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personal heroes #9

gerry rafferty part 3       

baker street/ city to city
Gerry, Carla and their daughter Martha had moved into a house in Edward Street, Glasgow. Rafferty’s home studio was right above Martha’s bedroom in the attic and she would lay there listening to her dad working through the songs for his next album. “To start with, his singing kept me awake, but pretty soon I couldn’t sleep without it,” she said in 2011. At first he only had part of the refrain that he honed down, developed and gradually added to, once he had enough of the tune only then did he begin to write the lyrics. At that time he had no idea that ‘Baker Street’ would be the huge international hit that it became. During the three years after the break up of Stealers Wheel in 1975, Rafferty spent long periods of time travelling down to London and back, kicking his heels in lawyers offices trying to disentangle the wranglings that gagged him and prevented the release of any new recordings. But these experiences did provide the momentum for him to create the dozen or so great songs, ten of which would soon launch him worldwide as an exciting new solo talent and a very successful singer/ songwriter.

Baker

The superb album that finally emerged from this unsettled period was City To City, his debut for United Artists records in 1978. First track on the album ‘The Ark’ is a folksy intro that embraces Rafferty’s Celtic roots. Of this song Gerry said “I had a melody for ‘The Ark’ way back when I was doing Can I Have My Money Back and I tried to finish it then but could never get the bridge for it. But I liked the melody so much – and the best melodies stay with me anyway; I don’t need to write them down. So when I was working on the songs for the City To City album, it came back and I was determined to get a middle for it. That one proved quite difficult – I really had to work on it”.  ‘The Ark’ celebrates a positive new beginning, an awakening to an illuminated journey that perfectly eases us into his masterpiece ‘Baker Street’.  For me ‘Baker Street’ was about Joe Egan. When the City To City album was first released, as an established Rafferty fan I listened intently to the words – there was no lyric sheet provided at that time, so what I heard sounded like “… way down the street there’s a lion in his place…” and me being me I thought - that’s about Joe, he’s portrayed as a lion on the first Stealer’s Wheel album cover - it must be about Joe. For years I believed this to be the case and I’m pretty sure that I wasn’t alone in that assumption. Anyhow according to what I have read recently, I was wrong – so it goes. According to Rab Noakes, an early member of Stealers Wheel and a lifelong friend, a number of Scottish musicians would meet at the Globe Tavern near London’s Bakers Street to touch base, talk, drink and sing the night away. Later they would adjourn to ex Stealer’s bass player Ian Campbell’s flat nearby, listen to home demos, jam and continue drinking. This was the scene that set the Bakers Street story. I’m just one among many millions that consider ‘Baker Street’ an all-time classic. This wonderful record with its beautiful saxophone and guitar solos expresses Gerry’s disenchantment with London and his frustration with entanglements of the legal process but still manages to be uplifting and positive about his immediate future. Rafferty was an avid reader and subscribed to the adage - if you want to write well you must read well. On one of his journeys down to London Gerry read Colin Wilson’s ‘The Outsider’ and took some inspiration from this book when writing the lyrics for ‘Baker Street’. I have read that there were claims made by Raphael Ravenscroft who supplied the excellent ‘Baker Street’ sax solos, that he wrote the music himself… Not to take anything away from Ravencroft’s contribution, it was and will always remain superb - but it’s clear to hear from the ‘Baker Street’ demo that Rafferty wrote every lick. This fine solo and Hugh Burns’ superb guitar work frame this excellent song so perfectly – the addition of Hugh Murphy’s production makes it an epic piece. Gerry told writer Spencer Leigh “When I wrote the song the saxophone line was the first part I had. Initially, I imagined I would be singing that line and it would be part of the verse. As the construction of the song progressed and I got into the recording studio, the idea came to me to use it as an instrumental line. We tried it on piano and electric guitar, and neither was quite right. When I thought of the saxophone, it conjured up the jazz period in New York and other big cities. It turned out to be the perfect instrument for that part.” When I first visited Glasgow, one day found myself on Baker Street (there must be thousands of them up and down the country) it occurred to me that maybe we city folks had just assumed that it was London’s Baker Street that Gerry was singing about when logically it could easily have been Glasgow – but of course it wasn’t.

Rightdown

‘Right Down The Line’ is a great title (and was used as such by Valerie Lyon for her Scottish BBC TV Documentary on Rafferty) and a fine love song of commitment devoted to Carla. It’s Gerry’s confession of his heartfelt appreciation of what his wife brought into his life. What their life together meant to him. He incorporates a line from one of his best-known Stealers Wheel songs that underlines rolling stock connections. This became his second US hit when it reached #12 in the Hot 100 of autumn 1978 and earned a citation for a million plays on US radio.  “Goodnight train is gonna carry me home …” the 400 mile journeys from Glasgow to London that set up this whole exquisite album he often made– many unwillingly, provided Rafferty with the title track and spiritual theme for his best selling album. Michael Gray, head of the press unit at United Artists and Rafferty’s manager at that time said “Gerry had recorded the City To City album for £18,000 and at early discussions about the first single to be released the title track was chosen. I said ‘Baker Street‘ was great but - no that won’t make a single - too Jazzy.” Gerry said “City To City the first one I did, was the title track - which was good. It was pretty easy and I had a definitive idea of what I was writing about. It was just a train situation from Glasgow to London. I wanted to write a good train song”. Though it was clear from his song that Gerry would’ve preferred to have stayed at home with Carla and Martha, at least his many return trips to London provided him with a great title song. The folks at UA who thought that this would make an excellent single, issued it in October 1977 and it flopped. Gerry had other ideas. “Baker Street was my choice as the first single though the record company thought differently—they chose 'City To City' because it had a catchy chorus. But I felt good about ‘Baker Street’ right from the start – It’s not so much a good song as a good record”. Modesty aside ‘Baker Street’ was clearly the right choice and grew into his career song, selling 5 million records (The single released in 1978 reached #2 in the US, #1 in Canada, #3 in the UK, and #1 in Australia) and they say it earned him £80,000 per year up until his death 44 years later. It remains one of the most played songs on American radio and all over the world. It’s huge success put Rafferty right up there with his personal heroes Lennon, McCartney and Dylan. ‘Baker Street’ was used on the soundtrack of ‘Good Will Hunting’, covered by Undercover in the ‘90s and featured in an episode of the Simpsons with Lisa playing the saxophone part. Several different mixes of this classic song have been issued in the years since it was first released.

‘Stealin’ Time’ again reflects on the Stealers Wheel experience - “I walked right out I had to let it go… but now I know it’s time to cross that line”. This song looks back but also ahead to the next step in his personal musical journey through the observation of a songwriter. A family song ‘Mattie’s Rag’ celebrates a joyful return home to the other female in his life, his daughter Martha (aged 7) through a mixture of future dreams and sincere promises. The enigmatic ‘Whatever’s Written In Your Heart’ is one of Gerry’s finest songs and it reaches inside every one of us who’ve struggled to communicate our feelings to those we love  “…you’ll find a way to say it all some day” getting to the emotional place you want to can be a difficult journey but it’s one you have to make to reach a mutual understanding. Of this song Rafferty said “Whatever’s Written In Your Heart’ I wrote in a night. I felt I needed something like that song – quite simple in terms of the way it was done. So I got down and finished it – I had the chorus part of the melody – and we recorded it next day in the studio. So again that came out of the blue with no hard labour and I think it’s one of the better tracks on the album”. ‘Home & Dry’ – from train to plane Rafferty describes the return journey, moving forward to a clear appreciation of what’s happened and learning from recent events but also looking back at misplaced motivations, wrong moves, false hopes and unfulfilled dreams. This became his third US hit single in January ’69.  ‘Island’ tells of a reawakening to all the good things in his life while acknowledging the distractions of a career in music. So many of Gerry’s wonderful songs touch on the semi conscious state of awakening, the sunrise of a new day. The transition from darkness into light – as in ‘Waiting For The Day’ the final song on the album that leaves us in an uptempo mood and a positive state of mind with it’s symmetrical conclusion. This album was very well received both in America and Europe – a Rolling Stone’s reviewer noted, "For all their rhythmic variety . . . these are uniformly majestic songs." Many of the reviews were great even ecstatic. But as before with Stealers Wheel, Rafferty backed off on promotion, he did few interviews, tours, TV or radio appearances at that time. In fact he played more gigs with the Humblebums than he did in the rest of his near 50-year career.

City To City went to #1 on the US Album charts (#6 in the UK) selling in excess of 5 million copies and when Melody Maker asked him if he had expected such a big hit album Rafferty replied "I didn't want to expect anything. I would have been quite happy if the album had sold a respectable figure like 500,000 worldwide. I'd have been doing pretty well. You just write the best songs you can, do your best and see what happens. I thought the songs were good, but I didn't expect this." City To City’s incredible success put Rafferty very much where he didn’t want to be – in the spotlight where he was notoriously uncomfortable, he preferred to stay out of the public gaze and shunned any notion of celebrity. As far as Gerry was concerned all the personal attention he was getting was most unwelcome, he despised the cult of celebrity, he never wanted fame or any of its trappings, all he really wanted was recognition and respect for his songs – Gerry later revealed "Once you enter into the world of celebrity you can no longer be the observer in life and I’ve always valued that – you become the observed.” He valued his anonymity and the simplicity of his family life where he could create his poetry and music. Of his song writing he said “I treat it as a job just like anybody else.” The music always came first, for Rafferty that was the easy part “I never have a problem with melodies. I’ve always got quite a lot of melodies out and about in my head at any given time. The hard work for me is always writing the lyrics”. His poetic lyrics may have taken a little longer but they were invariably worth the wait. Gerry said dismissively that he just tried to keep his lyrics simple but as John Byrne once remarked “That is so not true, he had a great way with words.” Mostly he wrote from personal experience but didn’t use any pretentious poetic terms, his words connected with honesty and clarity and went directly to the essence of his message. He refused to tour America despite the successful sales and huge interest there. Due to his unhappy experiences with the music biz and Stealers Wheel, Rafferty was certain about what he wanted and so he set his own agenda. He exercised his right to choose his own musicians and found the very best, his producer Hugh Murphy and sleeve artist John (Patrick) Byrne. He and Murphy had worked successfully together before on his first solo album Can I Have My Money Back in 1971 and this partnership would endure for 27 years and was only ended by Murphy’s premature death in 1998. The huge success of City To City proved these assertions to be the right ones and this bought Gerry levels of contentment and confidence he perhaps hadn’t felt before.

Rafferty made a rare appearance at the ‘Rock & Pop Awards’ and was suitably laid back when he picked up his award for best single of 1978 for ‘Baker Street’ from Kid Jensen and Georgie Fame. When asked how he felt about receiving his award he said “Delighted” held it up to the audience, nodded and left the stage. As ever he was reticent to indulge in the backslapping celebrity banter that such occasions demand. Shortly after his death in 2011, EMI released a 2CD Collectors Edition of City To City that contained the original album plus ‘Big Change In The Weather’ (the flipside of the ‘Baker Street’ single) on CD1. The second CD however is of major interest as it not only contains the early studio version of ‘Take The Money And Run’ a record not issued until a 1979 on Night Owl but five original demos of ‘Matties Rag’, ‘Stealin’ Time’, ‘Big Change In The Weather’ and the title track plus the ‘Baker Street’ demo. This is especially interesting because it clearly demonstrates Gerry’s every intention in it’s arrangement – minus saxophone. The sleeve is a gatefold that reveals not only John Byrnes designs for the albums back cover but also a section of the portrait that he painted directly onto Rafferty’s acoustic guitar. The front of the booklet containing Rab Noakes informative notes also has the original album cover design not seen before. On the recent Right Down The Line documentary Byrne recalled the story of how UA thought his original cover design for City To City was inappropriate saying “They said it looked too punky - the record company - and would I please do another one, so I did another one and it’s the better of the two covers - I think they were right”. Punk was the dominant music genre of the time and Byrne intended to reflect the tough background of Paisley where Gerry grew up – but great as the painting was, it had very little to do with the music on the record. As a result of City To City’s and ‘Baker Street’s’ huge success big changes came about and the Rafferty’s moved down south so that Gerry could spend more time in the studio crafting his albums without being separated from his family for such long periods. Martha remembers more money, comfort and affluence but with the good came some bad and looking back she became more suspicious, even guarded, about some other peoples motives and experienced a certain isolation that she hadn’t felt in Glasgow.

Before his amazing success with ‘Baker Street’ Rafferty had produced an album for his brother Jim entitled Don’t Talk Back that was released by Decca in 1978 while Gerry was still entangled with the lawyers and unable to release his own music. Of the ten tracks featured on this album, Gerry produced seven and the remaining three were down to Jim Rafferty, Mike Smith and Alan Harris. All these songs were written by brother Jim, (two co-written with Frank Bogie) and plenty of familiar names like Graham Preskett, Rab Nokes and Hugh Burns, who were regulars in the Rafferty story, made contributions. Sadly the album sold few copies, Jim went back to the day job and Gerry became the new singer/ songwriting sensation.

Owl

night owl
‘Days Gone Down’ intro’s Rafferty’s second UA album. It’s a reflective homage to Carla –“We’ve still got a long way to go…” – a confirmation of his enduring love and commitment to their then ten-year relationship. It became Rafferty’s fourth single to hit the US top 20 in the summer of 1979. On ‘Night Owl’ Gerry brings the realm of the nocturnal activity into play, a lonely place that writers, poets and songwriters often contend with, the solitary world of creative endeavor – and the neon distractions that are a temptation that he knows, from many previous excursions - he should deny.  “I get a little lonely when the sun gets low and end up looking for somewhere to go…” The second verse flips to him singing to the crowd, a sea of faces that also mirrors the isolation of solo performance he struggled with at times. “One more drink and you’re sailing away …” an edited version of the album track gave Rafferty his second UK hit single in May ’79 but it made no impact in America. ‘The Way That You Do It’ and Why Won’t You Talk To Me’ examine both sides of a relationship, the highs and the lows. ‘The Way That You Do It’ touches on the closeness of a strong relationship supported by positive criticism and objectivity bringing things into focus. It features a great Hugh Burns Guitar solo. ‘Why Won’t You Talk To Me’ on the other hand tells of Gerry’s struggles with the silent treatment. Not knowing the reason for fluctuating moods – professing his innocence. Snakes and Ladders - one minute your up and everything is sunshine then one slip and you’re in pit of confusion with no way out. ‘Get It Right Next Time’ is the brightest on an album of highlights. The melody drives a very positive point of view and great advice that I (and no doubt many others) carried though our lives for many years. The philosophy reminds me of Gurdjieff (who is referred to in later work). A prominent sax (Ravenscroft) and Graham Preskett’s keyboards helped push this single to #30 on the UK charts and #21 in the USA.  ‘Take The Money And Run’ was not chosen but could easily have been a potential single – perhaps it didn’t sit right with UA. The driving tempo features Richard Thompson’s guitar a little more prominently than ‘Get It Right Next Time’ did and haunting sax riffs are plentiful. It’s more advice for survival in the music biz. When Gerry was quizzed about the attitude of ‘Take The Money And Run’ he replied to writer Spencer Leigh:I’ve written a lot of songs about the music industry. It’s a beast that can chew people up. I took up a certain stance an attitude about my career, and wanted to avoid the harsher aspects of it. Not all the songs are negative! I was very optimistic around the time of Night Owl. Get It Right Next Time was about sticking to one’s guns and, if you get it wrong, you can get it right next time. Don’t give up”. An approximation of Celtic pipes intros ‘Family Tree’ and Gerry eulogises the spiritual ties that bind close family connections. His song recalls family with music at its heart. As a child it was a revelation to Gerry when his elder brother Joe explained how harmonizing worked when they sang together in their family group. This song was beautifully performed by the brothers Rafferty’s daughters and sons for the Right Down The Line documentary - “When we were young we used to say…”  It is true that some dreams don’t materialize but they often provide the motivation that creates new ones. ‘Already Gone’ examines the disappointment of unfulfilled dreams “Once I had a dream - I watched it fly away like a bird across the sky - It was already gone”. Though Rafferty never toured America, he clearly made a visit to New York when his records were high on the charts and all over the radio there. ‘The Tourist’ tells of that time when he was dining out on his unexpected success there but unless you knew that you might have been misled by the lyrics of this song. Night Owl is a very enjoyable album and all too soon the final track rolls around and once again we return to a nocturnal theme ‘It’s Gonna Be A Long Night’.

Strong songs and incredible musicianship put this fine album right up there with City To City. It didn’t have a mega single like ‘Baker Street’ to propel it to the very top of the US album charts but the superb ‘Get It Right Next Time’ played its part in the UK where Night Owl went to #24 albums 13 places higher than it’s predecessor. Guest artists on this album included Barbara Dickson who sang backing vocals on 3 tracks, Linda Thompson who also sang backgrounds and husband Richard whose guitar was evident on ‘Take The Money and Run’ and to a lesser extent ‘Get It Right Next Time’. Pete Wingfield played organ (remember his hit single ‘18 With A Bullet’), again it was perfect production by Hugh and Gerry and great arrangements from Graham Preskett (also on keyboards). As with City To City, Night Owl was recorded at Chipping Norton Studios. Betsy Cook – (b/g vocals and keys) who was married to producer Murphy suggested that “Hugh acted as a conduit for Gerry’s thoughts and intentions in the studio and as a result they became very close” in what she and Linda Thompson described as a bromance. “Gerry had the vision of what he wanted and Hugh put it into the landscape”. But nothing lasts forever and the great band that Rafferty put together for both these successful albums gradually began to break down, the first important departure being guitarist Hugh Burns. Rafferty has referred to this as a particularly positive time. Gerry had enjoyed working with Richard and Linda Thomson, so much so that he made a rare UK tour with them. They hadn’t got a recording deal at that time so Rafferty raised the finance and they went into the studio during September/ October 1980 to cut an album together entitled Shoot Out The Lights that Rafferty produced. Looking back Linda remarked “It never got released – that was the thing – we did it and Richard didn’t like it because it was a little bit slick i.e. in tune and it was all the things that Gerry was, which was very perfectionist about the tempo and the tuning and Richard didn’t like it very much and we redid it - but actually it’s a very good record, Gerry did a great job”. The album became known as Rafferty’s Folly. In an interview writer Spencer Leigh asked Gerry to sign his copy of the Rafferty’s Folly the bootleg album that was never officially released and Rafferty said “I’ve never seen this. I had no idea the tracks got out. I loved their music. Richard is one of the finest songwriters and guitarists to come out of the British Isles, and Linda has a beautiful voice. We came into contact after ‘Baker Street’ and, at the time, they couldn’t get a record deal. Hugh Murphy and I decided to finance and make an album with them, and we were both pleased with the results. There were some songs, including ‘Wall Of Death’, which is one of Richards finest. Richard was a little wary, as it was a bit too slick for his liking. I tend to be a perfectionist in the studio and he wanted something looser. They remade the album with Joe Boyd, who had worked with Fairport Convention. It received wonderful reviews, which it deserved, but his production wasn’t as good as ours”. Hopefully this album will eventually find a CD release that both Thompson and Rafferty fans can obtain and finally enjoy.

Snakes

snakes & ladders
‘The Royal Mile’ returns to theme of the separation that a career in music can inflict on a relationship. It’s a song that looks back at the time of their life together in Scotland. This became a middling UK single that only briefly reached #67 on the UK charts in the summer of 1980. Always a personal favourite ‘I Was A Boy Scout’ tells the story of many a boy who joined the cubs/ scouts in the early ‘50s until they “…heard Rock ‘n’ Roll and were gone into something that was feeling good, something they could understand”. It encapsulates perfectly the freedom that music gave to that post World War 2 generation. Gerry seemed to be trying to broaden the format of the past two albums and gave us his impressions of the good and bad of Los Angeles on ‘Welcome To Hollywood’. The superficiality and insincerity of the entertainment business he encountered there, the mixture of attraction and rejection that the city has had on many of us when visiting it for the first time. ‘Wastin’ Away’ hints at fine cracks in the harmony both at home and in the studio  “Too much nothing everyday…”.  Rafferty would often use the metaphor of dark/ light  - going home (at home within) a non-permanent state in a constant search for unity and peace as he does again in ‘Look At The Moon’ “…sadness will pass when night turns into day…” The wailing vixen is particularly effective on the outro. Just beautiful. ‘Bring It All Home’ entered the UK single and hovered at #54 briefly before disappearing. The picture sleeve that came with this single featured an illustration from a film made by Animation City to promote the single (and was a direct steal from the Edward Hopper painting Nighthawks). The track itself features some very good sax and keyboards work. “Way down South …” where the Rafferty’s were currently residing provided the impetus for one of the strongest songs on this album ‘The Garden Of England’. Jerry Donahue’s haunting guitar circles the air like a hawk throughout as Gerry touches on English history and the decline of the British Empire “…they gave it all away…” but seems happy with the simple life. Political attitudes of the time seemed stuck in the past and this fact is borne out by an extract from Willie Whitelaw’s speech outlining his draconian solution to the problem of football hooliganism that plays over the songs farewell. ‘Johnny’s Song’ was first used on Stealer’s Wheels debut album but its revival here signals a return to the isolation and suspicion of the past. Perhaps it was a comment on how Rafferty was beginning to feel about his life/ music at this time. Slipping down the snake and looking back to ‘Didn’t I’ a song that is reminiscent of earlier work like ‘The Long Way Round’. After the initial high of his solo success it seems as though Rafferty might have been missing his home, his mind wandering back there to his childhood and happier times. The next song ‘Syncopatin’ Sandy’ is fashioned as a childhood memory and he relates Sandy’s musical marathon, the insistent melody seems to circle the room and the album begins to run down with ‘Café Le Cabotin’ and ‘Don’t Close The Door’. Reviewing it now with some hindsight the question occurs - was a door was closing on an era?  The ups and downs of Rafferty’s moods are clearly reflected in the title and songs of this album. After two positive albums a little disenchantment seemed to be creeping in on Snakes & Ladders that was not as well constructed as the albums before it. This was the third album to be recorded at Chipping Norton (with some tracks at Air Studios, Montserrat). The musicianship and production values were still very high but staying out of the public eye began to impact on album sales. While the follow-up to City to City, Night Owl initially sold better than it’s predecessor in the UK, Snakes & Ladders was not as commercially successful. While this didn’t bother Rafferty, United Artists were probably not best pleased. Gerry was always very popular and well respected by his friends and colleagues but he drank pretty steadily and when it acted as poison, he would indulge his darkside and set his sights on some unfortunate individual who he would verbally bombard, often for long periods. According to Betsy Cook this happened at the Night Owl and Snakes & Ladders sessions on both of which she was a contributor.

Scotland

acknowledgements
A few quotes have been used from the following Spencer Leigh Interview published in Record Collector Issue 385 February 2011 ‘The Right Moments’. A year after his Gerry Rafferty’s death a number of great programmes were aired on TV and radio
Scottish BBC TV Documentary - Gerry Rafferty – Right Down The Line by Valerie Lyon
Bring It All Home Concert - Radio 2 January 2012
Soul Music/ Baker Street - Radio 2 January 2012

GR Disc

Gerry Rafferty Sessions Part 2 compiled by Peter Burns

 

billie lewis

standing alone – billie lewis
Billie Lewis, daughter of the late Drifter Billy Lewis has recorded the beautiful ‘Standing Alone’ a very accomplished debut single - Check it out on YouTube for yourself. Towards the end of 2009 Erica (Billie) Lewis began working on a musical project with Rahim Ali (son of the late Gwen Guthrie). Rahim helped Billie crystallize some of the ideas that she was pulling together for her career in music. She was born and raised in Newark, NJ and had graduated from Arts High specializing in voice and music theory. Erica moved on to business school but continued in music singing and writing songs but due to a number of events beyond her control could not secure a record deal at that time. She took an opportunity with community TV and worked her way up to a position where she hosted her own show ‘Ebonee TV’ which covered major events including, the BET Tampax Total You Tour, the Vanity Fair Concert, Tribute to Aaliyah and others. Working in the media gave Erica some good experience and built her confidence enough to return to the singing and writing that she really wanted to pursue. She had always struggled with her weight and set about writing and self publishing ‘The Body Business Plan’ that outlined the problem that many have with weight and how she won her personal battle with obesity and shared her success and blue print for others to do the same. Her father Billy Lewis who sang and recorded with the Nu Drifters in England died suddenly and unexpectedly in October 2011. The news stunned Erica and her family but she pushed on and recorded her first single ‘Standing Alone’ with producer Aswad Samad and songwriter Nirro Niz. She certainly deserves the opportunity to develop her talents further – I hope she gets a shot at an album. (peter burns)

cd/ album reviews

Ben E King

Ben E King & the Drifters – Dance With Me 1958-61 2CD – Jasmine
Another great Drifters/ Ben E King compilation from Jasmine features 50 superb tracks that include many of the Drifters and Ben’s finest recordings of all time. See the Ben E King feature in this issue for the correct info on the Drifters ‘There Goes My Baby’ session. CD1 begins with both sides of the Crowns R&B single ‘Kiss & Make Up’ led by Charles Thomas who was the main lead for the group at that time and continued to lead them for a year when they became the ‘new’ Drifters. It was only when ‘There Goes My Baby’ created problems for Thomas at the recording session that King took over the lead spot. And the records later huge success that kept him there. King had written all four songs cut at this session with Lover Patterson and the reason that his name doesn’t appear in all the writing credits is that he sold his rights to three of those songs to manager Treadwell and accountant Lebish, who were both directors of Drifters Inc. and owners of the Drifters name mark. Patterson kept his credits and because Leiber & Stoller made significant musical and lyrical changes to ‘There Goes My Baby’ they had their names added to its writer credits at a later date. So Charlie only sang lead on ‘Baltimore’ and did not get another chance up front for two years when he sang on ‘A Room Full Of Tears’ and ‘Sweets For My Sweet’ in February 1961. He was relegated to second tenor and though he got some leads (‘When My Little Girl Is Smiling’, ‘I Feel Good All Over’, ‘I Don’t Want To Go On Without You’, ‘Chains Of Love’, ‘The Outside World’, ‘You Can’t Love Them All’, ‘It Takes A Good Woman’ and a couple of live cuts) he did not regain lead spot until he formed his own Drifters group in 1972. Ben needed money to get married and also sold his credit on ‘Dance With Me’ included here, as are all his Drifter leads. Atlantic searched long for the perfect replacement and found Rudy Lewis who sounded close enough for their requirements and his voice first appears at track 14 with ‘Some Kind Of Wonderful’, more of his great leads like ‘Please Stay’, ‘Somebody New Dancing With You’, ‘Mexican Divorce’ and the semi -rare ‘She Never Talked To Me That Way’ are featured here. CD2 is all Ben E King, beginning with his little known debut single ‘Brace Yourself/ Show Me The Way’ and including the duet single with Lavern Baker with whom he shared his first national solo tour. All his initial big hits are here ‘First Taste Of Love’ (plus the LP version), ‘Stand By Me’ and ‘Amor’ plus his almost complete debut solo album Spanish Harlem that remains a Latin Soul masterpiece. Why the compiler removed ‘Souvenir Of Mexico’ is a mystery, perhaps Mr. Odson knows better than Pomus, Shuman, Leiber and Stoller did. Additions of the superb ‘Young Boy Blues’, ‘Here Comes The Night’, ‘Ecstasy’ and ‘Yes’ plus the bonus rarity ‘I Promise Love’ round this superb 2CD set off perfectly. It’s a must for any self respecting sixties soul fan and anyone else with fine musical tastes.

Johnny Otis Story Vol.2 On With The Show 1957-74 - Ace
Ace has issue the second Johnny Otis Story Volume – this one covers the later Capitol recordings, some from one of his own labels Eldo, and those from his sessions with King, Kent, OKeh and Epic. I’m reading his book at the moment ‘Upside Your Head!’ and it is astounding what a creative genius Otis was, how he was responsible for so many great singers and musicians getting their start in music and onto record. But although Otis had no hits himself (except ‘Country Girl’ that is contained here) after 1958, his later music, though often not very original had plenty of energy, and enthusiasm about it. He could cut a natural groove -something few R&B orchestras could match. These two Ace volumes provide a career spanning salute to one of the West Coast’s greatest bandleaders. And Johnny Otis was so much more. Another good 16-page booklet with period news cuttings and photos etc, with notes by compiler Tony Rounce is just what we expect from Ace, who have set the benchmark for these kind classic compilations.

Johnny Burnette - Rock And Roll Dreamer 2CD - Jasmine
Hailed by some as two of the best Rock ‘n’ Roll albums ever issued The Rock And Roll Trio and Tear It Up (both originally released on Coral - wait a minute isn’t this Rockabilly?) that make up just half of this great compilation in total 48 tracks by the late great Johnny Burnette and include his three biggest hit singles ‘Dreamin’’, ‘You’re Sixteen’ and ‘Little Boy Sad’. On CD1 ‘Lonesome Train On A Lonesome Track’, ‘All By Myself’, ‘Oh Baby Babe’, ‘If You Want It Enough’ and ‘Please Don’t Leave Me’ really rock. Bustin’ with energy the Burnette Trio are like a runaway train. CD2 begins with Johnny’s first Gold disc ‘Dreamin’ (violins and all) and sets the tone for the third LP as Liberty took him closer to C&W with tracks like Hank Williams ‘Lovesick Blues’ and Hank Locklin’s ‘Please Help Me I’m Falling’. Items like ‘My Special Angel’ are pure pop but ‘Settin’ The Woods On Fire’, ‘Cincinnati Fireball’ are among the album highlights. Burnette’s fourth album began with his biggest international hit ‘You’re Sixteen’ and contains Darin’s ‘Dream Lover’, Don Gibson’s ‘Oh Lonesome Me’ and Johnny’s major hit ‘Little Boy Sad’. I can see why Rockabilly and RnR fans might consider some of these tracks a pop sell out but Johnny, like so many others wanted to be as big as Elvis and that meant a wider popular appeal. There are pretty good carbons of Conway Twitty’s ‘It’s All Only Make Believe’, Marty Robbins ‘Singing The Blues’ and Bob Luman’s ‘Let’s Think About Living’. Johnny died too early to really establish a solid career but his early work with the trio has made him a cult icon.

Various - The Story Of American Studios - Ace
So we’re all aware with the great musical contributions that have been made by Stax Studios in Memphis and even Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals but now it’s the turn of American Studios to tell their story. Billed as the Soundtrack to Roben Jones’ Book ‘Memphis Boys: The Story of American Studios’ this superb Ace CD is a taster for many of the fine records made at those studios. It begins with the very funky King Curtis classic ‘Memphis Soul Stew’. The studios were founded by Chips Moman and Don Crews back in 1964 and they slowly built their own identity with the recordings featured here such as ‘Keep On Dancing’ the Gentrys, ‘The Letter’ the Box Tops, ‘Shake A Tail Feather’ James & Bobby Purify and Merrilee Rush’s ‘Angel Of The Morning’. Pretty soon everybody wanted to record there and many a star booked in to cut some superior sides with the studio house band whose core included Reggie Young (guitar), Tommy Cogbill (bass), Bobby Emmons & Bobby Wood (keys) and Gene Christian (drums). But at times had featured Bobby Womack (guitar), Chips Moman (keys), Mike Leech (guitar) Spooner Oldham (keys), some doubled as producer as did singer/ songwriter Dan Penn. Other producers included visitors Tom Dowd, Jerry Wexler, Papa Don Schroeder and Arif Mardin. This fine CD features many great singers – Solomon Burke ‘Shame On Me’, James Carr ‘You’ve Got My Mind Messed Up’, Wilson Pickett ‘I’m In Love’, Danny O’Keefe ‘Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues’, Dusty Springfield ‘Son Of A Preacher Man’ -  the King himself Elvis Presley ‘I’m Movin’ On’ and many more - 24 great tracks in all. As I said earlier this CD is a taster, there were many great tracks that didn’t make the album allegedly Elvis made a comeback here with ‘The Ghetto’ and the acclaimed album Elvis In Memphis and Back In Memphis. Also Roy Hamilton cut some great sides like ’Hang Ups’. But this intro to the studio is enticing with a great booklet and informative notes by Tony Rounce, John Broven and Roben Jones.

Ray Charles – Genius In Person – Early Atlantic Albums 1957-60 2CD – Jasmine
Superb instrumental Jazz from the Ray Charles Band showcases the talents of David ‘Fathead’ Newman and Ray himself on the first album featured here The Great Ray Charles. The full Quincy Jones orchestra comes into play on the second album (The Genius of Ray Charles) when Ray’s wonderful vocal makes it’s first appearance with ‘Let The Good Times Roll’ - Zoot Sims sensational sax is also featured here and on ‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band’ and ‘Deed I Do’. This great set gave Charles his first album success when it hit #17 on the US pop albums chart. It features great tracks such as ‘Come Rain Or Come Shine’, ‘Tell Me You’ll Wait For Me’ and ‘Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying’. CD2 features two wonderful ‘Live’ albums Ray Charles at Newport with ‘Night Time Is The Right Time’, ‘I Got A Woman’, ‘Talkin’ About You’ and ‘A Fool For You’. The final treat is the sensational Ray Charles in Person album that for me provided a number of real highlights from his Atlantic discography such as ‘The Right Time’, (featuring the exciting Margie Hendrix) ‘Yes Indeed’, ‘Drown In My Own Tears’ and ‘Tell The Truth’. Both live albums showcased the incomparable Raelets. Such was the success of these great albums that Ray was enticed to sign to ABC and left his great Jazz sound behind him for R&B/ Soul and then a temporary dalliance in Country & Western. In my opinion Ray and the Raelets never sounded more soulful than they did on these albums. They’re classics!

Muddy Waters – Messin’ With The Man 1953-61 – Complete Blues
For young music fans with a taste for the blues some great new collections are becoming available on the Complete Blues label through Snapper. Muddy Waters – Messin’ With The Man Brings together 24 of his best known songs including the classic ‘I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man’, ‘I Just Want To Make Love To You’, ‘Got My Mojo Working’ (2 versions) and ‘Mannish Boy’ plus 20 more super tracks – ‘Turn The Lamp Down Low’, ‘I’m Your Doctor’, ’40 Days & 40 Nights’ and ‘She’s 19 Years Old’ among them. Good package and notes. Look out for other good Blues compilations by this label if you are wanting to update or add to your Blues collection, they have a big reissue series on release – check ‘em out.

Gene McDaniels – Look To Your Heart 1959-61 2CD – Jasmine
There must have been times that Gene thought himself the forgotten man over his lengthy career, especially when it came to the record companies. As a singer he had three personas and this fine collection concentrates on the first - McDaniels as a balladeer from 1959-61, when he cut a series of superb singles/ albums issued by Liberty (London in the UK). Many of the more picky R&B/ Soul fans thought Gene a little too MOR so he scored more Pop hits than R&B but ‘100 Pounds Of Clay’ (R&B #11), ‘Point Of No Return’ (R&B #23) and perhaps his biggest and best known record ‘Tower Of Strength’ (R&B #5) hit both charts in 1961-62. Outside the USA Gene suffered too many lacklustre cover versions that kept him off the UK and Euro charts. Bob Fisher has compiled and annotated this excellent 2CD set that includes his first four albums In Times Like These, Sometimes I’m Happy, 100 Pounds Of Clay and Sings Movie Memories plus four of his best single sides – 52 tracks in all. After his ‘standards’ phase Gene matured into his more soulful self and can be heard here on bonus tracks ‘A Tear’, ‘Chip Chip’, and especially ‘Another Tear Falls’. Sadly McDaniels died in July last year but he leaves a legacy of enjoyable music behind him. So I suggest that you pour yourself a glass of wine, sit back and listen to Look To Your Heart, you might find Gene’s smooth vocals a soothing experience.

Episode – A Time For Love - Cobalt Music
Charles Fowler, founder of Episode was a singer with Bill Pinkney’s Original Drifters from 1984 and according to the brief notes with this album, stayed with the group for 25 years. Now he has a new project – Episode that he calls a new generation of Drifters. While you can hear some Drifters influence Episode have evolved into a broader sound and all five voices contribute this six-track taster. All the songs here are easy on the ear from ‘If You Think That You Love Me’ to ‘Heaven Won’t Have It’. There is little info to accompany this first album which came to me through Music Submit.com so I have no idea of the other members of the group, songwriters etc. but as a Drifters historian I will look into this further. Episode sound a very professional outfit and given a good label deal with reliable distribution they could do well – no doubt there’s the rub. As things stand this won’t reach enough people to earn them much of a rep. It’s a pity because they sound as good as many in the vocal group genre. I will investigate further.

Various – London American Label 1957 – Ace
The London American label was the most famous source for great US Rock ‘n’ Roll, R&B, Soul and Pop and as this series moves back in time it becomes more evident just how important this label was. Later it had plenty of competition but in the late forties and fifties it almost stood alone. This latest volume concentrates on 1957, a year when the great ‘Blue Monday’ by Fats Domino was issued in the UK along with ’20 Flight Rock’ - Eddie Cochran, ‘Keep A Knockin’’- Little Richard, ‘Great Balls Of Fire’ - Jerry Lee Lewis and ‘You Can’t Catch Me’ by Chuck Berry. ‘Wandering Eyes’ - Charlie Gracie was a #6 hit in August and I remember going to see the diminutive star with the big guitar at Woolwich Granada - but I my memory is of ‘Butterfly’ and ‘Fabulous’ more vividly - even though they were smaller hits on Parlaphone. This was also the year that Bill Haley hit the UK shores and caused a sensation. ‘Rock The Joint’ became his 11th UK hit single towards the end of his amazing chart success. Johnny Cash didn’t enter the UK charts until early ’65 but his classic ‘I Walk The Line’ is included here and so is R&B singer Roy Brown’s interesting cover of Buddy Knox big hit ‘Party Doll’. In those days we all went to the ‘Pictures’ as often as we could and so many of the records of the day would reach us through that medium. In addition to ’20 Flight Rock’ that was featured in ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’ so was Nino Tempo’s ‘Tempo Tempo’. Nino had been a child actor and would find greater success with April Stevens in the early ‘60s. Other movie tracks heard here are Clyde McPhatter’s ‘Rock & Cry’ from the movie of the same name (only screened in the USA) and the Moonglows ‘I Knew It From The Start’ that appeared in ‘Rock Rock Rock’. Other highlights included here are Chuck Willis ‘That Train Has Gone’, Carl Perkins ‘Your True Love’, Joe Turner’s ‘Lipstick, Powder & Paint’ and Ruth Brown’s ‘One More Time’. Here is another worthy addition to this great series.

Ray Charles – Soul + Jazz = Genius 2CD – Jasmine 
After his desertion of Atlantic for ABC Records Ray Charles incredible version of ‘Georgia On My Mind’ took him to #1 Pop and #3 R&B in September 1960 and started an almost continuous top ten singles run that lasted three years. This fine collection features his first four albums for his new label plus his second Pop #1 the iconic ‘Hit The Road Jack’ (also included here). As well as all the single hits Ray was well established on the US album charts and Genius Hits The Road went to #9 Pop. The song titles reflected many of the US destinations his tours took him to such as ‘Basin Street Blues’, ‘Moonlight In Vermont’, ‘Moon Over Miami’ and ‘New York’s My Home’. His next album was aimed at his female audience Dedicated To You and as well as the single hit ‘Ruby’ featured eleven other name checks including ‘Hard Hearted Hannah’, ‘Margie’, ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ and ‘Candy’. This album also proved popular and took Ray to #11 on the LP chart. The second CD treats us to Genius + Soul = Jazz on which Ray checked his drift towards pop and swopped his piano for a Hammond organ to revive and reinterpret (as only he could) the Bobby Timmons classic ‘Moanin’’, ‘One Mint Julep’ (that had been a #2 R&B hit for the Clovers in 1952), the Blues standard ‘I’m Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town’ (a #25 R&B hit single) and ‘Strike Up The Band’, many of which were instrumentals. Despite being less commercially orientated this album became a #4 hit on the album chart. Finally, this time out, Charles teamed up with Betty Carter to cut an album of classic duets that begins with the beautiful ‘Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye’ and rolls on through ‘People Will Say We’re In Love’, ‘Cocktails For Two’ and the often imitated ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’. These four fine albums were a prequel to Ray’s hugely successful and genre-busting excursion into Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music. This is all good!

Howlin’ Wolf – Back Door Man 1954-61 – Complete Blues
In past years I’ve often been a little disappointed by reissues of Howlin’ Wolf CDs. But this good Complete Blues issue contains all my favourite tracks including ‘Smokestack Lightning’, ‘Spoonful’, ‘The Red Rooster’, ‘Back Door Man’ even ‘Howlin’ For My Darling’. Now at last I can sell my vinyl collection that’s been gathering dust in the attic!  This series is particularly good and look out for their Deluxe 3CD series, the Roots and The Works series too. Back to the Wolf – Chester Burnett has been gone a long time now but his influential music that benefited greatly from the guitar of the recently late Hubert Sumlin lives on and is as exciting today as it ever was. These 24 tracks written in the main by the great man himself and the equally great Willie Dixon paint a superb portrait of a truly significant Blues legend.

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