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?





The Beatles Catalog Available on iTunes

16 11 2010

FINALLY! What does it take to get one of music’s biggest bands available on the iTunes store? Apparently, all you need is love… and A LOT of lawyers. After years of tension and disputes Apple Corp. has finally allowed Apple Inc. to offer The Beatles’ complete catalog of work online. I get it. I do. But after all that concern over Apple Inc. branching out from computer technology to music distribution and possible conflicts of interest, the whole argument seems futile and moot. After all, we know Paul is down with it, as his music is already on iTunes . He even filmed a commercial for them. How long did it really take for the folks at Apple Corp. to realize that iTunes is clearly one of, if not, the biggest digital music distribution channel? I guess after all those years, today is the day of epiphany. Finally. Check out The Beatles on iTunes HERE.

So, at this point you probably already own every album in various mediums and have even digitized it yourself, but for those that have not… this your chance. You can cherry pick your favorite songs or grab the whole album(s). Or, you can just bite the bullet get the entire box set ($149).  Like any major product roll out, this comes with a lot of fanfare. One of the promotion items they are touting is the complete 1964 Washington D.C. performance in HD (well, as hi-def as I’ve seen). This video exists in snippets all over the internet, some of which has been featured here, but this is the complete unedited release. CHECK IT OUT HERE. There are also some other cool videos that you can browse through while on the band’s artist page in the store.

There are a few ads that the ‘Apples’ collaborated on for this launch. They are pretty straightforward and simple but, if you’re a fan, you will enjoy them nevertheless. You can see all 5 ads below:





Paul McCartney | Teddy Boy

9 11 2010

Today is one of my best bud’s b-days.  Yes, I am talking about you, Teddy boy.  There is a good chance that you are not be familiar with the McCartney tune “Teddy Boy.”  The song was first released on Paul’s first solo album McCartney in 1970 after The Beatles broke up.  However, it was recorded a year earlier during The Beatles’ infamous “Get Back” sessions but never officially released.  A composite version that blends multiple takes did surface eventually on the band’s Anthology III album. I really like Paul’s solo version best but this one is a lot of fun too. Check it out. As simple as this video is, I love it. As a Beatles fan, it’s so cool to get the virtual tour of Apple Studios circa 1969.





It’s Johnny’s Birthday

9 10 2010

Today is John Lennon’s birthday. He would have been 70 years old today. I wanted to tack this on to yesterday’s post given this song, “It’s Johnny’s Birthday” was a part of George Harrison’s 3 disc LP All Things Must Pass but then decided it was best served as it’s own dish. It’s a very simple tune that clocks in under a minute long. Based on Bill Marten and Phil Coulter’s song “Congratulations”, Harrison’s tune was just a little tribute to his friend on his birthday. Enjoy…

Happy B-Day Johnny!





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





The Isley Bros. | Why When Love Is Gone

15 09 2010

I really love this old Isley Brothers tune, “Why When Love Is Gone”. It’s from the earler part of their career, during a short stint with Berry Gordy at Motown. It was recorded in 1967 on the Motown subsidiary Tamla Records and released the same year. It absolutely is a soul tune but it also has elements more a kin to the British rock music from the same period. It’s kinda like The Animals meets Marvin Gaye… really good stuff. As great as this song is though, it was never a hit single for The Isley Brother or any other Motown artist for that matter (there are versions by The Originals and Kim Weston too). In fact it was never even considered as a potential single release. Instead, tt was released on the group’s second and final album for Motown, Soul on the Rocks.  Given the attention the song gets 50 years later it’s hard to believe it could be overlooked but then again, Berry Gordy was sinking all his resources into act like The Temptations and The Supremes. Don’t get me wrong, they’re amazing acts, but this tune is a classic.

References:

More info on The Isley Brothers

More info on Soul on the Rocks

More info on Motown

More info on Berry Gordy

More info on O’Kelly Isley Jr.

More info on Ronald Isley

More info on Rudolph Isley





Grazing In The Grass

30 08 2010

“Grazing In The Grass” is a very cool (and yet little known) tune from 1968. Originally recorded by South African trumpet Master Hugh Masekela, it is an all instrumental soul groove that sounds more jazz inspired R&B than afro-pop. It’s full of great horn lines and A LOT of cowbell. Masekela is a pop legend both at home and here in the States. “Grazing In The Grass” was probably his most popular tune, selling over 4 million copies to date. Later in his career, he also had a hit with a song dedicated to Nelson Mandela’s release from prison called “Bring Him Home”. Even in his early days, Masekela was a go-to “world music” collaborator for everyone from Paul Simon to The Byrds, as well as numerous jazz ensembles. That aside, this is easily my favorite of all his work.

There are many covers of this song but only one that stands out to me. And, it comes with a cool back story. It’s from Eivets Rednow’s 1968 release Alfie, which was an all instrumental album inspired by the works of Burt Bacharach and Hal David (most notably their hit score “Alfie”,  hence the title). What is not commonly known is that this is actually an early Stevie Wonder album. If you look again at the artist, you will see that it is Wonder’s name spelled backwards. It was released without much promotion on a Motown subsidiary called Gordy Records because Berry Gordy and the rest of the Motown machine were still establishing Stevie as a soul/pop shouter on their more popular label. As not to confuse their audience, it was practically released in secret. Funny enough, there is almost no hint as to who the real artist is except for a tiny little note on the top corner of the album spine saying, “How do you spell Stevie Wonder backwards”. The album is mediocre at best, in the scope of Wonder’s catalog but it’s a very cool one to own for die-hard collectors. Stevie plays harmonica, piano, clavinet and is accompanied by Motown greats Benny Benjamin on drums and James Jamerson on bass. For me, that’s the best part… it’s this little known, under-the-radar snapshot of these guys just playing and having fun in the studio.

References:

More info on Hugh Masekela

More info on Eivets Rednow

More info on Stevie Wonder








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