Tuesday, December 29, 2009

HALVAH! Ganim's Asia Minors

If you've never had halvah, then get some brown sugar, mix it with hazelnut oil and some beach sand, press it into a congealed rectangle, and knock yourself out.

Not the most popular item even among brats on a perpetual sugar-high, it was rarely seen in America at the time "Halvah" was released as a 45 rpm on the East/West label. Even now, only Joyva (a long time kosher candy company known also for their "jels" and chocolate-covered marshmallows) successfully packages and sells the stuff. Otherwise, in ethnic neighborhoods, it's practically home-made and sold in chunks, like cheese.

While it has ties to the Arab world, and Joyva is a Jewish company, Halvah (literally means "sweetmeat") is actually Turkish, one of the world's oldest confections. It's made out of seseme seeds. Today it's sweetened with sugar, flavored with chocolate or vanilla, but really, could use some kief. It would definitely lend credibility to the song's line "Halvah has me mesmerized."

Ganim's Asia Minors were all Armenian, and led by Charles Ganimian. As Ganimian and his Orientals, they made an album of Middle-Eastern dance music called "Come With Me to the Casbah." Decades later, Ganimian emerged on his own as an oud player (he was, after all, the oud man out) for a solo CD that you can actually find on Amazon and eBay. You can also see him play the oud on YouTube. Now, some Halvah for your ears. It beats Joyva marshmallows "fo yo ass," which is probably big enough as it is.

HALVAH Instant Download or listen on line. No wait time, pop ups or porn ads.

PHIL OCHS fan VIC CHESNUTT a suicide at 45

The first news came via Twitter, the day before Christmas. It was Vic's friend Kristin Hersh typing out a quick chill: ""Another suicide attempt, looks bad, coma - if he survives, there may be brain damage. This time, it's real scary: *this* time, he left a note..."

Vic Chesnutt's overdose of medication came after a long year that saw the release of two albums. He'd finished a schedule of (stressful) gigs made more difficult because he was wheelchair-bound. He'd done many wearisome interviews to support the (low paying) indie music and was facing Christmas about $35,000 in debt. ("Sell some t-shirts," bloggers would've told him.)

Chesnutt's career got off to a seemingly auspicious start, with Michael Stipe of R.E.M. producing the first two albums. But Vic wasn't getting rich off them, or subsequenet releases. R.E.M. covered his songs via "Sweet Relief II," a charity production raising awareness and money for musician health care. Even so, and despite having health insurance, Vic's income was not great. He also wasn't exactly famous. He was a cult figure, known for dark songs that sometimes veered into black humor. He was never sure how an audience would take them. "Granny," one of the newer songs, was met with laughter from one audience, and tearful silence from another.

The new era of fairly cheap and easy-access digital recording (Pro Tools, Garage Band, indie recording labels) was a mixed blessing. It allowed Vic to knock out album after album, but there was nobody to separate the good from the bad, and lesser tunes diluted albums that could've been stronger.

Still, his small circle of fans were devoted to his every tune, and they agreed with Patti Smith's appraisal: “He possessed an unearthly energy and yet was humanistic with the common man in mind. He was entirely present and entirely somewhere else. A mystical somewhere else. A child and an old guy as he called himself..." Typical of his dual nature is this couplet from "Little," the 1990 debut Stipe produced: " “I’m not a victim/Oh, I am an atheist,” a reference to the drunk-driving accident at age 18 that paralyzed him. And from the "About to Choke" album (his only major label release): "I’m not a realist/I might be a sub-realist.”

Vic admitted that his fans were something else: “They come up to me after the shows, and I don’t know what to say to them. I don’t want to be an asshole or anything, but I think I do my best communicating alone in my room, when I’m writing songs. But I do appreciate them very much. If it wasn’t for them, I would’ve killed myself a long time ago.”

He said that "Flirted With You All My Life," one of his new songs, was indeed about suicide, but from the view of someone resisting it: "During run-through, when I was showing it to everyone, in the first couple of takes, I had tears in my eyes. It was very emotional to me. I’d never sung this song out – it was only on paper. But when I sing it out loud, it was very emotional for me and very personal. I wanted to write a song about a suicidal person. It’s about me – I have suicidal tendencies. So it’s about a suicide who wanted to live.

The lines explicitly talk about failed attempts: “I flirted with you all my life / I even kissed you once or twice...”

He said, "I’ve attempted suicide a couple of times and I think about things such as that...a kind of love/hate relationship with death... “tease me with your sweet relief.” The song is about realizing that I don’t want to die. I want to live."

He changed his mind some time after his last tour dates, four towns in five days: December 1st (Los Angeles), December 2nd (Tucson), December 4th (Denton, Texas) and December 5th (Austin, Texas).

The first time I heard Vic Chesnutt, was when he covered the complex, 7 minute Phil Ochs song "The Scorpion Departs But Never Returns," a song that seems to be sung by the ghost of a sailor, or a haunted survivor: "No I'm not screaming. Tell me I'm not screaming."
And: "I'm not dying. Tell me I'm not dying." The version from Vic is a slow, ominous dirge, the musical equivalent of a wounded submarine dropping deeper and deeper through black and liquid purgatory.

Christmas Day, and people were singing "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire..." while Vic Chesnutt was in a coma, having decided, as Phil Ochs did, on his own exit strategy. Your two samples: "The Scorpion Departs But Never Returns," and "Flirted With You All My Life."

Update: Nov, 2011. Rapidshare's annoying "30 days without a download kills it" policy killed the original links. "SCORPION" is back via a better company.



What's the Past Tense of ARNOLD STANG? Top Cat was 91

It was an indifferent world that, in the midst of Christmas shopping and Brittany Murphy's sudden death, ignored an old comic breathing his last in a hospital in Newton, Massachusetts. But in the world of illfolks, Arnold Stang became the holy ghost, following this year's planet-swooping of Soupy Sales and Lou Jacobi.

While I enjoyed hanging out with Soupy, and have some anecdotes about Lou, I only met Arnold Stang once. It was during a rehearsal break for a forgotten show called "Norman's Corner." I spoke to him for a while and took some photos. (And thanks, Mr. Stang, for autographing the vintage photo seen accompanying this entry.)

He was "himself," not "on," just a polite and pleasant working actor who knew his craft and enjoyed what he was doing. As he put it, "I've worked with practically every star in the business, and I've had all the excitement without any of the crushing responsibilities. The applause that comes at the end of his show means only one thing to the star ... that it's time to start worrying about next week's show. But I just take a bow, walk off, wash up, and go home."

Arnold Stang (September 28, 1918 – December 20, 2009) was ancestor to Ratso "I'm Walkin' Here" Rizzo, and a Jewish cousin to Barney Fife. The character he usually played was small, weak but comically pugnacious and streetwise. With his glasses as a symbol of frailty and bookishness, Stang couldn't stray into the Leo Gorcey territory of being small, pugnacious but a potentially good fighter.

His sense of humor saved him from a steady diet of sorrowful support roles, like "Sparrow" in the Frank Sinatra heroin drama "Man with the Golden Arm." He moved from radio child actor ("Let's Pretend) to sidekick for Henry Morgan and Milton Berle on radio to sketch comedy during the golden age of television. His likability won him enduring fame as the spokesman for Chunky, nasally bragging the catch-phrase, "Watta chunk-a chaw-klet!"

Arnold appealed to kids because he wasn't much taller than they were, and he was so much fun to look at and hear. The albums he made were either purely for the kiddie market, or (in the case of "Waggish Tales") leaning in that direction.

That scrappy New Yawk accent coming out of that meek turtle-face, brought Arnold Stang a lot of voice-work, from "Herman the Mouse" in movie cartoons to "Aristotle the Turtle," (a Bil Baird puppet) and "Nurtle the Turtle" (the film "Pinocchio in Outer Space") to the enduring "Top Cat," the alley-cat version of "Sgt. Bilko." With the charming countenance of a cat, and channeling a bit more of Phil Silvers' brash style than usual for him, Arnold's impudent vocalizing became almost heroic.

Arnold appeared often on Broadway, and while he never got the push to film stardom that Don Knotts did, he starred in "Hercules in New York" (1970). The odd-couple pairing was tiny Arnold Stang with giant and muscular Arnold Strong (who would later go back to his real last name...Schwarzenegger.) Comedy film fans would know Stang best from his pairing with Marvin Kaplan (who played a mild-mannered member of the "Top Cat" gang) as gas station attendants in "Mad World," running afoul of a berserk Jonathan Winters.

For a sample of Arnold Stang singing, here's "Schloimy the Subway Train," from that era when affluent Jews and/or New Yorkers were buying enough records to make hits out of "Hello Muddah Hello Faddah"-type novelty tunes, and turn Mickey Katz and Lou Jacobi into best-selling artists.

Back then, acts were named after local New York streets (Dion's "Belmonts" and "The Rivingtons" among others), all the hit songwriters were in the Brill Building, almost all the major labels were in New York, and even such minor and local events as a city subway strike could end up the subject of a novelty album. Saul Steinberg's memorable New Yorker magazine cover seemed like the truth; a map showing New York...and everything else part of a dull horizon. Nobody was worried that "Schloimy" was too Jewish or not enough people would find recognition humor in a tune about the subway.

Since "Shting Shtang" from Nick Lowe wasn't a tribute to Arnold, this'll have to do...

SCHLOIMY THE SUBWAY TRAIN Instant download or listen on line. No pop-ups, porn ads or wait time.

Bad Lyric to Great Music: GREAT ESCAPE MARCH

A Christmas tradition in the U.K. is the annual televised screening of "The Great Escape." Just why this is, nobody quite knows. Scotland's American citizen and late night talk show star Craig Ferguson believes it's nostalgia over World War II, "when Great Britain showed its greatness."

Elmer Bernstein's plucky little theme song for "The Great Escape" turns up again and again in the film, no doubt inspired by the "Colonel Bogey March" in "Bridge Over the River Kwai."

Did you know it had lyrics? Really, really lame ones? John Leyton knows. The Ellen Degeneris look-alike sang 'em on a 45 rpm that has rarely been dug up since it escaped from EMI over 40 years ago.

Rather than portray a war, lyricist Al Stillman's words are about a piece. Mabel is her name. Let your download serve as a terrible surprise as to Johnny's interest in her.

When I first heard the tune, not noticing the credit on the label, I expected to blame some no-name numbskull for the hack job. Instead, I'll just say it was an off-day for the usually reliable Al Stillman. Lyricists on deadline can often fail. Think of Johnny Mercer's rotten lyrics to "Moon River," which calls some reeking fish-loaded stream a "huckleberry friend." Mercer didn't do much better with "Charade," and nobody remembers what came after "The days of wine and roses..." Still, those Henry Mancini tunes could lull most anyone to sleep before anyone had a chance to really listen to those lyrics. Not so here.

Stillman's inspiration may have been the inane lyrics soldiers often used to sing along to a "cadence count," in this case, marching along while thinking of the girl (or girls) left behind. Perhaps it was slightly preferable to the horror that could've been...having the movie's stars, Garner, McQueen, even Leyton himself, whistling while they worked, and singing, "Tunnel, we've built a tunnel! Did it with fork and spoon and funnel..."

Al Silverman (1906 - 1979) was a New York City kid who wanted to change his luck and so he changed his name to the same as a successful family of bankers. As Al Stillman he was soon banking checks for his lyrics, supplying them to Percy Faith, Arthur Schwartz, George Gershwin and Ernesto "The Breeze and I" Lecuona.

His regular writing partner was Robert Allen. You don't know the team of Stillman-Allen, but you've heard the hits: "Chances Are" and "It's Not For Me To Say" for Johnny Mathis, and "(no place like) Home For the Holidays" for Perry Como. Stillman had a regular gig writing special material for Radio City Music Hall shows, including an endless bunch of skating productions such as "It Happens on Ice,""Stars on Ice" and the beloved "Icetime of 1948."

Restless Stillman knocked out lyrics for some 40 years, in some cases being one of many trying to polish a tune into a hit. "I Believe," the classic from Frankie Laine, has four names associated with it, so it's hard to tell if Al wrote the lyric's first draft or came in to fix it up.

Astute collectors of vinyl have squinted at the A. Stillman credit on all kinds of tunes, including:
The Alley Cat Song, Andalucia, Anything Can Happen, The Apple of My Eye, The Barking Dog, Battle of the Little Big Horn, Before We Say Goodbye, Big Bad Wolf, Big Broad Smile, Brazilian Nuts, A Breath of a Scandal, Bye Bye Be Seein' You All, Bzzzz, Callaway Went That Away, Can You Find It In Your Yeart, Can You Stop the Rain, Candy Bar Boogie, Cat's Serenade, Christmas Sweet Christmas, Ciribiribin, Cockeyed Mayor of Kaunakaka, Coming From You, Cornish Rhapsody, Dance My Trouble Away, Dancing to the Rock Rolla, A Day in My Life, The Devil's Brigade, Don't Burn Your Bridges, Don't Make Me Laugh, Dreams Never Grow Old, Every Time I Dream, Eyes of God, For No Good Reason At All, Forty Eight States, The Girl I Left Behind Me, Goodbye Jonah, Goona Goona, Got any Gum Chum, Habanera, Happiness Comes Happiness Goes, Happy Christmas Tree....

Ho Ho Kus New Jersey, How D'ya Do Do Do, Humming Waters, I Don't Regret a Thing, I Feel Much Better Now, I Love My Argentine, I Must be Going to the Dogs, I Saw Mommy Do the Mambo With You Know Who, I Want a Boy with a Hi Fi System, I'll Never Be Alone, I'm a Rhymer, I'm Up a Tree, If You Should Leave Me, In God We Trust, In Spain They Say Si SI, In the Middle of a Dream, In the Middle of May, Jack the Bellboy, Jelly Fish, Jingle all the Way, Juke Box Saturday Night, The Key to Your Heart, Kiss for Christmas, The Kissing Dance, Let My Conscience Be Your Guide, Let's Rub Noses, Little Jack Frost, Little King of Toyland, Ma I Don't Want a Sweater, The Man With No Name, Marguerita, Marilu, Meet Me in the Moonlight, The Moon Was Dreaming, Moscow Nights, My Bridal Gown, My Heart is Dancing, My Heart's a Violin, Never Tease Tigers, No Words of Mine, Now and Forever, Oh Say You Can Swing, Orchid Moon, Overworked and Underpaid....

The Pirate Parrot, Plenty More Fish in the Sea, Preach Brother Preach, Puschart Pete, Rosie the Redskin, Santa from Santa Fe, Sawing a Woman in Half, Shabby Old Cabby, She Had a Crush on an Usher, Smiley the Lion, Son of a Gondolier, Spic and Spanish, Take Me Dreaming, Thanks for the Kind Words, There Ought to be a Law To Make You Mine, There's Only One Of You, Three D Sweetie, Toward the End of the Day, Turn Off the Moon, Twenty One Guns for Susie, Viva Roosevelt, We're Gonna be Photographed, Weach for the Wafter Santa, What Happened Baby, What's On the Penny, Where is My Wandering Boy, Whistlin' Otto, Worst Darn Winter in Years, You Know What To Do, You Never Know Til Monday, You're the One Who Knows
And that's hardly all. Just thinking up titles like those was quite a feat, huh? Typing them up was, too, but no Paypal donations, please. This blog is for sharing, not profit, and it's the artists who really did all the work. Writing all those song lyrics may not have been a feat equal to tunneling out of a stalag, but think of all the times Al Stillman reached for a rhyme and had to dig himself out of a hole.

TIM HART of Steeleye Span dies December 24th

'Twas the night before Christmas, and among the creatures not stirring...Tim Hart.
Fortunately friends and family had time to come to terms with this, as the Steeleye Span founder had been diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer exactly a year ago.
Steeleye was one of the best bands for traditional "Olde England" music with a rock angle, and their albums are prominent on any shelf that would also contain discs from Renaissance, Horslips, Jethro Tull, or Pentangle.
The band's core, Tim and vocalist Maddy Prior, actually began their career as a duo singing "Folk Songs of Olde England" (two volumes).
Following their initial success with Steeleye, Tim and Maddy returned to unfinished business and recorded yet another duo album, "Summer Solstice," which featured them together but also doing solo turns. One of Tim's is in the download below: "Dancing at Whitsun," a charming showcase for his talents. He would officially begin his solo career eight years later in 1979, and continue until health problems forced him off stage and into the more sedate worlds of writing and photography.
"Steeleye Span" continued and the current line-up is Maddy Prior fronting the band with Peter Knight, Rick Kemp Ken Nicol and Liam Genockey on drums. Tim rarely sang in public in the past 15 years, but thrilled fans by appearing with Maddy Prior in 2008 on BBC's "Electric Proms."

TIM HART "Dancing at Whitsun"

Brittany Murphy "Somebody to Love"

Brittany Murphy (November 10, 1977 – December 20, 2009) star of "Clueless" and co-star of "Girl Interrupted" was entertaining plenty of kiddies all through Christmas via DVD re-runs of "Happy Feet."

She played a penguin and her big number was the upbeat gospel pop tune "Somebody to Love."

Apparently, among her many talents, she could really sing. She didn't do much of it, and at the age of 32, she sings no more.

To paraphrase Secretary of War Edwin Stanton's line as he witnessed the passing of Abraham Lincoln, "Now she belongs to the gossip columnists."

As they second-guess her marriage, her mother, and the upcoming autopsy report, you can listen to Murphy singing her most joyous song.

Nobody's nightstand needs to be cluttered with prescription drugs, and certainly not more than one or two of the more dangerous ones, such as: the anti-seizure medication Topamax, anti-anxiety pills Klonopin and Ativan, pain relievers Vicoprofen and hydrocodone, anti-depression helper Fluoxetine and hypertension medication Propranolol, all of them found at Brittany's place.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


I miss Bobby Cole, and this date is the anniversary of his death.

I can also say that I don't miss Bobby in such a painful way, because he is always with me. We were such good friends that I don't have to think "what would Bobby have said..." I know. I can hear his voice.

It must be a lot worse if you're lost without that deceased person, or the amount of time was way too short to fully explore that loved one's gifts and personality. If it works out right, while you wish you had more time...the time you had is enough.

What is still painful, is that Bobby himself is not around to enjoy life. His is over and done. In mourning, we like to say that the deceased "is still alive in our heart," and as long as we remember that person he "will never die." Well that's a crock of shit, because the person actually is dead, and being alive in somebody else's thoughts is not the same.

OK, now to the song in the download. It's not one that Bobby ever recorded. It was not on his lone solo album (or the early Columbia album with his trio) and it's not among the private demos or the tapes of his nightclub performances. I don't quite remember if he said that he wrote it specifically for Nancy or not. He probably wrote it at a time when weighty and dramatic "message" songs were in vogue, everything from Jimmy Webb's "Macarthur Park" to Roy Orbison's "Southbound Jericho Parkway."

"Flowers" is a true cabaret item, opening with moody jazz piano, the strings seeping in, and then the production jumping into movie soundtrack territory. Pretty damn adventurous back then, and even now. "While you've been learnin' to love I've been learnin' to hate. You think your silly little flowers will hide the smell of old hallways? ...you're wrong. Like always."

Bobby, when he and his trio were in Vegas and also the hot act at the "Ali Baba" nightclub in New York, was a close friend of the Chairman of the Board himself, and he told some wild tales of life with Sinatra, Jilly Rizzo and the rest of the gang. Frank was able to get Bobby into the door at Capitol Records, but Bobby being Bobby, refused the label's ideas about grooming him for success and chose his own thorny path. But here, years later, was Frank's daughter Nancy giving Bobby a shot on one of her records. A perfectionist in his own way, he felt that the production could've been better. Perhaps the song would've benefited by a more hysteric performer, a Streisand or Minelli, but the song wouldn't bear repeating too many times that way. It does, with Nancy using her restraint and her hot brand of cool.


JIMMIE DAVIS The Man Who Put the Nails in Jesus' Hands

You know what?
I'd hate to be the man who drove the nails in Jesus' hands.
Wouldn't you?
Sing along to GOV. JIMMIE DAVIS on the chorus.

"Well I'd hate to be the man who drove the nails in Jesus' hands...yet I know I do the same when I take his name in vain..."
Jimmie asks, "if he asked you for water would you give him vinegar? Do you know how he suffers when you sin? When you break his commandment oh don't you understand? You place thorns on my Lord's head again."

Bending a commandment more than breaking it, I shalt add some blogger caveats that a) the song is not believed to be in print or available via iTunes download, and b) the rights still reside with Peer Music, Ltd, and c) be glad I didn't also steal "I'd Hate to be the Shmoe who Put his Toe Up Moses' Nose."
I hope the man who drove the nails in Jesus' hands is not only burning in hell, but doing it with an iPod that can't hold a charge.

This bit of country swing is from Jimmie's 1970 album 'Songs of Consolation,' which magically appeared ten years after he was re-elected governor of Louisiana.

NAILS IN JESUS' HANDS No Wait Time, Captcha Code, Pop Ups or Porn Ads. Not for Jesus, by God.


The debonair Bat Masterson, the dapper playboy Amos Burke, the man who fought "The War of the Worlds" and had a cameo in the re-make...Gene Barry (June 14, 1919 – December 9, 2009) was all this and much more. One of classic television's great leading men, he joined Kirk Douglas and Jeff Chandler among Jewish actors breaking that Woody Allen stereotype look. The former Eugene Klass borrowed his last name in tribute to John Barrymore.

While he was never a Barrymore, the easy-going actor had an impressive career in movies, TV, on Broadway and even in the world of commercial voice-overs. If you remember "Burke's Law," then you know that Mr. Barry was always an irrepressible singer, and a few episodes gave him the chance to carry a tune. He was always musical, studying violin in his early days, and getting a scholarship to the Chatham Square School of Music on the basis of his singing. His first Broadway appearances were in operetta (Rosalinda in 1942, The Merry Widow in 1943) and of course he returned to Broadway 40 years later for La Cage aux Folles. Mr. Barry issued a solo album during the run of "Burke's Law," and you get three samples below:
"It's all Right With Me," "Burke's Law" (not the best lyrics in the world for this wonderful theme song) and "I'll be Seeing You."

Update: Nov, 2011. Rapidshare's annoying "30 days without a download kills it" policy killed the original links. "Burke's Law" is back via a better company.


Wednesday, December 09, 2009

WHA-KOO and whores and bitches (oh my!)

Just as a journeyman boxer can score a few upset knockouts, but never make the big bucks, Wha-Koo put out some capable albums with skill, professionalism and hooks...and still ended up in the dollar bin.

Signed to ABC in 1977 as "Big Wha-Koo" they shortened their name for their second album, "Berkshire," and managed a semi-hit called "(You're such a) Fabulous Dancer," which was Top Ten in some international markets, but did little in America.

The band's leader, Danny Douma left for a solo album supported by guest artists including Eric Clapton and Garth Hudson. David Palmer fronted the new Wha-Koo, for their third and last release, 1979's disc on Epic, "Fragile Line," a kind of concept album exploring lines between love and hate, reality and illusion, good girls and whores, etc.

Palmer wrote four of the songs on "Fragile Line" and co-wrote the rest. Taking full responsibility for his band's new direction (which included several new members), Palmer said at the time that when he started writing the new material, "I just sat down at the piano, and said, 'It's that time. You do it now or you don't...I like the music to be melodic. That's where my vocal strength is...The lyrics, which deal with emotion...have my personality, my stamp on them."

Palmer's most notable vocal work up until "Fragile Line" was singing lead on two Steely Dan tracks, "Dirty Work" and "Brooklyn" on "Can't Buy a Thrill." As a writer, he'd worked on Carole King's album "Wrap Around Joy." His early band The Myddle Class had been signed by Goffin-King.

In the picture at the top right, you'll see the goofy bug-eye cover of the "Berkshire" album above the rather stolid group-photo used for the cover of the ill-fated "Fragile Line" release.

There was, and is, a fragile line between what pop critics call "tasty" and what the radio decides to play and what people are moved to buy.

For a journeyman rock group with a fairly generic lead singer, Wha-Koo still deserved a better fate, and "Fragile Line" still holds up after all these years.
Two highlight tracks cover the familiar territory of woman-trouble.

"Old King's Cross," despite some late 70's cliches in the production (and the familiar Billy Joel-style piano work), is a moving, if somewhat overbaked ballad that casts a moody view at whores: "By the light of the Southern Cross, where the ladies fake their pleasure. You find what you thought you lost, and the stars go on forever...you'll never know you've been had till she ads up the cost. Tonight on Old King's Cross."

If a ballad about whorish girlfriends or girlish whore friends doesn't let you know these Wha-Koo guys sometimes chose Wha-king off instead, then move on to "Velvet Screw," which is an up-beat fist-clenched rant at a bitch goddess:

"You're so good with the velvet screw, and no one turns it like you do!"

Momentarily calm, Palmer continues: "There is just one thing I want you to know. I seen them come, and I seen them go." Then he revs up once again: "You're the best I've ever seen at using someone else's dreams...you're so good with the steel caress. When it comes to pain baby, you're the best. I've seen them all AND I'M IMPRESSED!"

You just might be impressed with the very solid work Wha-Koo did 30 years ago.


Update: Nov, 2011. Rapidshare's annoying "30 days without a download kills it" policy killed the original links. Since Rapidshare has driven me crazy with their constant policy updates and their skimpy time-frame (which is especially tough on a blog like this, where the idea is not to give away popular stuff you can buy), the re-up is "Camarillo." A song about a famous mental asylum in California.



Liam Clancy (aka William Clancy) died on December 4th, the last member of the group that included his brothers Patrick and Tom, as well as friend Tommy Makem.

It's possible The Clancy Brothers' act could've been even bigger, considering that Liam was the youngest of eleven children!

Back in 1956, the young broth of a boy came to America where brothers Paddy and Tommy were trying to get work in the New York theater. Acting jobs were few, but there was a big market in the coffee houses and pubs for singers. The Clancy Brothers began singing and recording albums, starting fittingly enough with "Irish Songs of Rebellion." They were a hit on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in 1961, and when the folk-rock scene was in swing, the veteran act was polished and poised to join in, and they did. They were on Vanguard, the same label as Joan Baez. One of the new guys singing songs of rebellion, Joan's boyfriend Bob Dylan, admired the band, and said there wasn't "anybody who's a better ballad singer than Liam."

From Carnegie Hall in New York to Albert Hall in London, and all over the world, The Clancy Brothers played to standing room only. In 1973 Liam left his brothers to work as a solo artist, but returned in 1984. The group was stable for a while, but Liam walked out yet again, this time in a feud with his brother Pat. When Tom died in 1990, The Clancy Brothers seemed doomed, but Liam re-joined Pat and Tommy Makem and there were more concerts and recordings, with Robbie O'Connell adding to the line-up.

At the "Bobfest," that star-studded concert honoring Dylan's 30th Anniversary, they performed "When the Ship Comes In."

The Clancy Brothers act was in retirement by the time Pat Clancy died in 1998. Tommy Makem passed on in 2007. Typical of the rousing enthusiasm and vibrant harmony that the group specialized in, your download is the Irish classic, "Brennan on the Moor," which has nothing to do with Walter or Mary Tyler...


ERIC WOOLFSON DIES; "Eye in the Sky"

"The Alan Parsons Project," with most songs written by Eric Woolfson and Alan Parsons, relied mainly on "guest vocalists," but despite having a bland, if not weak voice, it was Eric himself who ended up with their greatest hit. "Eye in the Sky" seemed like a throw-away track at the time, not something that would entice a top singer.

Parsons recalled, "I hated the song when we first started recording it — I was quite ready to drop it altogether." He was a little more optimistic after "we hit upon the hypnotic guitar chugs."

A rarity (Jewish Scotsman) Woolfson (March 18, 1945 – December 2, 2009) began his career as a songwriter. His early attempt in front of a microhone, a single in 1971 under the name Eric Elder, went nowhere. He expanded to record producing, gifting us with the immortal Carl "Kung Fu Fighting" Douglas.

As the name would suggest, though Eric and Alan co-wrote the songs, "The Alan Parsons Project" focused attention on only one man. Parsons was generally the lone face in 8x10 glossies given out by the record label. Their first effort, a Poe concept album, "Tales of Mystery and Imagination," has a big photo of Parsons in the gatefold. Woolfson gets a much smaller photo.

Parsons, after all, was the engineering wizard behind "Dark Side of the Moon," and Eric was just an unknown songwriter.

Critics were not impressed with the glossy, easy-listening style of The Alan Parsons Project. Checking my files, I find Ed Naha speaking for the majority via an issue of Circus in August of 1976. The no-no from Naha begins:

"If Edgar Allen (sic) Poe were still alive, he would probably seek out Alan Parsons and brick him up behind a rather hefty concrete wall. The Parsons Projejct LP really hits Mr. Poe with a low blow, transforming many of his terrifying poems and stories into aimless tunes that Mike Quatro wouldn't be caught listening to after a Jesus Christ Superstar concert..." After this, the review gets nasty.

Despite critical nausea, The Alan Parsons Project flourished for over ten years, producing a lot of safe, catchy pop tunes in the tradition of E.L.O. if not "Jesus Christ Superstar." Ultimately hoping to compete with Andrew Lloyd-Weber himself, Woolfson found a new partner, Brian Brolly, and began writing musicals for the stage.

Their musical "Freudiana" didn't make it to London's West End, or Broadway, but it was a hit in Germany, where a follow-up musical about Antonio Gaudi was also a big success. Eric even tried to revisit Poe with a new musical, but it failed to get on the boards. An album of songs from the show exists, called "More Tales of Mystery and Imagination," and you can find information on it at www.poe-cd.com/home.html

Eric's last musical was "Dancing Shadows" in 2007. Below, his most famous song, co-written and sung by Eric, and the obvious inspiration for the photo top right. As two eyes in the sky, Eric may be reading along with you on this blog -- heaven must have free wi-fi.