Monthly Archives: June 2011

Nice records, but no fish tacos

Yesterday was a day that started so promising — I found three nice records in just a few minutes of digging — but ended in minor disappointment. The place we go for fish tacos has closed.

There was nothing disappointing about the digging at Half-Price Books, a place I occasionally go. It has a bunch of vinyl that even if half-priced still tends to be overpriced. Digging there tends to be all or nothing, Sydney or the bush.

Our corner of Wisconsin rarely yields Clarence Carter records, so it was delightful to come across “Testifyin’,” his second LP, from 1969.

“Back Door Santa,” one of the naughtiest Christmas songs ever laid to vinyl, is on here, albeit with a different drum intro than the one sampled by Run-D.M.C. on “Christmas In Hollis.” “Snatching It Back” and “Making Love (At The Dark End Of The Street” were the singles off this record, and rightly so.

But I’m digging another tune.

“Instant Reaction,” Clarence Carter, from “Testifyin’,” 1969. It’s out of print but is available digitally.

It’s said to be one of five great black bubble gum classics not influenced by the Jackson 5. As always, you be the judge. It’s certainly upbeat. It’s written by Wayne Carson Thompson, who also wrote the Box Tops’ “Soul Deep” … which Carter also covers on this record.

It must have been something to see and hear a young Jerry Lee Lewis in his prime. This LP, recorded live at the Birmingham Municipal Auditorium in Birmingham, Alabama, on July 1, 1964, certainly lives up to its billing.

It’s the first of two live Jerry Lee records released on Smash. A while back, I found the other one, “By Request,” from 1966. The formula is the same: Rev ’em up with rockers, wind ’em down with a country tune and rev ’em back up.

“Who Will The Next Fool Be,” Jerry Lee Lewis, from “The Greatest Live Show On Earth,” 1964. Both live LPs are on this hard-to-find two-fer CD released in 1994.

This is a cover of a Charlie Rich tune, and one appropriate for Jerry Lee.

It did nothing as a single for Rich in the early ’60s, when he was trying to figure out whether he was a rock, country or jazz artist. It barely dented the country charts when he re-released it in 1970. I’ve loved the song ever since hearing the Amazing Rhythm Aces’ cover of it on their “Stacked Deck” LP from 1975.

The third record, for the record, is “Six Silver Strings,” a B.B. King album from 1988.

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Filed under June 2011, Sounds

Who’ll follow the Big Man?

Louis Jordan … King Curtis … Sam Butera … Clarence Clemons … all gone.

No one takes their place, but someone must follow.

Who’s the most influential rock ‘n’ roll and R&B sax player out there now? I’ll go with Maceo Parker, but no one else leaps to mind. (And at 68, Parker is just a year younger than Clemons.)

I confessed here long ago that I’ve never been much of a Springsteen fan. That said, I’ve always loved horns, and especially the Big Man’s tenor sax.

One of my favorite albums from the ’80s is Clarence Clemons’ first LP.

In 1983, with Springsteen and the E Street Band between albums and tours, Clemons put together a group on the side. Clarence Clemons and the Red Bank Rockers — named for Red Bank, New Jersey, where Clemons briefly owned a club in the early ’80s — put out one record.

I dug it out last fall and wrote about it on my other blog, The Midnight Tracker.

“Rescue” is full of spirited, blue-collar R&B and rock, the kind you’d hear from a bar band. Which is exactly what the Red Bank Rockers appeared to be, albeit with one well-known sax player.

“A Man In Love” and “Resurrection Shuffle,” Clarence Clemons and the Red Bank Rockers, from “Rescue,” 1983. It’s said to be available on a two-fer CD along with “Hero,” his 1985 solo debut, but it’s hard to find.

The first song is co-written by Clemons and Desmond Child, who at the time was just getting started on his remarkable songwriting career. Keyboard player and producer Ralph Schuckett and Terry Abramson also are credited as co-writers.

The second, of course, is a cover of the old Ashton, Gardner and Dyke song from 1971. This cover alone may be why I bought this record.

The vocals on both are by John “J.T.” Bowen, whose hard-luck story we shared over at The Midnight Tracker.

“Peter Gunn Theme,” Clarence Clemons, from the “Porky’s Revenge” soundtrack, 1985. It’s out of print.

You always wanted to hear this one played by the Big Man, didn’t you? The credits aren’t specific, but I believe he’s backed by Dave Edmunds on guitar.

Finally, there is this …

This song popped up on shuffle earlier today. I immediately got the sense of being at church and hearing the tenor sax preaching a tribute to the Big Man. That is Andrew Love of the Mar-Keys on the tenor sax.

“Let It Be,” the Mar-Keys, 1971, from “Stax Does The Beatles,” 2007. It originally was on “Memphis Experience,” their last Stax LP (available on this two-fer CD with the “Damifiknow!” LP from 1969). I have this tune on “Beatlemania, Volume 2,” a Mojo magazine compilation CD from September 2004.


Filed under June 2011, Sounds

On the patio at Ray’s Corner

We haven’t been to Ray’s Corner for a while, and tonight is an especially good time to go. My dad turned 86 today. (He’s good, thanks.)

Four years ago, he gave me his record collection. I sorted through it, picked out a few things I wanted and shipped the rest to the senior citizens center my brother was running at the time.

This might have been the first record I set aside. The Baja Marimba Band were peers and label mates of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass in the mid- to late ’60s, cranking out a slightly more irreverent bunch of “south of the border” easy-listening instrumentals. Not quite lounge. More like patio.

This record is from 1965. I’ve written about it before. My brothers and I listened to this endlessly as kids. The pops and ticks and skips on Dad’s copy are testament to that. That I have two or three better copies of this record is testament to how deeply it is seared into my head.

While record digging, I often come across other records by the Baja Marimba Band. I look them over. Then I put them back, figuring there is no way they are going to be as good as than my dad’s record.

Until recently, that is. I came across a Baja Marimba Band record I’d never seen.

This record, from 1968, seemed promising.

As with most Baja Marimba Band records, it has a bunch of instrumental covers of contemporary pop and show tunes along with a couple of original compositions. Among the covers: Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “Always Something There To Remind Me,” the Beatles’ “Here, There and Everywhere” and the Turtles’ “Elenore.”

So I picked it up for 50 cents.

Then I put it on the turntable … and .. well … we won’t be sharing this record. Though I’d hoped otherwise, my hunch was right. It wasn’t as good as my dad’s record. Not even close.

But now I wonder … did I grow up with an exceptionally good record from 1965 or is my perception skewed, rendering it simply a guilty pleasure? Whatever. It’s part of the soundtrack of my life.

So, from Ray’s Corner, the apartment with the loud music, where the martinis are made of gin with the vermouth bottle held about a foot away, enjoy a couple of cuts from the only Baja Marimba Band record my dad owned and the only one I need.

“Juarez” and “Hecho En Mexico,” the Baja Marimba Band, from “Baja Marimba Band Rides Again,” 1965. It’s out of print, as is this 2001 best-of CD with “Juarez” on it.

Though Ray is hoisting a gin martini here, margaritas may better accompany these tunes. As always, you be the judge.


Filed under June 2011, Sounds

Kinda Kinks, and kinda not

Time for another reminder that there’s another blog lingering in the long shadows of AM, Then FM.

The Midnight Tracker resurfaces at the end of every month. It emerges from the haze of time, reviving a late-night FM radio show heard long ago in central Wisconsin, a show on which one side of a new or classic album was played.

Here’s a song from this month’s album side.

“Who’ll Be The Next In Line,” Francoise Hardy, from “Loving,” 1969. It’s out of print and not available digitally.

This is a cover of a Kinks song from the summer of 1965. Written by Ray Davies, it was one of those B sides that turned out to be more popular than the A side of the single. It’s the flip side to “Evry’body’s Gonna Be Happy,” which was intended as the follow-up to the smash “Tired Of Waiting For You.”

The Kinks’ version was on the “Kinda Kinks” LP from 1965, and on a couple of greatest-hits compilations, all of which appear to be out of print. It also doesn’t appear to be available digitally.

This version of “Who’ll Be The Next In Line” is from Side 1 of a rarely-heard English-language album by the French folk-pop singer Francoise Hardy.

A friend has long been seeking this record. I found it last month.

The rest of the story is over at The Midnight Tracker.


Filed under June 2011, Sounds