Archive for Procol Harum

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Johnny Rivers

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , on November 6, 2010 by 30daysout

Going through my sister’s record collection yesterday, I realized that my sister seems to be a step or two behind the so-called “hip” crowd.  Remember when we reviewed the British Invasion bands who got psychedelic in the late 1960s?  It’s like she wasn’t hip enough to latch on to these acts when they were emerging or cutting-edge, she caught ’em on their downslide … know what I mean?

Well, I think that’s pretty cool – we’ve all heard their hits anyway.  So in that spirit, today we will spin Realization, a 1968 psychedelicized concept album from pop-rocker Johnny Rivers.  In the early to mid-1960s Johnny Rivers had a string of Top 40 hits including “Secret Agent Man,” “Poor Side Of Town,” “Seventh Son” and handful others.  He took a number of cover versions to the upper reaches of the pop charts, often outselling the original versions of some of these songs – he hit with Chuck Berry’s “Memphis” in 1964, with Leadbelly’s “Midnight Special” in 1965, Willie Dixon’s “Seventh Son” in ’65 and Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?” also in ’65.

Johnny Rivers dependably rocked the Top 40, but by 1966 he wanted to grow as an artist so he took over production duties on his records and started writing more of his own songs.   Unlike other established artists who wanted to get suddenly freaky in those psychedelic daze, Rivers’ wig-out album was gentle and introspective with keyboards, flutes and strings instead of sitars and fuzz guitars.

And it has just the right blend of originals and well-chosen covers, including his version of “Hey Joe,” which kicks off the album.  Actually Rivers’ “Hey Joe” has its share of Sgt. Pepper-inspired sound effects and electric guitars to begin his song cycle about living in California (I guess).  “Look To Your Soul” is a nice ballad, one of three songs from the album written or co-written by Rivers’ collaborator, James Hendricks (who was a member of the New York group the Mugwumps, which also included future Lovin Spoonful members John Sebastian and Zal Yanovsky, and future Mamas & Papas Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty).  Hendricks and Rivers co-wrote “Something Strange,” and Hendricks alone penned the album’s big hit “Summer Rain.”

Upon its release “Summer Rain” was sort of an instant classic  – it evokes the turbulent era by name-checking the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band while embracing a nostalgic memory of a summer that could be just past or lived long ago.  The song would climb into the Top 20 and was Rivers’ last big hit of the 1960s.

The covers include a killer version of Procol Harum’s “Whiter Shade of Pale,” Bob Dylan’s “Positively 4th Street” and a knockout blue-eyed soul version of “Brother, Where Are You” by Oscar Brown Jr., who was a poet/singer/civil rights activist of the era.  Rivers alone wrote “Going Back To Big Sur,” which evokes the laid-back vibe of the central California coast, where redwoods and rocky cliffs overlook the majestic Pacific Ocean.

Realization was a hit album, and Johnny Rivers kept rockin’ into the 1970s, where he scored more hits like “Rockin’ Pneumoniaand the Boogie Woogie Flu” (1972), and his last Top 10 hit “Swayin’ To the Music” (1977).  Rivers’ cover of Leadbelly became theme song for the popular TV show “Midnight Special,” a rock variety show hosted by Wolfman Jack.  Johnny Rivers continues to play concerts today, and if you go to one of his shows make sure you yell out a request for “Going Back To Big Sur.”

MP3: “Brother, Where Are You”

MP3: “Whiter Shade of Pale”

MP3: “Going Back To Big Sur”

Secret Agent Man – Johnny Rivers official website

YouTube: “Summer Rain” by Johnny Rivers in 1973

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Singles, Part 6

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , , , on September 4, 2010 by 30daysout

When I was a kid, singles were the best way to get into music – that is, music that wasn’t interrupted on the radio by some golden throat in love with his own voice.  I kind of remember having some singles with the price tag still attached to the paper sleeve; those were 50 cents but I more clearly remember paying about 68 cents for a single in the late 1960s-early 1970s.   And the first single I ever bought with my own money?  “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys, in 1966.

OK, here’s an old one: Procol Harum had a giant hit in 1967 with “A Whiter Shade of Pale” and they followed it up the same year with “Homburg,” a song that not coincidentally sounded a lot like its predecessor.  The followup did reasonably well, and although neither “Whiter Shade” nor “Homburg” were originally on the British version of Procol Harum’s first album (“Whiter Shade” was included on the U.S. version), they now appear on the CD release.

MP3: “Homburg” by Procol Harum

Jumping into the 1970s, we encounter the singer-songwriter duo Brewer and Shipley.  Mike Brewer and Tom Shipley are perhaps best known for “One Toke Over The Line” from their 1970 album Tarkio, but they had a handful of followup hits including “Shake Off The Demon,” the title tune from their 1971 album.

MP3: “Shake Off The Demon” by Brewer & Shipley

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Classic Rockers – Fall 2008 edition

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on October 24, 2008 by 30daysout


Way back in 1978, the Grateful Dead had this hare-brained (drug-fueled) idea that if they played near the Great Pyramids in Egypt during a total eclipse of the moon and wired up one of the ancient burial rooms as an echo chamber then … something cosmic would happen.  It didn’t, and now you can hear the proof for yourself.  Rocking The Cradle: Egypt 1978, a three-disc set (2 CDs, 1 DVD), is a record of a lackluster concert with few highlights – “Fire On The Mountain” has a little more energy than most of the stuff here, possibly because it was a fairly new song at the time.  For Deadheads only; especially the awful home-movie DVD.

MP3: “Fire On The Mountain” (live) by the Grateful Dead

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