If you never travel far without a little Big Star, then not only do you likely already know who Chris Bell is, but you probably already own the lone solo album by the late Mr. Bell, who played guitar and sang on Big Star’s boldly-titled debut album, #1 Record, before departing the band’s ranks for a solo career which ended abruptly when, at the age of 27, he was killed in a car crash. It was a sad, sudden end for a songwriter who’d already begun to earn respect from his peers, and it seems all the more tragic in retrospect, given how many artists have found inspiration in I Am the Cosmos since it finally received its belated release on Rykodisc in 1992.
In 2009, Rhino Handmade offered up a two-disc deluxe edition of I Am the Cosmos, pairing the album’s original 12 tracks on the first disc with a second disc featuring three tracks by Bell’s pre-Big Star bands (two by Icewater, one by Rock City), nine alternate and extended versions and mixes of songs from the album, collaborations with Keith Sykes (“Stay with Me”) and Nancy Bryan (“In My Darkest Hour”), and concluding with the instrumental “Clacton Rag.” Here’s the full track listing for your perusal:
Today’s Mono Monday release is an album which holds a distinction which is, if not necessarily unique, certainly rather rare: seven – count ‘em – seven of its tracks charted on the Billboard Hot 100.
If you’ve ever wondered exactly how rhythm and blues evolved into soul music, then you need only listen to the work of Solomon Burke, who has long been considered one of the key figures in that particular transition. As a man whose spiritual upbringing made him feel a bit sketchy about embracing the more rough-and-tumble elements of R&B, let alone rock ‘n’ roll, Burke took the existing sounds of the day and made them his own, making them smoother yet still more than managing to deliver an emotional impact with the material. In turn, he became known as “The King of Rock ‘n’ Soul,” hence the title of the album that’s brought us here today.
If we were playing a round of pop culture word association and we said, “Rhino,” odds are that you’d say “music,” and that would not be unreasonable – it’s not like we don’t have plenty of the stuff around these parts – but every once in a blue moon, we like to clear our throats and offer a casual reminder that we’ve got quite a lot of comedy stored in our vaults as well.
As a matter of fact, we started going through the archives the other day, and, frankly, even we were a little surprised at some of the stuff we found. Take Martin Mull’s Near Perfect/Perfect, for instance: not that we didn’t know he was a funny guy and a formidable musician – “Dueling Tubas,” anyone? – but this album in particular was one we’d almost forgotten about. Sure, it was his only release for Elektra, and he hasn’t put out a studio album since, but neither of those bits of information change the fact that it’s a great record and a pretty hilarious one, too.
This brings us to the first installment in a feature we’ve decided to call Rhino Comedy Hour.
This is from before Phil Collins went solo.
Actually, it's from right after Peter Gabriel went solo, it's the third track on the first side of "A Trick Of The Tail."
Genesis were seen as imitation Yes, assuming you were not into the band. Most people could entertain only so many prog rock acts, and it was Yes that broke through on Top Forty radio, Genesis was for fans only, Gentle Giant's cult was even smaller. But then Gabriel left and blew the whole thing up.
That's right, leaving the band and cutting "Solsbury Hill" with uber-producer Bob Ezrin pushed Gabriel into the public consciousness. Genesis marched on as four, unheralded. They eventually lost guitarist Steve Hackett and were down to three when they finally got some radio traction. Then Phil Collins went solo, MTV blew up the act and too many people now despise a band with history and cred.
Today is the day when we celebrate one of Canada’s greatest musical exports, a self-described “painter derailed by circumstance” who would be beloved by millions if she’d given us nothing but the six-pack of “Both Sides Now,” “Big Yellow Taxi,” “Woodstock,” “River,” “You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio,” and “Help Me,” but as we never forget (and you shouldn’t, either), she’s provided listeners with many, many more wonderful compositions over the course of her long and illustrious career.
The woman we’ve all come to know and love as Joni Mitchell was actually born Roberta Joan Anderson, and she proved to be musically inclined from an early age, her tendencies no doubt aided by a father who played the trumpet in a number of marching bands. Although Joni’s initial musical fascinations were of the classical variety, she soon fell under the sway of rock ‘n’ roll, and as the 1950s gave way to the 1960s, she began educating herself on folk and jazz as well, with the former proving to be the predominant direction of her own early songwriting endeavors.
Plenty of people have paid tribute to Guy Clark over the years, either by praising his work as a singer/songwriter or by going that extra mile and covering one of his songs. We won’t be doing the latter – trust us, you don’t want to hear us sing – but we’ll definitely be doing the former, as today is Mr. Clark’s 73rd birthday.
Born in Monahans, Texas in 1941, Clark has had the sort of career that you wouldn’t want to base on his country chart successes, since he’s had all of three hit singles: 1979’s “Fools for Each Other” (#96), 1981’s “The Partner Nobody Chose” (#38), and 1983’s “Homegrown Tomatoes” (#42). If you dig a little deeper, though, you’ll realize just how many of his compositions have gone on to become classics as a result of other folks tackling them, starting with Jerry Jeff Walker’s versions of “Desperados Waiting on a Train” and “L.A. Freeway.” Ricky Skaggs and Steve Wariner earned #1 country hits with “Heartbroke” and “Baby I’m Yours,” respectively, Vince Gill got a top-10 single out of “Oklahoma Borderline,” as did John Conlee with “The Carpenter,” and Bobby Bare found success with “New Cut Road.”
47 years ago today, the man who began life as Robert Allen Zimmerman stepped into a studio in Nashville, Tennessee and laid down a track which would go on to be a signature hit…for someone else. It’s cool, though, because even Bob Dylan is big enough to admit that Jimi Hendrix’s version of “All Along the Watchtower” has become the definitive interpretation of the song.
No, seriously. In the booklet for his 1985 collection, Biograph, Dylan said, “I liked Jimi Hendrix’s record of this and ever since he died I’ve been doing it that way… Strange how when I sing it, I always feel it’s a tribute to him in some kind of way.” In a 1995 interview with the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, Dylan expanded on his comments somewhat, explaining that Hendrix’s version “overwhelmed me, really,” adding that the guitarist “found things that other people wouldn’t think of finding in there” and that “he probably improved upon it by the spaces he was using.”
Dr. Rhino’s Picks #87 features female artists, such as Dionne Warwick, Roberta Flack, Debbie Gibson, and Stevie Nicks. This may be my best playlist yet! (He’s right, you know.)