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.

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.

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.

Jerry Reed- Sings Jim Croce

Last post of technically the month although we are 3 days deep into June.  I got this as I like Jerry Reed and who doesn’t like Jim Croce.  I thought the two would go well together. It was high end at $5.

Jim Croce (1943-1973)was an ultra-talented singer song writer from Philadelphia who died too young in a plane crash in Natchitoches, Louisiana at age 40.  A funny story about Croce, his parents gave him $500 as a wedding gift with the stipulation that he use it to record an album.  His folks thought this would get music out of his system after it failed and he would pursue college (at least that is what wikipedia states).  Well, it did not fail.  And from that start, Croce’s career grew.  At the time of his untimely death, he was disillusioned with the music industry and was looking to get out (which again, if you trust wikipedia, which on Saturday, you will have to do).

Jerry Reed has always had a story telling quality to his good songs although it is slightly different from Croce’s.  However, Reed is able to take Croce’s catalog and really do it justice. The record, released in 1980 had the blessing of Croce’s wife, Ingrid, who really carried Croce’s torch after his death to keep his memory alive.

Pretty standard collection of Croce songs and all of the real big hits are here.  Besides masterfully running thru the catalog, Reed is also able to add some country twang to these tracks.  Real good album.  Could say more but it is Saturday. For a sample, I went with what I felt was my favorite song on the album, “One Less Set of Footprints”.

Top Rated Record.

The Charleston Trio- On Tour

Welcome to another week of the Show. This one was a pricey selection at $5.00.  It did have a lot of songs on it that a knew and liked.  

I know nothing about the Charleston Trio other than they were probably a marketing tool rather than a proper band.  They may or may not have provided backup vocals to the likes of Marty Robbins, Johnny Cash, Hank Snow, George Jones, Roy Orbison, and Patsy Cline.  I believe the group consisted of the Glaser Brothers from Nebraska (Tompall, Chuck, and Jim) who moved to Nashville in 1958.  They really shook the town getting involved in publishing, recording, and singing. Sometime in the mid 60’s the group worked under the moniker, Tompall Glaser and his Brothers.  I believe they disbanded as a vocal group in the early 70’s to focus on solo endeavors. Of the brothers, Tompall was probably the most successful in the genre of Outlaw Country.  This of course is really speculation but I think it is accurate.

This may have been the group’s third record, released some time in the mid-sixties, I am guessing.  On the International Award Series, this album does not sound even remotely live.  Yet it has the On Tour moniker.  Really good selection of songs although it has more of a folksy vibe as compared to the country style the half baked biographies seem to claim..  A lot of good songs including “Drill Ye Tarriers Drill”, “Casey Jones”, “The Wayfaring Stranger”, and “Greensleeves”.

For a sample, I went with “Billy Boy” for certain reasons that will not be disclosed here.  I also went with “Casey Jones” as well.  

Eh decent enough record but highly overpriced for me.  And the cover versions of the songs that I really like tend to lean a bit on the bland side. But the vocals are quite good. I imagine their country recordings are much better. I went back and forth on this and finally decided to go Satisfactory.

Burl Ives- Down To The Sea In Ships

This was 80 cents with discount.  I probably bought it for the sea shantys at the time.  Due to the personal enjoyment of the whaling/sailing record I posted last month, I decided to work this one into the equation a bit quicker than normal.

Oddly enough, I watched the Duke of Burl last night during TCM’s airing of East of Eden. His performance as Sam the Sheriff lends a steadying calm force against the turbulent forces but internally with the Trasks and externally with the march of World War I.  Well, don’t let the all wise, father figure act fool you. In 1952, in order to avoid blacklisting, he named Pete Seeger (with whom Ives had previously worked) to the House Unamerican Activities Committee as a possible Communist.  This is further complicated by the fact that he was a liberal democrat and strongly opposed to entering WWII until the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union .

But back to this album, released by Decca in 1956, it features Ives, along with the Ralph Hunter Singers performing 18 songs of the sea.  The instrumentation is basic but apt.  Pretty good selection of songs with a brief explanation of each as well as the phenomenon of singing at sea.  All are pretty good but the tracks I like were “Santy Anna”, “Haul Away Joe”, “Away Rio”, “Blow Ye Winds”, and the always apt, “Drunken Sailor”.

For a sample, I wanted to go with “New York Girls”.  It is not the best song on this album but it has two interesting points. First, as with other songs previously listed on this site, Liverpool’s “Maggie May” and “The Maid of Amsterdam”, this song focuses on the worldwide phenomenon of slightly suspect women separating poor sailors from their wages.  Second, if this song sounds familiar, you may have recognized it from Gangs of New York.

Also, I am posting “Leave Her Johnny Leave Her”, a song usually sang by the crew when the ship was homeward bound.

Despite any personal grudge I may have against Ives for being a coward in front of HUAC, this is a decent album.  Satisfactory.

The Finlandia Male Chorus of Detroit

This was $3.  It had enough songs that have become standard covers of the 60’s.  Finland… an odd country wedged between the Scandinavian countries and Russia, sharing elements of both societies while rejecting others.  I have had the strange honor of playing hockey with a number of Finish people in Houston, more than I thought was statistically probable. From Timonen who weaved his way in and out jail in the 90’s (known for the saying “to jail I go”, to Ansi, who was the first choice for sub defense men in my Thursday league ( I was #2), along with a few other kids with strange names with a lot of vowels.

Of the great Finland migration to the USA, a good chuck of these migrants settled in Michigan, most notably the Upper Peninsula.  There was some over spill however, to some of the bigger cities and Detroit was no exception.  Given the plight and flight of the city, I believe  Finish numbers have dwindled over the years, while the Upper Peninsula still has one of the biggest Finish populations in the country.

This record, released in 1970 under the direction of Eero B. Keranen, features a choir that originated in 1923 under one John Karhu. They performed at mostly Finish function until the 30’s, where they started to branch out slightly.  Keranen became the director in 1966.  AT the time of this recording, the chorus features 50 singers and six string players.

Link to some info on Chorus

The album is a mixture of chorus songs as well as a few instrumentals from all across the board.  Songs include “Born Free”, “Never On  A Sunday”, “Somewhere My Love”, and “Hello Dolly”, along with some Finish tunes as well.  I mean, it is what one would expect.

For a sample, I went with the instrumental Russian classic, “Those Were The Days” as well as what I assume is a  Finish number, “Finlandia”.

Meh.  Maybe, I would rate this better if I paid a dollar for it.

Paul Clayton- Whaling and Sailing Songs From The Days Of Moby Dick

I could say it was the whaling genre that got me to buy this album, or the allusion to Moby Dick, or the inclusion of “Greenland Whale Fisheries” that made me buy this album.  But honestly, it was the yellow and blue cover that caught my eye and made me buy this.  It was $3.00, perhaps $2.40 if I got it on discount.  I can not remember exactly.

But for what ever reason, I bought this and fell in love with it as soon as I heard it.  “The Mermaid Song”, in particular, caught my ear and after two days, I threw it in to my guitar repertoire.  Anyway, this album, released by Tradition Recordings in 1956, takes some of the more popular whaling songs, most known and referenced by Melville and displays them in this collection.

It is kind of odd when you sit down and think of it, but singing was an integral part of a seaman’s life back in the day.  There were all types of songs for all types of jobs, varying in length to reflect the various jobs.  These songs also varied in mood and emotion.  A sailor who could sing well could stand to gain great respect from his captain and crew.

Paul Clayton,  born in New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1931, was a folk singer who gained popularity during the folk revival of the 60’s as well as the Greenwich Village Scene.  Although he collected tunes from various places including the Appalachians, his New England upbringing lent himself to become a purveyor of whaling and sailing songs.  He became friendly and even a mentor to a young Bob Dylan.  However, when Clayton’s publishing company found that Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice Its Allright” sounded too much like one of Clayton’s own compositions, the two companies met in court.  It was found that Clayton’s song came from an earlier song which was in the public domain, so the lawsuit was settled out of court.  The two artists remained friends after this up until 1967, when beset with personal problems, Clayton took his own life with an electric heater in a bathtub.  He was only 36.

This record is an excellent collection of sea shantys, done in a bare bones fashion with little instrumentation save a guitar.  The record has a summary of the song on the back cover as well as a little history and why and where the song was sung.  All together, really great songs.

For samples, I went with a couple of songs. First off, one of the oldest shanties, “The Maid Of Amsterdam” tells the story of a sailor who meets a fair maid who pinches his money.  The second song, “The Mermaid” (Child 289) was one of Melville’s favorites and quoted in his novel White Jacket.  As mermaids were known as harbingers of doom, this song tells the story of such an encounter.

“Greenland Whale Fisheries”, which was one of the reasons I bought this album, is presented here as well.  I have noted with this song as did the liner note writer that there are two variants of this song.  In some versions, the captain, although pained by the losing of the whale, grieves more for the loss of his crew.  In versions such as the Pogues’, the two are switched which is perhaps more realistic. The Dubliners have actually gone both ways with this, which begs the question; was human life more or less valued back then as compared to now?  Well, just like today, it probably depends whose life? Anyway, which version does Clayton choose?  You will have to listen for yourself.

Finally, here is a number dating back from days after the death of Napoleon, “Boney Was A Warrior”.  This short drag song was used for sweating up the halyards at the end of a long pull.

Anyway, real good album.  Satisfactory.

 

Various- Stay, O Guests From Afar

Records like this are why I started the blog.  I picked this up with an earlier Chinese 10″ at the Half Price Books in Sugar Land.  Both records were $4.  For the most part, I wrote most of this month’s posts during the first week of April.  Which on one hand has been great for me as I have been able to sit back at nights and relax.  On the other hand, it has been less easy for me to comment on current events in an interesting manner as these posts have already been churned out.  Do I correct this in May?  Or do I continue to get ahead of the game?  I guess only time will tell.

When I posted the earlier record, I wrote a bit about the China Record Company, the state run business which out out this record. Not much more to say about the label.  From my guess, this record came out around 1977 or so.

Link to Earlier Post

Anyway, here is this, a collection of Chinese folk songs featuring solos and choruses in both male and female variety.  I am not sure if these songs focus on a specific area of China or not and quite frankly, I am too lazy to look into it any further.

A lot of good songs on this album but I kind of prefer the other one to this effort.  I can’t exactly put my finger on it.  Anyway, for samples, I was stuck bewteen “Pai Girls Love To Sing”, “Picking Flowers”, “The Wusuli Boatmen’s Song”, and the somewhat dirty sounding “My Home is in Shiagatse”.  Well, as it comes down to this being the last post I am writing for the month of April, here they all are.  Extreme laziness on my part but what can you do?

I got a bit more mileage out of the other Chinese album bu this is decent enough record.  Satisfactory.

Steeleye Span- All Around My Hat

I sort of cheated with this album.  I asked the clerk to take a dollar off this and apply it to one of the dollar albums I was getting the same day.  After explaining how I needed to buy this record for under $5, he agreed to help.  This was therefore, $5.

I have posted about  4 or 5 Steeleye Span records to this site.  They are among one of my favorite groups.  There 1970’s electric take on traditional English folk music still makes them unique today.

This album represents the high water mark for the band, at least commercially.  Released in 1975, it was their eighth and highest charting album in the UK.  It was also the first album to chart in the US.  The title track with the B-side “Black Jack Davy” became a #5 single in England.

The album features a weird peek-hole insert, used to give some normality to the portraits on the cover.The decide is known as Anamorphic projection.  I thought it was pretty stupid the first time I looked at it but after a few stares, I have backed off that statement some.

Anyway, this is the pure rock-folk music that the band was known for.  Real good album.  For a sample, I went with the second single from the album, “All The Hard Times of Old England”. It dates from around the Napoleonic Wars.  A Newfoundland variant, “Hard, Hard Times” has also existed since the Great Depression era. Either way, Steeleye Span’s version hit home with 1970’s England.

Top Rated Record