She'll Grow Back

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Stagger Lee Saturdays - Spencer and Spencer

Here's a tie-in post. This ties in Stagger Lee with my recent series of posts on Break-In Records. Spencer and Spencer were actually Dickie Goodman, king of the break-in records, and Detroit DJ Micky Shorr.

A bit of clarification before you download: This isn't actually a break-in record per se, using song lyrics as dialogue. In fact, it only samples two records: Lloyd Price's then-current hit version of Stag, and Stan Freberg's epic takedown of Lawrence Welk. The Freberg record was still very well-known in 1959, two years after its release, and in fact this uses a few of the same jokes ("The Lemon Sisters," a similarly deadly impression of Welk, and even the same sound effect to signify the crushing of Welk's accordion). This whole thing feels like Freberg Lite to me, reusing the diction correction of Stan's "Sh-Boom" and the running back into the studio of his "Day-O." But, in all fairness, even Freberg Lite is still funnier than the SNL parodies of Welk they've been doing lately.

So, to sum up, this isn't the funniest novelty record of 1959, or the funniest version of Stag. But it's good for a few giggles, and if you're a completist of Freberg, Stagger Lee, or even Welk parodies, it's essential listening.

Spencer and Spencer - Stagger Lawrence
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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Silly Sundays - John and Ernest - Superfly Meets Shaft

Remember how I was supposed to be doing a month of break-in records, right before my computer broke itself? Well, here's post #2. In 1973, some seventeen years after his first break-in release, Dickie Goodman produced (and presumably helped write and edit) this record by John and Ernest (wiki). It tells the story of Superfly, who's gone missing, and Shaft, who is called in to investigate.

I bought my own copy of this 45 long before I knew it was connected to "The Flying Saucer," on the title alone, and in fact on first listen it sounded like a familiar formula for a comedy record, but I couldn't quite place it. I didn't put two and two together until I got a cheap cheap copy of the now long-OOP Buchanan and Goodman anthology "Politically Correct?" and it was included therein.

Anyway, the samples used here are the obligatory Mayfield and Hayes, along with Billy Paul, Spinners, Four Tops, etc. (The samples are mostly identified, oddly enough, in the YouTube comments here.) Side two was a short loop of the final few seconds, which I won't be posting, but you can find it over at Jukeboxmafia, who apparently did a whole string of break-in posts a while back (at least one of which I don't currently have in my collection).

I've got at least one more post scheduled on this topic, so stay tuned, folks!

John and Ernest - Superfly Meets Shaft
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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Stagger Lee Saturdays - Frank Morey

Frank Morey (official AMG FB MyS profile) is a Massachusetts blues-folk type of guy, with a perfect gravelly voice. Like Waits and Wolf before him, he uses his voice to express not just beauty but pain and anger and wrecked ennui and all sorts of other things, and even occasionally that beauty but through a cracked window.

This version of Stag has a slow, tuning-up kind of start, but soon begins swinging hard and loose. Then it turns into a medley, with quotes from "Delia" (the two songs share a few lines in the folk canon), and in between there and the end there's also a rambling a capella break and a big finish, and a little coda at the end.

There are no screaming guitars, or drum solos, but this is rock and roll at its finest: take traditional American music from a couple of different sources, get a few talented people in a room and have them run through it, with the freedom to do what they want and follow their own musical ideas.

It's too bad I "discovered" Frank Morey right this second -- as of this writing I don't have the money or the time to invest in five new albums from a completely new-to-me artist, but I really really really want to. (His MySpace and Facebook pages also include a mindblowing cover of Leonard Cohen's "Tower of Song" I might be sharing sometime soon, but you shouldn't wait. Click and listen.)

Frank Morey - Stack O'Lee
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Buy via Frank Morey

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Otis Redding - A Man And A Woman (Things Go Better With Coke)

So while my computer was broken, I was stuck with what I had uploaded to my MP3 player, which turned out to be this wonderful Otis Redding box set. Over the course of a few weeks, I spent at least 36 hours listening to those four discs, over and over and over, and I never got tired of it. Otis Redding was an amazing performer, and if I ever get time machine access, he's one of the top ten concerts I'll be attending with it.

Case in point -- soda commercials don't have to be great. Especially if the song's already written, and you just have to teach your band the chords and half-heartedly sing it, then whole-heartedly cash the check. But listen to this: it's 90 seconds long, and the product isn't even mentioned for the first fifth of it. If you're not listening carefully, or expecting a commercial, it just sounds like a classic Redding song. Otis and the band worked up a huge arrangement, and wrote a whole new framework around a pre-existing jingle, and Coke approved it. Coke's ad agency was full of geniuses; compare with this ad by Ray Charles. They hired every pop singer they could, and that's one reason they built such a large market share.

Otis Redding - A Man And A Woman (Things Go Better With Coke)
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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Stagger Lee Saturdays - Foghorn Stringband

Foghorn Stringband (official bio AMG MyS FB) are an old-timey bluegrass band from Portland, OR. They just completed a major European tour and have their whole summer planned out (including a folk fest next weekend -- if you're in the area, I'm jealous).

This is fast and furious (in a slightly different way from this take on Stag), and the speed and energy the band put into this are almost punishing -- I can't imagine any group of five people keeping this up live for an hour. This is from the band's major label debut in 2005, and their devoted network of fans have kept them touring ever since.

The main original lyrical motif in this version is that we can't find out exactly what time of day the shooting happened -- but it was rainy.

Foghorn Stringband - Stagger Lee
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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Stagger Lee Saturdays - The David Bromberg Band

Hi, everyone! I'm finally back, after a nice sabbatical. I had all sorts of musical and real-life adventures, and I'll be back next week with a post about some of that. Sorry about the wait for this return.

David Bromberg (official wiki AMG discography) is a Philly-born multi-instrumentalist, probably better known as a backing player for people like Bob Dylan, John Prine, Tom Rush, Ringo Starr and Jerry Jeff Walker. He currently lives in Wilmington, Delaware, where he occasionally performs live but also runs a violin-making business.

This is an amazing rendition of Stag, with a lovely Dixieland feel and quite a few jokes we've never heard before.

The David Bromberg Band - Mrs. DeLion's Lament
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Friday, April 9, 2010

Craven Apology

Hi, everyone.

My computer is currently out of order, so I won't be posting anything new until I get it fixed.

As a slight apology, please note that all the stuff I've uploaded is usually available in two open directories: here and here.

I hope it won't be too long. Sorry, folks.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Silly Sundays - Buchanan and Goodman - The Flying Saucer

As promised back in December, this kicks off a month of themed Silly Sundays posts about break-in records. And here's the very first break-in hit.

Dickie Goodman (wiki AMG extensive bio) and Bill Buchanan (wiki AMG) only worked together for about three years (probably less in reality, but records were credited to the pair until 1959), though they both continued releasing break-in records under various names and pseudonyms for a while, with Goodman continuing until right before his death in 1989.

If you read that extensive bio linked above, you'll get a good overview of Goodman's place in the history of novelty records, and this page here will give you the script of the record and a quick review of the history involved. This record is dizzyingly fast and complex, with layers of jokes (my favorite is probably the repeated misnaming of artists and song titles).

I haven't firmed up all my plans for this month of posts yet, but there's some good stuff coming -- stay tuned.

Buchanan and Goodman - The Flying Saucer Part One
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The Flying Saucer Part Two
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Saturday, April 3, 2010

Stagger Lee Saturdays - Hogman Maxey

I've mentioned field and prison recordings before in our discussions of Stag, and here's a take on the song from 1952, in Louisiana State Penitentiary. That same year saw a protest by 31 inmates, who intentionally cut their own Achilles' tendons to protest the inhumane work program.

Matthew "Hogman" Maxey (AMG see also) was recorded by Harry Oster in Angola, and as you'll see at that AMG link, never recorded anything outside of a prison environment.

This version isn't particularly dynamic; from the enthusiastic strumming of the same few chords over and over to Maxey's almost monotone delivery of the verses, it's almost hypnotic. I feel like I have to point out again that I can't imagine the cruelty and misery these prisoners underwent on a continuing basis, the mind-numbing evil banality of wake-work-eat-sleep day after day. The fact that these people managed to find an outlet for creative expression cheers me up, but in a hollow sort of way (much like the too-little-too-late instrumental flourish at the end of this song).

Hopefully tomorrow's Silly Sunday post will find me in a better mood.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Silly Sundays - 30 Rock - Muffin Top

Today is my wife's birthday, and in her honor I'm posting her favorite song right now. Since we returned from our honeymoon, we've started watching 30 Rock in earnest, and in the last six weeks we've watched all the available DVDs -- by the end of this season we'll be caught up.

I had to edit this together myself, since the show still hasn't released an official soundtrack, so I took recordings from the two original episodes where the song was featured and slapped them together. It's a tiny bit sloppy at the cuts, but I hope it doesn't interfere with your enjoyment of the song.

In October, I'll be posting the other really really great song from season one, "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah." Until then, download this and put it in all your mixes. Happy birthday, sweetie! I love you.

Jane Krakowski featuring Ghostface Killa - Muffin Top
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Buy the DVD from Amazon -- Buy from Deep Discount

Friday, March 26, 2010

Jerry Nelson - Eye of the Storm

If you made a list of your 20 favorite songs from all the different Muppet productions, I think you'd find that Jerry Nelson (archived fansite bio interview) sang at least 12 of them. As Count von Count, Floyd Pepper, Kermit's little nephew Robin, and Gobo Fraggle, Jerry has spent the vast majority of his life singing and funning his way into the hearts of kids and adults around the world.

And a few months ago he finally released his first solo album, composed of songs he's been writing all his life. (I've been waiting decades for him to do something like this. Now, if only Kevin Murphy from MST3K will release an album my life will be complete.) The album is sprawling and eclectic, featuring musical assistance from Nelson's family and friends, and backing vocals from a lot of his Sesame Street friends. This song in particular is the hardest rocking one off the album, looking at Nelson's perspective on death and naming all his fallen friends (including his daughter, Christine, and his comrades-in-armsleeves Jim Henson and Richard Hunt). But choosing this particular track was a tossup -- there are three or four other songs I wanted to post as well. "Alligators" is a swampy, vaguely Fogerty-esque number, while "Tides" may have made the list of songs to be played at my memorial service whenever I die. As you'll note in this song, Jerry isn't afraid to cuss a little, and the only track that's definitely kid-designed is "Be Positive," though I'd imagine kids of all ages would enjoy the album a lot.

I've been living with this album for a few months now, and it's been in pretty heavy rotation -- I can't tell whether it's as good as I think it is, or just my obsessive Muppet love making me enjoy it so much. What do you folks think?

Jerry Nelson - Eye of the Storm
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Buy from CDBaby

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Steve Earle - No Place To Fall

I'm trying to get back in the habit of posting more random songs here, without so much dependence on theme weeks to post frequently -- let's see how I manage...

If you're reading this blog, chances are pretty good that I don't need to tell you who Steve Earle is, and almost as good I won't need to tell you who Townes Van Zandt is. Earle's tribute album has been out for a while now, and in fact I got my copy for my birthday back in September (thanks, Jen!), but I'm just now getting around to writing this post about it.

Townes was Steve Earle's hero and mentor, and for a long time I've been using Steve's quote on and off as an email signature:

“Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world, and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan's coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that.”

The album has been widely reviewed and blogged elsewhere, but it's amazingly good -- just Earle and a small handful of his friends, with no overproduction (which marred most of Townes' studio albums -- though as mentioned in that NY Times story above, his "Live at The Old Quarter" album is a perfect representation of his genius). This is a quietly droning version of one of my five favorite Townes Van Zandt songs. (Don't forget to click here to listen to another Townes cover.)

If you'd like to hear more from the album, or rip audio for a third bonus disc (the nice second disc is just Earle solo versions of the songs from the official album), you can check out live videos on YouTube, or click here or here.

Steve Earle - No Place To Fall
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Buy from Amazon -- Buy from Deep Discount

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Stagger Lee Saturdays - Long Cleve Reed and Harvey Hull

Long Cleve Reed and Harvey Hull were also known as The Down Home Boys, and other than that I can't find anything else about them. They recorded a few other sides for a couple of labels, but this record is why they'll be remembered. Not this recording; this record.

This record is incredibly rare -- there's only one copy still extant, and it's worth at least $30,000. (That makes it one of the most valuable records ever.)

I like this -- it feels to me like the best folk music, like something dug out of the dirt and pushed into a primitive shape. The harmony vocals duet with the surface noise to instantly transport me to the past, a time when my ancestors were growing tobacco or cotton in Georgia's red dirt and on weekends they could supplement their income by entering a small record label and singing into microphones., I'm more tired than I thought. But it's Saturday, and if I don't finish this now it won't get posted in time. Let's just say I love this recording, and leave it at that.

Long Cleve Reed and Little Harvey Hull - The Original Stack'O Lee Blues
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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Stagger Lee Saturdays - Dom Flemons

Dom Flemons (official MySpace AMG) is better known as one-third of Carolina Chocolate Drops, who are currently on tour promoting their new album. (Sadly, I don't think I can make the Atlanta show -- what with the wedding and honeymoon I have very few spare pennies around here right now. Too bad; what I've heard of the album is fantastic.)

This is a high-energy take on Stag (and yet another featuring Furry Lewis' "When you lose your money" moral). Dom puts everything he has into this song, and I can just imagine how much fun it must be to see him do this live.

Stag's adventures in hell continue in this version too -- one unusual lyric is that the earthquake we occasionally hear about isn't caused by Stag tormenting Billy down in hell -- it's just Stagger Lee with his John B. Stetson hat.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Stagger Lee Saturdays - Champion Jack Dupree

Champion Jack Dupree (wiki discography bio MySpace AMG) was a New Orleans-born boogie-woogie blues piano player, who at various times in his life was also a painter, a cook, a POW, and a very good boxer. (For more about boxing and Stag, see here.)

This is a N'awlins-sounding poppy blues take on Stag, recorded the same year as Lloyd Price's huge hit, but not sharing much in common with that. This is from Dupree's biggest hit album, Blues From The Gutter, which also includes recordings of "Junker's Blues" and "Frankie and Johnnie."

Dupree namechecks Louis Armstrong in this song, and in fact the two of them were raised in the same orphanage home (Armstrong had family to live with, but was sent to the home several times for delinquency). Another lyric to note is that the gambling is glossed over in one line, but Billy begs Stag for a two whole verses. (Not quite as sadistic as Broke Toe Rezo's version, but still...)

Champion Jack Dupree - Stack-O-Lee
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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Silly Sundays - Macy Skipper - Goofin' Off

All right. I've been sitting on this for literally months, trying to write it up. Sadly, I can't find much of anything about Macy Skipper online (apart from his other three recordings which you can listen to here). He's apparently from St. Louis, MO, released just a few singles on as many labels, and lived in obscurity.

I wish he would've recorded more stuff like this -- the other records he put out are more standard rockabilly stuff, which I love well enough, but this just feels so special to me. This is a wonderful slab of nonsense which fits ten minutes' worth of absurdity into 180 seconds. It's consistently dazzling, bewildering, and hilarious. I've listened to it at least twenty times in the last week, and I don't think I'll ever want to slow down. Like the best funny spoken word records, I want to memorize it and perform it at parties.

And the worst part is, I want to write something funny about this record, but I can't come up with anything. Man, I feel so unnecessary...

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Stagger Lee Saturdays - Margaret Walker

This is Dr. Margaret Walker (wiki bio poetry selection). She was born in Alabama in 1915, went to school in New Orleans, and worked as a poet and professor right up until her death in 1998. Her take on Stag was originally published in 1942, when Walker was still a young woman, recently employed by the New Deal's Work Progress Administration and its Federal Writer's Project (alongside Richard Wright). This is a transcription of dialect, and Walker reads it as such in both recordings below. (Both source albums also include recordings of Walker's poem about "John Henry," another legendary black American story also told in dialect.)

Walker recorded her poem twice for Folkways, the record label that also released Harry Smith's epic Anthology of American Folk Music, and a lot of the recordings of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and Leadbelly. The first time was in 1954, twelve years after she published the poem -- at the time she was living in Jackson, Mississippi with her husband and their four children. Twenty-one years later, she returned to Folkways to record three albums, one of which included her poem about Stag.

I've included both of them here, so you can hear how the two versions are different -- the text is identical in both, but the delivery varies. The first one is faster, and Walker makes the cartoon birds flying around the cop's head funnier. The second is clearly the voice of an older woman -- this version spends a little more time (going a little slower) when we hear how Stag escaped the lynching meant for his hide, and the tale of how Stag haunts New Orleans.

Walker is pretty important as far as poets go, and this post clearly hasn't done her justice -- click on that poetry link at the top to read more, or go down to the buy link and support the work of Folkways while listening to more from her.

Margaret Walker - Bad Man Stackalee
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Buy from Folkways Recordings

Thursday, February 25, 2010

John Fogerty - Paradise

John Fogerty started his solo career under the semi-pseudonym of The Blue Ridge Rangers, and that first album is a wonderful cover album of Americana, with covers of songs by Hank Williams and Jimmie Rodgers, among others. (I put up one track a while ago.)

Last year, Fogerty issued a sequel, again mostly a cover album, and it opens with the John Prine song I posted here a while ago. The album has a lot of other great covers, with some famous guests, and is definitely well worth your CD-buying dollar.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wedding Wednesdays - Ben Folds - The Luckiest

Here it is, the final song from our wedding, and the one that had the most potential to make me cry. Ben Folds (official wiki AMG) is from Winston-Salem, NC, and is best known to pop audiences as the guy who wrote "Brick," though that might be his most solemn song ever.

When we sat down to start compiling wedding music, I played this for my lovely wife. It was a song she'd never heard before, but Ben's words and sentiments almost had her in tears, something I totally understand. The narrator of this song is an awkward guy, one who can't necessarily express his emotions well in words, but he stumbles around until he manages to say what he feels. (Live video here.)

I'm terrible at that myself, but I just hope that I can help Tiki feel loved, and cherished. I hope I can make her see how much I appreciate her -- everything she does for me, and everything she is. If she feels even half the love I have for her, this marriage can't help but work.

Ben Folds - The Luckiest
Removed due to my 4th DMCA takedown
Buy from Amazon -- Buy from Deep Discount

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Stagger Lee Saturdays - Broke Toe Rezo

Broke Toe Rezo (archived official AMG) is another guy who's only released one album, so again there's not much about him online. From what I can tell, he claims he broke his toe hopping a train, and he also helps rebuild trains. He's just a train kind of guy.

This might be the most sadistic version of Stag we've ever heard, maybe even moreso than Nick Cave's badass version. Stag doesn't personally tell Billy Delion's wife to look at the hole in Billy's head, but he puts his body on a train. He puts his body on a train!

I'm not sure if this is, in fact, Broke Toe's natural singing voice (it sounds like he drops out of it at one point), and I'm not sure if I like it, but this man plays a crazy guitar. This is amazing slide blues work, some of the best we've heard in any version of Stag.

Broke Toe Rezo - Stagger Lee
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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wedding Wednesdays - Michael Bublé - You And I

Got a few more wedding songs to upload for all of you. This is a song written by Stevie Wonder -- we already heard from him both on this blog and at the wedding, which is why I'm not posting the original. (It's not a coincidence, though -- Stevie is high in the list of our top ten favorite musicians as a couple. He might even be in the top three.)

Michael Bublé (official mySpace wiki AMG) is a Canadian big band/swing crooner, who's been doing some press the last few weeks connected with the Olympics and his upcoming tour. We'll hear his cover of the Stevie Wonder song today (but during our actual wedding ceremony the song was performed by the bride's sister, who did a great job and blew us all away). The album this song comes from also includes Michael's version of "Try A Little Tenderness," and his lackluster cover of "Can't Buy Me Love."

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Stagger Lee Saturdays - Patrick Whelan

Patrick Whelan (official site) is an Irish-born folk-blues musician who has since moved to London and, ultimately, Pennsylvania to ply his trade.

He's only released one album, so there's little about him online outside of his official site. This version is credited to Mississippi John Hurt, though it doesn't sound a lot like Hurt's 1928 take. (It's from a later version, which I haven't posted here yet.) This is also another version where the hat is magical, which we don't hear about often enough for my taste.

Patrick Whelan - Stagolee
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Buy from Patrick Whelan

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Happy Saint Thurl's Day!

Hi, everyone. I'm back in town from my wonderful honeymoon, and I'm afraid I let Thurl Ravenscroft's birthday slip up on me. I don't have any new stuff uploaded, but here's a link to all the stuff I've put up in the past.

Don't forget you can find a lot of stuff at the WFMU blog too, and I'll be back soon with more posts. Happy Birthday, Thurl!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Stagger Lee Saturdays - Sidney Bechet

Sidney Bechet (official tribute wiki AMG) was a master clarinetist and saxophonist, though today you'll only hear him on the clarinet. I don't upload a lot of instrumental versions of Stag, since I'm more interested in the lyrical changes between versions than the musical ones.

But this is a nice mellow take on the song, featuring one Art Hodes on piano. The discography on that tribute site tells us it was recorded in New York City in February of 1946.

At the risk of repeating myself, my wedding is soon, and I'd imagine posts will be kind of light on the ground around here for a few weeks. I'll try to get some in the pipeline, but that's never worked out before.

Sidney Bechet - Old Stack O'Lee Blues
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Buy from Amazon -- Buy from Deep Discount

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wedding Wednesdays - Corinne Bailey Rae - Like A Star

Corinne Bailey Rae (official wiki MySpace AMG) is a British torch-jazz-soul singer. She's about to be everywhere at once since she has a new album coming out (with a bonus track which is a Nina Simone cover), two days after our wedding.

This is a nice mellow love song (and possibly the most mainstream thing I will ever, ever post on this blog). I like the lyrics because they're honest about the less romantic side of love ("I don't argue like this / With anyone but you...") but still sweet and hopeful.

Corinne Bailey Rae - Like A Star
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Monday, January 11, 2010

Multiple Mondays: Theme From Shaft

All right. I've been sitting on these way too long, so let's get this done!

Everyone who knows anything about music or pop culture knows Isaac Hayes' iconic "Theme From Shaft." Here are ten of the best recordings related to that track.

The legendary hi-hat riff was first heard in Otis Redding's 1966 version of "Try A Little Tenderness," which had been arranged by Ike while Booker T. Jones was at university. Five years later, Hayes reused the riff, and a stuttering wah-wah guitar, to secure his status as a legend of funk and soul music, with the theme to a major film hit.

The Ventures covered the song the next year, and at about the same time the original backing musicians from Ike's version recorded a sequel, "Son of Shaft." Now we'll leave behind any attempt at chronological organization, as we jump forward a few decades to Malik Adouane's Arabic pop cover. (video) The Central Band of the Canadian Forces play you a representative marching band version, and then we come to Sammy. Sammy Davis, Jr. reused the original backing band (but not the original lyrics) to record his own Rat Pack take on the song, in which "Shaft is the man."

To round out this post, I've added Cookie Monster's note-perfect parody (be sure to watch the video), and a cover by the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. Finally, we'll listen to Isaac Hayes revisit the song in 1978's disco remix "Shaft II."

As always, you can cherry pick if you insist, but there's a special little surprise in the zipfile you can't get otherwise. I'm planning a second edition of this song soon -- if you have requests for any particular versions, just shout them out in the comments section.

01. Otis Redding - Try A Little Tenderness 1 2
02. Isaac Hayes - Theme From Shaft 1 2
03. The Ventures - Theme From Shaft 1 2
04. The Bar-Kays - Son of Shaft 1 2
05. Malik Adouane - Shaft 1 2
06. The Central Band of the Canadian Forces - Theme From Shaft 1 2
07. Sammy Davis, Jr. - John Shaft 1 2
08. Cookie Monster - Cookie Disco 1 2
09. The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain - Theme From Shaft 1 2
10. Isaac Hayes - Shaft II 1 2

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Stagger Lee Saturdays - Bobby Pratt and the Rockers

Howdy, all. Sorry for the recent slack -- not a very auspicious start for this blog in the New Year. (I'm blaming it on residual Christmas burnout.)

Here's a raucous rockabilly take on Stag, modeled loosely on Lloyd Price's then-current hit., with some seriously wailing saxophone.

The album today's track comes from is a compilation of radio recordings by various (unknown) artists, featuring covers of Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and others, along with vintage ads for Sinclair Oil and Pepsi and some local businesses. Good stuff all around.

Bobby Pratt and The Rockers - Stagger Lee
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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Otis Redding and Carla Thomas - New Year's Resolution

Hey, all. I don't have a lot of time to write up this post today, but I just wanna say this: Happy New Year! Another decade's come and gone; here's hoping we progress as a species a little more this decade than we did during the most recent one!

Otis Redding and Carla Thomas - New Year's Resolution
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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Stagger Lee Saturdays - Billy Glenn and Shelley Taylor

Well, ladies and gentlemen, Christmas is over. I hope you all had a good one, and that everyone got lots of good swag. Since Christmas is done, and today's Saturday, that means it's time for Stag to return to the blog!

Here's 2009's final version of Stag, and boy is it ridiculous. You'll hear Billy Glenn (official) singing the story of Stag, with interjections and organ by Shelley Taylor (see also).

Did I mention this is silly? I found it via WFMU, of course.

I've got at least one more post before the year's out, so be sure to come back, and become a fan on Facebook if you like.

Billy Glenn and Shelley Taylor - Stagger Lee
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Friday, December 25, 2009

Dan Bryk - Great Adventure

Here's a quick post, my final one for Christmas 2009. (Edited to point out -- hey, be a fan on Facebook!)

Dan Bryk (official MySpace wiki AMG) is an Ontario-born musician, who moved from Canada to Raleigh, NC in 2003 with his partner Erin McGinn (they married in 2008, two years after this song was released). The reason I mention those specifics of his biography should become apparent when you listen to this song.

The Besotted family has a tradition called (I swear) "scooterpooping," which is where you leave the house with a modest amount of money and a full tank of gas, make a random decision to go one of the four cardinal directions, and drive a few hours until you get hungry, make a random decision to eat at a local nonchain restaurant, and continue meandering until everyone agrees to go home, stopping at any place that catches the eye. While this song details a trip with a more specific goal (the best scooterpooping song ever written is Lou Reed's "New Sensations," but that's a different post for a different day), it still has the feel of a classic scooterpoop.

As the fiancee and I prepare to spend our second Christmas together, and the last as an unmarried couple, I can't help but relate to this song. Sure, we're not moving thousands of miles to start our new life together, but it's going to feel like that all the time. The planning and logistics are causing both of us an awful lot of stress, but it'll all be over in 30 days. And every day after that, it will have been worth it. And, as the man says, that will only be the very start of a very long, very wonderful, very great adventure.

Dan Bryk - Great Adventure
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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Sesame Street - True Blue Miracle

I'd planned to post this song as part of the 2009 Christmas mix (theme: colors) but I haven't gotten around to compiling them yet, so I'll just post this one track while I'm watching Christmas Eve on Sesame Street. That's a 1978 special wherein Big Bird has to find out how Santa gets down chimneys, and Bert and Ernie reenact "The Gift of the Magi."

The first voice you'll hear on this song is Alaina Reed-Amini, who played Olivia until 1988, and who died one week ago. A lot of us grew up with Olivia as one of our TV friends, and it feels a lot like we've been losing more and more of our childhood friends lately. (If you need help mourning, she played a nice part in Sesame Street Episode 1839, which you can watch on YouTube by clicking. But warning -- you'll need a box of tissues -- that's the Mr. Hooper Memorial episode.)

Sesame Street - True Blue Miracle
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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas In Jail

Here's the second part of our unit on prison Christmas songs. I've put a lot of these songs into my annual Christmas mix CDs -- see here and here. (And, of course, John Prine would've made it onto the Country mix if I hadn't had far too much to fit onto one CD.)

Most of these songs deal predominantly with the idea of spending the magical day behind bars, but one or two just mention it as a springboard for other lonely sad Christmas ideas. Almost all the songs are first-person prison narratives, with the exception of two songs about the fat man getting locked up (including a live version of a song from last year's elf mix). Oh, and then there's the exquisite instrumental "Jailhouse Angels" which gives "Angels We Have Heard On High" and "Jailhouse Rock" the Ventures-style Christmas medley treatment. Tonewise, the songs in this collection are all over the map, from the straight-up comedy of the opener to Kansas City Kitty's marvelously depressing blues song about having a lover locked up during the special season.

Have you noticed that it's already the 22nd and I haven't even mentioned this year's Christmas CD compilations? Well, I'm not sure they're going to be done this year -- like I mentioned, I've got a wedding to plan and I still haven't finished putting away all the decorations from September's pirate party. If they're done, I'll put 'em up. If not, I'll still try to post SOMETHING between now and the 25th.

As always, I recommend the zipfile -- that way, your files will already be numbered in the preferred order in your neat little desktop folder, and your MP3 player can play them that way if you choose. (On the other hand, if you have all the previous comps, then there are five songs you'd be double-dipping on. Your call, really.)

01 - Ron Holden - Who Says There Ain't No Santa Claus 1 2
02 - The Youngsters - Christmas In Jail 1 2
03 - Danny Barnes - I'm All Alone On Christmas 1 2
04 - All New Genetically Altered Jug Band - Christmas In Jail 1 2
05 - Adam Kempa - Jailhouse Angels 1 2
06 - Dash Kizer - Christmas In Jail 1 2
07 - Dean - Jail For Christmas 1 2
08 - Drive-By Truckers - Mrs. Claus' Kimono 1 2
09 - Sherwin Linton - Santa Got A DWI 1 2
10 - Kansas City Kitty - Christmas Morning Blues 1 2
11 - Leroy Carr - Christmas In Jail, Ain't That A Pain 1 2
12 - Paul Kelly - How To Make Gravy 1 2
13 - Seasick Steve and The Level Devils - Xmas Prison Blues 1 2

Monday, December 21, 2009

Multiple Mondays: Christmas In Prison

John Prine recorded "Christmas In Prison" for his third album, in 1973, two years after he recorded "Paradise." In the interest of actually getting something posted today (sorry for the slack over the weekend), I won't tell you all about each individual track, but there's a decent amount of variety here, so be sure to get 'em all. As always, I recommend the zipfile.

Also, there are a lot of covers on YouTube. (1 2 3 4 5 should get you started.)

(Edited to point out that John -- and everyone else -- cusses a tiny bit in this song. If you mind blasphemy in your Christmas music, just move on to the next post. Sorry!)

Come back tomorrow for more Christmas-y prison-y songs!

John Prine 1 2
Emmy The Great and The Lightspeed Champion 1 2
Joshua James 1 2
The Boxmasters 1 2
Billy Button Band (live 12-08-06) 1 2
Rory McLeod 1 2
Honky Tonk Confidential 1 2
Doug Legacy 1 2
Will Kimbrough 1 2
The Conestokers 1 2
John Prine (live) 1 2

Friday, December 18, 2009

Guestpost: Carolyn Sills - George Bailey

And here's Travis (previously 1 2) to tell you about his favorite Christmas song of 2009:

On a whole, 2009 was not a great year for many people. One of the few bright spots is that Mark introduced me to the first new Christmas song to enter my top 10 list in a long time. Since I put my list on this blog last year, Mark has graciously offered me the opportunity to write about the new song, "George Bailey" by Carolyn Sills (official MySpace) (and a little bit about my favorite movie).

Despite the new age of hope in Washington, 2009 may well be remembered as the year the "Great Recession" peaked. So this year when we settle in to watch the greatest Christmas movie of all time, we might find a greater connection to the problems of Bedford Falls. A movie filled with bank runs, market panics, and subprime mortgages seemed quaint and archaic until they were in our news. The grand historical events of the movie were not yet historical in 1947, so they served as a backdrop for George Bailey's life the same way they had for the lives of the original audiences. Watching near the end of the last century, we saw a man in a strange time, living through events without peer in the modern era. Over the last few years, however, we have had a taste of the times of George Bailey, and now we feel some of the outrage at bankers and some of the fatigue of years of war.

It is interesting, then, that Carolyn Sills ignores all of those parallels, all of the historical backdrop, and even the main conflict of the movie in her song, "George Bailey." Instead, she writes a rocking Christmas love song from a fan, who lives through Mary Bailey. Taken on its own, the lyrics have Mary Bailey singing, until Ms. Sills speaks for all of us, singing that every Christmas George Bailey makes her cry. The lyrics are great, but so is the music. Capturing the seemingly forgotten classic Christmas rock sound (the echoing drum and cymbals lead in told me right off this would be special), "George Bailey" could have been recorded in 1959 as easily as 2009. Great lyrics, great music and a great subject all add up to an instant classic now in my top ten Christmas songs of all time.

As a bonus, the official video for the song takes the style of the iconic "George Lassos the Moon" drawing and transforms it into a early Disney style animation. The animation focuses on Mary Bailey refurbishing the old house, and pressing the various objects of the house into service to help out. The whole video has a great energy and manages to seem not as much intentionally retro as it does appropriate.

I have not watched It's a Wonderful Life for this year - I hope instead to see a screening at our local theatre on Christmas Eve. Until then, this song is in any playlist I create.

Carolyn Sills - George Bailey
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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Kevin Mahler - Pirate's Christmas

Remember last year when I talked about Suburban Sprawl's free annual Christmas compilation? Well, 2009's is up, but here's a look back at two tracks from the first two years.

Kevin Mahler (MySpace) doesn't ONLY write Christmas songs about pirates, but I wish he would. I'd buy that album. (He's also contributed songs to later editions of the compilation, and those are all good too.)

His MySpace genre classification is "Country/Rockabilly/Emo" which sounds ridiculous, but those categories aren't too far from these two songs. The first song is "Pirate At Christmastime," wherein the song's narrator pines for home and Yule logs and family. The second, "Pirate's Christmas," tells a more traditional pirate story, about a battle between an underdog and the bloody Bluebeard. These songs aren't for sale, so the buy link goes to Mahler's latest release instead.

Kevin Mahler - Pirate At Christmastime
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Kevin Mahler - Pirate's Christmas
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Buy Kevin Mahler's latest CD

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Bob Dylan - A Visit From St. Nicholas

Here's what I'd hoped Bob's Christmas album would be like. This is a recording from his XM Radio Show Theme Time Radio Hour, where Bob reads the entirety of "A Visit From St. Nicholas." (via) (If you visit the via link, you should consider downloading at least the two-part Christmas show, if not the entire archive -- Bob's music collection is great, and he's got a fun take on musical commentary too.)

Bob's got a great storytelling voice, like the old cowboy poets. In a parallel universe somewhere, Bob's just an actor who gets small parts in weird movies but makes most of his money recording audio books. I want to live in that universe.

Bob Dylan - A Visit From St. Nicholas
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Monday, December 14, 2009

Multiple Mondays: Must Be Santa!

This will absolutely be the silliest Multiple Monday ever, and it's also another oddball one. We're looking at some wildly different (but all closely-related) versions of a call-and-response style of song. (Next week I can put up a regular MM post, I think.)

So, sometime in the last four hundred years (estimates vary and historians are widely divided on the genealogy of the song), German-speakers came up with a call-and-response song named "Schnitzelbank." It's known in America these days as a drinking song heard at Oktoberfests all around the country.

First, we'll hear a traditional Oktoberfest version from Schwarze Schafe, then a kiddie parody from The Biscuit Brothers. Bill Haley and His Comets rewrite it and rock it up as "Rockin' Rollin' Schnitzelbank." Next, the version probably best known to Americans under 35 and not of German heritage, the version from Animaniacs.

Okay, so in 1953, Mel Blanc recorded a holiday version of "Schnitzelbank" entitled "Ya, Das Ist Ein Christmas Tree" which is an excuse to showcase his incredible voice talents. And that was in turn parodied decades later by Joel Kopischke as "Stupid Christmas Song."

Somewhere in the middle of all this mess, our patron saint, Thurl Ravenscroft, added his own version of the song, a silly love song called "Oh You Sweet One."

Now, finally, we come to the point. At least by 1961, which is when Mitch Miller committed his version to tape, we got around to hearing "Must Be Santa." It retains the structure and polka style of "Schnitzelbank" but changes the tune a little and the lyrics a lot. Now it's all about the fat man in the red suit. (I know, I know, I'd never have guessed I'd post a Mitch Miller track on this blog, but it really brings out the call-and-response aspect, and I don't have another good classic take on the song.)

I'd intended at this point in the post to write a long review of Bob's album, but it's been done other places by better, more knowledgeable writers and this post is already a leetle long. So, let me just say this: it's not a particularly good Christmas album, and it's not a particularly good Dylan album. (Bob is one of those people like Tom Waits or Lou Reed, who has the ability to make sweet pretty music but doesn't do so very often. He doesn't try to make any of these songs particularly pretty, and most of them were written to be pretty.)

It is, however, all for charity. A good charity. There's no buy link today, just a link to donate to that charity. "Must Be Santa" is the best track on the album, largely because (in my opinion) it doesn't express or try to inspire reverence for the holiday which means a lot of different things to a lot of different people (and has meant several different things to Bob over the span of his career, I'd bet).

Then, after Bob finishes up, we have the triumphant return of Glenn Campbot, with his ladyfriend Linda Ronbodt, singing "Must Be Giftbot." I love me some singing robots. As always, I recommend the zipfile.

1. Schwarze Schafe - Die Schnitzelbank 1 2
2. The Biscuit Brothers - Schnitzelbank 1 2
3. Bill Haley and His Comets - Rockin' Rollin' Schnitzelbank 1 2
4. Animaniacs - Schnitzelbank 1 2
5. Mel Blanc - Ya, Das Ist Ein Christmas Tree 1 2
6. Joel Kopischke - Stupid Christmas Song 1 2
7. Thurl Ravenscroft - Oh You Sweet One 1 2
8. Mitch Miller and The Gang - Must Be Santa 1 2
9. Bob Dylan - Must Be Santa 1 2
10. Glenn Campbot and Linda Ronbodt - Must Be Giftbot 1 2

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Silly Sundays - Bobby The Poet - A White Christmas and The Three O'Clock Weather Report

Okay, here's a weird one for yas. You know how Bob Dylan put out a Christmas album this year? Sure you do. Well, waaaaay back in the 1960s, Bob was one of the biggest things ever. Impressionists loved to add him to their stable of characters. Impressionists also loved to do Kennedys. Hence, here are the two Bobbys together at last.

A lot of people out there assume this is a parody of Simon and Garfunkel's "Silent Night/9 O'Clock News." And since the album this was eventually released on came out in 1967, months after the Simon and Garfunkel track, that would seem to be a safe assumption. But that album was largely recorded in front of a studio audience (and this is clearly not), and this single says 1962. I'm chalking this up to odd coincidence. (On the other hand, knowing what I do about Paul and Artie's odd sense of humor, it's not inconceivable they'd heard this record and the name stuck with them too.) I don't tend to use the "Musical Mysteries" tag when a record is as clearly sourced as this, but I'm putting it on today anyway. Anyone with facts or info is requested to post it in the comments.

Tomorrow we'll be hearing about the history of one song on Bob's album (oh and by the way, he doesn't do "White Christmas" on the album), with widely varying historical versions of the song, and then on Tuesday I'll complete this little Dylan segment so we can move on to other things.

Bobby The Poet - White Christmas
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