Friday, October 31, 2014

Let all your suffering cease (Billy Preston) #314 - 318

Billy Preston That's The Way God Planned It/ What About You (Apple, APPLE 12, 1969)
Billy Preston Everything's Alright/ I Want To Thank You (Apple, APPLE 19, 1969)
Billy Preston All That I've Got (I'm Gonna Give It To You)/ As I Get Older (Apple, APPLE 21, 1970)
Billy Preston My Sweet Lord/ Little Girl (Apple, 1826, 1971)
Billy Preston Nothing From Nothing/ My Soul Is A Witness (A&M, K 5602, 1974)

From time to time we all need some Billy Preston style musical righteousness. There is a warm integrity to everything Billy touched - with Little Richard, with Sam Cooke, with Ray Charles, with The Beatles, with George Harrison, with The Rolling Stones, and on his own.

The man certainly had his personal problems with drugs, alcohol, insurance fraud and sexual indiscretions but his music was always righteous.

The A sides here all have individual charms. My highlights: 

That's The Way... is a rapturous song - best heard on the album of the same name with a fantabulous guitar/organ duel between George Harrison and Billy which they both manage to win - you'll know what I mean when you hear the song- it's down below for your listening pleasure. 

The single version focuses attention squarely on the organ and the tune itself, which is brilliant.

Everything's Alright is guaranteed to put a funky smile on your face. Some wonderful Macca-esque bass from Keith Richards on this track, with Ginger Baker, Eric Clapton, Harrison, Doris Troy on board as well. What a line up!

My Sweet Lord (from his second and final Apple album Encouraging Words) is different from George's and actually came out before All Thing's Must Pass (which Billy plays on as well). It's a gospel song in Billy's hands.

Nothing From Nothing came after his Apple career - when he went on to have hits with this, Space Race and Will It Go 'Round In Circles

Hidden gems: Gems abound on these B sides. What About You showcases his organ playing, As I Get Older is an Ray Charles style instrumental belter.

Hard to pick the videos for this one but I have to share the album version of ...God Planned it!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Suddenly I'm up on top of the world (Mike Post) #313

Mike Post Theme from Hill Street Blues, Theme from The Greatest American Hero (Believe It Or Not), Theme from White Shadow/ Theme from Magnum P.I., School's Out, Theme from The Rockfield Files (Elektra 12", E1 60028, 1982)

This one is a doozy! An extended play 12 inch by Mike Post, the guy who ruled the television theme song world in the seventies and early eighties.

A very canny operator, he was too. By securing the cream of jazz sessioners he gave his popular themes a deeper musical resonance; by hiring other arrangers and composers to write in his style for the shows he could cover a lot of ground.

He was everywhere. These songs are only the tip of the Post iceberg. But what a great sharp end.

Hill Street Blues was one of my favourite shows back in the day. The theme is so wistful and so against cop drama theme expectations that it retains a huge impact. 

For me, it's the best moment on this E.P., but the hit song to Greatest American Hero, The Beach Boys-esque School's Out and the driving Magnum P.I. theme (pun intended) are all mega achievements as well.

The man had it in spades! 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

I always play the starring role (Police) #312

The Police Can't Stand Losing You/ So Lonely (A&M, K 7259, 1978)

The Police had a pretty solid run of hit singles starting with Can't Stand Losing You which came from their debut album Outlandos d'Amour (yes the one with Roxanne on it as well).

Gordon Sumner (A.K.A. Sting) can sure write catchy hit songs. That choppy cod reggae style the band adopted as a lief motif was a genius move.

Luckily for The Police they achieved synchronicity with the advent of MTV. Their videos were twice shy pop marketing pieces of perfection. So they became huge. That must play with one's ego, n'est-ce pas!?

Hidden gem: Great value for money on this single as So Lonely is another terrific pop song. Elsewhere in the world Dead End Job was the B side but the folk at A&M NZ clearly had other ideas!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Don't make it bad (The Beatles) #311

Wilson Pickett Hey Jude/ Hey Jude (Atlantic, AK 2737, 1968)

I've said it before and here it comes again - the versions by Beatles songs are always the best. Cover versions? I can take or leave in an off hand way.

Nothing alters that belief as Mr Pickett (for me) over emotes his way through Macca's song for Julian Lennon. Neither the presence of Duane Allman on guitar, nor the fact that it was a hit, wins me over.

Perhaps I should declare a bias here: my soul collection mainly comprises albums by Marvin Gaye, Boyz II Men, Sly and The Family Stone, Isaac Hayes, Alicia Keys, P.M. Dawn, Mario Winans and Stevie Wonder. In other words, the smooth end of the spectrum.

A lot of soul shouters don't do it for me so if James Brown floats your boat you may - dig this Beatle cover. 

I know all this sounds like heresy (you don't like the Godfather of Soul? What's wrong with you? Eric Clapton thinks Duane's solo is the best ever!) but it's the truth Ruth.

Hidden gem: The B side has a longer version with even more yelps and yells crushing any personal meaning from the song.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

You're looking very chic today Irene (The Photos) #310

The Photos Irene/ Barbarellas (Epic, ES 477, 1980)

I didn't know much about The Photos in 1980: didn't know they grew out of a punk band called Satan's Rats; didn't know lead singer Wendy Wu was really called Wendy Cruise (why change that? Cruise is a cool name); didn't know she had also managed another band before joining.

What I DID know was that Wendy could sing with some attitude and that Irene was catchy as hell: all those Ooooo Irenes!!

Hidden gem: The B side documents life at Barbarellas - a nightclub in Birmingham. It's not as catchy as Irene but it's got a nice chorus and it bounces along happily.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Well talk on the street says you might go solo (Tom Petty) #308 - 309

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers I Need To Know/ No Second Thoughts (Shelter, K 7149, 1978)

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers  Refugee/ It's Rainin' Again (MCA, MCA 41169, 1980)

Tom Petty came roaring out of the gate with I Need To Know in 1978 - full bull goose bozo. It seems to only last a minute as it makes it's hell bent guitar rush to the exit grooves.

To me in 1978 it had the punk energy in the air then, but clearly wasn't punk. It was a Byrds/ Springsteen hybrid with a southern twist. That sounds weird- it was Tom Petty, okay!

Refugee remains my favourite Tom Petty song. It has such passion, attitude and presence - even though it was describing the end of a relationship, everybody has the right to be free, felt like a clarion call to arms in 1980. You don't have to live like a refugee (i.e. a victim)!! The Heartbreakers play as a single organism-like The E Streeters, like a great band does.

Hidden gems: No Second Thoughts was also from parent album You're Gonna Get It! and has the Tom Petty twang and a vaguely eastern acoustic guitar vibe going for it. 

It's Rainin' Again sounds like an experiment, an attempt to sound as much like Creedence Clearwater Revival in swamp mode as possible - doesn't come off though. Easy to see why it didn't make the parent Hard Promises album but it's turned up as a bonus track since.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Please lock me away (Peter and Gordon) #305 - 307

Peter and Gordon A World Without Love/ If I Were You (Columbia, DNZ 10344, 1964)

Peter and Gordon A World Without Love/ Nobody I Know (Capitol, 6076, ?)

Peter and Gordon I Don't Want To See You Again/ Woman (Capitol, 6155, ?)

You may not think you know these songs, but trust me- you do.

They are prime examples of Paul McCartney's long established gift of writing crafty little melodies that get under your skin.

The Peter Asher and Macca link is an obvious one. Paul was living with the Ashers for a time in the sixties while he dated Jane Asher so he knew her brother well. 

Gordon Waller had formed a bond with Peter when they were students.

The harmony duo were well placed to take advantage of McCartney's sixties Midas touch (seems to have deserted him of late though) - all of these A side songs (the two Capitol reissues are double A sides) were hits to varying degrees.

Woman is credited to Bernard Webb - a Macca pseudonym which he used to see if he could have a hit under a different name. Didn't really work so he abandoned that conceit.

The cherry of the bunch is World Without Love - a huge selling international number one.

Hidden gem: The original B side to World Without End is instantly recognisable as P and G from those harmonies but it's a million miles from the sparkle of the hits.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Who you gonna call? (Ray Parker Jnr) #302- 304

Ray Parker Jnr and Raydio A Woman Needs Love (Just Like You Do)/ So Into You (Arista, ATA 592, 1981)

Ray Parker Jnr Ghostbusters/ Ghostbusters (Instrumental) (Arista, K 9454, 1984)

Ray Parker Jnr Ghostbusters (Extended version)/ Ghostbusters (Dub version), Ghostbusters (Short version) (Arista 12", MX 62905, 1984)

Ubiquitous. It means 'omnipresent, ever-present, present everywhere, all-pervasive, universal, worldwide, global'. In 1984 Ray Parker Jnr hit ubiquity city with the theme to the movie Ghostbusters.

It helped that the film was cool (Bill Murray IS Mr Cool) and popular. It helped that MTV, introduced three years earlier, was becoming a force. It helped that he was a fine looking dude. It helped that the song rocked its socks off. 

The song just oozes appeal - the memorable tag lines (I can't hear you, who you gonna call? Bustin' makes me feel good), the crisp 1980's production and that unrelentingly chirpy Ghostbuster beat.

Hidden gem: B side is the instrumental version - I prefer the A side with Mr Parker Jnr.

Monday, October 6, 2014

I got my soul shoes on my feet (Graham Parker) #301

Graham Parker and the Rumour Hold Back The Night, (let me Get) Sweet On You/ White Honey, Soul Shoes (Vertigo 12", 6831 040, 1978)

A.K.A. The Pink Parker, this EP has two distinct sides to GP and The Rumour - the studio and the live.

The real excitement here? Live, of course. But he ain't no slouch in the studio either.

I won his 1977 album Stick To Me in a competition of some sort, back in the day, and loved it. The Pink Parker came out between that and his previous album, Heat Treatment. He was in a rich vein of form.

Hold Back The Night is his cover of The Trammps song, but if you didn't know the original you would swear it was a GP song - compare the two versions below. The Trammps is wonderful in a Four Tops super soul way; great sax break too. GP adds some sped up London grit and attitude; groovy guitar too. 

Hidden gems: Live is where The Rumour really show their chops - the wonderful organ fills on White Honey are matched by the wonderful guitar fills and GP vocal on Soul Shoes. All up - an excellent value for money EP and on lurid pink vinyl to boot.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Turn my blue heart to red (Robert Palmer) Single # THREE HUNDRED

Robert Palmer Bad Case Of Lovin' You (Doctor, Doctor)/ Love Can Run Faster (Island, K7517, 1979)

Okay - sorry - obviously I have way more than 300 singles. Here we are at that number and I've just started on the P's! 

Yes yes, don't worry! The countdown will continue beyond the 300, through the vinyl and into the CD singles. Like a top - once it's spinning we need to see where it goes.

What a great song to begin the 300's. If you have the inclination - put on headphones with a large stretchy cord thing so that the plug won't come out of the computer as you dance around to this song.

Doctor doctor - give me the news! This one needs to be heard loud and the feets need to move and groove.

Bad Case... is Palmer's cover of a Moon Martin song. It was remixed with heavier guitars for a later compilation but this version still sounds pretty raw and exciting to my ears.

Hidden gemComing off one of his earlier albums (Double Fun), the B side is in the cool reggae style Robert Palmer has to himself.