Saturday, May 11, 2019


Well I made a right pig's ear of that, didn't I? Did all my jiggery-pokery and pressed send, only to realise buddies KKafa and J.David had already put out on that day. So I pulled back in for an edit/revision, aka delaying tactics.  48 hours grace and re-press send. And it's in the same bloody place........... More complicated than it looks, this blogging, innit?

So, mis amigos, amends necessitates (yet) another toothsome foursome for your delectations.

The late, great Gregg Allman probably needs little introduction here. Indeed, it wasn't so long I was bemoaning his passing, and I still find myself reaching back into his back catalogue, and that of the he and his sibling entitled band, when in need of spiritual succour. Like me, do you find there is little more uplifting than a slice of melancholia? Strange but true. This song, 'Rolling Stone', is from his later days, having put the band on another temporary hold, and finding himself back in the critical good books, the days of his "disgrace" long distant. (Did you see where I pulled that link from, btw. Hold that thought.) The voice still as searching a beacon as when I first encountered him, back in ages ago, this LP, 'Low Country', as memorable as 1973's 'Laid Back'. The song a plaintive lament, most of his are, to the plight of a man, left by a woman, for a change she being the rolling stone. Obligatory THE Rolling Stones reference, erstwhile alumnus in the Allman Brothers Band, Chuck Leavell has been main keyboards man for the Stones since 1982.

Well, that thought from above didn't need holding that long, did it? I am surprised this theme hasn't yet overtly picked up on the onetime de rigeur bible of the counter-culture, but time to remedy that. It is funny to think that Dr Hook, later doyens of a smooth cocktail cowboy kitsch, were, at the time of this song, about as raggedy-assed hippie country redneck longhairs as you could find. I don't think they ever actually did make, as the song is called, 'The Cover of the Rolling Stone'. But, OMG, I loved them and their songs, often penned, as was this, by the 'Playboy' cartoonist Shel Silverstein. Here's a BBC TV appearance they did at their dumbest. And that's good dumbest. Dennis LaCorriere, their more usual singer, is still on the road, billed often as Dr Hook, his eye-patched side-kick Ray Sawyer and he having fallen out aeons ago, and whom is, anyway, now deceased, with a tour this summer to celebrate 50 years since 'Sylvia's Mother'. I am thinking of going. (Or was: get well soon, Dennis.) RS reference: How many times were the Rolling Stones on the cover of Rolling Stone? Who better to tell?

Brother Jack McDuff, alleluia, now there is one righteous dude we don't seem to hear enough of. Prominent in the more soulful area of bebop, with the hammond organ his instrument of choice, he would have fitted into the later acid-jazz scene of the 90s like a silk sock in an alligator-hide and cuban-heeled chelsea boot. Indeed, George Benson, who, with similar jazz leanings, arguably and eventually did, was given his first break with McDuff. I have always revelled in the sound of the hammond; Emerson, Lake and Palmer were my first love, my brother in law then tipping me off to the delights of Jimmy Smith. But McDuff seemed more effortless than either of these titans, and is one to whom I return more often. Any RS link here has proved more problematic than I thought, assuming any number of crossovers in covered material, not necessarily the whole band, but within Keith's many and varied works on the side. But, by leaving no stone unturned (groan!), here's a song done by McDuff, a Ray Charles standard also covered by Bill Wyman project, Willie & the Poor Boys.


Finally, one you most certainly may have missed, unless you traipse through the less worn corridors of niche musical combos. One might be the Alabama 3, rightly revered for this, their claim to fame with Tony Soprano and his mob. But, into near 25 years of existence, not only have they never stopped performing and putting out new material, so there has been time for the odd side-project. O'Connell and Love is one such, featuring Larry Love aka Rob Spragg aka Robert Love, their elegantly wasted frontman, in a (slightly) more laidback guise, alongside Brendan O'Connell, a longtime friend, with whom Love's nominally earlier solo album had also been written. Think beer-soaked saloons and  maudlin whisky bars, punters alternately weeping into drinks and dancing on tables.  Sharing a title with the quite different piece in the companion to this post, 'Love is Like a Rolling Stone' just says it how it is. The title's enough. A RS link? Forgive the contrivance, but, if we invoke up again the voice of Alabama, I am sure 3 of the featured stories would be enough to spike some interest.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Stone that Roll/Rock: Santana - Stone Flower

purchase [Stone Flower]

Maybe "Stones That Rock" instead of "Stones That Roll"?
I mean .. get up and dance (when the rhythm really kicks in).

I had more or less forgotten about Santana's Caravanserai album until I started digging for <Stones that Roll> songs. And then I kept mis-spelling Kervanseray as I wrote - and should have known better. Modern Turkish, my home-turf, still includes in its [govt sanctioned dictionary] kervan (travelling group) and saray (palace) in its vocab.
My loss for forgetting about Santana: this album includes so much that could be played over and over again. (The grooves of which album I wore down to their nubs back in '73 or so.) IMHO Santana, especially Santana before about 1980, could be played on auto-repeat. Even today. Caravanserai might well be the best of their work.

Although 1972 doesn't "seem like yesterday" any longer, Santana's music from '72 is no less viable today. <Stone Flower> is actually pretty standard Santana from that era: a loose jazzy progression that builds up over time and then explodes into full song.

Wikipedia notes that the album was a major departure from the band's previous style: I'm not sure I agree. Seems to me like a natural expansion from where they were: maybe a little more salsa and jazz, but that was already their apparent trajectory. But also the same era that the man was associating with Mahavishnu John... Hmm....

Then again, the intro to <Stone Flower> IS rather prolonged.

The song itself is actually an Antonio Carlos Jobim piece. And that album, from a few years before the Santana version, includes names I haven't seen in a few decades: Ron Carter, Airto Moreira. (And I once had an extensive ECM record label collection of 33RPMs, but there's reasons I haven't seen the names beyond the years between.)

Lee Ritenour's version, below, much more jazzy:

Monday, May 6, 2019

Stones that Roll: Papa Was a Rolling Stone

purchase [ Papa Was a Rolling Stone]

I guess it's no surprise that there are more versions of this song than you can shake a stick at: it first came out about 60 years ago, so that gives us a few years for cover versions to appear.

The original date is '71-'72, but I would have put it a bit earlier, mostly based on the style: it's not a major advance in musical style, like ...say .. <Songs in the Key of Life> was 4 year later. It's considered to be in the "classical" style.

Originally a Motown hit for a group called Undisputed Truth (bonus points to you if you ever heard of them), better known is the version from the Temptations, but there are many more to choose <the best> from.

The story of the lyrics is one that crops up from time to time in the news: the family without a father - or a father who rolls in and out of the picture- but left his family with little more than vague memories.

Me? I'm going to vote for the Rare Earth version, above.

But, included in the list of viable versions:

Avicii interpretation (above)

Temptations version above

Undisputed Truth version (check out how the sounds "scroll" left to right - a relatively new sound innovation at that time (CF: Jimi Hendrix)


It seems apt that in the week the new Richard Curtis/Danny Boyle film arrived, to continue this thread in the same vein. So, just as 'Yesterday' imagines a world bereft of the Beatles, Curtis himself imagining a world denied 'Goodnight Sweetheart', this post studiously attempts to ignore any band with a name referenced in the title. (It fails.) Instead I offer a toothsome foursome of songs you may not have heard, although I suspect the writer of at least one of them may be passing a sly nod toward the band of that name. (Indeed, I understand the full title of the last track, added in parentheses, was Try a Family Man Instead. Or maybe it didn't.)

Yep, a bit of scottish folk music, 'Like Another Rolling Stone', albeit by one of the finest exponents thereof, the mighty Ceolbeg, most active in the final two decades of the last century. Roughly translated from the gaelic, Ceolbeg means small music, something they never knowingly produced, the name being more to emphasise the more gentle aspects of the scottish musical lineage, with fewer full on reels and jigs, and more songs, using bagpipes for texture rather than naked assault. In this song, it is the scots lowland pipes that provide the main counterpoint to the gorgeous vocal of the late Davy Steele. (For whom, on his death, this glorious tribute was written, by Kate Rusby.) Whether the stone in the lyric was Mick seems unlikely, it seeming more in line with the Dylan song, but it is still a doozy. In Scotland a pint of Mick is what you might ask for in a pub, rhyming slang for lager, Jagger rhyming with lager if you have a glaswegian accent.

Y'know, shut your eyes and try and imagine this sung by a group of Sarf Lahndon white boys, holed up in a chateau somewhere in France and, yes? It works, doesn't it. The Pointer Sisters really had a way with rock songs, somehow making them still sound intrinsically motown, if with more attitude. This song, 'Love is Like a Rolling Stone', comes from the 2009 re-release of their breakthrough album, 1978's 'Energy', the song originally penned/played by Brian Cadd's Bootleg Band. (No, me, neither.) I am not sure I would want love to be like Charlie, would you, but, wait a minute, take stock: solid, steady, reliable. Not so shabby, actually.

'The Lord Loves a Rolling Stone' sings Spooner Oldham on this glorious Muscle Shoals production, a track from his only solo record, from 1972. And you would think he would know, even if I can't find any evidence of his having ever played with, you know, the band I can't mention, but he does play on this, on their guitarists last solo record. Present on as many classics as you could or can ever imagine, his  talents continue to grace many a more modern band seeking gravitas and credibility, like the Drive-By Truckers, who also, incidentally, play that song. Here's a great synopsis of his worth, played out in an interview I dug up.

By contrast, the wild-tonsilled erstwhile singer for Family, Roger Chapman, gives some probably sound advice, 'Never Love a Rolling Stone', advice many a mother may have given her daughters in the 60's. And 70's. And 80s etc. The lyric here, ostensibly about a carney on the fairs, suggests that advice was not neglected here, except perhaps in a purely physical way. Which, perhaps, is how he earlier came to be singing this song, after Family but before his solo years, in the Chapman-Whitney Streetwalkers. Having so far contrived references above to Mick, Keef and Charlie, all I can muster is that both Chappo and Ronnie Wood have names beginning with R.

Never. (OK, it isn't, but the link is sort of linked.....)

Stones That Roll: Rocks Off

Rolling Stones: Rocks Off

Of all of the Rolling Stones songs out there (and eventually, we had to get to them on this theme, amirite?), I chose this one for a few reasons. First, because of the title, which gives me a double dip at the theme, second, because I happened to hear it on the radio the other day, third, because it is a kick ass song, fourth, because my favorite Rolling Stones lineup included Mick Taylor, and finally, because a horn section makes any song better.

“Rocks Off” is the opening track from Exile on Main Street, an album many consider the Stones’ best work, although apparently Mick Jagger doesn’t agree. The album was recorded mostly in a villa in the south of France in 1971 (with some songs and overdubs recorded later in Los Angeles), and the recording process was notoriously chaotic, as a result of significant indulgences in bad habits and a corresponding lack of diligence on the part of all involved. Thousands of pounds of heroin reportedly made their way to the villa each week, and because of rampant absenteeism, many songs were recorded with session musicians or people playing different instruments than usual.

Whether by intention or not, “Rocks Off” is the perfect opening track for an album that was born from the Stones’ darkest behavior. It rocks like crazy, is terribly recorded, sounds murky, has vocal and instrumental parts that sort of meander in and out of the mix, is sexually suggestive, but also filled with dread and ennui, and it includes one of the great lyrics of all time—and one that seemed to exactly typify the state of mind of the band at the time: “the sunshine bores the daylights out of me.”

Most people don’t live the “rock and roll lifestyle,” and that is probably a good thing. Most of us live pretty conventional lives—we go to school, go to work, raise a family, whatever. Obviously, that’s not true about everyone, and most of us have had our periods of less than stellar behavior, but I think it is fair to say that the levels of debauchery that the Rolling Stones engaged in during the late 60s into the 70s is well beyond the levels that most people experience (or survive). And that is, probably, the reason why we mythologize the substance abusers, the hotel destroyers, the sexual experimenters, and the other outlaws of rock and roll, despite the fact that much of their behavior is, on its face, unworthy of such treatment. I find it hard to imagine, for example, any parent saying to a child, “here’s a guitar and some heroin, and if you work hard at both, someday, you might be as great as Keith Richards.” But we do lionize these performers not only because many of them create the music that we love (although some are just horrible), but also because of the vicarious thrills we get from them. Like why riding a roller coaster is so much fun—you get the excitement of danger, without the actual danger (for the most part).

Would I like to have spent months in a villa in the south of France recording an album with the Rolling Stones? Sure, although lacking any actual musical talent, I’m not sure why I’d be there. But would I have liked to spend the time drugged, debauched, frustrated and exhausted? Definitely not. But am I glad that the Stones, their sidemen, and crew did, so that I could listen to Exile on Main Street? You’re damn right I am.