Archive for Tongue and Groove

The once and future Queen of Soul

Aretha Franklin’s electrifying debut for Atlantic, I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You), pulled off a couple of amazing feats. First, it opened with a version of Otis Redding’s “Respect” that wasn’t so much a cover at it was a usurpation: from that day forward, hardly anyone ever again would refer to it as anything but an Aretha original. Second, it made almost everyone forget that it was, technically, her eleventh album: she’d done ten LPs for Columbia, the undisputed giant of American labels, all of which had gone mostly unnoticed.

From The Steve Allen Show, 1964; Aretha had charted with that old standard (at #37) in 1961, and that was still her biggest hit three years later. Columbia wasn’t sure what to do with this singer they’d signed, and let her contract lapse; Jerry Wexler took her to Muscle Shoals and got the hell out of her way. The rest, as they say, is history.

And here, on “Border Song,” Aretha nearly does to Elton John what she did to Otis.

But maybe this statistic says everything that needs to be said. Aretha won the inaugural Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance in 1968, for “Respect.” She won again in 1969.

And 1970.

And 1971.

And the next four years. Natalie Cole finally won one in 1976, the first year Aretha wasn’t nominated.

We are honored to have been alive when Aretha was in her prime, and centuries from now, people will envy us for having been so fortunate.

Aretha Franklin looks toward the sky

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They all sound alike

But you may be certain that some sound more alike than others:

I knew exactly two of these — so, I guess, one of these — in advance.

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Always worthy of respect

There are times — not often, but now and then — when I regret missing one of those damn award shows. Here’s one.

You may be sure none in the theater were sleeping.


Somehow it all adds up

On about day three of your programming class, you’ll be expected to generate a Fibonacci sequence, in which each number after the first two is the sum of the two preceding. The farther up the sequence you go, the closer the ratio between any two adjacent numbers in the sequence approaches the golden ratio, which makes you wonder how a musical piece thus derived might sound.

It made this guy wonder, anyway:

There are probably infinitely many ways these numbers can be combined, but this one certainly works.

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It can’t be wrong

An experiment by Marc Wielage:

In today’s major bold strike for technology, Siri started playing “You Light Up My Life” from Apple Music on the HomePod in the office. I immediately barked, “Hey, Siri! Never play that song again! God have mercy on your soul!” And she dutifully said, “I’ll make a note of that.” Is it possible I’ll never encounter this horrible, horrible song again? Can we hope that technology might be an answer to the problem of horrible oldies radio playlists? Maybe Siri ain’t that smart yet, but it doesn’t sound terrible … as background music in the office.

Seems to me she’s probably bright enough to handle a simple request like that. I’m not sure how well she could construct an entire playlist, though.

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Line uncrossed

The first track on Carolyne Mas’ first album explodes out of the drum kit and right into your face. I still play the heck out of it today.

For some reason, “Stillsane” topped out at #71. She was bigger in Canada, and really big in Europe; she settled in Germany for a while. I refuse to believe we’ve heard the last of her.


And chew the wafer

Roger is not alone in this belief:

My sister chooses to believe in the possibility of transubstantiation. I don’t dismiss it out of hand. It’s true, though, that I can’t remember that word without thinking of Tom Lehrer’s irreverent “The Vatican Rag” from the 1960s, a song guaranteed to offend at least a few.

Then there’s Patrick Sky’s early-Seventies opus “Vatican Caskets,” which will offend just about anyone. There’s a beat-up copy circulating on YouTube, and I’m not even sure I should link to it. (Yes, I have my own copy of the recording: it’s on Sky’s Songs That Made America Famous LP.) I’ll give you the first verse, though, just so you’ll know to avoid it:

Vatican Caskets are just fine,
Made of sandalwood and pine.
When your loved ones have to go,
Dial ET-CUM-SPIRI-220.

Best thing on the album, I think, is a version of Dave Van Ronk’s “Luang Prabang,” the lament of a soldier wounded (in perhaps the worst way) in Vietnam.

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Elise would approve

Russian pianist Lola Astanova wound up in a Rule 5 post a few years ago, but the actual piece she was playing in that post — a Scriabin étude — got hoovered off YouTube in the interim, and, well, never mind, you know this piece by heart already:

I have no idea how tall she is.


Still undun

So apparently there’s a new album by the Guess Who. And you’d probably scratch your head and wonder who’s in this version of Who, what with Burton Cummings and Randy Bachman long gone.

The one link to the past is drummer Garry Peterson, who was with the Guess Who while they were still Chad Allan and the Expressions, back in 1965. (Peterson and original bassist Jim Kale own the Guess Who name; Kale last played with them in 2014.) It’s a decent song, but it really doesn’t evoke the Guess Who of old.


Every little bit yurts

The Republic of Tuva is a member of the Russian Federation, about the size of Oklahoma, located in southern Siberia. It has mining but no railway; its summers are cool, its winters are, well, Siberian. And they have a seriously kick-ass national anthem:

The lyrics are even better.

(With thanks to Roberta X.)

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Every fifty years or so

Says our favorite teenage drummer: “This is actually the most requested song on my channel.” Cruel subscribers. I mean, a seventeen-minute song, and a drum-heavy seventeen-minute song from half a century ago at that?


This ought to hold you until 2068.

Addendum: I had to find out what the iTunes Store was asking for what they deemed a 17:02 EP. It’s a buck ninety-nine. Did I buy it? What do you think?

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This continues the story of Len Barry and “1-2-3,” as told by Roger earlier this weekend.

We begin, as we must, with a song:

“The Electric Indian,” said Jimmy Bishop of Philadelphia soul powerhouse WDAS on the liner notes of their LP (United Artists UAS 6728), “is not history. It is the present and the future.”

To give Bishop his due, they indeed didn’t have much of a history, at least as a group: they were all session pros from Philly. That’s Vince Montana on the vibes, and Daryl Hall, pre-Oates, on rhythm guitar. The present was an idea by Bernie Binnick, who’d founded the local Swan label many years before: according to local guitarist Frank Virtue, Binnick wanted something Indian, with sitars and all. What he wound up with was, well, a different sort of Indian entirely, complete with vaguely-Native American (“savage” and “pulsating,” said Bishop) rhythm. Perhaps this was the influence of Binnick’s co-writer, listed as one Bernice Borisoff, who almost certainly had some connection to producer Leonard Borisoff, better known as Dovells lead singer and later solo act Len Barry.

The record first appeared on Barry’s own Marmaduke label, and was licensed to UA after it started to take hold outside Philadelphia. One more single, a non-LP cover of Chris Kenner’s “Land of 1000 Dances,” managed to chart (at #95) before the Electric Indian name was retired, though the group kept pushing the Native American motif: the B-side of that Kenner cover was called “Geronimo,” and the next single was called “Rain Dance.”

Most of the E.I.’s tracks were recorded at Philly’s legendary Sigma Sound, and several of those session pros, including Montana, evolved into MFSB, the band behind all those Philadelphia International hits produced by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. Quite a future it turned out to be.

Much of this, I compiled for my Single File series back in 2009. And just for the heck of it, here’s the last track from the Keem-O-Sabe album:

This is almost enough to forgive Len Barry for covering “Somewhere” from West Side Story (Decca 31923, #26, 1966).

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All the Bach you could ever want

Well, all the Johann Sebastian, anyway. From the Deutsche Grammophon announcement:

333 years since the birth of Johann Sebastian Bach, the largest project of its kind in the history of recorded music is presented by Deutsche Grammophon in collaboration with Decca Classics, 30 other labels and the Leipzig Bach Archive. Bach 333 presents every known note from the great master and opens up his world — and his impact on our world — in a uniquely immersive way: through audio, visual, printed and online materials.

Bach 333: The New Complete Edition presents over 280 hours of music from 750 performers and 32 labels on 222 CDs and 1 DVD in a limited, individually numbered edition. It includes 10 hours of new recordings and 7 world premieres.

State-of-the-art historically informed performances including the complete Cantatas from Gardiner, Suzuki, Koopman, Herreweghe, Leonhardt, Harnoncourt and others; plus other leading names in Bach performance such as Goebel, Hogwood, McCreesh, Brüggen, Pinnock, Rousset and Alessandrini.

Over 50 CDs of alternative recordings including modern piano performances from Schiff, Perahia, Hewitt, Argerich, Brendel and many more; plus 90 years of evolving traditions from Deller to Hunt Lieberson, Busch to Abbado, Mengelberg to Richter, Fischer to Gould, Schweitzer to Alain, Landowska to Růžičková, Casals to Fournier, Grumiaux to Mutter.

Includes the latest research from the Leipzig Bach Archive’s forthcoming BWV3 catalogue.

This set will be released on 26 October; in the US, Amazon has it for pre-order for $561.55.

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Spur of the moment

Two weeks ago, Ariana Grande put out a new single, “God Is a Woman.”

Last weekend, before an onstage performance, Rebecca Black and guitarist Justin Muncy recorded this stripped-down version:

Twenty thousand views in the first two days, with neither unearthly shrieks nor multiplexed choirs.


Tukked away

This spring, I’d happened upon a tuneful but NSFW-ish track from Sofi Tukker called “Batshit.” I did not notice that a “clean” version had been released. I did, however, notice a new single, with the inscrutable title “Benadryl.”

Then agaim, given the subject matter, that title may be perfectly scrutable after all.

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A brief historical moment

Here, we turn it over to the Friar:

Pop culture crazes used to last a lot longer than they do now, which is one reason that the CB radio wave occupied a couple of years during the last part of the 1970s. Among the interesting things it produced was the spoken-word hit “Convoy” by Bill Fries, under the name C.W. McCall.

The internet being the internet, there’s at least one page dedicated to the story of a massive group of trucks tearing through the nation’s highways, undaunted and unstopped by law enforcement. It has performance clips of McCall doing “Convoy” live — after a fashion — and it mostly involves him telling the story of the aforementioned convoy, led by the Rubber Duck and Pig Pen.

Legendary stuff, to be sure. And after a decade, a wholly different form of intervehicle communication had taken hold — but that story, too, proved to be worth the telling:

Today, of course, he’s just another distracted driver.

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Would you like to swing with a star?

The seventh season of Hollywood Palace debuts in the fall of 1969 with Bing Crosby, no less, hosting the festivities, and all is right with the world — until Der Bingle reaches into the Paul McCartney catalog and comes up with this:

And you know, it works. It wouldn’t dare not work for Bing Crosby.

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Snooze of the world

It’s been a month since the latest Postmodern Jukebox release — a smoldering Stevie Wonder-esque take on Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” — and for a moment, some of us were just a bit alarmed.

Which is not to say that Scott Bradlee has disappeared. He’s hawking a book, Outside the Jukebox, and he’s showed up with some solo piano work, such as this:

Whether or not PMJ returns in its old familiar form, we can be sure Scott Bradlee will never be without ivories to pound.


Count the time in quarter-tones

Brian J. has seen singer Erin Bode twice in a lifetime:

Once at a little club in Clayton [Missouri] called Finale where I dragged my beautiful wife on a date night sans our only son at the time. The other was at the Old Trees annual musical festival, where I walked up without the family to catch a bit of her set. I got her 2006 album Over and Over and listened to it, well, over and over in the office where I worked five flights above Washington Avenue.

He sounded laudatory enough that I dialed over to hear something more recent from her, and happened upon this Jackson Browne cover from 2016:

And then, perhaps hoping for some bit of biographical trivia, I hit up Wikipedia, which promptly hit back:

The topic of this article may not meet Wikipedia’s notability guideline for music. Please help to establish notability by citing reliable secondary sources that are independent of the topic and provide significant coverage of it beyond its mere trivial mention. If notability cannot be established, the article is likely to be merged, redirected, or deleted.

By Wikipedia’s definition, I am a reliable secondary source, and have been quoted therein as such, which is why you’re reading this here.


A later shade of pale

Procol Harum, first and foremost, is known for sounding classical: “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” half a century ago, seemed to owe something to Johann Sebastian Bach, and the second iteration — the hit — of “Conquistador” came from a live album with the Edmonton Symphony. It was probably inevitable that sooner or later Gary Brooker, the one remaining member of the original band, would take a stab at Pachelbel’s Canon in D:

The new lyricist is Pete Brown, who wrote rather a lot of words for Cream, that same half-century ago.

Oh, and Matthew Fisher, belatedly compensated for cowriting “Pale,” got a chance to rewrite it in 2003:

Visuals by Michelangelo Antonioni and Wim Wenders.


Memories, she has

And music, you’ll remember, hath charms.

Lam Duan is the name of an old blind elephant, her name means “Tree with Yellow Flowers.” Lam Duan has been blind most of her life. She lives at Elephants World, Thailand.

She may not know exactly what’s going on, but it’s definitely speaking to her:

And now I wonder how often anyone has ever shown her a kindness.

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The original Rhumba Girl

Nicolette Larson would have been sixty-six today, and who knows what heights she might have reached? I mean, an almost happy-sounding Neil Young cover? Getting named Best New Female Vocalist by the Academy of Country Music despite not having yet released any country records? And, hey, for a while in the late 1980s, she reportedly was dating “Weird Al” Yankovic. How can you not have a lotta love for someone like that?

Japanese issue of Rhumba Girl by Nicolette Larson

Nicolette Larson wearing something black

Back liner to Nicolette Larson LP All Dressed Up and No Place to Go

Her last pop single, in 1982, was a cover of a Dusty Springfield favorite:

Nicolette died in 1997, her failing liver triggering cerebral edema; it’s said that she was overdoing the combination of Valium and Tylenol PM.

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Perhaps a trifle sexist

What in the name of Alexander Matveevich Poniatoff is going on here?

Ampex UK advertisement

Ampex, the company founded by Poniatoff in 1944, evidently wanted to sell some recording tape in the United Kingdom, and what better way to do that than to show you some British bird’s backside? The company has since abandoned the recording-tape market, concentrating today on data acquisition and storage for flight, including, by gum, space flight, but Ampex (GB) Limited is still apparently in business.

I don’t have a great deal of experience with Ampex tapes myself; their cassettes were okay, if nothing special, and I never tried out any of their reels. Perhaps it’s just as well.


Happiness is a short version

“I don’t want a double-album,” George Martin had said. “I think you ought to cut out some of these, concentrate on the really good ones and have yourself a really super album. Let’s whittle them down to 14 to 16 titles and concentrate on those.”

Of course, in those days the Beatles weren’t taking advice from anyone, George Martin included, and The Beatles, otherwise known as the White Album, came out with an unwieldy thirty tracks running over an hour and a half. Boiling this down to a CD-R is easy — throw out both the “Revolution” tracks and do a couple of early fades — but how would you make a good single album, as Sir George had urged, out of all this?

The Vinyl Geek meets the challenge headon:

I tried my own hand at this, back in 2004.

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Rag, mama, rag

This 1948 single was an early favorite of mine, back when I was a toddler:

By the time I got to my thirties, ragtime had enjoyed a brief revival, courtesy of The Sting, and then faded again. And you probably don’t want to hear these 1980s hits ragged on:

Or maybe you might. I won’t tell.

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Technically, she might be pop

Brian J. has discovered this young lady (she’s 28), and the least I can do is pass his recommendation to you.

In this clip, Natsumi Kiyoura sings “Bokura no Aikotoba” (Our Words), from the anime television series Sgt. Frog.

“Neverland” is from her 2010 album Juuka Iro, which the Great God Google obligingly translates as “Junior College.”

J-pop, we are told, originated as a Japanese variant of jazz and gradually subsumed several other genres, though none of them, I think, really makes room for Natsumi Kiyoura.

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Doing the split

Garfunkel and Oates once did a song called “29/31”, and it was every bit as scary as it was funny.

Now comes “50/50,” billed as “a feminist love song,” and it’s got some discomfort of its own:

I think we need to encourage Kate and Riki to do more songs with numbers.


Mayhem, I tell you

Imelda May, then an underage singer in Dublin, was crying to her father about boyfriend issues. Said the old man, in an impeccable example of DadLogic: “Is your heart broken? Excellent. Now you can sing the blues.”

Forty-four today, Imelda May can indeed sing the blues, and almost anything else you toss her way: last time we mentioned her here, she was half of a Les Paul/Mary Ford tribute, with Jeff Beck as Les.

Imelda May at the 2017 Brits

Imelda May is not ready to retire

Imelda May at the Recording Academy

Mayhem was the perhaps inevitable title of her third album, released in 2010. Herewith, the title song:

Last year, she released an album called Life Love Flesh Blood, produced by the redoubtable T Bone Burnett. “Should’ve Been You,” track three, was the third single:

Life Love Flesh Blood is perhaps a narrative of her breakup with husband and occasional musical collaborator Darrel Higham.

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Added to the Rolls

What? Another Rick Astley single? But of course:

Astley’s 2016 album 50, despite debuting at Number One in the UK, went nowhere in the States. But that’s no reason to give up; the Beautiful Life album comes out this Friday.

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A place you’ve never been

Originally, of course, there were no “Tijuana Brass”; at first, it was Herb Alpert’s trumpet given the Les Paul overdub treatment, then it was Alpert and the Hollywood studio musicians known as the Wrecking Crew. Finally, the demand for TJB Live grew to the point where Alpert had to assemble an actual band and take the show on the road.

That demand has slackened hardly at all in the half-century since; in 1997, Alpert did a show in Munich featuring a ten-minute medley of TJB hits. You know them all, of course:

Then again, the idea of a Tijuana Brass medley goes back to at least 1967, as I once explained:

Many suites have been derived from Bizet’s opera Carmen, from the sublime to the, um, less sublime, but few of them will fit into three minutes and thirty-nine seconds. The last track on the Herb Alpert’s Ninth LP (A&M SP-134/SP-4134), “Carmen” features a dazzling arrangement by Alpert with Peter Matz that, while it incorporates many of Bizet’s themes, focuses on the “Habañera” and infuses it with the sound of previous TJB hits: at some point, you’ll be reminded of “What Now My Love,” “Spanish Flea,” and “Zorba the Greek”, and if you still haven’t caught on, the last note is a blat from the horn of the fabled “Tijuana Taxi.”

The “Carmen” single, issued on A&M 890, missed the Top 50 by one spot. Then again, the TJB never actually had a Number One single — though Alpert himself got one in 1968, as a vocalist.

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