Posted tagged ‘1970’

Seen in the charts

January 31, 2010

Over at our home blog — AM, Then FM — we’ve started a series looking back at songs I heard on my AM-FM radio during the ’70s. We’re starting out with 1970, so let’s stay there.

Everyone knows R.B. Greaves hit it big with “Take A Letter Maria,” which reached No. 2 in 1969. But do you remember the follow-up single, which was in the charts at this time of year in 1970?

You’ll hear it on tonight’s side on The Midnight Tracker, which resurfaces at the end of every month. It emerges from the haze of time, reviving an old late-night FM radio show on which one side of a new or classic album would be played.

That follow-up single is a cover, but it isn’t “Cupid,” the fourth cut on Side 1. “Cupid” is a little bit of family business on which Greaves covers a tune written and done first by his uncle, Sam Cooke.

No, that follow-up single was “Always Something There To Remind Me,” the oft-covered Hal David-Burt Bacharach song.

“Always Something There To Remind Me,” Don’t Play That Song,” “Take A Letter Maria,” “Cupid” and “This Is Soul,” R.B. Greaves, from “R.B. Greaves,” 1970. This is Side 1. It runs 15:14.

That last cut, “This Is Soul,” has a nice, upbeat slice of Muscle Shoals R&B. It, like “Take A Letter Maria,” was written by Greaves. Why wasn’t that put out as a single?

There are lots of little mysteries when it comes to R.B. Greaves.

Greaves was born in Guyana, the son of an Air Force captain. He grew up on three Indian reservations and is half-Seminole. The liner notes say he was raised “on a ranch adjacent to the Seminole Indian Reservation at Hot Springs, Sonoma.” So … could that mean northern California, where there are Calusa-Seminole Indians?

Greaves moved to England when he was 19, There, the story goes, he got into music, having some modest success as Sonny Childe with a group called the TNTs.

OK, then … how did he get from there to cutting an album on Atco Records under his real name in his mid-20s, and doing so with an A-list production set-up — recording at Muscle Shoals in Alabama and at the Atlantic studios in New York with Ahmet Ertegun producing the album, Muscle Shoals fixture Marlin Greene co-producing four cuts and doubling as the recording engineer and Arif Mardin doing the string arrangements?  No wonder there were two Top 30 hits on that album.

The trail dries up pretty quickly and ends in 1977 with Greaves recording for Bareback Records. I’ve seen at least one other R.B. Greaves LP, but couldn’t tell you its name or label.

If R.B. Greaves is still with us, he’s 65.

Another little mystery.

Revisiting that green-eyed lady

December 31, 2009

It’s hard to believe that The Midnight Tracker is into its third year. It’s just a little blog, taking up a tiny corner of the Web, drawing an exceedingly modest number of page views.

Our most popular post was Side 1 of “Sugarloaf,” the 1970 debut album from the band that came out of Denver and hit it big.

There’s all kinds of good stuff on Side 1. There’s “Green-Eyed Lady,” of course, which everyone seems to be searching for. There’s also a cover of “Train Kept A-Rollin’,” one of my favorite old R&B tunes, done long ago by Tiny Bradshaw.

So to thank you for two good years, here’s Side 2 of “Sugarloaf.”

“West Of Tomorrow,” “Gold and the Blues” and “Things Gonna Change Some,” Sugarloaf, from “Sugarloaf,” 1970. This is Side 2. It runs 18:56. (The buy link is to a 2-on-1 CD also featuring the “Spaceship Earth” LP from 1971.)

This side is much in the vibe of the time, with some extended rock/blues/jazz jamming throughout. It’s perfect for late nights. “Things Gonna Change Some” is a little bit Dave Brubeck, a little bit Frank Zappa, if the liner notes are to be believed. As always, you be the judge.

It’s just right for The Midnight Tracker, which resurfaces at the end of every month. It emerges from the haze of time, reviving an old late-night FM radio show on which one side of a new or classic album would be played.

Hope you will stop by again.

Rare Earth’s rare album

April 30, 2009

Work has worn me out this week. Hard to say why. Tonight’s side on The Midnight Tracker is just what’s needed to recharge my batteries.

I came across “Ecology” by Rare Earth while crate digging last year. I snatched it right up. It wasn’t until later that I realized how hard it is to find these days.

Rare Earth, of course, is the R&B/funk/soul band long wrongly thought to be the only white act on a Motown label. According to the band’s official history, Motown signed other white acts, but Rare Earth was the only successful one, having honed its chops by covering Motown tunes as a Detroit bar band in the ’60s.

Tonight, we have Side 1 of “Ecology.” It’s a bit of a departure for us because it has just three cuts, and I’m sure you know two of them. We usually don’t go with such familiar stuff. In this case, it’s interesting to hear those familiar cuts as they were laid down on the vinyl almost 40 years ago.

The ones you know — “Born To Wander” and “(I Know) I’m Losing You” — are sandwiched around “Long Time Leavin’,” which I remember from those long-ago nights of free-form FM radio.

I never get tired of Gil Bridges’ sweet flute and Eddie Guzman’s laid-back congas on “Born To Wander,” which was written by producer Tom Baird. Nor do I get tired of Kenny James’ Hammond organ solo on “Long Time Leavin’.”

Side 1 ends with a cover of the Temptations’ “(I Know) I’m Losing You.” Rare Earth’s scorching 10-minute-plus jam has it all — driving wah-wah and trippy slide guitars by Rod Richards, echoed vocals, extended high-hat drum breaks by Pete Rivera, killer conga lines and some cookin’ Hammond organ.

That tune was produced by the great Norman Whitfield, who also produced the Tempts. The single edit of Rare Earth’s version reached No. 7 in the pop charts in the summer of 1970 … one spot higher than the Tempts’ version at this time of year in 1966.

Enjoy the trip back.

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“Born To Wander,” “Long Time Leavin'” and “(I Know) I’m Losing You,” Rare Earth, from “Ecology,” 1970. It’s out of print. Side 1 runs 18:36.

Rare Earth is still touring, with Bridges still leading the band. However, he’s the only one in the current lineup who also played on “Ecology.”

The Christmas mystery, Part II

December 30, 2008

Over at our other blog, we recalled on Christmas night that it was 30 years ago — Christmas night 1978 — that Bobbie Gentry performed on “The Tonight Show” and vanished into legend.

With that post, we served up this video …

… of the lovely Miss Gentry singing “Fancy” on “The Johnny Cash Show” on Jan. 21, 1970.

Tonight, on The Midnight Tracker, we serve up that song and the rest of Side 1 of “Fancy.”

It was the last big album for Gentry, reaching No. 34 among U.S. country albums and No. 96 among the Top 200 U.S. albums.

The tunes we offered over at AM, Then FM — “Fancy” and “Find ‘Em, Fool ‘Em and Forget ‘Em” are classic Gentry songs, telling the stories of strong women who know their way around weaker men. “Fancy” is the only song on this side that’s written by Gentry.

Side 1 also features a couple of gender-flipped covers — “Delta Man,” (Leon Russell’s “Delta Lady”) and “Something In the Way He Moves (James Taylor’s “Something In the Way She Moves”). Whether these work is your call.

Least interesting is Gentry’s cover of the Burt Bacharach-Hal David tune “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again.” Gentry strains to hit some of the high notes. That said, it was the first hit version of the song, reaching No. 1 in the UK in October 1969. Dionne Warwick’s more familiar version didn’t hit No. 1 in the U.S. until the following January.

In any case, all worth listening to. Enjoy.

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“Fancy,” “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again,” “Delta Man,” “Something In The Way He Moves” and “Find ‘Em, Fool ‘Em and Forget ‘Em,” Bobbie Gentry, from “Fancy,” 1970. It runs 15:22.

The album link is to a 2-on-1 CD that includes “Patchwork,” Gentry’s 1971 album.

Do I have this one?

January 2, 2008

Every month or so, I drop by my friendly neighborhood used record store.

There’s a $1 bin in which there are some treasures to be found. There also are other bins, in which more collectible, more desirable albums can be found for a still-reasonable price.

When I was there the other day, I came across “Fire and Water,” the classic 1970 album from Free, in the other bins.

My only problem — and this may come only when you reach the point that you have too many albums — was this: I knew I’d never bought it, but I couldn’t recall whether it was one of my wife’s albums.

So, after a bit of indecision, I figured if it was a double, $4 wasn’t too much to pay for it. Happily, it wasn’t a double. Now we have a nice, clean copy. Well worth the $4.

Which is the long way around the barn of saying tonight’s offering is Side 2 from “Fire and Water.”

This was about as good as mainstream rock got at the time. Free consisted of Paul Rodgers on vocals, Paul Kossoff on guitar, Andy Fraser on bass and Simon Kirke on drums.

Of the cuts on this side, “Mr. Big” offers some classic ’70s jamming by all; “Don’t Say You Love Me” has a slow, mellow groove and Rodgers’ pleading vocals; and “All Right Now” … well, I trust you know that one.

When this album was released in June 1970, Free had been together for two years, making a name for itself in England as a blues-rock band. “Fire and Water” is more rock than blues. Not much blues at all, really.

Even though Free had been together for two years at the time, its members still were what now seems impossibly young. Rodgers, the guy behind that world-weary voice, was 20. Kirke also was 20. Kossoff, just 19, already was a skilled blues guitarist. Fraser, who with Rodgers co-wrote five of the seven cuts on this album, was just 17.

This was as good as it got for Free. They broke up 10 months after “Fire and Water” came out, stayed apart for about a year, then got back together for one final year. They called it quits for good in 1973. Kossoff’s drug problems contributed to the instability, and he died in 1976, just 25.

Though you know “All Right Now” all too well, I’ve ripped that side so you can listen to it in the context of the rest of Free’s work at that time.

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“Mr. Big,” “Don’t Say You Love Me” and “All Right Now,” Free, from “Fire and Water,” 1970. It runs 17:10.