Tuesday, October 10, 2017


Second Nature (Neil Finn) - 3:49 rating: **** stars

I've been a Neil Finn fan since I was in college (Split Enz and Crowded House) and over the ensuing years have renewed by connection with his catalog from time to time.  Anyhow, I stumbled across this song on YouTube and simply couldn't shake it out of my head.  Finn may simply be one of the most overlooked talents out there and 'Second Nature' is simply a stunning tune.  It's basically just 3:49 of hooks.  Add the fact it's recorded live and the result's simply breathtaking.

And the promotional video is mesmerizing.  Watching these folks record the tune is simply a joyous experience.  They seem to be having one of those special occasions that come along once in a blue moon.  Kudos to the backing singers - they are simply amazing.

Here's the YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9q7Jr0w5MLk 


What's Broken - James Raymond - 3:48    rating: **** stars

So here's what I wrote about this song on the BadCatRecords website when I first heard it:

Geez, how is it radio ignored this tune ?   Written by Crosby's son James Raymond  and featuring Dire Straits' Mark Knopfler on lead guitar, 'What's Broken' trashed the notion Crosby couldn't sing a commercial tune if his life depended on it.   Stunningly pretty and with support from Marcus Eaton, the layered harmonies were immaculate.  

Like me, if you thought Crosby's career was over when he pissed off long time partner Graham Nash (along with the rest of the CSN&Y family), this tune will quickly make it clear those sentiments were just plain wrong.  In fact, based on this tune and his three recent albums, Crosby has unexpectedly become the most productive member of the CSN&Y commune.  Sure, Neil Young has churned out far more albums over the last couple of years, but they can't match the quality and caliber of Crosby's recent releases.  And if you thought Crosby needed those guys to capture that unique sound ...  wrong.  This performance would easily give CSN&Y a run for their creative monies ...  Add in some sweet and thought provoking lyrics and this was one of those songs I just can't get out of my head.

You can hear the album version at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6fkt6raCDQ

The sound and video quality aren't great, but recorded at New York's The City Winery, YouTube has a January, 2014 performance of the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXi_GU5TqBs 

Sunday, May 14, 2017


Leaving Me - Chuck Jackson - Marvin Yancy - 3:20    rating: **** stars

Busy at work and home so it's been awhile since I added anything to the blog.  This one was a track I came across on The Independent's "best of" collection - 1974's "Discs of Gold" (Wand catalog WDS 699).

I think Chuck Jackson handled lead vocals, but the song's mix of soul, pop, and Gospel moves didn't sound anything like the group's typical soul ballads.  Instead, the breezy, uplifting melody recalled a hybrid of Curtis Mayfield and The Staple Singers.  That's a wonderful thing in my book,  The tune was also tapped as a single:

- 1972's 'Leaving Me' b/w 'I Love You, Yes I Do' (Wand catalog number WND 11252)

For anyone who wants to hear the track, thank you YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwiy03oYV_U

Sunday, January 29, 2017


Save Yourself a Cup of Happiness   (James Dean - William Weatherspoon) - 2:19    rating: **** stars

Another highlight off 1968's "Greetings! We're the Monitors" album, 'Save Yourself a Cup of Happiness' was the kind of track that would instantaneously fill a dance floor.  One of the late Richard Street's most impressive performances with Warren Harris, Maurice and Sandra Fagin providing delectable backing vocals.  I'm guessing the stunning bass line was from James Jamerson.   

YouTube clip (warning the sound quality isn't great).  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=paMkMf8Y2c8

Saturday, January 28, 2017


Airport  (Graham Maitland - Reed) - 5:00  rating: **** stars

Too progressive to appeal to hard rock fans; too hard rock to appeal to progressive fans ...  Such was the fate for the short lived Glencoe.   'Airport' stands as a great example of how these guys simply fell in the early-'70s musical chasm between those different genres.  Shame since the song had everything you look for in a good tune - catchy melody; sweet vocals, nice arrangement, and even a sly little nod to The Beatles' 'Hey Bulldog'.  It was tapped as a UK single: 

- 1972's 'Airport' b/w 'It's' (Epic catalog number S EPC 1187)

YouTubeclip of the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1EVqyXlZonc


I'm Gonna Miss You   (Marvin Smith - Jesse Bolian - Larry Johnson) - 2:35   rating: ***** stars

Their only top-10 hit, the title track was simply a soul classic.  Mesmerizing on every level with a melody that was instantly memorable.  With Smith on lead it's always reminded me of what The Temptations would have sounded like if they'd decided to record a Beach Music tune.  Guaranteed to make you smile.  In 1999 a bunch of Northern Soul fans arranged for a brief reunion between Johnson, Smith and Thomas.  The trio were recorded singing this tune for a Northern Soul DVD project 'The Strange World of Northern Soul".  The performance was quite good; particularly given they were no long young men, but then they may have been lip synching.  You can check it out yourself:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dO8hk5pgh6M   (I think the line up left to right reflects Curt Thomas, Marvin Smith, and the late Larry Johnson).


"Pot Can't Call the Kettle Black" (Walter Williams - Eddie Levert - Terry Stubbs - Dwayne Mitchell) - 4:28 **** 4 stars

1989's "Serious" had to be one of The O'Jays' dullest albums.  Boring songs; hideous '80s production sound, and flat, unenthusiastic performances from what was one of America's best soul groups. BUT, buried in the wasteland was 'Pot Can't Call the Kettle Black".  Maybe because it was written by members of the group, the result was a classic O'Jays performance.  You could almost hear Eddie Levert, Sammy Strain, and Walter Williams smiling as they cruised through this one and even though there were plenty of those horrible '80s production effects, the song was so good, you didn't notice the syndums, synthesizer washes, and stutter effects.  Those harmonies are ...  sweet, sweet, sweet.

For anyone interested, YouTube clip of the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEMJdgWmIBU

Friday, January 27, 2017


Come Rain or Shine   (C.P. Spencer - Frank Gorman - M. Ragin) - 2:51   rating; **** stars

The breezy, shag ready, radio-friendly  'Come Rain or Shine' was easily the standout performance on 1972's "Definition" LP.  As the album's lone original composition, given the caliber of the song, you had to wonder why The Originals weren't allow to record more of their own material.   

Here's a link to a YouTube clip of the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FwA9AA5YRJ4

Saturday, January 21, 2017


Lonely City   (Rick Fahey) - 4:20  rating: **** stars

Off their criminally overlooked 1977, self-titled album, 'Lonely City' showed the band could toughen up their sound without losing their penchant for great melodies.   Hate Nick Longo's rhythm guitar riff on this one since you can't get it out of your head.

Here's a link to a YouTube clip of the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_1zGZY3wZo

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


Time Is Passin' By  (James Dean - William Weatherspoon) - 2:50  rating: **** stars

I think The Monitors may have recorded it earlier.   Starr's version didn't stray too far from their version, but the combination of the instantly catchy melody; cute lyrics; killer bass line, and Starr's simmering voice made this one of the album highlights.  Another track should have been a massive single for the man.   Here's a link to one of the YouTube audio clips of the song:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4M1hEg4yOjIgle for Starr. 

Monday, January 16, 2017


Move On Up   (Curtis Mayfield) - 8:50  rating: ***** stars

Classic Mayfield !!!  One of his most inspirational performances and simply impossible to sit still through.  The way he swept into the falsetto refrain was mesmerizing.   When I don't understand the things going on around me, or when things look rough, this always lifts me up.

Probably the best live performance is from an appearance on the German Beat Club television show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bN8Z5BQW8So   

 Obviously recorded later in his career (apparently for another German television performance), the band intro went on and on and on with the synthesizers being a poor substitute for the original horn arrangement, but still an impressive live performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jo50otY1nLI   

The track was tapped as an international single:

   7" format
- 1971's 'Move On Up' b/w 'Underground' (Curtom catalog number CR 1974)
   12" format
- 1988's 'Move On Up' b/w 'Little Child Running Wild' and 'Move On Up' (live)' (Curtom catalog number 12 CUR 101)


Never Know What You Can Do (Give It a Try)   (Leroy Hutson - Michael Hawkins) - 3:57    rating: **** stars

Sporting a nifty melody and a set of upbeat, self-empowerment lyrics that Curtis Mayfield effortlessly tossed off, 'Never Know What You Can Do (Give It a Try)' would not have sounded out of place on an Impressions album.   Leroy Hutson's dry, snarling voice seldom sounded as good as on this track.  The taunt strings and horns arrangement sounded like it was part of the Shaft soundtrack.  Nice pick as a single, thought it should have been a much bigger hit.

- 1976's 'Never Know What You Can Do (Give It a Try)' b/w 'In the Mood' (Curtom catalog number CMS 0137

YouTube clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TAO2SFOllYc