The record library is open

It had been so long since someone asked, the question damn near startled me.

“Can I borrow some of your records?”

Some of my records? These records?

And then my head cleared. Yes, of course, you can borrow some of my records, Evan. Just as my friends and I shared records back in the ’70s, when none of us had all that many LPs or 45s.

So off to college they went last week, two from Creedence Clearwater Revival, one of Evan’s faves of the moment.

This weekend, another request: “Dad, do you have any records by The Who?”

who meatybeatybigbouncy lp

So off to college it went, “Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy,” a compilation of early Who singles.

When I told Evan that it came out in 1971, before the release of “Baba O’Riley,” his favorite Who song, he wondered when I’d gotten it. The record sleeve told all.

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“Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy” came from Inner Sleeve Records in Wausau, Wisconsin, sometime in the mid-’70s. Back then, when you bought a record there, you got a nice sleeve to go with it.

Those Creedence records were even older. Off to college went “Willy and the Poor Boys” and “Pendulum,” from 1969 and 1970, respectively. Evan grabbed the former because it has “Fortunate Son,” one of his favorite protest songs, on it.

Hope he enjoys them as much as I did, even though he’s several years older now than I was when I spent a lot of time listening to Creedence. I was just a junior-high kid then. That said, I long ago grew tired of hearing the hit singles over and over. These days, I enjoy the Creedence tunes less often heard.

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“It Came Out Of The Sky,” Creedence Clearwater Revival, from “Willy and the Poor Boys,” 1969. Also available digitally. In which a UFO lands in a farm field just south of Moline and the Establishment, circa 1969, freaks out. Enjoy the ride as John Fogerty gleefully sticks it to The Man.

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Filed under January 2015, Sounds

Breaking up in real time

The intersection of sports and music can be messy, often littered with novelty songs and athletes turned dreadful singers, dancers and musicians.

But music and sports intersected in a most remarkable way the other day.

Black Crowes guitarist Rich Robinson announced Thursday that the band had broken up after 24 years. Here’s how I saw the news.

That’s a tweet from Black Crowes drummer Steve Gorman, who also hosts a show on Fox Sports Radio. His show hit the air about 20 minutes after Robinson’s statement came out.

So, at the top of Thursday’s show and then for the first 13 minutes of the show’s second hour, with rarely-heard grace, candor and insight, Gorman broke down the breakup in real time. Here’s the audio of the latter segment (which won’t embed, sorry, but is worth hearing):

http://www.foxsportsradio.com/media/play/sgsresponsetoblackcrowesbreakup-25743670/

Robinson’s statement, and the news, came as no surprise to Gorman, who spent much of his time expressing heartfelt appreciation for his time with the Black Crowes, and especially for fans’ support for the band.

Even so, Gorman did drop a couple of bombs.

On lead singer Chris Robinson’s demand that his brother Rich and Gorman give up their shares in the band, reducing Gorman to a salaried employee:

“There was no chance in a million years that would be agreed to.”

BOOM.

On Chris Robinson, in response to questions from co-host Jeffrey Gorman, his cousin, who worked for the Black Crowes for most of the ’90s:

“He was a great rock ‘n’ roll singer at one time and he wants to do something different, obviously. …  I can’t speak for what’s going through his mind. I can just tell you what he did, and I can tell you what the response was, and therefore there’s no more band. … You threw Axl Rose out there, I’d say just simply add a private education and a boatload of artistic pretense and there’s our boy.”

BOOM.

But Gorman, ever gracious, followed immediately with this:

“These things happen. Rock bands break up all the time.
We had a fantastic run. What are you gonna do?”

When was the last time you heard something like that, not run past publicists, not sanitized beyond comprehension, in the wake of a band’s breakup?

Don’t worry about Steve Gorman.

His radio show, Steve Gorman SPORTS! is that rare thing that deftly blends sports, music, comedy and social commentary, as it did Thursday. It airs and streams live from 5 to 7 p.m. Central. Highly recommended.

His band, Trigger Hippy, is starting to make a name for itself after almost five years together, on and off. Gorman calls it “a rock band that can jam.” I bought their debut record yesterday. (You can get the mp3 version of the LP for $5, much less than I paid for the vinyl, for a short time via Amazon.)

trigger hippy lp

“Rise Up Singing,” Trigger Hippy, from “Trigger Hippy,” 2014.

This is the lead cut, which pleasantly treads some familiar Americana/R&B/soul territory. That’s Gorman on drums and Joan Osborne on vocals, along with guitarist Tom Bukovac, guitarist/keyboard player Jackie Greene and bass player Nick Govrik.

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Filed under January 2015, Sounds

Top 25? Our top 3 records of 2014

There’s never been a year-end music roundup at AM, Then FM because that’s really not how we roll here.

That said, I read Ken Shane’s late-to-the-party roundup of his favorite albums of 2014 over at Popdose, and thought we’d tap into that spirit.

Ken has 25 records on his list, but ours won’t be that long. I bought plenty of records during 2014. Only three of them were new releases.

The first new record I bought in 2014: “Give The People What They Want,” by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings.

When Daptone Records provided a sneak peek of the new record from Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, I took one look at the cover and my record nerd kicked in. Hey, I thought, that design is inspired by an old Chi-Lites record.

chilitesgivemore powerlpsharonjonesdapkings givepeoplewhattheywantlp

Whatever. The record came out at the end of the second week of January, and I picked it up as soon as I could. Two months later, we got to hear most of it at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee, a scorcher of a soul revue on a late winter night.

Cool song off the record: “Long Time, Wrong Time,” on which the Dap-Kings walk their vintage soul sound over near the swamp for Miss Jones to chomp on.

The second new record I bought in 2014: “Carter Girl,” by Carlene Carter.

I belong to almost no fan clubs, but I have been a member of Carlene Carter’s fan club for several years. When she started her gradual return to recording and performing in the mid-2000s, it was well below the radar, and the fan club was pretty much the only way to keep tabs on it.

Tipped by the fan club to a limited number of autographed copies of her new record, I managed to get one. Full disclosure, though: I’m not a big autograph guy. I just thought it would be a fun thing to have.

Carlene Carter autographed CD

Well, it sure was fun opening the package when it arrived in April. Carlene Carter has a lovely signature, doesn’t she?

I’ve loved Carlene Carter since her time with Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds in the early ’80s, through her pop-country stardom in the early ’90s and now that she’s re-emerged after some struggles with addiction. On this record, Carter taps into her Carter Family influences and stands right beside them as one of America’s finest country singers.

Cool song off the record: “Lonesome Valley 2003,” an updated version of an A.P. Carter song. She’s always been one of the great duet singers. “Baby Ride Easy” with Dave Edmunds is sublime. Vince Gill is her partner on this one.

The third new record I bought in 2014: “The Lost Tapes,” by Vic Pitts and the Cheaters.

Just in time for my birthday, I was tipped to this record by DJ Prestige over at Flea Market Funk. It hit me right in my wheelhouse: Vintage soul and R&B, and vintage soul and R&B from Wisconsin.

Full disclosure again: I’m not big into limited editions, either. But I managed to order from Secret Stash Records in Minneapolis when the red vinyl copies were still available. I just thought it would be a fun thing to have.

vic pitts record on turntable

Well, it sure was fun seeing that red vinyl light up the turntable in July.

vic pitts cheaters lost tapes lp

Vic Pitts and the Cheaters were among Milwaukee’s hottest soul/R&B bands in the late ’60s and early ’70s. This record gathers a never-released bunch of scorchers, covers, ballads and instrumentals that were recorded in 1969 and 1970 at Ter-Mar Studios in Chicago, by then one of the last remaining pieces of what once was Chess Records.

Cool song off the record: “The Trip,” the one that’s playing in the picture.

Please visit our companion blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time. (And, yes, I know I am long overdue in posting there.)

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Filed under January 2015, Sounds

Gone in threes: 2014

They say celebrities and prominent people go in threes. Well, 2014 was no different than any other year. Here’s proof.

All The President’s Men: Howard Baker (“What did the president know, and when did he know it?”), Ben Bradlee (Washington Post editor), Jeb Stuart Magruder (Nixon aide indicted and convicted in the Watergate scandal).

Arrangers: Johnny Allen (“Shaft”), Frankie Knuckles, Johnny Mann.

Badasses: Marvin Barnes (basketball), Rubin “Hurricane” Carter (boxing), Richard Kiel (Bond, James Bond).

Bass players: Jack Bruce, Ed Gagliardi (Foreigner), Lou Whitney (Morells).

paul mazursky grab

Behind the camera: Paul Mazursky (developed “The Monkees,” then some great films), Andrew V. McLaglen (five John Wayne films), Harold Ramis (“Caddyshack,” for starters).

Civil rights voices: Ruby Dee, John Doar (assistant attorney general for civil rights in the ’60s), Franklin McCain (one of the Greensboro Four).

Comedy legends: Sid Caesar, Mike Nichols, Joan Rivers.

Creative types: Harry Richard Black (Mr. Clean, Smokey the Bear), Stanley Marsh 3 (Cadillac Ranch), Bunny Yeager (pinup photographer).

Distinctive voices: Geoffrey Holder (“These are uncola nuts”), Herb Jeffries (jazz singer who became the first black singing cowboy), Larry D. Mann (Yukon Cornelius in “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”).

Drummers: Scott Asheton, Idris Muhammad, Tommy Ramone.

From “The Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading and Bubble Gum Book”: Sy Berger, Whammy Douglas, Herb Plews.

Globetrotters vs. Generals: Robert “Showboat” Hall, Charles “Tex” Harrison, Red Klotz.

Great Escapees: Richard Attenborough (“Big X”), James Garner (“The Scrounger”), Angus Lennie (“The Mole”).

Guitarists: Teenie Hodges, Dick Wagner (Lou Reed, Alice Cooper, Kiss), Johnny Winter.

Hollywood icons: Lauren Bacall, Mickey Rooney, Shirley Temple Black.

fregosi mccool sadecki 1969

In 1969, I had their baseball cards: Jim Fregosi, Bill McCool, Ray Sadecki.

Keyboard players: Ian McLagan, Paul Revere, Joe Sample.

Milwaukee voices: Ted Moore (’60s Packers play-by-play man), Ernie von Schledorn (“Who do you know wants to buy a car?”), Carl Zimmerman (Channel 6 news anchor).

Real-life heroes: James Brady (White House press secretary who was shot and disabled, then became gun-control activist), Bill Dana (’60s test pilot and astronaut), Louis Zamperini (Olympic distance runner, then World War II prisoner-of-war).

Sax players: Mike Burney (Wizzard), Bobby Keys, Raphael Ravenscroft (“Baker Street”).

lorenzo semple screen grab

’60s comic book heroes: Denny Miller (the first blond Tarzan), Lorenzo Semple Jr. (created TV’s “Batman”), Eli Wallach (played Mr. Freeze on “Batman”).

’60s sitcom actresses: Mary Grace Canfield (“Green Acres”), Ann B. Davis (“The Brady Bunch”), Cynthia Lynn (“Hogan’s Heroes”).

’60s sitcom sidekicks: Bob Hastings (“McHale’s Navy”), Russell Johnson (“Gilligan’s Island”), Ken Weatherwax (“The Addams Family”).

’70s sitcom stars: Dave Madden (“The Partridge Family”), Marcia Strassman (“Welcome Back Kotter”), Robin Williams (“Mork and Mindy”).

Songwriters: Bob Crewe, Gerry Goffin, Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith.

Soulful voices: The Mighty Hannibal, Jimmy Ruffin, Bobby Womack.

Surf legends: Hobie Alter (surfboard maker), Ricky Grigg (big-wave surfer turned oceanographer), Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz (doctor turned surf guru).

Television voices: Richard C. Hottelet (CBS News), Don Pardo (“Jeopardy,” then “Saturday Night Live”), Pete Van Wieren (Atlanta Braves).

The doctors are in: Frank Jobe (pioneered Tommy John elbow surgery), Jack Ramsay (basketball genius), Jesse Steinfeld (surgeon general forced out by Nixon for anti-smoking views).

The record business: Don Davis, Anna Gordy Gaye, Cosimo Matassa.

They started as DJs: Geoff Edwards (“Jackpot”), Jim Lange (“The Dating Game”), Casey Kasem (“American Top 40″). Here’s a rather remarkable clip from 1967. Jim Lange hosts and Casey Kasem is one of the bachelors, along with comedian Bill Dana.

Unforgettable voices: Joe Cocker, Phil Everly, Pete Seeger.

Wisconsin’s finest: Patrick Lucey (governor), Fuzzy Thurston (’60s Packers great), Charles M. Young (Rolling Stone writer).

World War II’s last men standing: Chester Nez (last original Navajo code talker), Hiroo Onoda (Japanese intelligence officer who didn’t surrender until 1974), Theodore Van Kirk (last surviving Enola Gay crew member).

Wrestling legends: Ox Baker (also in “Escape From New York,” one of my faves), Rodger Kent (voice of All-Star Wrestling out of Minneapolis), Mae Young.

Writers: Maya Angelou, Al Feldstein (Mad magazine), Bob Thomas (AP Hollywood reporter).

Bonus round: Efrem Zimbalist Jr. and Ed Nelson, who also died in 2014, were in “Airport 1975″ with two other actors already mentioned. Can you name them?

The shocker: There always is one death that takes your breath away. For us, last year, that was Jan Hooks. She was about our age. We came to know her long before the rest of America did.

In the early ’80s, we saw her on “Tush,” a late-night comedy sketch program on WTBS, the forerunner to the TBS cable network. She was tremendous on it. Few others saw that show, but when she became a star on “Saturday Night Live” in the late ’80s, it came as no surprise to us. After that, we rarely saw her on TV. Still gone too soon.

This is not intended to be an inclusive list of all who passed in 2014. Rather, this is my highly subjective list. Yours will be different.

Please visit our companion blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under January 2015

Snoopy and Michael, John and Yoko

After a Christmas season in which less was more, all I really need for Christmas are these three songs. They come from a more innocent time.

“Snoopy’s Christmas,” the Royal Guardsmen, from “Snoopy and His Friends,” 1967. (The link is to a double CD also featuring “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron,” their debut album from 1966.) Also available digitally.

“Christmas bells, those Christmas bells
“Ringing through the land
“Bringing peace to all the world
“And good will to man”

“Merry Christmas, mein friend!”

“Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” the Jackson 5, 1970, from “A Motown Christmas,” 1973. Also available digitally.

“One more time, yeah! Santa Claus is comin’ to town. Oh, yeah!”

“Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the Plastic Ono Band and the Harlem Community Choir, released as a single, 1971. A remastered version is available on  “Gimme Some Truth,” a 4-CD compilation released in 2010. Also available digitally.

“And so this is Christmas, and what have you done?”

Enjoy your holidays, everyone.

Please visit our companion blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2014, Sounds

Our Christmas Eve tradition

On this Christmas Eve, a post that has become a tradition.

On a winter day more than 40 years ago, Louis Armstrong went to work in the den at his home at 34-56 107th Street in Corona, Queens, New York.

That day — Friday, Feb. 26, 1971 — he recorded this:

stashxmaslp2

“The Night Before Christmas (A Poem),” Louis Armstrong, 1971, from “The Stash Christmas Album,” 1985.

It’s out of print, but you can find the original 7-inch single (Continental CR 1001) on eBay for $10 or less. I found my copy two years ago, when my friend Jim threw open his garage door and sold some of his records.

louisarmstrongnightbeforexmas45

(This is the sleeve for that 45. You could have bought it for 25 cents if you also bought a carton of Kent, True, Newport or Old Gold cigarettes.)

There’s no music. Just “Little Satchmo Armstrong talkin’ to all the kids,” reading Clement Clarke Moore’s classic poem in a warm, gravelly voice.

“But I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight, ‘Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night. A very good night.’

“And that goes for Satchmo, too. (Laughs softly.) Thank you.”

It was the last thing he ever recorded. Satchmo died the following July.

You just never know.

Embrace the moment, especially at Christmas.

Enjoy your holidays, everyone.

Please visit our companion blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2014, Sounds

An impromptu Christmas

There once was a time when you’d find Christmas music posted here pretty much every day before Dec. 25. Those days are long gone.

My passion for Christmas music has waned. It seems like the soundtrack to all the insanity, all the hype of the Christmas retail machine.

Instead, I’m going zen, remaining open to random, inspired moments of Christmas music. The unexpected. The genuine. One such moment when our son and his fellow university chamber singers performed “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” a week ago. Enjoyed that.

Another such moment came the other day, via a comment left by Jeremy from Arizona on a Christmas blog post from some time ago.

“I found out about Alice McClarity’s ‘Go Tell It On The Mountain’ from a friend’s Christmas compilation and haven’t been able to find anything about it online. I’d love to hear some other tracks.”

There we go. Some random inspiration at Christmas.

xmasgospelodiumlp

Six years ago, we featured some cuts from “Christmas Gospelodium,” which was released on the Verve label in 1967. That Alice McClarity song was one of them. I’d found it in a thrift store in Madison, Wisconsin. Had never seen it before. Haven’t seen it since.

It’s a compilation that was co-produced, arranged and conducted by Robert Banks, a gospel singer, pianist and choral director.

Jason Stone, writing in his Get On Down With the Stepfather of Soul blog in 2008, had this to say about Banks:

Robert Banks is best known among soul fans, and Northern Soul fans particularly, for the rocking “A Mighty Good Way” on Verve. … Banks recorded an album for Verve, “The Message,” which featured Banks and other soloists doing gospel tunes with touches of soul and pop.”

That pretty much describes “Christmas Gospelodium,” too. Hear, then, five more cuts not included in our long-ago post (which has been updated with the three cuts posted back then).

“The Silent Night Sermon,” Robert Banks with the Golden Voices Ensemble.

“It Came Upon A Midnight Clear,” Golden Voices Ensemble.

“A Blessing,” The Gospel Ambassadors.

“Glory To The New Born King,” Bill Hardy with the Golden Voices Ensemble.

“So Much To Thank Him For,” Robert Banks with the Shockley Sisters.

All from “Christmas Gospelodium,” 1967. It’s out of print.

Please visit our companion blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

 

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2014, Sounds