Sampler Daze: WB/Reprise Loss Leaders, Part 9

RecordsLikeThis works

If you’ve been with us this long, you already know the Warner Bros./Reprise Loss Leaders series wasn’t about hit records – although the 1970s entries managed to have one or two hit singles on each sampler.  But with the coming of 1975’s I Didn’t Know They Still Made Records Like This, the label rolled out its big guns.  Of the 26 songs included on this two-LP set, six were bonafide Top 20 hits and a few others were FM radio staples.

And another thing about this one – it was aimed squarely at MOR audiences.  Singer/songwriters abound: James Taylor does his No. 5 “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You),” which was actually an old Motown song; Arlo Guthrie does the No. 18 hit “City Of New Orleans,” which was actually written by Steve Goodman; Gordon Lightfoot offers the No. 26 “Rainy Day People,” which was actually written by Gordon Lightfoot.  Add to that Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon” (No. 11), Seals & Croft’s “I’ll Play For You” (No. 18) and the No. 1 smash “Then Came You,” by Dionne Warwick and the Spinners.  “I Can See Clearly Now,” a hit for reggae artist Johnny Nash, pops up here in a version by country singer Rex Allen Jr., the first appearance, I believe, on the Loss Leaders by an artist out of the Nashville stable.

I Didn’t Know… also includes a couple of oldies, Van Morrison’s “Moondance,” from his 1970 album; and “Carey” from Joni Mitchell’s 1971 Blue.  By this time Mitchell had already jumped to Asylum and was having legitimate Top 20 hits over there.  One female singer/songwriter in the Joni Mitchell mold was Wendy Waldman, who got her big break by writing songs for Maria Muldaur.  Waldman put out her first LP on Warner Bros. in 1973; here she offers “Spring Is Here,” accompanying herself on mountain dulcimer.  Waldman went on to become a noted songwriter and producer, she wrote “Save The Best For Last” for Vanessa Williams, “I Owe You One” for Aaron Neville, “Heartbeat” for Don Johnson and “I’m Gone” for Alison Krauss.  Waldman still produces indie artists today, and every once in a while she’ll cut an album; her latest was My Time In The Desert from 2007.

The Works, also from 1975, brings back the rock – with a vengeance.  Foghat cranks “Fool For The City,” while Black Sabbath offers the very weird “Supertzar.”  Fleetwood Mac celebrates its position as the Biggest Rock Band in the World with “World Turning,” and the funkiness factor is supplied by Tower of Power, Al Jarreau and Graham Central Station.

The Meters had just added a new vocalist, little brother Cyril Neville, and they step in with “Fire on the Bayou,” one of their best.  The Meters were New Orleans’ premier instrumentalists, with hits like “Cissy Strut,” but they also worked in the background for hit records like Lee Dorsey’s “Working In the Coal Mine,” Dr. John’s “Right Place, Wrong Time” and Paul McCartney’s “Listen To What the Man Said.”  The Meters – led by keyboardist Art Neville – sort of broke up when the Neville Brothers became a hit act, but they’ve regenerated themselves as the Funky Meters (with a new guitarist and drummer) and as the Original Meters (with the original lineup).

The Works also features the Beach Boys, with their weird, rejected Christmas single “Child Of Winter” (but Warner Bros. saw fit to include it here); Todd Rundgren’s reworking of “Something’s Coming” from West Side Story; and a blast of comedy genius from Richard Pryor, who was the top comedian working in the mid-1970s and early 1980s.  Pryor cut albums for Warner Bros., wrote episodes of “Sanford and Son,” hosted “Saturday Night Live,” helped write Blazing Saddles with Mel Brooks and became a huge movie star himself.  Pryor was married seven times to five different women, battled multiple sclerosis and finally died of a cardiac arrest in 2005.

MP3: “Rainy Day People” by Gordon Lightfoot (from I Didn’t Know They Still Made Records Like This)

MP3: “City Of New Orleans” by Arlo Guthrie (from I Didn’t Know …)

MP3: “Spring Is Here” by Wendy Waldman (from I Didn’t Know …)

MP3: “I Can See Clearly Now” by Rex Allen Jr. (from I Didn’t Know …)

MP3: “Fool For The City” by Foghat (from The Works)

MP3: “Supertzar” by Black Sabbath (from The Works)

MP3: “Child Of Winter” by the Beach Boys (from The Works)

MP3: “Fire On The Bayou” by the Meters (from The Works)

MP3: “Cocaine” by Richard Pryor (from The Works) Editor’s Note: This track is NOT safe for work!

Inside the WB/Reprise Loss Leaders at Dustbury.com

30 Days Out’s series on the WB/Reprise Loss Leaders

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