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Posts Tagged ‘Rich’s House of VInyl’

The Daily Record: “Wonderful Crazy Night”–Elton John (2016)

In Rich's House of Vinyl on January 13, 2017 at 4:17 am

 

For the next few weeks, I’m going to post brief “Daily Record” surveys of albums released in 2016. The plan is to post them in chronological order from their 2016 release dates. Last night I wrote about David Bowie’s Blackstar. Tonight, I’ll move on to Elton John’s Wonderful Crazy Night, released in early February 2016.

Right after Christmas, I realized that I’d only heard three albums released in 2016. This is very odd for me, since I’m usually at least a little better at keeping up with pop music. But, while I did hear more Top 40 radio than I would have imagined, I seriously fell down on album-listening.

Wonderful Crazy Night was one of those three albums. Of course, Blackstar was one of the others. The third will turn up in a future entry.

Now, I have been an Elton John fan forever. He was probably my first favorite rock star. I’ll even defend his first “down” period (1977-1982 or so), though I have to admit that I can’t find much EJ music from ’84 all the way through 2000 to recommend. Scattered songs here and there, but the albums suffer from all matter of problems, from questionable production choices to lazy songwriting.

Beginning with 2001’s Songs from the West Coast, Elton began to turn things around, and I’ve been generally pleased with his albums since then. I was looking forward to Wonderful Crazy Night  and I was intrigued with the pre-release buzz that the album was going to be an upbeat album, filled with rockin’ songs reminiscent of his classic ’70s singles. In short, it was going to be a whole lotta “Crocodile Rock,” as opposed to John’s previous album, The Diving Board, which was sort of a whole lotta “Someone Saved My Life Tonight.”

Of course, “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” is one of my all-time favorite songs and I actually liked The Diving Board very much. Sure, it didn’t exactly rock, but it had gravitas, which seemed to work well for EJ. Plus, it had a spare, stark production sound and plenty of piano.

So, when Wonderful Crazy Night was released, I dutifully bought it and listened a few times but compared to the stately and grounded The Diving Board, the new album seemed a little bit too lightweight. I’d listen to Wonderful Crazy Night, then it would float away and I’d go listen to Blackstar again.

Elton’s new album was competing with the gravitas of his own last album as well as that of his recently deceased peer–Bowie and John were born mere months from each other in 1947. Wonderful Crazy Night soon got filed away for much of the rest of the year.

A funny thing happened though. In anticipation of this post, I started listening to  Wonderful Crazy Night over the past few weeks and I let it sink in a bit more than I had last February. It’s grown on me, and it clearly fits in nicely with his fine string of 21st century records. I’m still not sold on every song on the album, but the upbeat songs like the title track and “Looking Up” are fun and most of the ballads are pretty OK, even if they don’t have the depth of the songs on The Diving Board.

Tonight, “I’ve Got 2 Wings” is my favorite Wonderful Crazy Night song. It’s a true story, the biography of Utah Smith, a traveling preacher who roamed the United States with an electric guitar and a pair of paper angel wings he wear while playing and singing gospel tunes. I had never heard of Smith before I heard this song, but I’m finding myself touched by his life story tonight, for reasons that I can’t completely explain. Maybe I’ll delve further into the Utah Smith story and report on it sometime soon. For now that, here’s a bonus song from Utah Smith. Just still photos, but check out the wings!

 

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Where’s That Confounded Bridge?

In 1970s, 1973, British bands, Led Zeppelin, Rich's House of Vinyl, rock on August 12, 2016 at 10:22 pm

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Earlier this week, my 20-sided dice told me to listen to Led Zeppelin’s classic 1973 album, Houses of the Holy. I listened to it several times. I will now report my findings.

I have no specific memories of March 1973. Just hazy impressions.

I was in second grade at a smallish Catholic school in southeastern Pennsylvania. Each morning, I’d eat breakfast while I listened to powerhouse AM Philadelphia radio station WFIL on the radio. After I’d leave my house to walk to school, I would turn around at two or three specific spots to wave to Mom, standing inside the front door. Eventually, of course, there was no looking back, and I’d make the short trek to school.

My second grade teacher had a name that to this day I probably wouldn’t be able to spell. I am sure there was a basic second grade routine, but the details are lost to me now. Friday mornings, all the kids from first through eighth grade would walk in two neat rows over to the church for Mass. Our First Holy Communion would be happening in May, so it’s a safe bet that we were practicing for that.

In short, my life in March 1973 was about as different from that of Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert “Don’t Call Me Bob” Plant’s life that year as you can possibly imagine.

In fact, it might sound improbable, but I think I was unaware of the existence of Led Zeppelin in 1973, despite their lofty status as Rock Gods. I certainly liked music, and my tastes were gradually being formed, but no one was guiding me toward the kind of heaviness that Zeppelin represented. I can safely say that I had no idea that Led Zeppelin had released their fifth album, Houses of the Holy, in the spring of my second grade year.

Despite this, Robert Plant and I did share one common interest in 1973: spinning tales of the endless journeys of thousands of adventurers on some kind of mystical quest.

When school ended each day, I would wait for the old man crossing guard to part the traffic on Concord Road and I’d head down the long catwalk back into our neighborhood. As I walked, I’d often gaze at the ground and imagine that it was the terrain for some kind of epic journey being taken by massive groups of explorers or soldiers, facing danger at every turn. On rainy days, water streaming down the street would become mighty rivers on which imaginary sailors took endless, perilous journeys. Some survived, some did not, but the journey/battle/quest went on forever. At least in my mind. Each afternoon on my way home from school, I’d pick up the story where I’d left off the day before.

Though I certainly hadn’t heard the song, I was essentially acting out “No Quarter,” a dark story song from Houses of the Holy. It’s a mysterious song about a shadowy group of (presumably) men who are facing a raging snow storm and the “winds of Thor,” as they walk “side by side with death,” while “the devil mocks their every step.” The point of the march? To “carry news that must get through” and to “build a dream for me and you.”

I don’t know precisely what Plant was getting at with those lyrics, but hearing them now reminds me of those tales I’d make up during those walks home from school so long ago. Tales that existed completely in my head for more than 40 years, until I mentioned them to my wife Donna last night.

Of course, I guess Robert Plant and I both have Homer to thank for putting these kinds of stories in our heads. And in the head of any kid who ever grew up anywhere over the last few millennia.

I missed out on Houses of the Holy in 1973. When I think of the music from March 1973 that might have resonated with me, I find that it’s the soul songs on Billboard’s Hot 100 from late March of that year that feel the most foundational to my musical tastes. In short, the songs by the Spinners, Stylistics, O’Jays and so many more are the ones that I was probably hearing the most those mornings on WFIL, and they’re the ones that sank deep into me. Bands like Zeppelin and Pink Floyd–whose Dark Side of the Moon was also released in March 1973 and whose popularity has arguably eclipsed that of Houses of the Holy–would have to wait for me to catch up to them.

But I did catch up eventually. I’m sure that I had heard all eight songs from Houses of the Holy on rock stations like WMMR by the time drummer John Bonham’s death brought Zeppelin to an untimely end in 1980. I got over my fear of “heavy” music and began to dive into Zeppelin’s albums, first by borrowing them from my high school classmate Dave, and then by buying them one by one for about $5.00 at my local Listening Booth record store.

And so it was that about 10 years after its release, I heard Houses of the Holy for the first time. I don’t remember the first time I listened to it, beginning to end, but I was likely amazed at how I’d already heard every song from the LP on ‘MMR. Houses of the Holy was just that damn important to the burgeoning “classic rock” culture of the early 1980s.

I don’t know that Houses of the Holy was universally acclaimed at the time of its release, but I think it holds up well. It’s a diverse album, ranging from raging Zep stompers like “Dancing Days,” “Over The Hills and Far Away,” and “The Ocean” to the ethereal “The Rain Song,” still one of the most gorgeous songs Plant has ever sung (and dig those mellotron-generated strings!). Plus, you get a goofy reggae tribute, “D’yer Mak’er” and the James Brown parody, “The Crunge,” both rare displays of a Zeppelin sense of humor. Where is that confounded bridge, anyway?

During my college years, I was falling in love with all kinds of new music, but I wound up burrowing deeper into the classic rock canon as well. More than a few times, Houses of the Holy would be the soundtrack to college dorm backgammon matches. Yes, indeed, I knew how to party.

Houses of the Holy and I sometimes spend years apart, but every now and then I rediscover it and listen to it for days or weeks on end. This is what happened after I met an online friend named Tommy back around 2008 or thereabout. He was a big Zeppelin fan, and he reignited my love for Houses of the Holy. I never met Tommy in real life and he is now sadly gone. But I feel his presence, along with the presence of those still here–Rick and Greg from college, Dave and Joe from high school–with whom I’ve shared the mighty Houses of the Holy through the years. And even the presence of seven-year-old me, telling myself the story of “No Quarter,” as I walked home from school, long before I’d ever heard of “No Quarter,” Houses of the Holy, or even Led Zeppelin itself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Vinylly Friday! Das Walter Pons Trio!

In 1950s, cocktail music, cover songs, EZ listening music, piano, records, Rich's House of Vinyl on February 13, 2016 at 1:59 pm

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Welcome to the first installment of “It’s Vinylly Friday,” a weekly (?) column in which I delve into a record or set of records that live here at Rich’s House of Vinyl. This week, I invite you to experience the “Zur Cocktailstunde” by the Walter Pons Trio!

I know nearly nothing about the Walter Pons Trio. The Internet gives up a little bit of information–some downloads on Amazon here, a couple of records for sale on eBay there–but not much in the way of biography. If there is a “Behind the Music” documentary on the trio of Walter Pons (piano), Heinz Macher (guitar) and Egon Bayer, I’ve yet to find it. This is not really a problem, as the four 10-inch records in the Zur Cocktailstunde series tell their own story, with just enough history to keep things interesting.

First, the music: we’re talking basic piano trio cocktail covers here, designed to be heard pleasantly in the background as you imbibe. Some of the record sides appear to have been recorded live, providing just the right amount of murmuring lounge ambience, without any overt, intrusive applause.

Donna and I were at Jake’s Flea Market, a gathering place of all manner of odd people and things in Barto, Pennsylvani. I was rifling through some very promising boxes of records that were going cheap when I found the four records shown at the top of this entry.

The covers are what sold us, and why not? Place these beauties together in a nice big square frame and you’ve got yourself a nifty, Poppy work of art. Not that I’ve done that yet, but the possibility lingers.

Upon closer inspection, I noticed that all four records were inscribed to somebody named Mr. Chuck Roberts and signed by the inimitable Walter Pons himself:

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While the record above was signed by “Walter Pons + Colleagues” in 1964, the other records were autographed for “Dr. Roberts” back in 1957. And so the story comes together: sometime in the mid-1950s, a Dr. Roberts began to attend cocktail lounges where the Walter Pons Trio was playing. These lounges could have been in Germany, or maybe in the United States. It is, after all, possible that the Pons Trio would have had a following in the U.S.

Whenever the Trio would release a record in their Zur Cocktailstunde series, Dr. Roberts would be sure to buy it, maybe at a merch table in the cocktail lounge lobby. Over the years, Roberts and Pons got to know each other well, so that by 1964, Pons was comfortable addressing Roberts as “Chuck” when signing the record that Roberts bought on March 24 of that year.

Or maybe, the relationship between Pons and Roberts was strictly professional. Maybe Roberts was Pons’ personal physician. As a courtesy, Pons would give Roberts a copy of the Trio’s latest record whenever he visited Dr. Roberts for his annual check-up?

That’s where the mystery comes in, and that is certainly one of the reasons I enjoy finding autographed records; or records on which the owners have written their names or other notes. “Every picture tells a story,” Rod Stewart noted, and every signed/annotated record does as well. It’s up to those of us who experience these records long past their “sell by” date to fill in the story’s details.

333 Words about Abandoned Luncheonette

In 1970s, 1973, Rich's House of Vinyl on November 3, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Typically I use a chance operation to determine what albums I profile on this blog, but once in awhile there is a good reason to write about a specific LP on a specific day. Such is the case with Hall & Oates’ Abandoned Luncheonette, released 40 years ago today.

A breakthrough album for Hall & Oates, Abandoned Luncheonette provided the duo with a big hit single, “She’s Gone,” though it wasn’t a hit for the duo until both Lou Rawls and Tavares recorded popular covers of it.

In addition to the musical success Abandoned Luncheonette brought its creators, the LP created a fair amount of notoriety for its cover model, the ruins of the Rosedale Diner, which had been a mainstay in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, where Daryl Hall grew up, for years. By 1973, what was left of the Rosedale sat along Route 724, just up the road from where I now live.  The success of Abandoned Luncheonette led to many pilgrimages by fans to Route 724 until 1983, when the diners remains was burned by a local fire company.

In more recent times, a guy named Matt Simmons fell in love with the Abandoned Luncheonette album and determined that he was going to travel to 724 and learn more about the Rosedale. He did just that, and probably knows more about the Rosedale than just about anyone.

Given our shared interest and my physical proximity to the site where the Rosedale rested for years, it was probably inevitable that Matt and I should become friends. As is often the case, social media helped us meet and facilitated our friendship to the point where we actually met in person back in August. I was happy to show Matt and his family the Colonial Theater here in Phoenixville and I later joined Matt as he visited the Rosedale site and even found me one of the remaining bits of floor tiles from the diner.

Here’s Matt and me that day, listening to Michael Kropp play at the Phoenixville Farmer’s Market:

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333 Words About 3 + 3

In 1970s, 1973, funk, guitar solos, Isley Brothers, record collecting, records, Rich's House of Vinyl, rock, soul on November 1, 2013 at 2:28 am

The Isley Brothers weren’t midway through their career in 1973, even though they’d been around since the mid-1950s. But they were at the top of their game on that year’s 3 + 3 album.

Hearing this album was a revelation to me. Of course, everyone knows about “Shout” and “Twist and Shout,” as well as “This Old Heart of Mine.” I’m quite partial to “It’s Your Thing,” as well. But 3 + 3 finds the Isleys tapping into the sound and feel of mid-1970s funk and moving the genre along with their own innovations.

The first thing I noticed after listening to the entire album is how it’s pretty evenly divided between excellent Isley compositions and killer cover versions of recent pop hits. The album opens with the insanely catchy hit single, “That Lady,” an Isley original, and the quality never lets up, whether the band is tackling their own songs or those by James Taylor (“Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight”) and the Doobie Brothers (“Listen to the Music”).  And, though Chris Jasper is credited with playing the “clarinet” on several songs, I’m pretty certain that it’s actually a “clavinet” that he is using to distribute liberal dollops of funk throughout the album.

While the entire album is quite enjoyable, 3 + 3 brings it all home toward the end, with the Isley’s magnificent cover of Seals and Crofts’ proto-yacht rock hit, “Summer Breeze.” The Isleys take their time with “Summer Breeze,” letting it develop at a languid pace that at one point, unexpectedly reminds me of British band XTC. I say unexpected because I would have never imagined that XTC would remind me either of the Isley Brothers or Seals and Crofts. One particular verse though, has a musical and lyrical vibe that would feel right at home on XTC’s classic (and languid) album, Skylarking.

All the languidness (languidity?) is clearly leading up to something: an explosive guitar solo by Ernie Isley that starts about four minutes into the song and rides “Summer Breeze” to a glorious conclusion two minutes later.

333 Words About Taj Mahal’s The Real Thing

In 1970s, blues, live albums, record collecting, records, rhythm and blues, Rich's House of Vinyl, soul on October 27, 2013 at 1:23 pm

The essential point of this “Rich’s House of Vinyl” blog, aside from giving me a chance to write about music, is that I pick the records out using a pair of 20-sided dice. This suits my geeky side quite nicely, especially since, not be a Dungeons and Dragons kind of geek, I’ve never really had a context to use such dice and now I do.

The dice allow me to pull stuff out of my large record collection that I’ve actually never listened to. This is a good thing, since I don’t collect records just so they can sit around on a shelf (or, at the moment, on my living room floor) gathering dust. I actually want to listen to the things.

The dice were kind to me in presenting Taj Mahal’s early 1970s live album, The Real Thing. I think this record came my way when a friend passed along a box of great albums that had been passed to him from a friend. I had not gotten a chance to listen to but now I have, and I love it.

While I’ve known of Taj Mahal for years, I’ve never actually heard his music. I’ve also known that Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder were in a band together in the early ’60s, which was a good sign that I’d  like him. I’d always imagined that Taj Mahal was a mostly acoustic blues guitarist and singer, but he’s got much more going on than that. On this album, which was recorded live at the Fillmore East, Taj Mahal’s band plays electric guitar, bass and piano, drums, congas and four tubas. And those tubas rock, lemme tell ya. Taj Mahal himself plays a variety of instruments, including the ever-popular six-holed fife.

The result? A live show, rooted in blues but not afraid to take those blues to some exotic, jazzy places. A show that took place more than 40 years ago, but is introducing me to Taj Mahal today. The real thing, indeed.

333 Words About Royal Rappin’s

In 1970s, 1979, disco, funk, gospel, Isaac Hayes, Millie Jackson, record collecting, religion, Rich's House of Vinyl, soul on October 24, 2013 at 4:46 am

On a recent morning, I was sitting in my living room, enjoying Millie Jackson and Isaac Hayes’ 1979 album, Royal Rappin’s, when I heard a knock at the door. I discovered a very young boy and a very old man standing on my porch, anxious to speak to me about God and what He wants/doesn’t want.

As I was greeting my visitors, I realized that Millie and Isaac were in the thick of it, it being their salacious rendition of the rockin’ disco hit, “Do You Wanna Make Love” (sample lyric: “Do you wanna make love/Or do you just want to fool around”). Cleverly intuiting that the Jehovah’s Witnesses at my door were not interested in a debate over the pros and cons of making love, I slyly reached over to squelch the volume on my record player, which was conveniently next to the door.  I then listened as the boy preached the gospel to me and asked me if I thought God cared more about money and material things than a loving family. I said no, He probably didn’t, and as the boy agreed, he pointed to the scripture that confirmed our shared belief.

He and the older gentleman then handed me a copy of The Watchtower and asked if they could come back some time to discuss it with me. I did not flat out refuse their suggestion, though I am not sure when that meeting will take place.

As the Witnesses moved on to my neighbor, I returned to Millie and Isaac, who were continuing to discourse on the power of getting it on. Romance and sweet lovemaking are the topics Millie and Isaac preach about on Royal Rappin’s. Opening with the seductive “Sweet Music, Soft Lights and You,” wending their way through Foreigner’s “Feels Like the First Time,” bumping’n’grinding through the aforementioned “Do You Wanna Make Love,” before climaxing with a cover of the Anne Murray sapfest, “You Needed Me,” it’s all about the love, L-U-V, on Royal Rappin’s.

Daily Record 2/23/11: Spiders-Space

In 1990, 1996, British bands, pop on February 23, 2011 at 10:43 pm

 

Listening to today’s Daily Record, 1996’s Spiders by British pop rock band Space, felt like homework to me. While the album spawned a “modern rock hit” (i.e., a popular song that did not make Billboard‘s Top 40) in “Female of the Species,” Space was destined to become a one-hit wonder, at least in the U.S.

I was a big fan of “Female of the Species,” and still am. I don’t know if you remember it, but it’s this kind-of-spooky, kind-of-Bacharach tune in which the singer intones “The female of the species is more deadly than the male.” Great tune, but the previous sentence includes a clue to my ambivalence about listening to the whole <i>Spiders</i> album this morning: I don’t even know the singer’s name!

I do not remember buying the Spiders album, though the purchase probably went something like this. One evening in Northeast Philadelphia, Donna and I drive up Roosevelt Boulevard to Tower Records. For those who might not remember the pre-iTunes era, Tower was indeed a magical place where nearly any song you wanted could be found on bright shiny compact discs. When I first stepped into a Tower Records (probably the one down on South Street, also in Philadelphia) I’m sure I was barely able to contain myself.

Anyway, having heard “Female of the Species” by Space on a still-somewhat-novel modern rock station, I decided to buy the whole CD. Brought it home, maybe listened to it once and dutifully placed “Female of the Species” as a key track on a few mix tapes over the next years.

Then forgot about it. Forgot about Spiders. Forgot about Space. There was never a follow-up single that I remember being in rotation on that radio station, so I was never enticed to give the album a chance, as I had other albums that had grown to iconic status in my mind.

And I never even bothered to learn the singer’s name.

Then we moved to Phoenixville. Jimmy was born. We bought a house. Chris was born. My life changed over and over and I never got around to listening to Spiders.

Now, here we are, more than a decade and a half later and I am in the self-imposed position of having to listen to an entire album by a one-hit-wonder band from the mid-1990s, an era that is growing ever more distant in my life’s rearview mirror. I was concerned that this listening session would be merely an academic exercise. I soldiered on though and listened to the Spiders album, along with the four-track bonus disc (two tracks of which are “Female of the Species,” one an instrumental version).

My verdict: Spiders is OK. Not sure it ever would have grown on me though, even if I had applied the effort back in ’96.

For the record, there are two or three songs, other than “Female of the Species” that will probably make the cut on my MP3 player-for now. My favorite of these is a breezy pop song called “Dark Clouds” that sounds almost nothing like “Female of the Species.”

The rest of the songs sound to me like overt attempts to be “dance clubby” circa ’96 or they’re just that standard issue pop rock that seemed to fill up the Clinton Decade. I seem to have issues with certain aspects of pop rock music made in the 1990s, but I’ll discuss these another time.

For now, I just want to be done my homework. Can I go play now?

Sunday Singles! #4

In 45 r.p.m., record collecting, records, Rich's House of Vinyl, singles on February 20, 2011 at 12:02 am

Well, I fell off my “Daily Record” bandwagon this week, but I’m going to jump back on the horse this week. So here we go with this week’s “Sunday’s Singles,” the feature in which I listen to a bunch of 45s and write about ’em.

 “Lady Madonna”/”The Inner Light”-The Beatles (1968/peaked #4).
 “Hey Jude”/”Revolution”-The Beatles (1968/”Hey Jude” peaked at #1, while “Revolution” peaked at #12).
 “Let It Be”/”You Know My Name (Look Up My Number)”-The Beatles (1970/peaked at #1).
 “The Long and Winding Road”/”For You Blue”-The Beatles (1970/peaked at #1).
There are many things that can be said (and have probably already been said) about the Beatles, but the one point that I will note here is simply that I think it is a very cool thing to be able to listen to original Beatles singles on vinyl. This is particularly true of the single that closed out my last Sunday Singles entry, “Penny Lane”/”Strawberry Fields Forever,” which was released as a single before it was released in any other format. But it is also true of these tunes as well, which aptly demonstrate the range of late-period Beatles music from the Fats Domino homage, “Lady Madonna” to George’s Indian experiment, “The Inner Light” and his bluesy “For Your Blue,” to Lennon’s rocking treatise, “Revolution” (which features one of my favorite lyrics by anyone ever: “If you go carryin’ pictures of Chairman Mao/You ain’t gonna make it with anyone anyhow.”) to the McCartney ballads “Let It Be” and “The Long And Winding Road.” They even made time for a comedy/lounge number, “You Know My Name (Look Up My Number).”

37. “One”/”Wing and a Prayer”-Bee Gees (1989/peaked at #7). “One” was the last Top Ten hit for the Bee Gees. It’s OK, not a bad comeback attempt, but not brilliant. Still though, I wouldn’t begrudge the Brothers Gibb their last stay near the top of the charts (one more single, “Alone” reached #28 in 1997).

38. “Fire and Ice”/”Hard to Believe-Pat Benatar (1981/peaked at #17).
39. “Ooh Ooh Song”/”La Cancion Ooh Ooh”-Pat Benatar (1985/peaked at #36).
40. “Legal Tender”/”Moon 83”-B-52’s (1983/did not chart).
Since these three singles all belong to Donna, let’s get her video perspective on them:

41. “Big Country”/”All of Us”-Big Country (1983/peaked at #17). I did not follow the career of Big Country past this, their only Top 40 hit, but this song never fails to remind me of my cousin Dianne who was and remains a fan of the band. I think she saw them in their heyday, but you’d have to confirm that with her.

42. “Calling All Cows”-Elvin Bishop (1975/did not chart). I don’t think this little toe-tapper was enough to entice the cows, but I enjoy it. I have a promotional copy, so both the A and the B side feature “Calling All Cows.”

43. “Fooled Around and Fell In Love”-Elvin Bishop (1976/peaked at #3). This one was far more successful for Elvin Bishop (though Starship vocalist Mickey Thomas sings it) than “Calling All Cows” and I have to say I love “Fooled Around and Fell In Love” very much. Always have. My copy of this is one of those “back-to-back hits” singles with the other side being a hit by another band. We’ll cover that one down the road a bit.

Thanks for tuning in!

Daily Record 2/8/11: Sinatra & Company-Frank Sinatra (1971)

In 1970s, 1971, Brazilian music, Frank Sinatra, Rich's House of Vinyl on February 9, 2011 at 3:33 am

Today I listened to Frank Sinatra and Led Zeppelin. Here, I’m going to talk about Sinatra.

Sinatra’s 1971 album, Sinatra and Company, is a very nice example of an album that has very distinct “A” and “B” sides. This is an aspect of vinyl that may have been lost in the transition to compact discs to MP3s: the idea that when you flip the album over, you might get a completely different mood.

Side one of Sinatra and Company includes Brazilian icon Antonio Carlos Jobim among the company, as Sinatra glides his way through a set of tunes written or co-written by Jobim. This album side continues the Brazilian explorations that Sinatra and Jobim documented on their 1967 collaboration, Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim. It’s a cool, understated set of tunes, such as “Drinking Water (Agua de Beber)” and “Wave,”  that hide all kinds of complexities within their deceptive simplicity.

Flip the album over and it’s a whole different story. Sinatra made periodic excursions into “contemporary pop” or “soft rock” territory. That’s what Side two of Sinatra & Company is all about, with Frank tackling such tunes as “Close To You” and “Leaving On a Jet Plane.” Sinatra seems to take these songs more seriously than, say, his hilariously contemptuous version of “Downtown.”  In a surprise move, the highlight of Side B might Ol’ Blue Eyes borrowing Joe Raposo’s “Bein’ Green” from Kermit the Frog. It’s a nice gentle performance that might actually have you thinking about the lyrics a little bit more than you have before.

Still, when it comes to Sinatra and Company, I’ll take Brazil Frank over Soft Rock Frank in a heartbeat.