Tuesday, June 28, 2011
American singer-songwriter Mickey Newberry was revered for the numerous songs he wrote for the likes of Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Ray Charles, Willie Nelson, Hank Snow, Waylon Jennings, B.B. King, Tom Jones, Jerry Lee Lewis, John Denver, Bobby "Blue" Bland, and of course Kenny Rogers and The First Edition.
Newberry was primarily known for his country songs, many of which explored dark themes and undertones. The lyrics and music in a more psychedelic laced "Just Dropped In" is believed to reflect the the effects of LSD, and was written to warn off potential users of the drug. With the mesmerizing intro of Beatles-like backwards looped guitar chords and the contorted and mashed guitar playing of Glen Campbell, the song may have made people even more excited about the drug's allure and nature. The idea seems pretty solid, given the interpreted dream sequence in "The Big Lebowski" that features the tune, as seen here (film clip may contain some stuff little kids probably shouldn't see or hear just yet):
Despite "Just Dropped In" being out of the ordinary from the typical polished country harmonies The First Edition was known for, the song managed to be a top 5 hit for the band in 1968, their highest reaching single of the band's existence. Rogers also claimed Jimi Hendrix said 'it was his favorite song of all time.'
"Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)", for all intents and purposes, should have been a single MONO A-side/STEREO B-side release without "Shadow In The Corner of Your Mind" ever seeing light of day. The lead guitar parts sound spectacularly mind blowing in either mix, and Rogers' vocals give the song a rocker's authority obviously not present on any of his other records. However, despite the lack-luster dribble that is "Shadow", "Just Dropped In" will go down in history as one of the finest recording achievements ever committed to wax, and will forever be synonymous with Jeffery Lebowski, AKA 'The Dude'. I honestly don't know if T-Bone Burnett could have chosen and saved a more perfect song for pop culture history.
And in case you were wondering, yes...this record really does tie the room together.
RECORD NOTES | "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)"
Song Credits: "Just Dropped In" - Newbury | "Shadow In The Corner of Your Mind" - M. Settle
Kenny Rogers (Vocals, Bass Guitar)
Mickey Jones (Drums, Percussion)
Terry Williams (Guitar, Vocals)
Mike Settle (Guitar, Backing Vocals)
Thelma Comacho (Vocals)
Glen Campbell (Lead Guitar)
Mike Deasy (Lead Acoustic Guitar)
SIDE A: 3:20
SIDE B: 2:52
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
From a designer's standpoint the 7" single has an amazing allure. It's a magnificent format one can hold in their hands and stare upon relentlessly and hypnotically. They are portable, framable and to people such as myself, inspire countless artistic creations.
There have been some fascinating and well designed picture sleeves created over the years, for both big name bands and bands no one has ever heard of. Some of the best and personal favorite picture sleeve singles, in my opinion, have always come from outside the USA, like this Rolling Stones "Street Fighting Man" release from West Germany (yes, that West Germany.) Maybe those designers have always been a little more hip when designing their record sleeves. Of course, those picture sleeves are harder to obtain because they are imports, but I believe collectors also flock to these types of singles because of their covers.
There are two distinct record labels that come to mind that knocked their designs right out of the parks, and that distinction goes to The Beatles' Apple Records and Sam Phillips' Sun Records. These label designs are the 'Coca-Cola logo' of records. They are perfectly designed in every way, and when you look upon the record label you know you have something special about to hit the turntable. Both record labels prove that time and time again. Instinctively, both The Beatles and Sam Phillips knew their products were so great their record labels and picture sleeves had to reflect that.
Music and art go hand-in-hand, which is what makes the vinyl record such a treasure to begin with. They are the most accessible art form for every human being on this planet, and communicates to everyone beyond physical language and speech. In the record's visual context, the sleeve and the label design are integral to its communication with the human heart and soul.
As a record fan and collector, I'm always interested in finding the kinds of records that speak to me visually and audibly. While there are several publications about records that address this fact, I've lately been inspired to produce my own survey about some of the most graphically mesmerizing and fascinating vintage record labels and sleeves that have ever been produced.
I have within my own collection some great vinyl examples such as these pictured here, but I know I have a long journey ahead of me. I'm exited about the task of sharing my love of music and design with the public, so as the months roll on and the records keep piling in, this on-going project will prove to be a quite special one for me. I hope my readers out there will follow along as this project goes from concept to publication, the first of many books I hope to publish in association with Classic Waxxx.
What 7" masterpieces do you have in your collections?
Friday, June 17, 2011
There's been some major staples in Muddy Waters' catalog over the decades, like "Electric Mud" and "Folk Singer", but this lesser-known jewel called "Unk" In Funk is another classic that deserves proper recognition.
At the time of the 1970s when the majority of Chess blues players were increasing the electric sound of their music, Muddy Waters was going back to a more stripped-down sound on his records, where the bass, drums, harmonica and vocals really led the ship. Though Waters had already been doing the 'electric thing' with the blues in the late 1960s, this later version of Waters really put his sound back in the country.
Many of the tracks on "Unk" are classic Waters recuts, like "Trouble No More", along with new songs like the blistering "Waterboy Waterboy", and covers such as "Everything Gonna Be Alright" and "Just To Be With You". The legendary Paul Oscher lends his harmonica to the title track, while drummer Willie "Big Eyes" Smith keeps the funk alive and well for the rest of the band to follow along flawlessly.
"Unk" has seen release on CD by Hip-O Select/Geffen Records back in 2006, but other than some sound remastering for digital release there isn't much to the CD version. Not even decent liner notes to speak of. An album of this importance to Water's catalog at least deserves proper care and attention when reissuing.
As I've said time and time again Muddy Waters was meant to be heard on vinyl. If you want that "I feel like I'm actually in a juke joint and having the best time ever" vinyl is the way to go, especially when the volume is turned up to 11. Should you want to at least prime your palette before taking on the task of locating "Unk" on vinyl, you can preview the album online here.
Muddy Waters Woodstock Album" that was released the following year, in 1975. Many of the same musicians can be heard on both albums, including some great musicians you know well and love, like The Band's Garth Hudson and Levon Helm, Paul Butterfield and Bob Margolin.
Perhaps the public will see "Unk" with a proper reissue, either on CD or perhaps a heavyweight 180g LP. With the growing popularity of vinyl these days it would be a dream come true to see more people with access to Muddy Waters on vinyl. Until that time comes, get it how you can...
ALBUM NOTES | Muddy Waters "Unk" In Funk
Chess Records CAT# Stereo CH 60031
Song Credits: Various
Recorded: Chess Records Studio - Chicago, Ill.
Engineer: Malcom Chisholm
Producer: Muddy Waters
Muddy Waters (Vocals/Guitar)
Pinetop Perkins (Piano)
Luther Johnson (Guitar)
Bob Margolin (Guitar)
Carey Bell Harrington (Harmonica)
George Bufford (Harmonica - "Trouble No More" and "Everything Gonna Be Alright")
Paul Oscher (Harmonica - ""Unk" In Funk")
Calvin Jones (Bass)
Willie "Big Eyes" Smith (Drums)
SIDE ONE: 16:33
SIDE TWO: 12:09
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
As I got home with my loot, the Fitzgerald single was one of the first records I played. Boy, did I hit music gold! The live renditions of the Louis Armstrong penned tune "Ol' Man Mose" and "Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home" sounded absolutely amazing. Never had I heard such sounds come from my speakers. Fitzgerald belts these tunes with such austere authority that it is evident she was born to sing these songs, and exudes an all-time level of confidence during the peak of her career.
What makes this 7" single special is that the two songs contained herein did not appear on the original "Ella In Hollywood" release, which has been out of print now for some time. The single gave the fans and audience just a small additional taste of those live recordings. However, the 'fake' concert hall audience is not present on the single, and turned up at full volume, makes you feel like you are right there in the smoky club sitting next to Glen Miller and Duke Ellington, who were spotted on occasion in the crowd during these live performances.
The joy and sass Fitzgerald commands in these recordings, with the Paul Smith Trio setting the pace makes this some of the most exciting jazz my young ears have heard to date. Though I'm enjoying my run of replacing my CD collection with vinyl records where I can, the "Twelve Nights In Hollywood" box set is definitely worth investigating further, especially if just these two songs can command my attention as they have. Imagine what the rest of those recordings from The Crescendo have in store for my ears. Records like this make spending hours in a record store worth every single minute, as you never quite know what sort of musical treasure you will likely unearth.
RECORD NOTES | "Ol' Man Mose" b/w "Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home"
Verve Records CAT# VK-10288
Song Credits: (Ol' Man Mose - Armstrong, Randolph) / (Bill Bailey - Fitzgerald, Smith, Middlebrooks, Levey)
Recorded: Los Angeles, CA
Ella Fitzgerald (Vocals)
Paul Smith (Piano)
Wilfred Middlebrooks (Bass)
Stan Levey (Drums)
SIDE A: "Ol' Man Mose" - 4:05
SIDE B: "Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home" - 2:23
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
This 1976 LP released by Willie's then label, RCA, originally produced this collection of live recordings in 1966, which had the title "Country Music Concert". These songs were recorded on July 5th at Panther Hall in Ft. Worth, TX. The noticeable differences in the two recordings is the song "Night Life" was left off this reissue and replaced by a studio cut of "I Gotta Get Drunk." However, the song was recorded three years after "Country Music Concert" was released, and crowd noise was mixed in to make the song sound like part of the original performance, a practice that has been standard for many years in the record business (sneaky buggers.)
I'm not quite sure why this version of the original album needed releasing, other than making people hip to more of Willie's live recordings, or to have an excuse to release the song "I Gotta Get Drunk" on record. Perhaps the label wanted to do what most record companies have been doing for decades, repacking old material with new cover art to make the consumer believe they are getting something new? The speculations are numerous. "I Gotta Get Drunk" could have easily been released as a single, but it does fit in well with the other songs, thanks to the magic of dubbing in crowd noise and applause.
Regardless of the reasons for reissue, the record is quite enjoyable, from the various sad-bastard medleys to Willie's clever and touching cover of The Beatles' "Yesterday", complete with witty pre-song banter. The musical offerings continually flow from one song to the next like Lone Star Beer from an ice cold pull tab can. Before you know it, it's time to flip the record over in order to crave more.
These recordings did see release in digital form in 1998 by Bear Family Records, restoring three songs from Willie's 1966 performance that were not included in either vinyl release. It would have been great to hear those missing selections ("I Love You Because", "There'll Be No Teardrops Tonight" and "I'm Still Not Over You") since Willie fans can never get enough of a good thing, but mostly because the closing of the last track feels a little empty without obvious closure from the crowd or emcee. It becomes quite evident to the listener that there is more to hear from this performance.
The cliff hanger ending of the "Live" LP might just have been the appetizer for what was yet to come, leaving Willie's devout followers anxiously awaiting future album releases, live or studio.
|Original 1966 release|
Long time Willie disciples, and newcomers much like myself, are fortunate enough to be able to experience recordings such as this, even if we weren't around to experience the music first hand. From that point of view, I'm sure most of us could care less if the Willie album we are about to embark on is repackaged for our consumption. The good news is is that we know the content inside is just as good as ever. Of course, do us devout followers a favor and give us a little something totally new. We'll keep coming back for more and will happily spread the gospel.
ALBUM NOTES | Willie Nelson Live "I Gotta Get Drunk"
RCA Records CAT# APL1-1487
Song Credits: Various
Recorded: Ft. Worth, TX 1966 (Original Recordings)
Engineer: Al Pachucki
Willie Nelson (Guitar, Vocals)
Johnny Bush (Drums)
Wade Ray (Bass Guitar)
SIDE ONE: 19:24
SIDE TWO: 14:26