Today’s SotW is another installment of the “evolution series.” The featured song is “I Can’t Let Go” that was written by Al Gorgoni and Chip Taylor. (Not to be confused with the great Lucinda Williams tune with a similar title.) Gorgoni was a NY based session guitarist that played on hits for everyone from the Four Seasons to The Shangri-Las to The Monkees and Van Morrison (and more). Taylor is most famous for also writing “Wild Thing” and “Angel of the Morning,” an odd combination, I know! He’s also lesser known as the brother of Jon Voight (and uncle to Angelina Jolie).
The original version was released in 1965 by a 19 year old Evie Sands but didn’t receive much airplay outside of her home base of NYC. It was a bigger hit by the artists that recorded and released it after her.
Poor Evie Sands was star-crossed. She released a cut of “Angel of the Morning” as a follow up to “I Can’t Let Go.” It was initially popular but sunk like the Titanic when her record company (Cameo-Parkway) filed for bankruptcy. Merrilee Rush “rushed” out her own version a few months later that made it into the Top 10!
The Hollies released their 1966 recording that topped off at #46 on the charts in the US.
The Hollies always had the uncanny ability to recognize a good song and put their own twist onto it by giving it a British beat feel with soaring harmonies. This is the best version and one of my favorite tracks by the Hollies.
Linda Ronstadt reached #31 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1980 with the rendition she released on her Mad Love album.
A few weeks ago I took a mild swipe at Ronstadt, so I’m making amends today. This is a fine recording – well sung, well played and well produced. My only gripe would be that it so closely follows the Hollies arrangement.
All in all, it’s a strong cup of blue eyed soul in all three styles.
It’s been a very busy 12 months for Linda Ronstadt. Last summer she revealed she had Parkinson’s disease and is already unable to sing due to its effect. A few months later she began to promote her autobiography, Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir, granting a substantial number of media interviews. Oh, and did I mention she was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame this year.
Then just this week, President Obama awarded her a National Medal of Arts and Humanities. At the ceremony, the President said “I told Linda Ronstadt I had a crush on her back in the day.”
Today’s SotW is a Ronstadt song that you all may know, but one that I only recently discovered this year. “I Won’t Be Hangin’ Round” is my new favorite. It’s from her 1972, third solo album titled simply Linda Ronstadt (which I have a copy of) but I only really “heard” it for the first time on a various artist record called Country Soul Sisters. I’ve since learned it’s also on another compilation disc called Delta Swamp Rock Sounds From The South: At The Crossroads Of Rock, Country And Soul.
“I Won’t Be Hangin’ Round” was written by Eric Kaz who also wrote a couple of my favorite Bonnie Raitt songs (that Ronstadt also recorded) – “Cry Like A Rainstorm” and “Love Has No Pride” – among many others.
Ronstadt was fond of covering soul hits on her albums. “Heatwave”, “Just One Look” and “Rescue Me” come to mind. But even though she belted them out with credibility, she still sounded like a white girl singing soul covers. On “I Won’t Be Hangin’ Round” Ronstadt attains a truly soulful performance. The gospel infused background vocals provided by Merry Clayton, Diane Davidson and Miss Ona lend some authenticity to the sound, but it would be unfair to Ronstadt to imply that’s the only reason the performance works. She nails it.
The recording also benefits from the support of the Muscle Shoals house band including Barry Beckett on keys, Weldon Myrick on slide guitar and Roger Hawkins on drums. Those boys know a little bit about soul music.