We are sometimes treated, in August, to a fleeting bit of weather that carries in it a subtle tinge of autumn, which always feels lovely after a long hot summer. I’m still waiting on that this year, fingers crossed, through this one last (?) heat wave. Waiting for all sorts of fevers to break here in 2019 as a matter of fact. (One can always hope.) In the meantime, the Eclectic Playlist Series strides onward, with its distinctive mix of genres and eras. One thing I don’t usually point out about my curated playlists is that in addition to making the conscious effort to distribute music relatively evenly across the decades, at least the decades from the ’60s through the present, I also work to balance the music between male and female voices. Given the male-centric history of rock’n’roll this is something I have to make a conscious priority, otherwise the lists would all too easily, well, list towards the men. Personally I’m friggin’ tired of men so each month I make sure there are no more than 11 of them, out of 20 slots. Ten is better, nine is best. Maybe one month I’ll whittle it down to eight. One can always hope.
* The T-Bone Burnett project known as The New Basement Tapes kind of got shunted aside as quickly as it came to public awareness back in the middle of our current decade. The back story is that Bob Dylan had recently come across a batch of lyrics he had written around 1967 or so—the same Dylan era in which the legendary Basement Tapes recordings were made. Dylan gave the lyrics to Burnett, his old Rolling Thunder compatriot, to do something with. What T Bone did was call Elvis Costello, Marcus Mumford, Rhiannon Giddens, Jim James, and Taylor Goldsmith together into a studio for two weeks to create music for the lyrics. A surprisingly engaging documentary about the project aired on Showtime back in 2014, of which, mysteriously, no trace remains on Showtime’s web site. The best thing I can find is a clip from the doc of the song from the project that I’m featuring on this month’s playlist: Marcus Mumford’s “Kansas City,” one of the standout tunes from the album. You don’t get the build-up drama of Mumford stressing out from writer’s block as the project unfolded around him, but you still do get a frisson of delight watching as the song picks up steam. Elvis had another commitment that day so for unexplained reasons, Johnny Depp was sitting in on the guitar.
* Fingertips has been at this long enough to warrant a “Where are they now?” series were I so inclined. A band that might be thus featured would be the one-time Santa Cruz quartet Division Day, which put out three albums between 2004 and 2009 and were heard from no more. The song “Colorguard” came from their highest-profile release, 2007’s well-regarded Beartrap Island. Post-Division Day, the members are somewhat hard to locate. The eminently Google-able singer Rohner Segnitz did put out a three-song release labeled “Stuff for Films” in 2013, on Bandcamp. Bassist Seb Bailey, meanwhile, landed in an L.A.-based band named Geronimo Getty that released an album in 2014 and was active at least up until last year.
* Patrice Holloway’s “Stolen Hours,” released to little notice in 1966, earned a second life as a Northern Soul gem in the 1970s, as happened to so many previously obscure R&B records. Holloway’s sister, Brenda, had a more visible career, having recorded at least one big hit for Motown/Tamla (“Every Little Bit Hurts,” 1964), but she ended up another major talent that Berry Gordy couldn’t or wouldn’t develop properly. Patrice, meanwhile, a genuine child prodigy, found employment through the ’60s and ’70s largely as a session singer, with one especially curious side gig: providing the singing voice for Valerie Brown, one of three band members in the Archie Comics’ TV spin-off, “Josie and the Pussycats.” Valerie, for what it’s worth, was the first African-American lead character in an American cartoon series.
* If you zoom in on the picture of the record label for the 1967 Dana Valery single on Columbia Records with the slightly odd title of “You Don’t Know Where Your Interest Lies,” you will see the writer listed as “P. Simon.” And yes that would be Paul, as you can probably tell when you listen to the song and hear that male speaking voice in the background, rather nerdily snarling “You don’t begin to comprehend.” Born in Italy, Dana Valery had been a recording star in South Africa, where she grew up, before coming to the U.S. and somehow—I can’t find details on this—hooking up with Paul Simon in Nashville and recording this song of his in 1967. Simon & Garfunkel made their own recording of the song, also in 1967, released on a single with the Bookends song “Fakin’ It”; listen here if you’re interested.
* I’ve long been a fan of David Bowie’s perpetually overlooked Black Tie White Noise album, which feels like one of his most cohesive efforts, and is highlighted by his playing the saxophone again after many years away from the instrument. The album received positive reviews at the time, but Bowie was at something of a career low point when it came out—he had followed up two mediocre albums with a five-year stint in the hard rock group Tin Machine, which in the long run served rather to diminish his cultural and artistic stature. And so while Black Tie White Noise seemed to creatively rejuvenate him, his next few albums were not especially accessible, leaving him further off by the cultural wayside through the rest of the ’90s and into the ’00s. There was a lot of fine music released during this period, but most people seemed to have stopped paying attention. Finally, in the 2010s, came the full-fledged Bowie revival we seemed collectively starving for at that point, with 2013’s The Next Day and especially, if tragically, the all-but-posthumous release in 2016 of Blackstar. As for “Jump They Say,” the lyrics have very vaguely and impressionistically to do with Bowie’s step-brother Terry, who suffered from mental health issues and committed suicide. The song made the dance charts but not the pop charts here in the US; over in the UK, however, it was Bowie’s only top-10 single between “Absolute Beginners” in 1986 and “Where Are We Now?” in 2013.
* The Band was rare if not unique in rock’n’roll history for having three terrific lead singers. And while Rick Danko might not have been the most powerful or obviously talented, he was always my favorite; there was something in that forlorn quaver of his that reassured me on many different levels. His debut solo album, self-titled, came out in 1977 to solid reviews but generated very little interest, especially as The Last Waltz was released not long afterward and far overshadowed it. But Rick Danko a solid effort, with a bunch of fun and hearty songs, and the benefit of hearing Danko sing on every one. While it was eventually released on CD, it’s not that easy to find. If you ever see it selling for a few bucks in a bin somewhere, scoop that baby up. I’ve closed out the playlist this month with the album’s closing track.
Full playlist below the widget.
“Velocity Girl” – Primal Scream (b-side, 1986)
“Dog” – Widowspeak (Expect the Best, 2017)
“Stolen Hours” – Patrice Holloway (single, 1966)
“Jump They Say” – David Bowie (Black Tie White Noise, 1993)
“Grafton Street” – Dido (Safe Trip Home, 2008)
“Summer Soft” – Stevie Wonder (Songs in the Key of Life, 1976)
“Calcutta” – Lawrence Welk (Calcutta!, 1961)
“So Here We Are” – Gordi (Clever Disguise EP, 2016)
“I Can’t Forget Tomorrow” – Sylvain Sylvain (Syl Sylvain and the Teardrops, 1981)
“Until You Came Along” – Golden Smog (Weird Tales, 1998)
“It’ll Take a Long Time” – Sandy Denny (Sandy, 1972)
“Colorguard” – Division Day (Beartrap Island, 2007)
“Kansas City” – The New Basement Tapes (The New Basement Tapes, 2014)
“You Don’t Know Where Your Interest Lies” – Dana Valery (single, 1967)
“Gates of the West” – the Clash (single, 1979)
“Between the Lines” – Sambassadeur (Sambassadeur, 2005)
“Where Will I Be” – Emmylou Harris (Wrecking Ball, 1995)
“The Desert Babbler” – Iron & Wine (Ghost on Ghost, 2013)
“Ain’t Nobody” – Rufus & Chaka Khan (Stompin’ at the Savoy, 1983)
“Once Upon a Time” – Rick Danko (Rick Danko, 1977)