Tag Archives: R.B. Greaves

R.B. Greaves: Coming home

The tributes to R.B. Greaves started popping up on Facebook late this afternoon, while I was off the grid. The smooth R&B singer was 68 when he died last week in Los Angeles.

His self-titled LP from 1970, the one with “Take A Letter, Maria” on it, was among the first big bunch of records I bought when I got back into collecting vinyl a few years ago. It was part of a haul of 20 records for $20 from the $1 record boxes in the tent in my friend Jim’s back yard.

I wrote about that record from time to time, and I’m glad I did so while Greaves was still with us.

Twice, it was to share his cover of “Always Something There To Remind Me.” Most recently, it was to celebrate the songs of Hal David, the great lyricist, something I did not do while David was still with us.

The first time, it was after I’d accidentally erased a small audio clip of our son’s voice, recorded before his voice changed. That was four years ago, and somehow, I still remember what that little boy’s voice sounded like. Maybe writing that post about a little bit of innocence lost helped to preserve it in my head.

Once, though, it was a deep cut from that self-titled LP, which despite that familiar hit single summons up a bunch of little mysteries.

“This is Soul,” R.B. Greaves, from “R.B. Greaves,” 1970.

One such mystery is why this fine little upbeat slice of Muscle Shoals soul wasn’t ever released as a single.

The post with that deep cut was a teaser to a longer post about R.B. Greaves over at our other blog, The Midnight Tracker. Side 1 of this album is featured there.

I also have R.B. Greaves’ second album, also self-titled, which was released on Bareback Records in 1977. It’s full of pleasant enough but unremarkable mid-’70s pop-R&B. The 1970 LP is the only one you really need to have.

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Filed under October 2012, Sounds

A little variety from Ray’s Corner

There was a crisis at Ray’s Corner the other day.

My dad, who is 87, dropped his TV remote. It shattered. Without it, he can’t watch TV. Watching TV has been my dad’s main source of entertainment for as long as I can remember. You can see where this might be a problem. So we got him a new remote and managed to fix the old one.

However, there still are no variety shows for him to watch.

In the ’60s and ’70s, we frequently heard the sophisticated pop songs of Hal David and Burt Bacharach on those shows. At the time, they worked most often with singer Dionne Warwick, of whom David once said: “She always interprets my lyrics in a way that sounds as though she had written them herself.”

Four years ago, I took Dad to see Dionne Warwick.  I was certain Dad would remember her from those long-ago variety shows. He didn’t. But once his hearing aid was adjusted, and he heard the songs, he recognized them. That night, Warwick performed two Bacharach-David 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.

That’s what makes them classics, and why the songs of Hal David — who died earlier today at 91 — are timeless. No matter who interprets them, they usually sound just fine. (Well, those Isaac Hayes covers might be an acquired taste.)

David and Bacharach worked together from 1957 to 1973, an arc that matches the first 16 years of my life, a time often spent watching TV with my dad. Enjoy, as we did, a little variety, some of the most familiar versions of Hal David’s songs, and some covers.

“What The World Needs Now Is Love,” Jackie DeShannon, 1965, from “The Very Best Of Jackie DeShannon,” 1975. The original version. David and Bacharach didn’t think this was such a good song after they wrote it. “We put it away in our desk drawer and kept it hidden there for 10 months,” David once said. “A flop, we thought.”

“This Guy’s In Love With You,” Al Wilson, from “Searching For The Dolphins,” 1968. Herb Alpert did the original version earlier that year.

“(There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me,” R.B. Greaves, from “R.B. Greaves,” 1969. Warwick did the original version as a demo in 1963. Lou Johnson had the first hit with it in 1964. It’s such a great song that it became a hit all over again in 1983 for the British synth-pop duo Naked Eyes.

“One Less Bell to Answer,” the 5th Dimension, from “Portrait,” 1970. Out of print, but available digitally. The original version, with Marilyn McCoo’s tremendous vocals.

Finally, a little glimpse of one of those old variety shows.

That’s Tom Jones, of course, doing “What’s New Pussycat.” In 1965, he did the original, for which David and Bacharach were nominated for an Oscar for best original song.

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

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Filed under September 2012, Sounds

Yes, this is soul

This is just a little reminder that we’ve updated The Midnight Tracker, our lightly traveled companion blog.

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

Over at The Midnight Tracker, we’re serving up one side of a record that summons up a bunch of little mysteries.

One such mystery is why this fine little upbeat slice of Muscle Shoals soul wasn’t ever released as a single.

“This is Soul,” R.B. Greaves, from “R.B. Greaves,” 1970.

For more from our mystery man, head over to The Midnight Tracker.

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Filed under February 2010, Sounds

Innocence lost

I pushed the wrong button and it was gone forever.

A couple of years ago, our son recorded the message on our answering machine. It started fairly routinely: “Hi, you’ve reached the Ash-Roberts household. We can’t take your call right now, but if you leave your name and number, we’ll get back to you.”

It ended this way, with a bit more urgency and all the authority an 11-year-old’s sing-song voice could muster: “If you’re calling for Evan, please leave a message.”

Evan is 13 now. His voice changed over the summer, dropping to the hard, flat sound typical of a teenager from the upper Midwest. The voice on the answering machine was our only audible link to the way he used to sound.

I wanted to record the recording, to preserve that memory. But I pushed the wrong button, or perhaps the right button at the wrong time. The answering machine erased Evan’s message rather than playing it.

I am as bummed about screwing that up as anything I’ve been bummed about in a long, long time. Of course, I still can hear Evan’s sing-song voice in my head. My only hope is that the memory lingers.

“Always Something There To Remind Me,” R.B. Greaves, from “R.B. Greaves,” 1969.

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Filed under October 2008, Sounds

20/20/20 vision, Part I

One of our local used record sellers had a “spring cleaning tent sale” in his back yard last weekend.

Jim promised “thousands of $1 LPs … under the tents!!” Indeed, Jim had lots of swell stuff.

When I was done rummaging through the boxes in the two tents, I had 20 albums for $20. That’s the raw material for a brief series of posts that begins … now!

Welcome to the first installment of 20 Songs from 20 Albums for $20.

Nothing real deep here. Just enjoy the tunes, coming at you more or less at random, the way I came across all these goodies under the tents.

“You’re the Love of My Life,” the Spinners, from “Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow,” 1977. Out of print. The link is to a CD release with this album and part of another Spinners album, “Labor of Love,” from 1981.

Great opening guitar riff and horn charts on this classic slice of Philly soul.

“When the World’s At Peace,” the O’Jays, from “Back Stabbers,” 1972. The album is out of print, but this tune is available on “The Ultimate O’Jays,” a 2001 CD release.

A nice, nasty bit from the place where Philly funk meets James Brown.

“Always Something There To Remind Me,” R.B. Greaves, from “R.B. Greaves,” 1969.

R.B. covers the great Burt Bacharach-Hal David tune.

“See Saw,” Tom Jones, from “I (Who Have Nothing),” 1970. Out of print, and not on any CD release I can find. However, it is on “This Is Tom Jones,” a 2007 DVD release of some of his classic TV variety shows.

TJ covers a little bit of Memphis soul by Don Covay and Steve Cropper.

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

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Filed under May 2008, Sounds