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.
If you’ve taken a gander at your calendar, then you’ve probably noticed that Saturday marks the first official day of summer. This is one of those dates that rarely rates more than a half-hearted “oh, that’s interesting” from anyone who’s still in school or has school-age kids – when school lets out, that’s when summer begins, no matter what the calendar says – but it still seems like a decent enough excuse for us to put together a playlist featuring some of our favorite “summer” songs.
There’s something about the summertime that always seems to bring out the best hooks from pop songwriters, which you’ll notice immediately as you find yourself humming along to such ditties as “The Other Side of Summer,” “Summer Holiday,” and “Cruel Summer,” but we’ve dug in and found some slightly deeper cuts to keep you smiling in the summer sun. Give it a listen and enjoy!
Today marks the 45th anniversary of Roberta Flack’s chart-topping debut album, First Take, which first hit stores on June 20, 1969, but if you would’ve sworn it came out a few years later than that, that’s actually somewhat understandable, as it didn’t actually top the charts until April 29, 1972, well after the release of her third album, 1971’s Quiet Fire.
What took so long for the album to break big? Well, we can’t really answer that question, but we can tell you why it finally broke when it did: Clint Eastwood used the song “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” in his 1971 film, Play Misty for Me, resulting in the track finally being released as a single in the early months of 1972 and making its way to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 on April 15, where it remained until The Chi-Lites’ “Oh Girl” finally replaced it on May 27. Not too shabby, eh?
I FEEL FREE
The best song off the debut, "Fresh Cream," which only hipsters were aware of, mostly because of Clapton's history with John Mayall. Credit its minor impact to the production, which was attributed to Robert Stigwood, the tracks just didn't jump out enough, there was mud in the grooves, except for this one, which is so infectious it would be a smash if released today.
Most Americans had no idea it was a car. Very hooky, with the line about only being happy when he played his guitar...no Facebooking for Jack Bruce!
I'M SO GLAD
Sure, check out the original studio takes of "Spoonful" and "Toad" on "Fresh Cream," but they were rendered superfluous by the live iterations on "Wheels Of Fire," however the original "I'm So Glad" stands on its own, it's an interesting curio next to its ultimate smash incarnation on "Goodbye."