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.





Pops Staples | Nobody’s Fault But Mine

25 01 2011

Here is Pops Staples (as in The Staples Singers & Mavis’ dad) doing an old blues tune called “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” on the Bobby Jones Gospel Hour. Everybody knows that Pops is a mean soul singer but he is one hell of a guitarist too. It’s really cool to see him digging into this solo gospel version of the Blind Willie Johnson classic. I love to hear him all by himself with just a Telecaster guitar and that soulful voice.

You know what they say, you can take the boy out of Mississippi but you can’t take Mississippi out of the boy. Pops truly is a delta legend and one that I have a real soft spot for. Although, the Staple Singers haven’t gotten much love here on The GG, they are a certainly favorite of mine. With that said, you can expect a few  pieces featuring Mavis and the family in the near future. Now check out the video below to see what old Roebuck ‘Pops’ Staples was getting into during the latter part of his career. It’s pretty awesome.

There is an additional interview on the end of this video. It’s not really that interesting but if you’re into vintage politics alongside your vintage music, you may dig it.





Damn! Jake Shimabukuro Ukelele Covers

28 10 2010

There are not too many videos of Jake Shimabukuro out there but the ones that do exist are pretty fantastic. Jake is an exceptional ukelele player, maybe even a virtuoso. He has some incredible originals but it is his long list of covers that make him so appealing. There are three below that are pretty impressive. The first is George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. He does a bunch of great Beatles covers but this is really cool.

This next video is Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. Obviously a great song, this cover is amazing. The coolest thing is to see how he breaks down the arrangement and translates it to Ukelele.

This next one is pretty cool too. It’s Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Like the Queen version, it starts out pretty mellow and then gets really intense in the latter half of the song. Again, amazing arrangement and some down right crazy chops… for a Uke.

For a few more cool covers check out these links:

Led Zeppelin’s “Going To California”

The Beatles’ “In My Life”

Cindi Lauper’s “Time After Time”





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





Young-Holt Unlimited | Soulful Strut

14 09 2010

Young-Holt Unlimited. It’s probably one of the worst band names EVER. Fortunately for these guys, they can really play. Chicago based, they were a late 60’s Soul/Jazz Instrumental group. Drummer Isaac “Red” Holt and bassist Eldee Young, formerly members of Ramsey Lewis’ jazz trio broke off to do their own thing in 1966. The first incarnation of their group was called The Young-Holt Trio. It’s not exactly original but it’s got a nicer ring to it than Unlimited. In 1968 they replaced pianist Don Walker with Ken Chaney, at which point they changed the name… I’m still confused about this name. Names aside, they are a solid band. “Soulful Strut” was their biggest hit, reaching #3, but they had other minor hits along the way. Many of their albums include soul jazz covers of some classics that were relatively well received back in their heyday. First check out “Soulful Strut” and then I have a few of their covers I’m fond of.

Oddly enough, “Soulful Strut” is actually the backing instrumental to another less popular song, “Am I the Same Girl”. Recorded by Barbara Ackerly, the wife of the songs writer Eugene Record, it was recorded in early 1968 but was shelved by the label. Shortly thereafter, the producer Carl Davis removed her voice from the track, replaced it with a piano solo by Floyd Morris, and released the resulting track in November 1968 as “Soulful Strut”. Although credited to Young-Holt Unlimited, neither Young nor Holt are believed to have played on the recorded track.  The instrumental is simply credited to the Brunswick Studio Band. which could include Red and Eldee, but it’s not likely. It sounds like some pretty fishy stuff, but it is confirmed that these they went on to perform the song for many years after it’s release.

Two songs I have featured on GG before are Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny” and The Stylistics “People Make The World Go Around”. Both at GREAT tunes that get a lot of attention in the Soul/R&B community. Cover versions are abound so these two versions don’t exactly rank at the top of all that are available but I like these. The cool thing about these guys is that they have a very distinct sound in their playing. Although it’s very much of it’s time, it is very stylized, which plays to their Jazz roots.

References:

More info on Young-Holt Unlimited

More info on “Soulful Strut”

More info on Ramsey Lewis

Previous GG Post: “Sunny”

Previous GG Post: “People Make…”





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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