Category Archives: April 2011

Echoes on a plane

We were on the plane to Savannah last week. It was the first trip for the iPod.

Having cranked up the volume to drown out the engine noise, it was an opportunity to listen to songs more closely than you typically would. It brought one of those revelations you get when you have that kind of an opportunity.

This song came along in the shuffle play.

“He’s Got Your Love,” the Isley Brothers, from “It’s Your Thing,” 1969.

The Isleys’ lyrics go …

“What has he got that I haven’t got/He’s got you, baby/He’s got you, baby”

Now hold on. There’s another song that goes like that. You may remember it.

“What’s He Got,” the Producers, from “The Producers,” 1981. It’s out of print and apparently not available digitally, either.

It’s not a cover, and the music is power pop rather than soul, but this Atlanta group covered much the same ground.

“What’s he got that I ain’t got/He’s got you/That’s what he’s got/That’s what he’s got”

I vividly remember this from the early days of MTV, but was surprised to learn it did nothing in the charts.

The Producers were such MTV faves — “Certain Kind Of Girl” and “She Sheila” also were popular videos — that they headlined the network’s second New Year’s Rockin’ Eve at Radio City Music Hall in New York as 1981 turned to 1982.

Lead singer Kyle Henderson, it turns out, has lived just down the road in Madison, Wisconsin, for the past four years. He’s an editor at the University of Wisconsin and teaches at a junior college.

He also leads a group called Kyle Henderson’s Blue Eyed Soul. They do soul and blues covers and originals. And, yes, “What’s He Got” is on their song list.

However, “He’s Got Your Love” is not.

I like ‘em both. Might be interesting to put them back to back.

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Thundersnow and lightning licks

Earlier today, we had the second outbreak of thundersnow in our corner of Wisconsin this year. Thundersnow is exactly what it sounds like — thunder and lightning during a snowstorm.

It was just another surreal aspect of what was kind of a weird day.

I wonder what Bill Kirchen thought about it all.

“The Titan of the Telecaster” was in town, wrapping up a three-night stand in our local casino lounge, sharing a bunch of fine, good-humored country, rock and rockabilly tunes and showing off some mad guitar skills.

But I think Bill Kirchen can handle weird. After all, he went to high school with Iggy Pop. And he was part of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen from the late ’60s to the mid-’70s.

Kirchen played a bunch of his own fine material before ever getting to any Commander Cody stuff. There were some nice tunes off his most recent CD — “Word To The Wise,” on Proper American Records — but he had none to sell us. The shipment hadn’t arrived.

(On that CD, you’ll hear Kirchen with Elvis Costello on the hard-edged “Man In the Bottom of the Well” and with his old friend George Frayne, the Commander himself, on the rowdy “I Don’t Work That Cheap.” Other guests include old friends Dan Hicks, Paul Carrack, Nick Lowe and Maria Muldaur.)

I usually don’t read up on acts I haven’t seen. I like to be surprised. So it was when Kirchen tore into “Hot Rod Lincoln” as the final number. He turned it into an extended jam in which that Lincoln was passed by cars driven by about two dozen guitar players. In so doing, Kirchen showed those mad guitar skills by offering a signature riff each time. Turns out it’s a staple of Kirchen’s shows. I could list them all, but listen to Kirchen channel them instead.

“Hot Rod Lincoln,” Bill Kirchen, from “Hot Rod Lincoln Live,” 1997.

Hearing all those guitar styles crammed into one song reminded me of something I heard on that same casino lounge stage two years ago.

In that show, Chris Spedding did “Guitar Jamboree,” showing off his considerable skills by playing “a few flash guitar solos” in the style of almost a dozen different guitarists.

“Guitar Jamboree,” Chris Spedding, from “Ready Spedding Go,” 1984. That LP is out of print. The song originally was released in the UK on “Chris Spedding,” 1975. It’s also available on “The Very Best of Chris Spedding,” a 2007 import.

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The Starr-crossed dig

Our spring record show was Saturday morning. Shortly after they opened the doors at 10 a.m., there were so many people that it was tough to find room to dig. Rather than going where you wanted, you went where you could.

A spot opened up at my friend’s tables, so I started looking through his boxes at the H records, making my way to the end of the alphabet. A through G, though, were occupied and remained occupied.

Truth be told, I was waiting for some room to open up at another table nearby. I finally slid over there just as the dealer was wrapping up a sale. I glanced over at what the guy ahead of me was buying. Edwin Starr’s “25 Miles” LP. Oh, man. That’s one I really would like to have. But he got there first.

After the Edwin Starr near-miss, there was the Ruby Starr near-miss.

You might remember Ruby Starr as a backup singer for Black Oak Arkansas. She recorded a couple of solo albums in the ’70s. She also gigged around Wisconsin with another group. They billed themselves as Ruby Starr and Grey Ghost. I found one of her records, but not the right one.

After those near-misses, you don’t want to get something just for the sake of getting something. It becomes a matter of heeding the words of the grail keeper: “Choose wisely.”

So three hours of crate-digging — always enjoyable — yielded just five LPs, and one of them is for someone else.

This was in one of the last boxes I dug through, at another friend’s tables.

“What It Is?” the Undisputed Truth, from “Face To Face With the Truth,” 1971. It’s out of print.

Finding a record by the Undisputed Truth, Motown producer Norman Whitfield’s experimental soul-funk-psych group of the early ’70s and one of my favorites, always is nice. This is the group’s second LP.

This cut is a scorcher from the get-go. The singers are Joe Harris, Billie Rae Calvin and Brenda Joyce, all great if underappreciated voices from that time. That’s the still-fabulous Dennis Coffey on lead guitar, complemented by a host of Funk Brothers.

“What It Is?” — one of five cuts co-written by Whitfield and Barrett Strong — was released as a single in 1972. It reached the Top 40 on the R&B charts, but didn’t have much broader appeal.

Enjoy. We’ll get to the more far-out stuff on this record another time.

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Just one question, Cubs fans

Today is opening day at Wrigley Field.

Do they still play the blues in Chicago when baseball season rolls around?

Still the best baseball song ever, performed here by the late, great Steve Goodman on a rooftop across from the friendly confines.

“A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request,” Steve Goodman, from “Affordable Art,” 1984.

Goodman might have been that dying Cub fan. He had leukemia, and this was the last LP released before his death in September 1984.

And, yes, he did have some of his ashes scattered at Wrigley Field.

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Filed under April 2011, Sounds