Archive for James Taylor

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: The Isley Brothers

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , , on May 30, 2011 by 30daysout

So much has gone under the bridge that we’ve all but forgotten that era when racial lines were not obliterated but smudged in such a way that it was a little tough to find the line between black and white. By the early 1970s we had been through the civil rights upheaval and the backlash that made martyrs out of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others. It was like that refreshing period following a good hard rain … we were all open to checking out each other’s culture a bit.

The Isley Brothers were a huge act throughout the 1960s – their first million seller came in 1959 with “Shout.” They served a stint at Motown and in 1969 the Isleys created their own record label, T-Neck Records. In 1971 the Isleys put out the album we’re going to spin today, Givin’ It Back, on T-Neck. For more than a decade, white/mainstream pop artists scored their own successes with versions of Isley Brothers’ songs (Joey Dee & the Starlighters hit with their own version of “Shout;” and there’s that version of “Twist and Shout” by some guys from Liverpool) so the Isleys decided to “give it back” by cutting their own versions of songs by then-current rock and pop artists.

The LP starts off with a sizzling version of Neil Young’s “Ohio” fused with Jimi Hendrix’s “Machine Gun.” The song speaks not only to the Kent State campus killings of 1970 but the less publicized incident 10 days later at Jackson State University in Mississippi, where two black students were killed and a dozen more were injured by police trying to stop a demonstration. The song was a reminder that the times were still angry and deep divisions still remained in this country. The Isleys’ prayer in the middle of these two angry songs suggests that cooler heads were out there, begging to be listened to. This is a powerful way to start off the album, and it’s easily the best cut.

Next up the Isleys give a new setting to James Taylor’s singer/songwriter warhorse, “Fire and Rain.” The Isleys charge it up with a tangible urgency, as they do with Eric Burdon and War’s “Spill The Wine.” Even better is the Isleys’ soulful reading of Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay,” giving it a sexual tension and soul that its writer could never hope to pull off.

“Cold Bologna” is a funky blues that even features its writer, Bill Withers, on guitar. The Isleys were good for giving young writers a showcase, and here’s a good example with Withers, who would soon come into his own with songs like “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Lean On Me.” Stephen Stills also gets the Isley cover treatment on two songs, “Nothin’ To Do But Today” and “Love The One You’re With.” The former is the weakest song on the album but the latter is a highlight, as the Isleys inject a little soul and extra rhythm into the proceedings. Consider this a worthy companion to Marvin Gaye’s better-known masterpiece from 1971, What’s Going On.

MP3: “Ohio/Machine Gun”

MP3: “Lay Lady Lay”

MP3: “Spill The Wine”

MP3: “Love The One You’re With”

Review: For the Ladies

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2010 by 30daysout

Get over it, football’s over and there’s no baseball for a while.  Do you really follow basketball?  Didn’t think so.  Prepare yourselves – Valentine’s Day is Sunday, and you already know this entire weekend is going to belong to the ladies.  And so will this batch of reviews.  Think of it as a favor: if you’re stuck for a little Valentine’s gift, you can always pick up one of these new CDs.

Between her highly successful eponymous 2006 debut album and its followup The Sea, Corinne Bailey Rae experienced the loss of her husband, who died of an overdose in 2008.   “Are You Here,” the first song on The Sea, comes face to face with her grief and then the singer begins to move on with the surprisingly rocking “The Blackest Lily” (featuring the Roots’ ?uestlove on drums).   Although there’s a melancholy thread winding through the songs, The Sea sounds like Corinne Bailey Rae is ready to take her music to a new level.

MP3: “The Blackest Lily’ by Corinne Bailey Rae

Sade also took a break between albums – in her case, it was about 10 years.  Soldier Of Love is less a comeback than a continuation, as the Nigerian-born singer picks up right where she left off.  Listening to Sade conjures a lazy afternoon on a sunny tropical beach, and the singer spins her slow-burning sensuality on standout tunes like “The Moon and the Sky” and “Morning Bird.”  Her songs often convey a feeling of longing and a hint of mystery, all wrapped in arrangements smoother than silk lingerie.

MP3: “Morning Bird” by Sade

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Sampler Daze: WB/Reprise Loss Leaders, Part 4

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 6, 2009 by 30daysout

wholeburbankcatalogue middleroad

By 1972, the world was still rockin’ in a sort of Sixties-era hangover: newly freaky 18-year-olds had been given the right to vote for the first time (only fair, since they were long qualified to be drafted into the military), and men were still walking on the moon way up there.  Warner/Reprise issued a whopping four – count ’em – 2-disc sets in 1972, so for brevity’s sake we’ll break ’em up here.

The Whole Burbank Catalog showcased the variety of the label’s stable: rockers like Jethro Tull and Alice Cooper were mixed in with Jerry Garcia, Jackie Lomax and Bonnie Raitt.  T. Rex and Faces would spotlight their best albums with “Bang A Gong (Get It On)” and “Memphis,” respectively.  Cuts from old radio shows were interspersed with the music, to really make it sound like a free-form FM radio show – that technique is still in use today.   A new group making their first appearance in the Loss Leaders series was the trio America, represented by “Sandman,” a deep cut from their first LP.  That album would of course yield the big hits “Horse With No Name” and “I Need You,” and was the springboard for a long career.  It would take another album for the Texas-born duo of Seals & Crofts to hit it big – here they offer “Sudan Village,” a cut from their first album.  They’d cash in later in the year with the title song from their next album: Summer Breeze.

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