Sunday, October 13, 2019

HEARTS OF SOUL - "IF I COULD GIVE YOU THE WORLD"

If I Could Give You the World (Carl Cutler - John Myers - Lyndsey Griffin - Floyd Lawson) - 3:10  rating: **** stars


Anyone who has poked around the BadCatRecords website will realize I'm a big Motown fan.  That said, Hearts of Stone were one of those groups I knew existed, but I had never stumbled across any of their releases.   Imagine my heart of joy when I scored a copy of their obscure 1970 album.

Hearts of Soul trace their roots back to the early 1950s when teenager John Myers and his brothers formed The Echoes. Still in high school, by 1955 The Echoes were veterans of the touring circuit, as well as having recorded some unreleased material and done backing vocals for a number of artists.   Their manager Fred Logan arranged for an audition with Atlantic Records, but they ended up signed to Savoy Records, which promptly insisted on renaming the group The 5 Pennies (a curious choice given there were six members).   With various line-up changes, Myers and The 5 Pennies also recorded material as The Chimes,  and The 4 Jokers.

By the mid-'60s Myers was living in Tampa, Florida where he formed The Larks.  The original line-up featured Myers, Clemon Davis (bass), Lindsey Griffin (tenor and baritone), Rudolph Hill (tenor), lead singer Floyd Lawson.  By 1966 the group was known as The 4 Pennies, featuring lead tenor Carl Cutler. 

By 1970 they were performing as Hearts of Stone, which led to a recording contract with Motown's V.I.P. subsidiary.  Teamed with producer/arranger/writer Henry Cosby, all hyperbole aside,1970's "Stop the World - We Wanna Get On" stands as one of the most overlooked albums on the Motown imprint.  Featuring a mixture of group originals (several co-written by Cosby) and an eclectic mix of covers, these guys were simply stunning.  Lawson may have been the lead singer, but the other three members were equally talented and their group harmonies were equally impressive.  

I'll readily admit it didn't have that instantly identifiable Motown sound, but the breezy, mid-tempo 'If I Could Give You the World' was still a wonderful performance.   More shag, than Motown, it isn't hard to picture yourself dancing to this one on a summer evening at a beach.  Besides, how many Motown acts can you think of who wrote their own material?  How many wrote material as good as this one?

Here's a link to a YouTube clip of the song:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwzacpePlRI

Sunday, September 29, 2019

YES - "LOVE WILL FIND A WAY"

Love Will Find a Way (Alan White - Chris Squire - Jon Anderson - Tony Kaye - Trevor Rabin) - 4:14 rating: **** stars



Saturday afternoon I was driving home from a cross country race my younger son participated in when this oldie came on the radio.  I don't think I'd heard this one since it originally came out back in 1983.  And to be honest, I wasn't exactly the biggest Trevor Rabin-era Yes fan back then.  The funny thing is today the song sounds great.  Say what you will about Rabin's influence on the band, but the guy sure knew how to write a catchy tune.  Flying down Route 66 with a new stereo (finally replaced the original 2002 Jeep Cherokee system with five of the six speakers being blown), the song sounded great.

With the song firmly lodged in my head I remembers the cheesy video and looked it up on YouTube.  Still cheesy ...  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hrowi4hHz8A   LOL

Sunday, September 22, 2019

MARK KNOPFLER - "BOOM LIKE THAT"

Boom Like That (Mark Knopfler) - 5:40 rating: **** stars






Mark Knopfler's languid, instantly recognizable sound has always been a personal favorite.  

A couple of years ago I went and saw the Michael Keaton starring flick "The Founder".  The film as based on Roy Kroc's history with McDonalds.  As most things in life, the portrayal wasn't particularly sweet to the late Kroc.  Anyhow, the film was a blast.  

Taken from Knopfler's 2004 album "Shangri-La", "Boom Like That" was written for the film, but for anyone tight on time, managed to capture the entire plot line in under six minutes.  The sound is instantly recognizable as a Knopfler effort; his dry voice and classic guitar moves just screaming hit single (naturally the track did nothing).

Here's a link to the official video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0sYK2RwH5E8

Sunday, September 15, 2019

TOTO - "21st CENTURY BLUES"

21st Century Blues (Steve Lukather) - 6:08 rating: **** stars



To be honest, I hadn't bother listening to a Toto song since college ...  

I was sitting on my deck reading a book with Radio Caroline playing in the background when this tune popped up.  Joseph Williams' voice and the group harmonies grabbed me by the throat and wouldn't let go and the song got even better when the Steve Lukather guitar solo kicked in.  Unfortunately, I missed the artist and song title, so I had to dig around a little to find the act.  Imagine my surprise to discover it was Toto !!!  Not sure what the rest of the 2015 "Toto XIV" album is like, but this slice of AOR is simply killer.  The dark and cynical lyrics only make it stronger.   May just have to buy this one.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

BRYAN FERRY - "DON'T STOP THE DANCE"

Don't Stop the Dance (Bryan Ferry) - 3:56 rating: **** stars




In college I got into a Roxy Music phase and ended up buying a bunch of Brian Ferry solo albums.  Unlike his work with Roxy, for some reason, Ferry's sophisticated, man-of-the-world solo sides just let me cold.  I tried hard to like those album, but just never could get the taste.  The albums just sounded cold, distant, and calculated.  They sat out there on my for-sale list for years and then a couple of weeks ago a Japanese collector bought them all at once.  While I was packing the albums up I decided to give a couple of them one last spin.  Imagine my shock when I discovered how appealing 'Don't Stop the Dance' was.  Yeah, it featured Ferry at his sleekest, but the song had a slinky groove that was simply stellar and it featured one of the coolest sax solos out there.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjhTHQhJLxs

Thursday, August 29, 2019

STING - "BRAND NEW DAY"

Brand New Day (Sting) - 3:59 rating: **** stars



In late August my wife and I say Sting at Wolftrap Farm Park.  I grew up on The Police and Sting so it was nice to hear so many of the hits and semi-hits.  At the same, time the highlight for me came in the form of 'Brand New Day'.  Maybe because the song hasn't suffered from the same overexposure as most of the hits; the clever wordplay, or the fact it's always reminded me of a Motown/Stevie Wonder song (Wonder played harmonica on the original studio version), it just kind of jumped out from the rest of the show.  In fact, I found myself humming it for days.

Here's a link to the original video, followed by a live take with Wonder guesting:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cA46ZNjrzeY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pu9R4egeg_I

Thursday, August 22, 2019

TAYLOR DAYNE - "I'LL WAIT"

I'll Wait (Shep Pettibine - Taylor Dayne - Tony Shimkin) - 4:44 rating: **** stars


Yeah, this one even surprises me ...  I can remember when the sound of Taylor Dayne's voice would see me quickly changing radio channels.  There was just something about her voice that I found shrill and irritating - her performances evoked a chalk-on-the-blackboard response to my ears.   At least on the surface 'I'll Wait' isn't all that different from her standard dance moves (which were at least better than the over-the-top ballads).  Mindless dance moves with the title repeated time after time after time ...  And yet this one's always struck a chord with me.  I've never counted the number of times the title is repeated, but the song's got a catchy beat and Dayne's normally nasal delivery didn't sound half bad here.  Go for the dance remix since it speeds up the arrangement. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvIWRoXBfnc