Monthly Archives: February 2011

Four for four

This weekend marks the fourth anniversary for AM, Then FM.

Thanks to all who have visited, especially those who have become friends.

So, as we mark four years, here are four from the Four Tops. I don’t dig them as much as I dig the Temptations, but there are a few things I like.

“I’m A Believer” and “Wonderful Baby,” the Four Tops, from “Reach Out,” 1967. (The buy link is to an import two-fer CD which also has “On Top,” a 1966 LP.)

On which they cover what was then the white-hot single by Neil Diamond and the Monkees. An acquired taste perhaps.

“Wonderful Baby,” a deep cut from this smash-filled LP, is a Smokey Robinson tune.

“California Dreamin’,” the Four Tops, from “Soul Spin,” 1969. (The buy link is to another import two-fer CD, this one with “Yesterday’s Dreams,” a 1968 LP.)

This is a nice, laid-back cover of the tune by the Mamas and the Papas, from an LP full of covers. It’s a bit too lushly orchestrated to really be described as having a soul spin, but the vocals certainly are soulful.

“Are You Man Enough?” the Four Tops, from the “Shaft In Africa” soundtrack, 1973. It’s out of print but is available digitally.

Four years ago, one of the first tunes I ever posted was “Theme from Shaft,” by Isaac Hayes. Time for a sequel.


Filed under February 2011, Sounds

Witness to history

History is being made in Wisconsin this week.

No matter where you are, you’ve likely seen it on the news. Tens of thousands of protesters — public employees, teachers and union workers — have been filling the state Capitol in Madison and its grounds as they fight the Republican governor’s proposal to strip them of collective bargaining rights.

The story has taken one astonishing turn after another.

On Tuesday, it was simply that 13,000 people showed up to protest on a weekday. On Wednesday, the legislative hearing on the bill went until 3 in the morning. And the protesters kept coming. On Thursday, 14 Democratic senators fled the state to block a vote on the bill. On Friday, so many teachers were protesting that some districts canceled classes.

On Saturday, 60,000 people came to the Capitol Square, representing both sides of the debate. An estimated 500 police officers were on hand. Welcome to Madison. The protests were spirited and loud but peaceful all week, with only a handful of arrests for disorderly conduct. It stayed that way Saturday, when the governor’s opponents still far outnumbered the governor’s supporters.

We’ve not seen anything like this in Wisconsin since the Vietnam War protests of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

It’s a story of such magnitude that the Green Bay Packers’ victory in Super Bowl XLV just two weeks ago — also a big story in Wisconsin — has been shoved far into the background, rendered almost an afterthought.

Here’s a look at the protests, set to the music of “14 Senators,” a song written Friday morning by Madison folk singer Ken Lonnquist and performed live on the radio less than an hour later.

And some timeless music perhaps appropriate for the moment.

“We The People,” Allen Toussaint, from Bell single 782, 1969. Available on “What Is Success: The Scepter and Bell Recordings,” a 2007 import CD.

“Eyes On The Prize,” Mavis Staples, from “We’ll Never Turn Back,” 2007.

“World In Motion,” Pops Staples with Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne, from “Peace to the Neigbhorhood,” 1992. It’s out of print but is available digitally.

“(For God’s Sake) Give More Power to the People,” the Chi-Lites, from “(For God’s Sake) Give More Power to the People,” 1971. The LP is out of print but the song is available digitally.

“Ball Of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today),” the Temptations, from “Greatest Hits II,” 1970. The LP is out of print, but the song is available digitally.

“Fight The Power (Part 1 & 2),” the Isley Brothers, from “The Heat Is On,” 1975. The LP is out of print but the song is available digitally.


Filed under February 2011, Sounds

From Milwaukee with love

The days of digging through dollar records and coming away with a stack of 20 LPs for $20 seem to have passed. The last few record digs haven’t yielded much.

Saturday was no exception. There were two record sales within a half-hour’s drive. There were thousands of records, too many of them country and easy listening. In the days when records dominated the scene, this was a somewhat less sophisticated corner of Wisconsin.

However, all that digging yielded two gems. This is one.

You may know the Esquires for “Get On Up,” their 1967 hit. There was a time when I knew of the song but not the group, which came out of Milwaukee.

But not now. “Get On Up And Get Away,” the Esquires’ 1967 LP, was of the records I came across Saturday, and one I never expected to come across. Its jacket needs some TLC, but the grooves inside are just fine.

The Esquires started out in 1957 in Milwaukee as a family group. By the time this came out a decade later, they’d moved to Chicago in search of a higher profile. At the time they made this record, the group consisted of brothers Gilbert and Alvis Moorer, and Shawn Taylor, all of Milwaukee, and Millard Edwards of Chicago, none of them older than 25.

The Esquires wrote most of their own material, along with producer Bill “Bunky” Sheppard, who ran the Bunky label and had managed or produced several similar groups. The arrangements are by “Tom Tom” Henderson, who later arranged a couple of Chicago soul classics: Tyrone Davis’ “Turn Back The Hands of Time” and the Chi-Lites’ “(For God’s Sake) Give More Power To The People.”

With Valentine’s Day at hand, how about some sweet soul from those gents, some love songs from a more innocent time, all laid down at Universal Recording Studios in downtown Chicago.

“Listen To Me,” written by Gilbert Moorer and Bill Sheppard. A real fine stew, with call-and-response vocals, some cooking percussion and some hot horns.

“My Sweet Baby,” written by Gilbert Moorer, whose falsetto soars above the smooth harmonies and more big horns.

“When I’m Ready,” written by Millard Edwards and Sheppard. This seems inspired by Barbara Mason’s “Yes, I’m Ready,” but its driving Chicago groove is way more upbeat, its vibe far more streetwise.

All by the Esquires, from “Get On Up and Get Away,” 1967. (The buy link is to a 1995 CD reissue.)


Filed under February 2011

Like Queen, but with more soul

The Green Bay Packers have brought the Vince Lombardi Trophy home.

Time to cue up a song that gave me chills the first time I heard it at a football game. On Christmas Eve 1995, my brother and I were at Lambeau Field, watching the Packers.

That day, the Packers were clinging to a five-point lead late in the fourth quarter. Their opponent was driving for what seemed would be the winning score. With 16 seconds left, on fourth-and-goal, the quarterback stepped back, found a receiver wide open in the left corner of the end zone and fired it his way.

Yancey Thigpen made it a merry Christmas in Green Bay. He dropped a sure touchdown pass, and the Packers clinched the NFC Central Division title. After the game, they cued up Queen’s “We Are The Champions” at Lambeau Field.

Wow. Chills, because the Packers had not won a title of any kind in 23 years. I vividly remember that play and the sheer joy that followed.

That day, the Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers.

On Sunday night, the Packers defeated the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV. It has been only a 14-year drought this time, but it is no less sweet.

“We Are The Champions,” Darnel Alexander, David Booker and Tracy Harris, from “(Eugene Robinson Presents) Titletown,” 1997. It’s out of print.

In 1997, after Green Bay’s victory in Super Bowl XXXI, Packers safety Eugene Robinson produced this eclectic urban/soul/R&B EP. This cut features three performers from Seattle, where Robinson played before coming to Green Bay.

Hope you dig this slow, smooth cover as much as I do.


Filed under February 2011, Sounds

A magnificent seven

In case you were wondering, the music usually presented here has been pre-empted by the Super Bowl. We come to you from Green Bay, Wisconsin, where your correspondent has been a bit busy lately.

This has been a special season in Green Bay, and only partly because of the Green Bay Packers’ run to Super Bowl XLV.

In November, legendary NFL Films composer Sam Spence visited Green Bay for a week, working with music students and conducting a program of his music.

I met Spence — who’s a charming guy — at a reception during that week and again after his Friday night performance. I asked him that dreadful question: “How did it feel?” Spence smiled like a little kid and said “Oh, that was great!”

Spence, much like the Packers and Lambeau Field, is a national treasure.

But did you know that orchestras can’t buy the scores of his NFL Films music? NFL Films owns and publishes the music. When Spence makes an appearance — and he doesn’t make many — he brings them along with NFL Films’ blessings.

So why not bring some Sam Spence to your Super Bowl party?

“Lombardi” (narrated by John Facenda)

“Classic Battle”

“The Final Quest”

“The Equalizer”


“Salute To Courage”

“The Championship Chase”

All composed by Sam Spence, from “The Power and the Glory: The Original Music and Voices of NFL Films,” 1998. There aren’t any session notes for these compositions, but most likely date to the late ’60s or early ’70s.

Play some Sam Spence before the game and you will be stoked for action.

Be sure to get your pregame marching orders from Bart Starr, too.

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Filed under February 2011, Sounds