Hey, kids, remember how we hooked you up on Record Store Day by releasing 180 Gram: Alternate Takes from GP and Grievous Angel? We know that we thrilled a lot of Gram Parsons fans when we did that – heck, it made us pretty happy, too! – but we also know that a lot of those same fans have been wondering when we were going to offer the same treatment to the albums from which those alternate takes originated in the first place. If you’re one of those fans, then you need wait no longer: the “when” is “now.”
Make no mistake, there’s a lot to be said for Parsons’ work with the International Submarine Band, the Byrds, and the Flying Burrito Brothers (it might not be part of our catalog, but we’d never deny the brilliance of The Gilded Palace of Sin), but you really just can’t go wrong with the one-two punch of GP and Grievous Angel. Listening to the vocal interplay between Parsons and Emmylou Harris on songs like GP’s “A Song for You” and “That’s All It Took” will take you to the verge of something approximating a religious experience, and don’t even get us started on the cover of “Love Hurts” the duo does on Grievous Angel, which is just too lovely for words.
When discussing singer-songwriters who started their careers in full creative bloom and stayed the course for several albums, you can’t chat about the ‘70s without citing Jackson Browne, but while his self-titled debut in 1972 was outstanding and 1973’s For Everyman can in no way be viewed as a sophomore slump, it’s often been said – and it’s not hard to understand why – that it’s Browne’s third album, 1974’s Late for the Sky, where he first truly soars.
With cover art inspired by René Magritte’s painting "L'Empire des Lumieres,” Late for the Sky may not have earned Browne any traction on the Billboard Hot 100 – neither “Walking Slow” nor “Fountain of Sorrow,” the two songs released as singles, even so much as charted – but when Bruce Springsteen calls an album your masterpiece, Martin Scorsese borrows its title track for use in Taxi Driver, and Rolling Stone includes it on one of their lists of the 500 greatest albums of all time…well, all we’re saying is that Browne probably hasn’t been bothered by Late for the Sky’s lack of hit singles in many moons, if he ever was to begin with.
Introducing the bouillabaisse of sound that is Maison Dufrene – a vintage serving of southern soul, r&b, country, blues, gospel and beyond.The first of an ongoing collaboration with Louisiana record collector, dj and musicologist, Paul Dufrene.
If you’ve been following our weekly Digital Roundup feature, then you’re already fully aware that, as of a few months back, we’ve gotten into the occasional habit of starting off the week by dropping a new Mono release into our digital catalog, but in the past, we’ve just casually slipped the announcement of these releases into the opening lines Digital Roundup. Now that we’ve got a few of ‘em under our belt, however, we’ve decided that we’re going to institute a regular Mono Monday feature, and – as you might’ve suspected from the title of this piece – we’re kicking it off today with Blues & Roots, by Charles Mingus.
Originally released in 1960, Blues & Roots is about as aptly titled as albums get, revealing some of Mingus’s more unexpected musical influences...or, at least, they’re unexpected if you think the man grew up listening to a diet of non-stop jazz. As Mingus explained in the album’s liner notes, the record came about as a result of Nesuhi Ertegun suggesting that he record an entire blues album in the style of “Haitian Fight Song” (which made its debut on Mingus’s 1957 Atlantic album, The Clown) in order to silence critics who were saying that Mingus didn’t swing enough. “He wanted to give them a barrage of soul music: churchy, blues, swinging, earthy,” wrote Mingus. “I thought it over. I was born swinging and clapped my hands in church as a little boy, but I've grown up and I like to do things other than just swing. But blues can do more than just swing. So I agreed.”
30 years ago today, possibly emboldened by having sold the Renoir and the TV set, Duran Duran stopped dancing on the valentine long enough to dance their way to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time in their career.
The opening track of 1983’s Seven and the Ragged Tiger, “The Reflex” was the band’s pick for the album’s first single, but the label denied their request, resulting in the nearly inconceivable decision to opt for “Union of the Snake.” The song also failed to earn second-single status, with “New Moon on Monday” earning that position instead. In the label’s defense, however, just about everyone from the members of Duran Duran on down would likely agree that “The Reflex” never would’ve earned its status as a chart-topper without the aid of Nile Rodgers, late of Chic, who – in the words of John Taylor – took it from “one of those songs where we were, like, ‘There’s a hit song in there somewhere’” and “turned it into something extraordinary, with all the ‘fleck, fleck, fleck’ and the ‘why-yi-yi’ and all the magical things that he applied to the original recording.”
Yesterday, the music world lost one of its great songwriters, not just of the Brill Building era (although he certainly qualifies in that particular category) but of all time. Gerry Goffin was 75, but over the course of three-quarters of a century, he collaborated with numerous writers – among them Barry Goldberg, Barry Mann, Michael Masser, Russ Titelman, and, of course, Carole King, to whom he was married from 1959 to 1968 – and composed more hit singles than most people even realize.