Archive for Tongue and Groove

To do that doo-wop once more

Alan Freed’s colossal reputation is based largely on the fact that he invariably passed up seemingly antiseptic white cover versions in favor of the original recordings by black acts. And Freed’s aesthetic judgment was largely borne out; the number of white covers that surpassed the black originals was vanishingly small. I feel I can make a case for exactly two, one of which was Elvis’ take on “Hound Dog,” which leaves Big Mama Thornton’s blues shouter in its high-velocity dust.

This is the other.

What’s particularly cool about this Diamonds gig is that Maurice Williams, who wrote the darn thing and recorded it first with his Gladiolas, gets to sit in. I’d like to think Alan Freed would have enjoyed it.

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Roughly half of fifteen

Xia Vigor is Taylor Swift, half-sized:

Background, sort of:

Hailing from Exeter in England, Xia is a proper star in the Philippines, with a big social media following and a career in movies and TV. In fact, this isn’t her first turn on Your Face Sounds Familiar. Xia previously did a performance as Selena Gomez, covering the singer’s hit “Love You Like A Love Song.”

For some reason, this girl of seven makes me think of a Tom Lehrer pronouncement: “It’s people like that who make you realize how little you’ve accomplished. It is a sobering thought, for example, that when Mozart was my age, he had been dead for two years.”

Professor Lehrer was thirty-seven at the time.

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At 5:00 it’s much too crowded

The music business, it seems, is drowning in irony. Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, one of the definitive soul-music production teams and the proprietors of the legendary Philadelphia International label, started out producing a bunch of white guys. Admittedly, they were white guys from Philadelphia, but on AM radio they sounded pretty darn black.

Gamble says he wrote the words to “Expressway to Your Heart” while on an actual expressway: the Schuylkill (“Sure-Kill”) Expressway through Philly. He had a date that night with Dee Dee Sharp (“Mashed Potato Time”), about whom I haven’t written nearly enough.

The passing of Soul Survivors vocalist Richie Ingui last Friday prompts the posting of this live track from 2011:

Contrary to the lyrics, there was always room for them.

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Boost your shelf-esteem

Fourteen “Weird Al” Yankovic albums in one humongous (and tuneful!) box set:

Yes, even UHF.

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And still more covers

Jon Bellion’s single “All Time Low” came out this past spring. You may be absolutely certain that Rebecca Black knows it inside and out:

With Max Ehrich. Note: Some of the language approaches saltiness.

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A Memphis story or two

My life began with country music, my dad’s choice of background noise, long before I ever heard any of that rock and/or roll stuff. When I broke away — or, more precisely, ran away — I didn’t abandon country entirely, since various C&W songs still made the Top 40 charts, but I never had quite the same emotional connection to it; as I once noted, country never, ever made me cry.

Until, of course, it did:

Tanya’s about a year off here: “What’s Your Mama’s Name” came out in 1973, when she was fourteen. The narrative here, provided by Dallas Frazier with Earl Montgomery, is clearly first cousin to the one Chuck Berry concocted, um, fourteen years earlier. Both are set in Memphis; both are sagas of broken homes. But Chuck never made me bawl; his song ends on a more or less hopeful note. Tanya’s far sadder tale still makes me lose it, forty-some-odd years later.

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And as I still walk on

One small item from the Wikipedia article on the Traveling Wilburys:

[Jeff] Lynne and [Tom] Petty co-wrote a song with Del Shannon for Shannon’s album Rock On! (1991), which Lynne produced. This spawned rumors that Shannon would join the group.

Downside of this: that album appeared posthumously, Del having taken his own life in 1990.

That said, Lynne probably knew the Del Shannon oeuvre as well as anyone; the 2001 reissue of the Electric Light Orchestra album Discovery featured a suitably ELO-ized cover of “Little Town Flirt.” But before that track was pulled from the vault and completed, the Wilburys took a shot at the greatest Del Shannon song of them all:

“Runaway” was my favorite song 55 years ago, and you’ll have a tough time dislodging it today. And tomorrow would have been Del Shannon’s 82nd birthday.

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Potential seizure warning

If Nine Inch Nails sounded any more industrial than this, they’d have to be inspected by OSHA. “Burning Bright,” the closer from the Not the Actual Events EP, sounds very much like a throwback to the Downward Spiral and Fragile days, and the video will hurt your face so much I’m not even embedding it here. (Here’s the link.) At the very least, Atticus Ross, now credited as a full member of NIN, grasps the original NIN Zeitgeist, and on this particular track, Dave Navarro adds some delightfully discordant guitar work.

In terms of Halo numbers, Not the Actual Events seems to be number 29, with 30 reserved for an extended instrumental version of The Fragile, currently scheduled for early 2017.

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Sing it out

In 2013, the contemporary-Christian group Cloverton set some Christmas-y lyrics to Leonard Cohen’s evergreen “Hallelujah,” which apparently didn’t bother Cohen’s record label until it started to sell in its own right.

And afterward, the new lyrics went largely unheard, until this:

Where this came from:

A 10-year-old girl from Northern Ireland has wowed people around the world after a video of her singing in her school choir went viral.

The video of the choir’s version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” — recorded at the school’s Christmas show — has gained almost 170,000 views in three days.

Kaylee Rodgers, from Donaghadee, County Down, has autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but singing has helped her build up her confidence.

“For a child who came in P4 [age 7-8] and wouldn’t really talk, wouldn’t really read out in class, to stand and perform in front of an audience is amazing. It takes a lot of effort on Kaylee’s part,” Colin Millar, principal of Killard House, told UTV.

And yet she somehow makes it look easy.

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Yeah, it’s a wild hurricane

Sometimes you need something like this to clear your head:

Not quite the way I remember “Highway Star,” but worth noting on its own, and Emily Hastings’ YouTube channel is full of comparable noises.

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Bye now

Things worth knowing about Phoenix band Farewell, My Love:

  • Yes, that comma belongs there, though one is tempted just to call them FML (and their Web site is FMLOfficial.com).
  • They went through two lead vocalists before drummer Chad Kowal took over the mic.
  • The lead guitarist is Röbby Creasey. With the umlaut and everything.
  • This video is very creepy:

Weirdly melodic, though. So is this, also from their Above It All album:

Yeah, it’s Goth, but it’s an accessible sort of Goth.

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Stimulating!

Tim Curry’s one and only Billboard chart hit, reaching #91 in 1979:

No one else, I suspect, would have even attempted to work all three Sitwell siblings — Edith, Osbert and Sacheverell — into a song at all, let alone into the very first verse.

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How would they know in California?

Still, this song is de rigueur this time of year:

Frank Loesser, who wrote “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” sold it to MGM, which used it for the film Neptune’s Daughter in 1949; it subsequently won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. Which sort of puts the lie to the claim that it’s all about the date rape:

Although some critical analyses of the song have highlighted parts of the lyrics such as “What’s in this drink?” and his unrelenting pressure to stay despite her repeated suggestions that she should go home, others noted that cultural expectations of the time period were such that women were not socially permitted to spend the night with a boyfriend or fiancé, and that the female speaker states that she wants to stay, while “what’s in this drink” was a common idiom of the period used to rebuke social expectations by blaming one’s actions on the influence of alcohol.

Which is by way of saying that you probably couldn’t have put out a song like this in, say, 2011, the year Rebecca Black rose to prominence.

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Something you can always have

I brought this up on TTAC (!) yesterday, and it occurs to me that it might be, at the very least, timely.

So be it. Lore Sjöberg’s Reznorized Christmas carols, “Nine Inch Noels”:

Hint: Don’t play the bit from “Closer” at work.

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Staying here for now

Eddie Holland’s younger brother is Brian Holland, and the guy in the middle of the collective is Lamont Dozier. As Holland-Dozier-Holland, they produced all manner of hits for Motown, and more for themselves after leaving. Everybody knows this. Not everybody, but a decent number of folks, know that Eddie Holland was the primary wordsmith of H-D-H, and that he had had a small-scale singing career, though he chose not to pursue it: stage fright, apparently.

That said, Eddie Holland came up with some dandy 45s, though his biggest hit sounds like Jackie Wilson — I mean, exactly like Jackie Wilson — and was written, not by Holland, but by Barrett Strong and Mickey Stevenson.

“Jamie” made it to #30 in Billboard, Holland’s only trip to the Top 40. What would happen if Eddie Holland had the full H-D-H machinery behind him? This:

Died at #76 in 1963. But “Leaving Here” was never, ever forgotten. Ask Lemmy:

For that matter, ask The Who:

Or head a few miles west of Detroit to Ann Arbor, home of the Rationals:

The Rationals had one chart item, but this wasn’t it; their cover of Otis Redding’s “Respect” slid up to #92 for one week. They’re still playing it, too.

The amazing thing, of course, is that guys never, ever take Eddie’s advice, which is why all these fine girls are moving away.

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Sedaka is still back

You might think that Neil Sedaka, who’s been making records for nearly 60 years, might have faded out by now. Not in the least.

In 2008, Sedaka, then sixty-nine, premiered an actual classical composition: “Joie de Vivre,” introduced on his Australian tour. This year, he put out an all-acoustic album — just piano and voice — with one bonus track, which turned out to be a full orchestral 14-minute version of “Joie de Vivre,” recorded with the London Philharmonia Orchestra.

In 2013, he turned loose a piano concerto: “Manhattan Intermezzo.”

Of course, if you go to one of Neil’s shows, you can always call out for “Stairway to Heaven.”

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Lake of the ages

Greg Lake might have been my favorite of all the progressive-rock vocalists; he was always clear and forceful, no matter what instrumental backing you threw behind him.

Roger turned this up. It’s Lake’s vocal track from “Epitaph,” from the middle of King Crimson’s In the Court of the Crimson King, a justly famed landmark in prog-rock. (The band had only eight tracks to work with, so instrumental bits and pieces sneak in from time to time.)

And from later days, “From the Beginning,” a song Lake wrote during his Emerson, Lake and Palmer days, here performed live by Lake, probably from his 2012 “Songs of a Lifetime” tour.

Lake died Wednesday of cancer; he was 69. Carl Palmer is still alive; Keith Emerson killed himself earlier this year. And God (or Robert Fripp) only knows how many members of King Crimson survive.

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Still popping after all these years

Gershon Kingsley’s original “Pop Corn,” even unplugged, occupies a distinct (and slightly salty) niche in the annals of electronic music. Upon hearing a rumor that someone had put together a ten-hour version, I was mystified, but there were enough Related Videos to make my venture worthwhile.

For instance, there is metal Popcorn:

There is dubstep Popcorn (with a violin!):

And there is Popcorn under glass:

Finally, a techno Popcorn:

(Oh, that “10-hour” rumor? Absolutely true.)

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She who writes songs

A Rebecca Black fan outpost in Brazil happened upon this:

I recognized this as a screenshot from ASCAP’s Ace database, and mused for a moment: “Who would have thought that Rebecca Black would be a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers?” Yet there is is, in blue and white. (And she has an ASCAP publishing unit: Rebecca Black Music Publishing, which apparently has existed for a while, or at least since “Person of Interest,” her first writing credit.)

So I went back to Ace, and found “Alive,” “Jokes on Me,” “Last One Standing” and “Time of My Life,” from her brief teamup with Edward Wohl in 2015. What I didn’t find was this:

Maybe “Golden” is next?

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Darkness every day

Bill Withers’ original version of “Ain’t No Sunshine” was amazing: as deep as the deepest Southern soul, it’s over in a mere 2:03, and Withers’ record company, Sussex, somehow managed to stick it on a B-side. It didn’t stay there, of course. As for Bill himself, he wound up in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, inducted in 2015 with Stevie Wonder (!) speaking at the induction.

Better yet, despite, or perhaps because of, its skeletal structure, musicians will always want to try their hands at “Ain’t No Sunshine.” The results are often golden. Here are two covers I particularly admire: the MonaLisa Twins, then all of thirteen years old, with a dark jazz flavor, and a purely acoustic take from Hanson. Yes, that Hanson.

I know, I know.

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Post-Postmodern

Jazz singer/pinup model/actress Robyn Adele Anderson grew up in Albany, New York and attended Binghamton University; she is busy on the NYC theater scene, but she’s perhaps best known for her work with Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox, and judging by this track and some others, she’s inherited some of Bradlee’s impeccable sense of anachronism:

In this number, she teams up with Darcy Wright and Sarah Krauss:

Suddenly I feel … rejected.

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It could have been a birthday gift

“And what would you like?”

Um, a new Rebecca Black record would be nice.

And so it is:

To me, it seems a little less restrained than Alessia Cara’s 2016 original.

Cara, incidentally, wrote some new words to Troye Sivan’s “Wild,” which Sivan liked enough to cut a new version with Cara’s voice and lyrics. It’s pretty spiffy, but I still like Rebecca Black’s cover better.

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Almost a TV theme

I was about to throw in something on Roger’s TV-theme roundup, went researching, and came up with something I hadn’t heard before.

“Out of Limits,” written by Michael Z. Gordon for the Marketts, is notable for cleverly incorporating a repeated four-note motif from Marius Constant’s theme for The Twilight Zone, and for being almost named after a TZ rival on another network: The Outer Limits. First pressings, in fact, did say “Outer Limits,” but the threat of litigation arose.

“Out of Limits” peaked at #3 in Billboard, a highly respectable showing, and still makes for soundtrack fare today. What I did not know was that Gordon had recut it many years later, over a rhythm bed provided by the Routers, another band founded by Gordon. Then this happened:

It was actually recorded with lyrics and the lead vocalist was Maggie Lee. However, Joe Saraceno, who had no rights to this recording, took the master recording and wiped out the vocals and illegally sold it as an instrumental. It has never been released as a single or on an album so there are no pressings of this song for sale anywhere in the world.

Saraceno, a West Coast music producer, had worked with Gordon on Marketts and Routers stuff early on. And I have to admit, this newer version has cool of its own:

You probably know the Routers from here.

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Telling tales in 4/4

If they told me that I was expected to make an entire motion picture based on one song — just one song — the first thing I ask is “Can we get the rights to ‘Year of the Cat’?” Al Stewart’s 1976 magnum opus is practically a storyboard in song form: the film starts playing in your head during the very first line. It’s almost a shame they weren’t making music videos to any great extent back then, though it’s no trick to find Stewart playing the song live:

And now for something completely different:

Elvis had a vision during a cross-country road trip in 1964. Driving to Hollywood from his Tennessee Graceland mansion, Elvis looked into the clouds and saw the face of Stalin.

Now: were there to be a song about this transcendental event, who should write it?

Absolutely:

“Elvis at the Wheel” is from Al Stewart’s 2008 album Sparks of Ancient Light, his sixteenth.

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It rocks and it rolls, kinda sorta

Just the same, this ain’t a rock and roll song from way back in 1934:

Nice video, though.

Well, actually, it’s a feature film: Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round, which perhaps sounded better than London Showboat.

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Hank Wilson’s gone

Something you may not have known: Leon Russell played piano on Bobby Pickett’s original “Monster Mash.”

In fact, before he built his reputation as a slightly off-center singer and bandleader, Leon Russell played on lots of big hits and even co-wrote a few (for instance, this one, which informed much of my adolescence.) You won’t see Leon here, but you will hear his piano:

Perhaps his biggest success as a solo artist was the 1972 album Carney, which featured the single “Tight Rope”:

The B-side of “Tight Rope” was the lovely “This Masquerade,” covered to great extent by George Benson a few years later:

Still, the highlight of Carney was “If the Shoe Fits,” a kindly but still snarky blast at the rock and roll fandom of the age.

Leon Russell kept on making music, if not always making the charts; perhaps his most dramatic return was The Union, a 2010 joint venture with Elton John. Russell was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011, introduced by John, who’d always been a fan:

When Mr. Russell’s Greatest Hits album came on one day during the trip, I started to cry, it moved me so much. His music takes me back to the most wonderful time in my life, and it makes me so angry that he’s been forgotten.

Let me assure Sir Elton that Leon Russell has never been forgotten, especially here in his native Oklahoma. (Long associated with Tulsa, he was actually born in Lawton in 1942.)

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Not really Scandinavian country

This is the current Little Big Town single, written by one Nils Sjoberg:

The next LBT album, The Breaker, is due out on the 24th of February, the same day the group begins a residency at the Ryman Auditorium. Yes, that Ryman Auditorium.

As for Sjoberg, well, when you think Tim McGraw, I hope you think of Nils.

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Antonia

I throw in this gratuitous poster from ought-five mostly to tell you that someone who can make me not notice Cameron Diaz is probably pretty darn remarkable. (Note: I never did get to see the film, though I did read the Jennifer Weiner novel on which it’s based.)

Poster for In Her Shoes

That said, Toni Collette has put together a pretty solid body of work since Spotswood and Muriel’s Wedding in the 1990s. Then again, she’s always been good at grabbing the spotlight:

Toni Collette once told an interviewer: “I used to do things to get attention when I was little.” She was pretty effective, too — aged 11, she faked appendicitis so convincingly, the doctors actually removed her appendix. “My mother had hers taken out at the same age, so that’s how it entered my brain. And she told me that when the doctor presses in, that’s not when it hurts, it’s when the hand’s taken away. So I knew when to react.”

Toni Collette at premiere of The Way, Way Back

Toni Collette at 2015 Toronto Film Festival

Oh, and she’s a darn good singer too. From 2007, her performance of “Look Up” at Live Earth:

The song comes from the album Beautiful Awkward Pictures by Toni Collette and the Finish; she’s married to drummer Dave Galafassi. And “beautiful awkward” fits, doesn’t it?

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The right day for it

A man with the quintessentially American name “Daniel Boone” managed to get this lovely little number up to #15 in Billboard in 1972:

If the chap in the video didn’t look quintessentially American, well, he’s British. Peter Lee Stirling (born Peter Green in Birmingham in 1942, and no, not the Peter Green in Fleetwood Mac) played in several bands early on, but enjoyed little success until he signed with Larry Page’s Penny Farthing label, assumed the “Daniel Boone” name, and cut a maudlin ballad called “Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast,” which clambered into the UK Top Twenty. (In the States, it was killed by a Wayne Newton cover.)

Next out was “Beautiful Sunday,” written by Boone with labelmate Rod McQueen. It just missed the Top Twenty in the UK, but made decent bank in the US — and even more so in Germany, where it reached #1. The hits petered out shortly thereafter, but “Beautiful Sunday” endured; the Russian band Chizh & Co. covered it to interesting effect in 1996.

Oh, and one more thing. Remember when iTunes would go hunt down album artwork for you? This is what it fetched for “Beautiful Sunday”:

Somebody's artwork for Beautiful Sunday by David Boone

David Boone?

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Pocket-sized opera

Peter Reynolds, who died earlier this month, is credited with having written the World’s Shortest Opera:

This particular performance, as it happens, runs slightly long:

At three minutes and 34 seconds, it is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s shortest opera. “The librettist, Simon Rees, came up with the idea of an opera whose duration should match the boiling of an egg,” says Reynolds. “So we created a domestic scenario of a couple having an argument over breakfast. It starts with the sand-timer being turned, and ends with the egg coming out of the saucepan.”

You may wonder how a three-minute item qualifies as an opera rather than, say, a song, but Reynolds had all the requirements covered. “The intention was to create a piece which bore the same relationship to opera as a miniature does to a full-length portrait,” he says. “It included all the component parts of an opera — overture, introductory chorus, arias and recitative — though in highly condensed form.” It had its premiere in Cardiff city centre on March 27 1993, conducted by Carlo Rizzi, in the presence of two invigilators from the Guinness Book of Records and a bewildered crowd of shoppers.

The second shortest opera, should you care, is The Deliverance of Theseus, Op. 99, by Darius Milhaud (1928), which plodded along for seven and a half minutes, just slightly longer than “MacArthur Park.”

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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