Tag Archives: 2008

Sundays at 8: Goodbye, Glen

My memories of Glen Campbell, who died yesterday at 81, come almost entirely from television. I think back to the earliest ’70s, and I see our family sitting together around the TV.

There was something for everyone on “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.” Comedy skits for Dad, country music for Grandma, folk and rock groups for me. That, in the fall of 1970, was our life. I pinpoint 1970 because that’s where the facts confirm the memory.

In the 1970-71 TV season, Glen Campbell’s show followed “The Ed Sullivan Show” on CBS on Sunday nights. That was appointment television. My grandfather died as that TV season began, so I’m certain we spent a few Sunday nights watching TV with Grandma, most likely during the holidays, when Sunday wasn’t a school night for a 13-year-old.

Here’s about 18 minutes that may give some idea of what that was like. His guests, ever so briefly, include the Smothers Brothers, John Hartford, Nancy Sinatra, Stevie Wonder, Tom Jones, and Sonny and Cher.

However, television eventually gave way to the radio for me. Glen Campbell faded from my radio until the mid-’70s. His new songs? Too much corn.

Along the way, Glen Campbell became a train wreck. He’s almost unwatchable in a “Tonight Show” clip with Don Rickles and Dom DeLuise from September 1973. He’s jacked up on something, and even Johnny Carson acknowledges it. Then along came Tanya Tucker, and more drugs and alcohol, and Glen Campbell became tabloid fodder. Didn’t really think much about him for a long time.

Fast forward to the last decade. Fellow music bloggers have pointed the way to gems from Glen Campbell’s long career, helping me rediscover his greatness.

Then, in June 2011, came his Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Our family knows all too well what that means. You lose a loved one long before they go. We bought tickets for “The Glen Campbell Goodbye Tour” stop in Wausau, Wisconsin, in December 2011, but the show we’d hoped to see was postponed. He had laryngitis, it was said. We couldn’t make the rescheduled date.

Shortly thereafter, we had a second chance. The Goodbye Tour came back around, this time in Green Bay in June 2012. We passed. No regrets. We chose to remember a vibrant Glen Campbell instead of a 76-year-old man who was a year into an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

You’ve heard all the hits again this week. So please enjoy these tunes, proof again of Glen Campbell’s gift for interpreting other people’s songs.

“Grow Old With Me,” Glen Campbell, from “Meet Glen Campbell,” 2008. A cover of one of John Lennon’s last songs. (Also available digitally.)

“Times Like These,” Glen Campbell, also from “Meet Glen Campbell,” 2008. The Foo Fighters never sounded so elegant.

“Wichita Lineman/By The Time I Get To Phoenix” the Dells, from “Love Is Blue,” 1969. The great Chicago soul group acknowledges Glen Campbell’s greatness at his peak. Only Glen Campbell can make the Dells sound rough by comparison.

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Filed under August 2017, Sounds

A smaller Christmas, Day 16

Went back to work today, and was whipsawed between two big stories.

For most of the day, it was the Packers and the Bears, an NFL grudge match that goes back decades. Yet that football game — only a game, but so important to so many, so deeply etched in our culture — faded to insignificance when it came time for the story out of Newtown, Connecticut.

It was like going through a portal, stepping from the roar of the stadium into the silence of church, especially during the evening vigil at which the president spoke.

Trying to reconcile all that, I thought back to what a friend wrote Friday, as everyone tried to process the news out of Connecticut.

“Peace, love and art is the beacon.”

So here is a song about peace and love at Christmas.

A beacon cutting through the darkness.

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“Glorious,” Melissa Etheridge, from “A New Thought For Christmas,” 2008. Also available digitally.

You hear echoes of the “Gloria” chorus of “Angels We Have Heard On High.”

“Love, love, love, it’s glorious.”

“Believe in heavenly, in heavenly peace.”

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2012, Sounds

The missing Christmas hits

Fascinating to read in the Milwaukee paper the other day that no Christmas song has been a hit since Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas” in 1994.

My pal JB over at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ also took note of that story, which prompted him to ponder the state of Christmas radio then and now.

All that said, there certainly are some Christmas songs that should have hit the charts in the last 17 years. Here are some of them.

“Who Needs Mistletoe,” Julie Roberts, from “Who Needs Mistletoe,” 2011. A country song every bit as filthy as Clarence Carter’s great “Back Door Santa.”

“Oi To The World,” Severe, from the wonderful Punk Rock Advent Calendar, 2009. Well, it’s reverent as far as UK punks go.

“We Three Kings,” Blondie, a 2009 holiday release. Always fun to find Debbie Harry under the tree. Always fun to hear Blondie’s classic sound.

“Merry Christmas Baby,” Melissa Etheridge, from “A New Thought For Christmas,” 2008. Blistering vocals and blistering blues guitar. Move over, fellas.

“Silent Night,” the Blackhearts and special guests, from “A Blackheart Christmas,” 2008. Some sound bites from that year’s presidential race make it a bit of a time capsule. It once had a bit of a valedictory feel. Now it has the feel of opportunities lost.

“Silent Night,” Bootsy Collins, from “Christmas Is 4 Ever,” 2006. A sweet mashup of reverent narration, funk, R&B and gospel.

“Winter (Basse Dance),” Blackmore’s Night, from “Winter Carols,” 2006. It’s out of print but is available digitally. If you can get past that Ritchie Blackmore is no longer rocking out as he did in Deep Purple and Rainbow and not cede all the elegant guitar work to Trans-Siberian Orchestra, you might dig this instrumental.

“Wonderful Dream (Holidays Are Coming),” Melanie Thornton, from “Memories,” 2003. It’s an import that has gone out of print. This tune was used in a Coca-Cola ad after the R&B singer’s death 10 years ago, but its back story transcends marketing.

“It’s Christmas And I Miss You,” .38 Special, from “A Wild-Eyed Christmas Night,” 2001. It’s out of print but is available digitally. A gentle ballad reflecting the loneliness the season can bring. It’s co-written by guitarist Don Barnes and our friend Jim Peterik.

“Little Drummer Boy,” the Dandy Warhols, from “Fruitcake,” 1997, a Capitol Records promo EP. It’s out of print. In which the Little Drummer Boy takes a psychedelic trip.

“Santa Claus Is Comin’ (In A Boogie Woogie Choo Choo Train),” the Tractors, from “Have Yourself A Tractors Christmas,” 1995. It’s out of print but is available digitally. This fine bit of country swing actually was a modest hit on country radio in in 1995 and again in 1998. After all, it’s just their 1994 hit “Baby Likes To Rock It” retooled with new lyrics for Christmas.

“Soul Christmas,” Graham Parker and Nona Hendryx, from “Christmas Cracker,” 1994. If there were any justice, this scorcher would have been the hit from 17 years ago.

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Filed under December 2011, Sounds

Slouching toward Cabo

There are is lot of vinyl in the crates and on the shelves behind me. There are not, however, any Sammy Hagar records.

OK, there is the Montrose record we listened to in Jerry’s basement all those years ago. And I do have a review copy of his last solo CD, released three years ago. But otherwise no solo Sammy Hagar, no Van Hagar, no Chickenfoot.

Even so, Sammy Hagar is one of my favorite live acts. I dig the energy and irreverence he brings to his shows, which are parties in themselves. It’s a bit like a Jimmy Buffett show cranked up … and more irreverent.

This week, those of us who dig the so-called Red Rocker had a little treat. Hagar’s birthday was Oct. 13. He’s 64 and seemingly has the energy of a 24-year-old.

He treated the faithful to live streaming video of four birthday shows from his Cabo Wabo Cantina in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. There weren’t many of us watching on the nights I caught them, maybe 1,200 the first night and maybe 1,000 the third night, but it was something to see and hear.

They used one camera, pointed directly at the stage. They let it rip — visually unpolished and unedited — as Hagar, bass player Michael Anthony and a host of celebrity guests gleefully tore through tunes from all the groups Hagar has been in, plus Led Zeppelin and the Beastie Boys among the covers.

Think about that. Here’s one of your faves having a party with his friends, jamming in a little club, and you’re invited. Watch the streaming video and chat with other fans online if so inclined. Nice.

I’ll probably never make it to Cabo for one of those birthday bashes. I’m neither young enough nor cool enough for the room, nor could I drink enough for the room. So having Sammy’s party streamed all the way to Wisconsin was a nice way to enjoy it vicariously.

So why don’t more acts do this? I’m guessing Reason No. 1 is they don’t want to give away the product.

Somehow, I doubt Mr. Hagar was in any way shortchanged by streaming four shows in real time. That club looked plenty full every night. Nor do I think streaming those shows will cut into his record or merchandise sales in any way. Hagar may be on to something, not that anyone will follow his lead.

This is a little bit of what it was like.

“Dreams/Cabo,” Sammy Hagar, from “Cosmic Universal Fashion,” 2008. It’s a live cut from the 2007 birthday bash in Cabo.

Here’s what he says about this cut on the liner notes:

“We record shows all the time, but the audience in Cabo at the Cantina during the Birthday Bash is a very special crowd. This was ‘07 so if you were there then that’s you singing on Dreams and Cabo. If you go there once you’ll be there twice …”

The latter holds true for his live shows. Trust me.

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Filed under October 2011, Sounds

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

A time for honkin’ and healing

It was the last line in today’s news ticker on Uni Watch, a blog run by my friend Paul from Brooklyn and otherwise devoted to “the obsessive study of athletics aesthetics.”

“RIP, Mr. Country,” was all it said. There were almost 200 comments about sports uniforms, but no one mentioned Mr. Country.

But I noticed it. Thanks, Paul.

It was pretty much the same way at work. The news about Mr. Country was on the AP wire early this morning, but the kids who run the entertainment portion of our web site didn’t deem it worthy of posting.

I noticed that, too.

“Mr. Country” was Carl Smith. “The Country Gentleman” was 82 when he died Saturday at his ranch in Franklin, Tennessee.

Peter Cooper, the fine music writer at The Tennessean in Nashville, has a wonderful appreciation of Smith’s life, complete with photos.

Carl Smith was one of country music’s biggest stars during the 1950s, but was just 51 when he retired in 1978 to work on his ranch. His first wife was June Carter. Their daughter is Carlene Carter.

And that is how I came to know Mr. Country.

Carlene Carter has long been one of my favorites. To see and hear her play live last year, and to hear her talk about her family from the stage of that tiny Wisconsin theater, was delightful.

She didn’t sing this one that night, but she could well have.

“Loose Talk,” Carlene Carter with Carl Smith, from “Little Acts of Treason,” Carlene Carter, 1995. It’s out of print but is available digitally.

She’d convinced her dad to come out of retirement and sing with her on this tune. He had a No. 1 hit with it for seven weeks in 1955, the year Carlene was born. It was the last of his five No. 1 hits, but he had six more Top 10 hits by the end of the decade.

“Thanks for letting me sing with you, Daddy,” she said on the liner notes. “When it comes to honkin’, you invented it.”

Carlene Carter has been through much since that 1995 record. She’s recovered from drug addiction. In an eight-month stretch of 2003, she lost her longtime companion Howie Epstein, her mother, her stepfather Johnny Cash and her younger half-sister Rosey Carter. She spoke of all that last year when she played this lovely, elegant tribute to Rosey.

“Stronger,” Carlene Carter, from “Stronger,” 2008.

“What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger/I’ll hold on a little longer”

Carter explains in her Yep Roc Records bio:

“It’s the story about how I felt after Rosey died. It actually came because of the combination of all of those losses that year. I knew I had a song in me about it, but I couldn’t quite get there. It was too painful. I was in such grief over everything. That song really helped me to heal a whole lot. … The chorus being about survival is because I could never figure out why I was still here, as hard as I ran.”

Here’s hoping it helps her heal again.

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Filed under January 2010, Sounds

On deck at the ballpark

There’s nothing quite like being at the ballpark in the summertime. There’s as much time spent watching people as watching baseball.

Y0u can head out to the ballpark to hear tunes, too. Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson are doing another summer tour of ballparks, accompanied this time around by John Mellencamp.

The tour starts July 1 at Summerfest in Milwaukee, but Mellencamp won’t make the opener. I’ll have to settle for this tantalizing morsel. It’s Mellencamp live, from his forthcoming EP, a companion piece to last year’s well-received album, “Life Death Love and Freedom.”

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“If I Die Sudden (radio edit),” John Mellencamp, from “Life Death Live and Freedom,” 2009.

I’m far from a hardcore Mellencamp fan, but I’ve found him more interesting as he gets older. I’ve always appreciated his passion for his work.

“If I Die Sudden” is the first cut on the EP, recorded at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles on July 31, 2008. Four of the eight cuts come from that show. The rest were recorded in February 2008 in Philadelphia, Toronto and Red Deer, Alberta.

Here’s Mellencamp doing the same tune live at Red Rocks in Denver just four days earlier, on July 27, 2008.

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Filed under June 2009, Sounds