Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Brothers Johnson Come Together in 1976

I'm enjoying the 70's soul theme of the last few posts, so lets just stick with it. Why ruin a good thing with some New-Wave pop from the 80's or some classic rock? Maybe if I could combine classic rock and soul music? Yeah, that's the ticket. We'll try that.

Today's song is a recent acquisition. Last week during my return journey from out of town, I passed through Boise, Idaho; which to me means a visit to 'The Record Exchange'. 'The Record Exchange' is a great music store which still caries a lot of vinyl. There must not be too many vinyl collector's in that town because whenever I go, I always find some great albums.
The record I found last week was the debut album from the 70's funk and soul group The Brothers Johnson. The album is 'Look Out For #1' and it's from 1976. The Brothers Johnson were actual brothers who got their start playing in rhythm sections for artists like Billy Preston and Bobby Womack. Eventually they connected with super producer Quincy Jones who helped them create their sound and produce some of the best funk albums of the 1970's.

Today's track from that first album is a cover of the classic Beatles song "Come Together". In my opinion, you can never go wrong with an R&B version of a Beatles song. "Come Together" is an John Lennon penned tune from the classic 1969 album 'Abbey Road'. The famous album cover that created the legend of Paul McCartney being dead. I'm not sure if I see it.

So here it is. The Brothers Johnson singing "Come Together" from 1976. Click the link for some fun.

P.S. Hey blog followers! Let me know what you think of the site so far. Also, please make some suggestions as to some artists you might want to see featured on the blog. Thanks!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Bobby Womack Flies To The Moon (1968)

Well it's all over the news today that it is the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, so obviously I had to pick a song about moon. Of course the moon is such a romantic object, that it has appeared in songs over and over.

There's Henry Mancini's 'Moon River', 'It's Only A Paper Moon' by Nat King Cole, Van Morrison's 'Moondance', 'Man On The Moon' by R.E.M., The Police's 'Walking On The Moon', and 'The Killing Moon' by Echo & The Bunnymen. And those are just the one's right off the top of my head.

I think the ultimate traveling to the moon tune is probably 'Fly Me To The Moon', which is today's track. The Sinatra version would be way to obvious. Today's track comes from 70's R&B singer Bobby Womack, another great soul singer who is not as well known as he should be.

Womack started out playing guitar for Sam Cooke, and eventually moved into songwriting and performing himself. His version of 'Fly me To The Moon' was the title track to his 1968 debut album.

He went on to have several other hits, most notably 'Lookin' For A Love' as well as creating the iconic 1972 soundtrack to the blaxspoitation film "Across 110th Street". Along with "Superfly" and "Shaft" this soundtrack helped to define both an era and an entire genre of film.

So here it is. In honor of the moon landing 40 years ago today, which was one year after this song was recorded. Click the following link to fly to the moon.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Last Words From Wings (1976)

Hey! Did anyone else catch Paul McCartney playing up on the "Late Show with David Letterman" marquee the other night. It was good fun. To see that artist performing at the Ed Sullivan Theater again has to be some sort of rock n' roll synergy.

In any case, that performance put me in a Paul McCartney mood. But which track to choose? There are of course many great Beatles songs, but that seems too obvious. That leaves his great 70's group Wings, and Paul's solo work.

I think I got it. Here's a choice nugget from the 1976 three LP live set called "Wings Over America". These three albums chronicle Paul McCartney and Wings' 1976 American tour.

One of my favorite lesser known McCartney songs is "Picasso's Last Words" which originally appeared on the excellent 1973 album 'Band On The Run'. That album gave us great tracks like "Jet" and my favorite ode to a Land Rover, "Helen Wheels".

The story goes that "Last Words" came about because Paul was having dinner with Dustin Hoffman, who asked about the art of songwriting. Paul said all he needed was a good idea and the song would basically write itself. Dustin then retold a story he had read in People Magazine that day about the artist Picasso who had recently passed away, and what witnesses recounted as his final words the evening before his death.

Apparently, Paul picked up his guitar and wrote this song in about two minutes. Now that is musical genius.

So here it is. The live version of "Picasso's Last Words" from Wings' 1976 tour.

P.S. Speaking of actors, did you know that actors like James Coburn and Christopher Lee are featured in the prison-break scene on the cover of "Band On The Run"? It's true.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Making Love To Bill Withers (1975)

If I had to pick a favorite genre of vinyl records in my collection, it would probably be R&B. I especially love collecting albums from the great soul-funk era of the 1970's. There are so many lost gems hidden inside the R&B albums of the 70's, and I love discovering them.

One of my favorite artists of this period is Bill Withers. He is not as well-known as perhaps Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, or even Al Green, all of whom were making terrific music during this period, but he really should be.

If you don't know the name, you surely recognize some of his songs. He wrote such classics as 'Ain't No Sunshine', 'Lean On Me' and the buddy-movie anthem 'Just The Two Of Us'. His best known album is probably his debut "Just As I Am" from 1971.

For some unknown reason, only about half of Bill Withers excellent albums have ever been released on CD. But fear not, friends. I have some of these 'missing albums' on vinyl. Today's track comes from one of those, the 1975 album "Making Music".

The song is 'Make Love To Your Mind', and along with 'She's Lonely' it is really one of the real stand-out tracks on the album. Maybe if you're good I'll share that other track in the future.

There have been by my count over six Bill Withers 'Best Of' compilations over the last few years, but no decent releases for any of his mid to late 70's albums. I guess it's a good thing some people hung on to, and still seek out vinyl.

Anyway, click the link to make love to Bill Withers. He wouldn't want it any other way.

Hotel Living With Michael Jackson (1980)

After an almost two week stint out of town, I have finally returned. When you stay in a hotel for that long, something strange happens. That hotel room and the lobby pretty much become your new life and new world for a while. At least I had Michael Jackson coverage to keep me sane, or insane, depending on how you look at it.

So today's track is a Michael Jackson "hotel" themed song to coincide with my ongoing traveling adventures. The track is 'Heartbreak Hotel' from The Jackson's 1980 release "Triumph".

The Jackson brothers left Motown records in 1976, and it was not an amicable split. Motown claimed they owned the name "The Jackson 5" and therefore all subsequent releases by the group they were simply called "The Jacksons". Which was really a good idea considering the revolving door of Jackson brothers and sisters that seemed to be coming in and out of the group during this period.

Today's track was both written and primarily performed by Michael Jackson, as he was clearly more artistically confident after the success of his first real solo effort 'Off The Wall'. That album had been released mere months before creating this album with his brothers.

One interesting note about this track was that although my vinyl copy of "Triumph" lists this song clearly as 'Heartbreak Hotel', subsequent CD releases of this album and Jackson compilations call the same song 'This Place Hotel' most likely to not confuse the track with the famous Elvis Presley song of the same name.

So happy hotel living. And click the link to enjoy some real 'Heartbreak'.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Some Good Beach Boys Vibes From 1966

Well with the 4th of July weekend over, it officially really feels like summer. When I think of the soundtrack of summer, really only one group comes to mind: The Beach Boys.

Today's track comes from the 1983 album "Beach Boys Rarities" which is an out-of-print 'official bootleg' album containing several rare tracks from The Beach Boys 1960's heyday.

Among the highlights on the album are several Beatles covers, as well as an odd German version of 'In My Room'. But my favorite songs on this compilation are some of the original "Smile" tracks.

"Smile" was supposed to be The Beach Boys follow up to "Pet Sounds" and musically was going to be their "Sgt. Pepper's" album. The group was working on this album all throughout 1966, and all who heard the songs said that they were the most musically complex and beautiful songs ANY pop group had ever created.

Unfortunately, in-fighting within the group over the new musical direction and Brian Wilson's fragile emotional state at the time led to the project being scrapped. Many of the songs appeared re-recorded on later Beach Boys albums, but many of the original tracks were never officially released.

'Good Vibrations' was originally conceived as the very last track of the "Smile" album, and today's track is the "Smile" version of that song, and not the popular single version that most people are familiar with.

Click the link for some good vibes.

P.S. Luckily, Brian Wilson as a solo artist would go on to complete the "Smile" concept album in 2004. I saw it live in concert. It was amazing.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Happy '4th Of July' From Springsteen (1973)

Happy Independence Day everyone! Well, yesterday's post about 'The Boss' put me in a super-Springsteen mood. Plus, his songs often have an overtly American theme. Heck, on 1980's double album "The River" he even had a song called "Independence Day."

But that's not the song of the day. Today's track comes from the 1973 album "The Wild, The Innocent & The E Steet Shuffle" which was his sophomore release. The song is fittingly called '4th of July, Asbury Park'.

I love this era of Springsteen. He wouldn't hit it big until 1975's "Born To Run" and there is a fun anything-goes rock vibe and a melodic simplicity to his earliest albums. In fact, his debut album, 1972's "Greetings From Asbury Park, New Jersey" is probably my favorite Springsteen album of all time.This debut album had Springsteen's song 'Blinded By The Light' which would become a big hit not for him, but for Manfred Mann's Earth Band in 1977. On a VH1 Storytellers episode, Springsteen once said he wrote the song with the aid of a new rhyming dictionary he had just purchased. And upon writing 'Blinded By The Light' it promptly burst into flames.

He also recounted that the reason Manfred Mann's version was a hit and not his was that they seemed to change the word "deuce" to "douche". He's probably right. That line "revved up like a douche" is enigmatic enough to cause one to pay more attention to the song.

So here it is. '4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)' from 1973. Click the link to celebrate America.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Freedom Track From 'The Boss' (1988)

Well it's Fourth of July weekend coming up. I'm not really sure how we got to July since in my mind 2009 just barely started. Independence Day is a great holiday for food, fireworks, and freedom.

When I think of freedom, I often think of America and Americana. In the music world, one of the most iconic American artists is 'The Boss' himself, Bruce Springsteen (By the way, the answer to the question, 'Who's the boss?' Is always Springsteen. Never Tony Danza).

Springsteen is iconic American because he was both "Born In The USA" AND "Born To Run".

Only in America can a birthright like that give rise to the nickname 'The Boss'. He is not the first artist to have a nickname. Elvis was 'The King' and Frank Sinatra was 'Old Blue-Eyes'. But there is something about being 'The Boss' that is just beyond cool.

Todays track comes from a 1988 four song EP that Springsteen put out to both promote and raise money for Amnesty International. In the opening banter on this live track he talks about freedom being more than just an American ideal, it is a right for all people across the world.

The song is 'Chimes of Freedom' from the Springsteen record of the same name.

The song was originally written and performed by Bob Dylan on his 1964 album "Another Side Of Bob Dylan." That album lived up to its name as it was the first time that Dylan's sound started to shift away from pure folk music. His well-known song 'It Ain't Me Babe' comes off of this album as well.

So happy 4th of July everyone. And click the link to listen to "Chimes of Freedom".


P.S. The back of the album says this live track was recorded on July 3, 1988. How's that for almost being 4th of July related?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Michael Jackson Jazz Cover From 1988

Alright everyone, it is time for 'Raf's Thrift Store Find of The Week'.

The records in my collection have come from a lot of different places over the years. Some come from vintage record shops, some from e-bay, others are inherited from basement cleaners who know I like vinyl. But my favorite way to hunt for records is at thrift shops and garage sales.

There is just something fun about going through a big pile of possibilities. More often than not, when browsing through thrift store records, one has to weed through a ton of garbage to find that one gem. But when you find it, it's a rush.

Some of my favorite records in my collection are thrift store finds. And best of all, all lp's are only a buck. I will often roll the dice on an artist I am unfamiliar with for a dollar. The result is some great finds.

Todays track comes from a group called Members Only. I knew nothing about this group when I found the record on Monday; All I knew was that the black sticker on the twenty-year old shrink wrap said "Featuring The Smash Michael Jackson Song". That was enough for me.

The album is called "The Way You Make Me Feel" and is from the year 1988. Based on the cover, I assumed it was some small-time R&B/Soul artist, maybe in the 80's style of Teena Marie or Donna Summer.

As it turned out, the album was Jazz Fusion. Not exactly my style, but fun to have an obscure Michael Jackson cover. The original song was on Michael's 1987 album "Bad".

The sax solos are from a jazz musician named Nelson Rangell, who has gone on to have a pretty decent solo career. His sound sort of reminds me of David Sanborn, which is much better than sounding like Kenny G (Sanborn's 1982 album "As We Speak" is a favorite).

Anyway, here it is. Michael Jackson's 'The Way You Make Me Feel' by Members Only. Click the link to enjoy.