Discovering things and giving them wings

Here we go again — this is “Lost Classics, Collection #23.”

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What I do in compiling these playlists is search through my voluminous music collection (vinyl and CD) of artists’ works from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s and select a dozen songs I’m betting you’ve forgotten all about, or never heard before.  The idea is to ignore the same old hits that classic rock stations keep playing and dive deeper to find those jewels from the past that deserve your attention.

Some of these songs are on brilliant, classic albums.  Others are tucked away on so-so albums you never think about pulling off the shelf.  Still others are the only decent tunes on horrendous albums that probably didn’t deserve to be made in the first place.  See if you can figure out which of these 12 fit in which category…

I hope you enjoy this new batch of “diamonds in the rough.”

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“Happiness is Just ‘Round the Bend,” Brian Auger & Oblivion Express (1973)

Unknown-437Auger is a British jazz/rock keyboardist who has played as a session musician and in several configurations with jazz and rock musicians alike.  He played on The Yardbirds’ “For Your Love” hit single in 1965, and in a group called The Steampacket with Rod Stewart, Long John Baldry and Julie Driscoll.  He made more albums with Driscoll and the band Trinity before forming The Oblivion Express in 1970.  On that group’s fourth effort, the 1973 LP “Closer to It,” there’s a pretty solid cover version of Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues,” but the standout tune I want to share is “Happiness is Just ‘Round the Bend,” a marvelous jazz/rock track featuring Auger on vocals and keyboards.  Auger has continued working with a broad range of artists in Europe and the U.S., playing festivals and doing live TV performances well into the 2000s.

“Forever Man,” Eric Clapton (1985)

Unknown-442By the mid-’80s, Clapton had seemingly done it all.  He played iconic guitar parts and solos with The Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith and Derek and the Dominos, and evolved into a damn good singer and songwriter as he began a solo career in 1974.  He also had kicked heroin and alcohol addictions, and struggled through a marriage to Pattie Boyd, George Harrison’s ex-wife, which influenced the songs he was writing.  He was chagrined when he turned in the tapes for his 1984 album “Behind the Sun,” and the label found it too depressing.  They insisted he record three more radio-friendly songs with a team of seasoned producers and musicians, and the result was a likable but disjointed LP that still stalled at #34 on the US album charts.  The single was one of those three, the irresistible “Forever Man,” a hard-driving tune by Texas songwriter Jerry Williams that fared modestly at #26 on the pop charts.

“Night By Night,” Steely Dan (1974)

Unknown-438To my ears, the recorded output of this “band” is one spectacular track after another, with maybe two or three duds in their whole seven-album catalog of their initial run (1972-1980).  Donald Fagen (keyboards and vocals) and Walter Becker (guitar, bass) co-wrote disarming, clever, infectious songs, and brought in hired guns like guitarist Larry Carlton, sax man Phil Woods and singer Michael McDonald to record the parts as Fagen and Becker envisioned them.  They had their share of hit singles (“Reelin’ in the Years,” “Josie,” “FM,” “Peg,” “Hey Nineteen”), but just as juicy were the deep tracks, and there were dozens:  “Doctor Wu,” “Bad Sneakers,” “The Fez,” “Your Gold Teeth,” “Glamour Profession,” “Brooklyn.”  You’ve got to check out “Night By Night,” a funky piece from their third LP, “Pretzel Logic,” with riveting horn charts and drop-dead vocals.  You simply can’t go wrong with any of Steely Dan’s albums.

“The Tourist,” Gerry Rafferty (1979)

Unknown-439I’ve been a big Rafferty fan since 1973 when, as part of Stealers Wheel, he scored with “Stuck in the Middle With You,” which went on to appear in a key scene in Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs.”  Rafferty hit his commercial peak in 1978 with the fabulous “Baker Street” and its indelible sax riff, followed by the engaging “Right Down the Line,” both from his consistently excellent “City to City” LP.  From the next album, “Night Owl,” Rafferty had some success with two singles, “Days Gone Down” (#12) and “Get It Right Next Time” (#21), but just as strong a candidate would have been “The Tourist,” also featuring Rafferty’s smooth Scottish tenor, solid melodic song structure and that soaring sax from Raphael Ravenscroft.  Rafferty’s aversion to touring and a crippling alcohol addiction affected his sales from that point forward, but you’d do well to discover the seven subsequent albums he made before his death in 2011 at age 63.

“Them Changes,” Buddy Miles (1970)

Unknown-444Drummer Buddy Miles was a musical legacy:  His father played upright bass for Duke Ellington, Count Basie and others, which helped give him cachet when he sought drumming gigs with R&B and soul acts like The Delfonics and Wilson Pickett.  At age 21, he moved to Chicago and teamed up with blues guitarist Mike Bloomfield and singer Nick Gravenites to form the blues/rock/soul band The Electric Flag.  The next year, he contributed to sessions for Jimi Hendrix’s “Electric Ladyland” LP, and then joined Band of Gypsys, Jimi’s new blues rock trio.  By early 1970, Miles released his first solo album, anchored by the heavy bass line and marvelous groove of the title track, “Them Changes.”  The tune appeared on two successful live albums as well — “Band of Gypsys” (1970) and “Carlos Santana and Buddy Miles Live!” (1972).  Miles died in 2008 at age 60.

“Sanctify Yourself,” Simple Minds (1985)

Unknown-443Although this Glasgow, Scotland-based art rock/new wave band built a strong fan base in the UK during its initial five album run (1979-1984), they made almost no impact in the US.  When Simple Minds were asked to record a song by a German songwriting duo for use in John Hughes’ coming-of-age film “The Breakfast Club,” they balked at first, preferring to record their own songs, but eventually relented.  “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” of course, became a huge international #1 hit and the group’s signature song.  Recorded concurrently in 1985 was their seventh LP, “Once Upon a Time,” which featured producer Jimmy Iovine, who pushed singer Jim Kerr to achieve a more energetic vocal style.  It worked — the album reached #10 in the US, thanks to stellar tracks like “Alive and Kicking,” “All the Things She Said” and especially “Sanctify Yourself,” which reached #14 in 1986.  You rarely hear it anymore….until now.

“In Between the Lines,” Michael Stanley Band (1982)

Unknown-446In their native Cleveland and other Midwest pockets, The Michael Stanley Band was a wildly popular, multi-talented rock band during their 10-year run, but elsewhere, MSB were virtual unknowns, which is a crying shame.  Stanley recorded two solo acoustic albums in the early ’70s, then formed MSB and recorded an album a year for a decade, each packed with strong rock tracks like “Misery Loves Company,” “Last Night” and “In the Heartland” and the occasional ballad (“Waste a Little Time on Me,” “Why Should Love Be This Way” and “Spanish Nights”).  One of my favorite rockers in their catalog is “In Between the Lines,” the leadoff track from their “MSB” album.  Bob Pelander’s impactful piano hook, Rick Bell’s savage sax lines and Stanley’s guttural vocals pack a real wallop.

“Take It As It Comes,” The Doors (1967)

Unknown-450Still one of the most astonishing debut albums of all time, “The Doors” was almost a Doors greatest hits package, with not only the longer album version of the huge #1 hit “Light My Fire” but also “Break On Through,” “Soul Kitchen,” “20th Century Fox,” “Back Door Man,” “The Crystal Ship” and the dark opus “The End.”  Notorious vocalist Jim Morrison was singing at his best in those days, and the organ-driven sound of the band helped the group stand out from all the guitar bands so prevalent at the time.  Of the three or four deep tracks you rarely hear from this LP, “Take It As It Comes” is a keeper, with Ray Manzarek in charge on keyboards.  The band’s later work included some real gems (“Riders on the Storm,” “When the Music’s Over,” “Love Me Two Times,” “Roadhouse Blues”), but was far more erratic.  Morrison’s mysterious death in 1971 at age 27 effectively closed the door on their career, but their legendary music lives on.

“Buyin’ Time,” Stephen Stills (1976)

Unknown-451Stills’ impressive track record as a songwriter, guitarist and singer with Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills and Nash created high expectations when he began his solo career.  The “Stephen Stills” album in 1970 met those expectations, but most everything that followed was highly inconsistent.  One or two enjoyable songs does not a great album make, as we learned on “Stephen Stills 2” (1971) and “Illegal Stills” (1976).  It wasn’t until 1977’s “CSN” reunion with Crosby and Nash that we were treated to five superb Stills tunes on the same LP.  But those isolated tracks on ho-hum records are well worth your time.  “Change Partners,” for instance (from “SS 2”), is one of Stills’ best tunes, and “Buyin’ Time” from “Illegal Stills” would’ve fit in nicely on the CSN album if there had been room.  It’s carried by fine Hammond organ by Stills and harmonies by Donnie Dacus and Mark Kaylan, who continued working with Stills on his next few solo projects.

“Showdown,” Electric Light Orchestra (1973)

Unknown-449When Jeff Lynne and others from the British rock band The Move went off on their own in 1971, they adopted a lofty goal:  Pick up where The Beatles left off.  Lynne said they wanted to focus on orchestral instruments to give the music a classical sound, with rock guitars used as accompaniment, hence the new group’s name:  Electric Light Orchestra.  Did it work?  An early hit from “ELO II” merged Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven” with a portions of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and made the Top Ten in the UK.  On the band’s next LP, “On the Third Day,” they included the catchy original “Showdown,” which featured a funkier backbeat to go with their trademark sweeping strings.  ELO went on to become one of the biggest concert draws and record sellers of the late 1970s/early 1980s, and Lynne ended up working extensively with George Harrison and, later, all three remaining Beatles on their “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love” singles in 1995.

“Sub-Rosa Subway,” Klaatu (1976)

Unknown-441This obscure Canadian band consisted mainly of two multi-instrumentalists named John Woloschuk (keyboards) and Dee Long (guitars), who wrote very Beatlesque pop and progressive rock.  When they signed with Capitol in 1976, their debut album (known as “3:47 EST” in Canada) was released in the US as “Klaatu.”  The band chose to include no photos nor individual musician credits; all songs were simply listed as being written and published by “Klaatu.”  When an American journalist speculated that the LP might actually be a secretly reunited Beatles recording under a pseudonym, it led to widespread rumours.  Klaatu’s vocal style and musical creativity could definitely be considered similar to the Beatles, especially on tracks like “Sub-Rosa Subway.”  Compare this to the next track, from McCartney’s solo work from the same period.

“Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five,” Paul McCartney and Wings (1973)

Unknown-447After The Beatles’ breakup, McCartney couldn’t resist including at least one track per album that sounded like it would’ve fit nicely on “The White Album” or “Abbey Road.”  “Maybe I’m Amazed,” “The Back Seat of My Car,” “My Love,” “Band on the Run” — all have richly produced melodies laden with strings and backing vocals.  Also from the “Band on the Run” LP is the suite-like “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five,” which gallops along furiously to the album’s conclusion, when it wraps up the song cycle with a quick reprise of the title track’s chorus.  It reiterates the album’s loosely imagined theme of escape, with lyrics that capture the idea of artistic freedom through love.  I think it’s one of the best dozen songs in McCartney’s solo career.

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Here’s the Spotify playlist so you can listen to the tunes as you read about them:

 

 

 

The old songs never end

Whenever I dig back into vintage albums, I almost always end up rediscovering wonderful songs I’d forgotten about.  In rare instances, I even find great tunes I somehow never heard before.  Then, of course, there are the excellent tracks I’ve always Unknown-342enjoyed but the rest of you may need to learn about.

Sone of these songs, or the artists who recorded them, remind me of specific music-loving friends and family members who played an important role in introducing them to me or sharing a deep love for their music.  In this edition of Lost Classics (#22), I give credit where it’s due.  I have a lot of music-loving friends, so don’t be offended if I left you out.  I’ll no doubt include you in the next “lost classics” chapter.

Share the music!

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“Calling Elvis,” Dire Straits, 1991

Unknown-326Anything by Dire Straits or from the solo records of Mark Knopfler remind me of my friend Raj Sandhu, with whom I saw a fantastic Dire Straits show in 1991 at the old Richfield Coliseum outside Cleveland, Ohio.  It had been six years since their mega-platinum “Brothers in Arms” LP, and we were both thrilled when “On Every Street” was released, followed by a tour.  The opening track, “Calling Elvis,” is one of our favorites.  Knopfler has said the idea for the song came to him one day when he inadvertently left his phone off the hook and his brother-in-law tried repeatedly to get hold of him.  Upon finally doing so, the brother-in-law noted that Mark “was harder to get hold of than Elvis!”  At one point, the lyrics use Elvis song titles to creatively build a narrative about a fan who thinks Elvis is still alive:  “Well, tell him I was calling just to wish him well, let me leave my number, heartbreak hotel, oh love me tender, baby dob’t be cruel, return to sender, treat me like a fool…”

“Drowned,” The Who, 1973

Unknown-327The Who’s magnum opus “Quadrophenia” came out in the fall of 1973 when I was a freshman at the University of Cincinnati.  My friend Craig Cooper was the first to buy it, and he played it relentlessly in his dorm room, where several of us often congregated.  Pete Townshend initially wrote “Drowned” as an ode to the spiritual guru Meher Baba in 1970, and it later became one of the pivotal pieces of “Quadrophenia.”  Said Townshend:  “When the tragic hero sings ‘Drowned,’ it’s desperate and rather nihilistic, but really, it’s a love song.  God’s love is the ocean, and we are the drops of water that make it up.”  Townshend invited Chris Stainton, who played piano in Joe Cocker’s band, to make a guest appearance on this track, and the intro is actually lifted from the Cocker classic “Hitchcock Railway.”  In an amazing concurrence of events, the studio in which “Drowned” was recorded was flooded just after the song was completed.  “It was raining so hard in Battersea, where the studio was, that water was gushing in through the walls,” said Townshend.  “A glorious coincidence!”

“Old Brown Shoe,” The Beatles, 1969

Unknown-328The music of The Beatles reminds me of several different friends, depending on the album.  “Sgt. Pepper” and “The White Album” take me back to the days when my friend Paul Vayda still lived in Cleveland before his family moved to Hamilton, Ontario.  One of the last songs the band recorded and released before he moved was the single “The Ballad of John and Yoko,” an old fashioned rocker with Lennon’s controversial line, “Christ, you know it ain’t easy… They’re gonna crucify me.”  We were buying only albums at that point, not singles, so George Harrison’s lively rocker “Old Brown Shoe” on the B-side escaped our attention until nearly a year later when it was included on the US compilation album “Hey Jude.”  Harrison wrote the lyrics as “a study in opposites and duality.”  Musically, it makes use of the new recording equipment installed at Abbey Road studios a few months earlier, which made all the instruments really pop, especially the lead guitar solo and the bass part, both played by Harrison on this track.

“Shine On,” Heartsfield, 1974

Unknown-329Just a few days ago, my friend Lynn Rogers Vail picked Heartsfield’s “The Wonder of It All” as one of her “10 albums that influenced me” on Facebook.  I had never even heard of Heartsfield, which baffles me, because they sound like a cross between Pure Prairie League, The Eagles and The Grateful Dead, all of whom I like a lot.  They released four albums in the 1973-1977 period when the country/Southern rock genre was very popular, but they apparently didn’t chart very well or I would’ve turned on to them.  I spent a very pleasant couple of hours listening to Heartsfield’s music this week, and decided that I should share their music with the rest of you, too.  Lynn clued me in to her favorite songs by this band, and I have to say I agree especially with her choice from “The Wonder Of It All” called “Shine On.”  It starts acoustically but ramps up quickly with electric guitars and then some luscious three-part harmonies, finally settling into a full-band groove with dual lead guitars on top.  Fantastic!

“Can’t Take It With You,” The Allman Brothers Band, 1979

Unknown-330The A-Bros, as they’re lovingly referred to by fans, had a career arc that was every bit as long and strange a trip as any other band of the last 50 years.  When I hear the superb recordings of this group, I instantly see my friend Ed “Tobar” France playing air guitar as Duane Allman or Dickey Betts cranked up one of their amazing solos.  Although the group’s 1969-1973 period remains their most lasting, individual tracks from later albums are well worth your time.  After three years apart, The A-Bros reunited in 1979 with their “Enlightened Rogues” LP, which includes some ferocious blues and energetic country rock tunes featuring more of that great dual-guitar attack of Betts and new second guitarist Dan Toler.  The instrumental “Pegasus” is incredible, and their cover of B.B. King’s “Blind Love” beats the original.  But I’m also partial to the quintessential A-Bros classic groove of “Can’t Take It With You,” with a revitalized Gregg Allman nailing the vocal.  Here’s a weird footnote:  The song is co-written by Betts and “Miami Vice” actor Don Johnson!

“I Will Be There,” Van Morrison, 1972

Unknown-332I confess to having been slow on the uptake when it came to the wondrous music of Van Morrison.  Sure everybody knew “Brown-Eyed Girl,” and I became familiar with radio hits like “Moondance,” “Domino” and “Wild Night.”  But I didn’t fully get hip to most of his catalog until the early ’80s when my friend Mark Frank loaned me a half dozen Van LPs to peruse.  I was knocked out by so many of the songs on albums like “Moondance,” “Tupelo Honey,” “Hard Nose the Highway” and “Beautiful Vision.”  Morrison has dabbled in American jazz and Celtic folk, and has also shown a real flair for R&B and traditional blues.  On his “St. Dominic’s Preview” album, along with an amazing Irish soul rave-up called “Jackie Wilson Said,” Van the Man gives us “I Will Be There,” a piano-based blues love song that I’ve loved from the day I first heard it.  He has said he wrote this in the style of, and as a tribute to, the late great Ray Charles.  I can imagine this track being covered frequently in tiny blues bars all over Chicago.

“Pretty Persuasion,” R.E.M., 1984

Unknown-339The pride of Athens, Georgia, R.E.M. was one of the first “alternative rock” bands to become mainstream superstars, although it took them a few years.  My brother-in-law Jerry Gentile was a big fan early on and urged me to buy their second LP, “Reckoning,” and I liked the jangly guitars and Michael Stipe’s cool voice.  I was particularly taken with “South Central Rain,” “Don’t Go Back to Rockville” and “Pretty Persuasion,” with a sound that recalled The Byrds and Tom Petty.  Still, I didn’t pay attention to the next several albums, but thanks to my other brother-in-law John Gentile, who gave me the critically praised “Automatic For the People” album for Christmas, my appreciation for R.E.M. blossomed, and I ended up buying every album they put out from that point on.  Their 15-album catalog is pretty darn fabulous, from the frenetic “Radio Free Europe” on the debut LP “Murmur” in 1982 to the sumptuous “Walk It Back” from the “Collapse Into Now” LP in 2011 that proved to be their swan song.  Thanks, brothers, for taking me for a ride on the R.E.M. train!

“Talk of the Town,” The Pretenders, 1981

Unknown-334I didn’t immediately embrace the New Wave sound revolution of the early ’80s, but I was living in a house with a guy who was more receptive, and he would expose me to the latest LPs by great new artists like Joe Jackson, The Police and The Pretenders.  My former roommate and friend Stu Van Wagenen loved all three of these acts, and if not for his influence, it might have taken me a while longer to wise up to the great talent of Chrissie Hynde.  I recently read her autobiography, “Reckless,” an exhilarating read about her misadventures and victories, and it made me revisit and broaden my knowledge of the Pretenders’ repertoire.  Stu has continued to make sure I was aware of newer stuff like “I’ll Stand By You” from “Last of the Independents” (1994) and the excellent live unplugged LP “The Isle of View” (1996).  But there’s nothing like those first few albums, which featured tracks like the hard rocker “Message of Love” and the more seductive “Talk of the Town.”  Hynde’s vocals seem to match the tough-girl sneer of her stage presence.

“Scenes From a Night’s Dream,” Genesis, 1978

Unknown-340I knew virtually nothing about the music recorded by the early lineup of Genesis when vocalist/frontman extraordinaire Peter Gabriel was in the fold.  My first exposure came at a party in a Syracuse University dorm when I heard “Trick Of The Tail,” the 1976 LP on which drummer Phil Collins took over lead vocals.  Even though I enjoyed it, I didn’t buy it, instead waiting until the next release, 1977’s “Wind and Withering,” which I found disappointing.  A few years passed when my friend Barney Shirreffs admonished me for ignoring the three great Genesis albums that followed:  “And Then There Were Three” (1978), “Duke” (1980) and “Abacab” (1981).  As it happened, I had tickets to review an upcoming Genesis concert, so I immersed myself in these albums and came away an avid fan.  I’d heard the hits (“Follow You Follow Me,” “Misunderstanding,” “No Reply At All”) but soon preferred the deep tracks featuring Tony Banks’s inventive keyboards and Collins’s powerful voice.  “Scenes From a Night’s Dream” is one of my favorites.

“Remember My Name,” Toy Matinee, 1990

Unknown-337Some artists we learn about all on our own.  In the ’80s and ’90s, I was writing concert and album reviews for Scene Magazine, an entertainment weekly in Cleveland.  I’d stop by the editorial offices and riffle through the latest album releases to see if anything looked interesting.  Among the ones I took home with me, simply because I liked their name, was the debut (and, as it turned out, only) LP by a band called Toy Matinee.  Before I got around to listening to it, WMMS-FM in Cleveland and other album-oriented rock stations elsewhere started playing the catchy rocker “Last Plane Out,” a modest hit in late 1990.  I eventually played the rest of the LP and discovered a compelling, bright pop sound as exemplified in tracks such as “The Ballad of Jenny Ledge,” “Things She Said” and especially “Remember My Name.”  Toy Matinee was basically singer-guitarist Kevin Gilbert and producer-songwriter Patrick Leonard with backing session musicians, so when Gilbert wanted to tour but no one else was interested, that was all she wrote.

“Candy’s Room,” Bruce Springsteen, 1978

Unknown-335When I first started dating my wife Judy, we quickly bonded over a mutual love of great music, and we turned each other on to various artists the other didn’t know much about.  Judy gave me an education in early Genesis while I turned her into a big Joni Mitchell fan.  One artist we both thoroughly embraced was Bruce Springsteen, but even there, we had different preferences.  I learned about Bruce in the summer of 1975 when I first heard “Rosalita” from “The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle.”  She was most fanatical about the “Darkness on the Edge of Town” album, which came out as she was graduating high school.  (Obviously, we agreed fully about the magnificent “Born to Run.”)  I give her credit for reviving my interest in, and revising my opinion about, “Darkness,” which I found somewhat disappointing after “Born to Run.”  One of those hidden tracks I’d forgotten about was “Candy’s Room,” with its desperate lyrics and Springsteen’s wicked lead guitar passages.

“The Royal Scam,” Steely Dan, 1976

Unknown-338I was a huge fan of Steely Dan from the very beginning, when “Do It Again” was a hit single in late 1972, followed by “Reelin’ in the Years” in spring of 1973.  Donald Fagen and Walter Becker showed a keen talent for writing catchy tunes and creative arrangements, and they had fantastic guitarists like Denny Diaz and Jeff “Skunk” Baxter in the lineup to bring the songs to life on the “Can’t Buy a Thrill” and “Countdown to Ecstasy” LPs.  By the time of their third album, “Pretzel Logic,” Steely Dan was no longer a band, just Fagen & Becker and some of the best guitarists, drummers, singers and horn players in the business sitting in to play on individual tracks.  That routine continued for the remainder of Steely Dan’s recorded output.  In the spring of 1976, I was visiting my friend Chris Meyer at Miami University when we noticed their latest LP, “The Royal Scam,” had arrived in the record store.  We spent the next 72 hours playing it over and over, and agreed one of the best tracks was the haunting title song about the homeless in New York City.

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https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3VS9ljWXeMDkj1qPmD1Hvt?si=xFWd9OFpSV6O0Sik29UiQg