In honor of Tom Petty, Mr. Hank shares his history with the legendary musician.
Friday, October 6, 2017
Monday, September 18, 2017
“Leon Russell” by Leon Russell (1970)
Release Date: March 23, 1970
Produced by Leon Russell
Genre: Pop, Rock, Country, Folk, Blues Rock
Label: Shelter Records (US), A&M (UK), Phillips (Europe)
Chart Positions: #60 (US), #62 (Japan)
Singles: “Roll Away With The Stone” #109 (US), “A Song For You”
Other Charting Tracks: N/A
Best Tracks: “A Song For You,” “Hummingbird,” “ Delta Lady,” “Roll Away The Stone”
“Leon Russell” is the debut solo album by the singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Leon Russell. It followed his debut with the Midnight String Quartet and a production by Russell and Marc Benno billed as the Asylum Choir. The album was released during the “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” Tour. Many of the musicians that were part of the tour were also featured on Russell’s debut solo album and many more. The album almost reads like a who’s who of music including George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Mick Jagger, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker, Steve Winwood and other all-stars.
Previous to this album Russell was known as a producer, arranger and backup musician for several other artists such as Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra, Ike & Tina Turner, Rolling Stones, George Harrison, Doris Day, Eric Clapton, Ray Charles, Ringo Starr, Barbra Streisand, Glen Campbell, Willie Nelson, The Ventures, BB King and a host of others. By the time he released his debut album Russell was a very well known name in the industry.
Despite the polish and detail put into this album, it still retains a down home, good time, late night jam sort of feel. That was the magic of Leon Russell, he always managed to make his music feel like as if he recorded it all right there at home ins own living room. When in truth the album was recorded in various studios in London, England, Memphis, Tennessee and Los Angeles, California.
The album is filled with songs that have been covered by countless musicians such as “Hummingibrd” covered by the likes of BB King, Bob Seger, Jimmy Page as well as others. Joe Cocker covered “Give Peace A Chance.” Clint Black and Bruce Hornsby collaborated on a great cover of “Dixie Lullaby.” “Delta Lady,” which became an early signature song for Russell has been covered by Joe Cocker, Bobby Gentry, Gary Puckett, David Cassidy and several others. The album’s most widely known song is Leon Russell’s classic “A Song For You” which has reached meteoric heights as recorded by Carpenters. Ray Charles’ version of the song made it to #9 on the US Adult Contemporary charts in 1993. Amy Winehouse did an effecting rendition of “A Song For You” as did the Temptations. Russell wrote the song with a female singer in mind, specifically Bonnie Bramlett, the fact that the song become such a huge hit for Karen Carpenter in 1972 is not such a far stretch from Russell's initial imaging the song.
"Delta Lady" (1970)
“Roll Away With The Stone” received the most attention at the release of the album making it to #109 on the US Billboard singles chart. It wasn’t a hit but it did garner attention and airplay for Leon Russell. The Gospel inflected “Give Peace A Chance” (not to be confused with the John Lennon song) is heralded by critics as an album highlight. “Hummingbird” features George Harrison on guitar and Ringo Starr on drums.
Other than "Give Peace A Chance," Russell borrows another famous song title for his composition "I Put A spell On You," a song not to be confused with Screaming' Jay Hawkins' blue fest. Russell's "Spell," features the Rolling Stones' rhythm section of Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman along with Russell's own lively piano parts gives the song a funky rhythm and blues southern rock style that is irresistible. The chorus is just as hooky and catchy as Hawkins' song. The laughing and false starts at the beginning of the song make it feel real when they finally get going.
Rita Coolidge inspired both “A Song For You” and “Delta Lady”, Leon Russell wrote these songs for and about her. Coolidge was known as the “Delta Lady” because of the song.
Billboard Magazine featured a short review of the album upon it's release:
"Another newcomer exponent of contemporary blues at its best is American performer/ writer Leon Russell debuts on the Blue Thumb distributed Shelter label. Russell has written for some of today's top record stars and his own virile and gravely voice is well suited to his songs. Highlights include "A Song For You" and "Delta Lady."
Leon Russell (1970)
Amazon link to “Leon Russell”: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000002TYM/ref=nosim/populasongsmu-20
Thursday, September 14, 2017
“Suzi… And Other Four Letter Words” by Suzi Quatro (1979)
Release Date: 1979
Produced by Mike Chapman
Genre: Rock, New Wave, Reggae Fusion
Chart Positions: #4 (Norway), #36 (Sweden), #117 (US)
Certifications: Gold (Canada)
Singles: “She’s In Love With You” #1 (South Africa), #4 (Austria, Belgium), #5 (Ireland), #6 (Netherlands, Switzerland), #8 (Germany), #10 (Norway), #11 (UK), #24 (New Zealand), #30 (Australia), #41 (US)
“Mama’s Boy” #12 (South Africa), #19 (Germany), #21 (Belgium), #27 (Ireland), #34 (UK), 343 (Netherlands)
“I’ve Never Been In Love” #38 (Germany), #44 (US), #56 (UK)
Other Charting Tracks: N/A
Best Tracks: “I’ve Never Been In Love,” “She’s In Love With You,” “ Hollywood,” “Four Letter Words,” “Mama’s Boy,” “Love Hurts”
Trivia: On the heels of her biggest US success, 1978’s pop sounding “Stumblin’ In,” Suzi released “Suzi… And Other Four Letter Words,” and album that brought her back to her hard rocking roots. The album became her second best selling in the US as well as producing her 2nd and 3rd biggest US hits with “She’s In Love With You” and “I’ve Never Been In Love” respectively.
"She's In Love With You" (1979)
This, Quatro's sixth studio album, was released after she moved from the United States to Britain. It is her last studio album before she decided not to renew her contract with record producer Mickie Most's RAK Records label. (Instead she signed a contract with Dreamland Records, which had been set up by songwriters/producers Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn).
A few of the songs “Hollywood” and “Four Letter Words” are tuneful, keyboard-based mid-tempo tunes, that add a pop feel to the otherwise hard rock album. “Hollywood,” written by Quatro (with Len Tuckey), almost seems personal for Quatro as she sings about how the city eats up young innocents. The reggae based “Four Letter Words” gives us another view of Quatro’s musical diversity.
During this time period Suzi was being watched on television by millions in her role as Leather Tuscadero on the popular sitcom “Happy Days,” a role she played from 1977-1979.
Producer Mike Chapman produced other artists such as Nick Gilder, Blondie, The Knack and The Sweet as well as writing or co-writing several songs for each of these artists.
The September 22, 1979 edition of Billboard Magazine featured "Suzi and Other Four Letter Words" as one of it's Top Picks of the week. The following is their brief review:
Quatro rocks out on the album more than any previous effort, evidenced primarily in "I've Never Been In Love," a memorable, hook laden rocker in which Quatro let's loose with some of her most convincing vocals. Mike Chapman applies his production genius again and the result is a steamy collection of catchy, no nonsense melodic rock. Quatro's bass guitar is ably supported by her band which keeps the rhythms blazing. The album is a righteous followup to an album that produced a top five record "Stumbling' In" and returned Quatro to the rock ranks. Best Cuts: "I've Never Been In Love," "Mind Demons," "She's In Love With You," "Mama's Boy." Dealers: "I've Never Benn In Love" is a hot chart number.
Suzi Quatro and Mike Chapman (1979)
Sunday, September 10, 2017
“Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo?” by Devo (1978)
Release Date: August 28, 1978
Produced by Brian Eno, David Bowie (additional co-producer)
Genre: New Wave, Electronic, Punk Rock
Label: Warner Bros, Virgin
Chart Positions: #7 (New Zealand), #12 (UK), #57 (Australia), #78 (US)
Certifications: Gold (US), Silver (UK)
Singles: “Mongoloid” (No chart data)
“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” #41 (UK), #48 (Netherlands), #98 (Australia)
“Jocko Homo” #62 (UK)
“Come Back Jonee” #60 (UK)
Other Charting Tracks: N/A
Best Tracks: “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “Uncontrollable Urge,” “ Space Junk,” “Mongoloid,” “Jocko Homo,” “Come Back Jonee”
In 1977, David Bowie and Iggy Pop received a tape of Devo demonstration songs from the wife of Michael Aylward, guitarist in another Akron, Ohio band, Tin Huey. Both Iggy and Bowie, as well as Brian Eno and Robert Fripp, expressed interest in producing Devo's first release. At Devo's New York debut show in 1977, Bowie proclaimed that "this is the band of the future, I'm going to produce them in Tokyo this winter." Eventually, Eno was chosen to produce the album in Germany. Bowie was busy filming "Just a Gigolo," but helped Eno produce the record during weekends. Eno paid for the flights and studio cost for the band, confident that the band would be signed to a record contract. In return for his work on the album, Eno asked for a share of any subsequent deals.
Brain Eno envisioned many sides of Devo after he first heard their music, he stated, 'What I saw in them always happens when you encounter something new in art - you get a feeling of being slightly dislocated, and with that are emotional overtones that are slightly menacing as well as alluring. This induced a stiffening effect because with Devo you have something that makes your body move in a new way."
The album quickly became a cult sensation in part because of it's highly stylized visuals - videos, album art and costumes which made the band members look alike. The album was a touchstone in the development of American new wave. It was one of the first pop album to use the synthesizer as a prominent feature in their music. Devo was pivotal in the explosion of synth-pop that would soon follow.
Devo’s quirky version of The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” was the second single from the album and chart debut and was originally from their “Be Stiff” EP released in 1977. Music History professor, Theo Cateforis had recognized that Devo's rendition of the Rolling Stones classic was a satirical contradiction of African American and Caribbean rhythms in a sense a parody of the nervous bodily awkward "whiteness" of the white male man machine torn between discipline and the urges of the flesh.
"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" (1978)
Their first single from the album was “Mongoloid” also from the “Be Stiff” EP.
"Jocko Homo," one of the album's several highlights was written in an unnerving and unusual 7/8 time which keeps the rhythm quirky on a level that outstrips any sort of quirky rhythms delivered by The Talking Heads or XTC.
Mark Mothersbaugh was a student at Kent State when he received a religious pamphlet from afraid titled "Jocko Homo" in which it debunked the theory of evolution. This was right after the students had been killed on campus at Kent State. The song was written based on a series of discussions Mothersbaugh and his bandmates had. They decided that what was happening to the planet and what they were seeing in the news was not evolution but more appropriately de-evolution. Hence the name Devo (which is short for de-evolution).
Wednesday, September 6, 2017
“KC and the Sunshine Band” by KC and the Sunshine Band (1975)
Release Date: July 6, 1975
Produced by Harry Wayne Casey, Richard Finch
Genre: Disco, Funk, Pop
Chart Positions: #4 (US), #5 (Canada, Netherlands), #26 (UK), #27 (Sweden), #34 (Japan), #1 (US R&B)
Certifications: Platinum (Canada), 3xPlatinum (US)
“Get Down Tonight” #1 (US, Canada, US R&B), #2 (Brazil), #3 (France), #5 (Netherlands), #11 (Belgium, US Dance), #21 (UK), #44 (Australia),
“That’s The Way (I Like It)” #1 (US, Canada, Netherlands), #2 (Belgium), 33 (Sweden), #4 (UK), #5 (Norway, Australia), #6 (South Africa), #8 (France), #12 (New Zealand), #17 (Ireland), #18 (US Dance), #20 (Germany, Japan),
“I’m So Crazy (Bout You)” #34 (UK),
“I Get Lifted” #9 (US Dance),
“Boogie Shoes” #29 (US R&B) #31 (New Zealand), #34 (UK), #35 (US)
Other Charting Tracks: N/A
Best Tracks: “Get Down Tonight,” “Boogie Shoes,” “ That's The Way I Like It,” “What Makes You Happy"
Trivia: KC and the Sunshine Band forever shaped the perception people have of the 70s as the era of disco-pop with hits such as “That’s The Way (I Like It)” and “Get Down Tonight.” It seems as if they came out of nowhere and became an overnight sensation, but the reality is before their string of hits in 1975, KC and the Sunshine Band released their first album (in 1974) which did not chart and contained four singles all of which charted low. Finally with their second album they hit and they hit big.
“Get Down Tonight” was KC and the Sunshine Band’s first of five #1 hit singles. In an interview with Richard Finch, he explained that "Get Down Tonight" was inspired by the Gilbert O'Sullivan song called "Get Down," which is sometimes known as "Bad Dog, Baby." Finch explains: "O’Sullivan wrote that song about his dog. That record was really hot back then. And I was like, 'Okay, this guy has a great idea.' He's talking about 'get down.' But I didn't find out until later, he was talking about his dog. And I was like, 'Well, that's really square.' How hip is that?"
"Get Down Tonight" (1975)
The song features a distinctive introduction, in which a recorded guitar solo is rendered at double speed over a normal-speed guitar line in the background. After observing someone else slowing down a tape machine, Richard Finch had the idea of using this technique to create the guitar riff, as a way of adding something to the song "that really keeps the buzz, that really keeps the excitement going all the way through without being too artificial sounding." Finch states that he was "always doing weird science" in those days, referring to his various experiments with sound.
At the time, “That’s The Way (I Like It)” was considered by some to be rather risqué because of the obvious meaning behind the title as well as its chorus with multiple "uh-huhs" and its verses. Richard Finch stated, "We were all happy, and you could tell. We transferred the excitement of that hit feeling from 'Get Down Tonight,' and trust me, then we were all like, 'Oh, my God, this is amazing! We've done it! Let's put the magic on something else.' And you could definitely hear the excitement and the magic from that first hit record with 'That's The Way I Like It,' because we were all pumped, and we were all stoked. If you listen to that record closely, you can hear everyone smiling while they're singing, especially the background singers. It was a very, very magic moment. I mean, we're in Miami, Florida, and we're in a little independent label, and we're becoming successful? C'mon, man, this is not possible, this must be a dream!" “That’s The Way (I Like It)” was originally recorded in a more risqué manner by KC & The Sunshine Band before lead singer Harry Wayne Casey toned down the "uh-huhs," making them sound like cries of jubilation. As for the "controversial" lyrics, Finch tells us: "We had to tone down the words a little bit, it used to be called 'What You Want.' And I was like, 'No, KC. That's not commercial enough, people aren't gonna figure out what you're saying.' Back then you had to watch what you say. Not like today. People come on the radio and cuss and say all kinds of s--t, but back then, you had to watch yo' mouth. You can be suggestive in a poetic way. It can mean whatever to whoever the listener is, and it doesn't really tie it down to any one thing or gender. So I figured that the more open you keep it, and unresolved, the more people you draw in."
“KC and the Sunshine Band” was a rare album in that back in the 70s most artists usually only released 2 or 3 singles from an album and then moved to the next album. There were a total of five songs released as singles with the fifth being “Boogie Shoes.” Originally the song was not intended to be released as a single, but after it’s inclusion in the 1977 blockbuster film “Saturday Night Fever,” the song garnered quite a bit of attention and more than two years after it’s parent album’s release the song was put out as a single. The song was a success charting in the lower part of the Top 40 in The US, UK and New Zealand.
"Ain't Nothing Wrong" opens Side Two of the album and displays KCs determination to showcase more than just disco music. "Ain't Nothing Wrong" is a fine predecessor to his 1979 ballad hit "Please Don't Go." "What Makes You Happy" brings the funk out and sounds borderline between Ohio Players and The O'Jays.
KC and the Sunshine Band 1975
KC and the SUNSHINE BAND
Wednesday, August 30, 2017
“In The Heat Of The Night” by Pat Benatar (1979)
Release Date: August 27, 1979
Produced by Peter Coleman, Mike Chapman
Genre: Rock, Hard Rock, Pop-Rock, Classic Rock, Alternative Rock
Chart Positions: #12 (US), #3 (Canada), #8 (New Zealand), #20 (France), #25 (Australia), #98 (UK)
Certifications: Gold (France), Platinum (US), 4xPlatinum (Canada)
Singles: “If You Think You Know How To Love Me,” (No Chart Data), “Heartbreaker” #3 (France), #14 (New Zealand), #18 (Canada), #23 (US), #95 (Australia), “We Live For Love” #3 (France), #8 (Canada, New Zealand), #27 (US), #28 (Australia), “I Need A Lover” #19 (Belgium), #31 (Netherlands), “Rated X” #28 (France)
Other Charting Tracks: N/A
Best Tracks: “Heartbreaker,” “My Clone Sleeps Alone,” “ We Live For Love,” “Rated X,” “So Sincere”
Pat Benatar blast on to the music scene in a big way with her debut album “In The Heat Of The Night,” she was the very pulse of popular music. Her sound, style and look could not go unnoticed. Despite her huge popularity in the US and Canada, the album only made it to #95 in the UK and none of the singles charted in the UK. It wasn't until 1981's "Precious Time" and 1983's "Shadows Of The Night" that Pat had a hit album and single respectively in the UK.
The album included 3 original songs written either by Pat Benatar or her partner Neil Giraldo. Despite the originals the albums was largely full of cover tunes. Three of those covers were written by producer Mike Chapman and his songwriting partner Nicky Chinn. Those three are “If You Think You Know How To Love Me” and “In The Heat Of The Night” (both originally recorded by Smokie) and a cover of the Sweet tune “No You Don’t.” The other covers include John Cougar Mellencamp’s “I Need A Lover,” Nick Gilder’s “Rated X” and Alan Parson’s “Don’t Let It Show.”
“In The Heat of The Night” laid the groundwork for what would become one of the most remarkable careers in rock music. People Magazine called the album, "Perhaps the hottest debut of the year."
The first single released from the album, "If You Think You Know How To Love Me," was Pat's second single in her career. The song was original recorded and released in 1975 by Smokie and was a Top 3 hitting the UK. Pat's release of the song failed to chart and signaled a slow start to her career with Chrysalis records.
But hold on... it wasn't over yet for Pat... the very next single, "Heartbreaker," with its Cars like bass line, garnered the attention of hard rock and FM radio programmers. Before you knew it her voice was on almost every rock and Top 40 station across the US and Canada. Though, the song only reached US #23 it spent a very impressive 18 weeks on the charts and the album was taking off like wildfire. Pat Benatar was instantly a star that could not be ignored.
Though most of the chart success of the album and it's singles happened in 1980, the album itself and the first two singles were released in 1979, thus is a product of the 1970s.
"Heartbreaker" got Pat all the way in the door and the next hit "We Live For Love" kept her in. The song written by boyfriend Neil Giraldo, sounded very similar to Blondie's "Heart Of Glass," though Benatar's song did't hit the top of the charts as Blondie did but it still performed well scoring Pat her second Top 30 hit in the US and made it to #3 in France and the Top Ten in Canada and New Zealand. Benatar was certainly firmly on her way to superstardom.
"We Live For Love" (1979)
John Mellencamp, who at the time was known as John Cougar, just a few months earlier had a hit with "I Need A Lover," a song he wrote and recorded in 1977 and released initially in 1978. His 1978 release did not chart but he did not give up on the song and rereleased it again in 1979 and the song made it to US #28. Pat's hypnotic mid tempo rocking version of "I Need A Lover" was initially released as the b-side to "We Live For Love" but radio programmers in the Netherlands and Belgium picked up the song and it became a hit charting in both areas.
Finally, that brings us to "Rated X," a promiscuous song with a rock steady beat was written by Nick Gilder (Hot Child In The City) and was featured on his 1977 album "You Know Who You Are," which also included the song "Roxy Roller," initially recorded in 1975 by his band Sweeney Todd and then recorded in 1977 by Suzi Quatro. Benatar's "Rated X" was released only in France where it charted at #28.
Other songs that received minor amounts of airplay were; "In The Heat Of The Night," "My Clone Sleeps Alone," "Don't Let It Show" and "No You Don't."
Pat Benatar (1979)
Sunday, August 27, 2017
“Mister Magic” by Grover Washington Jr. (1975)
Release Date: February 7, 1975
Produced by Creed Taylor
Genre: Jazz, Smooth Jazz, Funk, R&B
Label: Kudu Records
Chart Positions: #10 (US), #1 (US R&B, US Jazz)
Singles: “Mister Magic,” #54 (US), #16 (US R&B), #12 (US Dance)
Other Charting Tracks: N/A
Best Tracks: “All Tracks
We remember Grover Washington Jr best for his 1981 smash hit “Just The Two Of Us,” a collaboration with Bill Withers. But it is his album “Mister Magic,” Grover's fifth studio album, that gave him his first true breakthrough on both the albums and singles charts. The album made it to #10 on the US Billboard chart and the single peaked at #54 (his first single to chart).
Grover Washington Jr is considered to be one of the founders of the smooth jazz sound. Though Washington’s brand of smooth jazz has always been of the highest form remaining true to the jazz soul styles of his earliest recordings. Because of it’s accessible smooth jazz style, with the musical arrangements composed by Bob James, “Mister Magic” was able to break through in many markets including the pop charts, R&B, dance and jazz charts. “Mister Magic” was a hit on adult contemporary light rock AM radio stations across the US and helped to bring jazz to the forefront in the mid 1970s. Now the album is considered a classic and revered by Washington’s many fans.
The title track, "Mister Magic," was written by jazz music legend Ralph MacDonald. The song is one of those few songs that was able to cross territories of music as not only did jazz radio stations love it but the song was a popular choice in dance clubs throughout the US - it's not too often that a jazz tune is a hit in disco clubs. And if that is not enough even easy listening pop stations liked the tune.
"Mister Magic" (1975)
"Earth Tones," with it's complex 6/4 beat, is the most experimental track of the album featuring a great way was guitar solo by Eric Gale. Washington on the sax and Gale on guitar get ample opportunity to improvise on this 12 minute track.
Grover wrote all the songs on the album with the exception of "Passion Flower" which was written by Billy Strayhorn. The soothing ballad features Grover's dreamy sax playing in a fashion that just brings you to a point where you just melt right in your seat by the beauty of the song. Grover does some fantastic things with the saxophone with a few twists and surprises about half way through.
The guitar solos by Grover Washington Jr and Eric Gale are a major aspect of the album that initially caught the attention of radio programmers and music listeners. Each man plays his instrument to the finest degree possible with each adding their own highly recognizable chords to the arrangements.
The album is a who’s who of jazz music including the legendary Bob James (member of the band Fourplay, composer of the "Taxi" TV Theme song and has composed arrangements and orchestrations for countless musicians), Eric Gale (Legendary jazz guitarist), Ralph McDonald (singer, songwriter, arranger, producer, percussionist. Wrote the songs "Where Is The Love," "Just The Two Of Us" and "Mister Magic") and Jon Faddis (jazz trumpet player, conductor, composer).
Producer Creed Taylor also produced a wide variety of musicians in the jazz field such as Antonio Carlos Jobim, Carmen McRae, Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, Charlie Byrd, Wes Montgomery, Freddie Hubbard, George Benson, Nina Simone, Herbie Hancock and others. Taylor founded the record company CTI and later it’s sister label Kudu which focused on R&B Jazz artists such as Grover Washington Jr.
Grover Washington, Jr. (1975)
GROVER WASHINGTON, JR.