Thursday, January 26, 2012

Forgotten Music Thursday: The Turtles

The Turtles are another one of those great bands from the 1960s that almost nobody except the baby boomers who came of age during the Lyndon Johnson Administration will remember. The quintet had a nice run during the second half of the decade as they landed many folk influenced soft-rock hits on Top 40 radio. Despite the political turbulence of the era their music was typical of the sunny, Southern California sound popular at the time, offering tight, pleasing harmonies and upbeat, melodic arrangements. Formed by Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman in Los Angeles the band began their career with a fine cover version of a Bob Dylan song, "It Ain’t Me, Babe" that became a top ten hit in 1965 and their popularity grew from there.

In short order they had two more hits, "Let Me Be" and "You Baby" and then in 1967 The Turtles became huge with the tune that really made them famous. "Happy Together," their only #1 record, was one of the most popular songs of the decade and if young people today know the band at all it will be through this monster chart-buster. Their follow-up to that smash hit was the exuberant "She'd Rather Be With Me" which went to #3. The group's next couple of years continued to be fruitful. They had successes with "You Know What I Mean," "She’s My Girl," "Elenore," "You Showed Me," "Can I Get To Know You Better," and more.

The team of Kaylan and Volman really were The Turtles. They led a band with a constantly changing supporting cast that at one time included Chip Douglas who later went on to produce The Monkees. After The Turtles disbanded the duo, believe it or not, did a complete musical metamorphosis by joining Frank Zappa in The Mothers of Invention followed by a separate career where they were known for a long time as Flo & Eddie. At various times they also sung with Bruce Springsteen, T. Rex, and Alice Cooper. In the '90s there was a Turtles reunion and Kaylan and Volman are still active in the new century as you can see on The Turtles official website.

Here are videos of The Turtles singing "She'd Rather Be With Me," and "Happy Together." Next is a live TV performance of "You Baby" and finally we'll close things out with Jimmy Durante introducing the band on TV apparently lip-syncing "Can I Get To Know You Better."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

J. Geils Band - Full House (1972)

Simply put, The J. Geils Band's Full House is one of the finest concert albums in rock history and that's because street-wise bar bands like these guys are always more comfortable on stage where they can play with wild abandon than they are in the confines of the studio. While the group always made good records they paled in comparison to this 1972 five-star classic recorded at Detroit's Cinderella Ballroom.

This outstanding party outfit had three great assets, including the bandleader's guitar, but the two biggest stars were lead singer Peter Wolf, who could strut his stuff as well as Mick Jagger did, and harmonica player Magic Dick (Richard Salwitz), whose instrument was often featured in the lead role on many of this Boston sextet's most memorable songs. His most notable contributions to this set are on the frantic instrumental "Whammer Jammer" and "Lookin' for a Love" the group's best known tunes from the early years. Salwitz just might be the most exciting harp player in rock history.

While keyboard man Seth Justman wrote some hits for the band ("Give it to Me" and "Must of Got Lost") they always excelled at covering great R&B and blues songs and this eight track platter is loaded with them. The guys roar through Otis Rush's "Homework," The Contour's "First I Look at the Purse," and John Lee Hooker's slow but scorching blues, "Serves You Right to Suffer." The only original is the Geils/Wolf collaboration, "Hard Drivin' Man" and it too is a barn burner.

In recent years Wolf has become an outstanding solo act who has made some terrific music and Geils has recorded two CDs of high quality vintage jazz but a long time ago they were both members of a band that should go down in history as America's answer to The Rolling Stones.

Read more about Peter Wolf's latest CD, Midnight Souvenirs, and J. Geils' recent jazz work, Toe Tappin' Jazz.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

The Top 5 CDs of 2011

Bloggerhythms' top five CDs for 2011 are more mainstream than in previous years. Two of them are by long time veterans (Shelby Lynne and The Jayhawks) and the other three are releases by relative newcomers even though Adele has already reached superstardom. In a year when recent online news stories wrote about the probable death of the CD all of the albums on this list should be purchased in their entirety, not just track by track on iTunes.

Overall it was a very good year for recorded music.

1. Dawes – Nothing is Wrong
With only their second release these SoCal boys hit paydirt in a big way. Twenty-five year old songwriter Taylor Goldsmith offers a rare combination of pleasing vocals reminiscent of Jackson Browne, melodic songwriting with deep hooks ("Time Spent in Los Angeles"), and intelligent, moving lyrics ("A Little Bit of Everything"). If you're a fan of Hall of Famer Browne this CD is for you. It's the comeback album he never made. The 70s star even lends his background vocals to "Fire Away" and "Everything" features a guitar solo that is a dead ringer for David Lindley. Visit Dawes website.

2. The Head and the Heart - The Head and the Heart
The eponymous, mostly acoustic debut from this new Seattle sextet (who only formed in 2009) proves they are on a pace to become one of America's truly great bands of the future. As with Dawes their songs are both musical and intelligent and they have an outstanding piano player in Kenny Hensley. Seattle's City Arts Magazine named the group as Puget Sound’s best new band for 2011 and they've already been on Conan O’Brien's show. The best tracks are "Lost in My Mind" and "Down in the Valley" but everything here is worthy. You can find The Head and The Heart's website here.

3. The Jayhawks – Mockingbird Time
Band founders, singers, and composers Gary Louris and Mark Olsen are finally together again with their vintage lineup for the first time in over a decade and a half. The surprisingly excellent Mockingbird Time proves how much these two veterans must have missed working together and how fans were shortchanged by their lost collaboration. "She Walks in So Many Ways" is vintage Jayhawks and it's only the tip of the iceberg on this top drawer comeback CD. The quintet is also great in concert as you can read here.

4. Shelby Lynne – Revelation Road
Is Shelby Lynne capable of making a mediocre CD? Apparently not. One of country music's most intelligent singer-songwriters is back with a sparsely produced set of songs on which she wrote, sang, and played every note. It's a very personal album that deals with the deep tragedies of her childhood. Her pain is felt by listeners on "Heaven’s Only Days Down the Road." Once again, Steve Earle's sister-in-law releases the music she wants to give to the world on her own label, Everso Records, so she never has to compromise with the major companies. Here is Shelby's official online home.

5. Adele – 21
With only her second full length work, twenty-one year old British rocker, Adele Adkins, (hence the CD's title) released the blockbuster album of the year. With a deep, bluesy, alto voice she sounds much older than her age as she belts out terrific songs like the radio hits "Someone Like You," "Rumor Has It," and "Rolling In the Deep." She co-wrote most of the material so she's a double threat, not just a vocalist. Many year end "best of" lists rank 21 several notches higher than just fourth runner-up which is a testimony to how good the other CDs on this list are. So far, Adele's disc is the biggest seller of the 21st Century. Read more about the young singer at her website.