Loving the Music - the Sound of February: 15th - 28th Feb 2020
The second half of February was a rollercoaster of musical styles that saw features of an AGT contestant, an Art Band from the '60s, and an actor and actress show their vocal skills, and that's just scratching the surface. Enjoy revisiting this mixed-bag session of great music.
Photo: Ian Dickson
This series of blog articles cover a week of mini-feature posts from the Loving the Music Facebook page and group. This makes it easier for our music-loving community to search through our ever-growing archive of songs, backstories and trivia.
February 1st - 14th: Musicians Featured
Carey Mulligan - Tyler Bryant - Larkin Poe - Bonza Dog Doo Dah Band - Chase Goehring
Richard Harris - JJ Cale - Zak Wilkerson - Pat Methany - Tash Sultana - Manfred Mann
The Cadillac Three - Widespread Panic - Drive-By Truckers
15th Feb: There are some songs that lend themselves to being overworked, oversung and hammed up. New York, New York is one of them. Everyone from big names to wannabe cabaret stars continue to take a crack at it. For me, when a song reaches that level of ‘the expected’ it comes as a refreshing surprise when I stumble on a version that gives a whole new dimension to the well known.
This clip is from Shame, the 2011 movie directed by Steve McQueen and starring Michael Fasbender and Carey Mulligan. In this nightclub scene, Sissy (Carey Mulligan) keeps everyone hanging on every line in one of the most powerful versions of this old standard I have yet heard.
Thanks to the Chris Prior weekly podcasts I was introduced to a brilliant young Texan musician by the name of Tyler Bryant a while ago. He was the 11-year-old kid who sold the dirtbike his folks given him so he could buy an electric guitar and follow his dream. He was noticed and mentored by an old bluesman, Roosevelt Twitty, who helped craft that budding star into the musician he is today. I’d like to close off Saturday night with the song that Tyler wrote in honour of his tutor who sadly passed away in 2013 – Rosie.
16th Feb: I'm a big fan of Larkin Poe, the two sisters who can hold their own with the best in Blues Rock. This track, Mad as a Hatter, shows a very different side to their sound - paired back, soft and deeply reflective. The song is about their grandfather and his battle with dementia, and it is beautiful.
I was listening to the personal Top 15 feature on Radio Caroline this morning and heard this wonderful bit of nonsense that I haven’t heard in years. The ‘60s “art school” group who went on to be an unlikely success with songs like Urban Spaceman, I‘m talking about the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and their track from the Gorillas album, The Intro and Outro.
This is a tongue in cheek tribute to those cheesy cabaret acts of the ‘50s and ‘60s. Still making me smile after a lot of years. Well done chaps! Now, take a listen to the Count Basie Orchestra on the triangle...
17th Feb: Chase Goehring has been on my radar since his America’s Got Talent performances in 2017. Although he didn’t win it (sadly) I knew that the world would be hearing more from this major talent in the near future. Since the competition, he has released some really good singles and last September released his debut EP, Crimson. Tonight I am featuring a selection of his tracks that grabbed me from the moment I heard them (which is most of them, but I am limiting myself to three tracks). I’m starting the mix with a studio version of one of the songs he performed on AGT, and won him the golden buzzer from DJ Khaled, Acapella. :)
From becoming “the contestant to watch” on AGT 2017 Chase Goehring quickly became a social media success and is now a sought-after entertainer, in-demand by fans (known as the “Chasers”), with an adoration that spans all ages over the world – and well deserved!
The second track in my Chase Goehring mix is one from his 2019 EP, Crimson, called Image, and it’s a beaut.
The third and final track from Chase Goehring for today is the title track of his 2019 EP, Crimson and the song is called...Crimson. I think this is possibly the most commercial sounding track of his so far, but that doesn’t diminish its impact at all.
So, to all ‘Chasers’ old and new, I hope you’ve enjoyed catching up with an artist who is busy carving his own niche in our musical landscape. Have a great Monday music lovers. 😎
18th Feb: Fun Story Alert! The huge hit MacArthur Park’s lyrics have been an enigma for listeners since Richard Harris released it in 1968. What was composer and lyricist Jimmy Webb thinking when he dramatically popularised the idea of green iced cakes melting in the rain? With a bit of searching I came across his explanation and that of the staff music composer who worked for the publishing company that handled the song, Edwin McCourt. They differ somewhat, but I like the second story better.
Jimmy Webb claims the song was about a love affair ending and the cake in the rain was a metaphor in keeping with the ‘60s surrealistic lyrics that were the order of the day. (Yeah, right, boring!)
This is far meatier: McCourt claims Webb explained the song's story to him; "Jim was in love with a girl who left him. Months later, he heard she was getting married - in the park where they used to meet for lunch. Broken-hearted, he went to the wedding and, not wanting to be seen, hid in a gardener's shed. As the open-air ceremony was taking place, it started to pour with rain and the rain running down the shed window made the cake look as if it was melting.” Interestingly, the man who married the girl was a phone engineer from Wichita – maybe the inspiration for one of Jimmy Webb’s later hits, Witchita Linesman?
In an interview with The Guardian, Webb said the woman the song is about, Suzy Horton, went on to become a dancer in Lake Tahoe. After Webb "came into some significant money," he flew out there on a private Lear jet to get her back. She did indeed leave with him and they stayed together for three years. "Then it turned into a soap opera," Webb said.
Maybe some cakes should have been left to melt! Have a fun Tuesday folks.
20th Feb: I think JJ Cale's music is timeless. Fans were always guaranteed a collection of infinitely listenable songs whenever he released an album and his death in 2013 was a blow for the music world.
There was much excitement last year with the announcement that his widow, Christine, and good friend and producer, Mike Kappus, were releasing fifteen previously unheard tracks that had been recorded and produced by J J Cale over the years.
The album Stay Around was released last April, and for anyone who missed it, here's one of the excellent tracks, Go Downtown. This album is a must for all J J Cale lovers.
Zac Wilkerson? I’d never heard of him until Radio Caroline started to feature a track from his new album, Evergreen, released on Valentine’s Day. I really like his style, and the song ‘Give Your Heart to Love’ is catchy without being annoying. The album features twelve original songs that fuse Motown soul, funk rhythms and a gritty take on Texas blues. This is his third album and if this is anything to go by, exploring his back catalogue should be fun. I’ll keep you posted. Here’s Give Your Heart to love. Enjoy! 😎
21st Feb: I’m very happy to tell you that Pat Metheny’s new album, From This Place, was released today. I checked YouTube and found that he had thoughtfully pre-released a few promo tracks from the album, and they are magnificent. This is a ‘headphones on revel in his genius’ moment. After the sad loss of Lyle Mays recently, this album will bring a ray of happiness to the many Pat Methany fans. Enjoy the track Wide and Far. This is classic Pat Methany!
The song that Pat Metheny's new album is named for has topical roots as he revealed on this website: “On November 8, 2016, our country shamefully revealed a side of itself to the world that had mostly been hidden from view in its recent history. I wrote the piece From This Place in the early morning hours the next day as the results of the election became sadly evident.
There was only one musician who I could imagine singing it, and that was Meshell Ndegocello, one of the great artists of our time. With words by her partner, Allison Ray, they captured the feeling of that tragic moment while reaffirming the hope of better days ahead.”
From This Place, both the song and album is an extremely powerful piece.
Whatever you’re doing, have a happy Friday evening.😎
22nd Feb: The concept of the one-man-band has changed somewhat since the advent of looping technology. As much as some say that looping is all gimmicks and electronics one fact stands out – to make all those gimmicks and electronics work you have to know what you are doing and you have to have a good command of your instrument/s.
One such looping genius is Tash Sultana, the Australian singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Tash has grown from strength to strength since uploading tracks to Bandcamp in 2013. In 2016 the EP, Notion was viewed millions of times on YouTube and by 2017 Tash embarked on a sold-out world tour. 2018 saw the release of Tash’s album, Flow State, the first full-length album from this genius. It’s a beautiful showcase of Tash’s amazing voice, song-crafting and musical ability.
For those still in two minds about the musical credibility of loopers, here’s a 2016 clip of Tash without electronics. This is Blackbird (no, not that one) recorded for the 7 Layers Sessions in Amsterdam. Be prepared to be blown away.
I’m featuring the remarkable Tash Sultana today, and for the second track in the mix I’ve chosen a beautiful song, Cigarettes, from the Flow State album.
I showed you what Tash could do with just a guitar in the last clip, now here’s an example of the crisp studio sound achieved on the album. Remember, this is just Tash – no backing band etc. Do yourself a favour and read the lyrics that are posted in the You Tube link’s comment section – so clever.
I’m closing today’s Tash Sultana selection with a live clip of the song Jungle, the third single to have been released from the 2016 Notion EP. I’ve chosen this clip to give you an idea of what a dynamic live performer Tash is.
Loopers such as Jacob Collier and Sam Perry have already made a huge impact across musical genres, from Jazz and vocal magic to rock and classics. The technology is starting to find newfound respectability, and I think Tash Sultana has managed to spread its influence yet further. I’m looking forward to seeing where looping will take us next. Wherever it is, it’s sure to sound exciting. Wishing you all a spectacular Saturday! 😎
27th Feb: There are some international artists that one forgets were born and cut their musical teeth in South Africa. One such is Manfred Mann who had been releasing albums since 1959.
Manfred Lubowitz (aka Manfred Mann) was born in Johannesburg in 1940. He studied music at Witwatersrand University and worked as a jazz pianist around the cabaret and supper club circuit, releasing two albums between 1959 and 1961 as a duo, The Vikings, with friend Saul Ozynski.
By the time 1961 rolled around Manfred had relocated to the UK because of his anti-apartheid feelings. He met drummer and keyboard player Mike Hugg and together they formed the Mann-Hugg Blues Brothers. By the time they were awarded a record deal with EMI the band was a five-piece and they had changed their name to Manfred Mann in 1963.
From 1964 to 1969 they had a succession of hit records, many of them covers, including Do Wah Diddy Diddy (originally by The Exciters), Sha La La (The Shirlee's) and Mighty Quinn (written by Bob Dylan).
I’m starting tonight with a song written by Marc Barkan, recorded initially by Gene Pitney in February 1963, and re-released just two months later by Manfred Mann, whose version became a huge hit. Here’s one of my favourites from the era Pretty Flamingo, complete with footage of Picadilly Circus as I remember it as a kid.
For the second section from Manfred Mann we are jumping ahead a few years. The original band split in 1969 and Manfred immediately formed the experimental rock outfit, Manfred Mann Chapter Three, but disbanded after just two albums. In 1971 Manfred Mann’s Earth Band emerged and produced a prolific catalogue of recordings, including the brilliant 1983 Somewhere in Africa album, from whence our next track, The Africa Suite, comes.
The song is a statement about the Bantustans that were created throughout the country to house the black population at the time. Needless to say the album was banned in South Africa (as was Manfred Mann himself) but that didn’t prevent it becoming a favourite, and an anthem amongst us local rebels. Sometimes playing banned music was the only protest we could make.
The last of the three tracks I’m featuring from Manfred Mann’s Earth Band is another one of their huge hits, Blinded By The Light, written by Bruce Springsteen.
Manfred Mann’s Earth Band is still touring internationally and although they haven’t released much except some greatest hits compilations in recent years, with 17 studio albums, 3 live albums, 7 compilations and 37 singles they have plenty of back-catalogue to choose from when compiling their setlist. I hope you enjoyed revisiting the past with today’s selection. Have a happy Thursday music lovers 😎
28th Feb: For today’s selection we’re heading down South to visit some tracks from three excellent Southern Rock outfits. All three are regularly featured on the Rock Professor (Chris Prior) podcasts, and for good reason.
The first band has released four albums since their debut in 2012 to growing critical acclaim. The life and touring schedule of a Southern Rock band can be hard work and reaches far wider than ‘the South’ as The Cadillac Three showed when, in 2015, they played a show in the USA on a Friday, jumped on a plane immediately afterwards to fly to the UK on Saturday to play a gig, and then got back on the plane that night to play another festival date back in the States the next day! This is a track from their 4th studio album, Country Fuzz, released on 20th February this year. Take a listen to Slow Rollin’.
The second Southern Rock outfit I am featuring today has been around since 1986 and although they have gone through a number of lineups, they have consistently produced some excellent music. Amongst the members of Widespread Panic, you may recognise the name Duane Trucks, brother of the uber-talented Derek Trucks (Tedeschi Trucks Band).
The band are highly organised when it comes to planning their shows. Known for never playing the same show twice, Widespread Panic has a show-to-show ritual of choosing the night's setlist. At the beginning of each tour, a member of the band's road crew makes a master list of all the songs the band performs and laminates it. Each night before the show he marks the last 3 nights' setlists in different colours. The band can see what has been played recently and then decide what songs to play during the first set. They return to the list during set-break to pick songs for the second set, and likewise, return after the second set for any additional sets if playing more than two, or the encore.
Their sound has been compared to The Grateful Dead and Little Feet, which is not surprising seeing that both bands were instrumental in creating and popularising Southern Rock as a genre.
Here’s Street Dogs for Breakfast from their last album Street Dogs (2015). Animal right’s activists take note, I think they are singing about hot-dogs and in no way does the song promote the consumption of puppies!
Closing today’s selection of Southern Rock bands we are spending some time with the Drive-By Truckers, who started the year with the release of the album, The Unraveling.
To quote lead vocalist, Patterson Hood, from their official website: "This is the first album in three and a half years. Those years were among the most tumultuous our country has ever seen and the duality between the generally positive state of affairs within our band while watching so many things we care about being decimated and destroyed around us. While our 2016 album, American Band, warned of the coming storm, this one was written in the storm’s wreckage and the aftermath. I’ve always said our records are political, but also said that politics is personal. With that in mind this album is especially personal”.
The song Thoughts and Prayers is a deep social commentary with some wonderful lyrics and superb musicianship. This verse made me smile:
The flat earthist realized, as he flew through the skies, the curve of the earth as he fell. He saw the world was round just before he hit the ground, and gravity called out to close the deal.
Many have said that the era of protest music is dead. I don’t think so. Have a lovely Friday folks. 😎
I hope that you find these weekly recaps of Loving the Music mini-features make your musical world a little easier. Happy exploring! Join our Facebook Community here for a music group who does more than just post a link to a song.
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Words © Andrew Knapp
The author does not own the copyright of any of the videos used in the article