Tag Archives: 1993

12 days of Christmas, Day 10

When we started these 12 days of Christmas, I noted that in writing the Three Under the Tree series for the last three years, I picked up a bunch of old Christmas vinyl and CDs, more for you than for me.

In so doing, there were a bunch of records that had more misses than hits. Most of them were used, so there wasn’t a lot of money wasted.

This year, I bought only one Christmas CD, one I’d been seeking for a while. I bought it new, and it turned out to be another one with more misses than hits. So it goes.

Rarely do I come across a Christmas record that doesn’t have something worth hearing. I can think of a couple, but there’s no need to name names.

We’re here to put some nice things in your Christmas stocking, so hope you will enjoy these tunes from records that had some nice moments.

“Christmas Time,” the Mighty Blue Kings, from “The Christmas Album,” 2000. This Chicago group covers a tune by West Coast bluesman Jimmy McCracklin.

“Christmas Is A Special Day,” Fats Domino, from “Christmas Gumbo,” 1993. It’s out of print as such, but is available as “Christmas Is A Special Day,” a 2006 CD re-release with a different cover. Fats wrote this charming little hymn and does it in — what else? — a laid-back New Orleans style.

“We Four Kings (Little Drummer Boy),” the Blue Hawaiians, from “Christmas On Big Island,” 1995. Let a little surf wash into your Christmas.

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” Shawn Colvin, from “A Different Kind of Christmas,” 1994. It’s out of print. A lovely, low-key version.

“Merry Christmas Darling,” Deana Carter, from “Father Christmas,” 2001. What makes this cover of the Carpenters song so remarkable is its acoustic arrangement with Carter’s father, veteran Nashville session man Fred Carter, on guitar. Deana Carter sings this in a higher register than did Karen Carpenter — and that may not be for everyone — but she nicely complements her dad. Fred Carter died earlier this year.

“Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” the Whispers, from “Happy Holidays To You,” 1979. (The buy link is to a 2001 import CD.) Off the same album that delivered “Funky Christmas,” this is a smooth, jazzy arrangement clearly from the late ’70s.

“Joy To The World,” Aretha Franklin, 1994, from “Joy To The World,” 2006. This is an odd little compilation of Christmas songs, gospel songs and show tunes recorded over 30-plus years. This cut features Aretha backed by the Fame Freedom Choir, from the soundtrack to the 1994 remake of “Miracle on 34th Street.” That is about the only nice thing we have to say about any remake of the 1947 classic, long one of our favorite films.

“What Christmas Means To Me,” Darlene Love, from “It’s Christmas, Of Course,” 2007. A cover of the Motown song done first by Stevie Wonder.

“Christmas Is,” Lou Rawls, from “Merry Christmas Ho Ho Ho,” 1967. It’s out of print. This tune starts out with a swinging big-band arrangement, then has Lou channeling Santa Claus midway through before wrapping up with some smooth nightclub cheer. This Percy Faith tune never sounded so good.

“Merry Christmas Baby,” Melissa Etheridge, from “A New Thought For Christmas,” 2008. Etheridge lets it rip on this Charles Brown blues tune.

“Christmas Celebration,” Roomful of Blues, from “Roomful of Christmas,” 1997. The B.B. King version may be more familiar, but this take by the veteran East Coast group is pretty good.

“It’s the Most Wonderful Time,” Pete Jolly, from “Something Festive!” 1968. Long out of print. This is a Christmas sampler from A&M Records. It was sold at B.F. Goodrich tire dealers in 1968. This cut is a cool, stylish, upbeat rendition by the California jazz pianist. (You’ll also find it on “Cool Yule: The Swinging Sound of Christmas,” a UK compilation released in 2004.)

“Blue Christmas,” Ann and Nancy Wilson, from “A Very Special Christmas 2,” 1992. Not a big fan of this tune, which everyone associates with Elvis, but this is a pretty good version. Melissa Etheridge also does it justice.

“What Child Is This,” Reverend Horton Heat, from “We Three Kings,” 2005. An upbeat yet moody take — it feels a little like Morricone — on a song usually done with much reverence.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2010

The ABCs of DE, Vol. 3

Before Dave Edmunds was in Rockpile, before he was an acclaimed solo act, even before he had his first big hit with “I Hear You Knocking,” he was in another band.

Love Sculpture was another of those UK blues-rock outfits of the late ’60s. What made Love Sculpture ever so slightly different was that it occasionally incorporated classical music. The band had a big hit with Edmunds’ speed-guitar cover of Khachaturian’s “Sabre Dance” in 1968.

Two years later, though, it was all but over for Love Sculpture. “In the Land of the Few” was its last single, released in early 1970 on the “Forms and Feelings” album.

As this single was released, hitting the charts with a thud, Love Sculpture went on a short U.S. tour, then broke up. It wasn’t “Sabre Dance,” but it may have held up better over the years. Listen to this cut, and you’ll know why Edmunds and ELO’s Jeff Lynne found common ground when they worked together years later.

“In the Land of the Few,” Love Sculpture, 1970, from “Dave Edmunds & Love Sculpture,” 1974, a Dutch import. Also available on “The Dave Edmunds Anthology: 1968-90,” a 1993 CD release.

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Filed under May 2008, Sounds

A night with Jeff Healey

Seen, but not comprehended.

That about sums up most of an evening I spent at a Memphis nightclub about 20 years ago. It was an evening spent with blues guitarist Jeff Healey, who died Sunday at age 41, and my friends Mike and Tam.

Mike and Tam were living in Memphis at the time, and I was visiting. We went out. One of the places we went was Night Moves.

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My hazy memory tells me Night Moves was a big nightclub with an open second floor, sort of a wraparound overlook or promenade. On that long-ago night, a young Jeff Healey was playing on the stage at the back of the first floor. We were above, looking down.

I would like to say we graciously, politely watched Healey’s show. To be honest, we spent most of that night drinking beer. We heard most of the show, but managed to catch glimpses of it only now and then.

We drank so much beer that the lovely Tam trounced Mike and I in Pop-a-Shot basketball. Sad to say, Mike and I were basketball players at the time. It’s entirely possible we retired, or were retired, that night.

My only lingering memory of Healey is of looking down on a young guy sweating in a hot spotlight and furiously playing that guitar on his lap. I could not begin to tell you what he was playing.

Back before Christmas, I came across that old matchbook from Night Moves. I mentioned it to Mike and we reminisced about that night. Mike’s hazy memory is much the same as mine:

“We were listing to the music and knocking down the brews.”

I know Mike meant to type “listening.” But saying “listing to the music” might be more accurate. I’m not sure either of us could stand up straight.

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Jeff Healey died Sunday of complications of the cancer that blinded him as an infant and dogged him throughout life. He started out in the blues — he was just 16 when Stevie Ray Vaughan came across him in a Toronto club — and made his name there, then moved on to old-time jazz. Also a beloved CBC Radio host, he was one of Canada’s musical icons.

However, I think my only Jeff Healey CD went out in a garage sale a couple of summers ago. But I did turn up a pretty good cut on a CD of John Hiatt tunes covered by other artists. Enjoy.

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“Confidence Man,” the Jeff Healey Band, from “Love Gets Strange: The Songs of John Hiatt,” 1993. It appears to be out of print. (Jeff Healey photo by Chuck Pulin from the CD booklet.)

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It also is the lead cut on “See the Light,” the band’s 1988 debut album.

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Filed under March 2008, Sounds

Sleepy Sunday, Vol. 33

When Sleepy LaBeef, national treasure, was growing up in Smackover, Arkansas, in the late ’40s and early ’50s, he had a lot of musical influences.

“I grew up listening to Hank Williams, Howlin’ Wolf, Bill Monroe, Tommy Dorsey, Muddy Waters, Bob Wills, Roy Acuff and Big Joe Turner,” he said in the liner notes to today’s album.

Of the latter, Sleepy added: “He had that big, big voice, but he had such an easy delivery. There was no strain to him. That’s what I aim for.”

So let’s spin a Big Joe Turner cover, recorded in January 2000 at Emerald Sound in Nashville. That’s David Hughes pounding the piano and Jim Davis blasting the sax.

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“Low Down Dog,” Sleepy LaBeef, from “Tomorrow Never Comes,” 2000.

Anyone for the original?

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“Low Down Dog,” Big Joe Turner, from “Jumpin’ With Joe: The Complete Aladdin and Imperial Recordings,” 1993. This was recorded on Nov. 6, 1947, and released in October 1948 as Aladdin single 3013.

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Filed under October 2007, Sounds

Just monkeying around

In 1967, the music my dad liked and the music my brother and I liked came together at the same place. Which is a little remarkable, considering Dad was 42, I was 10 and my brother John was 8.

That fall, Disney released “The Jungle Book” as an animated feature. My brother and I liked the cartoon, but we liked the music more. Because the film prominently featured veteran swingers and hipsters Louis Prima and Phil Harris, a couple of Dad’s favorites, he liked it, too.

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Prima voices King Louie, an orangutan. Harris voices Baloo, a bear. The rest of the voice cast is terrific as well, with veteran movie bad guy George Sanders as Shere Khan, a Bengal tiger (the bad guy); Sebastian Cabot as Bagheera, a friendly panther; and Sterling Holloway as Kaa, a python.

A couple of years ago, I started looking for “The Jungle Book” soundtrack. I wanted another copy of “I Wan’na Be Like You (The Monkey Song),” which my brother and I had on a 45. We sang it over and over when we were kids: “Oh, ooh bee doo/I wanna be like you/I wanna walk like you/Talk like you, too …”

The search took longer than I thought it would. Then, earlier this year, it all started to fall into place. Now I find myself with two versions by Prima and Harris, another by Prima and a cover. I’m not sure either of the Prima/Harris versions are what we had on our 45, but they’re close enough.

Another of the versions is done by Prima, his wife, Gia Maione, and their swinging Vegas backing band — Sam Butera and the Witnesses.

Los Lobos does the cover, from “Stay Awake,” producer Hal Willner’s 1988 tribute album of classic Disney songs. It’s one of the most straightforward cuts on what gets to be a pretty far-out album. (Among the other “Stay Awake” performers: Tom Waits, David Johansen as Buster Poindexter, NRBQ, Betty Carter, the Replacements, Sinead O’Connor, Sun Ra, Harry Nilsson, James Taylor and Ringo Starr.)

So here it is, the music and lyrics by longtime Disney composers Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman.

Dig the scat singing by Prima and Harris at about the 3-minute mark of the first two cuts. Just before the big finish on both cuts, Harris gives the order: “Home, daddy!” Dig also Harris’ jive talk on the second cut: “I’m gone, man, solid gone!”

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“I Wan’na Be Like You (The Monkey Song),” Louis Prima and Phil Harris, from “The Jungle Book” soundtrack, 1967, issued on CD, 1990. (However, the link is to a 2001 CD release.)

“I Wan’na Be Like You (The Monkey Song),” Louis Prima and Phil Harris, from “The Jungle Book” soundtrack, 1967, with dialogue featuring some of the other voice actors from the film. I don’t recall where I found this version, nor do I know its source.

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“I Wan’na Be Like You (The Monkey Song),” Louis Prima, Gia Maione and Sam Butera and the Witnesses, from “The New Sounds of the Louis Prima Show,” 1969. Dig the Hammond organ on this one. (The album is out of print, but it’s available as a download at Amazon and eMusic.)

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“I Wan’na Be Like You (The Monkey Song),” Los Lobos, from “Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films,” 1988. (Also found on Los Lobos’ “Just Another Band From East L.A.: A Collection,” 1993.) This swings, thanks to Steve Berlin’s baritone sax, David Hidalgo’s acoustic guitar and Alex Acuna’s percussion. (This is the CD rip; there’s a little skip on my 19-year-old vinyl.)

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Filed under September 2007, Sounds

It’s not unusual

Actually, it was a little unusual for me to be walking across the main floor of our local casino at 10 a.m. on a weekday.

When my friend Nancy saw me, her eyes popped open in astonishment.

“What are you doing here?” she said, no doubt mortified to be spotted in the casino at 10 in the morning.

“Tom Jones tickets,” I said.

Nancy breathed a sigh of relief, then smiled broadly.

“Me, too,” she said. “He’s the best.”

Yes, he is. I confess that Tom Jones was one of my role models when I was growing up in the early ’70s. You gotta learn your way with the ladies somehow, and he seemed a pretty good guide to a 13-year-old.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know Dean Martin also was one of my role models. Gotta learn to be cool, too. No one cooler than Dino.

I saw them both on TV, of course. I vividly recall watching “This is Tom Jones” with my grandmother, who thought he was great. My dad and I watched “The Dean Martin Show” every Thursday night.

I’m not a big fan of birthday posts (and I promise not to do them often), but today is worth noting. Dean Martin and Tom Jones share a June 7 birthday. Dino would have been 90, and our pallies over at ilovedinomartin are celebrating, of course. Tom Jones is going strong at 67.

Having seen Tom Jones live a couple of years ago, I can assure you “going strong” is precisely the way to describe him. Backed by a Vegas-style show band, he put on a terrific performance. He’s lost almost nothing from that big voice, even after 40 years in the business.

I never thought I’d have the opportunity to see Tom Jones live, and it was fabulous. Grandma would have loved it, too. Janet is a much more casual fan, and she found it all a little corny, but she enjoyed it nonetheless.

Rest assured I don’t dig everything Tom Jones does. He’s an interesting guy, willing to take chances on a variety of styles, then and now. Not everything works, but what I like, I like a lot.

Though it may be Tom Jones’ birthday, we’re getting the presents.

If you, like me, remember Tom Jones’ show, which aired from 1969 to 1971, it’s coming out on DVD later this month. Among his guests on the eight shows chosen: Burt Bacharach, the Who, Aretha Franklin, Little Richard, Mary Hopkin, Janis Joplin, Joe Cocker, Leslie Uggams and Stevie Wonder.

Want to see what all the fuss was about? Here’s Tom Jones and Janis Joplin, doing “Raise Your Hand,” from 1969. I believe this sizzling clip also is on the DVD.

We also have a couple of Tom Jones tunes for you today. You know all the hits, so here are a couple of less-often-heard tracks.

“Daughter of Darkness,” Tom Jones, 1970, from “The Complete Tom Jones,” a greatest-hits compilation released in 1993.

“Sometimes We Cry,” Tom Jones with Van Morrison, 1999, from “Reloaded,” the 2003 U.S. release of “Reload,” which was a hit in Europe.

Also worth noting: A previously unreleased Tom Jones-Van Morrison duet, “Cry For Home,” was put out as a single earlier this week. It’ll be on “The Best of Van Morrison, Vol. 3,” which comes out next week.

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Filed under June 2007, Sounds

Huey Lewis? I’ll second that

Last week, JB over at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ posted on Huey Lewis and the News, offering much praise for the band’s 1994 album of R&B covers (“Four Chords and Several Years Ago”).

Well, here’s more of the same.

The fellas covered “It’s All Right” on “People Get Ready: A Tribute to Curtis Mayfield,” which was released in 1993. It’s an a capella, doo-wop version they’d been doing in their shows for years but had never recorded.

Even if you’ve had your legal limit of their ’80s hits, you may like this.

It’s easily the best cut on the album, which was a tad underwhelming the last time I listened to it. That’s a little curious, considering the others doing Mayfield covers include Don Covay, Delbert McClinton, Jerry Butler, Bunny Wailer, Steve Cropper and Kim Wilson, but so it goes.

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“It’s All Right,” Huey Lewis and the News, from “People Get Ready: A Tribute to Curtis Mayfield,” 1993.

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Filed under May 2007, Sounds