokey Robinson (front, right) with The Miracles: Claudette Robison (front left), as well as (back left to right) Bobby Rogers, Marv Taplin and Ronald White

Robinson has won numerous accolades, including the Grammy Living Legend Award, NARAS Lifetime Achievement Award, Honorary Doctorate (Howard University), Kennedy Center Honors and the National Medal of Arts Award from the President of the United States. He’s also in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame.

While it is impossible to do Robinson’s impressive career justice with a brief summary, I’d like to mention two additional things. Bob Dylan once called him America’s “greatest living poet.” Among the bands who covered Robinson’s songs are two of the greatest of all time: The Beatles (You’ve Really Got a Hold On Me – 1963) and The Rolling Stones (Going to a Go-Go – 1982).

Smokey Robinson, Met gig shots and yours truly with the real star of the show

Let’s get to some music! Robinson’s set featured a nice mix of songs spanning five decades, including some of the big ’60s hits by The Miracles, a medley of mid-’60s Temptations tunes he co-wrote, as well as select solo tunes from the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and 2018. He also included a rendition of Fly Me to the Moon, which he covered on his 2006 standards album Timeless Love. Not only did Robinson still hit extremely high notes with his falsetto, but the man’s physical flexibility was astonishing and frankly age-defying!

I Second That Emotion, co-written by Robinson and Motown songwriter Al Cleveland, first appeared as a single by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles in October 1967. It was their third no. 1 in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot R&B Singles chart and peaked at no. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming their second-highest charting single there since Shop Around in 1960, which had made it to no. 2. The tune was later also recorded by Diana Ross & the Supremes and separately by Diana Ross & the Supremes with The Temptations.

On Ooo Baby Baby, Smokey slowed it down and went very high – the ladies loved it! And, yes, yours truly was impressed as well. Ooo Baby Baby, co-written by Robinson and Pete Moore, the bass singer of The Miracles, was released as a single by The Miracles in March 1965. It reached no. 2 on the Hot R&B Singles chart and no. 16 on the mainstream Billboard Hot 100. The tune has been covered by numerous other artists over the years, such as Ella Fitzgerald, Todd Rundgren and Linda Ronstadt.

With The Tears of a Clown, Robinson presented yet another hit billed as Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, though with the distinction that it was the group’s only ’70s single in his set. Co-written by Robinson, Hank Cosby and Stevie Wonder in 1967, The Tears of a Clown wasn’t released as a single until July 1970 when it first appeared in the UK. In September of the same year, it also became a U.S. single. The tune ended up topping the Hot R&B Singles and Billboard Hot 100 charts in the U.S., as well as the UK Official Singles Chart, making it the group’s biggest hit. The Tears of a Clown had first been included on the group’s August 1967 album Make It Happen.

The last two songs I’d like to highlight are both from Smokey Robinson’s solo career. Just to See Her, co-written by Jimmy George and Lou Pardini, was first recorded by Robinson and released as the lead single of his popular 1987 studio album One Heartbeat in March of that year. The tune is his last big U.S. hit to date, peaking at no. 8 and no. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot R&B Singles charts, respectively, and topping the Adult Contemporary chart. In the UK, it reached no. 52.

And then the time had come for the final song of the night and Smokey to take us on a cruise by car – a long cruise! Cruisin’, one of his best-known solo songs, first appeared on his studio album Where There’s Smoke…, which came out in May 1979. Penned by Robinson, the tune was also released separately as a single in August of the same year. It climbed to no. 4 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot R&B Singles charts, as well as no. 34 on the Adult Contemporary chart. Personally, I would have been okay with a shorter cruise and instead a couple of additional tunes, such as my beloved Shop Around. At the same time, it was heart-warming to see Smokey evidently having a ball and engaging with the audience, including two ladies he asked to come up on stage.

Following is Saturday night’s setlist:

Intro – Overture
Being With You (1981)
I Second That Emotion (Smokey Robinson & The Miracles cover – 1967)
You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me (The Miracles cover – 1962)
Quiet Storm (1975)
Ooo Baby Baby (The Miracles song – 1965)
The Way You Do the Things You Do / Get Ready / My Girl (The Temptations covers – 1964, 1966 & 1964)
The Tears of a Clown (Smokey Robinson & The Miracles cover – 1967)
I Love Your Face (1992)
Fly Me to the Moon (In Other Words) (Kaye Ballard cover – 1954)
La Mirada (2018)
Just to See Her (1987)
The Tracks of My Tears (The Miracles cover – 1965)
Cruisin’ (1979)

Last but not least, here’s a Spotify playlist that captures all songs of the above setlist sans La Mirada, the most recent solo tune Robinson performed, which I couldn’t find in Spotify. Robinson joked it hasn’t come out yet. By that, he meant the tune hasn’t been included on an album. It did appear digitally as a single in June 2018.

Sources: Wikipedia; Smokey Robinson website; Setlist.fm; YouTube; Spotify

The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

Happy Sunday and welcome to another Sunday Six where I embark on time travel into the great world of music, six tracks at a time. If you’re in the U.S., celebrated Thanksgiving and had a long weekend, hope you had a great time with family and friends with no stress while traveling or cooking. Regardless of your situation, music can work its magic on pretty much any occasion, so I invite you to join me on yet another excursion.

Lester Young & Harry Edison/Red Boy Blues

Today, our journey starts in 1955 when two American jazz musicians, saxophonist Lester Young and trumpeter Harry Edison, teamed up for an album titled Pres & Sweets. Young, nicknamed “Pres” or “Prez”, was active between 1993 and 1959. He first gained prominence with the Count Basie Orchestra, in which he played from 1933 until 1940. After the Second World War, Young joined Norman Granz’s Jazz at the Philharmonic and frequently toured with the troupe for the next 12 years. Harry Edison who started playing the trumpet as a 12-year-old became a member of the Jeter-Pillars Orchestra in 1933 before joining Basie’s orchestra in 1937. That’s where he played first with Young who nicknamed him “Sweets”. In the ’50s, he also toured with the Jazz at the Philharmonic and played with other orchestras, in addition to leading his own groups. This brings me back to Pres & Sweets, and Red Boy Blues, a composition by Young. He and Edison got a little help from some formidable friends: Oscar Peterson (piano), Herb Ellis (guitar), Ray Brown (bass) and Buddy Rich (drums).

The Wild Feathers/The Ceiling

My recent post for Thanksgiving reminded me of The Wild Feathers, a country rock band I first came across two years ago when featuring a tune from their then-latest album Medium Rarities. The group was founded in 2010 in Nashville. Their current line-up includes founding members Ricky Young (guitar, vocals), Taylor Burns (guitar, vocals) and Joel King (bass, vocals), as well as Ben Dumas (drums). The Wild Feathers began touring frequently in 2013, sharing bills with the likes of Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and ZZ Ward. Since the release of their eponymous debut in August 2013, they have released four additional studio albums, most recently Alvarado (October 2021), which I reviewed here. The Ceiling, co-written by King, Young and Burns, is a great tune from the band’s aforementioned first album.

Stevie Wonder/Sir Duke

Next, let’s pay a visit to the ’70s with an absolute soul gem by Stevie Wonder who I trust needs no further introduction. Sir Duke, off Wonder’s 1976 masterpiece Songs in the Key of Life, is a beautiful tribute to jazz great Duke Ellington who had passed away in 1974. The lyrics also mention Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. Sir Duke was Wonder’s first tribute to people he admired. In the early 1980s, he also recorded Master Blaster, dedicated to Bob Marley, and Happy Birthday, which pleaded for what would eventually become the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday in the United States. Sir Duke is one of these tunes that immediately put me in a great mood and make me move. Feel free to groove along!

Chuck Prophet/Credit

Are you ready for a stop-over in the ’90s? Ready or not, here we go with great music by Chuck Prophet. The singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist is a relatively recent discovery for me. Blending rock, country, blues and folk, Prophet has released 16 solo albums since 1990, according to Wikipedia. Before launching his solo career in 1990, he was a member of rough-edged Paisley Underground band Green on Red and can be heard on 10 of their albums. He also been a guest musician on more than 20 albums by other artists, such as True West, Cake, Warren Zevon and Kim Carnes. Most recently, he worked with songwriter Jenifer McKitrick for her forthcoming album Road Call scheduled for December 1. Credit, penned by English singer-songwriter Pete Shelley, co-founder of early punk band Buzzcocks, is the opener of Prophet’s 1997 solo album Homemade Blood. The more I hear of Prophet, the more I like him!

The Impressions/It’s All Right

I don’t know about you, but I’m in the mood for some more soul, and I got a true beauty that takes us back to August 1963: It’s All Right by The Impressions. Written by the amazing Curtis Mayfield, the tune first appeared on the eponymous debut album by The Impressions. The gospel, doo-wop, R&B and soul group was co-founded by Mayfield and Jerry Butler in 1958 as Jerry Butler & the Impressions, along with Sam Gooden, Arthur Brooks and his brother Richard Brooks, who all had been members of doo-wop group the Roosters. After releasing 12 additional albums with The Impressions, Mayfield left them in 1970 to launch a solo career. The group went on without Mayfield until their retirement in 2018, after a 60-year career. It’s All Right was also released as a single in October 1963 and became The Impressions’ biggest hit, topping Billboard’s Hot R&B Sides chart and climbing to no. 4 on the mainstream Billboard Hot 100. In my book, it’s one of the most beautiful and uplifting songs I know. The tune also shows the magic music can do. Listening to it instantly makes you feel okay.

Pat Benatar/Hit Me With Your Best Shot

Once again, we’re reaching the final destination of yet another Sunday Six. My proposition for this week is a great rocker by 2022 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Pat Benator. I was glad to see this great lady inducted. Hit Me With Your Best Shot, penned by Canadian musician Eddie Schwartz, first appeared on Benatar’s sophomore album Crimes of Passion, released in August 1980. It also became the album’s second single in September of that year and Benatar’s first top 10 U.S. hit on the Billboard Hot 100. Of her songs I know, I think it’s my favorite. Pat Benator, now 69 years and in the 50th year of her career, is still going strong. I happened to catch her recent Rock Hall induction performance and she was still kicking butt showing the younger cats how it’s done. So was her longtime partner in crime lead guitarist Neil Giraldo who also has been her husband since 1982.

This post wouldn’t be complete without a Spotify playlist featuring all of the above tunes. Hope there’s something you dig!

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube; Spotify

The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

I can’t believe it’s Sunday again and (in the U.S.) Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Before we know it, Christmas will be upon us, and another year will be over. Okay, before all of that happens, let’s explore the amazing world of music with a little trip, zig-zagging the past six decades or so, six tracks at a time. Are you in?

Freddie Hubbard/Little Sunflower

Perhaps the only thing that has become a fixture of the Sunday Six is to start our trip with jazz. For some reason, jazz and Sunday mornings are a perfect fit. Today, my proposition is American jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard who was active between 1958 and 2008, playing bebop, hard bop and post-bop styles. He started playing the mellophone (a brass instrument similar to the trumpet) and the trumpet in his high school band in Indianapolis. After moving to New York in 1958, the then-20-year-old began playing with some of the best jazz players of the era, including Philly Joe Jones, Sonny Rollins, Slide Hampton, Eric Dolphy and J. J. Johnson. Following the June 1960 release of his first record as a leader, Open Sesame, Hubbard was invited to play on Ornette Coleman’s sixth album Free Jazz. As is quite common in jazz, Hubbard also served as a sideman for many other jazz greats, such as Oliver Nelson, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter. Little Sunflower is a Hubbard composition from his album Backlash, released in May 1967. He was backed by James Spaulding (flute, alto saxophone), Albert Dailey (piano), Bob Cunningham (bass), Otis Ray Appleton (drums) and Ray Barretto (percussion). Smooth and groovy stuff – feel free to move and snip along!

Cry Of Love/Peace Pipe

Let’s jump to the ’90s and American rock band Cry Of Love. Formed in Raleigh, N.C. in 1989 by Audley Freed (guitar), Pee Wee Watson (vocals, guitar), Robert Kearns (bass, vocals) and Jason Patterson, they released their debut album Brother in May 1993. Following a 17-month supporting tour, Kelly Holland who had become the group’s frontman in 1991 quit. Cry Of Love replaced him with Robert Mason, vocalist of hard rock band Lynch Mob, and in 1997 put out one more album, Diamonds & Debris, before calling it quits. Peace Pipe, co-written by Freed and Holland, is a tune from the above-mentioned Brother. It became their biggest hit, topping Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart in 1993 – cool rocker that reminds me a bit of Bad Company.

Manfred Mann’s Earth Band/Davy’s On the Road Again

Time to pay a visit to the ’70s and Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. Formed in 1971, the group is the third act by Mann who started in the ’60s with self-titled band Manfred Mann before forming the short-lived jazz fusion-inspired outfit Manfred Mann Chapter Three in 1969. Davy’s On the Road Again, from the Earth Band’s eighth studio album Watch released in February 1978, brought Manfred Mann on my radar screen. I loved that tune from the get-go and got the record on vinyl at the time, a copy I own to this day. It’s a bit worn but still plays! Manfred Mann’s Earth Band became best known with renditions of songs, especially by Bruce Springsteen (Blinded by the Light, Spirit in the Night) and Bob Dylan (Mighty Quinn). Davy’s On the Road Again was no exception. The tune was co-written by Robbie Robertson of The Band and the group’s producer John Simon. Simon first released it on his fourth solo album John Simon’s Album, which appeared in 1971. Until I did research for this post, I had no idea about this! While I like the original as well, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band really kicked it up, especially in the album live version. There’s also a shortened single edit I’m not fond of.

Sheryl Crow/Summer Day

I could easily continue visiting great tunes that came out in the last century, especially in the ’60s and ’70s, but let’s not forget the current millennium. The year is 2010. The month is July. That’s when Sheryl Crow released her eighth studio album 100 Miles From Memphis. Since she emerged in August 1993 with her great debut Tuesday Night Music Club, I’ve enjoyed listening to her music. Sadly, we likely won’t be seeing another full-length studio album from her. When Crow released her most recent one Threads in August 2019, she said it was her final such effort, citing changing music trends where listeners create their own playlists and no longer pay much attention to albums. I certainly can’t deny I like playlists myself! Anyway, the vintage R&B and Memphis soul-flavored 100 Miles from Memphis marked a departure from Crow’s country and pop rock past. Let’s listen to Summer Day, a great tune penned by Crow together with co-producers Doyle Bramhall II and Justin Stanley. It also was released separately as the album’s first single, climbing to no. 3 on the U.S. Billboard chart Adult Album Alternative. I don’t know about you, but with freezing temperatures in my neck of the woods, a tune titled Summer Day sounds like an attractive proposition!

Bangles/In a Different Light

Our next stop are the ’80s, a decade in music I really loved at the time as a teenager growing up in Germany. While nowadays from a strictly musical perspective I can no longer say this as a general statement, I will always have a soft spot for the ’80s and memories associated with many of the songs. One of the bands I dug big time and still enjoy to this day are the Bangles, except for certain completely overexposed tunes. In 1986, the largely female pop rock group from Los Angeles released their hugely successful sophomore album Different Light. Among others, it climbed to no. 2 in the U.S. and Australia, no. 3 in the UK, no. 4 in New Zealand and no. 8 in Canada. It spawned five charting singles, including two of their best-known tunes Manic Monday and Walk Like an Egyptian. Here’s one of the songs that did not become a single, In a Different Light, co-written by the band’s vocalists and guitarists Susanna Hoffs and Vicki Peterson.

Janis Joplin/Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)

And once again, this brings us to the final stop of yet another music mini-excursion. For this one, we shall go back to September 1969 and Janis Joplin’s first album as a solo artist, I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama! Sadly, it was the only solo effort that appeared during her life, which was cut short in October 1970 due to a heroin overdose. It made Joplin a member of the creepy 27 Club, which among others also includes Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison, who all died at age 27 between 1969 and 1971. Joplin first rose to fame in 1967 with her appearance at the Monterey International Pop Festival where she fronted Big Brother and the Holding Company, a then-little-known psychedelic rock band from San Francisco. After releasing two albums with the group, Joplin departed to launch a solo career with her own backing bands, Kozmic Blues Band, followed by Full Tilt Boogie Band. Joplin’s second, final and by far most successful solo album Pearl appeared three months after her death. Here’s Try (Just a Little Bit Harder) from her solo debut. Co-written by Jerry Ragovoy and Chip Taylor, the great tune is a fantastic showcase of Joplin’s one-of-a-kind vocals and seemingly boundless energy.

Last but not least, here’s a Spotify playlist featuring the above tunes. Hope there’s something you dig.

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube; Spotify