Tag Archives: War

Take me to the water

Yesterday was one of those beautiful days on which good memories wash over you.

Good memories of our Aunt Carol, whose life we celebrated. She was 89 when she died a week ago. She was the last of my six aunts.

The good memories come from times spent at family gatherings with our cousins, her four kids. Of all the cousins on Mom’s side of the family, we were closest to them. We all were roughly the same age and they lived closest to us.

Fun fact: Though I always knew Aunt Carol came from a family of skiers, it was fun to see old pictures of her at the local ski hill as part of a women’s ski team and as a ski model, both from the late ’40s or maybe the earliest ’50s.

Yesterday also was one of those gorgeous blue-sky summer days on which seemingly everyone in Wisconsin makes a beeline to the water.

Good memories of that, too, as I drove along the Wisconsin River from Stevens Point north to Wausau, my aunt’s hometown and more or less my hometown. There were tons of people at the taverns along the river, where you can park in the parking lot or at the dock. There were big floats on Lake DuBay, dozens of pontoons and smaller boats tied together for sun-splashed parties.

That took me right back to the mid-’70s, any summer from 1972 to 1977.

On summer days like this, we’d walk out the door and think “OK, where are we going to get into the water today?”

We could go to Yellow Banks, an old swimming hole on a small, lazy river. When it became a park, they gave it some gentrified name that escapes me, but everyone still called it Yellow Banks. Eventually, the powers that be conceded the point, and the park became Yellow Banks Park.

We could go to the Kennedy Park pool or the Rothschild pool. Once in a long while, we’d drive across town to Manmade, which was a small lake that was exactly as advertised.

If our friend Herb had his dad’s car and boat, we’d put in at Bluegill Bay and go water skiing on Lake Wausau. Which was fine until Herb cracked the whip and you wiped out while slaloming, losing your ski and somersaulting on top of the water and coming to rest on top of a boulder that’s just below the surface of the water.

But of all the places we could go, The Dells was the biggest adventure. We’d hop on our bikes and ride 19 miles from my friend’s house to The Dells, some of it on fairly busy back roads. Once there, you’d sit atop the rocks that formed The Dells of the Eau Claire River and watch the daredevils jump into the pool at the base of the rocks.

Here, look. The experience hasn’t changed much since the mid-’70s, although the daredevils back then were pretty much straight-up cannonballers.

Nope, I never did that. Drank a few beers on top of the rocks, but never did that.

It was ..

“Hot Fun,” Stanley Clarke, from “School Days,” 1976.

My friend Emery reminded me of this when he shared it yesterday. I’ve had that record since it came out back then.

Daredevils aside, and truth be told, the vibe of those long-ago summers seemed more like this …

“Summer,” War, from “War’s Greatest Hits,” 1976.

Fun fact: The single was released on my birthday, the day I turned 19 in June 1976.

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Filed under June 2019, Sounds

Walleye Weekend washout

This weekend was Walleye Weekend in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, about an hour south of where we live. I’d hoped to go down Saturday night to hear a most unlikely double bill of the Grass Roots followed by War.

However, that trip never materialized. My brother needed help moving, so I found myself in another part of the state for most of the day. That, and it rained for most of the day.

It’s the second time I’ve missed the Grass Roots this year. They played a gig at an auditorium in a small town about an hour away in April … on NFL draft weekend. When you work for the web site at the newspaper in Green Bay, no one asks off on NFL draft weekend.

So I can’t tell you what the Grass Roots sound like these days.

They’ve gone through lots of lineup changes since they started in San Francisco in 1965, when a bunch of studio musicians backed up P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri, a couple of songwriters who came up with “Where Were You When I Needed You.” These days, the only link to the glory days is lead singer Rob Grill, who is 64 and has been with the group since 1967.

Likewise, I can’t tell you what War sounds like these days.

This group also has seen lots of lineup changes since its start in southern California in 1969. That’s when, after several years of gigging in the L.A. area, first as the Creators and then as Nightshift (backing Deacon Jones, the Los Angeles Rams football star moonlighting as a singer!), it became War, the backing band for British rocker Eric Burdon. He was gone by 1971, and the rest — the multiracial, multiethnic War’s potent mix of rock, funk, soul, jazz and Latin music — is history.

These days, War tours with only one of its original members. Keyboard player and singer Lonnie Jordan is 59 and has been with the band since before it was War. (The four other original, surviving members tour as the Lowrider Band, having lost a lawsuit to Jordan and original producer Jerry Goldstein over use of the name “War.”)

A couple of tunes I would have liked to have heard this weekend …

“Baby Hold On,” the Grass Roots, 1969, from “Their 16 Greatest Hits,” 1971. Out of print. Also available on “The Grass Roots’ All-Time Greatest Hits,” an import CD released in 1996.

“The World Is A Ghetto,” War, 1973, from “War Greatest Hits,” 1976. Out of print. Also available on “Grooves and Messages: The Greatest Hits of War,” a 1999 CD compilation that includes eight remixed tracks on a second disc.

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Filed under June 2008, Sounds

20/20/20 vision, Part II

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

If you missed us last time out, 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.

Nothing too heavy here. Just enjoy the tunes, presented at random, much the way I came across them in the tents in Jim’s back yard.

“Let’s Hang On,” the Bob Crewe Generation, from “Music To Watch Girls By,” 1967. (The link is to a 2006 best-of CD.)

Until JB wrote about them over at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ a couple of weeks ago, I’d never heard of the Bob Crewe Generation. But I had heard the old Diet Pepsi commercial that inspired the title track to the album, which JB graciously shared. The smooth instrumental oozed cool and sophistication, especially when you were just 10, as I was at the time.

As I was digging in the tents, I came across not one, but two copies of the original LP … along with another album JB mentioned in the same post. I passed on the T-Bones, but grabbed this one.

As for “Let’s Hang On,” Crewe helped write it for Frankie Valli, who performed for a sold-out house of 2,000-plus here in Green Bay last week. Our paper had this great story, recalling when fans mobbed a local record store when Valli and the original Four Seasons visited in 1962. That’s Valli doing a live radio show with a local DJ at upper right.

“Heart’s Desire,” Joe South, from “Games People Play,” 1969. The link is to a 2006 CD release with two Joe South albums, this one and “Joe South,” from 1971.

A sunny, upbeat slice of Southern soul-flavored pop. Great horn charts, great bass line, great backing vocals. The whole package.

“A Million Miles Away,” Joe South, from “Don’t It Make You Want To Go Home?” 1969. The link is to a 2003 Australian CD import with two Joe South albums, this one and “Introspect,” his debut album from 1968.

Swamp rock meets psychedelia. Definitely not the song done by the Plimsouls.

“Summer,” War, from “War Greatest Hits,” 1976. Out of print, but this tune and all but one of the cuts on this album are available on “Grooves & Messages: The Greatest Hits of War,” a 1999 CD release.

Because you know you need it, want it for your summer mixtape or playlist.

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

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Filed under May 2008, Sounds

Last call for summer

As we sit here, thinking back on the sun-splashed summer months just past, it gets quiet. Deep quiet. You feel like you can reach out and grab a handful of the silence.

Not only is it getting to be the end of the night, but the end of the season, the end of another chapter in the life. The nights are turning cool in our corner of Wisconsin, and all the summer visitors are going home, so they’ll start packing up the outdoor bars after this weekend.

So we head over to the jukebox for a little music that will only intensify that deep quiet, only feed the longing for a few more weeks or days of another summer that blew past too quickly.

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“Summer,” War, 1976, from “The Best of War and More,” 1991.

Cliched, perhaps, but still just the right vibe to get us started.

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“The Moonbeam Song,” Harry Nilsson, from “Nilsson Schmilsson,” 1971. (The link is to a 2004 expanded version with six extra cuts.)

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“Martini 5-0,” The Blue Hawaiians, from “Sway,” 1998.

Just about anything this L.A. surf/tiki/exotica noir band does is suitable for this kind of night. As in “Last Days of Summer,” another cut from the same album. Give it a listen on their MySpace page.

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“Blues for the Night Owl,” Ramsey Lewis, from “The Greatest Hits of Ramsey Lewis,” 1973.

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“Rememberin’ Stevie,” Buddy Guy, from “Damn Right I Got the Blues,” 1991. (The original CD apparently is out of print, so this link is for a 2005 expanded edition with two cuts that were B sides in the UK.)

This tune, a tribute to the late Stevie Ray Vaughan, is one I will forever associate with one particular end-of-the-night experience.

I took this CD along when I joined some pals on a road trip to a college basketball game. It had just come out, so it had to be late 1991 or early 1992 — not all that long after Stevie Ray’s death in a helicopter crash on a southern Wisconsin hillside in August 1990.

It was a 2-hour drive each way, and it got to be a long night. We were driving home, and we’d been shooting the breeze. But once we got to this cut, the last on the CD, it didn’t take too long before all four of us were listening in silence.

When it ended, I vividly remember one of my pals breaking the long silence.

“Whew!” he said, exhaling deeply.

“Man!” another of the fellas said.

Perhaps you, too, will have the same reaction if you play it late at night, as summer winds to a close.

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Filed under September 2007, Sounds