Song of the Week – C’mon & Medley: Hard Luck / Child’s Claim to Fame / Pickin’ up the Pieces, Poco


Before Eagles. Before New Riders of the Purple Sage. Before Pure Prairie League. Before Nitty Gritty Dirt Band,,, there was Poco.

OK, it might be going a little too far to claim Poco invented country rock – but it’s not too far off. Gram Parsons and the Byrds released Sweetheart of the Rodeo about 6 months before Poco’s first album. Dylan and The Band were in Americana territory earlier too. But rock and roll was a combination of R&B and country, so you can go back to the Everly Brothers if you want to go back to the roots — or, perhaps, even farther back to Hank Williams.

But that’s all theoretical BS. Today’s post is about Poco.

I was introduced to Poco by my big brother. At the time, Crosby, Stills & Nash were a top act and led my young mind to carefully read liner notes to learn more about group ancestry.

Poco rose out of the ashes of Buffalo Springfield. Richie Furay and Jim Messina formed the group after the Springfield fell apart due to creative differences between the main creative team of Stephen Stills and Neil Young.

My favorite Poco album was their third – the live DeLIVErin’ (1971). Deliverin’ is not only one of my favorite Poco albums, it’s also one of my favorite live albums – and that’s not hyperbole.

“C’mon” is a country rocker!

The disc also has a couple of great medleys, one of the band’s live show trademarks. I love to sing along to “Medley: Hard Luck / Child’s Claim to Fame / Pickin’ up the Pieces.”

One of the things that always grabbed me about Poco, and Deliverin’ in particular, is the positive attitude of this music. It is optimistic. It is simply joyous!

Poco was one of the first bands I ever saw in concert. It was at SUNY New Paltz, but sadly, after both Furay and Messina had left. But it was still a great show.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Total Entertainment Forever, Father John Misty


Each December I take the time to do an exhaustive review of the new music I listened to throughout the year – I compile my own, private “best of the year” list. I also read as many other lists as I can to discover more critically acclaimed albums that I may have missed.

By the time I get to this point in the New Year, I’ve fully processed my favorite recordings from the prior year.

One album that I missed upon release but turned out to be one that floated up to the top for me was Father John Misty’s third release, Pure Comedy. Father John Misty, aka Josh Tillman, was the drummer/backing vocalist in Fleet Foxes from 2008 until early 2012. By May 2012, Tillman had released his first solo album under the Father John Misty pseudonym.

The SotW is “Total Entertainment Forever.”

The song opens with the provocative lyric:

Bedding Taylor Swift, every night inside the Oculus Rift
After mister and the missus, finish dinner and the dishes

To Tillman, this is a commentary on “progress.” He was quoted in an interview with Exclaim! as saying “…if you don’t think that this virtual reality thing isn’t going to turn into sex with celebrities, then you’re kidding yourself.” This is indie rock for thinking people… and one of the best albums of 2017.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Ball of Confusion, The Temptations


I’m very conscious of saturating the SotW with the same artists. Even mainstays such as The Beatles, Stones, Dylan or Led Zeppelin have only been featured three or four times each over the 10 years I’ve been working on this project. So it feels a little funny to be writing about The Temptations for the second time in three weeks!

But right after I posted “I Wish It Would Rain” on February 10th, I learned that the Temps singer Dennis Edwards had died on February 1st at the age of 74 – just two days before his 75th birthday.

Although he was not one of the original members of the group, he was one of the lead singers on many of their late ‘60s/early’70s “psychedelic” period hits including “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” (Edwards has the line “It was the third of September…”), “Cloud Nine” (lead), and “Psychedelic Shack.”

Edwards was long a part of the Motown family, taking the lead on The Contours’ 1962 hit “Do You Love Me.” It was later made popular with a new generation when it was featured in the movie Dirty Dancing (1987).

Edwards had the unenviable position of replacing the popular David Ruffin when he was kicked out The Temptations in 1968. Edwards often had to endure audiences calling out “Where’s David?” The task was made more difficult because Ruffin was known to occasionally show up at Temptations gigs and disrupt Edwards’ performances – trying to take back the spotlight he once commanded.

Despite this difficult task, Edwards was an important contributor during a very successful period for the group. Beside the songs mentioned above, he also sang lead or key parts in more hits like “Shakey Ground,” “I Can’t Get Next to You,” and today’s SotW, “Ball of Confusion.”

“Ball of Confusion” reached #3 on the Billboard pop chart in 1970. It’s another example of soul/funk music moving into more socially conscious lyrics – a trend begun by Marvin Gaye and Sly & the Family Stone.

All of the songs mentioned in today’s post are worthy of being the SotW. So get onto Spotify or YouTube and check them all out,

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Never Met a Dog…, Vinegar Joe


As a record collector, I always get a kick out of finding an album that has early, obscure recordings by an artist that went onto much greater stardom later in his/her career.

One such album was by the early ‘70s British R&B band, Vinegar Joe. Vinegar Joe had two singers that left the group to launch successful solo careers. One, Elkie Brooks, had moderate success. The other, Robert Palmer, became an international superstar.

Vinegar Joe (I assume named after the prickly US WWII general, Joseph “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell) was only able to stay together for less than 4 years. In that time, they recorded three pretty good albums. (Unfortunately, I don’t have any of them in my record collection!) Today’s SotW is “Never Met a Dog (That Took to Me)” from the band’s self-titled debut. Vinegar Joe (1972) had a great cover too.

“Never Met a Dog…” was written and sung by Palmer. It is very typical of the “pub rock” genre of the early to mid ‘70s, popular in the UK. Palmer takes the lead but Brooks adds some nice harmony vocals. And it has a solid sax break about mid-way through.

I never saw the band but they were reputed to give great live performances. Although the records are pretty good, their fans often complained that they were never able to capture the energy of their live shows in the recording studio. That’s a shame! But there are an unusually large number of live videos available to see on YouTube, especially considering the technological limitations during the years the band was around.

So, if like me, you like to check out music of artists “before they were great,” listen to the songs of Vinegar Joe.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Down in the Tube Station at Midnight, The Jam


Back in late 1977, The Jam finished their second album, This Is the Modern World, and quickly left the UK for their first US tour. It was going to be a quick but important tour, covering six shows over nine days. It started with a west coast swing at the Whisky A Go Go in LA and San Francisco, then went east to Boston (The Rat) and NY (CBGB’s).

The tour was widely considered a disaster. Bandleader Paul Weller was homesick for London so his heart wasn’t into it. (Plus, the 19 year old was pissed that he wasn’t able to drink in the bars he was playing like he could in England where the drinking age was younger.) Equipment problems in SF caused them to cancel a show that was intended to be a major showcase for music industry bigwigs.

I was lucky enough to see the Boston show on October 13, 1977, as a guest of Polydor Records. (I was a DJ at WZBC at the time.) I remember meeting a guy who introduced himself to me as “Mark Parenteau of WCOZ.” I innocently asked him if he was “on air.” He replied “I do the fucking afternoon drive.” I didn’t mean to insult him but how would I know? I didn’t listen to commercial radio at the time. Mark went on to a long and illustrious career at COZ and WBCN but died at 66 years old in mid-2016.

But let’s get back to The Jam.

This Is the Modern World is a decent album but was considered a typical sophomore slump for the band upon release. The awful US tour and disappointing reception for This Is the Modern World was incentive for Weller to dig deeper and come up with better material. He answered the call and returned to form on their third release – All Mod Cons (1978). It is often considered the best album in the Jam’s strong catalog. Chris Woodstra of All Music wrote “Terms like ‘classic’ are often bandied about but in the case of All Mod Cons, it is certainly deserved.” MOJO wrote it “… still stands as The Jam’s finest hour.”

Its best song was “Down in the Tube Station at Midnight.”

The song tells the story of a guy who gets into an altercation with a gang in the London subway. They beat the crap out of him, leave him semi-conscious and take his money and the keys to his house. As he lies there he begins to worry about the safety of his wife, waiting for him at home.

The last thing that I saw as I lay there on the floor
Was “Jesus saves” painted by an atheist nutter
And a British rail poster read “have an away day, a cheap holiday, do it today”
I glanced back on my life, and thought about my wife
‘Cause they took the keys, and she’ll think it’s me
I’m down in the tube station at midnight

Tough stuff!

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week Revisited – Rocket Man, Pearls Before Swine & The Man in the Moon, Grinderman


I recently learned that Tom Rapp, a psych-folk innovator and the creative force behind Pearls Before Swine, has died after a long bout with cancer. This news has prompted me to pay him tribute by revisiting a SotW posting I originally distributed on April 4, 2009. You can read his full obituary here:

Back in the late 60s/early 70s, Tom Rapp recorded several fine “psychedelic folk” albums with his band Pearls Before Swine. His finest was The Use of Ashes (1970). This album was recorded in Nashville with some of the same session men (Charlie McCoy & Kenny Buttrey) used by Bob Dylan on Nashville Skyline and John Wesley Harding.

That album’s “Rocket Man” (not to be confused with the Elton John/Bernie Taupin song used in a recent episode of My Name Is Earl) is my favorite and this week’s song. The lyrics were inspired by Ray Bradbury’s “The Illustrated Man” and tell the story of a son’s astronaut father that dies in space:

My father was a rocket man
He often went to Jupiter or Mercury, to Venus or to Mars
My mother and I would watch the sky
And wonder if a falling star
Was a ship becoming ashes with a rocket man inside

I was first turned onto Rapp and Pearls by my brother and his college buddies (they were big in Boston). A couple of years ago my buddy Joe M. (the drummer in San Diego’s Pink Floyd tribute band) revived my interest in these records when he let me borrow a boxed set he picked up. It wasn’t until this more current listening that I picked up on Rapp’s Carol Channingesque lisp. How did I miss it all the times I listened to this song/album in the 70s?

If you get a chance, listen to “The Jeweler” from the same album. It’s truly a gem. (Sorry!)

I was recently reading a MOJO article on Nick Cave and learned that his Grinderman song “The Man in the Moon” has a very similar feel and lyrical content, so I have to include that as a second song of the week.

My daddy was an astronaut
That’s what I was often taught
My daddy went away too soon
Now he’s living on the moon

Hang on to me people, we’re going down
Down among the fishes in an absence of sound
It’s the presence of distance and it’s floating in time
It’s lack and it’s longing and it’s not very kind

Sitting here scratching in this rented room
Scratching and a tapping to the man in the moon
About all the things that I’ve been taught
My daddy was an astronaut

They’re perfect bookends.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – I Wish it Would Rain, The Temptations


This weekend marks the 10 year anniversary for the SotW. Wow, over 500 postings (almost 700 songs) without ever missing a week. Thank you all for your feedback and encouragement.

It also marks the 50th anniversary of an important milestone in my life as a music lover. You see, 50 years ago this week my parents threw a party for my 12th birthday at the roller skating rink they owned and operated. I invited my entire 6th grade class which was about 40 kids. (Yes, we had large class sizes at the parochial school I attended.)

Many of my classmates gifted me records, supporting my growing interest in music. The records I received were on the Top 40 of New York’s 77 – WABC, the most popular station of the day. The link below is to the survey of what was hot that week:

77 WABC Music Survey, Ferruary 13, 2018

I had almost all of the Top 20 records and I’ll select one for today’s SotW. Coming in at #8 that week was “I Wish it Would Rain” by the Temptations.

“… Rain” features another outstanding, plaintive vocal by the great but flawed David Ruffin. The music, fitting for the sentiment of the song, is supplied by Motown’s house band, The Funk Brothers.

The lyrics were written by Roger Penzabene after discovering that his wife was cheating on him.

Sunshine, blue skies, please go away
A girl has found another and gone away
With her went my future, my life is filled with gloom
So day after day I stay locked up in my room
I know to you, it might sound strange
But I wish it would rain, oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

‘Cause so badly I wanna go outside (such a lovely day)
But everyone knows that a man ain’t supposed to cry
Listen, I gotta cry ’cause crying eases the pain, oh yeah
People this hurt I feel inside
Words could never explain,
I just wish it would rain, oh let it rain, rain, rain, rain, ooo baby

Day in day out my tear-stained face
Pressed against the window pane
My eyes search the skies desperately for rain
‘Cause rain drops will hide my tear drops
And no one will ever know that I’m crying
Crying when I go outside
To the world outside my tears
I refuse to explain, ooo I wish it would rain, ooh, baby

Let it rain, let it rain
I need rain to disguise the tears in my eyes
Oh, let it rain
Oh yeah, yeah, listen
I’m a man and I got my pride
‘Til it rains I’m gonna stay inside, let it rain

Can you feel his pain!?! It turns out Penzabene was hurting so bad that he took his own life in desperation on New Year’s Eve 1967, a week after the single was released. Damn!

The song has been covered by many singers, most of them soul artists. To my ear, the most interesting cover was by the Faces with Rod Stewart taking the lead vocal. It’s worth checking out if you’ve never heard it.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Moonlight Mile, Rolling Stones & Blue, Jayhawks


A “rock death” escaped me at the end of 2017. On November 7th, Paul Buckmaster passed away at the age of 71. As yet, the cause of death has still not been disclosed.

I first became aware of Buckmaster’s work through the liner notes for Elton John’s string of six outstanding albums from Elton John (1970) through Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973). Throughout his career, Buckmaster arranged 52 songs for John.

But he did so much more than that. He arranged the strings on David Bowie’s first breakthrough hit, “Space Oddity.” He worked on other mega hits in the early 70s including Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” and Nilsson’s “Without You.” He sweetened the Grateful Dead’s “Terrapin Station” and played cello for Miles Davis. (Davis credited Buckmaster with introducing him to the work of 20th century, avant garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen.

He also made his mark on the last minute of “Sway” from the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers. But his work on that album’s “Moonlight Mile” is more noteworthy.

Mick Jagger worked with Mick Taylor on this song as Keith Richards was MIA. It was Taylor’s idea to ask Buckmaster to gin up a string arrangement for the song. Taylor expected (some would say promised) a song credit for his contributions. But upon release the credit went to the Jagger/Richards team.

Buckmaster continued to work with pop and country artist and in the mid ‘90s he contributed to “Blue” by the Jayhawks.

The songs most prominent feature is its soaring harmonies. But Buckmaster adds a subtle string arrangement that perfectly complements the emotion of the song.

Before his passing, Buckmaster worked with everyone from Counting Crows to Train, Heart to Guns N’ Roses, Carrie Underwood to Taylor Swift, Something Corporate to New Found Glory (and plenty more). His legacy will live for generations!

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Ditty Wah Ditty, Ry Cooder (w/ Earl “Fatha” Hines) & Weather Bird, Louis Armstrong w/ Earl “Fatha” Hines


The first time I was introduced to jazz great Earl “Fatha” Hines was when my cousin Tom V. (an excellent guitarist and contribution to SotW) played Ry Cooder’s recording of “Ditty Wah Ditty” from the album Paradise and Lunch (1974) for me. This is a version of the Blind Blake composition, not the song by Willie Dixon and Bo Diddley that shares the same title (although many spelling variations exist). Hines duets with Cooder on this track.

Hines was over 70 years old when “Ditty Wah Ditty” was released. Still, his playing was impeccable. His improvisational runs and glissandos are a thing of beauty.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also give you something to listen to from Hines’ early, influential recordings with Louis Armstrong from the late 1920s. My selection is “Weather Bird.”

The liner notes to The Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz call “Weather Bird” a “mounting, unencumbered duet… the fullest statement on record of the encounter of the trumpeter (Armstrong) and pianist Earl Hines.”

Hines’ duets with Armstrong are cited as some of the most important jazz recordings ever pressed. Hines is credited with inventing the piano style known as the trumpet-style. Its main characteristic is a right hand that plays chords that were typical of horn sections of the day. Hines was a major influence on Art Tatum, another pianist that many jazz aficionados consider one of the greatest ever.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Epistle to Dippy & Barabajagal, Donovan


My appreciation for the music of Donovan (Leitch) has been somewhat of a roller coaster ride.

When I was a kid I was captivated by some of the early hits by Donovan (Leitch). “Sunshine Superman” reached #1 and “Mellow Yellow” came close, stopping at #2, both in 1966.

As my taste in music became more mature, I looked back on those hits as novelties and moved on. That caused me to ignore future hits like “Hurdy Gurdy Man” (a weak Dylan rip off) and “Atlantis.”

But several years later I learned that he wrote a Judy Collins song I liked, “Sunny Goodge Street,” and “Season of the Witch” that was the highlight of the Kooper/Stills/Bloomfield Super Session album.

More importantly, I learned that Donovan went with the Beatles (my heroes) to Rishikesh, India in 1968. While there he taught Lennon and McCartney a finger picking guitar style that they soon employed on several White Album songs, like “Dear Prudence,” “Julia,” “Mother Nature’s Son” and the lovely evergreen “Blackbird.” That earned him some mega cred in my book.

So I did more digging and discovered this credibility and respect carried over to a long list of rock royalty… which brings me to the SotW.

“Epistle to Dippy” features Jimmy Page on guitar. Actually, Page played on numerous Donovan songs including the aforementioned “Season of the Witch” and “Sunshine Superman.”

This track “only” reached #19 in the US. The lyrics of “Epistle…” are written in the form of a letter to a friend that joined the army. In subsequent interviews Donovan has shared that he hoped is friend Dippy would hear the song and contact him. He also claims to have “bought” Dippy out of his service enlistment, apparently something you could do in England back then.

In 2008 the ithinkihatemy45s blog wrote:

The non-LP “Epistle to Dippy” is one of the best from this period, a lysergic, almost Barrett-esque single with sproingy guitars, sawing cellos, and a harpsichord break. Even though some of the lyrics are, uh, dated (“Look on yonder misty mountain / See the young monk meditating,” “Elevator in the brain hotel,” etc.), give it a pass for its great arrangement, great spaced-out vocal, and great melody; this is easily in the same league as killers “Hurdy Gurdy Man” and “Sunshine Superman.” Donovan’s psychedelic pop – “Dippy” in particular – seems to be the reference point for the Rolling Stones’ strange attempts at the form in 1967: “Dandelion” and “We Love You” take more from records such as this one than they do any, say, Beatles disc.

Another great Donovan song is the title track from the album Barabajagal (1969).

On this one, Donovan is backed by the Jeff Beck Group – including Beck (guitar) Ron Wood (bass) and Nicky Hopkins (keys). They rock out while at the same time giving the cut a jazzy feel. The blue chip trio of woman background singers — Lesley Duncan, Madeline Bell and Suzi Quatro – adds a special spark to the recording.

The lyrics are incomprehensible – mostly nonsense syllables – but fun to sing and listen to.

So I vote that you take Donovan seriously (if you don’t already) and give his back catalog a listen. You won’t be disappointed!

Enjoy… until next week.