Monday, January 30, 2023

#NewMusicMonday • January, 2023

Looks like I need to play a little catch up with #NewMusicMonday as it last appeared on Monday Monday Music back in October, 2022.

I've been thinking about David Crosby's passing and his exceptional gift for singing harmony. I finish the playlist with his 2021 cover of Joni Mitchell's, For Free with Sarah Jarosz.  

I then started stumbling across fairly new songs with harmony typically featuring a guest singer. Speaking of featured guests, it must be a new rule to have Phoebe Bridgers as a featured artist on your new song. She must be the new Michael McDonald of guest appearances on songs for the 2020's. However, I must say, Brandi Carlile is probably a close contender for the featured singer title too as she's seems to be everywhere. 

It's so hard to find rock 'n' roll bands these days that bring something new with my classic jingle-jangle taste. I've been playing new Sloan songs over the past several months and decided to feature the October, 2022 release of their 13th album, Steady here. It's all right there in the title.

Enjoy the playlist my friends. If you're new to Monday Monday Music playlists, they're different than what you'll find in the sameness of the streaming services in their genre playlists like Indie and Folk.

p.s. Nickel Creek fans, they have a new song!

Monday, January 23, 2023

Booker T. & The MG's

Left to Right - Booker T. Jones, Donald "Duck" Dunn, Steve Cropper, and Al Jackson Jr.
I had the pleasure to see Booker T. Jones perform just last Saturday with his current band at the Edmonds Center for the Arts in Edmonds, Washington. The show is titled, Booker T: Note by Note - 60 Years of "Green Onions" and STAX Hits.

The show was fantastic! My wife and I went with her daughter Abby and husband Spencer. This is just another example of how powerful the music of the 1960's is spanning the generations and living 60 years on. Let me tell you, Booker T. never disappoints, surrounding himself with younger musicians, including his son Teddy on electric guitar, a top notch rhythm section to replicate the MG's sound, and three wonderful singers to relive the Stax records hits.

My seat, second row center. I could feel the bass and drum kit hit my chest.

I was so excited to hear Booker T. play his Hammond B3 organ with cabinet Leslie speakers (positioned left and right on stage). Many players prefer to play the Hammond through a rotating speaker cabinet known as a Leslie speaker, and named after its inventor Donald J. Leslie. The typical Leslie system is an integrated speaker/amplifier combination in which sound is emitted by a rotating horn over a stationary treble compression driver, and a rotating baffle beneath a stationary bass woofer. This creates a characteristic sound because of the constantly changing pitch shifts that result from the Doppler effect created by the moving sound sources. (Wikipedia)

Note- The godfather of the Hammond B3 is Jimmy Smith who greatly influenced Booker T. and a generation of R&B musicians as Smith is responsible for creating the link between jazz and 1960's soul music. 

Note2- Friend Ron Zieman had a Hammond C3 with Leslie cabinet speaker and I just loved to hear that whirring organ sound!

Booker T. Jones with his Hammond B3 organ and Leslie speaker

Here's a little background on Booker T. & The MG's formed in 1962 by Booker T. Jones and Steve Cropper.

In the early 1960's, The band is part of a group of house session musicians at Stax Records in Memphis. They would also be one of the first integrated bands to play live at gigs all over the country. These four guys are musician's musicians who would be idolized by more famous and wealthy artists all over the world.

Booker T. Jones, born November 12, 1944 (78) in Memphis, Tennessee. Jones was musically a child prodigy, playing the oboe, saxophone, trombone, double bass, and piano at school and organ at church. Jones attended Booker T. Washington High School.

Jones's entry into professional music came at the age of 16, when he played baritone saxophone on Satellite (soon to be Stax) Records' first hit, "Cause I Love You", by Carla and Rufus Thomas. Willie Mitchell hired Jones for his band, in which Jones started on sax and later moved to bass. It was here that he met Al Jackson Jr., whom he brought to Stax.

While hanging around the Satellite Record Shop run by Estelle Axton, co-owner of Satellite Records with her brother Jim Stewart, Jones met record clerk Steve Cropper. Besides Jones on organ and Cropper on guitar, Booker T. and the MGs featured Lewie Steinberg on bass guitar and Al Jackson Jr. on drums (Donald "Duck" Dunn eventually replacing Steinberg on bass in 1965). While still in high school, Jones co-wrote the group's classic instrumental "Green Onions", which was a massive hit in 1962. (Wikipedia)

Steve Cropper, born October 21, 1941 (age 81) in Dora Missouri, but most importantly moved to Memphis, Tennessee at age 9. In Memphis, Cropper was exposed to black church music saying it, "Blew me away" and motivated him to purchase his first guitar at 14. Rolling Stone has ranked Steve Cropper as the 36th greatest guitar player on their list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Players.

Donald "Duck" Dunn, born November 24, 1941 in Memphis, Tennessee. Dunn a boyhood friend of Cropper started playing bass as Cropper started playing guitar with other friends and formed bands in high school. The two would be signed to local Stax Records and became part of the house band and helped form the "Stax sound" in the 1960's. Duck Dunn is ranked number 40 on Bass Player magazine's list of "The 100 Greatest Bass Players of All Time." He died in his sleep in 2012 after playing a gig in Japan with Steve Cropper. 

Albert J. Jackson Jr., born November 27, 1935 in Memphis, Tennessee. Jackson's father, Al Jackson Sr., led a jazz/swing dance band in Memphis, Tennessee. The young Jackson started drumming at an early age and began playing on stage with his father's band in 1940, at the age of five (Wikipedia). By 14, Al Jackson had established himself as an exceptional drummer and was called, "The Human Timekeeper." Sadly, Al Jackson Jr. was murdered in 1975 in a mysterious home robbery that had connections to his estranged wife at the time.

In the early 60's instrumental "surf" bands were quite popular with bands like the Chantays (Pipeline) and The Surfaris (Wipe Out) generating big hit singles. On the R&B side, Stax records started having big hits with singers like Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Albert King, Johnnie Taylor, Eddie Floyd, the Staple Singers, Wilson Pickett, Delaney & Bonnie and many others. Backing many of these sessions were a tight group of young musicians that would soon create a new mainstream of cross-over instrumental R&B.

In the summer of 1962, 17-year-old keyboardist Booker T. Jones, 20-year-old guitarist Steve Cropper, and two seasoned players, bassist Lewie Steinberg and drummer Al Jackson Jr. (the latter making his debut with the company) were in the Memphis studio to back the former Sun Records star Billy Lee Riley. During downtime, the four started playing around with a bluesy organ riff. Jim Stewart, the president of Stax Records, was in the control booth. He liked what he heard, and he recorded it. Cropper remembered a riff that Jones had come up with weeks earlier, and before long they had a second track.

Stewart wanted to release the single with the first track, "Behave Yourself", as the A-side and the second track as the B-side. Cropper and radio disc jockeys thought otherwise; soon, Stax released Booker T. & the M.G.'s' "Green Onions" backed with "Behave Yourself". In conversation with BBC Radio 2's Johnnie Walker, on his show broadcast on September 7, 2008, Cropper recalled that the record became an instant success when DJ Reuben Washington, at Memphis radio station WLOK, played it four times in succession, before the track or even the band had a name. For the rest of the day, people were calling in to the station, asking if the record was out yet.

The single went to number 1 on the US Billboard R&B chart and number 3 on the pop chart. It sold over one million copies and was certified a gold disc.

Now in all the years since I first heard Green Onions as a seven year old on AM radio, I have never heard anyone say they didn't like Booker T. & The MG's. Everybody loves Booker T. & The MG's. Like instrumental surfer music, The MG's R&B instrumentals never seem to tire with the public.

I've also never purchased a instrumental surfer album, or Booker T. & The MG's album. Why? I'm not the first to say that their songs are so strong individually but seem a little boxed in an album. It seems for my taste, the individual songs work better as singles or play well within a mixtape or playlist rather than a connected album. 

I hope you enjoy this playlist of 60+ songs of the group going back to that first big hit in 1962. Once I put the playlist together, I found myself going to a song and then skipping down to something else. In any event, I now have a playlist of their tunes that I will tap into for years to come as songs I will use in future playlists. BTW, my favorite Booker T. & The MG's song is Time is Tight.

Enjoy this wonderful band and their timeless instrumentals my friends.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Fifty Years of Music • January, 1973

In my Fifty Years of Music series I'm beginning to encounter months like January, 1973 where bands like Aerosmith emerge onto the scene and my jingle-jangle rock 'n' roll bands are fading. 

In going over all the albums released in January, 1973 and only the three above stick out. The Kinks album is basically a compilation of mostly unreleased songs so I added it because I'm such a Kinks fan. Since I'm talking about the Kinks first, I'll point out one song that is actually one of my favorite Kinks songs, the B-side to their 1966 hit single, Sunny Afternoon. So on the '73 compilation album, The Great Lost Kinks Album is a throw away The Kinks provided to Reprise Records to fulfill their contract before they moved over to RCA, Ray Davies includes that B-side single, I'm Not Like Everybody Else. Now instead of playing that version here, I'm going to play you a wonderful live version of the song recorded in 1996 and part of the 2 CD release in the U.S. called To The Bone.  I guess this paragraph makes my point, in looking for songs...

In January 1973, I'm back from Christmas break and ready to knock out four and a half months of my senior year in high school and get out of that place as soon as possible.

I won't know who Gram Parson is at that time, but his 1973 debut solo album is one of those harbinger albums that introduces Emmy Lou Harris on the scene and beats most of the Country music albums made at that time. Merle Haggard was going to produce this album, but backed out at the last minute, maybe he knew this was a change he couldn't be part of for whatever reason. Gram's flame would end up burning out way too fast with his death from an overdose of morphine and alcohol in September of 1973 at the tender age of 26. 

Let me just say, thank god for Elton John to emerge in the 1970's. His sixth album, Don't Shoot Me I'm Only The Piano Player is his second straight Number 1 album. I have included the entire album here, but feel free to skip his big hits Daniel and Crocodile Rock if you suffer from their overplay or as I say, "Ruined by Radio." There's a lot of great songwriting here as Bernie and Reg are at the top of their game!

Also, as a departure from my usual mix of mixing all the songs from all the albums together, I'll play these first three featured albums here, and then add some other songs from January 1973 you may remember when rock was becoming not so young.

Monday, January 09, 2023

#BestSongIHeardToday • Volume 18

Influencer my ass.

Actually, it's my lower left back this round.

Friends, have I got a solution to help in these cold winter days (says the guy from San Diego) to keep you warm and help your lower back stay loose and seizing up in pain.

It's a mix of something old with a little technology thrown in there too.

Introducing my new little friend, the Sunbeam GO HEAT, USB Powered Heating Pad.

What's nice about this heating pad is its portability, I can take it anywhere! Lately, I've been working long hours in front of my computer and my lower back has been paying the price. I have an electric sit/stand desk that's a tremendous help but not enough to prevent my old lower back pain from roaring back to say, "Ha Ha, I'm still here!"

It has a male USB plug to plug in a variety of power sources. It comes with a 4ft. USB male/female extension cable, but I bought another 10ft. male/female extension cable so I can stand up and move around a little bit without unplugging. 

Note- Woman not included

I also have several USB portable power banks for my phone, so I've even worn it on walks outside too.

I shopped around on Amazon and found this Sunbeam heating pad to be the most affordable solution for my situation ($27.99).

Here is the link - 
Sunbeam USB Heating Pad for Back, Shoulder, Arm, and Leg Pain Relief with Power Bank Pocket and Auto Shut Off, 12.5 x 7.5", Grey

The music this week is still mostly from my trail runs. But it's funny, sometimes I come home from a run to review and pick what's going to be in the playlist, and it doesn't play like I heard it on the trail? Not that it's so different, just that it doesn't move me like when I was running. Must be the "endolphin rush" (old mispronunciation joke from Postcards From The Edge), I mean endorphins kicking in. Anyway, I'll go to YouTube, be unimpressed with the song I think is going to make the playlist and get pointed to something else... Squirrel!

Stay loose my friends and enjoy the tunes.

Monday, January 02, 2023

60 Years of Music • January, 1963

The Beatles are coming...

January 2 – Mary Kit Smith celebrates her seventh birthday.
January 3 – The Beatles begin their first tour of 1963 with a five-day tour in Scotland to support the release of their new single, "Love Me Do", beginning with a performance in Elgin.
January 7 – Gary U.S. Bonds files a $100,000 lawsuit against Chubby Checker, claiming that Checker stole "Quarter to Three" and turned it into "Dancin' Party." The lawsuit is later settled out of court.
January 11 – "Please Please Me" is released in the United Kingdom by the Beatles, with "Ask Me Why" as the B-side.
January 12 – Bob Dylan portrays a folk singer in The Madhouse of Castle Street, a radio play for the BBC in London.
February 16 - The Beatles achieve their first No. 1 hit single, when "Please Please Me" tops the charts in the UK.
February 22 – The Beatles form Northern Songs Publishing Company.
March 5 – 1963 Camden PA-24 crash: Patsy Cline is killed in small plane crash near Camden, Tennessee, while on her way to Nashville, Tennessee, from Kansas City, Missouri, at the height of her career, together with Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins.
March 22 – The Beatles release their first album, Please Please Me, in the UK.

from Wikipedia, 1963 in Music

In 1963, music singles are king. In looking at the singles recorded in 1963 it was amazing to see that many were released just a month later. The mentality was, get it out there, and then, get another one out there. Kids were buying 45's with the marketed 'hit' on the A side, and then typically a deeper cut on the B side that would eventually be part of a released album coming soon. (The Beatles would later buck that trend, but that's a story for another day.)

In January 1963, I'm seven years old and mostly unaware of the pop music around me other than hearing songs on the radio. My parents were not listening or buying any kind of records and the only music I heard live was the singing of 1850's white hymns in church. I loved that part of the service because you got to get up and stretch your legs, fidget about and do something besides sit and listen to some old man talking. My mom said to me when I was in my 30's, "Why didn't any of you kids continue to go to church?" Yeah mom, I wonder why? Now maybe if I'd gone to a black church where they were singing and moving to gospel music...

Another memory.  Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass were big on the radio in the early and mid-sixties. Hearing The Lonely Bull this past week hit me like a lightning bolt where I'm in a downtown shop with my mom probably W. A. Haslam's and that song is playing through their sound system.

This past week, I watched on Hulu,  If These Walls Could Sing - Mary McCartney's 2022 documentary on Abbey Road Studios' 90 year history with a big chunk involving her father. I highly recommend it as it will get you thinking about the Brian Epstein and George Martin connection, and the rest as they say is history.

Enjoy my friends, the British are coming.

P. S. I Love You Mary Kit Smith!