Sunday, January 09, 2011

HAPPY NEW YEAR - Randy Newman Beverley Martyn via Denny Cordell

No, you can't expect a totally joyful New Year's song when it's written by Randy Newman, sung by moody Beverley Martyn, and produced by the grandly messed up Denny Cordell (who also worked with both The Moody Blues and Procol Harum). Cordell certainly reaches another peak here, with an over-peaked wall of sound that makes you wonder how much is intentional and how much is ineptitude. Like a running back storming downfield with the help of a savage team mate hurling blocks and pushing defensive players out of the way, Martyn snarls her way forward behind a pounding piano.

As to the perps here. Denny Cordell, who may have reached his critical peak with Procol Harum's "Shine on Brightly" album, went on to form Shelter Records with Leon Russell, and work with Joe Cocker, Phoebe Snow and later The Cranberries. He died in 1995 and his son Tarka committed suicide in 2008 after making a debut album called "Wide Awake." Fans of Randy Newman are rejoicing that a lot of 60's versions of his songs (most of them never covered by Randy himself) have turned up on two great compilation albums, "On Vine Street" and "Bless You California." I bought both, as they're well worth the import price, and if you don't support the labels that are taking the time to dig into the vaults and re-master obscurities, all you'll ever get would be "Lost Jukebox" scratchy pieces of mp3 shit that also offer no information on the origin or the authors, or any interview quotes about the release.

Beverley Kutner was the former lead singer for The Levee Breakers with Mac McGann and Johnny Joyce, and became one of the first solo acts signed to the new Deram label in 1966. It seemed she couldn't miss with a song penned by Randy Newman, back-up musicians including Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, and released without her dowdy last name. But "Happy New Year" by Beverly didn't chart well, and neither did a follow-up in 1967 written by Donovan called "Museum." She would name-check Donovan by smartly calling out, "Good morning Mr. Leitch, have you had a busy day," on Paul Simon's track "Fakin' It." Things got a lot less fake when she met and married John Martyn in 1969, and the folk duo released two critically praised albums, and a particularly well loved song called "Primrose Hill." The trail runs cold after that, not helped by John Martyn being cold and abusive, leading to divorce. Beverley staged a bit of a comeback in 2001 with "No Frills," saw "Primrose Hill" sampled (and hopefully there were royalties) by Fat Boy Slim on the re-titled "North West Three," and is rumored to have completed a new album.



Hazy Dave said...

Happy new year, yourself!

friendlier said...

Absolutely a fount of info here. Came looking to find an empee of Happy New Year, and came away with so much more. I'm especially struck by it being Beverley's shout-out to Donovan on Fakin' It. Well, I do have a passion for the pop trivial.

Thank you.