I hope everybody is spending a nice weekend and would like to welcome you to another Sunday Six. While I love blogging about music, this weekly recurring feature has been my favorite since its inaugural post in January 2021. Unlike most other more thematic posts, I feel The Sunday Six allows me to write about any type of music I dig within the same post. As tempting as it may look to broaden the series to other days of the week, I think it would lose its appeal to me, not to mention many if not most readers. With that said, let’s jump in the time machine and embark on another fun trip!
Charles Mingus/Goodbye Pork Pie Hat
Our first stop today takes us back to October 1959 and Mingus Ah Um, a studio album by Charles Mingus. Over a 30-year career, the double bassist, pianist, composer and bandleader played with many other jazz greats like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, and released about 50 albums as a bandleader. Initially, Mingus started on the trombone and later studied the cello before picking up the double bass. As a teenager, he felt excluded from the classical music world since he couldn’t join a youth orchestra because of his inability to read musical notation quickly enough due to a poor education. These experiences, along with lifelong racism Mingus encountered influenced his music that oftentimes focused on themes like racial discrimination and injustice. By the mid-70s, sadly, Mingus had developed ALS. Eventually, this heinous disease made it impossible for him to play bass. Mingus continued to compose music until his untimely death in January 1979 at the age of 56. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat is a Mingus composition that first appeared on his above-mentioned 1959 album. Apart from Mingus (double bass), the track featured John Handy (alto saxophone), Booker Ervin (tenor saxophone), Horace Parlan (piano) and Dannie Richmond (drums) – so beautiful and relaxing!
Teresa James/Ticket to Ride
From the past, we shall jump to the present: January 20, 2023. That’s when Teresa James released her latest album With a Little Help from Her Friends, a collection of Beatles covers with a twist. In case you’ve never heard of James before, neither had I. According to her website, the vocalist and keyboarder is a Los Angeles-based contemporary blues artist who has released albums with her band The Rhythm Tramps since 1998. She has also recorded with the likes of Walter Trout, Eric Burdon, Spencer Davis, Tommy Castro and Randy Newman, and been a featured act on Delbert McClinton’s Sandy Beaches Cruises for more than twenty years. This brings me back to With a Little Help from Her Friends, which features fun bluesy renditions of Beatles tunes. Let’s check out Ticket to Ride. Primarily written by John Lennon and, as usual, credited to him and Paul McCartney, the original first appeared as a single in April 1965. It was also included on the studio album Help! released in August of the same year. I like that bluesy take!
Bob Dylan/Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts
For this next tune, we travel to January 1975 and Bob Dylan’s 15th studio album Blood On the Tracks. Initially received by critics with mixed reviews, it has subsequently been acclaimed as one of the maestro’s greatest – haven’t we seen that movie before? Anyway, I was reminded of Mr. Zimmerman’s gem the other day when my streaming music provider served up Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts. It immediately occurred to me the epic story ballad would make a great pick for a Sunday Six. Wikipedia notes the tune was one of five songs on the album, which Dylan initially recorded in New York City in September 1974 and then re-recorded in Minneapolis in December of the same year. It’s the latter version that became the album track. Dylan (vocals, guitar and harmonica) was backed by Gregg Inhofer (Hammond), Billy Peterson (bass) and Bill Berg (drums). Man, I love this tune, including Dylan’s vocals, the cinematic lyrics and the sound, especially the Hammond organ!
Otis Redding/I’ve Been Loving You For Too Long
Time for some sweet soul music. And when it comes to that genre, I always enjoy going back to the heyday of Stax. I’ve Been Loving You For Too Long is a gem co-written by Otis Redding and Jerry Butler. It was included on Redding’s third studio album Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul, released in September 1965. Sadly, it would mark more than the half point of the five-year recording career of the man nicknamed the “King of Soul”. By the time Redding died in a plane crash in December 1967, he had become Stax’s biggest star and just recorded what became his biggest hit, (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay. He was only 26 years old. Like his two previous albums, Redding recorded Otis Blue with Stax house band Booker T. & the M.G.’s, Isaac Hayes on piano, and a horn section consisting of members of the Mar-Keys and the Memphis Horns. What a killer backing band, and what a voice and soulful performance!
Matchbox Twenty/3 AM
Some of you may be surprised to see me feature a tune by post-grunge pop rock band Matchbox Twenty. I didn’t see that one coming myself until I recently came across 3 AM and remembered I’ve always liked this tune. It was included on their debut album Yourself or Someone Like You, which came out in October 1996. Co-written by the group’s lead vocalist and bassist Rob Thomas and Brian Yale, respectively, together with John Leslie Goff and John Joseph Stanley, 3 AM also became the album’s third single in November 1997 – and their first no. 1 in the U.S. on Billboard’s Adult Pop Play and the Adult Alternative Airplay charts. It also topped the Canadian singles chart. Elsewhere, it performed more moderately, reaching no. 31 and 64 in Australia and the UK, respectively. While I hadn’t heard the name Matchbox Twenty in many years, they are still together, evidently as a touring act, with Thomas, Yale and two other co-founding members comprising the current line-up.
Bryan Adams/Summer Of ’69
And we’re off to our final stop on this trip. If some readers perhaps were less surprised about Matchbox Twenty than I thought, it’s safe to assume my final pick will lead some to roll their eyes. I’ve said it before and fully stand behind these words, I do like a good number of songs by Bryan Adams, especially from his first five albums the Canadian artist released between 1980 and 1987. This includes Summer Of ’69, one of multiple charting singles off his fourth and most successful album Reckless from November 1984. For fair balance, I will add I’m not a fan of his big hit ballads (Everything I Do) I Do It for You, Please Forgive Me (-I will but the song is an atrocity) and Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman? At the same time, I recognize big hits help artists sustain themselves. If I see this correctly, Bryan Adams hasn’t had any comparable hits since 1995, yet he continues to march on nearly 30 years later.
This post wouldn’t be complete without a Spotify playlist of all the above tunes. Even if Bryan Adams and Matchbox Twenty aren’t your cup of tea, I still hope there’s something you dig!
Sources: Wikipedia; Teresa James website; YouTube; Spotify