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Colette’s Corner: The Beatles LIVE, via Sir Paul

Deja Vu

Deja Vu

Colette checks in from Summer with a terrific tribute to those fabulous lads from Liverpool, with a focus on the irrepresible Macca at the fore. 

Music Maven commentary at the conclusion.

Last week was great for Beatle fans.  Paul McCartney was on the Letterman show for the first time, and insisted on performing on the roof of the Broadway theater that used to be The Ed Sullivan Theatre — where (inside) the Beatles made their US debut, 40-plus years ago.  Then he played at the opening of CITI Field in New York, which replaced the old Shea Stadium where the Beatles performed, on the their final US tour.

The rooftop concert on Broadway was also nostalgic because it included Get Back, which the Beatles sung on the roof of a London building in 1969 while doing an amazing, impromptu set during the filming of Let It Be.  They didn’t know it would be their final performance together, ever.  On the “unplugged” album of Let It Be, you hear them chatting about how great it would be to do a tour again.

Alas, it was never to be. 

John and Yoko moved to NYC, and created such amazing tunes as Imagine and Woman, before he was gunned down so tragically in 1980.  George turned out some fine music too (My Sweet Lord, etc.) on disc, and branched out into producing movies (including Monty Python flicks).  Ringo kept drumming, and touring, but low-key as always.

Paul McCartney was the one who kept doing what the  Beatles spent their teens and twenties doing together —  being a working rocker — and staying remarkably youthful, positive and productive, despite losing his wife and his longtime musical partner, both too young.

After John’s death, McCartney gradually dusted off the amazing Lennon-McCartney songbook — which is simply unmatched by any other pop band.  And what a gift it’s been to hear these songs again, by one of the guys who made them, mostly in their grand original arrangements, with Paul keeping the flame going for a new generation of fans and admiring musicians — including Beatles-lovers like American Idol’s Kris Allen (who does Hey Jude on the Idol tour),  Dave Grohl (of the Foo Fighters) and  Eddie Vedder.

Here are some of Paul’s finest post- Beatle live performances of the Beatles catalogue, culled from the last 20 years — with an emphasis on splendid songs that haven’t been covered extensively by others.

I just want to add for people younger than this Baby Boomer:  you can’t imagine how much the Beatles mattered to us.  They emerged right after the death of JFK, which was deeply traumatic for the whole nation, but especially us children, and they brought with them freshness, cheekiness and a musical magic that helped us heal.

Paul at the Citi Stadium concert, with Billy Joel (a huge Beatles fan and NY hometown hero) chiming in, on a rousing early  hit — the “B” side of I Want to Hold Your Hand.

  —  I Saw Her Standing There

Sir Paul gave us Beatlemaniacs a treat with his “unplugged” concert in 1991, where he played acoustic instruments and revived  gorgeous Beatles harmonies with his new band mates, on fab songs like this  from Rubber Soul.  Note that he let the gray show in a mullet “do” — now he dyes it, but who cares?  The man is ageless:

 — I’ve Just Seen a Face (Unplugged)

On this exquisite ballad from Revolver, Paul’s beautiful falsetto gives me shivers …..and, he added accordion!

   — Here, There and Everywhere   (Unplugged) 

Thanks to this timeless ballad, The Beatles eventually started to get serious props from older musicians and “serious” critics, who assumed they were just a pop craze and would fizzle out.   I remember my own snobby, jazz musician brother saying, “Well, maybe they’re better than I thought….”   Here, Paul is singing it at a charity concert, just him and a guitar, in 1997:

 — Yesterday

I adore everything on Meet the Beatles, their first American LP.   This was their first big hit in England, and it still pleases.   I have no idea where this clip originated, but Paul is performing it in a big stadium somewhere with mobs of people groovin':

Please, Please Me

John’s death hit Paul very hard.   He’s paid homage in several ways, but I love this remarkable medley that begins with A Day in the Life from Sergeant Pepper and ends with Give Peace a Chance, best.   Filmed during a big concert in the Beatles’ hometown of Liverpool, in 2008:

 —  A Day in the Life

 Two from the early 1960s, not often covered, but played by McCartney in the last decade at concerts which always drew in several generations,  all getting high together on the music….

 — I’ll Get You

 — I’ll Follow the Sun

The  Beatles proved they could ROCK like nobody’s business!   They wrote all those pretty love songs, but they loved doing rave-ups too, like this classic, encored by Paul in that Liverpool concert.  Note the trademark McCartney Scream!  It’s still fearsome –

 — Can’t Buy Me Love

At this point, I need to bring The Beatles in on this set.  Paul does a tremendous job keeping their sound alive,  but it’s wonderful to hear the Real Thing too.  They didn’t have decent amplification or recording technology back then.   And as Garth Brooks once noted, it’s astonishing they stayed in tune and together despite the dinky speakers, crappy mikes and orgiastic screaming of fangirls!   They’d just played together so long in so many little divey clubs in England and Germany, that they were TIGHT:

  — Can’t Buy Me Love  (the Beatles version, live in 1964)

Here’s Paul dusting off a rock-out crowd pleaser from the 1960s, in the CITI Field concert — at which he played 30 SONGS! 

  — I’m Down

And The Beatles version at Shea Stadium more than four decades ago…

    — I’m Down,  Beatles at Shea, 1965   

 I adore this clip because it shows both their musicianship and great their love and delight in making music together.  John is cutting up, George is breaking up, Paul is trying to keep it together, and Ringo is bashing away happily behind them.    Pure joy. 

Finally, here’s Paul doing Get Back on the Sullivan theatre’s roof   — and kidding around with the crowd while they were waiting to start.  This is a fan’s video, and expresses the excitement on the street where a lucky 4,000 people were allowed to congregate and watch.   (Sir Paul sang several songs they didn’t show on TV, but they’re all posted on YouTube now).  So here it is:

 — Get Back,  July 19, 2009

 And here are The Beatles singing it in 1969, on a London rooftop — where the cops broke up their final concert!  Well, at least we have this wonderful clip — the good sound makes you pine for what might have been if they’d gotten back on the road.  

 —  Get Back,  1969

 

BEATLES FOREVER!

 

 

Another great contribution from Colette!

I just wanted to interject one small point about the most under-appreciated Beatle of all, Ringo.  While he was never the at the forefront of The Beatles and is sometimes forgotten due to his unassuming, laid back style, Ringo is quite a force himself.

After The Beatles breakup, Ringo rivaled Sir Paul in hits in the early 70s.  First came It Don’t Come Easy in ’71:

He followed up with one of my personal favorites, Back Off Bugaloo in ’72, Photograph in ’73 and You’re Sixteen  in ’74.  While lesser recognized, these hits were certainly on par with McCartney’s Band on the Run and Jet and Hell on Wheels, yet Ringo gets the least love of all The Beatles.  I recognize that many only associate Ringo with the dreadful 1981 film, The Caveman, but Ringo is a solid one-quarter of The Beatles and is as accomplished as John, Paul, and George. 

Lastly, Ringo paid special tribute to John in singing the Lennon-esque I Call Your Name on the 1oth anniversary of John’s death with special help from Joe Walsh and Jim Keltner along with Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty of  Traveling Wilbury fame.

While Sir Paul is definitely the Beatles’ standard bearer, even he recognizes the force that is Ringo.  I’ll close with Sir Paul getting by with a little help from his friend:

 

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Colette’s Corner: Hot Buttered Soul, American Style

Here is a long awaited entry from Colette.  Personally, I think Soul is alive and well in the good, ole U. S. of A.  Of course, if you are a creature of terrestial radio, you’re not going to hear it.  That’s why the interwebs are so important.   I have some additional thoughts on “the new radio”, but I’ll save that for later.  For now, enjoy Colette’s Soul buffet:

Listening Party:   Hot Buttered American Soul Singers 2009

 As young Brits like Duffy and Amy Winehouse and Adele rack up big record sales and Grammy Awards, I’ve been wondering what’s up with our homegrown soul singers.  I’m not talking about that heavily processed dance-beat monotony mulch that is sometimes called Neo-Soul, no no no.  I’m talking bluesy voices, rugged and smoother, that are bringing the Motown/Stax/Philly sound of yore back with a new twist.

 What do you think?  Do they have the right stuff?  

 You’ll note that quite a few of these performances are from the terrific British music TV show Live with Jools Holland.  Holland is a good piano player and an excellent scout for cutting-edge talent — all the great young Brit acts have appeared on his program, and a lot of American artists (young & older) too.  I’m jealous: why can’t we have a show like his?   A new “Soul Train”?

Someday, in my dreams.  In the meantime, here a few I like, and wonder what your take is:

Rafael Saadiq isn’t exactly a new artist — he was one of the members of  the top New Jack Swing group (ok, anyone recall what New Jack Swing was??) called Tony! Toni! Tone!  And he’s been through several musical phases.    Now he’s done a very, very cool maneuver, his own version of Temptation-esque retro-soul, smooth as silk.  (He’s also Joss Stone’s boyfriend, but don’t hold that against either of them….)  Love this hot, hot appearance on Jimmy Kimmel’s TV show last month:

  –  Rafael Saadiq, “The Hundred Yard Dash”

And one of the best songs on his recent disc:

  — Rafael Saadiq, “Love That Girl”

Someone here recently put up a link for Melody Gardot.  Is she jazz? Pop? Soul?  Who cares?   This young woman, disabled since a car crash, has just a classic, achy-breaky voice steeped in cool.  Am loving her — she deserves a big future:

 — Melody Gardot, “Worrisome Heart”

Sugarush Beat Company is an  interesting group with a cool Stax-y vibe in their tune “L-O-V-E.”  They released their first album last September.  And they’re multinational, with members hailing from the US, Denmark and Britain.  Here they are on Jools’ show recently:

 — Sugarush beat company, “L.O.V.E.”

Here’s the wildcat kid from Massachusetts (previously featured by Music Maven), who is tearing it up in Europe, but pretty obscure in the U.S.  He plays a mean guitar, and is a wail of a singer, Eli “Paperboy” Reed — love the moniker!  And he reminds a little of a male Janis Joplin:

 == Eli Paperboy Reed & The True Loves, “Everywhere You Go”

Ruby Turner had some shlocky pop hits in the late 1980s, but her purified blues-soul approach today is kickin.’   Here she is with Jools Holland recently, on a swinging tune they recorded together (check out the female alto sax’s solo!):

  — Ruby Turner, “The Informer”  (with Jools Holland)

One of my favorite American Idol contestants, really too good to win!, is Melinda Doolittle.  She came out with a very fine first album, “Coming Back to You,” and the Idol franchise could help her enormously if they just gave her a guest spot this season!  But nooooo, they have to give the spotlight to the far, far inferior Kellie Pickler!  Drat….but I really encourage you to support Melinda’s career — she’s worthy indeed.  Here is her great opening salvo on American Idol 2007:

 — Melinda Doolittle, “Since You Been Gone”

And here’s her first single from the  new album:

 — Melinda Doolittle, “It’s Your Love”

I also can’t give up on Taylor Hicks.  As Music Maven has duly noted, he has a new album out and while it’s not the soulful stuff of my dreams, its closer to the bone than Taylor’s misbegotten first post-Idol disc.  As usual, it’s always best to hear him entertain live. Here’s a clip from a recent appearance on “Regis and Kelly”:

  –“What’s Right Is Right”, Taylor Hicks

I adore Ryan Shaw, and I just wish he would get a boost because he’s HOT.  He did have a Grammy nomination recently, but not enough people know about this sweet Southern guy, and his superior soul pipes.  Here he is live on the BET network:

 —  Ryan Shaw, “I’m Your Man”

If I can get one other person excited about Tyrone Wells, I’ll be happy.  This Washington State native has a rabidly loyal semi-underground following, and he’s just terrific live. Good songwriter and guitarist, and great singer, and just put out a new album, “Remain.”   Here he is with one of my fave tunes of his:

 — Tyrone Wells, “Baby  Don’t You Change”

Some soulful artists really deserve an encore, and jazzy singer Randy Crawford is back with a cover of a terrific old Staple Singers tune that’s getting a lot of airplay on some FM stations.  Here she is on French TV — you can catch glimpses of  British soulster James Morrison, really diggin on Randy and the wonderful jazz pianist Joe Semple.  Their new album together is a grand groove — sorry the clip is a little out of sync — but it sounds great!

 — randy crawford &  joe semple, “Respect Yourself”

LeRoy Bell, whose folky-soul is very popular in the Pacific NW, and really deserving of more attention.  (His uncle, by the way, is the great Thom Bell, co-architect of the 1970s Philly Sound of Lionel Ritchie, etc.)  This is from his last album, released in 2008:

 

 — LeRoy Bell, “Fly on the Wall”

I gotta end with the hardest working soul singer in show biz, Sharon Jones.    With her fab young band the Dap Kings (who appeared on Amy Winehouse’s record) she’s keeping the funk flame  burning — what a scorcher!   Seeing her live is being sent into a time capsule right back to early Tina-land.  Here she is on French TV, tearin’ it up as per usual:

 — Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings

Thanks, Colette.  Great list, but I HAVE to include my boy, Marc Broussard.   Marc was at the forefront of the recent soul revival and besides, he’s a child of God’s Country.

  Let Me Leave, Marc Broussard

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2009 in colette's corner, Soul, Uncategorized

 

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Colette’s Corner: Don’t Worry, Be HAPPY

A few weeks ago, I called for a moratorium from bad news and made a concious decision to be positive and not let my cynicsm get the better of me.  I consider it a Lenten penance as I really am a member of the Piss & Moan Club.  Colette seized upon this opportunity to support me in my quest for “half-full”-ness by submitting a post on “happy” songs.

However, Colette omits THE MOST “happy” song, ever:

  Don’t Worry, Be Happy — The Chipmunks 

Also, I have to share a little serendipity.  Today, as I was preparing this post, I recieved a comment on a post I did a couple of years ago on Marc Broussard and his take on Love & Happiness.   Ned Theall, veteran trumpeter and Boogie King extraordinaire left a comment.

That made me VERY happy… 

Happy Together

 

With thanks to Paul McC, Johnny N,  Al Green, Aretha & all the musical joy-givers

 

Since Music Maven so wisely called a moratorium on bad news, it got me thinking:  what songs just fill me pleasure every time I hear them?  Which ones really get those endorphins going — thanks to their great hooks, upbeat lyrics and joyous performances?

 

I think we have to cling to whatever gives us joy in times like this.  It can’t help to get bummed out — the universe doesn’t offer any reward at all for that.   We’re alive, music in the air, love doesn’t cost a penny, and while that ain’t everything it sure is something to be grateful for.

 

So here are some of my Happy Hall of Fame songs & performances.  May they give you a boost, no matter what’s bothering you:

 

From my childhood on, just a few bars of the Beatles could restore me to good mental health.  This song especially, from “Revolver,” performed here by Sir Paul on tour, and just a fab picker-upper:

 

Good Day SunshinePaul McCartney

 

This tune has been covered by many, many artists (most notably Jimmy Cliff), but I love it in its original reggae-beat format sung here in the 1970s by the guy who made it a beam of sunshine Top 40 hit, actor-singer Johnny Nash:

 

 — I Can See Clearly NowJohnny Nash

 

Whatever your religion, or lack of it, this tune is sanctified.  It was a sneaky, underdog hit in the 1970s, from a then-obscure choir in Oakland, CA led by Edwin Hawkins.  The rest is gospel history, but the great Hawkins Family of singers is certainly still with us:

 

 — Oh Happy Day — Edwin & Lynette Hawkins and Choir

 

All right, I know what you might be thinking:  shlockmeister Neil Diamond?  Well Neil has many facets, and before he was doing a lot of middle-of-the-road, self-indulgent dreck, he was writing some very cool tunes.  This for me is his best (written for The Monkees), which he performs here in a recent concert in Glastonbury, England with great verve and a terrific band:

 

 — I’m a BelieverNeil Diamond

 

This song on the radio can send me into a delirium of delight.  Yes, it’s my own true soul guru The Rev. Al Green, before he became a “rev.”  In this clip from “Soul Train” he sounds so gooood, and looks so pur-dy.   The tune?  Of course, “Love and Happiness,” and he’s still singing it:

 

 — Love & Happiness — Al Green

 

I have a special place in my heart for this little Aretha Franklin novelty, because it not only captures her in fine, fine 1980s form, but also connects me back to my very young youth in the Motor City, when Detroit was the proud auto and soul music center of the universe.  It’s changed a lot, but the essence of its past glory is here:

 

  — Freeway of Love — Aretha

 

A generation away in age, but a spirit that burns true and beautiful, is Corinne Bailey Rae’s great gift of a song with its message: when life gets tough, the tough listen to music.  Rae has dropped off the face of the entertainment world since the drug death of her beloved musician husband.  May she heal soon, and keep bringing us great music to soothe her soul and ours:

 

 — Put Your Records OnCorinne Bailey Rae

 

Paul Simon has written a lot of brooding songs, and some upbeat masterpieces.  Here’s a Tokyo performance, with a fine band (he always hires the best), on a tune that celebrates crazy youth and growing up In Queens:

 

  – Paul Simon —  Me & Julio

 

Though his first post-Idol CD does little for me (so what else is new), I still adore David Cook.  Compare his beautiful voice and assured musicality on last year’s American Idol with the motley crew vying for the title this year and…..well, let’s just say it’s no contest.  This song, originally by The Turtles, was fave for me way, way back there in the 60s.  I love his sly, ebullient take on it:

 

 — Happy Together – David Cook

 

Finally, a recent version of a Dire Straits tune that’s a toe-tapping affirmation of humanity, without any pretentious BS.  I love that Knopler is still out there, making music and spreading happiness:

 

Walk of Life — Mark Knopler

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2009 in colette's corner, Marc Broussard

 

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Colette’s Corner: Odetta

odetta

Odetta & Company:  Big Voices, Big Souls

 

One of America’s greatest folk-blues “roots” singers died in December.  That was Odetta Holmes, known to the world simply as “Odetta.”

 

Odetta was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1930, and blessed with one of the most distinctive voices on record — deep, robust and rich with feeling.  Rather than go in a pop direction, as most of her equally blessed contemporaries did, Odetta  studied opera.  When she realized “no one would hire a black girl to sing at the Metropolitan Opera,”  she delved into  indigenous American music and became a leading figure in the coffee house/folk music movement that sprang up in the early 1960s.  (Her full NY Times bio .)

 

While many white artists were also dipping into the traditional American bag, Odetta sang African American folk songs  and blues with tremendous authority, grace and power, and a regal bearing.   She was one of the first black stars to sport an Afro hairdo in the 1960s, championing a natural look that gained popularity later.   And she was very committed to and active in the civil rights movement — marching with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and performing a concert at the White House for President John F. Kennedy.

 

Though Odetta’s star dimmed a bit as the folk boom ended, she had already gained a big following through folk clubs, hit records and a musical bonding with Harry Belafonte, who toured with her and called Odetta  a “chief influence on my career.”   Other famous singers also named her as a major inspiration — including  Joan Baez (to whom she was “a goddess”),  Janis Joplin (who first got excited about the blues, as a teenager, by  listening to Odetta ) and Bob Dylan, who wrote of her:

 

” The first thing that turned me on to folk singing was Odetta. I heard a record of hers   (“Odetta Sings Ballads and Blues”) in a record store, back when you could listen to records right there in the store. Right then and there, I went out and traded my electric guitar and amplifier for an acoustical guitar…”

 

This first clip is how I best remember Odetta.  She’s performing on a 2006 public TV show here, in which  she sang songs I enjoyed live during her concert tour the same year and which she recorded on a disc (“Blues Everywhere I Go”) which I highly recommend to fellow blues babes: 

 

  – “You Don’t Know My Mind”

 

Here she is on an  early record,  doing a short rendition of the slave work song, “Water Boy,” in her most dramatic  and stirring fashion:

 

 

In her own quiet, dignified manner, Odetta broke a lot of racial barriers.   Here she is on TV’s mainstream variety hour,  “The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show,” singing a great Woody Guthrie tune:

 

 — Woody’s ” Pastures of Plenty”  (and “Nine Pound Hammer”) with Tennessee Ernie Ford

 

She also popularized a lot of songs by the incomparable Leadbelly.  Here’s her wonderful take on “The Midnight Special,” in that  2006 TV concert:

 

 

Odetta’s passing got me to thinking about other female blues-folk singers  with that river-deep voice and soulfulness, who were probably influenced (consciously or unconsciously) by her.

 

Here are a few:         

               

 — Joan Armatrading “Down to Zero”

 

   — Ruthie Foster — “Woke Up This Mornin'”  — which she dedicates to Odetta

 

 — Tracy Chapman — “Across the Lines”

 

And last but not least, someone I plan to do an entire set on soon, the great Mavis Staples, who was actually more like Odetta’s contemporary (about a decade younger).  This song seems apropos — Odetta has “come home”:

 

 — “Waiting for My Child to Come Home,”  Mavis Staples

 

I’ll finish with this very short clip of Odetta from the Newport Folk Festival — a wonderful uptempo tune that features her excellent guitar work, and great 1960s vibe.   Rest in peace, dear lady:

 

 — Odetta at Newport 

 

   

 

 

Colette’s Corner: First Music or Music First?!?

barack460x276

Sinatra.  Dylan.  The Fugees.

All can be found on President Obama’s iPod.  Much like his mixed heritage and diverse political ideals, Barack Obama appears to have broad musical tastes.

The initial Inauguration event on Sunday at the Lincoln Memorial featured Stevie Wonder, Jon Bon Jovi, Garth Brooks, Usher, Shakira, Mary J. Blige, Beyonce’, U2, James Taylor, John Mellencamp, Renee’ Fleming, John Legend, Jennifer Nettles, Bruce “The Boss” Springsteen, will.i.am, Josh Groban and Bettye LaVette.  Speaking of Bettye LaVette, she’s becoming a fixture in DC, having recently performed at the Lincoln Center Honors in homage to The Who.

I found her performance of Change Gone Come with Bon Jovi to be the highlight of Sunday’s event and likely the most appropriate for the occasion.  Somewhere Sam Cooke is smiling…

….and the beat goes on.  Mr. Obama’s inauguration events will include the Queen of Soul, herself, Ms. Aretha Franklin along with The Dead, Miley Cyrus, The Jonas Brothers, and Itzak Perlman will be a part of other inauguration festivities.

Colette chimes in with her own assessment of the First Music on this very historic day: 

Blue vs. red, left vs. right — no matter what political rivalries exist in this nation,  great music is something Americans of every stripe can share and take joy in.

Our new president is, it so happens, a music lover with wide-ranging tastes  which he revealed to Rolling Stone Magazine, Blender Magazine and other musical rags.   He listens to a lot of different artists, from jazzmen to rappers, John Coltrane to The Rolling Stones to Jay-Z.  And he adores Stevie Wonder, his wife’s favorite artist and a major supporter of campaign whose song “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” became Obama’s campaign anthem.

Here is Stevie Wonder — live at the 1008 Democratic National Convention, singing the beautiful song “Fear Can’t Put Dreams to Sleep” with Take 6, followed by Obama’s campaign theme song, “Signed, Sealed Delivered”  (starts at 7:00, when he says, “I gotta do this!” ).  One of Obama’s very favorite artists, and his wife’s musical god:

  — Stevie Wonder at the DNC 

Some presidents are more interested in music than others.  Pres. Clinton, for instance, had a big jazz summit at the White House.  And the first Pres. George Bush loved country music.  Kennedy appreciated classical music, and of course the Broadway musical “Camelot.”  From his interviews on the subject, Obama seems to be an ardent and knowledgeable pop fan, and he had a lot of top  musicians (from James Taylor & Bruce Springsteen, to Will.I.Am and John Legend) actively backing him with benefit concerts and campaign appearances.

Some of the songs that are Obama favorites, according to Blender, are: 

   Marvin Gaye – “What’s Going On”  (live)

  Bob Dylan  “Maggie’s Farm”  (from Newport FOlk Festival, 1965)

  — Bruce Springsteen – “I’m on Fire” (Obama says he calls Bruce “The Boss”)

 –   The Rolling Stones – “Gimme Shelter”  (live in the 1960s)

  —  Nina Simone —  “Sinnerman”

  —   Frank Sinatra — “You’d Be So Easy to Love

Obama loves the Queen of Soul, and when he gave a speech in Detroit he began by singing a few bars of this song:

  — Aretha Franklin – “Chain of Fools”  (live) 

– “Think” (live) —  Another Aretha hit, which Obama says is on his iPod.

Thanks, Colette, for the submission.  I’ll conclude this post with the stirring rendition of Shower the People, performed at the Lincoln Memorial event by James Taylor, Jennifer Nettles and John Legend.

 “….I think it’s true what they say about the squeaky wheel always getting the grease”

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2009 in colette's corner, james taylor, Obama

 

Colette’s Corner: Money, It’s a Gas…

 money

Recent months have exposed the dire straits that the country’s monetary situation is in.  While we can look back on “irrational exuberance”, gluttonous behavior and irresponsible squandering of cash flow, it doesn’t change the nauseousness of the wild roller coaster ride of down 554, up 890, down 411, up 553, down 427, down 445 and up 494.  Add falling home values, lack of available credit, massive lay-offs, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.  America has faced Recessions and Depressions before, but this one seems particularly heinous due to the advent of 401k plans 25 years ago that wraps many Americans long-term savings into a struggling stock market.  Now, talk about “bottoms” and derivatives, GDP and bailouts are common around the water cooler.

I’ve been assured that this is just a cyclical correction.  Yes, it’s going to be bad before it gets better.  Yes, we should all be thankful for health and family.  No, money is not the real secret to happiness, however it can be the source of real problems.  So, what do we do?  Well, for now, sit tight, don’t panic, have a drink, and listen to some music.  Isn’t that a generally good cure for what ails?

Here’s Colette’s contribution on the necessary evil of MONEY:

In this time of financial meltdown, it’s difficult to stay optimistic about one’s own bank account let alone the entire economy.
 
So what to do?
 
That’s where music comes in.  It won’t pay the rent or keep the wolf from the door.  But when its cool, sly and soulful, music can lift your spirits — even songs about cold, hard cash.
We begin with a classic ode to moolah  from the Holy Grail of Monty Python:
 
– “Money Programme” — Monty Python
 
A similar sentiment, voiced by Liza Minelli and Joel Grey in the Broadway musical “Cabaret”
 
 —  “Money” from the movie of “Cabaret”
 
Elvis weighed in on the subject too, in his sizzling hot 1950s cover of the popular Eddie Cochrane tune:
 
 —  “Money Honey” — Elvis Presley
 
One can get very carried away with the pursuit of the almighty buck, however.  Even when times are tough, let’s not take it extremes like Randy Newman does in one of his classics:
 
 — “It’s Money That I Love” — Randy Newman
 
And money isn’t everything, right?   How about love?  The late, great Ella Fitzgerald reminds us of that in this sterling standard:
 
  – “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” — Ella Fitzgerald
 
And in this great old blues and country standard,   Ben Harper and the fabulous 5 Blind Boys of Alabama make it clear that some things are more precious than gold:
 
   — “Satisfied Mind” — Ben Harper & 5 Blind Boys
 
Of course, there’s always way to get your hands on some cash, but it can be a little shady — as Ricki Lee Jones lays it down in this sultry little jumpin’ blues:
 
– “Easy Money”  — Ricki Lee Jones
 
People singin’ about this subject a long, long time.  Here’s The Boss with a really rousing rendition of an old folk song — performed  here  live and Cajun-style in a really fun house-party-style  record session for The Seeger Sessions, with a lot of voices, accordion, trumpet and other stuff:
 
  – “Pay Me Money Down” — Bruce Springsteen
 
Well, all we can do is hope this economic mess gets straightened out before we’re all out on the streets selling pencils and apples.  Remember that eventually the Great Depression ended, and Hollywood escapism helped:
 
 — “We’re in the Money” — Ginger Rogers, from the movie “Golddiggers of 1933″
Thanks, Colette. 

I personally bend to Pink Floyd’s Money (click on picture caption above), and might be able to score two tickets to paradise from the great, Eddie Money.

While money does help to make the world go ’round, perhaps we can find solace in a Pocket Full of Rainbows (and maybe a few kittens)?

Love that man.

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2008 in colette's corner, Elvis, that's life

 

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Colette’s Corner: More Smoke

Part II in Colette’s homage to Smokey Robinson….

SMOKEY SINGS AND SIZZLES
 
In Part 1 of my tribute to the incomparable Smokey Robinson  focused on the many hits he wrote for such fellow Motown artists as The Temptations, the Marvelettes and Marvin Gaye.
But Smokey, an ebullient charmer and pop music Renaissance Man,  has always loved performing as much as he loves songwriting.  He began pulling together his own singing groups with friends while in high school.  (He attended Detroit’s Northern High, by the way, when my Uncle Sid was the vice principal — and had many future Motowners in his classes!) 
One of  Smokey’s  teen groups was called The Matadors.  The young Berry Gordy wrote a tune for them, “Got a Job,”  which did well. Then Gordy went on to form Motown Records with Robinson very much on the scene, and the rest is history. 
From the jump, Smokey was a singer, record producer and composer vital to Motown’s success.    The Matadors changed their name to The Miracles (Smokey’s first wife Claudette was an early member).  And with Smoke penning most of their tunes, with various collaborators, and crooning the leads in his sweetly unique and  soulful falsetto, the group  quickly cut Motown’s first million-seller, the 1960 doo-woppy classic,  “Shop Around.”  
No good footage of “Shop Around,” but here’s the golden oldie on disc:
 
  – “Shop Around”
 
Throughout the ’60s, Smokey and the Miracles put out hit after hit,  and kept on touring, while the tireless Robinson also produced and wrote for other Motown stars.   Here are some of the many Miracle classics — a bluesy wonder, which the Beatles covered, and a demonstration of the Smokey’s irresistible sex appeal:
      
   — “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me”
 
Smokey could get down and funky, but he was also a master of the wounded-lover ballad, and his early performances bring to mind such soul forefathers as Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke.  This smash hit was a heartbreaker classic, and Smokey can still sing the bejesus out of it.  Here’s the MIracles doing a lip-synched version, but smooooooth.  Dig those white suits:
 
 — “Tracks of My Tears”
 
Though he’s a ballad freak, Smokey loved putting out dance records too.    Here’s his delightful, uptempo follow-up to “Tracks of My Tears,”  with nifty lyrics and arrangement that riff off the sad clown/carnival imagery.  Terrific vocal performance too:
 
  — “Tears of a Clown
 
OMG —  beach movie idol Frankie Avalon on TV’s “Hullabaloo,”  introducing Smokey and his dance hit “Going to A-Go Go”  by singing “Don’t Mess With Bill,” and frugging with the dancers?  Yikes!   Sorry for the terrible miking on this one, but Smokey is selling the tune hard:
 
 
But here’s my favorite live 1960s ballad performance by Smokey & the Miracles, on an absolutely awesome “make out song,”    He’s in top form here:
 
   — “Ooh Baby Baby”
 
Sorry the clip is fuzzy, and ends abruptly, but how can I not share this jewel, a brief duet on the same song with Smokester’s lifelong friend, the Queen of Soul?  If only they’d recorded together!:
 
   — “Ooh Baby, Baby”
 
Smokey left the Miracles in 1972, eager to go solo.   Lovable and loyal guy that he is, he dedicated his debut solo album to the Miracles.   But he didn’t chart a  hit of his own until 1975’s  “Quiet Storm.”    Live clips of him singing that one, and his radiantly sensuous hits since then, are sadly hard to come by.  So we’ll have to look to the music videos Smokey made to promote these swoony delights, which layer in the use of synthesizers and multi-tracking seamlessly:
 
    — “One Heartbeat”
 
And hey, the guy loves the beach!   The video for another very intimate, flowy kind of Smokey love song:
 
    —  “Being With You”

 
I’ve been hunting for alive TV vid of Smoke and Aretha doing this great fave.   He still causes a frenzy these days when he closes his live shows with it:
 
   — “Just to See Her”
 
Though in his late 60s now, Smokey is still a wonderfully vital performer, and a deserved recipient of a Kennedy Center lifetime arts award.   I saw him in an outdoor concert this summer, with his ace band and backup singers.  His set lasted nearly two hours, with the ecstatic crowd singing along at his behest —  but him singing a lot better than we ever could!    Sure, the guy has had a little, shall we say, “work done” to keep that youthful glow.  But his talent and spirit are timeless!   Here he is, with Vince Vaughn, Whitney Wynonna  and Boyz 2 Men chiming in on his tunes.  As usual, Smokey is having a blast!:
 
                 
I’ll end with the disc version of a Miracles song that, of all the dozens of hits he’s forged, could be Smokey’s theme song.   For nearly half a century, the man has followed through on the lyrics’ beautiful pledge to his listeners:
 
             As we grow older no need to fear
        When you need me I’ll be here
        I’ll be beside you every step of the way 
        A heart that’s truthful & keeping you youthful with… 

      
        More love, more joy 
        Than age or time could ever destroy 
        My love will be so sound
        It would take about 100 lifetimes 
        To live it down, wear it down, tear it down
         
    —  “More Love” — Smokey Robinson and the Miracles  
 
 
 

Colette’s Corner: Where There’s Fire….There’s Smokey

Nah, not that Smokey, THIS Smokey…
 
The Great Smokey Robinson.  Singer.  Songwriter.  Producer.  Talent Extraordinairre.
Here’s Colette’s entertaining homage to William Robinson, Jr.:
It’s wonderful  to sing well.  It’s even more meaningful to write a great and enduring song.
Both talents were bestowed on young William “Smokey”  Robinson, long before he helped to start Motown Records in Detroit in the early 1960s, with his friend Berry Gordy.
Gordy had the business acumen; Smokey had the musical chops.  By the time he was in his early 20s, Smokey was writing, recording and arranging a stream of hit tunes for this landmark record company, which blended bluesy soulfulness with sleek arrangements and killer hooks.  He also was a terrific talent scout, cultivating the musical gifts of the kids he grew up with in  Motor City.
As an entertainer, Smokey’s still terrific — I saw him recently, and in his late 60s he’s not only still in great voice (one of the best pop falsettos ever) but he’s still sexy, romantic and full of joy.
But while I’ve found a lot of great performances on video of Smokey, with his hit-making crewT he Miracles and after he went solo,  Part I of this tribute considers some Smokey tunes especially wrote (and produced) for other Motown masters.
What makes Smokey’s songs so memorable?  The lyrics, though inevitably about boyfriend-girlfriend passions, are so clever that Bob Dylan once called Robinson one of his favorite poets, and  John Lennon and George Harrison also gave him props.

Smokey knows how to twist a phrase to make it fresh every one of his songs tells a compelling story, and there are indeed poetic images in a lot of his tunes,  along with real wit.   But it’s also the arrangements he worked up with the fabulous Funk Brothers (Motown’s brilliant house  musicians), including the miraculous James Jamerson on bass, that make the best of the tunes he produced instantly unforgettable.  Listen to the baselines — a symphony in themselves! And there’s a perfect layering of percussion, piano, vocals, guitar, bass and backup voices (augmented sometimes by horns and violins). 

But Smokey’s been a huge fan of many kinds of music his entire life — from opera to Cole Porter to modern jazz.  A grouchy Boomer like me wants to encourage this in  young artists:  listen, listen, listen to all the greats, and absorb!
 

 
So from the more than 1,000 tunes in Smokey’s songbag, I’m picking out some gems.   (Later,  I’ll play tribute to Smokey doing his own material, with and without the fab Miracles.)

 

Let’s start with the suave, magical Temptations, since Smokey wrote their break-through hits.      Here are some  rare live  versions (sometimes with lipsynching, which was what some people did on TV at the time) with the ultra-suave Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin singing leads.  Do check out the choreography, created by such legendary jazz-tappers as Cholly Atkins and Honi Coles.  It’s a total delight.
 
First comes “The Way You Do the Things You Do,”  with a lyric led by Eddie that’s full of charming similes (“You got a smile so bright/You know you could’ve been a candle….”)
   “The Way You Do the Things You Do”  — The Temptations  (rare live on a NY TV show)
 
Another Temps classic.  Picture a little blurry, but the guys look so great, and move so hot:
 
   “Get Ready” — The Temptations
 
If you ever go see the Temps, and some incarnation of them is still out there touring, this is the tune they turn into a huge audience sing-along.  And who doesn’t know “My Girl”??  The song is in our collective bloodstream.  David Ruffin does the lead honors this time:
 
   “My Girl” — The Temptations
 
The other “My Girl” rendition that brings a different vibe and some rough-edged soul to the song is this live version by the incomparable Otis Redding, the Love Man.  ‘Nuff said.
 
    “My Girl” — Otis Redding  (with his great band, The Bar-Keys, live in England)
 
As a kind of book-end to “My Girl,” Smokey also conconcocted “My Guy” for Motown solo artist,  Mary Wells.  With its jaunty beat, witty internal rhymes  (“Nothing you can buy can make me tell a lie to my guy”), and that ultra-cool vocal by Mary, another favorite of the Beatles, it was another big-selling classic:
 
  “My Guy” — Mary Wells
 
The Smoke (as pal Stevie Wonder calls him) also took a strong interest in shaping the musical style of The Marvelettes, who  toured with the Beatles on their U.S. tour.  Talk about sexy, these girls were HOT, and I prefer them to the Supremes (shown here briefly).  Here’s one of the treasures Smokey wrote for them, featuring the sultry Wanda Rogers on lead —  one of the great “hands off, ladies!” tunes of all time.  And love their moves:
 
    “Don’t Mess With Bill
 
Finally, we have another Motown genius, Marvin Gaye, who was like a brother to Smokey.   The ebullient Gaye started out at Motown as a session drummer, but that skill was soon eclipsed by his mounting fame as a smooth, sexy, utterly distinctive vocalist.   Marvin is one of my soul gods! And these are his early classics, tailor-made for him by his pal:
 
   “Ain’t That Peculiar” —  Marvin
 
Another from Marvelous Marvin — what can I say?  I’m a sucker for a guy who looks this cool in a tux! :
 

   — Take This Heart of Mine — Marvin
 
Finally, a little novelty from the Smokey annals, first done by the Contours and later the J. Geils Band.  It’s a tongue-in-cheek tune about being a gold-digger, the lyrics are a hoot:

 

    
   “First I Look at the Purse” — The Contours
 
 
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Posted by on October 1, 2008 in colette's corner, motown, music legends, oldies, Soul

 

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Colette’s Corner: Right Proper Soul Kats & Kittens

 
The latest installment from Colette on Soul from the British Isles.  Enjoy.

Most people know how much I love, adore and worship vintage soul music and musicians.  But like MM, I’m also constantly trolling for those new young artists with a truly soulful sound (blue eyed or black) — and the artistic backbone to keep it from being watered down by a recording industry that wants to mulch every bit of soul grit out, and  ground it into a smooth, sludgy club-vibe Spam version of R & B that’s so hot these days, and to me feels like slightly funkified elevator music.
 
Turns out there are a lot of kids out there carrying  the torch under the radar (to mix metaphors), trying to refresh the R & B/soul idiom and keep on keepin’ it real  with some integrity.  And there’s a new movement afoot, at least in Britain:  Retro-soul!   Amy Winehouse‘s huge, surprise success is propelling this, as is Joss Stone‘s and (though she’s got a different soul bag) my beloved Corinne Bailey Rae.    
 
I’m intrigued by a few of these other old soul contenders, and wonder what you think:  Do they have a groove?   Do they have a future?  Would you want to see them live, or hear a whole album?
 
Let’s start with the most hyped of this bunch:  a pretty 24-year old Welsh bird called Duffy, marketed as the healthier, cleaner version of the sadly ravaged Amy Winehouse.  She’s gaining chart traction with original tunes, and so far so good.  I like this one best:
 
    – “Mercy” — Duffy
 
Here’s another of her originals — a scratchy, beseeching ballad:
 
 – “Syrup and Honey” — Duffy
 
Palol Nutini is even younger — a 21 year old Scottish kid with an Italian name (his parents are from Tuscany),  and a  slurry/blurry, broken and raw kind of voice, that oozes eros and hurt, and is quite distinctive. A bit of a hipster teen idol, and a little scary (rumors of substance abuse already).  But there’s something compelling about his sound.  This is a sort of knock off of “Let’s get it on” by Marvin Gaye,” but I do love Paolo’s lyric “Let’s get restless baby….”
 
 – “Loving You,”  Paolo Nutini
 
He does a lot of very interesting, offbeat covers of old tunes — would you believe “Bang Bang”?  One I especially like is this heartfelt rendition of a tune by the late great Fred Neil, who also wrote “Everybody’s Talkin’.”
 
  — “Dolphins” sung by Paolo Nutini
 
I also have to fess up to a fondness for his “Rehab” cover — just hope it doesn’t apply to him as much as to Ms. Winehouse…..
 
  –  “Rehab” sung by Paolo  Nutini
 
James Morrison (no relation to Jim, or The Doors)  is another very young stripling of a Brit, with a different kind of ragged voice and a more —  dare I say —  wholesome(?) brand of sensitivity.   It’s amazing, isn’t it — I mean, where do they get these kids in England?   Their tradition of blue-eyed soul is still, obviously, very strong.    And the record companies get behind it.  This was a huge British and European hit, but hasn’t caught on as big in the US:
 
  –  “You Give Me Something” — James Morrison
 
And one of his originals:
 
  – “Call the Police” — James Morrison
 
 
Then there’s Jamie Lidell.  I was extremely disappointed when I saw Jamie live last year, and he spent the set tinkering with several synthesizers and induced brain freeze in a long, boring, electronic jam — with himself.   He’s apparently quite the trickster, loves changing up his look and sound.  But I’m happy to learn that his fetching new “Jim”  gets him doing what he does best:  singing those old-school jumps.    Very gifted guy, in my book:
 
  – “A Little Bit of Feel Good” — Jamie Lidell
 
  – “Multiply” — James Morrison
 
 
Finally, working a groove that’s a little Amy Winehouse, a little Van Morrison, a little Screamin’ Jay and a lot of scrappy soul is the older (45)  but not yet hugely famous  James Hunter.  He was discovered by Van the Man, who used him as a backup vocalist on “Days Like This.”  Live he doesn’t have much variety, but he really cooks. Also it’s such a rush when someone can really play instrumentally, do great arrangements and otherwise behave like a gen-u-ine musician:
 
 
  – “Baby Don’t Do It” — James Hunter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2008 in colette's corner, Soul

 

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Colette’s Corner: A Birthday Contribution

That’s right. Today is Colette’s Birthday, so a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Ms. C.

In addition to reflecting on her birthday, Colette has also been reflecting on the late, great Dusty Springfield. A soul icon, I always considered Dusty a bit of a white-bread Janis Joplin — and I mean that in a good way.

She’s worshipped in England, and a soul queen for many in other nations. Once you hear that tender, sultry, bluesy sound of her unique voice, you just want more of it.

The personification of blue-eyed soul, Dusty Springfield was a passionate devotee of Black American music, with a thrilling set of pipes. She came up in the ’60s with her family band, The Springfields, then quickly hit the charts with a string of solo hits. The many wonderful songs she introduced are matched by her covers of a big sampling of the greatest pop/r & b tunes of the 1960s and ’70s.

Though she died fairly young, at age 59, after a lengthy bout with breast cancer, Dusty left behind a slew of albums. And aficienados can be grateful for the tremendous cache of videos of her live performances, thanks to fans collecting numbers from the popular TV musical variety shows she hosted in England. She was also among the first people to introduce British TV audiences to the glories of Motown, by hosting the “Ready, Steady, Go” series, “The Sound of Motown.” (The whole thing is available on Youtube, and it is fabulous.)

Recently the American singer Shelby Lynne recorded a lovely tribute disc of Dusty tunes, titled “Just a Little Lovin.” And in the wake of that release it’s great to share some of Dusty’s finest performances and those of her colleagues/acolytes. (If you like’em, more will come later — including some smashing duets.)

Let’s start with one of Dusty’s first major hits:

This boppin’ little tune by Phil Spector has a melody I can’t get out of my head. It’s a total delight, and a major fave in Dusty’s repertoire. Fashion note: Dusty loved big blonde ‘dos, heavy Cleopatra-style eye makeup, and very glam, sparkling duds. But if she often had a plastic-fantastic look, her bubbly personality and terrific musicality were totally for real:

— “I Only Want to Be with You”

Here’s Shelby Lynne’s charming bossa nova-style take on the same song:

— “I Only Want to Be With You”

Here is another great Dusty hit, performed on the “Sound of Motown” show with the fantab Martha Reeves and the Vandellas.

— “Wishin’ and Hopin'” with Martha Reeves and Vandellas

This song is perhaps my favorite female/male-duet song ever. I love the Carly Simon/James Taylor version, the gritty Inezz & Charles Fox original. But even though I don’t know (or care) much about the band she’s performing with (The Echos) the way Dusty tears into this just slays me:

— “Mockingbird”

Among Dusty’s many, many cover gems, give a listen to her take on a little Herman’s Hermits ditty that she turns into a kick-butt soul tune. Sing it sister! (sorry for bad visuals, but the sound is swell):

-“Can’t You Hear My Heart Beat”

Even when drenched in musical melodrama and soapy strings, Dusty’s great voice rang through. This is one of them big ‘ol, schmaltzy love songs from the early 1960s, a huge hit for Dusty — and a challenge for most singers, including quite a few American Idol contesants who’ve botched it. Dusty’s peerless original:

— “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me”

Here is a bit of Shelby Lynne’s poignant version of the same song:

— “You Don’t Have to Say Love Me”

Here’s one of the choicest of Dusty hits, on a tune that Aretha (stupidly, in my book) passed on. Recorded on her great album recorded in Muscle Shoals, “Dusty in Memphis,” it tells such a poignant story. (Eat your heart out, Joss Stone…..)

— “Son of a Preacher Man”

Aretha recorded “Preacher Man” later, with predictably awesome results:

Probably the song most associated with Dusty is this ultra-seductive Burt Bacharach tune. I first heard it on the soundtrack of the James Bond flick, “Casino Royale,” and it went right into my musical bloodstream:

— “The Look of Love”

I’ll end this set with a rare clip of Dusty singing an Anthony Newley song, from his Broadway musical “The Roar of the Greaspaint, the Smell of the Crowd.” This is Dusty picking up on the roots of black music, jubilant in her understanding of its passion, and backed up by three great backup singers:

— “Gonna Build a Mountain”

Thanks for a great look back at the great Dusty Springfield, Colette….and a very Happy Birthday to You!

 
 
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