Traffic- John Barleycorn Must Die

Here’s a really good one dollar record for a Saturday.  

This was the fourth album from the UK group Traffic but the first without guitarist Dave Mason.  In his departure, and after some side projects, Steve Winwood, Chris Wood, and Jim Capaldi put together this album which was released in 1970.  Critics were a bit hard on this album noting Mason’s absence, but it sold well both in the US and the UK , eventually going gold.  Most of the record is very jazz/blues oriented with the exception of the title track, which was a nod to the rising influence of bands like Fairport Convention on the UK scene. 

“John Barleycorn” (Round 164) is an English folk song dating back to the Age of James I.  The earliest copy is from the 1400’s.  There is also around 140 versions of the tune according to the back cover.  On the surface, it seems like a pretty nasty song.  Three men have decided that John Barleycorn must die.  He is mowed down and left in the sun to dry.  He is then cut down at his knees, rolled into a cart, smashed between stones ground up.  The songs concludes that many men can’t function without the death of John Barleycorn and that his blood is consumed by many from all walks of life.

Pretty gruesome until you realize that John Barleycorn is not actually a person and is instead barley and malt, the main ingredients in beer and whiskey.  The song in fact is a description of the harvest of these cereal crops and the production of alcohol.  It remains popular today and versions as shown above exist in both minor and major tones.

Anyway, I found Traffic’s version to be quite interesting.  Thus, here it is as the sample.  It should be noted that the rest of the record does not sound like this.

Good record. Satisfactory.

Jacques Brel- Le Formidable Jacques Brel

This was $5. I like French records from the 60’s in general, plus I like a lot of Jacques Brel’s songs that have been translated into English (“Seasons in the Sun” for example).  That made this purchase pretty simple, even at the high price. This record was previously owned by one Janis Childs, whose 7 digit phone number on the back reminds me of a simpler time in this town.

Brel, born in Brussels in 1929, was a singer/songwriter/actor/director who cast a large influence not only over the French speaking world, but over Europe as well. He was a giant in the French world of Chanson music.

His songs, theatrical an introspective in nature, were also translated into English and covered by some of the biggest stars this side of the Atlantic including Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Nina Simone, John Denver, and perhaps most famously, Rod McKuen.

If you Google pictures of Brel, you will find a whole lot of pictures him smoking.  It should come to no surprise that he developed a tumor in his lungs.  The majority of the 70’s were spent in ill health.  He also spent a vast majoirty of his time sailing.  Despite being quite sick for some time and being told his time was short,  Brel lived more years than planned, finally succumbing to complications due to lung cancer in 1978.  He was 49.

Offical Web Page

This record, released on Vanguard in 1967 was the US version of Brel’s ninth album, Jacques Brel 67, released on Barclay Label.  Backed by Francois Rauber conducting and arranging, this album contains 10 songs written or co written by Brel.  Pretty good numbers.  Interestingly enough, Brel retired from the stage the year this album was released. He would release 4 albums thereafter.

For a sample, I went with “Le Cheval” which translates into horse.

Good album,  Satisfactory.

The Fantastic Violinaires- A Message to My Friends

This was one dollar. It has been awhile since I posted a gospel record on this site and that is probably why I bought this.  

The Fantastic Violinaires were a gospel vocal group formed in Detroit in 1952. In the early sixties, they were joined by Robert Blair, who became their leader until his death of a heart attack in 2001 at age 70.  Before he turned to secular music, Wilson Pickett sung with this group.  I believe a version is still active today.’

Webpage for the Group

This album, released on Jewel Records from Shreveport, LA in 1976, could have been their 10th or so album. Pretty decent.  Good vocals.  Uplifting songs.  Gospel but not too overly gospel in some areas.

For a sample, I went with “Sunshine”.

Satisfactory record.  Did not feel much like writing today.

Jerry Reed- When You’re Hot, You’re Hot

This was a pretty massive record for Jerry Reed so buying t for $2.40 was a no brainer.  I originally planned on putting this album on the blog earlier but I think I was too country heavy the month I originally selected it so it fell into the unused pile.  This month, I found myself tired of listening to records so I picked this one from the pile to save me some time as I already had the songs downloaded.

The 70’s were a great time for Mr Reed, starring with Burt Reynolds in movies and releasing over twenty albums.  This was his biggest success, released in 1971 and reaching #2 on the Country charts, #45 overall.  The title track was the single from the album but was a massive hit, staying #1 on the Country chart for five weeks as well as cracking the overall Top 40 at #9.  Reed would win a Grammy for his efforts.  It was also referenced in his appearance on Scooby Doo which I am sure I posted on a prior Reed post.

The cover boasts the inclusion of the hit single “Amos Moses” which was also on his earlier album Georgia Sunshine.  It was a decent hit for Reed but not as big as the title track. The back cover describes it as a slow starter but that the label has always had faith in Reed.  It was also used in Grand Theft Auto’s San Andrea soundtrack.

Overall, this is a good little album.  The two fore-mentioned tracks alone make it worth buying.  There is also a lot of good country tunes as well as decent covers of Dylans’ “Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right” and Mel Tillis’ “Ruby, Don’t Take You Love To Town”.

For a sample, I went with “Big Daddy” which showcases a little of Reed’s guitar prowess (at least I am guessing it is Reed. Why wouldn’t it be?).

Great little record.  Satisfactory.

Bonnie Pruden/Otto Cesana- Keep Fit/ Be Happy Vol 2

This was one dollar.  Worth the price to check out.

Bonnie Pruden, born in New York City on 1914, was a pioneer in the field of physical fitness.  She developed programs, ran fitness centers, wrote books, recorded albums, marketed fitness equipment, and even designed clothing for fitness. She was also an expert climber. In 1976, she developed a system to use pressure points to allieve pain called myotherapy, which she devoted her later years to.  She moved out to Tuscon in 1992 to open  a physical fitness /myotherapy institute and despite suffering a broken pelvis, multiple heart attacks, cancer, replacement hip surgery,stents,d by-pass surgery, Pruden kept on chugging until her death in 2011.  She was six weeks away from her 98th birthday and apparently  she was still exercising at her hospice bed just days before her passing.

Of Prudden’s accomplishments, one such feather in her cap was her creation of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness.  In what was known as The Report that Shocked the President, Prudden submitted to President Eisenhower data that showed the comparative fitness levels of US children to their European counterpart.   This was  pretty big deal when I was going to school.  As a pupil, I was really good at 2/3’s of the systems requirements I could run in the top 10%.  I could also reach the top 10% pull ups.  However, push-ups and sit-ups were always my downfall.  Could never complete the required amount in time and thus could never win a Council medal.

This album, released in 1960, consists of 14 exercise routines along with a photo step guide, set to music.  The music is all original, written, arranged and conducted by Otto Cesana.  From what i could find on Cesana, he was perhaps an Italian-American conductor from the San Francisco area who despite being classically trained, showed a pension for jazz and produced work more suited for easy listening/ lounge/ hifi audiences.  I am assuming he is dead now.

That being said, the music is quote good on this album.  Real good.  If you can tune out the exercise steps, it makes for a good listen. It probably makes for a decent work out as well.  The back cover notes in all caps, “YOU WILL BE STILL THE NEXT DAY” so be fore-warned.

For samples, I went with the Pelvic Tilt exercise “Black Out”.  I also decided to go with Walk #1 and Walk #2, “Ridin’ Wild” and “Rush Hour”.  I felt “Rush Hour”, in particular was quite similar in the middle to”Twisted Nerve”  which came out 8 years later on a Bernard Herrmann soundtrack of the film of the same name. It was also used quite famously in Kill Bill Vol 1.

Anyway,  good little album for the price.  Satisfactory.

Jerry Butler- The Best of Jerry Butler

This was one dollar and a good chance to put some soul music on the site. After what proved to be almost a book of a post on Thursday coupled with the fact that this is Saturday should make this brief.

This is a greatest hits compilation from Mercury Records from the former lead singer of the Impressions/ the current Cook County Commissioner Jerry Butler.  Born in 1939 in Sunflower, Mississippi, The Iceman moved to Chicago as a youth and used music and church as his escape from poverty (he sung in the local church choir with Impression’s band mate Curtis Mayfield).

He left the Impressions in 1960 to pursue a solo career which spawned a good amount of hits in the 60’s and 70’s which this record (released in 1978) compiles.  Butler is still singing and performing somewhat while serving his commissioner duties.  

This record is pretty good but what else would you expect from a greatest hits album?  The songs are good an probably warrant more explanation from me but I am posted out this week so all I am going to say is here is “Hey Western Union Man”, from 1968 which was #16 on the US chart as well as #1 R&B chart.

Great little collection of R&B/pop.  Satisfactory.

Nick Noble-Music For Lovers

This was from the collection of records I received from Big Al Pallister’s estate. So it is at zero cost. Why I picked this one, I do not know. Maybe to get it out of the way.

Nick Noble (born in 1926) was a Chicago born and bred singer who had some Billboard hits between 1957 and 1959.  Although he always remained popular in his hometown, he regained some national fame both in the early sixties as well as 1978.  Besides serving in the Navy towards the end of WWII, Noble was the nephew of Lou Mitchell, who opened the namesake Chicago Restaurant, in which Noble would later become an owner. He would die in 2012 at the age of 85.

Lou Mitchell’s Web Page

This record was released by Mercury’s Wing subsidiary and distributed in Canada by Quality Records.  Wing had some success in the late 50’s so that is when I am guessing this came out.  Alright album.  Kind of that old school 50’s crooner style that died with the advent of rock and roll.

For a sample, I went with “Right or Wrong”.

This album really is not my cup of tea but I do wonder if my pal Al Jr (whose father owned this record) was perhaps conceived because of it.  For that reason,  satisfactory enough.

 

Tom Paxton- Ain’t That News!

This was most likely $1 but it could have been $3.  I really lost track of purchases these days.  No matter the price, I would have bought it at either for the inclusion of one of my favorite songs “Bottle Of Wine”.

Tom Paxton, (born in Chicago in 1937 but reared in Arizona and Oklahoma) wrote some really good songs including the one mentioned above and the favorite of this site, “Last Thing On My Mind”.  He also wrote a good number of protest tunes (which make up half of this album).  While this one really stuck it to LBJ, Mississppi, and the usual suspects of the 60’s, his protest music has been updated as well as revised for the times and a variety of subjects including such numbers as “Without DeLay”, ” Bobbitt” “The Bravest” (written about the firemen of 911), “I’m Changing my Name to Chrysler”, (later modified to “I’m Changing My Name to Fannie Mae”), and so on.

Paxton was a fixture in the Greenwich Village Folk Scene, having his work covered by Pete Seeger and the like.  And at a time when Dylan was singing 2 or 3 original numbers, Paxton’s material was 50% his own. According to the only source I really have time to look into, Paxton really started the movement of folk singers performing new material during this period.  The appeal of his non-political songs also spread into other genres as well including light folk and country.

This was Paxton’s third record a believe, released on Electra in 1965, which had already built a stable of folk artists among its ranks.  It is a pretty good album.  About half the songs are topical/political and the other half are just standard non-agenda songs, such as “Bottle of Wine”.

I really do not like putting political stuff on this blog as I like to keep it neutral.  This becomes more and more important to me as the social discourse in the US continues to disintegrate.  But to get off my soapbox, here is the title track, which I still feel is relevant today .  I wanted to go with “Bottle of Wine” when I bought this but I felt that Paxton’s original version really paled in comparison to the Kingston Trio’s version, shown above.  Also, more importantly, it skipped and I was too tired to clean it. There was a lot of skipping records this month for some reason.

Excellent record. Satisfactory.

Peters and Lee- We Can Make It

This record was a bit pricey at $3.00.  I think the purple suits as well as pink lettering made me buy it.  I also liked the sunglasses on the dude.  I thought it made him look like Jose Felicano and that perhaps he may be blind as well.

Well, that hunch was correct.  Lennie Peters (born in 1931 in London and an uncle to the Rolling Stones’ Charlie Watts) was blinded in one eye after a car accident at age 5.  At age 16, fate cruelly came for the other eye after an incident with a thrown brick.  Despite this handicap, he became a piano player on the British pub circuit with two singles before meeting actress and dancer Diane Lee (born in Sheffield in 1950).  

Although she started as backup singer to Peters, the two became a folk/pop duo in the 1970’s scoring hit records in the 1970’s with numerous television appearances.  The duo split in 1980 with several reunions thereafter until the death of Peters from bone cancer in 1992. I believe Lee still performs in some capacity today or perhaps I just did not want to look into it any further.

This was the duo’s first album, released in 1973.  It was a #1 record in the UK and has the distinction of being one of the few #1 albums in Britain not to be transferred to CD format.  The album was bolstered by their hit single “Welcome Home” which was also #1.  Overall, a decent album.  Peters is really at the forefront of most songs. I really liked “Cryin Time”, “There They Go”, and “Never My Love”.

For a sample, I decided to go with “Good Morning Freedom”, I think because the wah-wah guitar.

Decent album but a bit higher than I would have liked and I do not think it translates well outside of 1970’s Britain.  But being that I am in a good mood today, satisfactory,  That is really what my reviews come down to: what side of the bed I get up on,

 

Queen Ida and the Bon Temps Band- Play the Zydeco

Friday could not come fast enough this week.  And what a way to kick of the weekend with some zydeco.  Well, as the Stanley Cup Finals are winding down, so is crawfish season.  Did not eat a whole lot of it this year.  In fact, I ended up eating it once at Ragin’ Cajun this season.  It is hard to judge how well this season was.  I know last season was pretty massive.  Anyway, this was $3.00.

My first memory of Queen Ida is seeing her on Saturday Night Live in 1985(Pee Wee Herman was the host).  This was in the middle of SNL’s decline of sorts, the season that critics called awful but what I quite enjoyed. (For the record, the critics also hated the late 80’s/early 90’s which were probably SNL’s best years).  Anyway, during this time, top musical acts were avoiding the show somewhat in the 1980’s, forcing SNL to take chances on bands that were not necessarily mainstream. Not today.  SNL does not take chances anymore like they used to, music wise.  The music on the show today has become quite boring in comparison (although the fact that I am 40-something and these bands are for 20-somethings and teens may have something to do with it.) Anyway, I rambled enough with this subject.

I believe this is Queen Ida’s first album.  Released in 1976 on GNP Cresendo, this album features Queen Ida’s brother Al, on guitar and vocals as well as .her older brother Wilbert on rub board. Pretty good album as was the last one of hers I posted.  As for Ida, according to wikipedia, she retired in 2010 but still cooks for her family (see last post of hers for more detail about her cooking or Google it).

I had a bunch of choices for samples.  Favorite songs of mine included “Lucille Kanai”, “The Cherry Tree Song” and “Tayo Zydeco”.  I did decide to go with the opener”Rosa Majeur” or Rosa of Legal Age.  I also went with “Creole De Lake Charles” which was Ida and her family hailed from before moving out to the San Francisco Bay Area.

Great little record.  Satisfactory.