Saturday, July 14, 2018

Dusty Springfield - Wishin' and Hopin' (1964)

Many revered oldies from the 1960s were quite sexist in nature. Some of the lyrics of the decade's many innocent sounding hit records approached creepiness, especially when it came to men's lust for younger women (I'm talking to you Gary Puckett).

Other tracks were outright misogynistic. The Rolling Stones proved this on "Under My Thumb" and it is scary to think what John Lennon wanted to do to his girlfriend on Rubber Soul's "Run For Your Life."

Many of the deeply held, sexist attitudes of the day were never questioned by either gender but a single by Dusty Springfield, one of the decade's more popular and talented female stars, makes "Wishin' and Hopin'" from her debut LP, A Girl Called Dusty, exceptionally awful. She rarely made a poor song choice but this was one of them.

During the song's two minutes and fifty-three seconds Springfield gives young women some advice on how to win the man of your dreams that is shocking by current standards. Today, most women, young or old, would be immediately appalled upon hearing it and if Springfield were alive and performing today I’d bet my house that she wouldn't include it in her set list.

This 1964 hit record was written by, believe it or not, Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Their songs were played on the radio almost as frequently as Lennon-McCartney tunes at the time and even though the duo specialized in light pop fare, usually about love and relationships, they never sunk as low as they did on this very early Springfield tune.

Most of America's young people were probably not offended by "Wishin' and Hopin'" when it entered Billboard's Top Ten in July 1964 because, as my Mother used to say, "That's just the way things were."

There is no cruelty in the lyrics below but the submissiveness in them should have you shaking your head anyway. Enjoy the video below, if you can.

"Show him that you care just for him
Do the things he likes to do
Wear your hair just for him,
'cause you won't get him
Thinkin' and a-prayin', wishin' and a-hopin'."

Monday, July 09, 2018

Jenny Van West - Happiness To Burn (2018)

When an artist's songwriting and vocals blend together seamlessly it's easy to fall in love. Such is the case with Portland, Maine's Jenny Van West who possesses both of those assests in abundance on her brand new album, Happiness To Burn.

Yes, Americana is a very broad title but it fits performers like Van West whose work can't be pigeonholed into one particular genre. She finds a place for a little old time jazz, mixed with some pure country, a little roots rock, and some singer-songwriter fare.

All ten, very good, original songs are topped off with a voice that is both powerful and sweet at the same time. As a singer she could easily succeed at any vocal style she pursued and would destroy (in a good way) the great American Songbook if she chose to.

The set list is quite varied. "Twenty-Seven Dollars," the most country influenced track, is about "a boy who loves me a little too much." "Live In A New Way" was inspired by the murder of Freddie Gray. The current vinyl revival is mostly about the LP but "45" salutes those small, mostly forgotten, seven inch discs with the big holes that dominated my record collection at one time. The title track has a definite vintage jazz vibe that is very pleasing to the ear.

The fast songs are the better ones but you won't be disappointed with anything this singer-songwriter offers us.

Happiness To Burn is Van West's second full length release, along with one EP. Fans of roots music must add it to their collections now.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Forgotten Music: Bobby Darin - Beyond The Sea (1959)

The late Bobby Darin's career and short life ended so many years ago that he is often forgotten today. He died at only age 37 in 1973 of a heart condition he developed during his youth.

Darin was quite a versatile vocalist. He began his career singing light teen pop tunes like "Queen of the Hop," "Dreamlover," and "Splish Splash" before turning to the more adult fare he was born to sing and really loved. Later, he changed directions again, moved away from the jazz vocals of "Mack The Knife" and "Beyond The Sea," and became a folk singer, taking Tim Hardin's "If I Were A Carpenter" to #8 in 1966.

The terrific "Beyond the Sea" was composed in 1945 as a romantic pop tune by American Jack Lawrence. The music came from a French song, "La Mer," ("The Sea" in English) by Charles Trenet who originally wrote the melody and lyrics as a tribute to the sea.

The swing era of Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and Glenn Miller had passed more than a decade earlier by the time this vibrant love song was released in 1959 but it's a perfect example of the more sophisticated, fuller sounding, big band tracks with vocals of the period, the kind of swing tune Frank Sinatra was known for during his Capitol years. "Sea" was Darin's immediate follow up to "Mack the Knife," but for my money it's better than his more famous, earlier hit because it's more fun.

"Beyond the Sea" peaked at #6 on Billboard's Hot 100 in February 1960 while spending fourteen weeks on the chart.

Monday, April 02, 2018

The Beatles' White album As A Single Disc

I got sucked in by an April Fool's Day joke on Easter Sunday. It involved George Martin's son, Giles, releasing a single LP version of The Beatles' White Album in honor of his father in time to celebrate the album's upcoming 50th anniversary. The senior Martin often said that a single LP is what the group should have released instead of the double set they issued late in 1968. You can read the fake news here at The Glass Onion Beatles Journal.

The article started out believable enough, then quickly became ridiculous but, somehow, I was completely fooled. I only realized near the end of the post that I had become an unwitting victim of a hoax.

The good news is the joke gave me an idea to actually create my own single disc version of one of my favorite Fab Four records.

Most people agree with George Martin's assessment but what we don't all agree on is which songs should have made the cut if the band had listened to their producer.

Here is my version.

Back In The USSR
Dear Prudence
Glass Onion
The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Happiness Is A Warm Gun
Helter Skelter

Honey Pie
I'm So Tired
Sexy Sadie
Savoy Truffle
Cry Baby Cry
I Will

My upcoming anniversary edition of the single CD would include a bonus disc with all of the previously unreleased tracks that appeared on the original two record set plus a fully completed, band arrangement of George Harrison's "Not Guilty." This version of the song was never released anywhere until Anthology 3. It was mysteriously left off of the album all those years ago.

Monday, March 26, 2018


AccuRadio is one of the best music Internet streaming services. It offers well over 1,000 stations. It's very easy to use and you can customize stations to suit your listening habits by rating every song you hear. Unusually, the site also offers an unlimited number of song skips as long as you sign up for a FREE account. You can also ban songs and artists forever.

AccuRadio pays the bills with ads on their website and with commercials on their stations but all account holders will receive the benefit of a reduced number of commercial breaks.

The Chicago based outfit has stations featuring everything from classical, opera, beautiful music, Broadway, jazz, blues, many rock and country music stations, folk, singer-songwriters, hip-hop and Christmas music. There are hits stations for every decade from the 1950s through the 2000s and ones that offer Christian music and comedy.

Examples of the unique channels AccuRadio fans can enjoy are Ladies Sing the Blues, so titled because it plays only blues music performed by women. They offer stations featuring Korean and French pop, and ten Canadian stations.

Another very cool feature provides you with the freedom to curate your own stations to suit your tastes. There are two ways to do this. One is by applying a four or five star rating to songs you want to hear again. They are automatically placed into your very own, personalized station called Five Star Radio that will only play those songs. There is no limitation on how many tracks you can add.

The second way to make your own diverse station is by blending two or more of them together into one stream. So, if you want to combine a folk music station with one that plays classic rock and one that plays outlaw country you can do so with ease.

According to Wikipedia AccuRadio draws "nearly one million listeners per month, averaging in at about 500,000 listening hours per day." The online encyclopedia also notes that it is "usually the eleventh most listened to web streaming service among all U.S. broadcast groups that stream online, with about 15,000 average active sessions." As you can see, it’s very popular. I’m surprised that with its great features, ease of use, and free listener services that it isn’t higher on the list.

The bottom line is if you can't find something you like on AccuRadio you should not bother making music a part of your life.

Unfortunately, I always encounter one very annoying problem when casting the service to my stereo with my Chromecast Audio device. The sound frequently drops out completely for one or two seconds. This can happen several times in a short period of time but the stream is just fine when played through my laptop or any other source.

Due to my desire to use AccuRadio with Chromecast Audio I sent an email to them for assistance. Here is their prompt reply: "The reason Chromecast Audio drops out when you are connecting to our service is that we don't currently support Chromecast." I have to admit my disappointment but now I at least know the reason and I appreciate their quick reply. Let's hope they fix this soon.