Mike Oldfield has had a lengthy and successful career as a composer and musician, one which started in a big way when he released his first album, Tubular Bells, back in 1973. Unfortunately, that’s also the album where most Americans’ recognition of his music starts and stops: despite the fact that the album in question actually hit #3 on the Billboard Top 200 (thanks in no small part to the title track’s prominence in The Exorcist), Oldfield has never released any other effort in the States that’s come anywhere close to matching the success of his debut. In fact, the last time one of his studio albums charted was in 1987, and even at that, Islands only made it to #138.
Oldfield’s profile in his native UK, however, is far more substantial: in addition to Tubular Bells topping the charts over yonder, he followed that success with a second number - one album – 1974’s Hergest Ridge – and has gone on to score five additional top-five albums, four more which hit the top-20, and still another half-dozen which made it into various other spots within the top 40. Oh, right, and he’s also managed to pick up another #1 album in that time…and – what luck! – it just so happens to be the album that kicks off a new collection of Oldfield’s studio output during his tenure with Warner Brothers.
2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the debut album by The Hollies, and to celebrate this momentous occasion, the band just released 50 at Fifty, a new three-disc, 50-track set which covers their career to date, including a new track – “Skylarks” – which they recorded earlier this year. If this information sounds vaguely familiar to you, it may be because we chatted about the set with Bobby Elliott, the band’s longtime drummer, a few weeks back.)
Yes, The Hollies have put out best-of compilations before, but in addition to the fact that you can’t really blame a band for wanting to celebrate hitting the half-century mark by putting out another one, this is actually quite a strong selection of tracks, including “Look Through Any Window,” “Bus Stop,” “Stop! Stop! Stop!,” “On a Carousel,” “Carrie Anne,” “He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother,” “The Air That I Breathe,” and “Long Cool Woman (In a Black Dress),” among many, many others. There’s also a nice bit of serendipity in the decision to kick things with the band’s debut single, 1963’s “(Ain’t That) Just Like Me,” and wrap things up with a new song that confirms that there’s still quite a bit of life left in these lads.
38 years ago today, Led Zeppelin’s concert film The Song Remains the Same had its world premiere at Cinema I in New York City, finally bringing to fruition an idea that had first crossed the band’s mind way back in 1969.
Within a year of their initial founding, the members of Led Zeppelin had been interested in filming one of their live performances for documentary purposes, with their manager, the one and only Peter Grant, convincing them that the big screen was the only appropriate place for a band of their sound and stature. Initial efforts in 1970 at the Royal Albert Hall failed to meet the band’s standards (although that footage has since been revisited, remastered, and included on the 2003 double-disc Led Zeppelin DVD), but they decided to take another shot at it in ’73, during the course of the band’s three-night stint at Madison Square Garden.
David T. Walker covering Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay", Bobby Womack's take on "California Dreaming," and The Brymers doing "House of the Rising Sun" - three covers out of twenty tracks this week. The remainder of the set spans 40 years of (kinda?) popular music and a cross-pollination of genres weaving in and out of one another.
This week’s Mono Monday release is perhaps best known for being Ray Charles’ final offering during his tenure with Atlantic Records during the late 1950s and early 1960s, but while one might expect it to feel slightly schizophrenic, given that it features a dozen songs recorded during various sessions over the course of his time on the label, some of which are covers and some of which are originals, The Genius Sings the Blues is actually one of the strongest efforts from that era of Charles’s career.
The whole affair kicks off with Charles’ take on Louis Jordan’s “Early in the Mornin’,” with other covers including Sam Sweet’s “The Midnight Hour,” Eddie “Guitar Slim” Jones’s “Feelin’ Sad,” Hank Snow’s “I’m Movin’ On,” and “(Night Time Is) The Right Time,” a song which, despite having been originally recorded by Roosevelt Sykes way back in 1937, quickly became one of Charles’s signature songs. The original material has its merits as well, including such tracks as “Hard Times (No One Knows Better Than I),” “Ray’s Blues” and companion piece “Mr. Charles’ Blues,” “I Believe to My Soul,” “Nobody Cares,” “Some Day Baby,” and “I Wonder Who.”