Posts Tagged ‘Reviews’
The new CD/DVD set is entitled Woody Guthrie at 100! Live at the Kennedy Center, but in fact, Woody never made it past 55. This document of an altogether lively concert program from a wide assortment of admirers proves, however, that his music has not only lasted ‘til 100, but will likely survive us all. This is a celebration, yes, but a celebration with a conscience. A strong thread of morality and social awareness ran through all of Guthrie’s songs, as he believed music could make a difference in America. That same belief is shared by the performers who took the stage of Washington, DC’s Kennedy Center on October 14, 2012, including Jackson Browne, Rosanne Cash, Donovan, Judy Collins, Tom Morello, John Mellencamp and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. That evening, they showcased the spectrum of Guthrie’s work from protest songs to children’s sing-alongs.
As produced by Woody’s daughter Nora Guthrie, Bob Santelli and Garth Ross, the concert is well-sequenced, beginning with the joyous barrage of nonsense lyrics in Old Crow Medicine Show’s bluegrass-style “Howdi Do.” The string band continues the jamboree with Guthrie’s rapid-fire story of a “Union Maid” who’s “stickin’ to the union ‘til the day I die,” and indeed, Guthrie’s commitment to the ideals of unionization recur throughout the program.
A major highlight is the mini-suite of songs thematically connected by imagery of the open road and the hobo, with contemporary folksinger Joel Rafael’s harmonica-accompanied “Ramblin’ Reckless Hobo” (for which he set Guthrie’s lyrics to his own music), Jimmy LaFave’s “Hard Travelin’,” Donovan’s “Riding in My Car” and Rosanne Cash’s “I Ain’t Got No Home.” Listening to Rafael, it’s hard not to hear a Bob Dylan influence, or more precisely, how Guthrie influenced Dylan and in turn, Rafael. Texas singer LaFave’s “Hard Travelin’” contrasts a jaunty melody with the story of a hard-working itinerant who brushes up against the law; “I Ain’t Got No Home” introduces a similar character with an even sadder tale. While “Hard Travelin’” utilizes awkward grammar (“I’ve been layin’ in a hard-rock jail, I thought you knowed”) and jolts of dry humor in its lyric (“Damned old judge, he said to me, ‘It’s 90 days for vagrancy”), “I Ain’t Got No Home” is all too touching and troubling. Cash, accompanied only by her own guitar and that of guitarist-vocalist-husband John Leventhal, gets to the root of the song in her low-key, empathetic vocal. She doesn’t overplay the despair but rather renders the character she embodies with a quiet resolve and dignity.
Donovan leads a sing-along on Guthrie’s children’s song “Riding in My Car,” which fits snugly among the other, more “adult” songs. It’s no mystery why: Guthrie wrote for adults in the same simple and lyrically unadorned style he wrote for children. Grown-ups will likewise want to sing along to the mandolin- and fiddle-adorned refrain of The Del McCoury Band and Tim O’Brien’s “So Long, It’s Been Good to Know Yuh.”
Hit the jump for more! Read the rest of this entry »
-ZZ Top, “Brown Sugar”
I hate to play favorites, but from day one, I’ve been a fan of Legacy Recordings’ “complete albums” concept. The slick packaging of an artist’s classic albums in one package, with nicely-crafted mini jackets, replicated label art on disc and the always promising idea of bonus content is often too good to pass up. I’m probably not the typical target buyer – really, when am I ever – but as someone hungry to dive in with a beloved band, these boxes really do the trick.
I’ve often hoped to see other labels follow suit on the concept, and the newest catalogue project from Rhino, ZZ Top’s The Complete Studio Albums 1970-1990 (Warner Bros. 8122-79664-2), is exactly what I’m getting at. This little set is the one to buy if you’re looking to cannonball into the Texas trio’s brand of Southern-smoked boogie.
ZZ Top are one of those bands that just know how to keep their fan base. The lineup of lead singer/guitarist Billy Gibbons, bassist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard hasn’t changed in four decades – nor has their commitment to raw, good-time 12-bar blues. With Hill and Beard as a whip-cracking rhythm section, Gibbons allows his six-string skills to shine in a way that few other rock guitarists allow. He’s distinctive without laying it on too thick – just flashy enough to stay ahead of the pack. From rockin’ singles like “La Grange,” “Tush” and “Sharp Dressed Man” to lesser-known cuts like the ballads “Sure Got Cold After the Rain Fell” or “I Need You Tonight,” Gibbons – and, by extension, ZZ Top – are a master of their craft.
Keep reading about the “little ol’ band from Texas” after the jump, and find out what else we like about the box, too!
When 1965’s “Make the World Go Away” entered the Pop Top 10, it was unusual, even for those heady days of pop diversity. The singer, Eddy Arnold, had first signed to RCA Victor in 1943. The Musicians’ Union’s strike prohibited the young vocalist from recording until it was settled in December, 1944, but when Arnold finally entered WSM’s radio studios to record four songs, he was making history. His session was the first for a major label to be held in Nashville, Tennessee. His star was soon on the ascendant. 1946’s honky-tonkin’, fiddle-adorned “What is Life Without Love” was but his first No. 1 on the Billboard country chart. In the period of 1947-1948, Arnold held the top spot for 60 consecutive weeks (!) and in 1947-1949, he remained there for 79 out of 112 weeks (!!). In all, it wasn’t a bad career for the sharecropper’s son from Tennessee. Despite this great success, it hasn’t been an easy task tracking down Arnold’s original RCA recordings, as he revisited his classic catalogue later in his career for re-recordings – frequently with overdubbed strings and additional instrumentation. Real Gone Music has remedied the situation with Complete Original No. 1 Hits (RGM-0081), containing all 28 of Arnold’s original Country chart-toppers out of 147 chart hits.
The Tennessee Plowboy was the first country star to have his own television program and led the charge to make country mainstream; 37 hits in all also made the pop chart. The earliest recordings on this compilation reveal a smooth, direct and often romantic tenor voice, which by the 1960s had transformed into a burnished baritone. Young Elvis Presley cited Arnold as an influence, and in another connection, “Colonel” Tom Parker was Arnold’s manager until 1953.
Though heartbreak naturally plays a role in many of the songs on Complete Original No. 1 Hits, Arnold’s genial presence was indebted to the tradition of singing cowboys like Gene Autry. He also was a disciple of Bing Crosby, and one can hear Crosby’s easygoing charm, and intimacy, in Arnold’s recordings. (Crosby recorded his share of country-style songs, too!) Some compared Arnold to Perry Como, and both singers indeed boasted a similarly laconic delivery. The compilation covers the period of 1946-1968, but 1955-1965 was a fallow period for Arnold, with no songs reaching the coveted top spot.
The very first song here, “What is Life Without Love,” is one of eight tracks co-written by Arnold, who was no slouch in the songwriting department. But he also had good taste in recording the songs of others. Bob Hilliard, who also collaborated with Burt Bacharach and co-wrote the score to Walt Disney’s Peter Pan, wrote lyrics to Steve Nelson’s melody for “Bouquet of Roses,” one of the many Arnold songs with a marked pop leaning. “A Heart Full of Love (For a Handful of Kisses),” by Nelson, Ray Soehnel and Arnold, is another one of the many pure pop lyrics here. Much of the country comes from the arrangements, usually adorned with fiddle and the distinctive steel guitar of “Little” Roy Wiggins. There’s a yodel in Arnold’s voice on songs like “One Kiss Too Many” and Cindy Walker’s “Take Me in Your Arms and Hold Me,” again playing the role of the heartsick, lovelorn hero. The Ed Nelson/Steve Nelson/Arnold songwriting partnership yielded the even more maudlin “I’m Throwing Rice (At the Girl I Love)” (“After she just said ‘I do’”).
Hit the jump for more on Arnold, plus David Allan Coe’s Texas Moon! Read the rest of this entry »
Rumer’s 2010 single “Some Lovers,” from Bacharach and Steven Sater’s musical of the same name, is the most recent track on Universal U.K.’s new box set Anyone Who Had a Heart: The Art of the Songwriter. Yet 2010 melts into 1965 like a ray of sunshine on the “cloudy Christmas morning” in the song lyric. Sleigh bells gently underscore wistful flugelhorns as it begins, with Rumer’s dreamy, comforting vocals gracefully gliding over the bittersweet melody. “Everything we touch is still a dream,” she sings, and for three minutes or so, it is. Even shorn of its lyrics, “Some Lovers” would radiate the warm glow of nostalgia without ever seeming dated. And it’s just one of 137 tracks found on the box’s six CDs, all standing as a testament to the songwriter’s signature style, remarkable consistency, and uncanny ability to render emotions through his musical notes. The music of Burt Bacharach is sophisticated in its composition but simplicity itself in its piercing directness. So why is this handsomely-designed, large box less than the sum of its (formidable) parts?
Anyone Who Had a Heart has been released to coincide with Bacharach’s memoir of the same name, and is also available in two 2-CD configurations, one each for the United States and the United Kingdom. The 6-CD version follows in some rather large footsteps: that of Rhino’s 1998 box set The Look of Love: The Burt Bacharach Collection. As expertly curated by Patrick Milligan and Alec Cumming, that sublime 3-CD box was the first to trace the arc of Bacharach’s career in context, and it played a mighty role in his career renaissance. Yet over the ensuing fifteen years, Bacharach has continued to write with a frequency that would impress his much younger colleagues, so the time was certainly right for an updated package. (The Look of Love concluded with Bacharach and Elvis Costello’s 1996 recording of “God Give Me Strength.”) The ambitious Anyone Who Had a Heart is the first box since The Look of Love to take on the entirety of Bacharach’s career, though Hip-o Select’s 2004 Something Big: The Complete A&M Years collected all of his solo work for Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss’ label with a handful of rarities included for good measure. But the new box is best enjoyed as a complement to The Look of Love, not an update or expansion.
The first four discs of this box are dedicated to a chronological account of Bacharach’s work, from 1955’s “(These) Desperate Hours” to 2010’s “Some Lovers.” The fifth disc is essentially a single-disc distillation of the Hip-o box set, dedicated solely to Bacharach’s own, primarily instrumental recordings of his songbook. The sixth disc shows the breadth of his influence as it presents an entire collection of jazz interpretations (both vocal and instrumental). The fifth and sixth discs present an expanded view of his career not found on The Look of Love. The first four discs cover the same territory as the Rhino box, but best it with 95 tracks vs. 75. However, the approach by producers Kit Buckler, Paul Conroy and Richard Havers is a more idiosyncratic, less focused one. Whereas The Look of Love concentrated on original versions of songs – most of which Bacharach produced and/or arranged – Anyone Who Had a Heart casts a wider net to give great attention to cover versions. This approach does allow for stylistic variety but leaves the listener with a less definitive account of “the essentials.” The new box is successful in fleshing out the periods that bookend Bacharach’s career, addressing his earliest and most recent songs with more depth than the 3-CD format of The Look of Love allowed.
Hit the jump as we explore the Art of Bacharach! Read the rest of this entry »
Paul Simon once said, “Little Anthony Gourdine has one of the purest voices to come out of the New York doo-wop scene. [The Imperials] will be remembered as great musicians from the streets of my hometown.” Bob Dylan was also a fan: “The Beatles weren’t rock and roll, nor were The Rolling Stones. Rock and roll ended with Little Anthony and the Imperials.” But by 1973, the group was ready for a new direction, or a “new street,” as it were. The group first worked with then-budding producer Thom Bell a few years earlier on the single “Help Me Find a Way (To Say I Love You)” b/w “If I Love You” for the United Artists label. In 1971, Little Anthony, Harold Jenkins, Clarence Collins and Bobby Wade signed with Avco Records, for whom Bell was recording The Stylistics. In 1973, Bell finally got around to producing an album for Little Anthony and the Imperials, but one with a twist: he would produce and arrange Side One, but on Side Two, those duties would be performed by Teddy Randazzo. Randazzo was a major influence on Bell, and had a long history with The Imperials, too. He wrote the group’s Top 10 hits “Going Out of My Head” and “Hurt So Bad.” Yet On a New Street and its ultra-rare, Philadelphia-recorded follow-up, Hold On, languished for years without a CD release. Cherry Red’s SoulMusic imprint has recently reissued both albums with bonus tracks on a new 2-CD set.
On a New Street might be the ne plus ultra of the group’s post-1960s achievements. A “lost” album from the sweetest period of Thom Bell’s storied career, the Bell side captures producer and vocalists at the peak of their powers. Gourdine’s recognizably pinched vocal tones contrast with those of, say, Philippe Wynne of The Spinners or Russell Thompkins, Jr. of The Stylistics, but Bell instinctively knew how to surround that voice with a soft cushion of soulful accompaniment provided by MFSB. Throughout the five songs on “The Thom Bell Side” of On a New Street, Gourdine has ample chance to fly solo, with The Imperials contributing their impeccable harmonies at just the right moments.
The album was a rare instance of Bell working his magic on an established act. His wholly original orchestral voice supported William “Poogie” Hart on The Delfonics’ first long-player and Russell Thompkins, Jr. on The Stylistics’, and Bell even saw that a long-running act like The Spinners was essentially reborn when he took their production reins. Little Anthony was the most established voice Bell built his pocket symphonies around at that point, but Bell’s abiding affection for Randazzo’s work with the group made On a New Street consistent with their past triumphs.
Naturally, the ballads stand out. Only Thom Bell could have made “The Loneliest House on the Block,” written by fellow Philly legends Norman Harris and Allan Felder, seem like the place you’d most like to be. Bell lushly orchestrated Harris and Felder’s wistful tale of a place “where the windows are closed and the doors are always locked.” The songwriters also made a nice lyrical doff off the hat to The Imperials’ 1964 hit “I’m on the Outside (Looking In),” written by…Teddy Randazzo! (“Loneliest House” later appeared on Thirteen Blue Magic Lane by Blue Magic in 1975.) Though most of the up-tempo tracks could have been suitable for The Spinners, the opening “Falling in Love with You” was straight out of Bell’s playbook for The Stylistics. The entire song is one longing musical sigh, with baroque flourishes, majestically sweeping strings and stately backing vocals plus an insistent keyboard riff that lodges itself in the brain.
Another, much-heralded influence on Bell’s distinctive style was Burt Bacharach, and indeed, that stylistic touchstone is heard via the horns on Bruce Hawes’ swaggering “I Won’t Have Time to Worry” and James Grant’s “La La La (At the End)” but even more subtly on “Loneliest House.” Vince Montana’s (?) burbling vibes make their reassuring presence felt on “Loneliest House” and lend a tropical air as they wash over “La La La.” James Grant’s song, built around a tasty lyrical conceit, is also presented in an alternate mix with brief studio chatter.
Spinners fans will savor the appearance here of “Lazy Susan.” When Bell recorded it with that group in 1974, he gave it a new, slowed-down arrangement, but it cooks in The Imperials’ hands. Linda Creed supplied a typically empathetic lyric about a girl whose “daddy died when she was four/Her mama works the mill the whole day long/But Lazy Susan never worked the mill/She just sings her song, strumming with a guitar pick…” There’s an innocence and sincerity when Anthony vows he “won’t let them laugh at her no more…gonna make people look at her like they never did before!”
Thom Bell once said of Teddy Randazzo and his frequent co-writer Bobby Weinstein: “I love their writing. And I love the arranging that Don Costa does for Little Anthony and the Imperials! That was the first guy that turned me on – Don Costa! They had “I’m on the Outside (Looking In)”, “Hurt So Bad,” “Goin’ Out Of My Head”… After that came Burt Bacharach, another one I loved. They were applying their classical training, I believe, to so-called R&B, modern music. I didn’t know anything about the so-called R&B music at all, until I was about seventeen, eighteen, because that’s not where my family was leaning me. I come from the classical end of it.” He paid Randazzo and Weinstein the ultimate tribute when he co-produced with Deniece Williams the vocalist’s hit recording of their “Gonna Take a Miracle,” originally recorded by The Royalettes.
After the jump: we’re taking a listen to “The Teddy Randazzo Side,” and to the Imperials’ second Avco album, Hold On!. Read the rest of this entry »
Steve Earle once famously wrote, “Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world,” adding for good measure, “and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that.” Earle later backtracked on his statement, answering in the negative whether he really believed Van Zandt was Dylan’s superior. Van Zandt was also embarrassed by the fulsome praise (“I’ve met Bob Dylan’s bodyguards and if Steve thinks he can stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table, he’s sadly mistaken!”) but for Dylan’s own part, the legendary singer-songwriter reportedly was a big fan of the late Texas troubadour. Yet despite having his fans number the likes of Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, Dylan and Earle, Van Zandt died as he lived: a cult figure. His relatively small catalogue of songs enabled him to make a living in the business of song, but his own recordings never achieved mainstream success. A fiercely self-destructive streak ultimately led to his death in 1997, 44 years from the day on which his early inspiration Hank Williams passed.
Earlier this year, Omnivore Recordings pulled back the curtain on Townes Van Zandt’s enduring mystique with the release of Sunshine Boy: The Unheard Studio Sessions and Demos 1971-1972 (OVCD-15, 2013), a double-disc compendium of 28 previously unissued tracks from a true “songwriters’ songwriter” who blurred the lines of folk, country and rock. Sunshine Boy drew from the era that yielded the albums Townes Van Zandt (1970), Delta Momma Blues (1971), High, Low and In Between (1971) and The Late, Great Townes Van Zandt (1972). Omnivore has recently detailed more of the Van Zandt story with reissues of the latter two LPs in remastered CD and vinyl editions, and these have been produced with the same care as the Sunshine Boy collection.
After the jump, we’ll revisit Sunshine Boy (just in case you missed our review the first time!) and explore High, Low and In Between and The Late, Great Townes Van Zandt! Read the rest of this entry »
Though London, England is some 3,500 miles away from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the United States, the spirit of the City of Brotherly Love is alive and well thanks to Cherry Red’s Big Break Records label. Two more remarkable artifacts from Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff’s Philadelphia International empire have recently arrived from BBR, and though both titles have previously been available on CD, these new reissues are their best representations in the format yet.
Fans who only know The O’Jays from their massive hits like “Love Train” and “Back Stabbers” might be surprised by the cover image of 1970’s The O’Jays in Philadelphia (CDBBR 0229) in which the “classic trio” of Eddie Levert, Walter Williams and William Powell are joined – suitcases in hand – by a fourth O’Jay, Bobby Massey. The group actually began its life in Cleveland, Ohio in 1957 as a quintet. Bill Isles departed during The O’Jays’ Imperial Records stay, and Massey was out before the group signed with Philadelphia International. But Massey did participate in one Gamble and Huff production, recorded during the infancy of Philly soul for the duo’s pre-PIR Neptune Records label – The O’Jays in Philadelphia.
Hit the jump as we spin The O’Jays in Philadelphia – plus MFSB! Read the rest of this entry »
Songwriter Bruce Roberts penned “The Lucky One” for the television film An Uncommon Love, in which a college professor begins a relationship with a student earning tuition money by working as a prostitute. For this drama, Roberts (who had already written songs for Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer and collaborated with Bette Midler and Burt Bacharach) crafted an uncommon story of a girl whose “soul was strong, her heart was tough.” He tailored it specifically for the talents and range of Laura Branigan, a vocalist equally comfortable with a sultry whisper and a theatrical belt. “Like a wild bird of prey, like a thief in the night,” Branigan vividly captured the essence of Roberts’ song, from its hushed introduction to its big, “Gloria”-esque chords. The Grammy-nominated “Gloria,” of course, was the Italian pop song reinvented as a dance anthem for the ages by the singer on her 1982 debut album Branigan. She built on its massive international success with further hits such as the power ballad “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You,” and appeared on the Flashdance soundtrack with “Imagination.” For her third album, 1984’s Self Control, the onetime backup singer for Leonard Cohen asserted herself with her most confident and adventurous set of songs yet. Robbie Buchanan and Harold Faltermeyer arranged Self Control, with Buchanan sharing production duties with Jack White. Gold Legion has just reissued this slice of pop in a slipcased deluxe edition with four bonus tracks.
The title track was crafted by Steve Piccolo and Raffaele Riefoli with “Gloria” composer Giancarlo Bigazzi. (It was one of two songs on Self Control from Bigazzi.) Unlike the exultant “Gloria,” though, “Self Control” was a much darker animal. Piccolo’s lyrics immediately set the stage for a story given further illumination via William Friedkin’s evocative music video. “Oh the night is my world,” Branigan sings on the crest of an unusually tough guitar lick, continuing, “City light, painted girls/In the day, nothing matters/It’s the nighttime that flatters…” When she sang, “I live among the creatures of the night,” Branigan was believable as a mature woman looking for excitement in the seamy side of town. Harold Faltermeyer’s arrangement was cutting-edge and electronic but alluring, bolstering Branigan’s vocals – again capable of a hush and a boom – with an anthemic rallying cry. There’s even a touch of Barry Gibb in the title refrain, adding up to a highly dramatic album centerpiece that even eclipsed the success of “Gloria” in many international territories.
“Ti Amo,” the second song on Self Control with the participation of Giancarlo Bigazzi, was also the first of the album’s four songs from songwriter Diane Warren. Branigan was actually the first artist in the U.S. to record Warren’s compositions, finding room for her songs on both Branigan and Branigan 2. “Self Control” gave her an even bigger spotlight. “Ti Amo” was an Italian smash from the “Gloria” team of Bigazzi and Umberto Tozzi; Warren’s American lyrics matched the big melody with the heart-on-your-sleeve style for which Warren herself would become famous. As convincing as she was on “Self Control” as one who lived among the creatures of the night, the singer was equally believable pleading for a lover to return and questioning herself with vulnerability (“Wasn’t I good to you?…I can’t believe you could just turn and leave…”) Her relationship was illicit on the wistful “Silent Partners,” co-credited to Warren and “The Doctor.” On the other side of the spectrum was their “Breaking Out,” a propulsive track with shimmering synths and Branigan in the role of a woman “caught in the trap of a workin’-day world” and ready to break free of those conventions. It’s the kind of quintessential eighties-pop melody and arrangement that sounds like so many others, but was another showcase both for a gifted vocalist and a songwriter poised on the cusp of even greater successes. Even more frenetic was “Satisfaction,” a German track from Bernd Dietrich, Gerd Grabowski and Engelbert Simons with English lyrics from Warren and Mark Spiro. This time, her lyrics had the unenviable task of supporting the nonstop beats arranged by Faltermeyer. (Though the synths played by Faltermeyer and Buchanan stand out on Self Control, there’s also exemplary work all –around in the rhythm section of Carlos Vega and John Robinson on drums, Nathan East on bass, and Michael Landau, Dann Huff and Paul Jackson, Jr. on guitars. Bill Champlin, of Sons of Champlin and Chicago, is among the background singers.)
There’s more on Laura Branigan after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »
What’s It All About: Burt Bacharach Celebrated On PBS, Lost Song Included on “Dionne Warwick Sings Burt Bacharach”
The first voice you’ll hear on My Music: Burt Bacharach’s Best, now airing on PBS stations nationwide, is that of The Maestro himself. “What’s it all about, Alfie?,” he sings in his familiar, quavering tone, finding the fragility in the Hal David lyric that he calls his favorite. Then comes “What the World Needs Now is Love,” sung by its composer with an assist from that International Man of Mystery, Austin Powers (Mike Myers). It’s appropriate that the solo Bacharach introduces this first-ever collection of complete archival performances drawn from the heyday of his still-thriving career. He’s soon joined by a “Who’s Who” of popular music including Dionne Warwick, Dusty Springfield, The Carpenters, The 5th Dimension, Tom Jones, Christopher Cross and Chuck Jackson. Hosted by Robert Wagner, the program is a fascinating, and long-overdue, video jukebox tribute to the songwriter. As is customary for such broadcasts, it’s available to supporters of PBS as a DVD with additional footage, but the team at TJL Productions has sweetened the deal. Burt Bacharach’s Best is available along with Dionne Warwick Sings Burt Bacharach, a new, 25-track CD culled from some of the duo’s best – and not just the oft-anthologized hits. This disc presents, for the first time anywhere, one of the three “reunion” recordings made by Bacharach and Warwick in 1974, “And Then You Know What He Did.” Like the special itself, it’s been worth the wait.
Bacharach’s music has always been most closely associated with female singers, and the composer was lucky enough to have provided material for the crème de la crème. My Music: Burt Bacharach’s Best, which draws entirely on rare, vintage footage from numerous television specials as well as programs such as The Ed Sullivan Show and The Merv Griffin Show, turns over a number of slots to Bacharach’s most frequent muse, Dionne Warwick. A lithe, cool Dionne participates in a production number dedicated to “Walk On By,” joining with its undulating dancers for one memorable sequence. Her subtlety, grace and control come across on “Alfie” and “This Girl’s In Love with You,” and she also joins Elton John, Stevie Wonder and Gladys Knight for the show-closing “That’s What Friends Are For.” But Dionne’s most tantalizing appearance on My Music is via footage of a recording session in which she and Hal David join Bacharach at the piano to rehearse “I Say a Little Prayer.” The excerpts here of the color film are fascinating, and leave the audience wanting more of this “insider” peek. (In modern interview footage seen on the broadcast, Warwick touchingly reflects on the resonance of “I Say a Little Prayer” to Vietnam-era vets and their families.)
Dionne is in good company with the divine Dusty Springfield. Dusty wanders through giant a set of giant photographs of herself (and her ever-evolving hairstyles!) as she sings “The Look of Love,” but even better is the intense rendition of “A House is Not a Home” she performs with Bacharach accompanying on piano. Though famously critical of her own work, Springfield reportedly was “quite proud of” this performance from 1970’s Another Evening with Burt Bacharach…and with good reason. The song builds to an emotional crescendo with both Springfield and Bacharach giving their all. Marilyn McCoo is seen in a clip leading the original 5th Dimension on the melancholy “One Less Bell to Answer,” offering soulful new vocals over the familiar backing track, and Jackie DeShannon is enthralling in stark black-and-white on “What the World Needs Now is Love.” Both McCoo and DeShannon can also be seen on the broadcast’s pledge breaks sharing their modern-day impressions of Bacharach and music.
Of course, the most famous male interpreters of the Bacharach oeuvre don’t get the short shrift. Tom Jones playfully gyrates his way through “What’s New Pussycat,” and Chuck Jackson lathers on the soul for Bacharach and Bob Hilliard’s “Any Day Now,” joined by the composer. (It should be noted that some of these television performances are lip-synched to the original recordings, as was standard practice of the era, but a great many from Dionne, Dusty, Jackie, et. al. are unique, and quite wonderful.) In one memorable clip, B.J. Thomas tries to prove that “nothin’s worryin’ me” as more than mere “Raindrops Keep Falling on [His] Head.” B.J. is surrounded by dancers with umbrellas as he sings through a rainstorm created on the stage of The Ed Sullivan Show! He offers warm words for Bacharach in a new segment. Herb Alpert’s seminal and heartfelt “This Guy’s in Love with You,” Bacharach and David’s first No. 1 Pop song as well as the first for Alpert’s A&M label, is much more subdued. Christopher Cross performs his Academy Award-winning “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)” live with its co-writers Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager joining him and clearly having a good time.
After the jump: what’s on Dionne Warwick Sings Burt Bacharach? We have a full track listing and much more! Read the rest of this entry »
When Bruce Springsteen gave the green light to officially release his 1973 recording of “The Fever” on 1999’s 18 Tracks, The Boss’ decision was rightfully greeted with acclaim. But many of us Jersey boys were in on a secret: Bruce wrote it, but “The Fever” belonged to Southside Johnny Lyon and his Asbury Jukes. Springsteen’s torrid evocation of a burning blue-collar romance, as produced by “Miami” Steve Van Zandt, was the centerpiece of the band’s 1976 Epic Records debut I Don’t Want to Go Home. And it’s one of fourteen freshly remastered slabs of red-hot R&B – both live and in the studio – on Playlist: The Very Best of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes (Epic/Legacy 88765 48611 2, 2013).
“The Fever” – with its unforgettable bass vocals from a pseudonymous Clarence Clemons – is one of three tracks from I Don’t Want to Go Home on the new anthology. Playlist focuses just a single five-year period of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes’ long career, but during those years of 1976-1981, it was entirely possible that the Jersey shore was the epicenter of pure rock and roll. And the sound of the Jersey shore was, in large part, the sound of the Jukes as fully formed on I Don’t Want to Go Home, the first of three landmark Epic albums. It was an exultant open invitation to a bar that never closes, with Lyon (vocals/harmonica), Kenny “Popeye” Pentifallo (drums/vocals), Kevin Kavanaugh (keyboards/vocals), Billy Rush (guitar), Alan Berger (bass), Carlo Novi (tenor saxophone), the future Little Steven (guitars/vocals) and The Miami Horns providing the blood, sweat and tears. (The Jukes’ lineup would be fluid on the albums represented in this set with innumerable guest musicians and singers popping in.)
The band’s spirit was epitomized in the opening lines of that LP’s title track written by Van Zandt and reprised here: “Oh I know that it’s getting late, but I don’t want to go home/I’m in no hurry, baby, time can wait/’Cos I don’t want to go home/Listen to the man sing his song/But I don’t want to go home/I don’t mind if they take all night long/’Cos I don’t want to go home!” Southside’s whiskey-soaked rasp instantly conjures up the time and place. In the year of Born to Run, Lyon, Springsteen, Van Zandt, engineer Jimmy Iovine and co. were synthesizing Stax horns, Drifters strings, Four Seasons pathos, and The Rascals’ blue-eyed soul into a vibrant style that either transcended the familiar tag of “bar band” or significantly raised the, um, bar for all of the other such groups out there!
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