Iron Leg Digital Trip #27 – The Sound of the Walker Brothers

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Iron Leg Digital Trip #27 – The Sound of the Walker Brothers

Playlist
Make It Easy On Yourself
Love Her
You’re All Around Me
The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore
After the Lights Go Out
Take It Like a Man
(Baby) You Don’t Have To Tell Me
My Love Is Growing
Living Above Your Head
The Saddest Night In the World
I Can See It Now
Saturday’s Child
I Wanna Know
I Can’t Let It Happen To You
Genevieve
Orpheus
Just Say Goodbye

Listen/Download 63MB Mixed MP3

Download 68MB ZIP File-

Greetings all.
I hope everyone has had a pleasant weekend. The end of summer is nipping at our heels.
This is not to say that the warm weather is in retreat, since here in NJ we can expect at least another month of niceness (made especially nice by the exit of the tourists), but rather that the symbolic end of summer, that being Labor Day, is right around the corner.
The mix I bring you today is something that I’ve been wanting to do since the inception of Iron Leg (and likely before that).
Though I most certainly knew ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore’ (having been a voracious consumer of ‘oldies’ radio as an adolescent), I didn’t really take a serious interest in the Walker Brothers until sometime around 1990, when I picked up the Marc Almond-curated Scott Walker comp ‘Boy Child’ during a trip to Atlanta.
I had read about the ‘cult of Scott’ in our local alternative paper sometime before that, and when I happened upon the record I picked it up right away. It wasn’t until I got home and had a chance to play it, that my mind was good and truly blown, synapses redirected for the rest of my musical life by songs like ‘Montague Terrace In Blue’.
My newfound Scott Walker obsession quickly expanded to include the sounds of the Walker Brothers, and in a few short years I was able to track down (at what now seem like amazingly reasonable prices) all of the original UK Walkers LPs and the US issues of the first three Scott solo LPs.
It took me a while to sort out the Walker Brothers material, since along with plenty of post-Spectorian brilliance (and lots of great Scott vocals) there was also a lot of dross to get through. Their record company seemed to want to cast the Walkers as blue-eyed soul brothers, and although there were some interesting takes on material by black artists (Walter Jackson especially), some of the covers were especially lame.
That said, we concern ourselves here with the group’s quality material, including their two biggest hits, a couple of 45-only tracks and several John and Scott originals from the latter part of their three-year run as a group*. Be forewarned: this mix is (like the Walker Brothers catalog) heavy on ballads and bombast. If this is not to your taste, hold steady and I’ll be back with something a little harder next week.
The sound of the Walker Brothers, as much as it can be nailed down, owes a lot (A LOT) to Scott’s sonorous baritone, quality arrangements and last but not least a taste for the dramatic. Their best work owes a debt to the Wall of Sound (to which they have a direct connection via their work with Jack Nitzsche). Though there’s often an orchestral underpinning to their sound, there is always a rock rhythm section, as well as the kind of filigree (celeste, kettle drums etc) that Phil Spector and his many disciples layered on their productions like so much frosting on a cake. Fortunately it can be said that where this style appears in the Walker Brothers records, more often than not it was done tastefully, and with a feel for sonic adventure.
The history of the Walker Brothers is both brief and chaotic. John (Maus) and Scott (Engel) had been performing together under the Walker Brothers name when they met Gary (Leeds – who had played with the Standells) in Los Angeles. They took advantage of Gary’s connections (he’d been to the UK drumming with P.J. Proby) and moved to the UK, where – as the cliché goes – the rest is history. Though they only really had two hits in the US, the Walker Brothers were positively HUGE in the UK (and Japan) where they (especially Scott) were among the biggest stars of the Beat era. It is thanks to their fame in the UK that Scott Walker was able to continue as a solo artist, creating his amazing body of work in the late 60s.
They released two LPs in the US and three in the UK. There is some overlap between them, and a number of tracks that only made it onto 45s and EPs. All of these LPs are represented here in some form.
The mix gets started with their first big hit, ‘Make It Easy On Yourself’. One of many Bacharach/David tunes they would record, the song was originally a hit for Jerry Butler in 1962. I apologize for the fuzzy sound on this one, which (thanks to an edge warp on the LP) was dubbed from a styrene 45.
‘Love Her’ a 45-only track in the US was a Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil song. Originally recorded by the Everly Brothers in 1963, it did not chart until it became the first Walkers 45 to hit (albeit gently) in the UK. It is also notable for being the record that brought Scott’s monumental baritone to the fore for the first time**. The single was produced by the great Jack Nitzsche.
‘You’re All Around Me’ was one of the first tunes co-written by Scott to appear on a Walker Brothers album. It’s one of the finest tunes on the group’s first LP, with a great build up to the chorus, and of course a wonderful vocal by Scott.
‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore’ is – at least in the US – the Walker Brother’s best remembered single. Originally recorded by Frankie Valli, it’s hard to imagine anyone but Scott singing the song, let alone the leader of the Four Seasons. It is no less than a tour de force performance (and arrangement) that verily threatens to overflow any set of speakers through which it courses. The Walker’s deviate from the Valli original in both style and substance. Their arrangement has much more of a kick to it, and Scott changes the notes in the last line of the chorus. Oddly enough, this was a non-LP track in the UK.
The next tune is – at least in my opinion – the Walker Brother’s finest track. ‘After the Lights Go Out’, written by John Stewart is among the finest pieces of faux-Phil Spector ever to be committed to vinyl. It builds ever so slowly, layering instrument on instrument, voice on voice until it comes to an explosive climax in the chorus. It’s one of those records that ought to have been a much bigger hit, or at least elevated to the point where it is revered by the record nerds of the world as a masterpiece.
Though many of the Walker’s LP tracks came from obscure cover material, ‘Take It Like a Man’ – written by the mighty Leiber and Stoller – was originated by the group. Featuring a Frankie Laine-esque lead vocal by John, the song sounds like something Gene Pitney would have ripped into.
‘(Baby) You Don’t Have To Tell Me’ is a great showcase for Scott and John’s harmonies. The song was originally recorded by a singer named Bobby Coleman, who died shortly after his original version of the song was released.
‘My Love Is Growing’ was another John Stewart song, is a great John/Scott duet which was later covered by Dutch beatmasters the Motions.
‘Living Above Your Head’ is a fast moving number, originally waxed by Jay and the Americans. In my opinion the Walker’s version is superior to the original, which although it has a great vocal by Jay Black, lacks the energy of the cover.
‘The Saddest Night In the World’ is a John (Maus) Walker original, with a great vocal by Scott that appeared as a non-LP track.
By the time the Walkers recorded their second UK LP ‘Portrait’ they brought several original compositions into the studio. Scott’s original ‘I Can See It Now’ has a repeating trumpet figure in the verse that shows the influence of the Bacharach/David catalog. ‘Saturday’s Child’ is another Scott original that bears an uncomfortable resemblance to ‘River Deep Mountain High’ (especially in the chorus).
By the time the Walker’s went into the studio to record their third LP ‘Images’ (never released in the US) they were clearly on the verge of dissolution. This is not necessarily a bad thing either, as Scott, fed up with the teen idol life had started to set the stage for his solo career. He and John had both released ‘solo’ tracks at this point (on two sides of the ‘Solo John/Solo Scott’ split-EP).
The first John Walker track from ‘Images’ that we’ll feature is the hidden treasure ‘I Wanna Know’, which mixes the best aspects of freakbeat and Northern soul. Of all the Walker’s LP tracks, ‘I Wanna Know’ really should have been released as a single, where it may very well have become a hit.
The second John track from ‘Images’, ‘I Can’t Let It Happen To You’ moves back over to the ballad side of things, with a wonderful arrangement by Reg Guest.
The next two tracks from ‘Images’ are both Scott Walker originals, and are a great window into his oncoming solo career. Both ‘Genevieve’ and ‘Orpheus’ (especially the latter) could have appeared on any Scott solo album without interrupting the vibe. The arrangements, Scott’s vocals and the overall feel of the songs are much closer to the more personal style he would debut on his first solo album. ‘Orpheus’ is an especially wonderful song, with unusual lyrics and a suite-like structure that is unlike anything else on ‘Images’.
The final track in this mix, is fittingly the very last track on the very last Walker Brothers album. ‘Just Say Goodbye’ is a Petula Clark song (co-written by Clark and Tony Hatch) that was also covered by the Vogues. It’s an oddly dark arrangement, taken at a slower pace than the original, a fitting ending to the Walker Brothers career.
There are a number of reissues of the Walker Brothers best material, including UK/Euro CD issues of their individual LPs with most of their non-LP material gathered as bonus tracks.
I hope you dig this mix, and I’ll be back next week with something groovy.

Peace
Larry


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*Despite Gary Walker’s solo singles and his monumental album with the Rain (post-Walkers) I have never been able to find out what – if anything – he had to do with the group’s albums, aside from possible contributions of backing vocals.

** Prior to ‘Love Her’, John was for all intents and purposes the lead singer of the group

PS Head over to Funky16Corners for some New Jersey funk.

PSS Check out Paperback Rider too…

Two From the Ellie Greenwich Catalog

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Miss Ellie Greenwich

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The Ad-Libs

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The Jelly Beans

Listen -The Ad-Libs – He Ain’t No Angel – MP3

Listen -The Jelly Beans – Baby Be Mine – MP3

Greetings all.

I hope the end of the week finds you well.
The world of pop music took a serious hit this week, with the passing of the great Ellie Greenwich.
If the name is not immediately familiar, the music she helped to make definitely is. Along with her co-writer (and then husband) Jeff Barry, Greenwich wrote some of the best remembered hits of the early-to-mid 60s, especially as applies to the ‘girl group’ era. Among her hits were ‘Da Do Ron Ron’ for the Crystals, ‘Leader of the Pack’ for the Shangri Las, ‘Chapel of Love’ and ‘People Say’ for the Dixie Cups, ‘River Deep Mountain High’, ‘Hanky Panky’, ‘Be My Baby’ for the Ronettes and scores of others.
I only recently finished reading ‘Always Magic In the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era’ by Ken Emerson, an essential book in which Greenwich’s work as songwriter, arranger, and performer play a big part.
Back in the day, when I was a kid, and first obsessively reading record labels, hers was a very familiar name.
The two tunes I bring you today are lesser known, but very cool songs of hers, both coincidentally by NJ groups, the Ad-Libs and the Jelly Beans.
The Ad-Libs (from Newark, NJ) are best known for their amazing 1965 hit ‘The Boy From New York City’ (only the second release on Leiber and Stoller’s Blue Cat label). ‘He Ain’t No Angel’ was their follow up 45. It has a less polished sound than their debut, with a soulful vocal by Mary Ann Thomas. The prominent piano (especially in the first half of the song) and the subdued horns give the record a slightly rougher edge.
Today’s second selection is by the Jelly Beans (from Jersey City, NJ). ‘Baby Be Mine’ was the b-side of their second 45 for Red Bird (from 1964). Though the Jelly Beans were a black group, they sound as if they were cut from the same cloth as white girl groups like the Shangri-Las (without the street tough pose). There was a certain aural homogeneity with the ‘girl group’ sounds on Leiber and Stoller’s labels, i.e. there really were no black girl groups or white girl groups, just girl groups.
I hope you dig the tunes, and take time this weekend raise a glass to the memory of Ellie Greenwich.

Peace

Larry

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PS Head over to Funky16Corners for some New Orleans funk.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Sea of Madness

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Crosby rehashes the Kennedy Assassination for what he
promised would be the last time. Stills doesn’t look confident, Nash
is contractually obligated to sit still, and Young stopped paying attention
to him in 1966

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Listen -CSNT – Sea of Madness – MP3

Greetings all.

I hope the dawn of the new week finds you all well.
I spent the second half of last week cooling jets (and the rest of my body) in the hospital after I was felled by a renegade bacteria with which I wrestled for four unpleasant days.
I’m home now, and I’m going to post another Woodstock track (which I had planned to drop last Friday).
But first, a story.
Back in the olden days (1994), the 25th Anniversary of Woodstock rolled around, and my sister, her then-fiance and myself (Deadheads one and all) decided to pile into her Geo Metro and roll on up to Yasgurs farm to see what was going down. There were a lot of rumors in the air, about who might show up and play.  There was no official concert planned on the site, but in the spirit of the day, and no doubt a small, billowing cloud of pot smoke, we departed.
The drive up to the site was fairly easy going, until we got close and it suddenly struck me how small the roads were leading up to Yasgur’s Farm. I couldn’t imagine how the producers of the original event thought people were going to get there. It was also surprising to pass by a number of orthodox Jewish summer retreats a very short way from the festival, many of which looked to have been there in 1969.
As we got within a half-mile of the field we realized we could go no further, and paid some (other) industrious farmer ten bucks to park in his field. We unloaded our cooler and started marching down the dirt road to what appeared to be a fairly large gathering of similarly longhaired, tie-dyed typed, lots of tents, a small stage and a couple of what looked like tourbuses.
We got down to the field, set down a blanket and the cooler, and set out to explore. There had to be upwards of 10,000 people there, lots of young folks as well as many who looked like if they were not there in 1969, they were certainly old enough to have attended.
We sat, and waited, and waited, and waited,….no music (as long as we were there) but something simultaneously insulting and miraculous happened.
It started to rain.
Not just “rain” rain. Torrential, unforgiving, soaking rain.
Which of course brought on the mud, and the chanting.
It was like someone managed to preserve Woodstock but in a moment of stoned stupidity, forgot to grab the music.
Up until that very moment, I was all starry-eyed, zoning out and back in again thinking that something cool was going to go down.
However, things took another turn as soon as my clothes soaked through, and we were all wrapped in a icy blanket of unseasonable, August cold.
It was that moment that changed my mind about the whole, insane episode.
I was 32 years old, and no matter how much of a reprobate, I knew enough to get the fuck out of the rain and mud.
We packed up our gear, and slogged down one hill, and up the other, all through several inches of fresh mud, in sandals.
My brand new Birkenstocks (you’d be surprised how hard it used to be to find shoes like that in my Gargantuan size), mud squishing between my toes, making my feet slip on the soles.
I don’t recall exactly how long it took us to make it back to the car, but it seemed like an eternity.
We drove all the way home that night. More than three hours mud-to-door, and collapsed.
And there you have my personal “Woodstock Moment”.
The tune I bring you today has long been one of my favorites from the soundtrack album, which oddly enough did not appear in the movie.
As far as I’ve ever been able to discover ‘Sea of Madness’ was only recorded twice, both live concerts, once at Woodstock, and again at the Big Sur Folk Festival
I find the inclusion of ‘Suite Judy Blue Eyes’, and exclusion of ‘Sea of Madness’ from the film, ummm…maddening.
Listen/watch the SJBE performance in the film and it really backs up Stephen Stills proclamations about the festival only being their secong gig, and how the band was scared shitless. It’s shambolic, and amateurish at a level that I don’t see many other Woodstock bands sinking to.
‘Sea of Madness’ a Neil Young composition, is not only a better song, but a better performance. CSN were always stronger with the Y. However, the mercurial Mr. Young apparently refused to be filmed (huh?).
Flash ahead almost a month to the Big Sur Folk Festival, where CSNY, along with Dallas Taylor and Greg Reeves can be seen (in the film ‘Celebration at Big Sur’, a personal fave) the band is tigher, the selections more interesting (‘Sea of Madness, 4&20, Down By the River, and the Youngblood’s ‘Get Together’ with Joni Mitchell). It’s a great movie, and while neither the line-up nor the crowd could match the monumental status of Woodstock, there are some incredible performance, including Joni doing ‘Woodstock’, John Sebastian, and Dorothy Morrison and the Combs Sisters laying down a serious version of ‘Oh Happy Day’. You should check it out whenever you can.
I hope you dig David, Stephen, Graham and Neil (but especially Neil), and I’ll be back on Friday.

Peace

Larry

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PS Head over to Funky16Corners for a WILD version of ‘Light My Fire’.

Jimi Hendrix – The Star Spangled Banner

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The Master Whips a Little Love on the Assemble Masses

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Listen -Jimi Hendrix – The Star Spangled Banner – MP3

Greetings all.

How’s every little thing?
I just got back from my trip to DC, and while I was there I stepped into a little bit of synchronicity that kind of slapped me in the face.
The wife and I took the tots to the Smithsonian Museum of American History, specifically to see the Muppets (Kermit and Oscar) on display. When we finished up on the third floor, we heard some singing in the second floor atrium below. A trio of singers in period (30s/40s) dress were singing ‘God Bless America’. As I peered over the railing, I looked at the back wall and realized that I had forgotten that the Star Spangled Banner, the flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812, for which the anthem was written by Francis Scott Key, was on exhibit.
We took the boys downstairs and walked up into the flag display area, at the end of a darkened hallway, kept that way so the almost 200 year old flag would not deteriorate further. As we passed down the other side of the exhibit, I glanced to my right and saw something incredibly surprising, that being a picture of Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock, playing the ‘Star Spangled Banner’.
Truth be told, I got a little choked up.
Sure, Jimi’s game changing rendition of the song is perhaps the single best known version of the National Anthem, but I never in a million years expected that fact to be recognized at the Smithsonian Institution.
Jimi’s take on the song is mind blowing on a couple of levels, both in its radical reworking of the song itself, a serious bit of musical protest no doubt considered incredibly disrespectful by the Archie Bunker set, as well as a radical reclamation of the song for a younger generation. There were no doubt those in the first group who saw this as a raised black fist, but, at least in my opinion, no matter how many on the left and the right wanted to dress Jimi’s ‘Star Spangled Banner’ in radical clothing, I think that Hendrix’s approach to the song was sincere and thoughtful, and ultimately without malice toward anyone.
I’m not among those who will try to tell you that Jimi had some otherworldly thing going on, with ESP equipped unicorns flying out of his ass, but he was, despite what some people might think, an intelligent and thoughtful guy, with an undeniable musical gift.
The irony of the performance is that by the time Jimi took the stage, closing the festival, much of the muddy horde had dispersed, and the master was laying down his statement to what was essentially a scattered crowd and tons of wet garbage. Yet, no matter how dismal the scene before him, he plugged in that guitar and let rip with a serious wall of noise, a little bit Coltrane, a little bit MC5 and every note, pure, unadulterated Jimi Hendrix.
Of all the great performers of the 1960s who blew the sphere ahead of schedule, none makes me sadder that they’re gone than Jimi Hendrix.
What a fucking gift.

Peace

Larry

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PS Head over to Funky16Corners for the funk of Sly & the Family Stone at Woodstock

Two By Leon Russell

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The Original King of Leon

Listen -Leon Russell – Of Thee I Sing – MP3

Listen -Leon Russell – Crystal Closet Queen – MP3

Greetings all.

I hope everyone had a nice weekend.
Aside from the fact that I had some trouble sleeping (not enough fast living???) I got to spend lots of quality time with the family and the weather was in a word, superb.
I’m only going to do one post this week since the fam and I are going to try to head out of town for a few days to get in a little bit of actual vacationing before the summer is over.
The artist we will discuss today is lodged so deeply in my musical consciousness that – like the Beatles – there are a couple of his albums that I could quite likely “play” in my head from memory.
The sounds of Leon Russell first plowed into my sensitive young ears when I was but a lad, probably around the time that he was having his greatest success as a solo artist (1973/74-ish, when I was 11/12). Oddly enough, and this is probably unique at least as far as rock’n’roll goes, I came upon Leon Russell via my Pop.
The rock stipulation is an important one, because as far as jazz, classical and the great American songbook go, every single brick in my musical foundation (outside of rock, on which we rarely concur) was placed there by my father. He spent his entire adult life (he is, thankfully, still with us, but retired) working during the week as a history teacher, and then on the weekend nights worked as a piano player/singer in a variety of piano bar settings.
To say that my four siblings (two brothers, two sisters) grew up in a musical house is an understatement, with every one of us playing one or more instruments over the years, and myself (quite obviously, if you’ve ever read Iron Leg or Funky16Corners) having become quite obsessed with all things musical.
As I said above, as far as rock music went, the twain rarely met as far as Pop and I are concerned. He hasn’t much of a taste for the stuff, and for much of my young life I had a taste for little else. I can remember (fondly?) more than one occasion where I approached him about some rock thing or other that struck me as profound, to which he (at least figuratively) rolled his eyes and harrumphed. I can’t really blame him either. He was from another generation, and in all other respects was always – to a fault – musically generous with me. Without his guidance (and record collection) I wouldn’t have encountered George Gershwin, Fats Waller, Ray Charles, Duke Ellington, Stravinsky and countless other jazz and classical artists.
His piano playing, whether casually around the house (some of my fondest memories focus in on his occasional bursts of old-school boogie woogie on the 88s), or surrounded by singing aunts, uncles and cousins at family gatherings, was also a big factor in the formation of my musical tastes.
It was at one such family gathering in the early 70s that one of my older, long-haired cousins passed the album ‘Leon Russell and the Shelter People’ to my father. It was from that moment (though I can’t say for sure the effect was immediate) that against all odds, in opposition to his every instinct (at least as far as I could see), my old man dropped the needle and actually dug Leon Russell.
Though ‘Shelter People’ wasn’t the first contemporary music in the house (I remember Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ album and a 45 of Joan Baez singing ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’) I am positive that with that Leon Russell album, pure, unadulterated rock music made its first incursion into the Grogan household. Though I had my ears glued to the radio, I had yet to buy my first record (that would happen in the next year or so with my purchase of ‘Introducing the Beatles’ on Veejay).
I can’t say that the “Russell effect” was instantaneous. My parents had a habit of putting music on and letting it play in the background, whether it was my Dad’s LPs stacked on the changer (if you’re under a certain age you may have to look that up) or my Mom’s Mama Cass and Judy Collins 8-Track tapes on repeat. That said, at some point Russell’s bouillabaisse of Little Richard, Ray Charles and Dr John (though I suspect that any Rebennack-ization was coincidental since the good Doctor and Leon were roughly contemporaries) with a soupcon of hippie boogaloo drilled its way into my soft, impressionable brain and I was a goner.
The ensuing decades, in which I ingested every music book and record I could get my greedy little hands on, it was revealed to me that Leon Russell was no early-70s flash in the pan. Though his early days as a session musician and arranger in Los Angeles are well known (touching on everything from Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, to the Byrds, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, Glen Campbell, Gene Clark & the Gosdin Brothers and countless other sessions*) Russell’s most important contribution – at least in my opinion – was as one of the truly great movers and shakers in late 60s/early 70s rock music.
Though a cursory glance may only reveal a huge pulsing mass of buckskin, patched denim, mud, marijuana and converted school buses, when you bring the era into focus (as much as that’s possible) Leon Russell, with his long, prematurely gray locks brushing the keyboard, emerges as a kind of hub, touching on many of the major events and players of the era. Though he never really moved all the way to the front, he did take a step out of the studio, working his way into a kind of middle ground in the public consciousness, working with Joe Cocker (as musical director for the Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour), George Harrison (he’s in the Concert for Bangla Desh), Eric Clapton, Delaney and Bonnie, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Freddie King and many others before emerging as a solo artist.
Russell’s first solo album, entitled (not surprisingly ‘Leon Russell’) featured the original versions of the oft covered tunes ‘Delta Lady’ and ‘A Song For You’ and contributions from a who’s who of rock including various and sundry Beatles and Rolling Stones.
‘Shelter People’ is less of an all-star effort (though it does feature a cameo by George Harrison) but is, at least as far as I’m concerned a much stronger album.
Russell’s sound, starting with his voice and piano is an amalgam of pure rock’n’roll, gospel (listen to the ‘Leon Live’ album which sounds more like a revival meeting than a rock concert), R&B, jazz and to a lesser extent, contemporary pop. There are times that Russell sounds as if he sprung, fully formed from Little Richard’s conk, but taken as a whole his albums bear the influence of the hippie era and could not have come together (as well) in any other time.
The two songs I’m posting from ‘Leon Russell and the Shelter People’, ‘Of Thee I Sing’ and ‘Crystal Closet Queen’ are the two balls-out rockers on the album. ‘Of Thee I Sing’ is a slightly jaundiced look (could there have been any other kind in 1971?) at the face of America, with mentions of Kent State (“blood is on the books in Ohio”) and a juggernaut of a piano figure that threatens to leave the rest of the band in the dust.
‘Crystal Closet Queen’ is a tribute to the mighty Little Richard (“the undiluted Queen of rock and roll. He knows who she is!”) as a formative influence on Russell. I’ve never seen any reference to Mr. Penniman having been aware of this song, but I suspect he would approve.
Both of these songs (and the rest of the album) are proof that in the years where everything seemed to be unraveling in a haze of back to the country-isms, drugs and lax hygiene, Leon Russell was capable of getting down and creating some truly great rock music. In addition to the rockers on the album, there are also quieter, sublime moments like a cover of Harrison’s “Beware of Darkness’ and the song ‘The Ballad of Mad Dogs and Englishmen’.
Over the next few years Russell would go on to have his biggest successes as a performer (with ‘Tight Rope’) and songwriter (composing ‘This Masquerade’, covered by countless artists but most successfully by George Benson**). He went on to record and tour with Willie Nelson, and later joined (consumed/appropriated?)  the New Grass Revival.
Both ‘Leon Russell’ and ‘Leon Russell and the Shelter People’ are available in reissue with bonus tracks and are essential.
I hope you dig the music, and I’ll back next week with some other cool stuff.

Peace

Larry

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*As well as his time in the Shindogs, the house band on TVs Shindig
**Russell was also the co-writer of ‘Superstar’, a big hit for the Carpenters

PS Head over to Funky16Corners for a very tasty funk 45.

The Cake – Baby That’s Me

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The Cake

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Listen -The Cake – Baby That’s Me – MP3

Greetings all.

The end of another week is upon us and I thought I’d lay something a little Wall-of-Sound-y on your ears to get them ready for the weekend.
Though I’ve known of The Cake for years, I had no idea what they sounded like. Their albums were a staple of ‘digging’ reports over at Soulstrut, and while I was intrigued I never encountered any of their vinyl in the field.
At one point a few years ago, I did a little research and picked up a CD reissue that contained both of their albums.
Upon first listen I wasn’t sure what to think. Taken as a whole I found their sound to be a tiny bit schizophrenic, dipping into pop, folk rock, lite soul and Wall of Sound girlgroupisms, often side by side.
That said, when I had time to digest the disc fully, there were definitely things I dug.
A few months ago I was out digging and finally managed to find one of their 45s, and as luck would have it, it was one of the songs I liked.
The Cake were formed in 1966 in New York by Chelsea Lee, Jeanette Jacobs and Barbara Morillo. They were discovered by Charlie Green and Brian Stone (managers of both Sonny & Cher and the Buffalo Springfield) and spirited away to Los Angeles.
When they recorded their first LP that had the good fortune to have the assistance of both arranger Harold Battiste and producer (and Phil Spector acolyte) Jack Nitzsche.
The tune I bring you today – ‘Baby That’s Me’ – hails from the first album and is one of the aforementioned Wall of Sound-ish songs. Co-written by Nitzsche and Jackie Deshannon, the tune is awash (almost ridiculously so) in reverb, and features the Cake’s mid-60s, somewhat less soulful take on the Ronettes vibe. On first listen the initial impulse is to slap on the headphones, but I assure you that ‘Baby That’s Me’ is best approached from a distance. Like the best of Spector’s original productions (and those of his imitators) the sonic bombast is best processed via a car radio speaker, and would be overwhelming at close quarters.
The temptation is to get deep inside the mix to pick it apart, but the truth of the matter is that you wouldn’t tear apart an actual cake to look for the eggs and sugar, and you would be doing a similar disservice to this record. It’s supposed to be heard as a blended whole. It’s like of you sat down with ‘Pet Sounds’ (as I often had) and started digging into the ingredients, and the end result is that something is lost. Sure you get to hear chromatic harmonica, tack piano and police sirens, but at that point you are literally missing the forest for the trees.
That said, you go ahead and pull down the ones and zeros and listen to it however you like.
I’ll be back on Monday with something cool.

Peace

Larry

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PS Head over to Funky16Corners for a pair of Sly and the Family Stone covers.

The Sunshine Company – Love, That’s Where It Is

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The Sunshine Company

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Listen -Sunshine Company – Love, That’s Where It Is – MP3

Greetings all.

I have returned from my DC road trip tired, but since the car was weighed down with a grip of newly acquired vinyl (mostly funk and soul) any fatigue is more than compensated for.
The tune I bring you today was a bit of a surprise discovery. I had been seeking out the albums by the Sunshine Company specifically for their Curt Boettcher-related material (they covered songs by the Ballroom and Millennium). I found a couple of them, and after sorting out the specific tunes I was looking for, I listened further and was pleasantly surprised.
Best known for their seminal sunshine pop tune ‘Back On the Street Again’ the Sunshine Company recorded three albums for Imperial between 1967 and 1969, as well as material for a fourth record that was never released.
Though hearing their hits might bring to mind a group like the Mamas and Papas, a closer listen to their records reveals a slightly harder edge that separates them from some of the more twee proponents of the sunshine pop world.
A perfect example of this sound is today’s selection, ‘Love, That’s Where It Is’. The song is a perfect combination of sublime, uplifting harmony pop and SanFran acid guitar. Though seemingly incongruous the disparate elements complement each other perfectly. I find myself giving this record repeated listens, awash in the sunny chorus and then shocked back into reality by the guitar solo.
I hope you dig it and I’ll be back later in the week with something (else) groovy.

Peace

Larry

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PS Head over to Funky16Corners for a new edition of the Funky16Corners Radio Podcast.

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