The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

Happy Sunday! I always look forward to putting together this weekly recurring feature, which allows me to explore music from different styles and decades without any limits, except keeping it to six tracks I dig. Are you ready to accompany me on another excursion? Hop on and let’s go!

Mose Allison/Crespuscular Air

Today our journey begins in November 1957 with Local Color, the sophomore album by Mose Allison. Shoutout to Bruce from Vinyl Connection whose recent post about the American jazz and blues pianist inspired me to include him in a Sunday Six. According to Wikipedia, Allison has been called “one of the finest songwriters in 20th-century blues.” Let’s just put it this way: Pete Townshend felt Allison’s Young Man Blues was good enough to be featured on The Who’s Live at Leeds album released in February 1970. John Mayall was one of the dozens of artists who recorded Allison’s Parchman Farm for his 1966 debut album with the Blues Breakers, Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton. Allison’s music has also influenced many other artists, such as Jimi Hendrix, J. J. Cale, the Yardbirds, The Rolling Stones and Tom Waits. Here’s Crespuscular Air, a mellow jazz instrumental composed by Allison and included on the above-mentioned Local Color – the same record that featured Parchman Farm.

Steve Earle/Goodbye

Our next stop takes us to February 1995, which saw the release of Steve Earle’s fifth studio album Train a Comin’. I’m still relatively new to Earle but have quickly come to appreciate his music, which over the decades has included country, country rock, rock, blues and folk. Train a Comin’, while not a commercial or chart success, was an important album for Earle who had overcome his drug addiction in the fall of 1994. The bluegrass, acoustic-oriented album was his first in five years and marked a departure from the more rock-oriented predecessor The Hard Way he had recorded with his backing band The Dukes. Goodbye, penned by Earle, is one of nine original tunes on Train a Comin’, which also includes four covers.

Boz Scaggs/Georgia

For this next pick, let’s go back to February 1976. While I’ve known the name Boz Scaggs for many years, mainly because of his ’70s hits Lowdown and Lido Shuffle, I’ve yet to explore his music catalog. Scaggs started his career in 1959 in high school as vocalist in Steve Miller’s first band The Marksmen. The two musicians continued to play together in a few other groups, including Steve Miller Band. After staying with the group for the first two albums, Scaggs secured a recording deal for himself and focused on his solo career. Georgia, a smooth groovy song written by Scaggs, is included on his seventh solo album Silk Degrees, which is best known for the aforementioned Lowdown and Lido Shuffle. Now 78 years, Scaggs still appears to be active and has released 19 solo albums to date.

Clarence Clemons & Jackson Browne/You’re a Friend of Mine

Are you ready for some ’80s music? Yes, You’re a Friend of Mine definitely can’t deny the period during which it was recorded, but it’s such an upbeat song – I love it! It brought together dynamite saxophone player Clarence Clemons and legendary singer-songwriter Jackson Browne. Co-written by Narada Michael Walden and Jeffrey Cohen, the tune was released in October 1985 as the lead single of Clemons’ solo debut album Hero, which came out in November of the same year. By that time Clemons had best been known as the saxophonist of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, which “The Big Man” had joined in the early ’70s. Sadly, Clemons who also appeared in several movies and on TV died of complications from a stroke in June 2011 at the age of 69. Man, what an amazing sax player. He could also sing!

The Jimi Hendrix Experience/Voodoo Child (Slight Return)

All right, time to jump back to the ’60s and some psychedelic rock by an artist who I trust needs no introduction: Jimi Hendrix. Voodoo Child (Slight Return), written by Hendrix, was included on Electric Ladyland, the third and final album by The Jimi Hendrix Experience released in October 1968. The tune also appeared separately as a single, first in the U.S. at the time of the album and subsequently in the UK in October 1970, one month after Hendrix had passed away in London at the age of 27. Prominent American guitarist Joe Satriani has called Voodoo Child “the greatest piece of electric guitar work ever recorded.” Regardless of whether one agrees with the bold statement, it’s a hell of a song. Stevie Ray Vaughan, one of my favorite electric blues guitarists, included an excellent cover on his 1983 sophomore album Couldn’t Stand the Weather.

Shemekia Copeland/It’s 2 A.M.

Time to wrap up another Sunday Six with a real goodie. Since I recently witnessed part of a live gig of Shemekia Copeland and reviewed her new album Done Come Too Far, this great blues vocalist has been on my mind. Shemekia, the daughter of Texas blues guitarist Johnny Copeland, started to sing as a child and by the time she was 16 knew she wanted to pursue a music career. After high school graduation in 1997, Copeland signed with Chicago-based independent blues label Alligator Records and recorded her debut album Turn the Heat Up! It’s 2 A.M., written by Rick Vito, is the excellent opener of her sophomore album Wicked that came out in September 2000. I could totally picture The Rolling Stones play this song. Check it out!

And, of course, I won’t leave you without a Spotify playlist featuring the above songs.

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube; Spotify

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My Playlist: Dr. Feelgood

Shooting some rock & roll in your arm

Leave a late show
Still feel alive
Want a place to go
Round about five
Down to the doctors
Down to the doctors
Come on down to the doctors
Make you feel good all night

Including Dr. Feelgood in my latest installment of The Sunday Six reminded me how much I dig the British pub blues rockers. They’re a great illustration that music doesn’t have to be complex to be fun. Anyway, this is what triggered the idea to put together this post and playlist.

Before we come down to the doctor’s surgery for a shot of R&B, here’s a bit of background on the band. Dr. Feelgood were formed in 1971 by Wilko Johnson (guitar, piano, vocals), Lee Brilleaux (lead vocals, harmonica, slide guitar) and John B. “Sparko” Sparks (bass, backing vocals). Soon John Martin (drums) joined them to complete the initial lineup. The group took their name from Dr. Feel-Good, a 1962 single by American blues artist Willie Perryman, which he recorded as Dr. Feelgood & The Interns.

Dr. Feelgood in 1976 (from left): Wilko Johnson, John “The Big Figure” Martin, John B Sparks and Lee Brilleaux

Everybody needs a shot of r ‘n’ b
So come on down to my surgery
Down to the doctors
Down to the doctors
Come on down to the doctors
Make you feel good all night

By late 1973, Dr. Feelgood had established a reputation for their driving R&B on the growing pub rock scene in London. During the second half of 1974, they recorded their debut album Down by the Jetty, which came out in January 1975. The record missed the charts in the UK but reached no. 6 in Finland. Only nine months later, they issued their sophomore album Malpractice, which marked their breakthrough in the UK, climbing to no. 17 in the charts.

In April 1977 during the recording sessions for Dr. Feelgood’s third album Sneakin’ Suspicion Wilko Johnson left over disagreements over which tracks to include on the record. Egos in rock! Given Johnson’s central role up to that point, this almost led to the group’s breakup. Essentially, Brilleaux took over and Johnson was replaced by Gypie Mayo, who then was still a relatively unknown guitarist. In 1996, he would become a member of the reformed Yardbirds and play with them until 2004.

Eight bars on piano
Down to the doctors
Down to the doctors
Come on down to the doctors
Make you feel good all night

Dr. Feelgood today (from left): Gordon Russell (guitar), Robert Kane (vocals, harmonica), Kevin Morris (drums) and Phil Mitchell (bass)

By 1984, Brilleaux was Dr. Feelgood’s only original member. At that time, the remaining lineup included Gordon Russell (lead guitar, backing vocals), Phil H. Mitchell (bass, acoustic guitar, backing vocals) and Buzz Barwell (drums). Brilleaux remained part of the group until his death from lymphoma at age 41 in April 1994. Russell and Mitchell still are with Dr. Feelgood to this day. The other current members are Robert Kane (lead vocals, harmonica) and Kevin Morris (drums, percussion, backing vocals).

Over their 50-year-plus career, Dr. Feelgood have released 17 studio albums, which appeared between 1975 and 2006. Their catalog also includes numerous compilation and live albums, four box sets and three video albums. Dr. Feelgood’s heyday was the mid to late ’70s, which is the main focus of this post, though the Spotify playlist at the end also features tunes from the band’s later years.

Come here baby
Ain’t gonna do you no harm
I just want to shoot
Some rock ‘n’ roll in your arm
Down to the doctors
Down to the doctors
Come on down to the doctors
Make you feel good all night

Roxette (Down by the Jetty, Jan 1975)

Time to get a shot of rock & roll from the doctor to make us feel good. Since I picked the neat opener She Does It Right in my aforementioned Sunday Six installment, I decided to highlight Roxette, another great tune written by Wilko Johnson. The tune also appeared separately in November 1974 as the band’s second single.

Back in the Night (Malpractice, Oct 1975)

Back in the Night, another tune penned by Johnson, is from Dr. Feedgood’s sophomore album Malpractice. The song also became the band’s fourth single. Like the previous three singles, it missed the charts. Luckily, the album fared much better, becoming the group’s first to chart in the U.K., reaching a respectable no. 17, and matching the performance of their debut release in Finland with another no. 6 there.

Hey Mama, Keep Your Big Mouth Shut (Sneakin’ Suspicion, May 1977)

Apart from originals, Dr. Feelgood have recorded numerous covers. Here’s one of them, Hey Mama, Keep Your Big Mouth Shut, which they included on their third studio album Sneakin’ Suspicion. The last record with Johnson became the band’s highest-charting studio album in the UK, peaking at no. 10 there. Dr. Feelgood’s most successful release was Stupidity, their first live record that came out in September 1976. It topped the UK charts, climbed to no. 7 in Finland and reached no. 29 in Spain. Hey Mama, Keep Your Big Mouth Shut was written by Ellas McDaniel, the man who professionally was known as Bo Diddley. He first released it as a single in August 1964.

She’s a Wind Up (Be Seeing You, Sep 1977)

Following Wilko Johnson’s departure, Lee Brilleaux and Dr. Feelgood’s new guitarist Gypie Mayo became the main writers of the band’s original tunes. She’s a Wind Up is a great song that in addition to Brilleaux and Mayo is also credited to the group’s two other members, bassist John B. Sparks and drummer John Martin. Included on Dr. Feelgood’s fourth studio album Be Seeing You, which was produced by Nick Lowe, She’s a Wind Up also became the group’s highest-charting UK single at the time, reaching no. 34.

Down at the Doctor’s (Private Practice, Oct 1978)

One of my favorite Dr. Feelgood tunes is Down at the Doctor’s, off their fifth studio album Private Practice. Also released separately as a single, the tune was penned by English guitarist and songwriter Mickey Jupp. If you’ve been a patient of the doctor, you’ve probably noticed the lyrics at the beginning of the post and interspersed through the upfront section, which are from that song. Oh, and in case you’ve been wondering what the hell happened to the eight bars of piano, here’s what Songfacts has to say about that: At the end of the guitar solo, we hear Lee Brilleaux growl, “eight bars of piano,” which was presumably an instruction to the engineer to dub in another instrument at some point in the future. We never did get to hear the piano and Lee’s request was never wiped from the version commercially.

Milk and Alcohol (Private Practice)

The aforementioned Private Practice album is best known for the song that initially brought Dr. Feelgood on my radar screen in the late ’70s: Milk and Alcohol. Co-written by Nick Lowe and Gypie Mayo, it became the band’s biggest hit single, climbing to no. 9 in the UK. The song did best in the Irish singles charts where it surged to no. 4. It also charted in Germany, reaching no. 30 there. Still love that tune – simple, but it just rocks!

The following Spotify playlist includes the above tunes, as well as additional songs from select Dr. Feelgood albums that appeared after Private Practice. Yes, it may be fairly simple stuff. You may also call it repetitive. But if you’re like me and don’t care, join me and come on down to the doctor’s to make you feel good!

Sources: Wikipedia; Songfacts; Dr. Feelgood website; YouTube; Spotify