1971 LP by session trumpeter and trombonist Jim Price, recorded with the Stones’ mobile studio during the years he appeared on their albums (Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main Street, Goats Head Soup). We can’t imagine “Rocks Off” without this guy.
What would impress your friends more than an LP autographed by all four of the Oak Ridge Boys? How taking a photograph of William Lee Golden as he signed this copy of American Made and keeping it inside the jacket.
Folks are more likely to remember this album’s title song as it was re-worked into a Miller Beer commercial shortly after the album’s release. This is hardly a scandal on the scale of Ronald Reagan’s attempted appropriation of “Born in the U.S.A.,” but it was probably a big deal in Oak Ridge circles. The band did not participate in the music for the commercial, and reportedly refused to perform “American Made” so long as the commercial ran on television.
Andy Warhol didn’t design the cover of this Impulse Records LP by Dannie Richmond, although he certainly inspired its eye-catching design. Credit for the photograph of Campbell’s soup cans goes to Chuck Stewart, who took hundreds of photographs for the label. He also worked for Reprise, Mercury, Verve and Chess Records in a career that included work on over 2,000 LP jackets.
Jazz fans would recognize many of his iconic pictures, notably many of Coltrane’s middle 60s albums such as Impressions and A Love Supreme. Our favorite of Stewart’s photographs is the one of Richmond’s regular employer, Charles Mingus, lighting a pipe in his coat and hat on the cover of The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady.
Dannie Richmond played drums in Charles Mingus’ groups for more than two decades, and even led Mingus Dynasty after his friend passed away in 1980 from complications associated with ALS. Most collaborators came and went through the Mingus Workshop, some leaping off to larger careers and others leaving for personal differences, so Richmond’s tenure is particularly remarkable. We recall reading that it was after a show in Minneapolis when Mingus went off on the band and one of our favorite jazz musicians of all time, pianist Jaki Byard, left. We couldn’t find that story, so it may be one of the many apocryphal tales of his temper.
This is his Richmond’s LP as a leader, and he brought in Byard, and also two different distinct guitar players, Toots Thielemans (heard on this track) and Jimmy Rainey. You’re hearing “High Camp,” a Gary McFarland tune, but much of the rest of the album is hammy pop covers.
Richmond appeared on a number of jazz albums outside his work with Mingus, including Chet Baker’s classic Chet Baker Sings album in 1958 and about a dozen records by George Adams and Don Pullen. He briefly toured with Elton John’s band and played the drums on three early albums by the Mark-Almond Band.
Interestingly, Richmond was a little older when he began playing the drums, having first been a saxophonist in R&B groups before he met Mingus, who encouraged him to take change instruments. He often performed as a sort of sidekick, as in his backing vocals on “Fables of Faubus.” In his sprawling autobiography, Beneath the Underdog, Mingus describes Richmond as his “heartbeat.”
No two recordings of a classical piece are the same, owing to variations in recording technology and in the construction of the instruments themselves. Of course, the greatest variable is the human factor. There’s a world of difference between Pablo Casals’ Spanish Civil War era recording of Bach’s six suites for solo cello and Yo Yo Ma’s 1983 recording (we’re most inclined to prefer the former). The result is a frustrating formality, and loses listeners.
Mozart included an improvisation, often based on one of his own themes, in nearly every public performance — often audiences were more impressed by these than the music he’s written out. In one of the most legendary stories of Beethoven, he was challenged to an duel by Daniel Stiebelt, a famous pianist and minor composer. The weapons were not pistols, as they would be in a similar challenge issued by our Vice President just four years later, but pianos. Beethoven famously humiliated his rival.
We feel the loss of the human element in classical performance has been a tragedy brought on in large part by records. The early recording industry changed classical performance enormously, from the sometimes raucous atmosphere of concert hall performances in the nineteenth century to the often sterile environment we experience at our own Orchestra Hall today.
There was also an enormous loss in the variety of instruments as sounds became standardized. Early recording technology picked up certain makes better than others — where once an orchestra in Vienna would sound entirely different from one in New York, owning entirely to unique work of the tradespeople who made the instruments — soon those which could be captured more effectively in pre-electric recording were chosen.
This effect also changed performance. A nineteenth century violinist like Joseph Joachim played with little vibrato, but this produced a thin, almost reedy sound when reproduced on early 78s. Soon the style popularized by Fritz Kreisler, rich with vibrato, was what audiences wanted, not only in their living rooms but in the concert halls. Likewise, Enrico Caruso may have become the first million-seller not because he was the world’s best tenor, but because he had the stamina to project his voice well and over multiple takes.
Records established an expectation: this is what this sonata must sound like. Obviously, we still love them and we always will, but there’s something to be said for the magical spontaneity of live music. This same thing certainly happened in rock circles. Some folks go to see a band to hear their hits, and they want them to sound the same as they did on the record (only “awesomer”) only to be disappointed when that’s now how music works.
Anyways, all this is a long introduction to this record, which was recorded in 1968. When Terry Riley first composed In C, it seemed unlikely to be recorded based on his unspecific instructions for its performance. Scored for any number (Riley recommends thirty-five but writes that a larger or smaller group will do) its most significant part is for a performer to play a C in steady eighth note as a droning metronome. Over this the remaining musicians are to perform fifty-three short passages, each choosing their own moment to begin but attempting to stay within two or three phrases of each other.
In C is often regarded as one of the first minimalist compositions, although there are many examples from earlier ages. It has been widely performed but not so frequently recorded. The first recording, which Riley made for Columbia, featured eleven performers but used over-dubs to add additional instruments. There is really no standard for how long it should take to perform, so it could last a couple of hours. In the case of this album, it has to be split into two parts to accommodate the record.
If you have any instruments in your house, you and your friends could create your own In C. You wouldn’t even have to record it.
Dick Feller is not the most famous country singer of the seventies, but he wrote more than a few songs fans remember. Johnny Cash’s “Any Old Wind that Blows,” the title song from a 1971 album which was a hit, was an early success for the songwriter, who was already playing guitar in the bands of Mel Tillis, Skeeter Davis and Werner Mack.
Feller’s songs are similar to those of Tom T. Hall, one of our favorites. They run a remarkable range between the sentimentality of “Any Old Wind that Blows” and the colorful storytelling humor of “The Night Miss Nancy’s Hotel for Single Girls Burned Down,” a hilarious slice of small town life which was a hit for Tex Williams.
Jimmy Dean asked him to write a song similar to the Tex Williams hit, and Feller offered him “Lord Mr. Ford,” which was rejected. It was eventually recorded by Jerry Reed (and sung by us in the often unreliable Hymies van fairly often). Feller signed with Reed’s publishing company and the two struck up a partnership, most memorably writing the songs for Smokey and the Bandit together. One song Feller wrote and recorded which we have earlier posted here on the Hymies blog is “The Credit Card Song,” (hear it here) which includes some references to outdated computer technology but is otherwise remarkably relevant decades later.
This is the title song from Dick Feller’s second album, No Word on Me. We’ve empathized with this song a time or two over the years, and there are several other great songs on the album. During this time Feller, like Barry Manilow, wrote a number of successful television jingles for clients including Pepsi, Dodge and AT&T.
Feller most famous song is another we sing when our Ford breaks down, “Some Days are Diamonds (Some Days are Stones),” which was one of John Denver’s last charting hits. Feller first recorded it in 1976 and it was earlier covered by Bobby Bare.
Some Days are Diamonds was also the title of a 2014 book, in which Feller came out as transgender and explained her transition to Deena Kay Rose. By this time she was largely retired as a songwriter, and had not released an album since 1982. As The Dick Feller Trio, he’d did back comedian Lewis Grizzard on an album in 1991, and also contributed some songs to a Sheb Wooley album in the 90s.
We’re sure thankful that the weather for our block party last Saturday was so beautiful, because here we are just a few days along in the calendar and it’s darn cold and rainy out there.
While we had nothing but good luck as far as the weather was concerned, on Sunday morning something unfortunate befell our turntable at home. Turns out the cartridge on the player in our living room has finally pooped out. It’s an old Shure V-15 Type II, and while we’ve always been able to get new needles for it they haven’t made the cartridge itself since the sixties.
We haven’t decided what to replace it with, and in the mean time we felt like Burgess Meredith at the end of that Twilight Zone where the end of the world has finally afforded him the time to read in peace. Here we are in this house with thousands of records, and the turntable isn’t working.
Today we have a song we recorded in the record shop a few weeks ago to follow up on a recent post about Bluebird Records, the RCA/Victor subsidiary which specialized in jazz and blues singles. Unfortunately, there’s a skip at the beginning of the track and the record has since been sold to a customer so we can’t record it again until we find another copy of this album.
It should be noted that in the early 20th century, the phonograph and is amenities became one of the fastest-growing new industries in the United States. Some say second only to automobiles. As with every great innovation, it encompassed our entire nation even at a time when basic civil rights did not. Everyone bought and listened to records, and from the most base economic impulses “race” labels like Bluebird were born. As is so often the case, the growing success of the industry did not always benefit all involved, especially those easiest to abuse, which included performers like Green. Despite several successful singles, she was unappreciated by the industry when she died from pneumonia at the age of thirty-two.
Lil Green is described in the liner notes to this LP, written by jazz historian Leonard Feather, as “one of the far too numerous might-have-beens of jazz,” and that’s not an altogether unfair description. Her songs were timely and often witty, and her band sounded fantastic. On this track we chose today, pianist Simeon Henry aptly captures the style Earl Hines had popularized in Chicago at the time. Her songs are often covered by other jazz singers — including Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington and Nina Simone — and a few like “Romance in the Dark” remain standards today.