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DSC07343Burt Bacharach is turning eighty-seven on Tuesday, and local guitarist Brian Peterson asked if he could come in and perform some of Bacharach’s many famous songs — so he’ll be here this evening at 5pm for your listening enjoyment. In the meantime, we had fun looking for some interesting recordings of his songs. Here’s the ones we chose:

story of my lifeThe Story of My Life

“The Story of my Life” was one of the first major successes for Burt Bacharach and Hal David, who had started writing songs together about a year earlier. The single by Marty Robbins reached #1 on Billboard’s country chart and #15 on the pop chart in 1957 — another version in England by Michael Holliday was also a #1 hit. Robbins later re-recorded the song for a 1970 album, and its title was used for a Columbia Legacy compilation disc.

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“Story of my Life” by Marty Robbins

DSC07346The Blob

Bacharach also wrote songs over the years with Hal’s brother, Mack. One of them was “The Blob” for the 1958 monster movie starring Steve McQueen. The silly song was recorded by a Los Angeles studio band led by Bernie Knee. The single by the Five Blobs was a surprise hit, reaching #33 on Billboard’s pop chart.

Folks in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania host an annual “Blobfest” which includes re-enactments and a photo opportunities at a facsimile of the basement of Chef’s Diner.

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“The Blob” by the Five Blobs

DSC07347Move it on the Backbeat

“Move it on the Backbeat” is another song Bacharach wrote with Mack David. The uncredited singers are the Gospelaires, an in-demand backing vocal group which including at that time Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick, as well as Cissy Houston.
You can also hear them singing on records by the Drifters, Dinah Washington, Ronnie Hawkins and on Doris Troy’s “Just One Look” (Troy was previously a member of the group). And of course “Move it on the Backbeat” was the beginning of a long collaboration between Bacharach and Dionne Warwick, who recorded dozens of Bacharach/David songs.

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“Move it on the Backbeat” by Burt and the Backbeats

casino royaleThe Look of Love

Casino Royale was the third soundtrack album Bacharach worked on. The title song was performed by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, and Dusty Springfield sang the sultry, memorable tune “The Look of Love,” one of the most well-known Bacharach/David songs of all.

In the days before eBay and internet dealers, original stereo pressings of Casino Royale were one of the most sought-after albums for audiophiles. This is a result of the recording process, in which high-grade tape was used and heavily saturated to nearly the point of distortion, leading to extreme high and low ranges on playback. Our fairly worn mono copy is hardly a gem, but then again we’ve never really understood audiophiles anyways — they sure can take all the fun out of record collecting!

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“The Look of Love” by Dusty Springfield

DSC07344South American Getaway

Bacharach’s score to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is one of the records we’ve had in our collection for the longest. He received one of his three Academy Awards for the music, and the B.J. Thomas recording of “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on my Head” was a huge hit. The music fits the film magnificently, as in the montage scene where Butch, Sundance and Etta travel to Bolivia and this song is heard.

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“South American Getaway” by Burt Bacharach

smithBaby It’s You

Bacharach and Mack David wrote “Baby Its You” with Luther Dixon, who was the producer who established the Shirelles’ sound (he’s credited as Barney Williams on the single). It came out in the middle of their string of successful tunes for Scepter Records in the early sixties. The song was also a hit for the Beatles, and later an even bigger hit for Smith in 1968, which featured a full-throated delivery by singer Gayle McCormick.

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“Bqby Its You” by the Shirelles

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“Baby Its You” by Smith

DSC07352Trains and Boats and Planes

Originally titled Hit Maker!, the first album Bacharach issued under his own name didn’t feature his own voice. Instead listeners found lush, mostly instrumental arrangements of songs he and David had written for Warwick and others. A largely anonymous chorus sings some of the songs, including “Planes and Boats and Trains,” which was had minor success as a single in England.

Also among the anonymous contributors were Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, session musicians in their pre-Zeppelin days.

The album has been reissued many times over the years, most often as Burt Bacharach Plays His Hits.

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“Planes and Boats and Trains” by Burt Bacharach

DSC07351Walk on By

“Walk On By” was one of the many hits Bacharach and David wrote for Dionne Warwick in the sixties. The song’s woe-is-me narrative draws out a unique quality from nearly everyone who interprets it.

Isaac Hayes turned it into a bombastic, epic jam on his 1969 album Hot Buttered Soul, and about ten years later the Stranglers recorded an equally over-long version driven by a plodding bass line and an extended organ solo. Shortly after that the Average White Band recorded a great, funky version on their album Feel No Fret. Its a song which has inspired many interpretation and many imitations, and is surely one of the most beloved Bacharach songs.

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“Walk on By” by Isaac Hayes

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“Walk on By” by the Stranglers

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My Little Red Book

The lyrics of Hal David were often melodramatic and self-depreciating, which fit well with Bacharach’s style. We read an interview once where he described how the music should tell a story, just as the lyrics do.

Whether “My Little Red Book” was intended to reference the ubiquitous and famous Quotes from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, published the same year as the song, is as debatable as theories The Blob was an allegory for Soviet communism. The song was one of the first Bacharach and David wrote for a British pop band, probably connected to their continued chart success across the pond beginning with the cover of Marty Robbins’ “The Story of My Life.”

When Love recorded the song for their first album, guitarist Arthur Lee completely re-invented the chord changes, to the chagrin of Bacharach. Still, the song was a hit and has become a favorite of garage rock fans and guys who like to hang around record stores and talk about where punk rock was invented.

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“My Little Red Book” by Love

DSC07345I Say A Little Prayer

Several of the hits Bacharach and David wrote for Dionne Warwick became jazz standards, although his use of unusual chord progressions probably made it more complicated for performers. Stan Getz recorded an entire album of Bacharach/David songs in the seventies (What the World Needs Now Is Love), and Ahmad Jamal opened his 1968 album Tranquility (one of our favorites of his) with two of their songs: “I Say a Little Prayer” and “The Look of Love.”

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“I Say a Little Prayer” by Ahmad Jamal

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“The Look of Love” by Ahmad Jamal

#1 Pleasure Horse

pleasure horseThere are more than a couple bands in the Twin Cities who claim Gram Parson’s “cosmic American music” as inspiration, but few if any appropriate the very best of its stylistic medley as well as Pleasure Horse, whose self-titled debut has been must anticipated around your friendly neighborhood record shop. The band slowly evolved over its several years, staying focused on multi-instrumentalist and lead vocalist Tim Evanson, who we first met as a member of the Flying Dorito Brothers. They were a Parsons cover band with a short-lived run much loved by many, and Evanson’s take on “One Hundred Years from Now” stuck to our ribs.

With lead guitarist Ben Mahowald, he’s kept the band going and growing. Pleasure Horse offers just a little of just about everything you’ve ever loved about country music over ten tracks: beer-soaked heartbreak and twang, and a little Tex-Mex and a little rock and roll. There’s a fuzz guitar on “Reasons” which recalls Grady Martin’s solo on a 1961 Marty Robbins single, and an organ on “News Radio” which sounds like it was borrowed from the first Lambchop album. Either song is an excellent example of the band’s innovative arrangements, which are so consistently inventive its impossible to pick a favorite moment on this album.

The album’s production doesn’t do its ambitions justice, as is evident from the rollicking opener “Company Spade,” which we really want to burst out of our speakers with the energy we know is in there, and sometimes the drums get lost. The band balances its rhythm section against pedal steel, brass, organ and fiddle, but feels boxed in and restrained. The songs are just so damn good it doesn’t matter. Some are solidly pastoral and narrative, like “Gracie” and “Oahe,” and others just fantastically catchy. Pleasure Horse hits that sweet spot on every song on this album.

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“Gotta Wonder”

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“News Radio”

The release show for the first Pleasure Horse album is Friday May 8th at the Nomad World Pub. Also playing will be Suzie and Murder Shoes. Details here.

 #2 The Gated Community

gated communityWe Can Do Anything opens with a rich, bluegrass rendition of the Youngblood’s harrowing “Darkness, Darkness” (the only cover on the disc), but the ensuing eleven tracks aren’t as driven towards a cynical worldview as their first disc (heard here), which had a series of Dead Kennedys-as-a-bluegrass band moments. Hints of the way the political world creeps into daily life, whether welcome or not, still appear. In “Non (A French Song)” a laid-off factory worker laments malaise with a little more grace than the stumpjumpers on Charlie Parr’s latest (but not much), and the slow burning closer, “This World,” presents an open-eyed optimism in response to the oppressive pressures in the Youngbloods anthem which opened the album by embracing the here and now.

This doesn’t suggest Sumanth Gopinath’s lyrics are any less dense or intense, just that their focus has shifted in a new direction. Its almost as if he’s channeled John Hartford’s alternating sense of humor and stark sentimentalism and the ability to shift between the two with ease. The arrangements suit this well, especially in the balance between bluegrass roots and good old fashioned Nashville country — All the twang’s in all the right places. Remarkably, they get in all the requirements for “the perfect country and western song” as per David Allen Coe (though not in a single verse). A lovely duet, “Georgia,” is the album’s highlight, just enough George and Tammy to hit the heartstrings, and lushly produced. “I Wanna Get Drunk Tonight” is a hilariously fun song which would have fit perfectly in our post last week about bar fightin’ songs, and “Non (A French Song)” is good outlaw country fun. You know, it was Charlie Daniels who played the fiddle on that Youngbloods song.

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“Georgia”

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“Non (A French Song)”

The release show for We Can Do Anything is Friday May 8th at the Icehouse. Also playing is the Church of Cash, a Johnny Cash cover band. Details here.

Today is In Heart of the Beast‘s annual May Day Parade down Bloomington Avenue, which ends with a wonderful festival in Powderhorn Park. It is one of our favorite days of the year here in South Minneapolis.

We forgot to find a good May Day song this year, so here’s a fun one about dancing.

dance on

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“Dance On” by Alan Dale

Chitter Chat

chitter chat 45

We thought the Smart Alex single was the most interesting Record Store Day release this year, even though it wasn’t recognized on the major label-leaning official RSD list. The folks at Modern Radio Record Label released the rare 1979 local single, and barely got them back from the plant in time to deliver copies to stores around town. They also posted a history of the band, who helped Hüsker Dü get their first gig at the Longhorn had had the Replacements as an opening act, to name a few of its claims to legendary status.

Smart Alex will be playing a proper release show for the reissue on May 22nd at the fabulous Turf Club. Modern Radio only pressed a hundred copies, but they’ve saved a few. We have couple left in stock, too. The show should be a pretty awesome event.

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“Chitter Chat”

At one point yesterday afternoon it was sunny and snowing at the same time, one of those weird weather phenomenons only us Minnesotans would understand. Just a few days earlier it was damn gorgeous and sunny afternoon here at Hymie’s for our fifth annual block party — that’s the way it is here. If you don’t like the weather, just wait a couple hours.

And that brings us to one of our favorite records to arrive this spring, which has been the second album by Exotik-A-GoGo, the band which has been enjoying a long run as the weekend house band at Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge. Our friend Jezebel Jones once hosted a tiki party in the middle of the winter to stick it to the season, and this album would have been the perfect soundtrack. We have loved this group since its inception even though we’re widely known to rarely make it up to northeast, and we’d really like to welcome their new album with a lei and a piña colada.

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“Barbarians at the Gate”

exotik a gogoThe band dug into the fertile fields of Martin Denny-soaked vintage lounge on Go Ape! a few years ago (which made our ‘top ten’ list that year) but only offered a peek at their collective century of experience — on this second record the seeds they started bloom beautifully. Where Exotik-A-GoGo works best is not in lounge music or exotica but in its excellent and interesting jazz. The arrangements draw more focus on vibraphonist Vince Hyman and the guitar parts shared by multi-instrumentalists Tom Cravens and Andy Nelson. Nelson’s tenor sax takes the lead on the riffy and driving “Lounge Leopard Lenny,” and on the flute he salutes “The Girl with the Raven Hair,” the album’s smoothest ballad.

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“The Girl with the Raven Hair”

Drummer Craig Gallas founded the group and the percussion on tunes like “The Girl with the Raven Hair” is as sensitive as work by Chicago’s great avant garde drummers Hamid Drake and Kalil El’Zabar. When the band plays hard bop Gallas provides both an excellent timekeeping groove and exciting fills. Jeff Willkomm plays the bass and essential to the fast tunes like “Shaka Shake” the opening track, “Barbarians at the Gate.”

At its best Exotik-Agogo revive the inspired feeling of really great 90s jazz records like the Dave Holland Quintet’s Prime Directive and Dave Douglas’ tribute to Mary Lou Williams, Soul on Soul. The album works best in this direction, although there are still fun nods to vintage exotica and lounge music like the amusing chant-along vocals on “Emerald Flame,” which could have come from a Les Baxter soundtrack, or “Señor Juan,” a theatrical ensemble piece which leans more towards other favorite 60s film composers like Schifrin and Mancini.

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“Señor Juan”

The band celebrated the release of the album with a show at the Icehouse last week — and we really wanted this to be something we posted in advance, but with the block party and all we fell behind on local releases. We sold out of copies of Exotik-A-GoGo on record store day, which tells us there’s a lot of enthusiasm for local jazz. The album is back in stock and continues to be one of our favorite recent releases. Now if the weather would just get the message and warm up!

Here’s some of the pictures people have sent us from yesterday’s block party. We’ll have more to share by and by, but right now we’ve got to start cleaning up.

Thanks to everyone who was here. It was a really wonderful day.

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photo by Craig Wilford

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Photo by Craig Wilford

 

photo 2

The line at 11AM (photo by Laura)

photo 3

Photo by Craig Drehmel

photo 1

Photo by instagram user wupton08

 

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Photo by Jeanette Cleland

 

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photoWe’ve unpacked and organized all of this year’s special Record Store Day releases (and in spite of what Dave said to The Star Tribune, we’ll have copies of the A-ha single). There were more titles than ever before this year, and we have the largest selection of special releases we’ve ever had for the event.

We have it all organized and we’ll do our best to let you know how many copies we’ll have available if you give us a call or email today.

MatsIn addition to setting aside some gems for the day — including the cache of Replacements albums at the left — we’ve got some giveaways from our neighborhood comic book shop, Nostalgia Zone, and from Red House Records, who brought us a whole box of 45s by Charlie Parr, whose new album next week will be his first for the label.

The folks at Modern Radio Records also have a special single, which we’ll have for sale in limited quantities: It’s a reissue of the ultra-rare single by Smart Alex, a legendary late 70s Minneapolis band. Modern Radio only made 100 copies of the reissue!

charlie parr 45

As we have in the past, there will also be thousands of free records on 39th Avenue. Boxes and boxes, more than we can count and surely more than we want to haul around ever again — we just can’t toss ‘em out. Sure, there’s an awful lot of Mitch Miller in there, but also a gem or two hidden just for fun. You know you can resist digging a little — you’ll probably even find an A-ha single!

free records

 

HymiesRSD15What we’re most excited about is the bill of live music this year, which is split between returning friends and acts new to our annual block party. On Monday we featured the Dumpy Jug Bumpers, who are not only making their Hymie’s debut tomorrow but are releasing their first album, too. We’ve also got both the bands whose records we’ll be releasing later this year — Jack Klatt and Whiskey Jeff and the Beer Back Band!

Once again the one and only DJ Truckstashe will be providing music in between sets. This year you’ll also be able to enjoy drinks and food outside at Peppers & Fries, our new neighbors across 39th Avenue who are as excited for the event as we are. If you haven’t already visited them we hope you’ll try out East Lake’s latest awesome restaurant!


 

Hymie’s Stage
11:00  Jake Manders
12:00  Jack Klatt
39th Avenue Stage
2:00  Brian Laidlaw (short set)
5:30  Pennyroyal

And now a word from our sponsors…

We couldn’t put together this block party year after year without help. We’d like to thank Pabst Blue Ribbon and Radio K for their ongoing support. You’ll find the Radio K crew here again this year — you can always count on them to support local music.

Across the street at the Frattallone’s Ace Hardware they’ll once again have activities for kids, including a bouncy castle and, by popular demand, the return of Terry Odegaard’s World of Reptiles from 11AM to 2PM.

Sound for our fifth annual block party is provided by Mother of All Music, and most of the tables and tents we use on 39th Avenue are provided by our East Lake neighbors, Northern Sun. Posters for the event were created by two of our vendors, Vinyl Afterlife and Dwitt.

 

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