Loving the Music: The Sound of September 22nd - 30th
In the final run to the month-end, we have looked at a few musical legends who started their career as kids; Joe Bonamassa and Steve Winwood. We swayed to the Afro-Caribbean influences of Cymande, celebrated our heritage with Bright Blue, Hugh Masakela and Bok Van Blerk, and slid around the fretboard with Leo Kottke. We finished the week, and possibly the end of the Loving the Music group's posts with everyone's favourite surfer, Jack Johnson. Our group's future is now in the hands of Facebook and how their new restrictions will affect our sharing videos. If we are shut down I will carry on my favourite hobby from this blog site. We'll see what happens, but a HUGE thanks to everyone who has made the group what it is. Hopefully, we'll be back on Facebook tomorrow.
Image: Bra' Hugh Masakela
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.
Sep 22nd - 30th: Musicians Featured
Joe Bonamassa - Cymande - Steve Winwood - Bright Blue - Bok Van Blerk
Hugh Masakela - Leo Kottke - Jack Johnson
22nd Sept: Joe Bonamassa has earned his place in the top echelon of guitar greats, but I suppose when you start your professional musical career as early as he did, it’s not surprising.
Joe started playing at 4-years-old, encouraged by his father, a big British guitar blues fan. He was mentored by guitarist Danny Gatton at 11-years-old, and at the grand old age of 12, formed his first band, ‘Smokin’ Joe Bonamassa’.
The band’s name may have been an indication of what was to come. The young band gigged on weekends around New York and Pennsylvania, with Bonamassa impressing the crowds to the extent that he opened for BB King twenty times before he’d reached his teenage years.
By 18, Joe was playing in the band Bloodline, made up of the sons of jazz legend Miles Davis, Doors guitarist Robby Kreiger, and Allman Brothers co-founder Berry Oakly. Although the act never made the big time, Joe Bonamassa’s distinctive guitar flair drew attention of the right kind.
Today’s first Joe Bonamassa song is from his debut album, ‘A New Day Yesterday’ released in 2000. It featured reworkings of songs from some big names along with Joe’s original material. He was honoured that Greg Allman agreed to make a guest appearance on the track ‘If Heartache Were Nickles’ and the album peaked at #9 on the Billboard Blues Charts. Here’s the title track from the album, ‘A New Day Yesterday’.
2002 began Joe Bonamassa’s run of #1 albums. Since that date, all of his albums have reached the Top 10, with 11 of them reaching #1 slot on the Billboard Blues Charts.
2009 saw a dream come true for Joe when he played a duet with Eric Clapton at the Royal Albert Hall. It was the first of many performances they have done together at various events.
One doesn’t think of Joe Bonamassa and Acoustic in the same sentence, but 2012 witnessed a landmark event with the first of his few acoustic concerts. It resulted as a CD/DVD set – ‘An Acoustic Evening at the Vienna Opera House’. The full concert is available on YouTube and makes for great viewing.
In 2013 Joe Bonamassa arrived in London to perform a series of four shows. What made them different is that they featured three different bands and a horn section to cover four different sides of his music. Each show had a unique setlist and the whole series of shows was released on DVD under the name ‘Tour de Force’. There are quite a few clips available for those wanting to experience the magic.
My second song choice for today comes from the live acoustic set and I’ve chosen his version of the Tom Wait’s classic, ‘A Jockey Full of Bourbon’.
I can’t possibly do a mini-feature on Joe Bonamassa without mentioning Beth Hart. Joe had seen Beth on TV and they would often cross paths when touring. It was after seeing her perform live in Switzerland that he started thinking of pairing up with a woman on a project.
He suggested the collaboration to her over a drink in a Dublin bar. Beth immediately accepted, thinking that he wanted her to sing backing vocals. When she realised that he wanted her to take lead vocals she was amazed and a bit dumbfounded as Joe already had a strong Blues voice and distinctive vocal style.
The first album ‘Don’t Explain’ started with each of them choosing material from artists that they thought would work. They ended up whittling it down to five songs each, which is fair by anyone's measure. The album peaked at #3 on the Blues Charts and forged a long-lasting friendship between the two greats. They have gone on to release four superb albums together and have performed together on numerous tours and at festivals.
Over Joe Bonamassa’s career he has released 15 albums, 11 of which have reached #1 on the Billboard Blues Charts, If that doesn’t put him in ‘legend’ category, then I don’t know what will. He recently celebrated 30 years in the music industry, and I am sure that there is at least another 30 years worth of music form this guitar guru coming up.
I’m closing today’s mini-feature with Joe and Beth at the Koninkiljk Theatre in Amsterdam and a scorching performance of ‘I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know’. I hope that our time with Joe Bonamassa today has enriched our lives. I know that I feel better for it. 😎 23rd Sept: If I could put a ’PLEASE don’t scroll past this band just because you’ve never heard of them’ notice on a post, I would do it today. Cymande needs to be heard.
I was late to the party when it came to Cymande, only getting to know about them in the mid-90s. I was fortunate to have met someone fresh from the UK who lent me a compilation album of theirs and I received a crash course in what the band called Nyah-Rock. They released a handful of albums in the ‘70s before disappearing from the scene until a reunion brought them back together in 2012.
Cymande were a 9-piece London band with roots that stretched across several Caribbean countries. Their sound is a fusion of funk, reggae, soul, African rhythms, calypso and jazz, which was quite unlike anything anybody had heard at the time. Although they never gained the success they deserved in the UK, they made quite an impact on the American market.
The Nyah-Rock sound is quite diverse and could fit perfectly on any album from Gil Scott-Heron and WAR, through to Fela Kuti. Although they only released three albums between forming in 1971 and disbanding in 1974, they went on to gain newfound popularity when some of the notable RAP artists sampled their music.
I’m starting today with the title track of their debut album, Dove. If you have never heard Cymande before, PLEASE don’t just scroll by. This is truly beautiful music.
Co-founders Steve Scipio (bass) and Patrick Patterson (guitar) had played together in a Jazz fusion group and in 1971, along with other members of the London Afro-Caribbean community they formed Cymande. They were discovered by R&B producer John Schroeder who convinced Janus Records to sign them.
Both their first single and debut album reached the charts in the USA in 1972. This led to extensive US tours, where their diverse range of styles led to invitations to play with Soul legend Al Green, Funk-Rockers – Mandrill, and Jazz giant Ramsey Lewis.
1973 saw Cymande make history as the first British band to headline at the famous Apollo Theatre. Although America embraced Cymande, in their homeland of England the ongoing lack of notice caused the band to break up in 1974. It was a sad day for their fan, but fortunately, the story does have a happy ending as we’ll find out in part 3.
The second choice from Cymande is a live performance of a song from their second album, ‘Second Time Around’. It was recorded at the KCRW Radio studios in Santa Monica and shows these very seasoned musicians in full swing. Here’s ‘Crawshay’
Although Cymande had disbanded by 1974, their music was rediscovered during the ‘80s and ‘90s by the early wave of Hip-Hop acts such as DJ Cool and Grandmaster Flash, and Cymande became recognised as influencers of the British Rare Grooves scene of the ‘80s.
When The Fugees sampled ‘Dove’ without permission, it resulted in a huge copyright infringement settlement for the two co-founders. When Spike Lee used the song ‘Bra’ in his film Crooklyn, the band’s Nyah-Rock sound gained a wider audience.
This recognition of their early albums brought the band back together for a one-off show in 2006. A full reunion in 2012 saw regular shows and appearances and in 2015 they released ‘A Simple Act of Faith’, their first album in 41 years. The band’s official site tells me that the band are still performing and hopefully we’ll see another album along the way. Here’s the song
‘Everybody’s Doin’ Alright’ from ‘A Simple Act of Faith’ I hope you enjoyed listening to a band that deserves a lot more recognition for their contribution toward beautiful and well-crafted music. 😎
26th Sept: Steve Winwood’s song Arc of the Diver greeted me this morning like a breath of fresh air. It was the perfect song to wake up to and, while doing the morning chores (always best completed with music), got me to thinking of Steve Winwood’s remarkable career.
1980’s Arc of the Diver was, of course, Winwood’s second solo album, the first, simply titled Steve Winwood released in 1977 hadn’t made much impact and this second album was basically the make-or-break of his solo career.
It’s hard to think of Steve Winwood having a loss of faith in himself. After all, this is the man who joined the Spencer Davis Group at 14-years-old and was a star in his own right at 16, having penned mega-hits such as ‘Keep on Runnin’’, ‘Gimme Some Lovin’’ and ‘I’m a Man’. Music lovers with an interest in the ‘60s will know Steve Winwood’s career path well, but for those who don’t we’ll explore a little of his life up to this seminal solo album.
However – all the tracks I have selected for today's mix come from Arc of the Diver. Why? Because if I had to chart his career in music it would involve too many bands, each of which deserves their own mini-feature. So, to kick us off here’s ‘While You See a Chance’
Stevie (as he was called then) made his stage debut playing with his father and elder brother in the Ron Atkinson Band as an 8-year-old, and gigged regularly thereafter, having to play at the back of the stage with his back to the audience because he was so obviously underage!
While still at school he played the Hammond C-3 on the Birmingham Blues scene, backing artists such as Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and BB King amongst others. This early exposure to the big names gave the young musician the boost and professionalism that stood him in good stead throughout his career.
After his success with The Spencer Davis Group, Island Records with who they were signed, said that “Winwood was really the cornerstone of Island Records in those years. He is a musical genius and because he was with Island all the other worthwhile talent really wanted to be with Island as well”.
After a brief time with the shortlived Eric Clapton and the Powerhouse outfit, Steve Winwood formed Traffic along with Jim Capaldi, Dave Mason and Chris Wood. Winwood and Capaldi formed a songwriting partnership perfectly combining their multi-instrumental l and lyrical skills. This partnership extended beyond the life of Traffic and they worked on each other's solo albums and various collaborations.
Time for some more music before wrapping up today’s mini-feature. Here’s a favourite of mine, Night Train
How do you follow up on the success that was the Spencer Davis Group and Traffic? Form a Supergroup! That’s exactly what Steve Winwood did. 1969 saw Winwood, Clapton, Ginger Baker and Ric Grech join forces as Blind Faith. Although they only released one album, it is a gem, and the song ‘Can’t Find My Way Home’ has become firmly ensconced in musical history.
A little trivia for your interest; Jimi Hendrix brought in Steve Winwood to play the organ for both the Voodoo Chile and Electric Ladyland albums. He also provided vocals and keyboards for critically acclaimed Stomu Yamashita’s concept album, GO.
He retreated from the pressure of touring and recording and went into semi-retirement. Island Records were missing their blue-eyed boy and put pressure on him to start recording again. His self-titled 1977 solo album didn’t make much impact, and Steve Winwood found himself in a position where he was more famous than he was relevant. He was seriously considering giving up performing completely to concentrate on producing at this time.
He decided to give it one last shot. He converted his own studio space and started laying down tracks, playing each instrument himself. He thought that the process would be easy and relatively inexpensive. With today’s digital programs it probably would have been easier, but the limitations of late ‘70s technology turned the album's creation into an expensive three-year, often frustrating, process.
However, this slow progress played in his favour. While technology evolved to match the sounds in his head, the New-Wave movement of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s blossomed and was the perfect audience for his new adult orientated guitar-driven synth-pop style of music.
In a 1982 interview he said "Because Arc was successful, it gives people the impression I've been cruising along nicely since 1967. That's an illusion. I strove through the '70s to get my head above water. If it hadn't been for Arc of a Diver, I might have ended up a taxi driver."
We are all thrilled that the Arc of the Diver was such a huge success and Steve didn’t end up a cab driver. I know that for me the album embodies the heady days of the early ‘80s Cape Town – but that’s another story! Closing today is the title track from Arc of the Diver. 😎
27th Sept: It is the end of the South African Heritage Day long-weekend and for the past few days the airwaves and social media has been full of local music posts. I think it is my chance to post my selection of local songs to honour the celebrations.
This isn’t a feel-good mix, but rather songs that reflected a very dark era of our history. I feel that each one is a masterpiece that echoes the thoughts of young white South Africans who were forced to tow the party line. Today’s mix isn’t a political statement, it is about the songs, so please don’t confuse the message.
I’m starting with a song that I have featured before but needs to be played this weekend, Bright Blue’s ‘Weeping’. It was a direct response to President P.W Botha’s declaration of a State of Emergency in 1985. His fear of facing a ‘total onslaught’ from local and neighbouring enemies resulted in his large-scale killings of unarmed anti-racial segregation protesters.
The mandatory two-year military conscription forced generations of young school leavers to join an army that they didn’t support, to fight a battle they didn’t believe in. The only option of escape was to defer the inevitable by going to University, leave the country under the threat of never being able to return or serve a 6-year jail sentence as a conscientious objector.
All four members of Bright Blue had already “wasted two pointless years of their lives in the SADF” when they released the song that became the unofficial anthem for the End Conscription Campaign (ECC), and the anti-apartheid movement.
Remarkably, the tight censorship of the time didn’t pick up the anti-apartheid sentiment of the lyrics, or the musical interlude of the banned ANC anthem, Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika. It was almost as if this song was destined to take its place in our country's musical history. Like any good protest song, 33-years later and the song is as relevant as it ever was. Here’s Weeping
The second Heritage weekend song today makes history as the first Afrikaans song I have featured on our page. Bok Van Blerk’s ‘Die Kaplyn’.
I have noticed that some of the people I have played, or even mentioned this song to have a knee-jerk reaction to it. Some, for an odd reason, think that it glorifies a very sad war and time in our history; others because they don’t like Bok Van Blerk’s supposed right-wing politics.
Van Blerk himself says that he does not identify himself with the old South African flag, nor does he want to be associated with it. But he does promote Afrikaans as both a language and a musical medium.
For the sake of his own survival, Bok was forced to print a disclaimer on the sleeve of his second album, Afrikanerhart; “Afrikanerhart is not a song that calls for any form of revolution or uprising. The song comes from the musical ‘Ons vir Jou’, and all that we want to say is that the Afrikaner also shed blood while building South Africa. If we respect all cultures and their history, we can together all make this country stronger.”
I chose Die Kaplyn because of the lyrics. It is a powerful story of brotherhood forged during the war in Angola. The song explores the bonds of friendship that often ended tragically and senselessly. The last chorus always hits me hard:
Is jou naam daarop ons mure behou?
(Is your name recorded on our walls?)
Jy was nooit vereer en niemand gaan nou
(You were never honoured, and no one is going to...
Oor jou lewe skryf en wat jy nog wou
(...write about your life, and what you still wanted..)
En by daai mure, staan ek vir ure
(And at those walls, I stand for hours)
En by daai mure, staan ek vir ure
(And at those walls, I stand for hours)
This one is for all those out there who went through conscription, for those who lost family and friends over this awful time, and for those who are still suffering the psychological scars of those years. Respect.
My third choice of song for today’s Heritage selection comes from one of our local legends, Hugh Masekela, His song ‘Stimela’ paints a vivid picture of the black migrant and local miners who were brought in by train from across the continent and country to work on the mines.
"Stimela" teleports you into that steam train, and you can feel the pain in Bra Hugh's poetry as he relates the tale of hoards of unhappy men who miss their families, en-route to the drudgery that awaited them.
Hugh Masakela’s story has been well documented. The young boy who was encouraged to play the trumpet by anti-apartheid activist, Rev Trevor Huddlestone before fleeing into exile in 1961 to study at the London Guildhall School of Music, and later the Manhattan School of Music, where he was befriended by Harry Belafonte.
All of today’s musicians, regardless of race, political views and language were directly affected by the sad years of apartheid, and apart from being banned, ostracized or completely misunderstood, they all, fortunately, were all able to witness its dismantling.
Bra Hugh sadly left us in 2018, but his legacy of music is a fixed part of our heritage, as is that of Bright Blue, as is that of Bok Van Blerk. We are a diverse nation. 😎
28th Sept: I have a treat in store for guitar-lovers today. Although he has released over 20 albums in his career, Leo Kottke has more of a cult status than the widespread popularity that he deserves. Today I am featuring three tracks for different stages of his career.
Although Leo Kottke’s first album, 6 and 12-string Guitar was released in 1969 I only became aware of it in the mid-70s. The tongue-in-cheek titles of the tracks were no indication of the intricacy of his playing. It was one of those wake-up moments when I realised that my guitar playing would remain firmly in the realms of amateur.
Leo Kottke was brought up across 12 states, picking up the love for various instruments and styles of music along the way, but at age 11 he decided to focus on the guitar. A stint at the University of Missouri, a cross-country hitchhiking trip, and some time in the Navy saw him discharged and a regular performer at the Scholar Coffeehouse in Minneapolis, one of Bob Dylan’s early hang-outs. It was here he laid down the tracks of his debut album, all recorded on a quarter-inch reel-to-reel tape recorder. And it is here we start our musical journey.
If you don't believe me about the titles on his debut album try this for today’s opener;
‘Vaseline Machine Gun - (1) for waking up nude in a sleeping bag on the shore of the Atlantic surrounded by a volleyball game at high noon, and 2) for the end of the volleyball game.)’. Enjoy.
Kottke was soon signed to the Takoma label (later called Armadillo Records) who arranged a distribution deal with Capitol, with who he released ‘Mudlark’ in 1971. Kottke was uncomfortable as being labelled a singer/songwriter, describing his voice as sounding like "geese farts on a muggy day".
Uncomfortable or not, his time with Capitol saw the release of “Greenhouse” (1972), “Dreams and All That Stuff” and “Ice Water” (1973). His final album for Capitol was “Chewing Pine” in 1975, which saw him enter the US Top 30 for the second time in his career. He also started to gain an international following due to his rigorous touring schedule of both Europe and Australia. He became a regular at the major music festivals, bringing him cult status with his humorous rambling monologues, audience interaction and guitar genius.
It was over this period that he started branching out with guest musicians and reworking unusual songs from the Folk, Rock, Jazz and Bluegrass genres. This helped to hone his already superb style of propulsive fingerpicking. Our second song for today is from the “Chewing Pine” album. Here’s ‘Can’t Quite Put It Into Words’
Leo Kotke left Capitol and was signed to Chrysallis where he released five albums between 1976 and 1983. By this time he had had enough of major labels, plus he was suffering tendinitis and nerve-related problems which necessitated a change in his guitar style.
He joined Private Music, a small New Age label in the style of Windham Hill. Leo Kotke released a stream of albums over this period, collaborating with guest musicians and producers. One of the more interesting collaborations was with Phish bassist Mike Gordon. They produced two albums, “Clone” (2002) and “Sixty Six Steps” (2005), which was produced by old friend and producer for Prince, David Z.
Although Leo Kottke has slowed his touring and recording schedules, his website lists a number of upcoming concerts. It seems that he is one of that special generation still active well into their 70s.
It seems odd that with the volume of work Leo Kottke has put out over his career he has only received two Grammy nominations. However, far more of an honour was being awarded a Doctorate in Music Performance by the University of Wisconsin. Much deserved. I’m closing with a track from the “Sixty Six Steps” album and a song you may kind of recognise, ‘Oh Well’.
I hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know a little more about a brilliant guitarist who deserves far wider recognition. 😎
29th Sep: It was a particularly busy day but I couldn't resist sneaking in the latest release from my favourite musical comedian, Tim Minchin. He recorded and filmed this while his family were in quarantine and it is classic Minchin. Here's his wonderful style of insightful rant in the song, 'Airport Piano'
30th Sept: This may be the last mini-feature on the Loving the Music page and group. I still don’t know how Facebook’s new regulations will affect music appreciation groups where we share videos. In case this is the last mini-feature, I decided on a favourite of many music lovers, Hawaiian-born Jack Johnson.
Jack was well on his way to becoming a professional surfer, but an accident during the Pipeline Masters when he was 17-years-old ended in 150 stitches in his forehead and the loss of a few teeth. During his years at the University of California, Santa Barbara he started playing the guitar with the band Soil (not the well known heavy metal band), who went on to open for acts like Sublime and the Dave Matthews Band, both relatively unknown at the time.
Thanks to an introduction to G Love, who was impressed with Jack’s easy style, that the song 'Rodeo Clowns' was included on G Love’s 1999 ‘Philadelphonic’ album. This, in turn, led to the release of Jack Johnson’s debut album, 'Brushfire Fairytales', in 2001. His clever lyrics, easy listening, sing-a-long style achieves platinum and multi-platinum status around the world.
Although not my favourite album of his, it is a great place to start tonight. Here’s the only single from the album and features Ben Harper on slide-guitar and Tommy Jordan on steel drums. Here’s ‘Flake’
Jack Johnson’s second full-length album, On and On (2003), was the first album to be recorded at Jack’s home-based Mango Tree Studio and released through Moonshine Conspiracy Records (later called Brushfire Records).
This gave Jack his second flurry of platinum sales and chart positions, but his growing fame didn’t seem to affect everyone’s favourite surfer boy who kept his nose clean, his life private, and carried on winning hearts thanks to a rigorous touring schedule.
In his commitment to the environment, Jack converted the offices and studio at his LA base to solar power, recyclable CD packaging and power-saving air-conditioning and appliances. 2005 saw the release of his third album, In Between Dreams which sold over 15 million copies. If anyone hadn’t heard of Jack Johnson by now, the song Banana Pancakes and Better Together soon solved that.
In 2006 Jack Johnson made #1 on the Billboard Top 200 charts when the album, ‘Sing-A-Long Songs and Lullabies for the Film Curious George’ became one of the few soundtrack albums to ever reach number the number one slot.
Song number two for today is from my favourite album of his, On and On, and the incredibly clever track, 'Taylor'.
Jack Johnson’s fourth studio album, Sleep Through the Static embodied his commitment to sustainability, and was recorded using 100% solar energy. A world tour followed by with 100% of the proceeds to the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation, which he set up with his wife, Kim, to address environmental and social issues. He has also spearheaded the Kokua Foundation and festivals, that helps support environmental education in the schools and communities of Hawai.
In his own words, this unassuming muso said in an interview on NZ Radio "We try to raise money for a lot of these groups who are doing positive things in the community. We try to focus mostly on environmental education, just trying to get kids out into nature, supporting local farms and things like that."
In addition to his success as a musician, Johnson is also an accomplished filmmaker. He directed and wrote the soundtracks for the surf films Thicker Than Water (2000) and The September Sessions (2002), in which he also starred. He also starred in the 2004 surf film A Brokedown Melody.
(Image: Jack Johnson & Ben Harper)
Jack’s fifth studio album, To the Sea (2010) also saw a world tour and all proceeds going to ‘All at Once’, a Johnson-backed collaboration of greening charities promoting fan involvement. Many of the collaborations and events to which he has offered support are for environmental and social purposes. This hasn’t gone unnoticed, with the Rolling Stone writing about his career decisions and donations, "It is a typically generous move from Johnson, who has used his multi-platinum success to support causes he cares about.
Jack Johnson’s last album, ‘All the Light Above It Too’ was released in 2017 with a greatest hits “Jack Johnson – The Essentials following in 2018. He has been keeping busy since with tours and his charity work. The lockdown saw him post live streams on Instagram and YouTube as well as joining the musicians who contributed to the One World: Together at Home special.
I am sure that once the restrictions are lifted around the globe we will see many more gems from everyone’s favourite surfer. Until then, here’s another of my favourite tracks, Sleep Through the Static from the album of the same name. If this is to be the last mini-feature on our page I think we have gone out with a bang. I hope to see you all tomorrow, Facebook willing. 😎
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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The author does not own the copyright of any of the videos used in the article