Archive for Tongue and Groove

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?


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.



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.


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.


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.


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?


“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.


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.)


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.



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?


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?


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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A thousand and one eyes

When I first heard the news:

After which, Dawn Eden Goldstein was kind enough to point me to this 2014 video in support of Bobby’s last album:

Rest well, Robert. You’ve earned it. (And 2016? Would you knock it the fark off already?)


Pinch hitter

The fact that singer Bat for Lashes is of Pashtun descent and British and Pakistani ancestry doesn’t tell you anything about, well, for one thing, why she goes by “Bat for Lashes.” (It says “Natasha Khan” on her birth certificate.) Her second album, Two Suns (2009) yielded up her largest-selling single to date, “Daniel,” which she described at the time as “the most straightforward, naive and purposely simple song I’ve ever done.”

This video drew a nomination for Best Breakthrough Video at the 2009 VMAs, which may or may not say something about MTV.

Bat for Lashes in 2012

Bat for Lashes wears a cap

Bat for Lashes in 2015

In 2015, she started a side project with the band TOY and producer Dan Carey, under the name “Sexwitch”; they released an EP with tracks like “Helelyos,” which turns out to be, um, Iranian funk.

In 2016, she has an album called The Bride, a narrative by a young woman whose fiancé was killed in a car crash on the way to their wedding. “Joe’s Dream,” track two, was the third single.

I’m not quite sure what musical niche might easily accommodate Bat for Lashes, though my first thought was “a more subdued Siouxsie Sioux.”

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Still with the band

From Wikipedia’s article on Negativland: “On July 22, 2015, former lead vocalist Don Joyce died of heart failure at the age of 71.”

This past week, segments from the band’s radio show were released as Over the Edge Vol. 9: The Chopping Channel, with a special appearance, so to speak, by Don Joyce:

In keeping with the album’s theme, and while supplies last, each mail order copy of this new project comes with two very unique extra items: two grams of the actual cremains, or ashes, of deceased Negativland member Don Joyce, and one of Don’s handmade audio tape loop “carts” used in the creation of Over The Edge and Negativland live performances between 1981 and 2015.

This is not a hoax. We’ve decided to take the Chopping Channel concept to its logical conclusion by “productizing” an actual band member. It is also a celebration of the degree to which no idea in art was ever off-limits to Don, and offers a literal piece of him, and of his audio art, for the listener to repurpose and reuse. We are pretty sure he would have wanted it this way.

I am compelled to admit that Don Joyce, so far as I can tell, does not appear on my single favorite Negativland release, U2, which combines a cover of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” with a profane rant by the late Casey Kasem in apparent forgot-the-mic-was-hot mode. (Link is pretty well NSFW, as I found out one day.)


So buy a vowel

My little tiny music player has 5,088 songs on it, and probably half of them have album-cover art attached; I don’t feel compelled to fetch the rest of them, since the player only holds 36 GB (up from 4 when it was new) and the picture you can barely make out on the teensy screen takes up a surprisingly large amount of storage space.

Then again, one of those tracks has this for cover art:

Pinkard and Bowden Live in Front of a Bunch of Dickheads

Warner Bros. actually released that album in 1989, including this track:

Okay, it isn’t Bad Brains, but it will mess with your head just the same.

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Presumably with the approval of Nanker Phelge

In their first fifty-something years, the Rolling Stones never did an album of covers. That’s about to change: on 2 December, we’ll see Blue & Lonesome, twelve classic blues numbers given the Stones treatment. On the basis of the lead single, a version of Buddy Johnson’s “Just Your Fool,” better known for a Little Milton cover, I’d say we might be in for a treat:

Even if it’s only rock and roll, I like it. Don Was produced, with Mick and Keith Glimmer.


Variations on a theme

However many it takes to tango, the subsequent record album is expected to look pretty much the same. From 2003:

The Best Tango Album in the World Ever, 2003

From 2008:

Jan Vogler Tango, 2008

And new, from 2016:

Let's Dance Tango 2016 from Le Chant du Monde

You’d almost think they were trying to get my attention or something.


And the Diamonds

How Marina Diamandis became “Marina and the Diamonds”:

“I created the name ‘Marina and the Diamonds’ [in 2005] and I never envisaged a character, pop project, band or solo artist. I saw a simple group made up of many people who had the same hearts. A space for people with similar ideals who could not fit in to life’s pre-made mold. I was terribly awkward for a long time! I really craved to be part of one thing because I never felt too connected to anybody and now I feel I have that all around me.”

Appropriate, I guess, for a singer/songwriter with a strong DIY ethos.

Marina and the Diamonds in pink

Marina and the Diamonds on the Froot tour

Marina and the Diamonds spinning about

Thirty-one this week, Marina has recorded three albums, the most recent 2015’s Froot. I first noticed her in “Oh No!,” back in 2010.

Hard not to notice under those conditions, know what I mean?

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Far from downtown

Cover art, Petula Clark From Now On 2016Next month, Petula Clark will be 84 years old. Now forget that number. She’s touring the UK to support a new album, which might be her sixtieth; I lost count a long time ago.

And From Now On, I have to admit, is a title that somewhat reminds me of the corporate-finance term “forward-looking information”; looking backward is not on the agenda. The lead single, “Sacrifice My Heart,” is pure British synthpop, almost Tears for Fears-y, and if maybe they’ve tweaked her voice a little bit here and there, you might not care.

The program on offer is mostly Clark originals, with several shrewdly chosen covers: a minimalist “Blackbird” that McCartney surely approves, a quavery but sincere “While You See a Chance” (yes, the Steve Winwood song), and a version of “Fever” that I think owes just as much to the McCoys’ 1965 garage-rock version as it does to Peggy Lee’s drum-and-bass opus. The title song speaks strongly to me: everything that happened before you and me, well, that doesn’t count. (Looking backward is not on the agenda.) And fond as I am of Pet’s French recordings, I was delighted to hear “Pour être aimée de toi,” a song she’s sung in concert in recent years, her own melody with words by Charles Aznavour, spare and unadorned and intimate in the way of the French. The closer, “Happiness,” is Petula on piano, one verse in English, one in French. “That sweet and fleeting feeling / We all need to know / Is waiting here inside us.” If only … but never mind. We’ll save that for her next collection.


Struck with great force

So far, I’ve heard one track from Valkyrie, the new album by Glass Hammer, it having been recommended to me by Francis W. Porretto, and I’m passing it on to you, all fourteen minutes of it.

Like the best prog rock, it’s about what it says at least as much as what it sounds like. And like the best prog rock, it comes off as vaguely European, though Glass Hammer in fact originated in Chattanooga.

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Slap some mud on the wall

First, this, because it showed up in the tweetstream last night:

Rock fans of a certain age will recognize this as the source of the chorus to Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock.” Wikipedia picks this up, but also lists:

“Putin khuilo!” (a Russian/Ukrainian football chant, as assumed by Artemy Troitsky, inspired by “Speedy Gonzales” chorus)

Typically, this phrase translates as “Putin is a dickhead”:

The slogan was originated in Ukraine in 2014 having grown from a football chant first performed by FC Metalist Kharkiv ultras in March 2014 on the onset of the Russian annexation of Crimea and military intervention in Ukraine. The phrase has become very widespread throughout Ukraine among supporters of the Ukrainian government and more generally those who do not like Russia or Vladimir Putin in both Russian-speaking and Ukrainian-speaking areas of Ukraine.

It’s also the name of a star.

To make this come full circle, here’s a mariachi version of “Putin khulio”:

Doesn’t sound that much like Pat Boone (or like Robin Ward, who sang that part on Boone’s record).

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A beacon she would be

“You can’t be a beacon,” warned Donna Fargo, “if your light don’t shine.” Not a whole lot of women in country music were writing their own stuff in the 1970s, and to their credit, neither of the major labels for which she recorded — Dot, then not yet on the wane, and Warner Bros., new to Nashville — pushed her (much) to record covers of other people’s songs. She’s probably best remembered for “The Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A.,” but at least some album-cover compilers thought of her as the leggiest girl in the land. This is the liner of the Dot Happiest Girl LP:

Liner of The Happiest Girl in the Whole USA on Dot DOS-26000

Five years later, the jacket of her Warners album Shame On Me:

Liner of Shame On Me on Warner Bros. BS 3099

And from the fall of 2016, a compilation of her Warner Bros. work on Varése Sarabande:

Cover art of That Was Yesterday CD

Just to put the emphasis back on Donna’s way with words, here’s a deep cut from the Happiest Girl LP which has so far escaped reissue:

I love that. “Society’s got us by the you-know-what” — but doesn’t it always?

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Titles, schmitles

So it’s come to this:

Wilco Schmilco

Of course, before it ever got to this, it stopped here:

Nilsson Schmilsson

We’re looking forward to Usher Schmusher.


No, no, no

A slightly scary proposition:

Meghan Trainor should cover Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab.”

Then again, M-Train, we’ve discovered, is perfectly capable of taking a walk on the wild-ish side. (See, for instance, “Walkashame.”)

Maybe Meghan’s whole shtick is a cover of “Rehab” without the drugs and booze.

I may have to start paying even more attention to her lyrics.


Daddy, you can drive my car

There is, I suspect, less here than meets the ear:

The pitch:

Scientists at SONY CSL Research Laboratory have created the first-ever entire songs composed by Artificial Intelligence.

The researchers have developed FlowMachines, a system that learns music styles from a huge database of songs. Exploiting unique combinations of style transfer, optimization and interaction techniques, FlowMachines composes novel songs in many styles.

“Daddy’s Car” is composed in the style of The Beatles. French composer Benoît Carré arranged and produced the songs, and wrote the lyrics.

One YouTube commenter said that it “sounds more like The Beach Boys on antidepressants,” which is about where I’d put it. By 1968 Beatlesque stuff outweighed actual Beatles stuff by megatons, and while this is cute, it hardly seems essential.

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September in the rain

It was in fact raining on Saturday when I got the notification of a new box set:

Dinah Washington 3-CD box set released October 2016

Which gave me an excuse to spin Dinah Washington’s last pop hit, from 1963:

Quite apart from the pop stuff, Washington was known as a blues singer, and in that same year of 1963 she cut an album called Back to the Blues, some of which was actually bluesy. (See, for instance, the last track, “Nobody Knows the Way I Feel This Morning.”)

Autographed photo of Dinah Washington

Dinah Washington does some album art

And sadly, in that same year of 1963, Dinah Washington, only thirty-nine, died, after having apparently dabbled in barbiturates. Meanwhile, in 2016, the rain has stopped for now.

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A hell of a B-side

We’ll let rhythm guitarist Lennie Petze explain what happened when the Rondels covered the old standard “My Prayer” back in ’61:

Produced by Bugs Bower this track really got The Rondels very excited. It has such a great sound and style and unlike anything out in the market at the time we thought this could be huge. The reviews that it got were very positive but the other side of the record was called “Satan’s Theme” and it got the most attention and still does on YouTube.

“Satan’s Theme”? Seriously?

For realz, guys. Neither of these, however, was quite as successful as “Back Beat No. 1,” their first single as the Rondels, issued earlier in 1961, which actually made it to #66 in Billboard.


Country for young women

This looks like a pretty interesting show:

Have you ever wondered the story behind “Live Like You Were Dying” for Tim McGraw? Did you know that the songwriter of “Friends in Low Places” actually traded his ownership of that song to pay off a hefty beer tab at a local bar in Nashville before it became a worldwide hit for Garth Brooks?

Introducing, “Nashville Unplugged: The Story behind the Song”, a songwriter in the round show that brings the most successful hit songwriters from Nashville right to you. The intimacy of this all acoustic, impromptu show makes for a highly interactive connection between the songwriters and the audience. No show is ever the same because there is no script or band; just some truth-telling troubadours with guitars in their hands, telling the stories behind some of the world’s greatest songs that they happen to have written.

Thursday in Pasadena. And I never would have guessed the opening act:

Then again, RB is working hard to hone her songwriting chops, so why not?

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As inevitable as the holidays themselves

Due out this fall:

She and Him Christmas Party

And hey, it’s been five years since Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward put out a Christmas album. (Come to think of it, they’ve had only one non-Christmas album since then.)

Track 12, it says, is “Christmas Don’t Be Late.” Really? Zooey? Zooey? ZOOEY!

[awaiting response]

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