Musings of the Past

Tumultuous Path Of A Journeyman And Survivor

Last week (May 11), Eric Burdon turned 82 years. Since the first moment I heard him I’ve always thought he’s one of the most compelling white blues vocalists. It also reminded me of a post I published in February 2019. Here it is again with the added bonus of a Spotify playlist at the end. Yes, it’s a bit of a beast! 🙂

Tumultuous Path Of A Journeyman And Survivor

For more than 50 years, Eric Burdon has been one of rock’s most distinctive vocalists

Oftentimes, I feel the best blog ideas are inspired by a previous post. In this case, it was my writing about great covers performed by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, which included I’m Crying by The Animals. The tune reminded me of Eric Burdon and a voice I’ve always felt was made for singing the blues. Just like many other blues artists or more generally those who started out during the ’60s and ’70s, Burdon has experienced it all, from the highest high to the deepest low and everything else in-between. Unlike many fellow artists, he’s still there, which I think makes him one of the ultimate survivors.

Eric Victor Burdon was born on May 11, 1941, in the northeastern English industrial town of Newcastle upon Tyne. His upbringing in a lower-class working family was rough. Burdon started smoking at the age of 10 and skipping school with friends to drink beer. He described his early school years as a Dickens novel-like “dark nightmare,” which included bullying, sexual molestation and sadistic teachers hitting kids with a leather strap. While his father Matt Burdon struggled as an electric repairman, this allowed the family to have a TV by the time Eric was 10. Yet again the TV sparking it all!

Seeing Louis Armstrong on the tube triggered Burdon’s initial interest in music, first in the trombone, then in singing. The next decisive stage in his life was secondary school and a teacher named Bertie Brown who helped him get into the local art college. There he met John Steele, the original drummer of The Animals. They ended up playing in a band called The Pagan Jazzmen. By early 1959, keyboardist Alan Price had joined. After a few iterations and name changes, the band evolved into The Animals in 1962.

The Animals (from left): John Steele, Eric Burdon, Hilton Valentine, Alan Price and Chas Chandler

The initial lineup featured Burdon (lead vocals), Steele (drums), Price (keyboards), Hilton Valentine (guitar) and Chas Chandler (bass), who later became the manager of Jimi Hendrix. Between September and December 1963, The Animals developed a following in Newcastle by playing local clubs there. During that period, Burdon met some of his blues heroes, including John Lee Hooker and Sonny Boy WilliamsonThe Animals also backed Williamson during a local gig.

In December 1963, The Animals recorded their first single Baby Let Me Take You Home. It climbed to a respectable no. 22 on the UK singles chart. But it was the second single, The House Of The Rising Sun from June 1964, which brought the big breakthrough, topping the charts in the UK, U.S., Canada and Sweden. It also started the beginning of the band’s demise when the arrangement of the traditional was only credited to Price who collected all the songwriting royalties.

The band’s first studio album The Animals appeared in the U.S. in September 1964. Their British debut record followed two months later. As was quite common at the time, the track listing between the two versions differed. Altogether, the original incarnation of The Animals released five U.S. and three U.K. studio albums. Here’s the above-mentioned I’m Crying, which was included on the second U.S. record The Animals On Tour, a peculiar title for a studio album. Co-written by Burden and Price, it’s one of only a few original tracks by the band that was mostly known for fiery renditions of blues and R&B staples by the likes of John Lee HookerJimmy Reed and Ray Charles.

In May 1966, The Animals released Don’t Bring Me Down. Co-written by songwriter duo Gerry Goffin and Carole King, the tune became Burdon’s favorite single, he told Louder/The Blues during a long interview in April 2013. The song also became the opening track to the band’s fourth U.S. album  Animalization released in July 1966. The great tune is characterized by a distinct Hammond B3 sound played by Dave Rowberry, who had replaced Alan Price following his departure in late 1965, and Hilton Valentine’s fuzz guitar.  Burdon recalled the song’s recording in a hotel in the Bahamas. “There was an old record player in the room where we were recording and it had this strange, thin electrostatic speaker. Dave Rowberry connected it to his Hammond B3 and that’s where the sound comes from on that track.”

By September 1966, The Animals had dissipated and Burdon started work on his first solo album Eric Is Here, which wouldn’t appear until the following year. Meanwhile, in December 1966, he formed Eric Burdon & The Animals. In addition to him, the band included Barry Jenkins, who had replaced John Steel on drums during the first incarnation of The AnimalsJohn Weider (guitar, violin, bass), Vic Briggs (guitar, piano) and Danny McCulloch (bass). The band subsequently relocated from the U.K. to San Francisco. By that time, Burdon had become a heavy user of LSD.

In October 1967, Eric Burdon & The Animals released their debut. Appropriately titled Winds Of Change, it featured mostly original tracks and psychedelic-oriented rock, a major departure from the past. But, as Louder/The Blues noted, except for San Franciscan Nights, “the British public were reluctant to accept Eric’s transformation from hard-drinking Geordie bluesman to LSD-endorsing, peace and love hippy.” Three more albums followed before this second incarnation of The Animals dissolved in late 1968. Here’s Monterey, the opener to their second record The Twain Shall Meet from May 1968. Reflecting the band’s drug-infused experiences at the Monterey Pop Festival, where they also had performed, the tune is credited to all five members.

Disillusioned with the music business, Burdon went to LA to try acting. But after one year, he returned to music, fronting a Californian funk rock band that would be called War. Together they recorded two original albums in 1970. Here’s Spill The Wine from the first, Eric Burden Declares “War”, which appeared in April 1970. Credited to the members of War, the tune became the band’s first hit, peaking at no. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also marked Burdon’s last major chart success.

Burdon’s relationship with War abruptly unraveled after the band had decided to record their next album without him. It was around the same time his friend  Jimi Hendrix passed away. Burdon was devastated. “That became the end of the parade because it affected us so much,” he stated during the above Louder/The Blues interview. “It was tough for me. It was tough for everybody.” Unfortunately, one of Burdon’s answers was drugs and more drugs.

During the ’70s and ’80s, Burdon had numerous drug excesses. In 1983, this led to an arrest in Germany where he had lived since 1977. Subsequently, he returned to the U.S. Yet despite all the upheaval, Burdon still managed to continue recording albums and touring. In 1971, he teamed up with American jump blues artist Jimmy Witherspoon for a record titled Guilty! Here’s Home Dream, a great slow blues tune written by Burdon.

In August 1977, the first incarnation of The Animals released the first of two reunion albums, Before We Were So Rudely Interrupted, billed as The Original Animals. Despite positive reviews, the record only reached no. 70 on the  Billboard 200. Lack of promotion, no supporting tour and most importantly appearing at a time when punk and disco ruled were all factors. Here’s the great opener Brother Bill (The Last Clean Shirt), a tune co-written by Jerry LeiberMike Stoller and Clyde Otis.

Next up: Going Back To Memphis, a song co-written by Burdon and Steve Grant. It appeared on Burdon’s 1988 album I Used To Be An Animal. Released in the wake of his autobiography I Used To Be An Animal, But I’m Alright Now,  it was Burdon’s first new album in almost four years.

In April 2004, My Secret Life appeared, Burdon’s first new solo record in almost 16 years. Here’s the opener Once Upon A Time, a nice soulful tune co-written by Burdon and Robert Bradley.

‘Til Your River Runs Dry is Burdon’s most recent studio release, which came out in January 2013. His website calls it his “most personal album to date.” Here’s  Old Habits Die Hard, co-written by Burdon and Tom Hambridge. “This song is dedicated to the people in Egypt and Libya trying to throw off the shackles of all those centuries of brutality,” Burdon told Rolling Stone a few days prior to the record’s release. “It reminds me of Paris in 1968 when I saw the kids going up against the brutal police force or the L.A. uprising. I went through these experiences and they’re still with me today. The struggle carries on. I wrote this song so I won’t forget and to say, even though I’m older now, I am still out there with you.”

Burdon’s most recent recording is a nice cover of For What It’s Worth, written by Stephen Stills and originally released by Buffalo Springfield in December 1966. He commented on his website: The whole idea of recording this song came as a result of a conversation I had with a young fan backstage, when she asked me, “Where are the protest songs today?” Right then and there, I wanted to write something about the brutality that’s going on in the world today but I couldn’t find any better way to say it than Buffalo Springfield did in “For What It’s Worth.

In 1994, Eric Burdon was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame as part of The Animals, along with the other original members of the band. He did not attend the induction ceremony. Burdon remains active to this day and uses the name The Animals for his backing band, which includes Evan Mackey  (trombone), Davey Allen (piano), Dustin Koester (drums), Johnzo West (guitar), Justin Andres (bass) and Ruben Salinas (saxophone).

While Burdon’s website currently does not list any upcoming gigs for this year, according to Consequence of SoundEric Burdon & The Animals are part of the lineup for the KAABOO Festival in Arlington, Texas, May 10-12. The band is also scheduled to perform on May 26 at Avila Beach Blues Festival in California.

Asked by Louder/The Blues during the above interview how he would sum up the past 50 years, Burdon said, “I’d been screwed by [War], I’d been screwed by The Animals. All use Burdon because he’s a great front guy and then come payday where’s the money? A lot of people had a great ride off me being on stage and I didn’t get much of it.” With a little chuckle he added, “I’m not bitter. I’m bittersweet.”

– END –

The original post, which was published on February 10, 2019, ended here. One thing that happened since then is a 2020 British TV documentary titled Eric Burdon, Rock’ n’ Roll Animal, which was written and directed by Hannes Rossacher, an Austrian film director and producer. It featured interviews with Burdon, Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Steven Van Zandt, George Thorogood and Patti Smith. An edited version is available here.

Other than an awkward 2022 remix of Spill the Wine, I’m not aware of any music associated with Burdon, which has appeared since the time the above post was published first. The most recent evidence of live performances I could find on Setlist.fm was from November 2019. The lack of more recent concerts could largely be explained by the pandemic. There’s an Eric Burdon website, but other than what looks like a fairly recent photo, it’s not evident whether it is active. Perhaps Eric is simply taking it easy these days, which after 60-plus years since the start of his career would be more than deserved!

Last but not least, here’s the aforementioned Spotify playlist. It features all of the above tracks except For What It’s Worth, as well as a good number of additional tunes from throughout Burdon’s recording career.

Sources: Wikipedia; Louder/The Blues; Deutsche Welle; Eric Burdon website; Rolling Stone; Consequence of Sound; Eventbrite; Setlist.fm; YouTube; Spotify

Versatile Jazz Artist Grover Kemble Returns to R&B and Pop Rock Roots on New Album

Until recently, I had not heard of Grover Kemble. Then a dear friend and musician, Mike Caputo, lead vocalist of Good Stuff, a great band celebrating the music of Steely Dan, Sting, Stevie Wonder and Gino Vannelli, suggested that I check out Kemble’s new album I’m Serious, figuring I might dig the music. Mike was spot on and my decision to write a review came shortly thereafter. What’s more, I spontaneously reached out to Kemble who was kind enough to share some great insights about the album.

Notably, I’m Serious marks a return for Kemble to his musical roots of R&B and ’60s pop rock. For the past 40 years or so, the New Jersey singer-songwriter, guitarist and entertainer primarily has been known as a versatile jazz artist. From his website bio: Grover began playing professionally in his early teens and performed with numerous acts before touring nationally with the novel group  Sha-Na-Na. In 1983, before going solo, he fronted the highly popular New Jersey band Za Zu Zaz with whom he recorded the album “All That Zaz.”…In the late 1980s, he played in both duo and group settings with world-renowned jazz artist John Pizzarelli, and accompanied his band in 2005 at the JVC Jazz Festival at Carnegie Hall.

In 2007, Grover assembled a band of accomplished musicians to showcase the music of Ray Charles in a presentation titled “Reflections of Ray.” In early 2013, Grover revamped Za Zu Zaz with a new lineup and gave this new band a strong entertainment style that encourages audiences to participate more freely. To give you an idea of Kemble’s more recent music with Za Zu Zaz, you can check clips on YouTube here and here – swings nicely!

Fast-forward to March 17 of this year, when I’m Serious was released. This album sounds very different from the music Kemble is known for. I was curious to know why this change in direction. “For the last 40 years, I’ve been regarded as a jazz artist,” he told me. “However, my roots started in R&B and the punchy pop rock from the 1960’s. I wanted to go back to those roots one more time, so I enlisted my best friend’s rocking and rolling sons to help achieve that earlier sound one more time.”

Kemble’s best friend is Harry Noble, aka Hap Noble, who is part of a multi-generational Northern Jersey family of musicians. It was Noble’s dad who showed Kemble how to play the guitar. Kemble, in turn, returned the favor and taught Hap Noble’s sons the guitar when they started out playing music. “There was always lots of music jamming in the Noble clan,” Kemble recalled.

Grover Kemble (second from left; guitar and vocals), Regan Ryzuk (far left) and The Noble Brothers, including Matt DiPaolo (drums), Bob Noble (bass) and Harry Noble (guitar and backing vocals) – August 2021

The two sons, Harry Noble (lead guitar) and Bob Noble (bass), who gained initial prominence in a country rock-oriented group called Quimby Mountain Band, are part of the fine musicians backing Kemble on the album. Matt DiPaolo (drums) and Regan Ryzuk (keyboards), with whom Kemble has played for more than 35 years, complete the line-up. Matt is a member of Harry’s and Bob’s current group, The Noble Brothers. I’d say it’s time for some music!

Let’s kick it off with the great opener Don’t Let the Morning Come. Like all of the 13 other tracks on the album, it was penned by Kemble. “I was listening to All Along The Watchtower by Hendrix early one sleepy rainy morning and wished to stay in bed and not let the sunlight in,” Kemble told me about the tune. “It crept into my brain later in the day and I morphed the two concepts into this song.” It’s got a nice rock vibe and at the same time, it’s smooth – cool tune!

The title track in Kemp’s words “is about a dude getting more serious about a relationship and not wanting to waste time on something that could possibly be more cavalier on the other person’s end….been there, done that a bunch…let’s not waste a lot of time if it’s not going anywhere.” Neat guitar work!

Things turn funky on Lovin’ On the Run, my early favorite on the album. I love the smooth jazzy guitar sound. Kemble and Harry Noble shared lead guitar work on this tune. The other musical standout for me is Bob Noble’s great bass work. Commenting on the lyrics Kemble said, “Ha- maybe the opposite of “I’m Serious”. This dude is playing around, then thinks he might have found someone more steady but then eventually returns to his old hit-and-run ways.”Lovin’ on the Run has an infectious groove – check it out!

What More Can I Say is another track I really like. It has a soulful touch and features great nylon guitar action, as well as beautiful melodic bass playing. “This is an old chestnut from way back that I wrote in the 1970’s,” Kemble explained. “I discovered it in a Za Zu Zaz (my once very popular band) song booklet I had in an old drawer. Just talking about what we all might do to lend a hand towards a better world.” Kemble may have written these lyrics in the ’70s, but the message certainly remains relevant to this day.

Let’s do one more: Make It, Take It, another smooth funky tune. “Years ago, my buddies and I played tons of schoolyard basketball,” Kemble recalled. “If your team made a basket you kept the ball for another chance until you missed or the ball was stolen or rebounded away. We called the game “Make it Take It”. The lyrics suggest the opposite realities happening in a relationship for each next line in regards to what’s happening in an unraveling relationship. The spoken word part towards the end was originally a guitar solo but changed to add something different that kind of says, ‘What are we so opposing each other for…let’s take advantage of the good stuff we could have going.'”

I certainly hope I’m Serious isn’t a one-off. While Kemble didn’t rule it out, for now he wants to continue focusing on his current recording project, which he described as “a little more smooth jazzyish.” Fair enough, though selfishly, I’d love to see more of that neat rock, R&B and funk – I’m serious!

I guess we should stay tuned. Meanwhile, for more on Grover Kemble, you can check out his website, Facebook and YouTube. I’m Serious is available on streaming and other platforms, such as Spotify, Tidal, iTunes, Deezer, YouTube, Amazon Music, etc. Following is a Spotify link to the album:

Sources: Grover Kemble website; YouTube; Spotify

Song Musings

What you always wanted to know about that tune

It’s Wednesday, which means the time has come again for me to take a closer look at a tune I previously mentioned in passing only or have not covered at all to date. In this case, I’m bending the rules a bit since technically I already published a post about the song I decided to highlight today, but it was brief and dates back a few years to June 2019.

The first time I heard about Gino Vannelli must have been around 1980. I seem to recall my brother-in-law had the versatile Canadian singer-songwriter’s sixth studio album Brother to Brother on vinyl, which I ended up taping on music cassette. Released in September 1978, Vannelli’s most successful record is primarily known for the romantic ballad I Just Wanna Stop, a song that had been written by his brother Ross Vannelli, which Gino didn’t want to record initially since he didn’t like it!

The tune that I’ve picked for this post is the album’s title track. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find many details about it. But when I heard my good music friend Mike Caputo perform Brother to Brother last Saturday night with his excellent band Good Stuff who celebrate the music of Steely Dan, Stevie Wonder, Gino Vannelli and Sting, it reminded me what a killer of a tune it is musically speaking. Check this out – the musicianship is truly outstanding!

Like most other tunes on the album, Brother to Brother was written by Gino Vannelli. The tune wasn’t among the record’s four singles, which in addition to I Just Wanna Stop included Wheels of Love, The River Must Flow and Appaloosa. At 7:16 minutes, Brother to Brother wasn’t exactly radio-friendly, plus I guess it’s fair to say it wasn’t as “easily digestible” as those other songs, especially I Just Wanna Stop.

One of Brother to Brother’s highlights is the guitar solo by Carlos Rios, which starts at around 2:49 minutes. Also noteworthy is the great bass and drum action beginning at approximately 4:35 minutes by Jimmy Haslip, cofounder of American jazz fusion band Yellowjackets, and rock and jazz drummer Mark Craney, respectively. Here’s a nice live version of the tune from a 2015 recording titled Live in LA, featuring Gino’s other brother Joe Vannelli on keyboards. Like Ross (backing vocals), Joe (electric piano, synthesizers) played on the original recording. Both brothers, especially Joe, also played on many of Gino’s other records.

Gino Vannelli, who in June 2022 turned 70, remains active to this day. His most recent album is titled Wilderness Road and was released in 2019. Based on Wikipedia, since his 1973 debut Crazy Life, Vannelli has put out 20 additional albums. This total includes what looks like three live recordings and one compilation.

According to a recent news post on Vannelli’s website, a new album, The Life I Got, is scheduled for the summer. After nearly 3.5 years, he also resumed touring in early March with two shows in Florida. Currently, his schedule lists four upcoming gigs slated for September in California, Illinois and Michigan.

Admittedly, my knowledge of Gino Vannelli’s music remains limited. Based on what I’ve heard, he’s a talented, versatile and I think underappreciated artist.

Sources: Wikipedia; Gino Vannelli website; YouTube

The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

Happy Sunday and welcome to another excursion into the beautiful world of music. For most folks in the U.S., daylight savings began last night, so just in case, don’t forget to adjust your clocks. Should you feel a bit tired since you lost one hour of sleep, music is a great remedy. All aboard the time machine and let’s go back, Jack, do it again!

Wayne Shorter/Footprints

Today, our journey begins in October 1967 to commemorate the great Wayne Shorter who sadly passed away on March 2 at the age of 89. Frankly, had it not been for fellow blogger Music Enthusiast and his related tribute, I guess I would have missed it! Unlike Jeff Beck or Lynyrd Skynyrd co-founder Gary Rossington, who we lost on March 5, it seems Shorter’s death didn’t get comparable media attention. While Wayne Shorter wasn’t a guitarist, the jazz saxophonist and composer was a true rock star in my book. In addition to being a sideman playing with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and Miles Davis’ Second Great Quintet, Shorter started his recording career as a bandleader in 1959 with Introducing Wayne Shorter – the first of more than 20 additional albums he released in that role. In 1970, Shorter became a co-founder of Weather Report, co-leading the jazz fusion band with Austrian keyboarder Joe Zawinul until their breakup in 1986. After leaving Weather Report, Shorter continued to record and perform until his retirement in 2018 after a nearly 70-year career! Let’s celebrate this great musician with one of his best-known compositions that has become a jazz standard: Footprints, which first appeared on Shorter’s 10th solo album Adam’s Apple released in October 1967. He was backed by Herbie Hancock (piano), Reggie Workman (bass) and Joe Chambers (drums).

Dirty Honey/California Dreamin’

I realize smooth saxophone jazz may not be the best remedy to wake up if you’re really tired. Let’s travel to the current century and kick up the speed a few notches with music by one of the most exciting contemporary rock bands I know: Dirty Honey. Founded in 2017, this Los Angeles-based group reminds me of bands like AerosmithLed Zeppelin and The Black Crowes. Dirty Honey are Marc Labelle (vocals), John Notto (guitar), Justin Smolian (bass) and Corey Coverstone (drums). To date, they have released a self-titled EP (2019) and debut album (2021), as well as a bunch of singles. Here’s California Dreamin’, the kickass opener of their full-length debut, which came out in April 2021. Or are we actually listening to a moniker of The Black Crowes when they were at their peak? Damn, feel free to play along with air or real guitar!

Sting/All This Time

Okay, time for a little breather with Sting and All This Time. This beautiful tune, off the ex-Police frontman’s third full-length solo album The Soul Cages, takes us to January 1991. The Soul Cages is a concept album revolving around the 1987 death of Sting’s father, which led the English artist to develop writer’s block. The scary episode lasted several years, explaining the relatively long 4-year gap to its predecessor …Nothing Like the Sun. Soul Cages also was Sting’s first solo album to feature guitarist Dominic Miller who would become a longtime collaborator appearing on most of Sting’s albums thereafter, including his most recent The Bridge from November 2021. Like all except two tracks on The Soul Cages, All This Time was solely written by Sting.

Danny & The Juniors/At The Hop

Let’s put on our classic rock & roll dancin’ shoes and pay a visit to the year 1957. That’s when American doo-wop and rock & roll vocal group Danny & The Juniors scored their biggest hit single At The Hop. The group from Philadelphia was formed in 1955 and originally included Danny Rapp, Dave White, Frank Maffei and Joe Terranova. At The Hop was co-written by Artie Singer, John Medora and White. The seductive honky tonk piano-driven tune became the group’s only no. 1 single in the U.S., topping both the mainstream pop and R&B charts. Danny & The Juniors may have had only one hit but they certainly made it count. White and Terranova passed away in March 2019 and April 2019 and the ages of 79 and 78, respectively. Let’s join in the dance sensations that are sweepin’ the nation at the hop – ’50s rock & roll doesn’t get much better!

Tracy Chapman/Talkin’ Bout a Revolution

We’re four tunes into our current journey and haven’t featured the ’80s yet. My proposition this week is Tracy Chapman and one of her best-known songs from her eponymous debut album that came out in 1988. I still remember when the folk singer-songwriter seemingly out of nowhere burst on the scene in April that year with Fast Car, the album’s first single, and became an overnight sensation. Talkin’ Bout a Revolution, the record’s opener, was the second single released in July 1988. While it didn’t match the chart success of Fast Car, the tune was just as ubiquitous on the radio back in Germany. I dug Chapman’s music so much that I bought a songbook of the album for acoustic guitar. Given her relatively deep vocals, I was able to reasonably sing her tunes. While Chapman has not been active for many years, she has not officially retired from music. I believe her most recent “public appearance” was the night before the November 2020 U.S. Presidential elections on Late Night with Seth Myers with a clip of her performing Talkin’ ‘about a Revolution, asking Americans to vote. Man, this tune still gives me chills – so good!

Lynyrd Skynyrd/Free Bird

Once again, it’s time to wrap up another music time travel. And what could possibly be a better final stop than Free Bird, the epic Lynyrd Skynyrd track that closed out their debut album (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd), released in August 1973. Co-written by the southern rock icon co-founders Allen Collins (guitar) and frontman Ronnie Van Zant (lead vocals), the 9-minute-plus gem features the late Gary Rossington on rhythm and slide guitars. Rossington also was among the band’s co-founding members. He cheated death twice. In 1976, he was in a car accident, hitting an oak tree while under the influence of alcohol and other drugs. Luckily, nobody else got hurt in that accident. Rossington also survived the horrific plane crash on October 1977, which took the lives of Ronnie Van Zant, Skynyrd guitarist Steve Gaines, backing vocalist and Steve’s sister Cassie Gaines, as well as three others. Rossington played with the band’s current touring version until his death and was their only remaining original member.

Here’s a Spotify playlist of all the above goodies. As always, I hope there’s something you dig!

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube; Spotify

Song Musings

What you always wanted to know about that tune

Happy Wednesday and I’d like to welcome you to another installment of Song Musings, in which I take a closer look at a tune I’ve only mentioned in passing or not covered at all to date. This week, my pick is Shape of My Heart by Sting, a gem off his fourth studio album Ten Summoner’s Tales. And guess what, today happens to be the 30th anniversary of that very album, which I feel is Sting’s artistic Mount Rushmore. A dear friend reminded me of the anniversary last week after I had earmarked the tune for today’s post – so, yes, I suppose the stars were aligned!

Co-written by guitarist Dominic Miller and Sting (credited with his birthname Gordon Sumner), Shape of My Heart first appeared as the 10th track on Ten Summoner’s Tales. Five months later, on August 23, 1993, it was also released separately as the album’s fifth single. While unlike If I Ever Lose My Faith In You and Fields of Gold, the album’s first and fourth singles, respectively, Shape of My Heart didn’t gain much traction in the charts, Wikipedia notes the tune has become a “pop classic” and one of the songs that are most closely associated with Sting’s solo career.

The official music video for Shape of My Heart (see below), filmed at Sting’s lake house in Wiltshire, southern England, was directed by Doug Nichol. Apart from Sting, the American filmmaker and video director also worked with the likes of David Bowie, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen and U2 and was the director of photography on Madonna’s 1991 documentary Truth or Dare. Nichol won the 1994 Grammy Award for Best Long Form Music Video for Ten Summoner’s Tales.

Upon its release as a single, Shape of My Heart reached an underwhelming no. 57 on the UK Official Singles Chart. In Canada, it did somewhat better, climbing to no. 44. Elsewhere, including the U.S., Australia and various European countries other than the UK, the single didn’t chart at all. I find that a bit mind-boggling. Perhaps, audiences felt it was too mellow!

When it comes to the album, fortunately, the picture looks very different. Ten Summoner’s Tales topped the Austrian charts, reached no. 2 in the UK, the U.S., France and Germany, no. 3 in Norway and Switzerland, and no. 5 in The Netherlands, among others. It also became one of Sting’s best-selling albums, gaining 3x and 2x Platinum certifications in the U.S. and the UK, respectively, as well as Platinum status in each Australia, Canada, Spain and Switzerland. The album was also nominated for multiple awards in the U.S. and UK, and won three Grammy Awards and one Brit Award.

Following are additional insights from Songfacts:

Sting talked about “Shape Of My Heart” in a 1993 promotional interview: “I wanted to write about a card player, a gambler who gambles not to win but to try and figure out something; to figure out some kind of mystical logic in luck, or chance; some kind of scientific, almost religious law. So this guy’s a philosopher, he’s not playing for respect and he’s not playing for money, he’s just trying to figure out the law – there has to be some logic to it. He’s a poker player so it’s not easy for him to express his emotions, in fact he doesn’t express anything, he has a mask, and it’s just one mask and it never changes.”

This is one of the rare songs that is co-written by Sting’s longtime guitarist, Dominic Miller. In Lyrics By Sting, the singer remembered Miller bringing him the “beautiful guitar riff” and going for a walk along the riverbank and through the woods to figure out the lyrics. “When I got back, the whole song was written in my head. Dominic now thinks that I find lyrics under a rock somewhere… He could, of course, be right,” Sting wrote.

This song was edited into the end of the 1994 movie Leon: The Professional.

Both the Sugababes and Craig David sampled this and had hit singles with it in 2003 in the UK. The Sugababes’ “Shape” made #11, and Craig David’s “Rise And Fall” made #2. On the latter, Sting even made an appearance in the video and performed the track with Craig David on live music shows.

15 years later, US rapper Juice WRLD had a worldwide hit with “Lucid Dreams (Forget Me)”, which also makes major use of this track.

Renowned harmonica player Larry Adler played on this song. Before collaborating with popular musicians like Sting, Elton John and Kate Bush in his later career, Adler worked with composers like George Gershwin, Ralph Vaughan Williams, and Darius Milhaud – many of whom composed works specifically for him. Unfortunately, he would be blacklisted during the anti-Communist crusade led by Senator Joe McCarthy in the ’50s.

This was featured on the TV crime drama Hustle in the 2011 episode “The Delivery.”

Miller was just warming up his fingers by playing Chopin-style chords on the guitar when he happened to catch Sting’s ear. He explained in a 2018 interview at Jazzklub Divino in Denmark: “I was just playing that in front of the fireplace at Sting’s house in England and he said, ‘What’s that?’ ‘Oh, it’s nothing, it’s just a little movement.’ He said, ‘That’s a song.’ I went, ‘Really? Are you kidding me?’ Then ten minutes later we went into the studio – ’cause we were at his studio anyway in his lake house – and we put a drum machine up, just the two of us. And then he went out in the garden for a walk and he came back with those lyrics. And so we recorded it! It was just an acoustic guitar and it was finished in one day – it was written in one day and recorded.”

He continued: “It’s one of those nice moments that happen in your life when things just fall on top of each other naturally, like nature. It’s not always like that… Sting’s genius with lyrics made it into a very, very ambiguous kind of narrative, which really goes well with that kind of arpeggio, with those Chopin-esque chords, you know? That Chopin-esque harmony kind of lends itself to those kind of lyrics, with Sting’s timbre of his voice and the sound of my guitar and just a little bit of a groove. It was the perfect storm.”

Sources: Wikipedia; Songfact; YouTube

The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

Happy Sunday and welcome to another trip, leaving these crazy times behind and visiting the great world of music, including six tunes in different flavors from different decades. All aboard our magic time machine, fasten your seatbelt, and off we go!

Chick Corea/Crystal Silence

Today’s journey starts in September 1972 with beautiful music by Chick Corea, off his first self-titled album with his then-newly formed jazz fusion group Return to Forever. The jazz pianist had started his professional and recording career in the early ’60s as a sideman for Mongo Santamaria, Willie Bobo, Blue Mitchell, Herbie Mann, Stan Getz and Miles Davis. He also had launched his solo career in 1966 and released more than 10 albums under his name. In fact, technically, Return to Forever appeared as a Chick Corea record. The band of the same name had multiple line-ups over their long on-and-off run that ended with Corea’s death from cancer in February 2021 at the age of 79. In addition to Corea (electric piano), at the time of their eponymous debut album, the group featured Flora Purim (vocals, percussion), her husband Airto Moreira (drums, percussion), Joe Farrell (flute, soprano saxophone) and Stanley Clarke (bass). Check out the gorgeous Corea composition Crystal Silence – the combination of Farrell’s saxophone and Corea’s Fender Rodes is just mesmerizing!

Marc Cohn/Walking in Memphis

Let’s move on to February 1991 and a song I instantly fell in love with when I heard it for the first time back in Germany: Walking in Memphis, the biggest hit for American singer-songwriter Marc Cohn, off his eponymous debut album. The tune was also released separately as the album’s first single in March of the same year. Cohn’s signature song reached high positions on various U.S. charts, including no. 7 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock and no. 13 on the Hot 100. The single also did well on mainstream charts elsewhere, including Canada (no. 3), Australia (no. 11), the UK (no. 22) and Germany (no. 25). This was pretty much mirrored by the performance of the album, for which Cohn won the 1992 Grammy Award for Best New Artist. He has since released five additional albums, which charted as well but could not match the success of the debut. After taking a break between 1998 and 2004, Cohn remains active to this day. In August 2005, he cheated death when he was shot in the head during an attempted car-jacking in Denver, Colo. Sadly, these types of incidents and even much worse happen in the U.S. all the time, yet nothing ever seems to change!

Cream/Sunshine of Your Love

Time to pay a visit to the ’60s and what may well be called the ultimate British supergroup: Cream. During their short career of less than two and a half years, the power trio of bassist Jack Bruce, guitarist Eric Clapton and drummer Ginger Baker recorded four albums featuring some of the best blues rock, psychedelic rock and acid rock coming out of the UK during that time period. Sunshine of Your Love, credited to Bruce, Clapton and lyricist Pete Brown, began as a bass riff Bruce came up with after he had attended a concert by the Jimi Hendrix Experience in London in January 1967. The tune first appeared on Cream’s sophomore studio album Disraeli Gears in November 1967. It was subsequently released as a single in the U.S. and the UK in December 1967 and September 1968, respectively. Two months after the UK single had come out Cream dissolved. Given the bad fights between Bruce and Baker, which also turned physical, it’s a miracle they lasted that long and nobody was killed.

Dire Straits/Brothers In Arms

Our next stop is May 1985, which saw the release of Dire Straits’ second-to-final album Brothers In Arms. I still well remember when it came out, in part because it was among the first all-digitally recorded albums and sounded absolutely amazing. I guess it’s fair to say Brothers In Arms is best known for Money For Nothing, which became the British group’s most commercially successful single. While it’s certainly a good tune, I feel it was heavily over-exposed on the radio. I also think there’s more to the album than its mega-hit. One of the tunes I’ve always liked is the title track. Like Money For Nothing, it was written by Mark Knopfler, though Sting who provided the falsetto vocals also received a writing credit for Money For Nothing. Brothers In Arms also appeared separately as a single, but it didn’t match the other tune’s chart performance. It came very close in New Zealand where it peaked at no. 5, just one spot below Money For Nothing.

Chuck Berry/Johnny B. Goode

Let’s speed things up a few notches with one of my all-time favorite classic rock & roll songs. In order to do that we shall travel back to March 1958 when Chuck Berry first released Johnny B. Goode as a single. Written by Berry, it became one of his best-known tunes, though amazingly it didn’t reach the top of any chart – really mind-boggling from today’s perspective! But it came close in the U.S. where it peaked at no. 2 on Billboard’s Hot Rhythm & Blues Singles chart. It also climbed to no. 8 on the mainstream pop chart. Johnny B. Goode was also included on Berry’s third studio album Chuck Berry Is On Top, together with other classics like Carol, Maybellene, Little Queenie and Roll Over Beethoven. While Berry didn’t invent rock & roll, it’s fair to say rock & roll wouldn’t have been the same without him.

CVC/Hail Mary

And once again another music journey is reaching its final destination. For this pick, we jump back to the present and a band I had not heard of before until a few weeks ago: CVC, which NME in this review describes as a Welsh psych-rock band. Also known as Church Village Collective, they were founded three years ago. It amazes me time and again how music groups have websites that don’t provide any background whatsoever! At least there’s a Spotify profile, which notes the six-piece named themselves “after the sleepy Welsh town they come from” and “are influenced by Snoop Dogg, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Super Furry Animals and Red Hot Chili Peppers.” CVC are Francesco Orsi (vocals), David Bassey (guitar, vocals), Elliot Bradfield (guitar, vocals), Daniel ‘Nanial’ Jones (keyboards), Ben Thorne (bass) and Tom Fry (drums). This brings me to Hail Mary, a nice tune from the band’s full-length debut album Get Real.

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

Sources: Wikipedia; NME; YouTube; Spotify

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Welcome to another Saturday and my latest revue of newly released music. All picks this week are from albums that appeared yesterday (January 27).

White Reaper/Fog Machine

Kicking off this post are American garage rock band White Reaper. According to their profile on Apple Music, they are making retro style bubblegum punk mixed with some arena rock. Formed by childhood friends in Louisville, Kentucky, the group named themselves after a spooky decoration they came across in a Halloween story. They released a critically acclaimed EP in 2014, followed by their 2015 debut album, White Reaper Does It Again. Pitchfork named their sophomore LP, The World’s Best American Band, one of the 20 Best Rock Albums of 2017. White Reaper’s lineup includes Tony Esposito (guitar, vocals), Hunter Thompson (guitar), Ryan Hater (keyboards), Sam Wilkerson (bass) and Nick Wilkerson (drums, percussion). Fog Machine, credited to the entire band, is a tune from their fourth and latest studio album Asking for a Ride. It rocks and is pretty melodic!

H.C. McEntire/Turpentine (feat. Amy Ray)

H.C. McEntire is a singer-songwriter from Durham, N.C. From her AllMusic bio: Blessed with a perfect country voice and the uncompromising determination of a punk rocker, H.C. McEntire (also known as Heather McEntire) is best known as a member of the bands Mount Moriah and Bellafea, as well as for her work as a solo artist. With Mount Moriah, McEntire began exploring the atmospheric side of Southern roots music, and in her solo work, she dug deeper into this territory, mixing the artful side of indie rock with melodies and vocal lines that harken back to traditional country and folk. Her solo debut, 2018’s Lionheart, introduced her new variations on her style, and 2020’s Eno Axis upped the indie rock side of the formula. Now McEntire is out with her third album Every Acre, and I love what I’ve heard thus far. Here’s Turpentine, co-written by McEntire, Luke Norton, Daniel Faust and Casey Toll, the bassist of Mount Moriah, and featuring Amy Ray of contemporary folk duo Indigo Girls – a beautiful tune with a great roots rock sound!

The Arcs/Behind the Eyes

The Arcs are a garage rock band formed in 2015 by singer-songwriter and record producer Dan Auerbach as a side project to The Black Keys, his blues rock band together with drummer Patrick Carney. Apart from Auerbach (lead vocals, guitar), The Arcs currently also include Leon Michels (keyboards, guitar), Nick Movshon (bass) and Homer Steinweiss (drums, percussion). Richard Swift, another member who was featured on the group’s 2015 debut album Yours, Dreamily, passed away in July 2018 at the age of 41 due to complications from hepatitis, as well as liver and kidney distress. This brings me to Behind the Eyes from The Arcs’ sophomore album Electrophonic Chronic, a track credited to all members of the group and Russ Pahl who also provides steel guitar.

Vusi Mahlasela, Norman Zulu & Jive Connection/Prodigal Son

My last pick for this week is South African singer-songwriter Vusi Mahlasela, who according to a bio on his website is simply known as ‘The Voice’ in his home-country, South Africa, celebrated for his distinct, powerful voice and his poetic, optimistic lyrics. His songs of hope connect Apartheid-scarred South Africa with its promise for a better future. Raised in the Mamelodi Township, where he still resides, Vusi became a singer-songwriter and poet-activist at an early age teaching himself how to play guitar and later joining the Congress of South African Writers. After his popular debut on BMG Africa, “When You Come Back,” Vusi was asked to perform at Nelson Mandela’s inauguration in 1994. Vusi has toured globally and shared the stage with Dave Matthews Band, Sting, Paul Simon, Josh Groban, Ray LaMontagne, Natalie Merchant, Taj Mahal, among many others. A news announcement describes his latest release, Face to Face, as a lost recording from the archives in January with a 2002 collaboration between…Vusi…, singer-songwriter Norman Zulu and Swedish jazz/soul collective Jive Connection. Check out the amazing opener Prodigal Son, which drew me in right away!

Here’s a Spotify playlist of the above tunes and some additional tracks from the four featured albums and artists.

Sources: Wikipedia; Apple Music; AllMusic; Vusi Mahlasela website; YouTube; Spotify

The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

Welcome to the final 2022 installment of The Sunday Six! I can’t believe I’m writing this. But, yep, not only is this year quickly coming to an end, but this blog will also be on a short holiday hiatus. I’m going back to Germany next week to spend Christmas with my parents and planning to resume posting shortly after my return close to the new year.

Michael Brecker/I Can See Your Dreams

Always curious to learn about new jazz saxophone players, I asked my friend Phil Armeno the other day. Phil plays saxophone in Good Stuff, a great band celebrating the music of Steely Dan, Sting, Stevie Wonder and Gino Vannelli (I previously covered them here.) The first sax player Phil mentioned was Michael Brecker. The name sounded vaguely familiar and no wonder – Brecker, who was active from 1969 until his untimely death in 2007 at the age of 57, collaborated with many music artists outside the pure jazz realm, including Steely Dan, Dire Straits, Joni Mitchell, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon…the list goes on and on! Brecker began studying the clarinet at age six before moving on to alto saxophone in eighth grade and finally settling on what became his main instrument, the tenor saxophone, in his sophomore year. While his recording career as a sideman started in 1969, his solo eponymous debut album didn’t appear until 1987. I Can See Your Dreams is a beautiful Brecker composition included on his seventh studio album Nearness of You: The Ballad Book released in June 2001. Check out that sweet sound!

Mink DeVille/Each Word’s a Beat of My Heart

Let’s kick up the speed a bit with a great 1983 pop tune by Mink DeVille: Each Word’s a Beat of My Heart. Formed in 1974, Mink DeVille was a band to showcase the music of frontman and versatile singer-songwriter Willy DeVille. While initially associated with New York’s early punk scene, the group’s roots were in R&B, blues and even Cajun music. Between 1977 and 1985, they put out six albums. After their breakup, DeVille continued to release a series of solo albums as Willy DeVille until February 2008. In early 2009, he was diagnosed with Hepatitis C, followed by a pancreatic cancer diagnosis a few months thereafter. DeVille passed away in August of the same year, shortly prior to what would have been his 59th birthday. Each Word’s a Beat of My Heart, penned by DeVille, was included on the band’s second-to-final album Where Angels Fear to Tread. The tune also appeared separately and became their only single to chart in the U.S. (no. 89). While both the band and DeVille were more successful elsewhere, overall, their chart success was moderate.

The Beatles/Day Tripper

Time for a stopover in the ’60s and The Beatles with a great tune featuring what I feel is one of their best guitar riffs: Day Tripper. Written primarily by John Lennon and credited to him and Paul McCartney, as usual, the non-album single was released in December 1965, paired with We Can Work It Out. According to Wikipedia, the single was the first example of a double A-side in Britain where it became the band’s ninth no. 1 on the Official Singles Chart. Elsewhere, it also passed the audition, reaching the top of the charts in The Netherlands, Finland, Ireland, Norway and Sweden. In the U.S., it peaked at no. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. Songfacts notes the lyrics were Lennon’s first reference to LSD in a Beatles tune and can be viewed as him teasing Paul about not taking acid.

John Prine/Take a Look At My Heart

Our next stop is the ’90s. For the occasion, I have a perfect country rock-flavored tune I came across recently: Take a Look At My Heart by John Prine. It appears the more songs I hear from him, the more I dig his music, and the better I understand why he was held in such high esteem by many other artists and music fans. Take a Look At My Heart, co-written by Prine and John Mellencamp and featuring Bruce Springsteen on backing vocals, was included on Prine’s 10th studio album The Missing Years. Released in September 1991, it won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album. In spite of this recognition, it didn’t make the charts – incredible! But Prine’s music cannot be measured by chart success in the first place. Of course, the same can be said about other music artists!

Rainbow/Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll

Fasten your seatbelt for this next kickass hard rock tune. We’re going back to April 1978 and the title track of Rainbow’s third studio album Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll. The British-American band was formed in 1975 as Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow after the guitarist’s departure from Deep Purple. In addition to Blackmore, the short-lived original line-up included killer vocalist Ronnie James Dio, Micky Lee Soule (keyboards), Craig Gruber (bass) and Gary Driscoll (drums). Blackmore was extremely difficult to work with and frequently fired members from the band. By the time Rainbow recorded Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll, Soule, Gruber and Driscoll were gone. Cozy Powell had already taken over on drums for Driscoll later in 1975. Unfortunately, Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll was the final Rainbow album for Dio. Starting with the successor Down to Earth, Blackmore steered the group to a more radio-friendly sound that apparently was inspired by his liking of Foreigner. I’ve always loved Long Live Rock ‘n Roll, which was co-written by Blackmore and Dio.

Mudcrutch/The Wrong Thing to Do

This brings us to the final destination of our last music time travel excursion of 2022. Prior to forming the Heartbreakers in 1976, Tom Petty had another band, Mudcrutch, he co-founded in 1970 with Tom Leadon in Gainesville, Fla. With Petty on bass and vocals and Leadon on guitar and vocals, the group’s line-up also included Jim Lenehan (vocals), Mike Campbell (guitar) and Randall Marsh (drums). By the time they relocated to Los Angeles in 1974 to seek a deal with a major record label, Leadon and Lenehan had left and been replaced by Danny Roberts (bass, guitar, vocals) and Benmont Tench (keyboards). After signing with Leon Russell’s independent label Shelter Records, Mudcrutch released a single, Depot Street, in 1975. It went nowhere, and the group disbanded later that year. Petty went on to form the Heartbreakers, together with Campbell, Tench, Ron Blair (bass) and Stan Lynch (drums). Fast-forward 32 years to August 2007 when Petty decided to revive Mudcrutch. Apart from his Heartbreakers bandmates Campbell and Tench, the line-up featured original Mudcrutch members Leadon and Marsh. Off their first full-length eponymous studio album, released in April 2008, here’s the Petty-written The Wrong Thing to Do. The group’s second album, Mudcrutch 2 from May 2016, is the last studio material Petty recorded prior to his tragic death in October 2017.

Last but not here’s a Spotify playlist featuring the above tracks. Hope you dig it and will join me for more zigzag music journeys in 2023.

Sources: Wikipedia; Songfacts; YouTube; Spotify

The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

Happy Sunday morning, afternoon, or evening, wherever you are! Are you ready to embark on another excursion into the great world of music? Six tunes at a time? I am and hope you’ll join me!

Oscar Peterson Trio/Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good)

There’s just something about jazz and Sunday mornings, which makes them a perfect match. Chances are you’ve heard of Oscar Peterson, even if you’re like me, meaning you’re not a jazz expert. In my case, I believe it was at my brother-in-law’s place where I first encountered the Canadian jazz pianist many moons ago. Over a 60-year-plus active career spanning the years 1945-2007, Peterson released more than 200 recordings and received many honors and awards, including seven Grammys, among others. None other than Duke Ellington called Peterson the “Maharaja of the keyboard.” Evidently, the admiration was mutual. Here’s I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good), originally released in 1942, with music by Sir Duke and lyrics by Paul Francis Webster. Ellington covered the tune on an album titled Night Train, which appeared in 1963 as the Duke Ellington Trio. He was backed by Ray Brown (double bass) and Ed Thigpen (drums).

Sting/If I Ever Lose My Faith In You

Next, let’s travel to May 1993 and another great artist who I trust needs no introduction: Sting. Born Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner, the British musician and actor first gained prominence as the frontman, songwriter and bassist of The Police. By the time the group played their last gig in June 1986 prior to their break-up, Sting had already launched his solo career with the album The Dream of the Blue Turtles from June 1985. My pick is from his fourth solo effort, Ten Summoner’s Tales, which I think is his Mount Rushmore: If I Ever Lose My Faith In You. Sting remains active to this day and in November 2021 released his 15th solo album The Bridge. He’s currently on the road for what looks like a fairly extensive international “My Songs” tour, which includes the U.S. and Europe. The schedule is here.

David Bowie/Rebel Rebel

While David Bowie was a pretty versatile artist, I’ve always been particularly drawn to his glam rock-oriented phase. You give me the Ziggy Stardust album any day, and I’m a happy camper! By the time Bowie released his eighth studio album Diamond Dogs in May 1974, his glam rock phase was largely over. His backing band The Spiders From Mars had disbanded. Mick Ronson’s absence prompted Bowie to take over guitar duties himself. On Rebel Rebel, he proved that worked out quite well!…Rebel, rebel, you’ve torn your dress/Rebel, rebel, your face is a mess/Rebel, rebel, how could they know?/Hot tramp, I love you so!

Patricia Bahia/Hold On

Our next stop takes us to the present with a compelling tune by a contemporary artist you may not have heard of: Patricia Bahia. I had not been aware of this Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter myself until recently. From her website: An award-winning songwriter, singer, cancer survivor, and coach, Patricia Bahia (pronounced bah-HEE-yah) is a multi-dimensional artist and songwriter-in-service who lives her bucket list and helps others to do the same. “Though I was always a singer, I didn’t write my first song until after receiving a cancer diagnosis in 2003. I’d spent my life doing what was expected of me, pursuing a career as a lawyer, living out someone else’s dream, while secretly harboring a dream of writing songs.”…Patricia encourages others to follow their own dreams, saying, “I am living proof that it is never too late to start living your dream. My mission is to spread love, healing, joy, and peace through the power of words and music, and to inspire others to follow their own dreams.” Here’s Hold On, a beautiful and powerful song Bahia released in September 2021.

John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band/On the Dark Side

Time to throw in some ’80s music. This next pick is from the soundtrack of the 1983 American musical drama picture Eddie and the Cruisers. The tale about the mysterious disappearance of cult rock star Eddie Wilson and his group Eddie and the Cruisers featured music by John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band, a group from Rhode Island that had started out as a bar band in 1972. The soundtrack, most of which was written by Cafferty and his band, gave them their international breakthrough. Despite some success with a self-released single in 1980, they were largely ignored by major record labels due to frequent critical comparisons of their music to Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band. When listening to On the Dark Side, the similarities are obvious. The tune sounds like a blend of Springsteen and John Mellencamp’s R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A. That being said, On the Dark Side preceded Mellencamp’s hit by two years! In any case, it’s a cool song, and the Springsteen flavor doesn’t bother me at all!

Jefferson Airplane/Somebody to Love

Let’s take off one last time for today and go back to February 1967 and Surrealistic Pillow, the sophomore album by Jefferson Airplane. At that time, they had been around for approximately two years and released their debut Jefferson Airplane Takes Off in August 1966. While that record made the U.S. charts, climbing to no. 128, it was Surrealistic Pillow that actually made them take off. It also was Airplane’s first record with vocalist Grace Slick and drummer Spencer Dryden, who together with Jorma Kaukonen (lead guitar, vocals), Marty Balin (rhythm guitar, vocals), Paul Kantner (rhythm guitar, vocals) and Jack Casady (bass) completed their line-up at the time. The album’s second single Somebody to Love became the band’s biggest U.S. hit, surging to no. 5 on the pop chart. Penned by Darby Slick, Grace’s brother-in-law and originally titled Someone to Love, the tune first had been released by Darby’s band The Great Society in February 1966. At that same time, Grace was a member of the group as well and also sang lead on the original recording.

Last but not least, here’s a Spotify playlist of the above tracks. Hope you enjoyed today’s trip! The journey shall continue next Sunday!

Sources: Wikipedia; Sting website; Patricia Bahia website; YouTube; Spotify

If I Could Only Take One

My desert island song by Supertramp

Welcome to another installment of If I Could Only Take One, where I pick one song I would take with me on a desert island. To make the selection process more interesting, it can’t just be any tune.

For first-time visitors, I have to pick one tune only, not an album. In addition, the song must be by an artist or band I’ve rarely or not covered at all yet. Last but not least, selections must be made in alphabetical order.

This week, I’m up to “s.” There are plenty of artists (last names) and bands starting with that letter. Some examples include Sade, Sam & Dave, Santana, Simple Minds, Paul Simon, Small Faces, Southern Avenue, Bruce Springsteen, Steely Dan, Rod Stewart, Ringo Starr, Steppenwolf and Sting. And there’s my pick, Supertramp and The Logical Song.

Written by Supertramp co-founder Roger Hodgson, The Logical Song was the lead single of the English band’s biggest-selling sixth studio album Breakfast in America. Both appeared in March 1979. The Logical Song, one of four singles released from that album, also became Supertramp’s most successful song. It topped the charts in Canada, surged to no. 2 in France, and reached no. 6 in each the U.S. and Ireland. In the UK, the tune peaked at no. 7.

Breakfast in America topped the album charts in the U.S., Canada, Australia and various European countries, including France, Germany, The Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland. In the UK, it peaked at no. 3. The record reached platinum certification in the UK, France and The Netherlands, and 4x platinum status in the U.S.

At the Grammy Awards in 1980, Breakfast in America won in the Best Album Package and Best Engineered Non-Classical Recording categories. It had also been nominated for Album of the Year and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.

Formed in London in 1969 by Roger Hodgson (vocals, keyboards, guitars) and Rick Davies (vocals, keyboards), Supertramp started out as a progressive rock band. Beginning with their third and breakthrough album Crime of the Century (1974), they embraced a more pop-oriented sound.

Hodgson left Supertramp following the tour that supported the album …Famous Last Words… and launched a solo career in 1984. Subsequent line-ups of the group were led by Rick Davies. The band folded in 1988. After an unsuccessful attempt of Davies and Hodgson to reunite in 1993, Davies ended up reforming Supertramp in 1996.

In April 2002, Slow Motion appeared, the group’s final album to date. Since then, except for a tour in 2010, Supertramp have been on hiatus. In 2015, Davies was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, and his treatment forced the cancellation of a tour that had been planned for November and December that year. During an August 2018 interview, Davies said he had largely overcome his health issues, but the band has stayed on hiatus.

Over the course of a 25-year period (excluding the 8-year hiatus between 1988 and 1996) Supertramp released eleven studio albums, as well as various live and compilation albums. As of 2007, album sales had exceeded more than 60 million.

Following are a few additional insights for The Logical Song from Songfacts:

The lyrics are about how the innocence and wonder of childhood can quickly give way to worry and cynicism as children are taught to be responsible adults. It makes the point that logic can restrict creativity and passion.

Like the Lennon/McCartney partnership, most of Supertramp’s songs are credited to their lead singers Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies, although in many cases one writer was entirely responsible for the song. “The Logical Song” was written by Hodgson, but it shares some themes with a song Davies wrote on Supertramp’s 1974 album Crime of the Century called “School.”

Hodgson often writes songs by singing over his keyboard riffs. He’ll try different words and phrases to get ideas for his lyrics, which is how the title of this song came about. Said Hodgson: “From singing absolute nonsense, a line will pop up that suddenly makes sense, then another one, and so on. I was doing that when the word ‘logical’, came into my head and I thought, ‘That’s an interesting word’.”

…Like another famous song from 1979, “Another Brick In The Wall (part II),” this song rails against English schooling. “What’s missing at school is for me the loudest thing,” Hodgson said. “We are taught to function outwardly, but we are not taught who we are inwardly, and what really the true purpose of life is. The natural awe and wonder, the thirst and enthusiasm and joy of life that young children have, it gets lost. It gets beaten out of them in a way.”

…At a concert appearance, Roger Hodgson said of this song: “I was sent to boarding school for ten years and I definitely emerged from that experience with a lot of questions, like What the hell happened to me? What is life about? And why a lot of the things I had been told didn’t make any sense. ‘Logical Song’ was really a light hearted way of saying something pretty deep. Which is they told me how to conform, to be presentable, to be acceptable and everything but they didn’t tell me who I am or why I m here. So, it s a very profound message and I think it really resonated with a lot of people when it came out.”

Sources: Wikipedia; Songfacts; YouTube