Category Archives: May 2008

20/20/20 vision, Part IV

We’re back with the next-to-last installment of our brief series, 20 Songs from 20 Albums for $20.

There are tunes off the albums I found under the tents in the back yard of one of our local used record dealers earlier this month. We’re spinning them at random, much the way we found them as we wandered through the crates.

This is from the first batch I found, a mother lode of Isley Brothers LPs.

“I Turned You On,” the Isley Brothers, from “Isleys’ Greatest Hits,” a 1973 compilation. Originally released on “The Brothers: Isley,” 1969. Both are out of print. “I turned you on/now I can’t turn you off.” Sock it to me, indeed.

“Fight the Power (Part 1 & 2),” the Isley Brothers, from “Forever Gold,” a 1977 greatest hits compilation that’s out of print. Originally released on “The Heat Is On,” 1975. It hasn’t aged a day. There’s still all this bullshit going down, brothers and sisters.

Both tunes also available on “The Essential Isley Brothers,” a 2004 CD release.

“Listen To The Music,” the Isley Brothers, from “3 + 3,” 1973. If the Doobie Brothers had done this one with this much funk, I might have liked them more than I did.

“Shout,” Lloyd Williams, from “Animal House” soundtrack, 1978. A cover of a tune by — who else? — the Isley Brothers.

More to come! (As soon as I rip them.)

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The man behind the theme

You may not know his name, but you know his songs. Earle Hagen composed some of the most recognizable instrumentals of the 20th century.

Hagen, who was 88 when he died Monday in California, wrote the themes to these 1960s TV shows, each expressing the essence of the show and its setting in less than a minute:

“The Andy Griffith Show,” 1960-68. Everyone knows this one. Everyone loves this one. Whistle along as you head out to the country.

“The Dick Van Dyke Show,” 1961-66. The sophistication of TV’s early days. Tom over at One Poor Correspondent offers some background on the opening segments that accompanied this tune, all involving Van Dyke navigating that pesky ottoman.

“Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.,” 1964-69. A clever riff on military marches.

“I Spy,” 1965-68. Hagen works gunfire and explosions into the middle of this classic bit of post-007 secret agent music.

“That Girl,” 1966-71. One of Hagen’s best themes, perfectly fitting a young Marlo Thomas’ wide-eyed, innocent romp around late-’60s Manhattan as the show opens.

“The Mod Squad,” 1968-73.

Andrew over at Armagideon Time had this great line about this theme last summer:

“If this tune doesn’t instill an irrational desire to chase a cheap hood down a dirty alleyway (that oddly resembles a studio backlot) full of empty cardboard boxes then there’s something seriously wrong with you.”

I learned Earle Hagen’s name long ago, seeing it almost every night in the credits. My dad loved — and still loves — TV sitcoms, and we watched all those mentioned above.

Hagen also wrote one of the classic jazz instrumentals, “Harlem Nocturne,” while playing the trombone for the Ray Noble Orchestra in 1939.

DJ Little Danny over at Office Naps wrote about this tune in his last post before heading back to school and offered a Latin version of it. (Go get it!)

Here’s the most familiar version of the moody “Harlem Nocturne,” done by the Viscounts in 1959. Don’t know where I got this from, but thanks to whoever put it out there last summer.

(For 41 other versions of “Harlem Nocturne,” check out Clinton’s post over at WFMU’s Beware of the Blog.)

I’ve touched only on the most familiar aspects of Hagen’s career. The Los Angeles Times’ terrific appreciation of Hagen’s work is a must-read.

All of the Hagen TV themes are from “Television’s Greatest Hits” and “Television’s Greatest Hits, Volume II,” which appear to be out of print on CD. Those rips are from my vinyl LPs, released in 1985 and 1986, respectively.


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Midnight Tracker sampler, Vol. 7

Over at our other blog, The Midnight Tracker, we’re fulfilling a request by serving up a side from the soundtrack to “Where the Buffalo Roam.”

That’s the 1980 film in which Bill Murray played gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, for better or worse.

It has a soundtrack on which Neil Young orchestrates and performs several riffs and variations on “Home on the Range,” also for better or worse. Those bits surround some classic rock tunes from the late ’60s.

As always, you be the judge.

“Home, Home on the Range,” Neil Young, and “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” Bill Murray and Rene Auberjonois, both from the “Where the Buffalo Roam” soundtrack, 1980. Out of print.

Updated June 28: We’ve added Side 2 over at The Midnight Tracker.


Filed under May 2008, Sounds

My people in Iowa

My week of vacation started with Dionne Warwick on Monday night, then Kid Rock on Tuesday night.

It ended Saturday night with still another American pop icon, another underappreciated national treasure. We drove to east-central Iowa, to a new casino out in the middle of farmland, to see Neil Sedaka.

My reasons for wanting to see Sedaka were much the same as for wanting to see Warwick. Neither tours much, at least here in the States. Neither will tour forever. Their songs were among my earliest favorites.

So we enjoyed an evening with one of America’s greatest songwriters. Sedaka remains a fine singer and an even better pianist. At 69, he’s energetic and engaging on stage, and is more than willing to poke fun at his image as a lightweight.

Case in point: He good-naturedly showed the following Scopitone clip, which was filmed in Italy in 1961, calling it “the first music video.”

It was a mostly older crowd. We’re 50, and we were among the youngest, save for the … uh … trophy date sitting nearby. To say Sedaka was warmly received would be an understatement. It was a lovefest. Sedaka repeatedly bowed, acknowledging “my people in Iowa” and blowing kisses.

It’s that way all over the world. A week earlier, Sedaka performed in Manila, and it was almost exactly the same.

As Dionne Warwick did earlier in the week, Sedaka played almost everything you’d hope to hear during his 90-minute show in Iowa. He tore right into it with an ever-so-slightly funked-up version of this one:

“Bad Blood,” Neil Sedaka, 1975, from “Neil Sedaka’s Greatest Hits,” 1977. That’s Elton John singing harmony. The album — which gathers Sedaka’s mid-’70s hits — is out print, but the tune is available on “Neil Sedaka: The Definitive Collection,” a 2007 CD release.

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20/20/20 vision, Part III

We’re back with the third installment of 20 Songs from 20 Albums for $20.

These tunes are part of the haul from a recent morning of crate digging in the back yard of one of our local used record dealers.

Please enjoy the tunes, spun at random, much the way I came across them in the tents in Jim’s back yard a couple of weeks ago.

“Lean On Me,” Tom Jones, from “The Body and Soul of Tom Jones,” 1973. Out of print, and I can’t find it on any compilation CD.

I usually buy TJ’s albums based largely on the quality of the covers. Some, I pass on. Others, I pick up. On this one, Tom covers what at the time were Bill Withers’ big hits, this tune and “Ain’t No Sunshine.” I thought about posting his cover of “If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don’t Wanna Be Right).” But no. And certainly not his rather bizarre cover of “Runnin’ Bear.”

“Goodbye, So Long,” Ike and Tina Turner, from “Workin’ Together,” 1971. Out of print.

You know every other song on this side — “Ooh Poo Pah Doo,” “Funkier Than A Mosquita’s Tweeter,” “Proud Mary” and “Let It Be” — so we’ll spin the lesser-heard tune.

“‘Nuff Said (Part I)” and “‘Nuff Said (Part II),” Ike and Tina Turner, from “‘Nuff Said,” 1971. Out of print.

An instrumental raveup orchestrated by Ike. Equal parts nasty wah-wah guitar, screaming electric lead guitar, horns and Hammond organ. Part I cooks from start to finish. Part II starts hot, then brings it back down. (Some day, I’ll edit them together as they should be.)

For no apparent reason, Ike announced on this album: “Ike & Tina Turner’s band formerly known as ‘The Kings of Rhythm’ has changed their name to ‘Family Vibs.'”

“Unhooked Generation,” Freda Payne, from “Band of Gold,” 1970. Out of print, but available on a couple of import compilations: “The Best of Freda Payne,” a 2002 release, and “Unhooked Generation: The Complete Invictus Recordings,” a 2001 release.

You know “Band of Gold.” You may know “Deeper and Deeper.” They were the biggest singles off this classic album produced (and largely written) by the mighty Holland-Dozier-Holland team. This tune also was released as a single, but didn’t fare as well as the others. Still a pretty good tune, though.

More to come! (As soon as I rip them.)

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Another night, another show

I’m on vacation this week because we’re seeing three shows in six days.

Monday night was Dionne Warwick.

Last night was Kid Rock with Peter Wolf and Rev. Run. (Hey, if you’ve been reading this for a while, you know I have fairly eclectic tastes.)

I’d heard Kid Rock’s shows were terrific, but I had no idea. Man! You really must go see him. It was one of the most energetic, most entertaining shows I’ve seen in a long time, and I am not all that much of a Kid Rock fan. I have none of his albums and only a couple of his tunes.

Here’s what our paper’s entertainment writer had to say:

“He was all over the musical map, not to mention at the turntables, behind the drums and on guitar, for a sweaty, swaggering show that seamlessly mashed honky-tonk, rap, Southern rock, Motown, gospel, country, metal, soul and just about anything else he and his 10-piece motley-looking Twisted Brown Trucker Band could think to spit out. Not everyone can pull off Sunday school staple ‘This Little Light of Mine,’ Buffalo Springfield’s ‘For What It’s Worth’ and new track ‘So Hott’ — within 10 minutes of one another, without straining something.”

Amen, sister. And amen to you, Brother Rock.

The Kid and the Rev blew the roof off the place. The Rev announced: “We’re going old school — 1983!” Then they tore through “It’s Tricky,” “You Be Illin'” and, of course, “Walk This Way.” Never mind that it was more 1986 than 1983. The Rev — Joseph Simmons — can still bring it.

When I went to watch the Packers practice today (hey, I am on vacation), I pulled up next to the photographer who shot last night’s show for the paper. He was bummed that he couldn’t stay around for the whole show.

He asked me whether it was one of the best shows I’d seen. Oh, yeah, and I’ll add this: Kid Rock and Rev. Run instantly became of my top five concert moments ever.

Now my problem is which song to serve up. I got out my vinyl copy of “Raising Hell” and gave it another listen. The only tune from that album that comes even remotely close to conveying what last night was like is one you’ve heard a million times.

Your forgiveness, please, for a million and one.

“Walk This Way,” Run-D.M.C. with Joe Perry and Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, from “Raising Hell,” 1986. The original. The groundbreaker. The classic. Perry and Tyler aren’t too bad on this one, either.

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Dad, Dionne and me

As Dionne Warwick’s show drew near earlier today, I found myself with an extra ticket. I’d hoped to go with the lovely Janet, but she begged off because of too much work.

So I took my dad instead. I figured he’d enjoy it.

This is a man who watched virtually every TV variety show on the air in the ’60s and ’70s, when Dionne Warwick, by then an established pop star, was seen regularly on those shows. I know, because I remember seeing her. I was certain Dad knew who Dionne Warwick was. Apparently not. That, and it took him half the show to get his hearing aid adjusted to get the sound just right. Ah, well, so it goes.

Dionne Warwick is a lovely 67, and still in fine voice. Neither seems to have aged much, if at all. She is one of America’s pop icons, a national treasure, yet seems to be considerably underappreciated. (Even by me. I have exactly two Dionne Warwick tunes in my collection, yet I know a couple dozen.)

In a show that lasted little more than an hour, she sang almost everything you’d hope to hear. She reinterpreted two familiar tunes — “I Say A Little Prayer” and “Do You Know The Way To San Jose” — with new, Latin-flavored arrangements and new phrasing. They sounded just fine.

I would have liked to hear “Then Came You,” her 1974 hit with the Spinners. However, she reportedly didn’t care much for the tune when they cut it. As far as I’m concerned, though, everything that followed her second song was gravy. That song?

“Walk On By,” Dionne Warwick, 1964 single. Available on “Walk On By: The Definitive Dionne Warwick Collection,” a two-CD, 40-track import released in 2000.

Why I dig it so much is not so much about Warwick as it is about an album that once belonged to Dad and now belongs to me. As I’ve written before, I played the bejeezus out of the following LP when I was a kid. This instrumental was my introduction to “Walk On By.”

“Walk On By,” the Baja Marimba Band, from “Baja Marimba Band Rides Again,” 1965. Out of print. (Happily, I found another copy of the album last month.)

Here’s another take, one I only recently came across. Burt Bacharach and Hal David interpreted by Motown producer Norman Whitfield.

“Walk On By,” Undisputed Truth, from “Law of the Land,” 1973. Out of print.


Filed under May 2008, Sounds