James Ray | I Got My Mind Set On You

8 02 2011

Yes, that title should sound familiar to you. That’s because George Harrison had a huge hit with this tune in 1987. “I Got My Mind Set On You” was featured on his otherwise lackluster release Cloud Nine. Considering the popularity of the Harrison version it’s remarkable that so few people are aware that it’s actually a cover. The song was written by Rudy Clark and recorded by James Ray in 1962. No doubt, it’s a great song through and through. Whether you like the Harrison rendition or the original it’s a classic.

Interestingly enough, of George’s three #1 hit singles in the US, this was the only one that was not self-penned and the only one without religious overtones. Also, not only was this the last US #1 hit for ol’ Georgie boy, but it was also the last from any of the other ex-Beatles. To hear Harrison’s version click HERE. As you might expect, I’m partial to Ray’s original…

As enjoyable as that 1987 attempt was, I was floored when I first heard James Ray’s original. It’s just so raw and authentic, especially when compared to Harrison’s version. For me, this was the way the song was intended. The arrangement is so natural feeling that I almost can’t imagine it any other way. How Ray never had his own hit with song remains a mystery to me.





Al Green | Tired Of Being Alone

1 02 2011

Check out this footage of Al Green, circa 1972. This Soul School TV performance is Al with some serious swagger. It’s the look, the voice, the hair.  The song is “Tired Of Being Alone” from Green’s 1971 album Al Green Gets Next To You. It was was written in 1968 and originally intended for his previous album Green Is Blues. It never made that album due to numerous recording and production issues. But, alas, it was worth the wait. As you can see, he  definitely perfected it on the second attempt.  It was an instant hit, reaching #7 when it was released and has since been named as #293 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs list.

There are numerous covers of this famous tune. Although, none are half as good as Al’s. If I had to choose one, I’m fond of this Subdudes version. Check it out.





Vintage Smokey Robinson & the Miracles

15 12 2010

I just found this old video of The Miracles from 1967. At this point they were just billed as The Miracles. It wasn’t until later, that Smokey’s named was brought to the fore.  Despite The Miracles being Motown’s first really successful group, Berry Gordy decided it was clever marketing to lead with Smokey’s name. After all, he  was one of the biggest songwriters and producers in the business. In their almost 20 years, The Miracles charted over 50 hits, 26 of which reached the top ten. Not to mention that Smokey has written and/or produced countless other hits for Motown.

I’m not exactly sure where this footage is from, but it’s a great little medley of two early 60’s classics, “(Come ‘Round Here) I’m The One You Need” and “More Love”. Whether you’re a Motown fan or not, it’s hard to deny that this was truly a great era in music.

While we’re checking out some vintage Smokey, here are just a few more. The first is “You Really Got A Hold On Me”. While the second is “I Second That Emotion” …and in color no less! Take a look at these dance routines. They’re where it’s at, no?





Aretha Franklin | I Say A Little Prayer

12 10 2010

This is a great video of Aretha Franklin performing “I Say A Little Prayer”. It was originally released on her 1968 album Aretha Now, but I like this live version from 1970 better. Actually, it’s a Burt Bacharach tune that was written for Dionne Warwick, who recorded it in 1967. Her version is also very good, but Aretha is the best.





George Harrison | My Sweet Lord

8 10 2010

Lately, I’ve been listening to the Beatles’ post-Beatles solo work a lot. As one would expect Paul & John have the strongest catalogs but George & Ringo are not short on great work either. Here is one of George’s solo hits. Probably not my all-time favorite but it’s near the top and comes with a cool little story. “My Sweet Lord” was originally written for one of Harrison’s friends, former Beatle session man Billy Preston. Preston released it on his 1970 album Encouraging Words, which George produced. Just 10 months later, George released his version of the song on his first post-Beatles album All Things Must Pass. I love this album, it was huge. Originally a triple album (3 records/6 sides), it was produced by Phil Spector and featured 23 songs. Some of which were long jams with various guest spots from friends like Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Ginger Baker, Gary, Wright, Alan White (of Yes), a young Phil Collins, Preston and it is even said that John Lennon appeared on one track, although uncredited. There is also a song co-written with Bob Dylan and then a cover of Dylan’s “If Not For You”. It’s a really great album. “My Sweet Lord” was only released as a single after All Things Must Pass, at which point it went right to the top 5 and then occupied no. 1 for five weeks. It later topped the charts again after Harrison’s death and then again upon the release of a re-mastered anniversary version. Remarkable as that is, it’s not the juicy part of the story.

In 1971, George was sued by The Chiffons for rights to the song as it was incredibly similar to their hit “He’s So Fine”. Harrison later stated that he was actually inspired to write “My Sweet Lord” after hearing the Edwin Hawkins Singers’ “Oh Happy Day”. A US federal court ruled that Harrison had subconsciously copied The Chiffon tune and he had to hand over the majority of his royalties from the song. This ordeal was parodied by The Chiffons afterward in order capitalize on the publicity. In good humor, George would later record his own song about the case, called “This Song”, which featured many direct references. Soon after, he just bought the rights to “He’s So Fine” anyway. So in the end, he owns his song and theirs… right on, George!

If you’re not familiar with this Chiffons tune, here it is. You’ll hear the similarities instantly. So much so, it’s hard not to side with the courts on this one.

One last thing, there is a great version of this song from The Concert For George, with Billy Preston leading an allstar band that includes Ringo, Paul McCartney, Dhani Harrison, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins and Tom Petty. 

note: If you’re a Billy Preston fan and want hear his original version from Encouraging Words, THIS is a great old live version, true to form.

References:

More info on George Harrison

More info on All Things Must Pass

More info on “My Sweet Lord”

More info on The Chiffons

More info on “He’s So Fine”

More info on Concert For Bangledesh

More info on Concert For George

More info on Billy Preston








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