The Beach Boys – Feel Flows/Til I Die/Surf’s Up

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Beach Boys, circa 1971

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Listen/Download – The Beach Boys – Feel Flows

Listen/Download – The Beach Boys – ‘Til I Die

Listen/Download – The Beach Boys – Surf’s Up

Greetings all.

In service of my gradual and ongoing rediscovery/appreciation of the Beach Boys, I bring you couple of stellar tracks from one of their later albums.

I’ve discussed my feelings about the Beach Boys to a limited extent in the past.

I have owned their albums since I first started buying records as a teenager, having worn out a copy of the old 2-LP ‘Endless Summer’ set back in the day.

Flash forward a decade, and I’m experiencing a knee-jerk reaction to the ‘Brian Wilson’s a genius’ wave that was around on the periphery of the garage/mod/60s scene.

My (uneducated) opinion at the time was, ‘Sure, I dig the Beach Boys, but genius? Really? In a world where the Beatles exist?”

I can chalk up my failure to dig the vastness and brilliance of Wilson’s oeuvre entirely to a combination of ignorance (I hadn’t listened to any of the full albums from ‘Pet Sounds’ on) and undeveloped sensibilities, i.e. my ears/brain were not yet attuned to a more sophisticated variety of pop music.

That is a problem I’ve grappled with my entire adult life. Fortunately, the older I get, the more open I’ve become to experimentation, especially with music.

In the case of Brian Wilson, and the later Beach Boys, that openness has been richly rewarded.

This can all be laid at the feet of Brian Wilson.

One of the great musical tragedies of the 1960s, is the area where the creative flowering, and the psychological dissolution of Brian Wilson intersect.

Just as he was reaching his creative peak, pushing the band into unexplored territory, he was crumbling.

The only good thing about this, is that even though Brian fell into the background, the Beach Boys, especially Carl Wilson picked up the slack.

Recorded (for the most part) in 1970 and early 1971 (it was released in the summer of ’71), the ‘Surf’s Up’ album was another in a string of less than successful outings by the band.

They hadn’t had a hit single since 1968’s ‘Do It Again’ (from 20/20), and their LPs hadn’t been doing that well, either.

Fortunately for us, they were still managing to make quality music.

‘Surf’s Up’, named for the long-dormant ‘Smile’-era Wilson/Van Dyke Parks collaboration that would be finally be completed for the album (using the original 1966 tracks), was the first Beach Boys LP after manager/collaborator Jack Rieley came on board.

Though I’d heard of the album, I hadn’t actually heard any of it before I encountered ‘Feel Flows’ on the soundtrack to the 2000 film ‘Almost Famous’.

The track blew me away, not only because it was an amazing (new to me) Beach Boys track, but because – like the sounds on 1968’s ‘Friends’ LP – it revealed to me how much of the contemporary music I was digging had been influenced by this era of the Beach Boys catalog.

It would be all but impossible not to see the influence of this period of the Beach Boys in the sounds of groups like the Sneetches, Stereolab, High Llamas and Eric Matthews, all of which were in heavy rotation in my ears.

The three tracks I’m including today all hail from the second side of the ‘Surf’s Up’ album, and all feature Carl Wilson as lead (or co-lead) vocalist.

‘Feel Flows’ starts out in a poppy, upbeat vibe, but fairly quickly turns into something different, mixing group harmony, psychedelia and even jazz (Charles Lloyd on flute), with some very cool, distorted lead guitar weaving in and out of the mix.

‘Til I Die’ is one of the most beautiful things that Brian Wilson ever wrote. A kind of existential meditation, wrapped in waves of stunning harmonies, the instruments are almost invisible behind the wall of voices. This is one of those songs that has to be appreciated through headphones, repeatedly, to pick up on all the layers.

‘Surf’s Up’ is one of the most interesting chapters in the creative saga of Brian Wilson.

Begun in 1966 for the ‘Smile’ sessions, with lyrics by Van Dyke Parks, the song is a beautiful, impressionistic, poetic work, in which Wilson manages to shake off the Spector-isms of his 1966/67 epics while retaining all the sophistication and beauty of the song.

As in ‘Til I Die’, ‘Surf’s Up’ sees the voices coming to the fore, with the instrumentation painting the background. Through the just over four minutes of the song, only the piano in the middle section really makes a statement over the harmonies.

It really is quite spectacular and improves with repeated listening.

If you haven’t found your way into this era of the Beach Boys, you really ought to give it a try. It took me a while to track down an original copy of ‘Surf’s Up’ (the late 60s/early 70s BB LPs didn’t sell well in the US), but you can grab it all inexpensively in iTunes.

I hope you dig the sounds, and I’ll see you all next week.

Peace

Larry

 

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PS Head over to Funky16Corners for some soul.

Tommy James – Draggin’ the Line

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WHAA?!?!?

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Listen/Download – Tommy James – Draggin’ the Line

Greetings all.

I hope all is well in your corner of the universe.

Last week I took a little dive into my to-be-blogged archive, paddling around to see what might catch my fancy.

Unless I have something particular in mind, I always try to start these searches way back in the older stuff, trying to see what I might have missed/forgotten about.

The process – if one can be said to exist – usually involves me bringing home a big pile of records, recording and editing them, and placing them (and a picture of the label) in a big digital pile. I try to stick to a first in/first out pattern, but every once in a while (for a variety of reasons) something jumps to the front of the line.

The record you see before you today is not one of those.

In fact, I forgot that I had recorded it.

‘Draggin’ the Line’ by Tommy James was released in 1970, not long after he shed his Shondells, or at least their name.

A look at the charts seems to indicate that Tommy’s solo career got off to kind of a weak start. Whether the insane cover of the album ‘Christian of the World’ (James’s second solo album and the record from which this song comes) had anything to do with that, I do not know.

However, once ‘Draggin’ the Line’ hit the airwaves, James had a significant hit on his hands (the biggest of his solo career), making it into the Top 5 in 1971.

I bring it to you today not because it was a hit, but because it hooked itself into my nine-year-old brain back in the day, and never really let go.

This has everything to do with the song’s hypnotic bass line, and the chorus with its call and response of ‘Draggin’ the line’.

I’m pretty sure I neither heard, nor understood the lyrics when I was a kid, or I would certainly remembered Tommy talking about his dog Sam (who likes purple flowers) or the explicit reference to tree hugging. The weird thing is that unlike so many other records, ‘Draggin’ the Line’ doesn’t bring up any specific nostalgic memories, other than waiting for it to pop up on the radio so I could hear it again (remember when you had to do that?). Make sure you check out the local survey from one week that summer when the song was hitting in NYC.

It’s one of my favorite records from that period when the calendar had turned over into the 70s but the 60s were still hanging on for dear life, and I was spending a lot of time with my ear pressed to the transistor listening to WABC in New York.

So that’s the sound for the week.

I hpe you dig it, and I’ll see you all next week.

Peace

Larry

 

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PS Head over to Funky16Corners for some soul.

Tom Northcott – 1941 / Sunny Goodge Street

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A Euro P/S for 1941

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Listen/Download – Tom Northcott – 1941

Listen/Download – Tom Northcott – Sunny Goodge Street

Greetings all.

I can’t remember when I first became aware of Tom Northcott, but I am pretty sure that I knew his name for years before I ever heard a note of the music he made.

Northcott, who was based in British Columbia, in Canada made all of his records in the relatively short window of 1965 to 1971.

Though he made a few regional records in Canada, Northcott is best remembered these days for a series of 45s he did for Warner Brothers in the mid-to-late 60s and an LP he recorded for UNI in 1971.

He had the kind of high, clear tenor voice that was very popular during the folk revival.

He recorded a couple of folk rock 45s with the Tom Northcott Trio and the Vancouver Playboys before signing with Warner Brothers in 1967.

Northcott recorded a variety of cover and original material, waxing songs by Bob Dylan (‘Girl of the North Country’), Nilsson (‘1941’) and Donovan (‘Sunny Goodge Street’), all of which were Canadian hits in 1967 and 1968.

I bring you the latter two tracks today, because of all the Northcott material I’ve managed to find, they are my favorites.

As a certified Nilsson freak, I am constitutionally incapable of passing up a cover version of ‘1941’, and Northcott’s is excellent.

Both of these 45s were recorded in Los Angeles, produced by Lenny Waronker and Leon Russell and arranged by Russell as well.

Northcott takes ‘1941’ at a much faster pace than any of the other versions I’ve heard (which tend to hew closely to the Nilsson original) and it’s a refreshing change of pace. Though Russell adds in some brass, the arrangement isn’t too busy.

His version of Donovan’s ‘Sunny Goodge Street’ is a much more ornate, upbeat take on the song. The original is a quiet, meandering affair with a jazz combo and a bowed bass violin. Northcott’s version is a bright, baroque popsike waltz, with accordion, and what sounds like a cimbalom, producing an almost calliope-like effect.

There’s a very cool video of an appearance that Northcott made on the Canadian TV show ‘Where It’s At’ performing ‘Sunny Goodge Street’ and ‘Girl From the North Country’ (hosted by Lulu. No less!).

Northcott’s UNI LP is a slightly more rock-oriented project, including covers of Leonard Cohen, Randy Newman and a cool version of the Move’s ‘Blackberry Way’. It tends not to be very expensive and I would highly recommend you pick it up if you dig the tracks I’ve posted today.

Rhino Handmade released a comp of Northcott’s Warner Brothers material, but it appears to be long out of print.

Interestingly, not long after his 1971 LP, Northcott left the music business to become a commercial fisherman, and later got a law degree, specializing in maritime law.

There’s a video on YouTube of a 1988 Canadian TV show with an interview with Northcott (fast forward to around 4:30).

I hope you dig the sounds, and I’ll see you all next week.

Peace

Larry

 

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PS Head over to Funky16Corners for some soul.

Iron Leg Radio Show Episode #37

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Beep beep beep beep…..

Playlist

Alan Hawkshaw/Keith Mansfield – Action Scene (KPM)
Bobby Fuller Four – Gallancamps Shoes Commercial
Bobby Fuller Four – Let Her Dance (Mustang)
Bobby Fuller Four – Another Sad and Lonely Night (Mustang)
Bobby Fuller Four – KHJ Big Kahuna Theme
Bobby Fuller Four – Take My Word (Mustang)
Bobby Fuller Four – Never To Be Forgotten (Mustang)
Bobby Fuller Four – KRLA King of the Wheels Theme

Free Design – 2002 a Hit Song (Project 3)
Free Design – Kites are Fun (Project 3)
Free Design – Butterflies are Free (Project 3)
Free Design – Bubbles (Project 3)
Free Design – California Dreaming (Project 3)
Free Design – Eleanor Rigby (Project 3)
Free Design – Kije’s Ouija (Project 3)
Free Design – Where Do I Go (Project 3)
Free Design – My Brother Woody (Project 3)
Free Design – Stay Another Season (Project 3)
Free Design – Windows of the World (Project 3)
Free Design – I Found Love (Project 3)
Free Design – Jack In the Box Commercial

Paul Butterfield Blues Band – Mary Mary (Elektra)
Dave Clark Five – All Night Long (Epic)
Glen Campbell – Bowling Green (Capitol)
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – These Days (Liberty)
Donovan – Tangerine Puppet (Hickory)
Jake Thackray – The Black Swan (Philips)
The Beach Boys – Feel Flow (Brother/WB)
The Beach Boys – Surf’s Up (Brother/WB)
The Beach Boys – Til I Die (Brother/WB)

 

 

Listen/Download -Iron Leg Radio Show Episode 37 – 172MB/256kbps

Greetings all.

Welcome to this month’s episode of the Iron Leg Radio Show.

This month you get a set of groovers by the Bobby Fuller Four, a look at the sounds of one of my favorite pop groups, the Free Design as well as a set of new arrivals.

I hope you dig it all, and if you’re new to the Iron Leg Radio Show, take a dip in the archive.

See you all next week.

Peace

Larry

 

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PS Head over to Funky16Corners

Bowling Green Times Two

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The Everly Brothers

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Glen Campbell

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Listen/Download – the Everly Brothers – Bowling Green

Listen/Download – Glen Campbell – Bowling Green

Greetings all.

I hope the new week finds you all well.

I had planned on bringing you the Everly Brothers (original) version of ‘Bowling Green’ for a while.

Fortunately for all of us, whilst I was a-digging through the crates I discovered that I had another, very groovy version of the song already, by none other than Glen Campbell.

I should start out by saying that the recent news of Campbell moving in to an assisted living facility due to the progression of Alzheimer’s disease was saddening.

Glen Campbell is one of those artists who had enough mainstream success that the true depth of his talent (and discography) is often overlooked.

He was an important part of the famous Wrecking Crew studio outfit, as well as having recorded some very cool albums for Capitol in the 1960s.

Though he is often thought of as a country-pop artist, he had excellent taste in covers and recorded many great songs by folks like Harry Nilsson, Donovan, Sonny Curtis, The Bee Gees, Otis Redding, Dorsey Burnett and even Paul Revere and the Raiders.

The song I bring you today was first recorded by the Everly Brothers (on their excellent ‘Everly Brothers Sing’ LP) in 1967.

‘Bowling Green’, written by the Everly’s bassist Terry Slater with Jacqueline Ertel (I don’t know why she’s not credited on either of these labels) was a Top 40 hit for the brothers in the Spring of 1967.

Campbell recorded it later that year on his ‘Gentle On My Mind’ LP.

While the Everly’s version features their unmatchable harmonies, Campbell’s take on the song sports a much livelier arrangement by none other than Leon Russell!

Interestingly, the song was recorded again, a year later by the Gosdin Brothers, who gave it a slightly more countrified feel.

Both versions are excellent, and I would recommend picking up both albums (especially the Everly Brothers LP which has some surprising, even psychedelic touches) if you find them.

I hope you dig the sounds, and I’ll see you next week.

Peace

Larry

 

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PS Head over to Funky16Corners for some soul.

Ruthann – Carry On (Glittering Dancer)

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Ruthann Friedman

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Listen/Download – Ruthann – Carry On (Glittering Dancer)

Greetings all.

I hope the new week finds you all well.

The record I bring you today is a big favorite of mine – one you’ve heard on the Iron Leg Radio Show podcast – and one that I chased for a while before finally adding it to my crates.

The artist, named here as ‘Ruthann’ but in fact Ruthann Friedman, has one of the more interesting back stories in all of 60s pop.

I first encountered her music via a 45 by the Garden Club, a one-off affair that featured Friedman, Tom Shipley (later of Brewer and…), with songwriting by Tandyn Almer (’Along Comes Mary’) and production by Larry Marks.

I was already familiar with all of those names, except Friedman’s, so I started digging.

The first thing I discovered was that Friedman had written the Association’s huge 1967 hit ‘Windy’, which of course went on to be recorded many, many times in a wide variety of settings.

I was surprised I had never heard about Friedman.

As it turns out, Ruthann Friedman was a native of the Bronx who had moved west as a teenager, falling in with the west coast folk scene.

She was (as indicated by the cast of characters associated with the Garden Club) part of a very talented and interesting crowd.

Friedman’s style was a timely amalgam of folk and pop, which she fleshed out on her 1969 Reprise LP ‘Costant Companion’.

Not long after I managed to find a copy of that album, I found out that not long after its release, Friedman recorded a 45 with none other than Van Dyke Parks at the controls.

You already know I’m way into Parks, so I set off in search of that 45.

It would appear that the record in question, ‘Carry On (Glittering Dancer)’ only ever got to the promo stage (issued with mono mix on one side, stereo on the other), and in combination with the already obscure nature of Friedman’s oeuvre, was like the fabled hens teeth.

The record doesn’t trade for a lot of money (comparatively, it seems to run for 30 or 40 bucks) but it is maddeningly scarce.

When it finally did turn up, I managed to grab it at a steep discount (always a treat) and when you hear it I think you’ll see why I was so happy.

‘Carry On (Glittering Dancer)’ is unlike anything on Friedman’s album (which is mosty folk psych). It is – like many Van Dyke Parks joints – dense, packed with ideas, butting up against the avant garde yet still anchored in a pop foundation.

The base coat –as it were – is pretty simple, but as the 45 rolls on it is adorned with horns, strings, percussion and layers upon layer of Friedman harmonizing with herself.

The horns are especially interesting, flirting with dissonance (you go, Van Dyke!), which while probably dooming the record to exile from the radio, made it a crucial part of both Friedman’s and Parks’ stories.

Oddly (and sadly) after this 45 hit the streets in 1970, Ruthann Friedman never recorded again.

I have heard about her performing, and there have been reissues of her released and unreleased (demos, etc) material. You can get ‘Carry On (Glittering Dancer)’ as a bonus track to the iTunes release of ‘Constant Companion’.

It is a very groovy record and yet another piece in the Van Dyke Parks puzzle.

I hope you dig it and I’ll see you all next week.

Peace

Larry

 

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PS Head over to Funky16Corners for some soul.

The Remains – Diddy Wah Diddy b/w Once Before

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The Remains

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Listen/Download – The Remains – Diddy Wah Diddy

Listen/Download – The Remains – Once Before

Greetings all.

Near the end of February, the sad news came down that the drummer of the mighty Remains, Chip Damiani had passed away at the age of 68.

Back in the garage/mod days of the 80s, when reissues of classic 60s material were coming fast and furious, the French import comp of the Remains best material was a big favorite.

Record collector types are always bending someone’s ear about how their favorite band really should have been huge, but in the case of the Remains, that old saw has the ring of truth.

Formed in Boston in 1964, the Remains made music that was hard edged – often muscling in on the garage punk vibe – full of R&B swagger yet with enough pop flavor to get them (theoretically, anyway) on the radio.

They were enshrined on 1972’s ‘Nuggets’ comp, with ‘Don’t Look Back’ (written by a young Billy Vera), but that record – as great as it was – only scratched the surface.

Despite a lack in actual chart success (outside of Boston), the Remains managed to make it onto the Ed Sullivan show, and score themselves a spot opening for the Beatles on their last tour in 1966.

They shoulda/coulda been, but broke up not long after the Beatles tour.

In their short career they recorded one rare LP for Epic, a handful of 45s (most of the tracks from the LP), and that – as they say – was that.

The two tracks I bring you today were released on 45 in 1966.

Their reading of Bo Diddley’s ‘Diddy Wah Diddy’ was their biggest hit – charting in the Northeast and southern California – and has a big, booming sound. The drums, acoustic guitar and electric piano get things rolling before the harp and vocals come in. There’s plenty of forward motion for the dance floor, and just enough grit for the longhairs in the crowd.

The flipside, ‘Once Before’ – opening with a razor sharp rhythm guitar slash – sounds like what the Yardbirds might have sounded like had they emerged on the opposite side of the Atlantic. Written by Chip Damiani and bassist Vern Miller, the song is my favorite of the band’s original songs, and in a just world would have been a hit.

Fortunately, after decades of doing other things (with Barry Tashian crossing paths with Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris) the Remains came back together in the late 90s and performed at many modern garage fests.

You can grab all of their material in reissue (hard copy and digital), and if you dig these tracks, I assure you that the rest of their catalog will not disappoint.

See you next week.

Peace

Larry

 

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PS Head over to Funky16Corners for some soul.

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