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.

Kim Carnes | Bette Davis Eyes

19 11 2010

I’ve had this Kim Carnes’ song, “Bette Davis Eyes” stuck in my head for 2 days. Whether you like it or not, it’s hard to forget this one. So, I figure, if I have to suffer, then everybody should share in on it. OK. Perhaps that’s a bit harsh. It’s actually a pretty great song… for 1981 especially. The song, the lyrics, the video; everything smacks of comedy with this one. I’ve got to say though,  the funniest thing to me is how Kim’s trademark raspy voice is regularly mistaken for Rod Stewart. Come to think of it, Rod would probably do a fantastic version of this tune. Hoefully, it’ll make his next ‘great American songbook’ album.

I pick on this tune but it is definitely a guilty pleasure of mine and was actually really successful in it’s time. In 1981 it was one of the most popular songs of the entire year, second only to Olivia Newton John’s “Let’s Get Physical”. And, I have to hand it to Kim Carnes. She not only sings well, she is also quite the instrumentalist; playing guitar, keyboards and harmonica. Now, none of that talent is really showcased in this classic music video but it’s pretty amazing nevertheless. Check it out…

Randy Watson & Sexual Chocolate

21 09 2010

This clip from the 1988 Eddie Murphy comedy Coming To America cracks me up every single time. The whole movie is hilarious but this is by far the best moment. It seems that the all the really good scenes  in this movie have Eddie and co-star Arsenio Hall playing multiple characters. This was actually the first of many movies where Murphy would take on multiple parts. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a must.  His soul-singer extraordinaire Randy Watson is amazing. Caution: You may find yourself watching this over and over again.

Reverend Brown’s introduction is the funniest part. So without further ado, here he is… Jackson Heights own… Randy Watson! PS– The song is Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love Of All”. A little side note about this song: it was actually performed by George Benson first but made famous by Houston. Enjoy the whole clip…


More info on Coming to America

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Hey MJ, I Want You Back

25 06 2010

Today is the 1 yr anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death. By now everybody knows what happened and it goes without saying that just about every media outlet will be doing something to honor the guy so I will spare you any overly verbose statement of reverence and just give you the goods. I wanted to showcase a few moments from his career. Some of which are monumental, while others are just pieces I really appreciate.

As a big Motown fan, I had to start with the early days of the Jackson 5. There are actually quite a few videos that capture the boys at this period in their career. This one is from Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. Per Dick’s intro, it commemorates their hit “I Want You Back” going platinum in 1970. The video quality is not great but the performance is supercharged. They amp it up just a bit by increasing the tempo… it burns.

This next one is, perhaps, from one of their low moments but I find it to be a really interesting piece that I had never seen before. It’s a medley of two popular covers done as part of a western themed sketch from the Jackson 5’s mid 70’s variety show. The segment shows the boys doing War’s “The Cisco Kid” and Bob Marley’s “I Shot The Sheriff”. It’s not their best work but, like I said, really neat to watch. The theatrical stage antics are way too much for my taste but who knew they had covered War and Marley. That was the one cool thing about this TV show, they used to show off their talents with material beyond their own catalog or that of other Motown artists.

This next one is without a doubt one of the biggest moments in Michael’s career. It’s that famous performance of “Billie Jean” from the Motown 25 show live at NY’s Apollo Theater in Harlem. This is the first time Micheal displayed his trademark moonwalk. The whole performance is phenomenal but once he hits the move, the audience erupts… it gives me goosebumps to watch it decades later.

This is just a song that I happen to like, despite its down tempo beat.  As one of his more mellow tracks, it’s a real standout. It’s “Man In The Mirror”, live from the Moonwalker concert film. The audience footage here really shows how big of a superstar the man really was. He touched millions upon millions of people (pardon the off-color pun).

This is the ever famous “Thriller” video from 1983. This 14 minute John Landis video is usually referred to as the greatest music video of all time and has had a huge impact on pop culture as we know it. As many times as you’ve seen it (I know, countless), it’s always pretty cool. I, like many, absolutely loved it when I was a kid.

Diana Ross | diana

15 06 2010

For some strange reason, I have recently become reacquainted with an album that I only remember from my childhood. It’s Diana Ross’ 11th studio release from 1980, diana. My memories of this record are a little faint but there are two songs in particular that I remember very well and consequently, prompted me to revisit the album. Both songs, you will undoubtedly know as they are some of her biggest solo hits. The first is the original single “Upside Down” and the second is a follow up single, “I’m Coming Out”. The whole album was a huge success for her and Motown Records, selling over 6 million copies and going platinum in just months. “Upside Down” reached as high as #2 and was on the charts for 12 weeks, marking her highest peak performance as a solo artist. “I’m Coming Out”, despite being the fourth single from this album, made it as high as #13 and stayed on the charts for 10 weeks. Since it’s release, diana has sold well over 10 million copies worldwide, an incredible achievement considering the timing of it’s release.

Following the success of 1979’s The Boss, Ross wanted a fresher, more modern sound. Production team Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers of Chic had recently written a whole album’s worth of material with Aretha Franklin in mind. Franklin had however declined the offer and all the songs were subsequently passed on to Ross. The sessions were grueling and there was a lot of tension throughout. After the recording wrapped, Ross received an sneak peak at the resulting work. Reportedly, she was not pleased with its results. Following an advance preview of the record, to be released in the aftermath of the anti-disco backlash, an influential New York City DJ warned Ross it would even be the end of her career. When the master tapes were submitted to Motown in March 1980, a nervous Ross consequently remixed the entire album with the assistance of Motown engineer Russ Terrana. The goal was to tone down the funkier elements of Chic’s playing, removing extended instrumental passages and speeding up the tracks’ tempos to give the her voice a brighter, more youthful sound. The new mix also put Ross’ vocals front and center. The remixing of the master tapes and the re-recording of all Ross’ lead vocals were performed without the knowledge or approval of Rodgers and Edwards. Needless to say, it made for a very awkward record release, with the production team threatening to remove their names from the credits. They even unsuccessfully tried to sue Motown over it.

So, in a post-Supremes, post-Disco world the incredible Diana Ross is still making hits. It’s great material like this that introduced her to a whole new, much younger, audience and helped her establish that iconic persona that will forever live on in music history. She’s the original diva and with tunes like this (in addition to her earlier catalog) she deserves every bit of praise. Other than notables like Marvin Gaye, she’s one of the only Motown artist to take her career into 70’s & 80’s and beyond.

Below are both the singles I referred to above: “Upside Down” and “I’m Coming Out”. Younger audiences will most certainly recognize the latter as the sample for Notorious B.I.G.’s “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems”… a 90’s hip hop classic. It makes sense when you consider the source.


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RIP Gary Coleman

28 05 2010

This may be a little off the traditional music theme but Gary Coleman passed away today at age 42. Coleman was hospitalized this week after falling and hitting his head at his home in Utah.  After slipping in and out of consciousness for the last two days, he was found dead this afternoon. Gary was best known as Arnold Jackson from TV’s Different Strokes. Although he had a bit of a resurgence in recent years, it is the wise cracking young Arnold that people will remember him for. As a tribute, below are two videos…. both of which are quite fitting. One is a a montage of Gary’s trademark line “What you talkin’ ’bout Willis?” and the other is the famous Different Strokes theme song… it’s a classic.

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