Midweek Music – Norah Jones

I missed Tune Tuesday for a couple weeks, so here is a musical blog.

In 2003, I was surfing from radio station to radio station and came across a song that “stood out” to me.  The singer had this sultry, smokey voice that peaked my curiosity.  I had no idea who she was and had never heard the song before.  I stood out to me because it sounded almost like a jazz standard, something like Frank Sinatra would have recorded.  The song was “Come Away With Me” by Norah Jones.

Norah Jones

The served as the title track of Norah’s debut album.  In 2003, Norah was about 24 years old.  She recorded the album in late 2000-2001 (so she would have been around 21). The album was very successful, peaking at #1 on the Billboard 200.  It also was a Grammy winning album walking away with Grammy’s for Best Pop Vocal Album and Album of the Year!

The song is so simple.  Her vocal is beautiful on this song (and all of those on this album).  It is one of my favorite songs to just sit and relax with.

Come Away With Me

“Come Away With Me”


Come away with me in the night
Come away with me
And I will write you a song

Come away with me on a bus
Come away where they can’t tempt us
With their lies

I want to walk with you
On a cloudy day
In fields where the yellow grass grows knee-high
So won’t you try to come

Come away with me and we’ll kiss
On a mountaintop
Come away with me
And I’ll never stop loving you

And I want to wake up with the rain
Falling on a tin roof
While I’m safe there in your arms
So all I ask is for you
To come away with me in the night
Come away with me

Norah Jones

Another song on the album that is just amazing is “Don’t Know Why”.  The song was written by Jesse Harris and had actually appeared on an album he did in 1999.  He teamed up with Norah at some point and she recorded it.  The word is that the song on the album is actually the first and only take of the song.  Norah told performingsongwriter.com:

“It was a demo I sang for Jesse in May of 2001. That was the first take of the song on that recording, and that’s the one we used for the record. I think it was really beautiful. It was so spontaneous. That’s what made it so cool. I feel like that’s why people connected with it. We were lucky we captured some kind of spark.”

In another story I read, the bass player thought he was too loud and almost stopped the take.  He admits, he is glad that he didn’t, as he calls the take “magic”.  I would agree.  It truly is an amazing cut.  In 2003, it won Grammy’s for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.

 

 

Don’t Know Why

“Don’t Know Why”

I waited ’til I saw the sun
I don’t know why I didn’t come
I left you by the house of fun
I don’t know why I didn’t come
I don’t know why I didn’t come

When I saw the break of day
I wished that I could fly away
Instead of kneeling in the sand
Catching teardrops in my hand

My heart is drenched in wine
But you’ll be on my mind
Forever

Out across the endless sea
I would die in ecstasy
But I’ll be a bag of bones
Driving down the road alone

My heart is drenched in wine
But you’ll be on my mind
Forever

Something has to make you run
I don’t know why I didn’t come
I feel as empty as a drum
I don’t know why I didn’t come
I don’t know why I didn’t come
I don’t know why I didn’t come

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The album remains one of my favorites.  She does a great cover of “Cold, Cold Heart” and other songs on it.  Whether you want to call the album Jazz, Pop, Blues or Folk, it doesn’t matter to me.  I call it – AMAZING!

Tune Tuesday – Guitar Man

It was 52 years ago today, on September 10, 1967, that Elvis Presley recorded the song “Guitar Man” in the RCA studios in Nashville.  The song was written and originally recorded by Jerry Reed (who went on to act in Smokey and the Bandit and other films).  Jerry’s version reached only #53 on the country chart that year, and Elvis would see much greater success with it.  Jerry enjoyed that success, too, because he was playing on the Elvis version.

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One of my favorite interviews I ever did was with Jerry Reed, shortly before he passed away.  I asked him about his connection with Elvis.  He told me that Elvis was in the studio trying to record the song.  He was unhappy with the way the guitar part sounded.  He kept telling the guitar player “That don’t sound like Reed’s record.”  Jerry’s version of the story is that the guitar player told Elvis, “If you want it to sound like Reed’s record – you better get Reed in here!”  (Another version of the story says that Elvis said, “Get me that redneck picker who’s on the original tune!”)

Jerry told me that he was out fishing or something and someone from his office was finally able to reach him by phone and said that Elvis wanted him in the studio.  Jerry said that he hadn’t shaved in days and walked into the studio looking a bit shaggy.  He said Elvis looked at him and said, “Lord, have mercy!  What is that?!”  Jerry went on to tell me, That he never thought of himself as a Nashville recording musician. He called himself a stylist. He said he had his own way of tuning.  He said “they were trying to record Guitar Man, and they couldn’t make it feel like my record.” He said that those players use picks, and he uses his fingers.  He said that once he “wound up his guitar” and got it all set he told me that “as soon as we hit the intro, you could see Elvis’ eyes light up he knew we had it”. (Jerry also played on other songs in that session including Big Boss Man)  It was so cool to hear Jerry tell this story!

In 1981, the song was re-recorded with Elvis’ vocal left intact.  That version went to #1 on the country charts.

Here is the song from 52 years ago:

Here is Jerry Reed’s original version:

Guitar Man

Guitar Man”

Well I quit my job down at the carwash I left my mama a goodbye note
By sundown I’d left Kingston with my guitar up under my coat
I hitchhiked all the way down to Memphis got a room at the YMCA
For the next three weeks I went a hauntin’ them night clubs
Lookin’ for a place to play
Well I thought my pickin’ would set ’em on fire
But nobody wanted to hire a guitar man

Well I nearly bout starved to death down in Memphis
I run out of money and luck
So I bummed me a ride down to Macon Georgia
On a overloaded poultry truck
I thumbed on down to Panama City
Started checkin’ out some of them all night bars
Hopin’ I can make myself a dollar makin’ music on my guitar
Got the same old story at them all night piers
There ain’t no room around here for a guitar man
We don’t need a guitar man son

So I slept in hobo jungles bummed a thousand miles of track
Till I found myself in Mobile Alabama at a club they call Big Jack’s
A little four piece band was jammin’ so I took my guitar and I sat in
I showed ’em what a band would sound like with a swingin’ little guitar man
Show ’em son

So if you ever take a trip down to the ocean find yourself down round Mobile
Well make it on out to the club called Jack’s if you got a little time to kill
Just follow that crowd of people you’ll wind up out on his dance floor
Diggin’ the finest little five piece group up and down the Gulf of Mexico
And guess who’s leadin’ that five piece band
Why wouldn’t you know it’s that swingin’ little guitar man yeah

Tune Tuesday – Ain’t No Sunshine

As summer quickly (and sadly) draws to a close, it got me to thinking about the one thing I’ll miss most about summer – sunshine. For those who live where the sun is always shining (or at least most of the time), you really cannot comprehend just how difficult the winter months in Michigan are. While I love Autumn, I miss the sunshine as we start to see it less and less.

The lack of sunshine that is on the horizon in the months ahead, made me think of this great R&B song from Bill Withers. It’s been covered by SO many people including Nancy Sinatra, Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson, Wynonna Judd and many more, but Bill Wither’s version is the gold standard! It can be found on his 1971 album “Just As I Am.”

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Bill wrote the song after being inspired while watching the movie The Days of Wine and Roses with Lee Remick and Jack Lemmon. He said in an interview that the characters Remick and Lemmon played: “They were both alcoholics who were alternately weak and strong. It’s like going back for seconds on rat poison. Sometimes you miss things that weren’t particularly good for you. It’s just something that crossed my mind from watching that movie, and probably something else that happened in my life that I’m not aware of.”

This was his first hit. He was in the navy for 9 years and after getting out, he worked in a factory making parts for airplanes. It was during this time that he met Booker T. Jones (of Booker and the MG’s). Booker brought in some amazing musicians (Donald “Duck” Dunn, Stephen Stills, and himself) to play on the track. Jones also produced the album.

One of the most recognizable parts of the song is where he repeats the words “I know” over and over and over. That was not they way he intended the song to be. he had hoped to write a verse to go there. Withers explained in an interview: “I wasn’t going to do that, then Booker T. said, ‘No, leave it like that.’ I was going to write something there, but there was a general consensus in the studio. It was an interesting thing because I’ve got all these guys that were already established, and I was working in the factory at the time. Graham Nash was sitting right in front of me, just offering his support. Stephen Stills was playing and there was Booker T. and Al Jackson and Donald Dunn – all of the MGs except Steve Cropper. They were all these people with all this experience and all these reputations, and I was this factory worker just sort of puttering around. So when their general feeling was, ‘Leave it like that,’ I left it like that.”

(Keith story: The first time I played this record at WKSG in Detroit, I was in the bathroom peeing when the “I know” part started repeating. I was standing at the urinal listening to the song over the speaker and I thought “the record is skipping!” I was playing this off a cart (which meant that it was already recorded and there was no way the song was skipping, unless it was recorded that way!). I remember running out of the bathroom and through the halls anyway …. by the time I got to the studio, the song was continuing ….skip free!)

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The song won the Grammy for Best R&B song in 1972 and went all the way to #3 on the charts. While English teachers must cringe when they hear the improper grammar (“ain’t no” instead of “isn’t any”), it worked in this song (and also Ain’t No Woman (Like the One I’ve Got” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough).

“Ain’t No Sunshine”

Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
It’s not warm when she’s away
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
And she’s always gone too long
Anytime she goes away

Wonder this time where she’s gone
Wonder if she’s gone to stay
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
And this house just ain’t no home
Anytime she goes away

And I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know
Hey, I oughtta leave young thing alone
But ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone

Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
Only darkness every day
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
And this house just ain’t no home
Anytime she goes away
Anytime she goes away
Anytime she goes away
Anytime she goes away

Tune Tuesday – That’s Amore

It was 66 years ago today that Dean Martin stood in the recording studios at Capitol Records to record a song that he will forever be associated with – That’s Amore.  In 1953, Dean recorded it with Dick Stabile and his orchestra.  The session went from 8:30pm to 12:30am.  Also recorded at that session was the flip side of the record, a song called “You’re the Right One”.

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The song first appeared in the Martin and Lewis movie, The Caddy, which was released by Paramount Pictures three days earlier.  The song was written by Jack Brooks (who wrote the lyrics) and Harry Warren (who wrote the music).  According to Jerry Lewis, the writers of The Caddy left Dean very little to do.  The relationship between Dean and Jerry was already a bit strained.  According to Jerry, he went behind Dean’s back and said that he needed “a hit song” for Dean to sing in the movie – and That’s Amore was it.  Jerry said he paid about $30,000 for the song.  The song received an Academy Award Nomination for Best Original Song (it lost to Doris Day’s ‘Secret Love’).  It reached #2 on the charts.

The video below is taken from the Capitol Collector’s Series, which includes some playful studio chatter from Dean before the take.  Enjoy.

That’s Amore

“That’s Amore”

(In Napoli where love is king
When boy meets girl here’s what they say)

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie
That’s amore
When the world seems to shine like you’ve had too much wine
That’s amore
Bells will ring ting-a-ling-a-ling, ting-a-ling-a-ling
And you’ll sing “Vita bella”
Hearts will play tippy-tippy-tay, tippy-tippy-tay
Like a gay tarantella

When the stars make you drool just like a pasta e fazool
That’s amore
When you dance down the street with a cloud at your feet
You’re in love
When you walk in a dream but you know you’re not dreaming, signore
Scusa mi, but you see, back in old Napoli
That’s amore

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie
That’s amore (That’s amore)
When the world seems to shine like you’ve had too much wine
That’s amore (That’s amore)
Bells will ring ting-a-ling-a-ling, ting-a-ling-a-ling
And you’ll sing “Vita bella” (Vita bell—Vita bella)
Hearts will play tippy-tippy-tay, tippy-tippy-tay
Like a gay tarantella (lucky fella)

When the stars make you drool just like a pasta e fazool
That’s amore (That’s amore)
When you dance down the street with a cloud at your feet
You’re in love
When you walk in a dream but you know you’re not dreaming, signore
Scusa mi, but you see, back in old Napoli
That’s amore (amore)
That’s amore

 

Tune Tuesday – Music Box Dancer

I have blogged in the past about our summer trips to Caseville, MI.  Those trips remain some of my fondest memories.  I heard a song on 70’s on 7 on Sirius XM last week that will forever have a Caseville connection for me – Music Box Dancer.

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There was a brief period of time when my grandparents didn’t have a TV at the trailer.  During this time we had an AM/FM radio with a cassette deck in it.  When we were not listening to Johnny Paycheck’s “Greatest Hits Volume II”, Willie Nelson’s “Stardust”, or some other mix cassette that my dad recorded, we were listening to the radio.  As I recall, there were not too many stations that we could actually get on our little radio.  One of them was a pop station and it always seemed to be playing this piano instrumental.

Frank Mills was a Canadian musician who wrote and recorded Music Box Dancer in 1974.  It was not a hit until it was re-released in 1978.  The story is interesting.  Mills was resigned to Polydor Records in 1978, and a new song was released with Music Box Dancer as the B-side.  The song was sent to easy listening stations in Canada, but by mistake one copy made it to a Canadian pop station (CFRA-AM).  The program director played the A-side and couldn’t figure out why it was sent to his station.  He listened to the B-Side (Music Box Dancer) and liked it and added it to the play list. By June, it was the station’s #1 song on the play list. After several months, Polydor Records decided to release the album and single in the US.  It went to #3 in the US and it was Frank Mills’ only Top 40 US hit.

We would turn on the radio while we sat in the kitchen or living room at the trailer.  We’d hear Reunited by Peaches and Herb, Heart of Glass by Blondie, Hot Stuff by Donna Summer and Frank Mills Music Box Dancer.  It was such a simple song with a repetitive melody and we loved it.  My brother and I would listen to it with our Aunt Jodi and when it was done, we’d start surfing the radio in hopes of hearing it again.  We eventually got smart and I think we recorded it off the radio so we could play it whenever we wanted.

Music Box Dancer

Tune Tuesday – Shake a Tail Feather

I miss a good movie soundtrack album!  There was a time where soundtracks from movies were just as big as the movie itself.  If I had to pick my Top 10 movie soundtracks, The Blues Brothers would be in the Top 5!

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The Blues Brothers Band was made up of some of the most amazing players – Matt “Guitar” Murphy, “Blue” Lou Marini, Steve “The Colonel” Cropper, Donald “Duck” Dunn, Alan “Mr. Fabulous” Rubin, and Tom “Bones” Malone.  The movie itself featured cameos from some of the greatest R&B artists – Aretha Franklin, Cab Calloway, James Brown, John Lee Hooker, and Ray Charles.  Many of the artists sang songs they were known for (Aretha – Think, John Lee – Boom Boom, Cab – Minnie the Moocher), but Ray performed today’s Tune Tuesday song – “Shake a Tail Feather.”

The song was originally done in 1963 by the Five Du-Tones.  The bigger hit was done a few years later (in 1967) by James and Bobby Purify and it reached #25 on the charts.  Ray Charles’ version with the Blues Brothers, in my opinion, is the best version.  First of all, you have the vocals of Ray Charles!  They call him “the Genius”, and he is!  You have the playful vocals from Jake and Elwood, and the great horn line from the band.  It’s just a damn fun song!

For the video, I was lucky enough to find the actual movie clip.  Murph says the “action” on the keyboard isn’t that great.  Ray comes out to show them that there’s nothing wrong with “the action on this piano” and the song begins!  In the song there are references to many of the old dances from the 50’s and 60’s and the crowd dancing outside the music store does those dances along with the song.

Take it away, Brother Ray …..

Shake A Tail Feather

Well I heard about the fellow you’ve been dancing with
All over the neighborhood
So why didn’t you ask me baby
Or didn’t you think I could?

Well I know that the boogaloo is out of sight
But the Shingaling’s the thing tonight
But if that was you and me a now baby
I would have shown you how to do it right
Do it right (U-huh)
Do it right (Do it right)
Dot it right
Do it right
Do it right
Ah

Twist it, shake it shake it shake it shake it baby
Hey we gonna loop de loop
Shake it out baby
Hey we gonna loop de la
Bend over let me see ya shake your tailfeather
Bend over let me see ya shake your tailfeather
Come on let me see ya shake your tailfeather
Come on let me see ya shake your tailfeather
Ah

Twist it, shake it shake it shake it shake it baby
Hey we gonna loop de loop
Shake it out baby
Hey we gonna loop de la
Bend over let me see ya shake your tailfeather
Bend over let me see ya shake your tailfeather
Come on let me see ya shake your tailfeather
Come on let me see ya shake your tailfeather
Ah

Come on, come on baby
Come on, yeah, come on babe, all right

Do the Twist
Do the Fly
Do the Swim
And do the Bird
Well do the Duck
Ah, and do the Monkey
Hey hey, Watusi
And a what about the Frug
Do the Mashed Potato
What about the Boogaloo
Oh, the Bony Marony
Come on let’s do the Twist
Ah

Twist it, shake it shake it shake it shake it baby

Tune Tuesday – Love is All Around

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Love Is All Around was a top 10 (it reached #7) hit for The Troggs in 1968.  It was released in October of 1967.  It’s hard to believe that this amazing ballad is done by the same group who recorded the “rock/party” anthem “Wild Thing” the year before.  A great vocal, great lyrics, a string quartet, and the “tick tock” percussion part are just a few things that make this song stand out to me.

According to Reg Presley (whose real name is Reginald Ball – he changed his name as a publicity stunt in 1966) he wrote this song in about 10 minutes.  He had been watching TV and was inspired by The Joy Strings Salvation Army Band.  He told the story in a 2011 interview with Mojo Magazine:

“I got back from America, I smelt the Sunday lunch cooking (inhales deeply), phaaaaw – after about 25 years on burgers – I kissed my wife, my little daughter, four years old. We went into the lounge and those Salvation Girls, The Joystrings, were on television, banging their tambourines and singing something, ‘Love, love,’ love.’ I went over to turn it off, knelt down and hearing that ‘Love, love’ I got a bass line, (sings) ‘doom, doomdoom, doomdoom, doomdoom, doom,’ and I got: ‘I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes. My wife, my kid… And so the feeling grows.'”

R.E.M. covered the song in 1991, but the group Wet, Wet, Wet had bigger success with it after recording it for the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral in 1994.  When they were approached to record a song for the soundtrack, they got to chose from this one, Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive, or Barry Manilow’s I Can’t Smile Without You.  They chose Love Is All Around because they felt like they could make it “their own”.

Wet Wet

Both versions are great.

Love Is All Around

“Love Is All Around”

I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes
Well love is all around me, and so the feeling grows
It’s written on the wind, it’s everywhere I go
So if you really love me, come on and let it show

You know I love you, I always will
My mind’s made up by the way that I feel
There’s no beginning, there’ll be no end
‘Cause on my love you can depend

I see your face before me as I lay on my bed
I kinda get to thinking, of all the things you said
You gave your promise to me, and I gave mine to you
I need someone beside me in everything I do

You know I love you, I always will
My mind’s made up by the way that I feel
There’s no beginning, there’ll be no end
‘Cause on my love you can depend

It’s written on the wind, it’s everywhere I go
So if you really love me, come on and let it show
Come on and let it show
Come on and let it show
Come on and let it show
Come on and let it show
Come on and let it show