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.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hard Days With Ramsey Lewis (1965)

I figure it is about time I update this blog. My goal was to post at least on tune per week, but sometimes life starts to feel a bit overwhelming and things fall by the wayside. In any case, I'm back and still in a Beatles mood.

There is nothing like the Fab-Four to remind you why you fell in love with pop music on the first place. And because of the recently released remasters, one can recall that The Beatles were not over-rated; they really were THAT good. It great to hear the old favorites and re-discover the songs you had forgotten (George Harrison's "Savoy Truffle" off of 'The White Album' is one such treasure I hadn't seemed to notice in my younger years).

Today's Beatles cover come from the thrift-store find of the week collection. I recently came across a fun album from jazz great Ramsey Lewis, one of the icons of popular jazz in the 1960's. He was an excellent jazz pianist out of Chicago, who scored several hits in the mid-60's which crossed over from the jazz to the pop charts. Some of his hits were "The In Crowd", "Wade In The Water" and his jazz version of The McCoys' "Hang On Sloopy".

Many of Ramsey Lewis' albums contained jazz versions of current hits, yet there was always a fun and playful nature to his versions. Many of his albums were recorded live, and listening to them makes you feel like you're a part of a small club audience; an intimate jazz party. You can always hear it in the background; the clapping, the yelling, the laughing, the good times being had by all.

The song of the day is Ramsey Lewis doing the classic Beatles tune "A Hard Day's Night" off of the 1965 album 'Hang On Ramsey'. The album was recorded live in Hermosa Beach California.

I wish the quality of the track was a little better, but it is a live recording from the sixties and the record was found in a well-worn pile at a thrift-store. In any case, I hope you like it. Click the link below to hear how much fun The Ramsey Lewis Trio was having during their "Hard Day".

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Roxy Music Gets Really Jealous (1983)

Although I can't seem to locate the funds necessary to purchase the new Beatles remastered albums, I lately find myself in a Beatles mood. I have been listening to many of my Beatles albums for the first time in a while and have rediscovered some wonderful less-known gems such as "Hey Bulldog" from 'Yellow Submarine' and their song "Rain" (which was the flip-side to "Paperback Writer").

I have come to the conclusion that although I love most Beatles' tunes, my all time favorites seem to be written by John Lennon. I am also a huge fan of his later solo work, from which he created today's track.

This song was just one of a long line of what I call the "Apologies To Yoko" song series. There was "Woman" from 'Double Fantasy', "Aismasen (I'm Sorry)" from 'Mind Games', and of course "Jealous Guy" off of Lennon's landmark 1971 album 'Imagine".

But today's version of this John Lennon classic comes from the great 80's New Wave band Roxy Music. Roxy Music was founded by musical visionaries Bryan Ferry and Brian Eno, and they had a string of syth-pop hits in the late 70's and early 80's. They are perhaps most well known for their song "More Than This" from their 1982 'Avalon' album. That song has been covered by many artists in a variety of styles.

But getting back to John Lennon, today's track is Roxy Music's cover version of "Jealous Guy" from their live four-track EP 'The High Road' which was released in 1983. Side one of the EP contains original live Roxy songs, but side two has these great live covers of both this John Lennon song and "Like a Hurricane" by Neil Young. It is a great record.

So here it is. Click the link to see why Roxy Music is just so jealous of John Lennon.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Supremes Have A Hard Day (1964)

Well if you are a music fan, then you know that this week is all about The Beatles. Once every couple of years the biggest band in popular music comes out with something new and the world still goes crazy for it.

This week sees the much needed release of the entire Beatles' catalog in its much needed remastered form (or you could just listen to them on vinyl, like I do). There is also the unveiling of the The Beatles "Rock Band" video game. Once again, The Beatles are here, there, and everywhere.
On that note, today's track is a popular Beatles tune; But not by the Beatles because that would be way too obvious. It is a cover version of "A Hard Day's Night" by Diana Ross and The Supremes.

This was one of Motown's fast and cheap albums created to cash in on the popular British Invasion of the mid-1960's. Motown acts would often cover other popular artists of the day, and The Beatles were no exception. Sometimes it would create something great like Stevie Wonder's version of "We Can Work It Out" and sometimes it would just be okay. Such is the case with The Supremes 1964 album 'A Bit Of Liverpool.'

Although the album name-dropping the Beatles' home town of Liverpool, England would imply the album is mostly Beatles' songs, it is in fact filled with various cover versions of many different British artists. The Supremes sing songs by The Animals, Gerry & The Pacemakers, and The Dave Clark Five. The album is a very interesting listen because of the blending of the British pop sound with the Motown R&B style.

It is also fun to remember how new this song was to already be covered by other artists. The original Beatles version of "A Hard Day's Night" had just come out in late summer of 1964 as part of the movie soundtrack of the same name, and by late fall we had this album with The Supremes singing the same song. Recording and releasing records sure moved fast in those days.

So click the link below, to hear The Supremes work like a dog and sleep like a log.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Les Paul Wonders How High The Moon (1951)

I really didn't want too much time to pass before I said something about the great Les Paul who passed away a couple weeks ago at the age of 94. He was a pioneer in sound, music and inventions which helped create modern day rock n' roll. He experimented with, and eventually created what is known as the solid-body-electric guitar, which was what made the rock sound possible.

His most famous invention bears his name, the Gibson Les Paul, perhaps one of the best known styles of guitar in rock music. Most of the early pioneers of rock used this style of guitar to create their sound, among them Chuck Berry and Bill Haley, some of the first artists to introduce rock n' roll to the masses.

In addition to being a music innovator, Les Paul himself was also a very talented musician. He had many hit records that he performed with his wife, country singer Mary Ford. Today's track comes from a Les Paul compilation album called 'Les Paul Now' and features a great track by Les Paul and Mary Ford.

The song is "How High The Moon" and has Mary Ford on vocals and Les Paul playing guitar. The track is from 1951, but already you can hear the emergence of the rock sound from Les Paul's guitar.

Keep in mind when you listen to the track how unique guitar work like this would have been in the early 1950's. This was four years before Bill Haley's "Rock Around The Clock" and Elvis Presley's "That's Alright Mama", both of which are considered to be some of the first true rock n' roll songs.

So happy trails to Les Paul. One of the true creators of Rock n' Roll. Click the link to see how high the moon really is.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Al Green Could Be The One (1975)

One of the biggest icons of 1970's soul music is Al Green. In the late 60's and early 70's, a lot of R&B music began to all sound pretty similar, but Green created his own sound. Within the first few bars of any Al Green song, one can easily identify the artist. His melodies and voice sounded soulful, but also had an element of romance and sensuality that was new and exciting.

He succeeded in creating a new sound, one unique to him; And along with artists like Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder he helped to take R&B music to new heights throughout the 70's.

He is perhaps most well known for tracks like "Let's Stay Together" from the 1971 album of the same name. But today's track comes from one of his lesser known albums 'Al Green Is Love' from 1975. This is another album that is difficult to find on CD (why a great artist like Al Green's entire catalog is not readily available on CD is beyond me) which is why it is lucky that I happen to have a vinyl copy.

The song is "Could I Be The One" and it is an excellent example of Al Green's romantic and soulful sound. So click the link below to find out if Al Green is truly the one.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Booker T. Takes You On A Hi Ride (1971)

Today's track comes from the most famous and influential instrumental soul band of the 1960's; Booker T. & The MG's. The group got their start as the backing band for the Stax/Volt record label. These early soul recordings featured artists such as Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett on vocals, but the great southern soul sound came from keyboardist Booker T. and his house band.

In the early 60's the group began putting out instrumental records under their own name. The most well-known of which was their 1962 album 'Green Onions". That title track song went on to be a top-ten hit for the group and to date has been used in countless TV and film projects. The song is forever in rotation for its fun, infectious groove.

Today's song of the day is off of Booker T's very last album with Stax Records called 'Melting Pot'. The album was released in 1971 and featured a looser and more jam-session style of songs and sounds.

So here is the song "Hi Ride". I do wonder why the title uses "hi" and not "high"? There would never be a thinly veiled drug reference in 60's and 70's pop music, right?

Click the link to go on a groove-centered hi ride.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Lost In Soft Shadows With The Monotones (1958)

It's time again for Raf's thrift store find of the week!

I am a Long-Play collector, but occasionally while sifting through albums at various venues I come across some fun 45 singles. I only buy them if I find an artist or a label that I really like (Anything with a Motown or Apple Records label I must get).

Often my 45's just end up in a box, and rarely get played. There they sit, waiting for the day I can get my own classic jukebox in my home, and load it up with my great finds from over the years. This last week I found a winner amongst many old Andy Williams albums, a 45 single with the famous 'Chess Records' logo.

Chess Records was a Chicago based R&B label that appeared in the 1950's. It was the label that first gave us artists like Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, and my favorite, Bo Diddley.

The record label was also the basis for last year's film 'Cadillac Records' which really should have been called 'Chess Records'. The label was nicknamed "Cadillac" because the founders would often gift new cars to its artists when their albums went gold (with the money coming out of the artist's share of the royalties, of course).

When I found the single with the Chess label, I just had to pay the thrift store price of 50 cents. It is from the Doo-Wop group The Monotones, and the single was their one-hit-wonder song "The Book Of Love" from 1958.

But on this blog, we always ask, "What's on the flip side?" Well, the b-side is the track "Soft Shadows" which also highlights the great early R&B sound of that era. This song demonstrates that maybe the group shouldn't have had only one hit.

Anyway, click the link below to get lost in some soft shadows.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Roy Orbison Says He's My Girl (1965)

The other night while flipping through channels I happened to stop on my local PBS station. They were having a telethon to raise money for public broadcasting while also airing the 1987 concert special 'Black & White Night' featuring Roy Orbison.

I watched the show for quite a while, watching Orbison perform with the likes of Elvis Costello and Bruce Springsteen (Man did everyone look super-cool in '87!) and was reminded what a great artist Roy Orbison really was.

I have been a fan of his since I first heard the opening guitar riff of "Pretty Woman" sometime early in my youth. As I got more into music, I grew to appreciate the uniqueness of Orbison's operatic voice which was combined amazingly with a rock n' roll sensibility.

Roy Orbison, along with Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis was one of the original Sun Records recording artists. That southern rock sound, often called 'rockabilly', helped launch pop music to a whole new level in the late 1950's.

Today's track comes off of Roy's 1965 album titled wonderfully as 'Orbisongs'. This was the album that also contained maybe his most famous song "Pretty Woman". The song is "Say You're My Girl" and features a fun beat and that great swooning Orbison voice.

Click the link below to say you're my girl.