MUSiC: James Brown On The TAMI Show

It’s funny how long some things take to happen. I’ve been listening to Sting sing the line ‘James Brown on the TAMI show’ since my early or mid-teens, and I’ve been seriously into James Brown himself, or more accurately his musical legacy, for three decades or more.

And yet only now have I actually tried to check out exactly what is ‘James Brown on the TAMI show’? And, thanks to YouTube and the interweb, I finally found out.

I’m only in to the second tune at the time of posting this. And whilst I love JB and his Famous Flames, the squealing ‘Beatle-mania’ type audience response is messin’ with my noggin!

MUSiC: Closing Time 50!

Very tempting!

Closing Time, 50th Anniversary limited edition double vinyl release, 2 June, 2023.

Oh how I love this album! It captures Tom in a uniquely youthful and innocent mood, less gravelly, a bit more country, and utterly wonderful.

The closing title track would, on its own, make this album essential. But there are plenty of other great tunes; from the cosy bar-room sentimentality of I Hope That I Don’t Fall In Love With You, via the Tin Pan Alley balladry of Grapefruit Moon, to the ol’ timey vibes of Ol’ 55 and Rosie.

It’s an astonishingly mature and assured debut recording. And the musical team that made it help evoke a timeless beauty drawing on a whole smorgasbord of American popular music, to craft a classic recording that’s both gently obscure and disarmingly immediate and charming.

A contemporary advert for Waits’ debut.

An essential album, reissued for über fans (like me!), in a couple of deluxe twin disc vinyl formats. I can’t justify the extravagance (although it’s not actually out for a bit!), but I’m very sorely tempted.

Overall I prefer the Tom of the ‘first phase’, ie the boho-beatnik barfly romantic and philosopher, of Closing Time through to Swordfishtrombones (and maybe even Frank’s Wild Years?) to the art house carnival freak he evolved into after that.

On Closing Time, whose moody cover art is be Zappa’s buddy Cal Schenkel, we have a sweeter, softer and smoother sounding Tom. He’s already the folksy troubadour, with a big dose of jazz and blues in the pockets of his rumpled yet earnest thrift store suit.

Waits, circa ‘72.

This album is unique in that after this awaits would produce a run of amazing recordings working with Bones Howe, a former jazz drummer turned producer, who helped craft the classic early Tom sound-world I so adore, by surrounding Waits with stellar jazz sidemen (like Jacky Sheldon, Jim Hughart and the incomparable Shelly Manne).

On Closing Time Jerry Yester produced, and the band – who are brilliantly sympathetic to awaits’ material – are less familiar names, gathered together from Yester’s musical orbit. Yester also did some superb string arrangements for Tom, on this and a few of his subsequent albums.

MUSiC: RIP Burt Bacharach, 1928-2023

Burt Bacharach passed away at the ripe old age of 94 today. What a legend!

Here’s one of my own personal favourites from his extensive and illustrious catalogue:

From Alfie to What The World Needs Now, his body of work is incredible. I adore the string of albums under his own name, from the later ‘60s and the 1970s, with his own orchestra, and Burt at the piano, singing his own tunes (lyrics by Hal David, of course!).

Burt Freeman Bacharach, 1972.

MiSC: Life & Art, Poetry & Depression

Black eyed dog he called at my door
The black eyed dog he called for more
A black eyed dog he knew my name
A black eyed dog he knew my name
A black eyed dog
A black eyed dog
I'm growing old and I wanna go home, I'm growing old and I dont wanna know
I'm growing old and I wanna go home
Black eyed dog he called at my door
The black eyed dog he called for more

Never been a dog person. Much prefer cats! But a little yappy terrier called Insomnia is barking and biting at my heels again. Put the little fucker down, I say.

And in the hallway, in the shadows, his darker more vulpine cousin can be heard, panting and drooling, occasionally pacing the few meagre feet of corridor. Depression is that mutt’s name. I can smell his stink from here.

I’m not listening to it literally. But the words and melodies of Drake’s ‘Black Eyed Dog’ are circling like carrion in my spent and careworn brain.

I'm growing old and I wanna go home, I'm growing old and I dont wanna know

Can I get an a-men? Too right! Ah-bleedin’-men! Can I get a hallelujah? You must be fucking joking! Tired of scrabbling in the dirt and dust in the peripheral shadows. Stop the ride, I’m sick and dizzy, and I want to get off.

MEDiA: Beach Boys, Get Around Shred

A friend and neighbour, of many years past, Denis, first showed me this video. Many, many moons ago. And I wept tears of laughter. It totally slew me. So funny!

And watching it again now, probably at least a decade later, it still makes me laugh and smile. It’s clearly a labour of love, by whoever originated it. I’s actually really very well done.

Damn! This cat is one cool dude.

But what I think I like best about it, and it’s rather timely right now, is the hipster in the sports car that bookends the Beach Boys studio mime performance. The cat in the shades, top down in the palm-lined Hollywood boulevards, is clearly a major dude.

Yeah, man. One slick cruising’ stud. (Gurgle, splutter!)

But just dig that gurgling drain of an engine! It sets up the video perfectly, and the attention to changing timbres and nuances, in the final segment? Genius! Comedy gold.

It’s very apt for me right now, as a jaded and disappointed middle-aged man, driving a convertible car whose exhaust has just literally fallen off (this very day!). My dear little MX5 sounds rather like this hipster’s ride. Not as comedically chortling a chariot, admittedly. But close.

I tried to find out who made this video, and my best guess so far is Total Shreds. Here are a few more. Some, like this Elvis one, subtract the music, to great comic effect:

And this ABBA one shows the degree of dedication to the art of making these. The Smoke On The Water guitar moment is priceless.

MUSiC: The Youngbloods

The Youngbloods best known hit, Get Together, looks and sounds like a hippy anthem, in the rear view mirror of music history. And so it was. Although it had a more convoluted history than its light and happy vibes might suggest.

I’m not sure if it’s a false memory, or, indeed, what it is, but I have these dim and distant memories of a mixtape cassette a childhood friend made for me, purporting, in one lengthier segment, to be The Youngbloods jamming with Jimi Hendrix. Whatever it actually was, that was some great music.*

The same pal introduced me to early T Rex (Jewel) and Beefheart (Pachuco Cadaver!). So I feel I owe him a debt of gratitude. Thank’ee, Edwin, wherever ye may be now? I last saw him (Ed’) in Ely, looking a bit like a mental health casualty of war. I rather fancied his sister Eleanor, back in the day.

But back to the present. And presents – Amazon gift vouchers – are what allows me to indulge, as I have just done, in a musical gamble: I just ordered two ‘3-in-2’ sets, both by BGO. The first collects The Youngbloods, Earth Music (both ‘67), and Elephant Mountain (‘69), whilst the second gathers together Rock Festival (‘70), Ride The Wind and Good And Dusty (both ‘71).

The only official release album I won’t have will be 1972’s High On A Ridgetop. There are some other related recordings of interest, such as drummer Joe Bauer’s Moonset (1971), and something called Crab Tunes/Noggins! Which seems to basically be The Youngbloods, sans Young, and under a different name.**

I hope this first foray into what is, for me, basically uncharted territory, proves better than my recent Harry Partch experiment. I bought The Harry Partch Collection, Vol 1, and have listened to it a couple of times. I got it ‘cause Iggy Pop mentions getting stoned and listening to it with his Stooge bandmates, and I’ve kept ‘hearing about Harry’, in relation to Beefheart and Tom Waits. I found Partch’s music really doesn’t do it for me. The ideas are more interesting than the actual sounds, which, frankly, wind up irritating me.

Reckon I’ll be returning this…

But as to The Youngbloods, in a day or two I should have the discs. And I’m hoping to bask in what I anticipate being an eclectic hippy-era melange of folk, blues and whatever else they might serve up. The cats certainly look pretty cool:

Drummer Joe Bauer was intending to be a jazzer…
Multi-instrumentalist Lowell ‘Banana’ Levinger, and friend!
Jesse Colin Young.
The early years group was a quartet: Young, Jerry Corbitt, Bauer and Banana.

* Every now and again I look into it, and usually I come up with naught. But just looking again now, I found a load of stuff with Hendrix playing with Lonnie Youngblood. That must be the Hendrix/Youngblood connection? But it’s not the music on my friend’s cassette!

Best avoided, apparently!

** After a bit of digging I’ve discovered that Noggins was the nominal group, and Crab (Crap?) Tunes was the title of the album. The album artwork and personnel make it look intriguing and inviting. But apparently it is an appalling musical turd, and very deliberately so, as it was fulfilling a ‘contractual obligation’ to the band’s record label. But this doesn’t quite stack up with the chronology: their first three albums are with RCA, then Corbitt left. Their next four albums were for Warner. And the last of those, High On A Ridgetop, came after this. Weird!?

This, on the other hand, might be worth checking out.

MUSiC: My All Time Top 5 Albums?

For sheer innocent sentimental sweet beauty, this is a corker!

Wow!? How hard is this!? It’s easier to pick my top few artists, Joni Mitchell and Tom Waits are no brainers. After that it gets tricky.

This one is etched into my being; melancholy beauty, at its most powerfully maudlin.
But I love For The Roses as well!

This all came about when I wanted to pick a ‘top five albums’ list, to illustrate a private posting on cataloguing my CD collection. it rapidly became clear that it was not going to easy!

J-Fusion at its slick funky glossy and melodic best.

If it were my current top five that’d be different. My most listened to CD right now, for example, is Casiopea’s debut. But I’m also listening to a lot of Sons of Champlin right now, and I’m not as sold on them as the other artists that I’m featuring in this post.

Intense, colourful, surreal, poetic, earthy. Amazing!

I know it might seem weird, but as a historic top five disc, Trout Mask Replica is definitely up there (with Lick My Decals Off in hot pursuit!). Not music I’d listen to all the time. And my honeymoons with these discs were many many moons ago. But I have an abiding love for them.

Slabs of sound, wafting through space and time, all floating atop Leibezeit’s incredible grooves.

Can’s Future Days also has a special place in my musical heart, closely pursued by Tago Mago!).

Memories of this on constant rotation are bittersweet.

And whilst I’m thinking in the longer term, like this, then I suppose Steely Dan and Donald Fagen figure large. Aja, Katy Lied and The Nightfly all being rave faves.

Ah, The Don. An almost perfect record!
Mad cover! Great album.

Apart from the Casiopea one, so far these are all song-based albums, of a broadly speaking Pop nature. If I were to pick some Rock albums, Thin Lizzy, Zep and Van Halen would be right up there (even Slayer, perhaps?).

It’s close with Lizzy, ‘twixt this…
… and this. Still In Love With You is Divine!!!

Likewise with Zep, is it this one…
… or this one?

With Zep I was equally taken with all of I, II and III. I only got into IV later, and – as brilliant as it is – (Stairway alone is priceless, it didn’t have the same visceral impact the first three had.

And then there’s Jazz…

This was massive for me in my mid-teens. Still love it.

I could go on like this. Should I go with Caravanserai, or Welcome, for Santana? With Herbie, is it Fat Albert, Headhunters or… Coltrane’s Love Supreme is up there, as is Davis’ Kind Of Blue (or back in my late teens, ESP).

And what about Brazil? Jobim, Joyce, Marcos Valle… and on it goes!

I got lost in the deserts with this one!
This ought to be a guilty pleasure. But I have no shame!

I’m finishing with one that really isn’t anywhere near the top. But to be fair to Slayer and the album, I’ve listened to it tons. Rather like true crime and serial killers – the kind of dark subjects with which Slayer themselves were obsessed – I find it hypnotically compelling. If Van Halen’s 1984 is a ‘guilty pleasure’, this is a ‘dirty secret’!

A dirty little secret…

Anyway, I can only conclude that picking a top five favourite albums is pretty near impossible! I mean, The Beatles Rubber Soul, a biggie for me around 16-18, did t even get a mention til right here at the very end!

YULE MUSiC: Well, kind of..

It’s Xmas Day, or as I prefer to say, Yule (f*ck Jesus!). As normal, some of what I got, gifts wise was, naturally and inevitably, music. At left is Tom Waits’ Bad As Me (in a deluxe book format edition!), whilst at right is a three albums on two discs compilation of early albums by The Sons Of Champlin.

Waits wise, I’m more a fan of his ‘first era’, from his demos and debut, Closing Time, through to Swordfishtrombones and (?). I do like the post Kathleen Brennan stuff (by which I mean after he met/married her). Just not as much.

The Sons are another and somewhat odder case, for me. I mostly like the whole idea of them, more than I often actually like listening to them! But I intend to explore them more, and this early-years stuff is a good place. Some of their later ‘70s stuff – I have a collection covering that period already – is great, in a funky jazz fusion way.

I also have a load of music coming to me on my next birthday. Inc. several Stooges albums, two by Iggy Pop, and a few other oddments. Can’t wait!

MUSiC: Orpheus

I can’t believe how good these guys are!

Thanks to the Pharelly Bros’ movie Me, Myself & Irene I discovered Orpheus. What a fantastic group!

The above video is the whole of their 1968 debut album. And the video directly below is Can’t Find The Time Tell You, the song that started me on an Orpheus jag! But this is the Orpheus original, and not the (very good, and very ‘smooth’) Hootie & The Blowfish cover, as used in the Farelly Bros’ movie, Me, Myself & Irene.

Utterly gorgeous!

Despite the very recent passing of head honcho, Bruce Arnold, they have had (and may still?) a second life, as Orpheus Reborn. I also discovered this website, where there are tons of archival Orpheus recordings. Fab!

I’m currently really digging this album.

These cats are really something special! As I listen to each of their albums, I come to appreciate that they had a rich treasury of great tunes. And if proof – beyond the obvious charms of the music itself – were needed, in the latter part of their early history they had the great Bernard ‘Pretty’ Purdie on drums!*

Here’s Orpheus’ discography:

Orpheus (1968)
Ascending (1968)
Joyful (1969)
Orpheus (1971)
Their third album, Joyful.

The video below doesn’t really do justice to the track. But it’s nice to see the group, even if they’re clearly miming! This is the non-Purdie lineup, with Harry Sandler on drums.

* Purdie is the drummer on both their debut and – according to Orpheus’ own website – their final album, both of which are self titled. So, that’s the the 1978 record, Orpheus, and the 1971 disc, also Orpheus! And more recently he rejoined the group for some reunion concerts.

MUSiC: Michael Hedges, Artist Profile (1998)

With the recent passing of Dino Danelli, and the icy frosted fingers of winter gripping us in their cold embrace, Death is in the air!

That made me think of the amazing talent of Michael Hedges. The above-linked YouTube video is a 1998 docu-bio, featuring interview footage, and music from a 1996 concert.

Right between this concert performance, and the release of the Artist Profile doc’ dedicated to him, Hedges died in an auto accident. It was 1997, and Hedges was only 43. What a loss to the world of art and music! Thank goodness for his recorded legacy.

I nearly called him ‘the incomparable’, but was then going to follow that up be saying ‘like a collision between Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix and, er… Well, anyway, comparisons, or at least influences, can be heard. But his remains a now widely imitated style, that is, at its core, his unique extension of guitar-based music.

Hearing his soulful rendition of Bob Dylan’s All Along The Watchtower, channelled through Hendrix’s reading, and played in a Joni-esque wide and deep tuning, is really something. And then there’s all his original instrumental stuff.

I’m out doing some Amazon deliveries for a few hours later today, to top up my meagre teaching earnings. I shall be digging Aerial Boundaries and Breakfast In The Field. Even the album titles (and cover art, etc) are fab. And then there’s the music!