Songs

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Here’s a tune from Marty Robbins’ first record, a 10″ album released in 1956. This was several years before his famous Gunfighters LP.

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“Mean Mama Blues”

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There are many songs where the talented multi-instrumentalist James Moody sings, but none has as big a place in our hearts as “Flying Saucer” from this LP by Milt Jackson.

Milt Jackson at the Museum of Modern Art was recorded in August, 1965 at the New York landmark, which in those days was, like our own Walker Museum, host to a wide variety of contemporary jazz performances. The album features a great group including Moody, pianist Cedar Walton, and a rhythm section of Ron Carter and Candy Finch, who even the quiet tunes swinging.

Jackson, Moody and Walton all contribute original numbers, and the band opened their set with “The Quota,” a lovely Jimmy Heath song.

James Moody — maybe best known to jazz aficionados for his signature tune, “Moody’s Mood for Love” and his many collaborations with Dizzy Gillespie — alternated between the saxophone and the flute throughout his career. His albums often featured vocal numbers as well, which were often light-hearted in a similar style to Gillespie’s singing.

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Country singer Lynn Anderson passed away yesterday in Nashville, Tennessee at the age of sixty-seven. She is best known for her single, “(I Never Promised You a) Rose Garden,” which was #1 hit on the pop and country charts in 1970. Over her five decade career she had fifty singles in country’s top 50, and released at least forty albums.

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“Rose Garden” is probably the biggest country crossover hit of the seventies, and perhaps of all time. It was also used in a 1988 dance hit by Kon Kon (along with the theme from The Magnificent Seven and songs by GQ and Silver Convention). Anderson re-recorded it on her 2004 comeback album, The Bluegrass Sessions.

The song was written by Joe South (a favorite around here) for his album Introspection. Anderson had to persuade her husband, who was producing the session, to allow her to record the song, which he felt was intended for a man to sing. “Rose Garden” had already been covered by men several times, notably Freddy Weller and Billie Joe Royal, who were regular outlets for South’s original songs. The Three Degrees proved it worked as a woman’s song too, but their recording wasn’t a hit either.

With fifteen minutes remaining on a session for her next album, Anderson’s husband, Glenn Sutton, conceded. The first take went poorly, and then session men Charlie McCoy and Jerry Kennedy came up with the song’s signature shuffle. Kennedy based it on a 1964 ska instrumental he recorded for Smash Records.

“I believe that ‘Rose Garden’ was released at just the right time,” said Anderson. “The message in the song — that if you just take hold of life and go ahead, you can make something out of nothing — people just took to that.”

 

Whatever you think about his films or his personal life, Woody Allen still has enough celebrity cachet to get away with the sort of indulgences we’ve come to expect. Reading this story in today’s Star Tribune about the seventy-nine year old filmmaker’s side gig as clarinetist leading a traditional jazz septet, we couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed.

This weekend fancy folks will spend fifty to a hundred dollars to hear this self-described “terrible musician” at the State Theater simply because he’s a famous movie director, but the old saw which says you get what you pay for doesn’t apply in this case. New Orleans is not a museum showpiece to be preserved, and it doesn’t take star power to make it exciting to music lovers.

In the story, Allen inaccurately assumes only one in five million people would be familiar with New Orleans jazz. Writer Colin Covert describes the art form dismissively as “a simple, blunt, antique style,” which couldn’t be further from the truth — there is, in fact, a traditional album (The Hot Sardines’ self-titled second disc) on Billboard’s top jazz sellers list this week. People love this music and pick it up more quickly than we can find play-able records. Here at your friendly neighborhood record shop, we can’t keep good New Orleans jazz albums on the shelves!

 

You don’t have to look far or spend fifty dollars to find that New Orleans jazz is actually a complex, elegant and vibrant art form, familiar to far more than one ten-thousandth of the population. Perhaps if Covert can’t stick to writing his peremptory film reviews, he could take the time to check out the Southside Aces, whose regular second Thursdays gig at the Minneapolis Eagles Club #34 in our neighborhood offers the best New Orleans jazz for a mere five bucks.

And if you really want to hear some hot clarinets, you should have heard them this month when Butch Thompson sat in with the band. Regular player Tony Baluff is no slouch himself: check out the Ace’s take on Jimmy Noone’s “Japansy” on their latest album (below) or Baluff’s own original “Little Duke,” which opens the disc. We reviewed the record when it came out early this year, and its sure to be on our list of favorites in December.

Next month the Southside Aces are playing the music of Louis Armstrong, so expect to hear the best of trumpeter Zach Lozier and a lot of familiar, fantastic New Orleans tunes. The Minneapolis Eagles Club website is here, and the Aces calendar is here. We promise you’ll have more fun than spending a small fortune to see a movie star surround himself with ringers, and there’s a lot more room to dance at the Eagles than in the aisles of the State Theater.

“Harp Attack” by the Joel Johnson Band was the theme for The Lazy Bill Lucas Show on KFAI during its last several years. Johnson was the host until he passed away, altogether too young, in 2003. Its our all-time favorite KFAI program, although these days we really enjoy Jackson Buck’s Freewheelin’ which airs Wednesday afternoons, 2-4pm.

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“Harp Attack”

The program was named for Lazy Bill Lucas, its first host in 1978 when KFAI, then a year old itself, was broadcasting at only ten watts. Lucas’ career as a blues musician began in Chicago, but who settled here in Minneapolis. In the 50s he performed with Big Joe Williams, Sonny Boy Williamson, Howlin’ Wolf and Little Walter, to name a few. His first single was released on Chance Records in 1954. For several years he was a member of Mojo Buford’s band, appearing on several of their singles. Buford is best known for his harmonica work on Muddy Waters’ records at the time, but he can be heard on several singles on Minnesota labels. The one you most likely have seen is “Mojo Workin'” by the Voodoo Men on Soma Records, but his band (including Lucas) also recorded for Twin Town, Garrett and Bangar Records in the sixties.

In between Lucas and Johnson the program was hosted by slide guitarist Stephen Babbitt, who was best known for his knowledge of country blues and jug band music. We remember Babbitt’s voice on the radio, but we haven’t found any records on which he performed (maybe someone will see this and help us put together a discography). All three hosts were enthusiastic supporters of traditional music in the Twin Cities — it makes us wish that just once in a while we’d popped a blank cassette in the deck and recorded an afternoon of music. It would be especially fun to hear the live music calendar, which would invariably include shows at the Viking Bar.

The 1964 Fender Stratocaster which Bob Dylan used in his famed first electric set at the Newport Folk Festival is in the news this weekend because it’s current owner has lent it to the Festival’s organizers for display to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the controversial moment. Rolling Stone reports that Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Isray, who is so absurdly rich that he not only has a rare guitar collection but a curator to care for it, purchased the Sunburst Fender for nearly $1 million in 2013 (the full story posted yesterday is here). It’s the most ever paid for a guitar.

After being introduced by Peter Yarrow on July 25, 1965, Dylan and a band appropriated from the Paul Butterfield Blues Band launched into a raucous rendition of “Maggie’s Farm.” The crowd’s reaction — a mixtures of cheers and jeers — has been the subject of debate for decades. Many believe the crowd was booing because of the brevity of Dylan’s set. Al Kooper, who was performing with Dylan, is quoted suggesting as much in The Rough Guide to Dylan: “They didn’t give a shit about us being electric. They just wanted more.”

Dylan’s May 17, 1966 performance at the Manchester Free Hall in England is the recording with a more hostile crowd reaction. His first set, unaccompanied and acoustic, drew polite applause, but when he returned for a second set backed by The Hawks, the audience heckled him between songs. Most famously, someone shouted “Judas!”

Dylan shouts back, “I don’t believe you. You are a liar!” Turning to the band, he says, “Play it fucking loud!” and the band begins “Like a Rolling Stone.” The recording was widely bootlegged in the early 70s (Dave Marsh wrote a review for Creem in 1971) and finally released officially in The Bootleg Series at Live 1966.

His Sunbust Stratocaster was apparently left on a private jet. The pilot’s daughter presented the guitar for sale in 2013 after settling a dispute with Dylan, who claimed to have kept the guitar himself. Details of their negotiation were kept out of the public. Rolling Stone‘s original story about the guitar’s potential sale (here) suggest the guitar is authentically the one Dylan used at the Festival, and also that the seller did not have the right to auction it. The singer’s attorney pointed out he owned several Fenders at the time, and others — as well as other drafts of lyrics — had been stolen. Probably, this sort of thing happened to Dylan fairly often in those days, which may explain some of his eccentricities.

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“Maggie’s Farm” performed by Bob Dylan and band at the Newport Folk Festival fifty years ago. This recording is from the “newly discovered source tapes” used in the soundtrack to Martin Scorcese’s documentary, No Direction Home, and released as volume seven in The Bootleg Series.

shirts 2You might know her as the silent, shamanistic Norma on Orange is the New Black, but actress Annie Golden started her professional career as the lead singer of the Shirts. For a few years they were a regular act at CBGB’s, often opening for acts like Television and the Talking Heads. Peter Gabriel asked the Shirts along as an opener on his 1978 tour supporting his second solo album.

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Capitol Records passed on the Shirts when other labels were scooping up rock acts from New York’s scene, but they ended up releasing the band’s debut LP anyway because UK-based EMI took up the band and Capitol was their American subsidiary. Here’s the first track from their self-titled debut album.

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“Reduced to Whisper”

In all the band made three albums before hanging it up in 1981. They also had a great track on the Live at CBGB’s compilation LP in 1976. At their best the Shirts were a bridge between the stripped aggression of punk rock which people usually associate with the legendary club (and bands like the Ramones, Blondie, Patti Smith Group or the Dead Boys) and the radio-friendly power pop of the mid 70s. Several songs on The Shirts aren’t really much removed from the art rock of the Talking Heads’ debut.

Several members reformed the band in the 00s, but Golden did not join them. She had been part of the New York duo Golden Carillo, but but spent more time as an actress. Golden played the thick-accented cab driver in 12 Monkeys and a tooth fairy on a television commercial. As Norma Romano on Orange is the New Black, she was given, with the rest of the cast, a Screen Actor’s Guild Award this year.

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