Thursday, December 17, 2009

Roy Orbison Wrapped In Pretty Paper (1963)

Well let's keep those Christmas tunes coming!

Today's track was written by country music legend Willie Nelson. In the early 1960's, Nelson was in Nashville trying to start his own country music recording career, but without much success. He was, however able to get a job writing music for other country stars of the day. Some Willie Nelson penned hits of that period were 1963's "Night Life" by Ray Price, "Funny How Time Slips Away" by Billy Walker in 1962, and perhaps his most famous tune, "Crazy" by Patsy Cline from 1961.

The Christmas themed track today is "Pretty Paper", written by Willie Nelson and originally performed by the great Roy Orbison. It was released as a single around Christmas time back in 1963, and eventually made it on to an album with 'More Of Roy Orbison's Greatest Hits' a year later in 1964.
I have always loved the Orbison sound, and this song is no exception. The soaring voice by Orbison combined with the colorful lyrics by Nelson combined to create a great holiday tune.

Willie Nelson eventually went on to have his own successful recording career, riding the great Outlaw Movement in country music of the late 60's and early 70's. This era in country music gave us greats like Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and even Bob Dylan for a short while.

Throughout his career, Willie Nelson has often revisited his songwriting from those early-years. In fact when Nelson recorded his own Christmas album in 1979, the title track of the album was his old song "Pretty Paper".

So click the link below to hear a great pop/rock/country collaboration on a Christmas song.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The 4 Seasons Say Santa's Coming (1962)

I should admit I have been slightly obsessed with Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons lately. While I was in Reno a couple weeks back, I watched a program highlighting a slew of current Broadway shows. There were live performances from 'Billy Elliot' and 'Rock of Ages' as well as taped segments about upcoming theater events (The Spiderman Musical looks pretty cool if they can get it off the ground).

One of these spots that left the biggest impression on me was the promo for 'Jersey Boys'. In fact, I've had The Four Seasons' 1975 hit "Who Loves You" stuck in my head for weeks now.

The 'Jersey Boys' Broadway show tells the story of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons and their rise to fame in popular music in the 1960's. I was first introduced to Frankie Valli's singing as a kid when we would listen and dance to the 'Grease Soundtrack' in my sister's downstairs bedroom.

Frankie Valli sang the title song to 'Grease' called "Grease Is The Word". Later in life I discovered that particular track was extra-cool, having been written by Barry Gibb of The Bee Gees. How could someone not love a mash up of Bee Gees' songwriting and Four Seasons' singing?

Today's track is the Christmas tune "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" but is sung in the classic Four Seasons' style. The song came off of their 1962 holiday album, brilliantly titled 'The 4 Seasons Greetings'. The album was later re-released in 1966 with the more obvious sounding name, 'The Four Seasons' Christmas Album'.

The Four Season's Christmas record came out a mere three months after the release of their first real album, a compilation of all their early 60's singles called 'Sherry & 11 Others'. In fact the main reason I like this version of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" so much is that it reminds me a lot of their 1962 hit songs "Sherry" and "Big Girls Don't Cry".

So click the link to hear The Four Seasons singing about Santa's pending arrival. And here's hoping I get to see 'Jersey Boys' in the new year.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Clarence Carter Is The Back Door Santa (1968)

The foot of snow outside and the evergreen tree in my living room can mean only one thing. It's time for some Christmas tunes.

Today's track comes from the R&B and soul singer Clarence Carter. Carter is often compared to both Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles (mainly because he is also a blind soul singer) but to me Carter always had a roughness in his voice and a blues sound that reminded me more of Muddy Waters or Otis Redding.

I first became familiar with Clarence Carter several years back when I first heard the song "Patches" on a soul compilation album. Not knowing anything about the artist, I was immediately hooked on his sound and his colorful lyrics. How could anyone not love a song that starts out "I was born and raised down in Alabama, on a farm way back up in the woods; I was so ragged that folks used to call me Patches."

Luckily, a short while after discovering the song "Patches", my local public library decided to sell off most of their existing vinyl collection, and I ended up with about six or seven Clarence Carter albums (among many others). Among them was the 1968 album Testifyin' which contained today's Christmas tune.

The track is "Back Door Santa" and if you are not familiar with the song, you may still recognize the beat. The song was sampled by hip-hop pioneers Run D.M.C. in their hit song "Christmas In Hollis" which appeared on the first 'A Very Special Christmas' album back in 1987.

That Run D.M.C. song was also used in the opening sequence to the first 'Die Hard' film, which is probably one of the greatest Christmas movies of all time.

So click the link below, to hear Clarence Carter be called a Back Door Santa, and I hope your holidays are pretty happy so far.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Gladys Knight Says Thank You (1973)

Well, I'm about a week late on my Thanksgiving-themed post, but I figure better late then never. That big Turkey Day is all about giving thanks, so I thought I would choose a great cover song that says "Thanks" with one of the catchiest rhythm and beats out there.

The song is "Thank You"and it was originally preformed by the legendary funk group Sly & The Family Stone back in 1969. This song, with the whimsical sub-title "Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin" went on to be a #1 hit for the group and is considered one of the first songs to demonstrate the evolution of R&B music into Funk.

The track to this day stands as one of Sly & The Family Stone's greatest hits, which is fitting that the song itself only debuted as a single; and only found its way onto an album with Sly's release of "Greatest Hits" in 1970.
The song itself is such a classic that it has been covered by numerous artists, among them The Jackson 5 and more recently The Dave Matthews Band.

But today's track comes from the classic Motown group Gladys Knight & The Pips. This version of the song comes from their 1973 album 'All I Need Is Time'.
This album contains a few good tracks, but it was overshadowed at the time by their next album (released just three months later--They really pumped them out fast in those days) 'Imagination' which contained the dynamite track "Midnight Train To Georgia".

So let's all say "Thank You" at this time of year for great music. And click the link below to here Gladys Knight and those pesky Pips giving thanks.

P.S. Stay tuned for some great Christmas tracks starting next week!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Billy Joel Stops In Nevada (1973)

Hey vinyl lovers! Been a little busy lately, but I need to find time to keep updating this blog. Also, I haven't yet decided when to start posting some great vintage Christmas tunes. Let me know when you think I should start.

Anyway, for the last week I have been stuck in Reno, Nevada for work. I decided it would be fun to try and find a Reno-themed tune for today. The first song that popped into my head was "All The Way To Reno" by R.E.M.--but that song appeared on their 2001 album "Reveal" therefore making it too new to qualify for my vinyl music blog.

Looking broader I thought of some great Vegas tunes like Elvis Presley's "Viva Las Vegas" from 1963 or The B-52's "Queen of Las Vegas" from 1983. But overall Vegas-themed songs seem overly glossy compared to my life this last week in Reno.

I finally settled on the lesser-known track "Stop In Nevada" from the great singer-songwriter Billy Joel.

What can one say about Billy Joel? His music has now expanded over four decades, with hit songs in a multitude of musical styles (even classical!).

It's hard to pick a favorite Billy Joel era. I love the emotion in the songwriting from his 70's albums, but the layered musical stylings of his 80's albums are also terrific.

Today's track comes off of Billy Joel's landmark album "Piano Man" from 1973. Most people consider it his debut album, although technically it was his second record. A lot of the album has a slight country flavor, leading many to compare it to similar county-rock hybrid albums that Elton John (the other piano man) was releasing around the same time.

Other than the title track and perhaps "Captain Jack" most people are unfamiliar with these early songs. The 'Piano Man' album contains some of these great lesser-known tracks like "You're My Home", "The Ballad of Billy The Kid", and today's track.

For vinyl buffs, the 'Piano Man' record has a fun label, not labeling the sides with the traditional "Side 1" and "Side 2". Instead the sides are simply called "One Side" and "Another Side". Now that's the funny stuff that record collectors love!

So click the link to see if you can spend some time in Nevada with both me and Billy Joel.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Neil Young Vs. The Vampires (1976)

Halloween is almost here! I guess it's time for another fun and rare Halloween themed tune; I think I've found a fun one for today.

Today's track comes from singer-songwriter Neil Young. Neil Young is one of those unique voices is pop-music, one that like Bob Dylan or Tom Waits would have never survived in today's post American Idol world. His singing voice isn't necessarily beautiful, but his songwriting is always top-notch.

Neil Young has a wide-spanning and varied career. He got his start in the 1960's pop group Buffalo Springfield, and quickly emerged as one of the unique voices of the counter-culture movement. His songwriting had strong and meaningful lyrics, quite different from much of the 60's pop songs of the time.
Into the 1970's Neil Young created the rock group Crazy Horse; and also went on to rotate in and out of the folk group Crosby, Stills, and Nash (later known as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, then transforming into Crosby & Nash, then Nash & Stills, and then Stills & Manassas (Really) and then going back to Crosby, Stills, Nash & "Sometimes" Young--it's all very complicated).

But even with all the participation in various groups, I have always been a fan of Neil Young's individual solo efforts. Today's track comes from the 1974 album 'On The Beach'. This album has always been a favorite with vinyl collectors as it was never available on CD until recently.

The track is "Vampire Blues", and I found it quite appropriate for Halloween, although I believe the song itself is actually an attack on the oil industry. Enjoy the blood-suckers people!

Anyway, click the link below to feel those Vampire Blues.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

R. Dean Taylor Has A Ghost Problem (1967)

Can you believe we are already heading into the last weeks of October? I guess that means it is time to feature some fun Halloween themed songs here at Collecting Vinyl.

Today's song is from little-known Motown recording artist R. Dean Taylor. Prior to his own recording career, he was a songwriter at Motown who penned a few unmemorable tracks for The Four Tops and The Temptations. He is pretty much considered a one-hit-wonder, from his 1970 hit single "Indiana Wants Me" which can be found on many a 70's compilation.
Perhaps one of the biggest fun-facts about R. Dean Taylor was that he was one of the few white artists to ever record for the Motown label; I can only think of him and the group Rare Earth who can be found at that footnote of Motown's history.

The track comes from a 1987 Motown complilation album called 'Motown Trackin', and today's Halloween song is "There's A Ghost In My House" from 1967. I think the song has a great intro and fun chorus provided by The Funk Brothers, the backing-rhythm group primarily responsible for the Motown Sound.

So click the link below to hear that creepy, scary ghost that's in my house.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

David Porter Needs Some Help (1971)

First off I should admit that this blog is slowly devolving into nothing more that a list of Beatles covers. But as I am a big fan of The Bealtes and the many interpretations of their songs, I can't really say that I mind.

Anyway, due to my brother's recent excursions in Memphis, I find myself in a mood for some wonderful Southern Soul. When I think of Memphis, one of the first things that comes to mind is the legendary Stax-Volt label.

Stax is the record company responsible for some of the greatest R&B songs and acts of the 1960's. They housed Otis Redding, Carla Thomas, and Booker T. & The MG's just to name a few.

Today's track comes from the slightly more obscure Stax recording artist David Porter.

Porter stared out at Stax as a songwriter. He was partnered with future R&B star Issac Hayes and together they wrote some of the greatest soul hits of the 1960's. That team was responsible for almost all of the hits by the group Sam & Dave, including "Hold On, I'm Coming", "When Something Is Wrong With My Baby" and of course "Soul Man".

When Isaac Hayes own solo career started top take off in the late 60's, his writing partner decided to also try and make some music of his own. David Porter went on to release several albums for the Stax label starting in the early 70's. Today's track comes off his 1971 album 'Victim Of The Joke" and as you may have guessed, it is another Beatles tune.

The song is "Help"; originally done by The Beatles in 1965. So here it is. Click the link below to hear Stax-Star David Porter doing his version of The Beatles classic.