Monday, February 27, 2017
Song:Shed Your Love
Album:Keep Your Eyes Ahead
The Helio Sequence are a mix of folk and neo psychedelia. They were formed in 1999. in Beaverton, OR by singer songwriter guitarist Brandon Summers and drummer Benjamin Weikel. Weikel also programs the keyboards. He was a one time member of Modest Mouse. After self releasing an EP, they released two albums on the local label Cavity Search. For the 2004 CD Love and Distance, they signed with the larger label Sub Pop. This was mainly to get better distribution. They went on hiatus because Summers damaged his vocal cords. It was during this hiatus that Weikel joined Modest Mouse. After Summers recovered, The Helio Sequence returned with the 2008 CD Keep Your Eyes Ahead. They toured with Modest Mouse and then the British group Keane. Meanwhile their recording studio flooded so they had to find new space. The new studio encouraged the duo to produce other bands like the Brazilian group Quarto Negro and the hip hop group Shabazz Palaces. For their 2015 album The Helio Sequence, they gave their friends a list of songs and had them vote which ten would appear on the album. They toured to support the album. They just announced some upcoming shows but I haven't seen anything about new music. Here's The Helio Sequence performing Shed Your Love at the Independent in San Francisco Feb. 29, 2008.
Sunday, February 26, 2017
Song:(What A) Wonderful World
Of course Art Garfunkel is best known as one half of Simon and Garfunkel. After they split up in 1970, Garfunkel had success as a solo artist including this cover of the Sam Cooke classic (What A) Wonderful World in 1978. He was born Nov. 5, 1941 in Queens, NY. He began singing at an early age even in the synagogue. Apparently his Bar Mitzvah was quite the show. He met Paul Simon in sixth grade and they performed as Tom and Jerry for several years. Their main influence at the time was The Everly Brothers. They split up and then reformed as Simon and Garfunkel in 1963. They were not successful at first and Simon moved to England. But they reformed when Sounds Of Silence was a hit. They were one of the most popular groups of the 60s. They split up in 1970. Simon had immediate solo success. Garfunkel appeared in the films Catch-22 and Carnal Knowledge. Then he released his 1973 debut album Angel Clare and the single All I Know reached #9 on the Billboard Hot 100. For his 1975 album Breakaway, Garfunkel reunited with Simon for the single My Little Town. It reached #9 on the Billboard Hot 100. It's Garfunkel's biggest hit to date and the album was certified Platinum. For the 1977 album Watermark, Garfunkel decided to do an album of Jimmy Webb songs. But when the first single didn't chart, Columbia pulled the album and had Garfunkel record a cover of the Sam Cooke classic (What A) Wonderful World with Simon and James Taylor. The single reached #17 on the Billboard Hot 100 and it helped with album sales too. One note is that this album was sax player Paul Desmond's final appearance before his death from cancer. After Garfunkel's 1979 album Fate For Breakfast was released, his longtime girlfriend Laurie Bird committed suicide. He dedicated the 1981 album Scissors Cut to her and then he disappeared for several years until his 1988 album Lefty. He was married by then and he and his wife have two kids. Garfunkel still records occasionally. He left Columbia in 1998 and he has recorded for Blue Note and Atco. He's had voice problems in recent years which seems to be a byproduct of years of heavy smoking. He still tours so I expect him to record at some point. This 2CD comp has all of his hits along with Simon and Garfunkel highlights. Here's a video of (What A) Wonderful World by Art Garfunkel featuring Paul Simon and James Taylor.
Saturday, February 25, 2017
Album:Classic Mountain Songs From Smithsonian Folkways
Most music fans should be familiar with Sixteen Tons as it was a huge hit for Tennessee Ernie Ford. Some fans may also be aware that the song was written by country music legend Merle Travis. But George Davis known as the Singing Miner claimed for many years that Travis based Sixteen Tons on one of his songs of the 30s. The problem was Davis didn't copyright it or record it. So no one knows for sure. Davis was born Aug. 19, 1906 in La Follette, TN but he grew up in Hazard, KY which is coal mining country. Everyone worked in the coal mine and Davis was no exception. He began work at the Crawford Coal Co. in 1920. He got married and raised a family. Davis worked in the mines for 28 years. But in 1933 he helped organize the United Mine Workers Union. He also messed around with the guitar. In Oct. 1933, he suffered a serious arm injury so he wasn't able to play guitar. So instead he started writing songs. There were songs like Coal Miner's Boogie, When Kentucky Had No Union Men and Nine To Ten Tons. This is the song that Davis claimed Travis used to write Sixteen Tons. Travis has denied this. He says Sixteen Tons is influenced by his father who was a coal miner. Davis never recorded his song so he couldn't prove anything. Davis left the coal mines in 1947 to work at the local radio station. He was a DJ for many years. In 1967, he recorded an album for Folkways Records that included his own recording of Sixteen Tons. This album is available on CD. But you can get Sixteen Tons on this various artists budget comp. George Davis died on Nov. 3, 1992 at age 86. Here's a video of Sixteen Tons by George Davis.
Friday, February 24, 2017
Album:Across The Universe: Music From The Motion Picture
Jim Sturgess is a British actor whose best known role to date is Julie Taymor's 2007 Beatles tribute Across The Universe. Sturgess sings in the film but he hasn't released an album. He may do that in the future. Most recently he starred in the now cancelled AMC series Feed The Beast. He was born May 16, 1978 in Wandsworth, London, England but he grew up on Farnham, Surrey. He had bands as a teen and he attended Salford University in Manchester to try to get into the Manchester music scene. Instead he got involved with a group of aspiring actors. He signed with an agent in 1999. For the next few years he worked on British TV shows like Judge John Deed and A Touch Of Frost. For her 2007 film Across The Universe, Julie Taymor was looking for actors who could sing. The main actors were Sturgess, Evan Rachel Wood, Joe Anderson and Dana Fuchs with musical guest stars like Bono, Eddie Izzard and Joe Cocker. So all the actors sang. Sturgess sings several songs including Something. It's all on the soundtrack CD. The score was composed by Elliott Goldenthal who has lived with Taymor for years. T-Bone Butnett produced Something and some of the other musical numbers. The film got mixed reviews and it didn't perform well financially. Producer Joe Roth tried to get Taymor to agree to a shorter cut of the film but she refused. Sturgess also starred in the 2008 film 21 with Kevin Spacey. He's been in a few other films like Crossing Over and Cloud Atlas. He is appearing in Geostorm which is scheduled for release later in 2017. He also returned to TV. He starred in the BBC mini series Close To The Enemy. And he starred with David Schwimmer in the AMC series Feed The Beast. The show was panned and did poor ratings. It was cancelled after the first season. Sturgess still writes and performs music. He wrote songs for the films 21, Crossing Over and Heartless and he recorded five songs as a fundraiser for a sick friend. So Sturgess could get back into music but his acting career is busy so he might not be able to. Here's Something by Jim Sturgess as it appears in the 2007 film Across The Universe.
Thursday, February 23, 2017
|Amanda Bobby Cooper, Cynthia Calvillo|
Song:St. George and the Dragonet
Album:The Best Of Stan Freberg
I guess Stan Freberg was the last radio comedian. Because when TV was taking over for radio in the 50s, Freberg's comedy records were still popular. St. George and the Dragonet topped the pop charts in 1953. Of course he did a lot on radio, TV and especially in advertising. They don't make them like Stan Freberg anymore. He was born Stanley Friberg Aug. 7, 1926 in Pasadena, CA. His father was a Baptist minister. As a teen, he started out doing children's puppet shows. After graduating high school, he hopped a bus to Los Angeles and successfully auditioned for a job at Warner Bros. animation. Freberg worked alongside the legendary Mel Blanc. He was Bertie in the Hubie and Bertie cartoons, Pete Puma in the 1952 cartoon Rabbit's Kin and probably most famously as Junyer Bear in Chuck Jones' Three Bears cartoons. He signed with Capitol Records in 1951. His first single was the soap opera parody John and Marsha. Once that charted, he was off to the races. The Dragnet spoof St. George and the Dragonet was Freberg's only number one hit. It topped the charts for four weeks in 1953. Capitol told Freberg that he needed Dragnet creator and star Jack Webb's permission to parody him and use Walter Schumann's theme music. Webb loved the idea. Freberg wrote the sketch with the legendary Daws Butler and Freberg, Butler, June Foray and Hy Averback did the voices. The animated film seen below was produced for one of Freberg's 50s TV specials. Freberg continued to have great success in the 50s with albums, radio and TV. This budget comp was first released in 1963 and it was released on CD by the British label Hallmark. In the 60s, Freberg turned his attention to advertising. One of his more memorable commercials was for Sunsweet Prunes featuring sci-fi author Ray Bradbury. And Heinz Great American Soups with dancer Ann Miller. Freberg was less active later on. But occasionally he would show up on TV like as the supermarket manager in the sitcom Roseanne. He continued to do voice work until his death on Apr. 7, 2015 at age 88. Here's an animated film of St. George and the Dragonet by Stan Freberg.
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
|Alexis Davis, Cindy Dandois|
Song:Way Out Of Here
Album:Fear Of A Blank Planet
Porcupine Tree will remind you of a 70s progressive rock group. But they are more recent than that. They have had success in their native England and Europe and made inroads into the US before going on hiatus. The 2007 album Fear Of A Blank Planet is probably their best seller to date. The band leader is guitarist Steven Wilson. He was born Nov. 3, 1967 in Kingston upon Thames, England but he grew up in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire. As a teen, he was in several bands and he also messed around at home with multi track recording techniques. In 1986, he launched two projects. The first was called No-Man and the second was Porcupine Tree. Both were supposed to be home studio projects and Porcupine Tree was supposed to be a fictional tribute to Pink Floyd. As No-Man had some success as a band, Wilson also thought Porcupine Tree could turn into a band. After a trial run, Wilson signed with Delerium Records in 1991. After releasing a couple of Porcupine Tree albums, Wilson turned it into a band in 1993 so the songs could be performed live. Wilson was lead singer and guitarist. Other members were Colin Edwin on bass, Chris Maitland on drums and Richard Barbieri on keyboards. Maitland and Barbieri were also in No-Man. Wilson is still recording albums solo but eventually he turns Porcupine Tree into a real band with the 1996 album Signify. This album was released in the US on Ark 21. Wilson decides to leave Delerium for Kscope. The band had outgrown Delerium. The 1999 album Stupid Dream was more of a pop album. It was their best seller to date. Maitland left in 2002 and he was replaced by Gavin Harrison. Then they signed with Lava/Atlantic for the next few albums. In England, they moved to Roadrunner in 2006 but remained on Atlantic in the US. The 2007 album Fear Of A Blank Planet marked a return to a progressive rock sound. King Crimson leader Robert Fripp appears on Way Out Of Here and Alex Lifeson of Rush also makes a guest appearance. The album was very successful and they followed it up with the 2009 album The Incident. After touring, Wilson released a solo album and he put Porcupine Tree on hiatus. He continues to record solo and though there have been rumours of a Porcupine Tree reformation, it seems unlikely at this point. Wilson says that even if he was to reform Porcupine Tree, it would only be as a side project. He wants to focus on his solo work. Here's the video for Way Out Of Here by Porcupine Tree.
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Album:Cameo Parkway 1957-1967
This novelty record was a top 20 hit in 1966. Senator Bobby is Senator Bobby Kennedy as portrayed by comedian Bill Minkin. On the B side he performs Wild Thing as Senator Everett Dirksen. The idea to do this record came from the guy who wrote Wild Thing. Chip Taylor is a veteran producer and singer songwriter who is the brother of actor Jon Voight. He got together with a comedy group called The Hardly-Worthit Players. It's supposed to be a spoof of the NBC newscast The Huntley-Brinkley Report. The guys behind that were Dennis Wholey and Steve Baron. They signed a record deal with Cameo-Parkway Records and they released their 1966 album The Hardly-Worthit Report. Minkin was a friend who did an impersonation of Senator Bobby Kennedy. Wholey asked Taylor if he could use Wild Thing. When he told Taylor what he was going to do, Taylor agreed to produce the single. The record reached #20 on the Billboard Hot 100. Wild Thing was not on the album The Hardly-Worthit Report but it was added to a second pressing. It is not on the mp3 version of the album currently available. But you can get Wild Thing on this 4CD Cameo-Parkway box set. The Hardly-Worthit Players released a second album in 1967 and then they split up. Dennis Wholey went on to be a talk show host for PBS in Detroit. Minkin recorded a second single as Senator Bobby called Sock It To Me, Baby for RCA in 1968. Obviously it's supposed to play off of The Rowan and Martin Laugh-In. Minkin is the host of the King Biscuit Flower Hour radio concert series. Chip Taylor is currently an alt-country performer with his own label Train Wreck Records. Here's Bill Minkin as Senator Bobby with Dennis Wholey and Steve Baron performing Wild Thing on The Hollywood Palace 1966. Kate Smith's intro is pretty funny too.