Cher, ‘Take Me Home’ (‘Record World’ magazine, March 31, 1979). Click to enlarge.
“How can you refuse?”
Cher’s “Take Me Home” appeared on the LP of the same name in January of 1979. The song, written by Michele Aller and record producer Bob Esty, ably rode the disco wave of the times grabbing #8 on the US Hot 100.
Catch an eyeful of the official 1979 video below with scenes shot in LA’s famed Bradbury Building.
Protip: If you ever get up at 6am to greet the dawn while writing a blog post, start your morning with Ramsey Lewis’ glorious (if ungrammatical) “Les Fleur.” Lewis’ tinkling piano enters as if excited for the day’s possibility, and the big chorus comes on as bold as the sun blazing over the horizon. Years ago my Chicago-born friend Mark Kadlec turned me onto this song, having used it in a student film, and he’s far from its only fan. Ramsey’s dreamy, dramatic cut was quickly covered by Minnie Riperton and a few decades later by British electronica ensemble 4 Hero; Ramsey’s original was sampled by beloved hip hop duo Gang Starr.
About half of this fine 1970 8-track (and LP) are gentle, atmospheric pop instrumentals like “Les Fleur,” many written, arranged, and/or produced by Chicago legend Charles Stepney. (Stepney formed the acid-soul combo Rotary Connection and produced The Dells and The Soulful Strings as well as Marlena Shaw’s stunning “California Soul.”) Other highlights in this cinematic style are Ramsey’s take on Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage,” his funky version of the Beatles’ “Julia,” and his trippy “Jade East.” (The latter, which spans a program break on the 8-track, is written and produced by another Chicago genius, Richard Evans.) (Article continues after song…)
Ramsey Lewis: ‘Les Fleur(s)’ (1968)
The rest of the songs here are earlier, bigger hits in Ramsey’s “soul party” style. In the mid-60s, the Chicago soul-jazz pianist struck upon a winning formula: pick a current hit song, play it as a fast, lively instrumental with his talented drummer and bass player, record it live with crowd cheers and handclaps, and chalk up another chart record. This started with the surprise hit version of “The In Crowd” and carried through festive, rockin’ takes on “Hang On Sloopy,” “Wade in the Water,” and “Dancing in the Street,” mostly credited to the Ramsey Lewis Trio. (Lewis’ soul-party style actually gave birth to a related act; his drum and bass player from “The In Crowd” split off to form their own combo with a new pianist. Young-Holt Trio, later Young-Holt Unlimited, would have Ramsey-ish hits with “Wack Wack” and “Soulful Strut.”)
To my mind Lewis is greatly underrated, probably because he makes it look too easy. Lewis’ performances seem so joyous and effortless that they hardly sound like work, and we seem to revere the artists that suffer greatly and die young. The apparently un-tortured Lewis kept releasing music for decades after this fine 8-track, including a smash hit album in 1974. The LP Sun Goddess was a collaboration between Lewis, Charles Stepney, and Lewis’ 60s drummer, a guy named Maurice White who had just founded a little group called Earth, Wind & Fire.
I’m happy to report that at this writing Lewis is alive at 82; Wikipedia assures us that he “still lives in Chicago, the city of his musical roots, with “seven children, fourteen grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.” His immediate offspring are apparently shown on the cover of this sweet-sounding 8-track, which nicely interpolates the mood pieces and party jams. So let’s toast family-man Ramsey by pouring some coffee, putting on “Les Fleur,” and grooving to some effortless genius.
A David Byrne Return
Talking Heads’ mastermind David Byrne releases his first album in 14 years on March 9. American Utopia features songs such as “Gasoline And Dirty Sheets,” “Everybody’s Coming to My House,” and “Every Day Is A Miracle” and collaborative work with longtime musical partner Brian Eno. If you hop over to NPR post haste you can stream the full LP.
“The music is intense, it’s playful and quite memorable. American Utopia takes vignettes from day-to-day life, magnifies them and lays them out for us to rethink how we see the world.”
Pioneering all-female rock band Fanny have returned with their first new music in 43 years, Fanny Walked The Earth, releasing today.
The group was the first all-female rock ensemble to release a major label album and fans and collaborators included David Bowie and Barbra Streisand. Read up on these fascinating trail-blazers and catch a classic performance below.
The Guardianreports: “Fifty years ago, when June Millington and her sister Jean formed the all-female rock band Fanny, they felt like they were living a secret. ‘As a girl, you couldn’t tell anyone ‘I’m in a band,’’ June Millington recalled. ‘You might as well say ‘I’m flying to the moon.’ It just wasn’t in the realm of experience. We had to create our own frame – and then step into it.'”
TALKING HEADS, MORE SONGS ABOUT BUILDINGS AND FOOD (1978)
Visiting friends in Denver last fall, I set out to find some 8-tracks and actually succeeded. In a corner of the damp and smelly basement of a store called Angelo’s, I found tons of mostly terrible 8-tracks. Inside a nearby cardboard box, though, I found better tapes no one else had looked through, including this Talking Heads tape, which I knew was worth a few bucks. But how much would they charge me since it wasn’t priced? I went upstairs nervously with six tapes. The cashier asked me for six bucks plus tax—then hesitated, looking through the stack once more. Here we go, I thought. “These are buy five, get one free, so it’s only five bucks plus tax,” he said. Works for me!
Only afterwards did I realize this wasn’t the official Warner Bros/Sire release of the album but a copy issued by the mail-order RCA Record Club. Most “club carts” keep the same song running order as the label’s own 8-track versions, but this one doesn’t; it also interrupts two songs with program changes (the original tape has no such breaks). Upon listening, this is actually a better version because it better preserves the storyline of the original vinyl LP.
To me the album’s lyrics suggest a narrative thread, a story of romance, heartbreak, and art-making. This could be the tale of a Midwestern couple meeting at a cowboy bar (“Thank You For Sending Me An Angel”), falling in love (“With Our Love,” “The Good Thing”), and experiencing the usual fights and separations (“Warning Sign,” “The Girls Want To Be With The Girls”). Unexpectedly, the duo finds peace in making art together (“Found A Job”) and moves to the big city. They remain a couple but drift apart (“Artists Only,” “I’m Not In Love”) and fall prey to the decadence of the art scene (“Stay Hungry,” “Take Me To The River”). Flying from one coast to another, the jaded pair looks with distaste at the common folk below (“The Big Country”). Yet even as the artsy snobs soar overhead, another Midwestern couple is meeting at another cowboy bar below to start the cycle all over again. (Even if you don’t buy my storyline — and you really shouldn’t — the album’s mood still progresses from optimistic to cynical.)
The Warner/Sire tape maintains most of the LP sequence but throws some later disillusionment songs into the early idealism, really wrecking the flow imho. The RCA cartridge preserves the LP narrative a little better, maintaining the order of the first five songs, then jumping ahead to the “Big Country” plane ride. The RCA version’s back end is jumbled a bit, but it ends on “Found A Job,” kind of a cool message to leave the listening audience with: if you don’t like our art, make your own. I also like that this very hip album (the first of the Heads’ three collaborations with producer Brian Eno) was made available via mail order to folks in unhip small towns, so smitten young couples could rock out to the artsy 8-track while heading home from the cowboy bar…
Bobby Darin, ‘Happy’ (‘Cash Box’ magazine, February 10, 1973). Click to enlarge.
“Watch ‘The Bobby Darin Show’ every Friday night at 10 PM on NBC.”
Bobby Darin’s “Happy (Love Theme From Lady Sings The Blues)” single released via Motown at the tail end of 1972. The song, written by Michael Legrand and Smokey Robinson, was Darin’s last chart hit, grabbing #67 on the US Hot 100 in 1973.
Bobby Darin died December 20, 1973 at the young age of 37.
The easy-listening song, written by Sedaka and Phil Cody, went all the way to #1 on the US Hot 100 and hit #15 in the UK. Catch a Seventies-era performance video below. You know, I never thought about it before, but hearing laughter in the rain could be kind of creepy. Brrr!