Album Review: Paul Simon’s ‘In the Blue Light’

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About this Episode

Cover of Paul Simon’s ‘In the Blue Light, courtesy of Legacy Recordings

The songwriter who could easily be considered America’s unofficial poet laureate has a new album in which he revisits past composition with new recordings and new interpretations.  Paul Simon has been writing the soundtrack to multiple generations’ lives since the 1960s, when he and childhood friend Art Garfunkel took folk-rock music to new heights of popularity.

Simon’s subsequent solo career allowed him to continue growing as a writer, musician and performer who produced some of the most critically acclaimed albums and songs from the 1970s and 1980s.

For his new album, entitled In the Blue Light, Simon has chosen 10 songs from his past that he felt needed to be update with new arrangements, harmonic structures, lyrics and various other alterations.  The songs featured on the album are not from his large collection of Top 40 hits, but are instead album tracks that have filled out his unique ability to cleverly tell stories that have made him one of the most important songwriters of the past 50 years.

In a special approach to reviewing In the Blue Light, journalist Robert Neil looks at a handful of the new recordings and compares them to the original versions of the songs.  Ultimately, Neil concludes that “fans who appreciate Simon’s inherent ability to write songs with rhythms, phrasings and melodies that can’t be found elsewhere, will find that In the Blue Light fits nicely alongside his best albums.”

Things You Didn’t Know about Debby Boone – An Interview and Music-History Lesson

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About this Episode

Debbie Boone and grandfather Red Foley, father Pat Boone and mother-in-law Rosemary Clooney

In the 1970s, the most popular song of the decade was Debby Boone’s “You Light Up My Life,” which spend 10 weeks at the top of Billboard’s singles chart in 1977.  While the overwhelming success of the song overshadows other aspects of Boone’s career, the eternally optimistic singer has had a varied and successful career in multiple musical genres.

In a new interview with journalist Robert Neil, Boone talks about the unusual circumstances that created the opportunity to record “You Light Up My Life,” and the odd path that followed.  In her typically good-natured way, Boone jokes about how ‘green’ she was at that time and how her desire to sing in a variety of styles ultimately left her with a ‘branding’ problem.

She also talks about members of her famous family, and the conversation goes well beyond her legendary father Pat Boone.  Debby is also related to two other iconic and hugely important musical performers:  country singer Red Foley and singer/actress Rosemary Clooney.

Foley, considered one of the most important figures in the history of country music, was Boone’s maternal grandfather, and Clooney, who recorded some of the most popular pop songs of the early 1950s, was Boone’s mother-in-law.

In a free-flowing, casual interview, Boone talks about her famous relations, and Neil also speaks with John Rumble, senior historian at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, who offers some insights into Foley’s career.

Album Review: Rita Coolidge’s ‘Safe in the Arms of Time’

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About this Episode

Cover of Rita Coolidge’s album ‘Safe in the Arms of Time’

The latest episode of Documenting Popular Music takes a look at Rita Coolidge’s latest album, Safe in the Arms of Time. The songs on the album reflect the maturity of someone who has already gone through the highs and lows of love and is now experiencing what the emotion is like at this stage of her life. Coolidge gives voice to the realization that relationships and romance don’t end after you reach a certain age, but that they are filtered through years of experiences.

Legendary Delta blues musician Keb Mo is featured on the album. He co-wrote two of the songs and sings a duet with Coolidge on “Walking on Water.”

The album was produced by Ross Hogarth and is on Blue Ělan Records, a company quietly gaining a reputation as an artists’ label, because of the way it embraces performers of all ages and genres.  Coolidge says Blue Ělan reminds her of her days at A&M Records, when Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss were running the independent label as an artist friendly, family company.

Included in the review, presented by journalist Robert Neil, is a brief look at Coolidge’s career in the 70s and 80s.

Smooth Rock Sounds of the 80s are Back, Courtesy of Young Gun Silver Fox

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About this Episode

Andy Platts and Shawn Lee of Young Gun Silver Fox.

That unmistakable sound of West Coast smooth rock was all over the radio in the late 1970s and early 1980s with groups such as Hall&Oates, Player, Steely Dan, the Little River Band, Boz Scaggs, the Michael McDonald lead version of the Doobie Bros and many others.

The gene, which incorporated elements of smooth jazz and soul, is making a comeback, and a group helping to make the past current is Young Gun Silver Fox.  The band is made up of Andy Platts and Shawn Lee, who are not recording cover versions of 80s songs, but are creating new material that sounds like it was originally recorded from that era.

They duo has a new album out called ‘AM Waves,’ and guys are so skilled at what they’re doing that if you didn’t know better, you would think you were listening to songs you somehow missed 35 years ago.

On the new episode of ‘Documenting Popular Music,’ journalist Robert Neil speaks with Platts and Lee from their studio in London about the new album and the retro sound that is starting to get a good deal of attention.

An Historic Writing Partnership –Legendary Songwriters Neil Diamond and Gilbert Bécaud Come Together to Write Songs for The Jazz Singer Movie

posted in: Neil Diamond, Songwriting | 0

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About this Episode

In the late 1970s, when Neil Diamond was asked to star in the movie the Jazz Singer, his career was at the peak of popularity, and he had not only established himself as an elite performer, but also an accomplished songwriter.  Similarly, Gilbert Bécaud, who had reached stardom more than a decade before Diamond, was also revered as a top performer and songwriter in France and other European countries.

These two men came together in the late 1970s for a writing partnership that would ultimately produce about a dozen songs, including the first single from the Jazz Singer soundtrack – a song that would become one of the biggest recordings in Diamond’s career.

On this episode of Documenting Popular Music, veteran journalist Robert Neil spotlights the remarkable songwriting collaboration and offers details about the Diamond/Bécaud partnership that have not been highlighted before.

 

 

 

 

Documenting Popular Music’s theme music by composer frankum (https://frankum-frankumjay.blogspot.com.es/), © copyright 2017 and used under a licensing agreement (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/legalcode) via freesound (https://freesound.org/people/frankum/). No warranties are given for the use of this music.

TBT – Album Review: James Taylor’s ‘Before this World’ from 2015

posted in: 1970s, album review, James Taylor | 0

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About this Episode

Cover of James Taylor’s album ‘Before this World.”  Photo courtesy Concord Music Group.

For this ‘Throwback Thursday’ (TBT) episode of Documenting Popular Music, we are replaying our 2015 review of James Taylor’s ‘Before this World album.  To date, it is the last studio album Taylor has released, and he has been performing songs form the album on his current concert tour.

Before this World’ was produced by one of Taylor’s long-time collaborators, Dave O’Donnell, and the core musicians who perform on the album have also been part of Taylor inner circle for a long time.  Additionally, guests Sting and Yo-Yo Ma appear on the album, which debuted at #1 on Billboard’s album chart when it was released.

Included on the album is the now classic “Angels of Fenway,” a tribute to the Boston Red Sox World Series championship season in 2004.

 

Musicians on the Album:

Luis Conte: Percussion

Walt Fowler: Handclaps

Steve Gadd: Drums

Larry Goldings: Piano, Wurlitzer, Fender Rhodes, Organ, Accordion, Harmonium

Jimmy Johnson: Bass

Michael Landau: Electric and Nylon-String Guitars

David Lasley: Vocals

Yo-Yo Ma: Cello

Kate Markowitz: Vocals

Arnold McCuller: Vocals

Rajendra Prasanna: Shehnai

Caroline Taylor: Vocals

Henry Taylor: Vocals

James Taylor: Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Harmonica, Hi-Strung Guitar, Synth Guitar

Sting: Vocals

Andrea Zonn: Fiddle and Vocals

 

The O&F Studios is currently working on an elaborate edition of Documenting Popular Music, which will take a look at the year in music from 1977 and the music and trends that helped shape the latter half of the 70s.

Additional episodes currently being produced include an interview with the author of a new biography about Gordon Lightfoot and an in-depth interview with Merilee Rush (“Angel of the Morning”).

 

 

Documenting Popular Music’s theme music by composer frankum (https://frankum-frankumjay.blogspot.com.es/), © copyright 2017 and used under a licensing agreement (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/legalcode) via freesound (https://freesound.org/people/frankum/). No warranties are given for the use of this music.

Hey, Hey It’s the Monkees, Part II – A Look at the Individual Careers of the Monkees in the 70s and 80s

posted in: 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, Monkees, Neil Diamond | 2

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About this Episode

Left to right: Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, Michael Nesmith

The Monkees TV show debuted in September of 1966 and ran until March of 1968.  During that time, the band saturated the music charts and radio stations with songs such as “I’m a Believer,” “Daydream Believer,” “Last Train to Clarksville,” “Valleri,” “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone” and many others.

The group consisted for Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork, and the four had been assembled by producers at Screen Gems for the television show.  In the beginning, the members of the group didn’t have much say in the music they recorded, and their vocals were their main contributions.  However, the Monkees were eventually able to wrestle away more control of the recordings, and their musical careers continued after the television show ended.

This episode of Documenting Popular Music, takes a look at the individual members of the Monkees and what they did after the break up – in the 1970s and 1980s.  Insight into their careers is provided by Monkees expert Fred Velez, who writes a blog for the website Monkees.net, and he authored the book A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You: The Monkees From A Fan’s Perspective.

Velez, who has a wealth of knowledge about the group, also offers some behind the scenes history, including how the Monkees and the Beatles hung out together, and how Dolenz ended up using a Beatles song in an episode of the Monkees TV show.

Part I of this feature takes a look at Nesmith and Dolenz.

Part II spotlights Jones and Tork.

 

Documenting Popular Music’s theme music by composer frankum (https://frankum-frankumjay.blogspot.com.es/), © copyright 2017 and used under a licensing agreement (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/legalcode) via freesound (https://freesound.org/people/frankum/). No warranties are given for the use of this music.

Hey, Hey It’s the Monkees, Part I – A Look at the Individual Careers of the Monkees in the 70s and 80s

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About this Episode

In the back, left to right: Micky Dolenz and Michael Nesmith. In the front, left to right: Peter Tork and Davy Jones

The Monkees TV show debuted in September of 1966 and ran until March of 1968.  During that time, the band saturated the music charts and radio stations with songs such as “I’m a Believer,” “Daydream Believer,” “Last Train to Clarksville,” “Valleri,” “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone” and many others.

The group consisted for Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork, and the four had been assembled by producers at Screen Gems for the television show.  In the beginning, the members of the group didn’t have much say in the music they recorded, and their vocals were their main contributions.  However, the Monkees were eventually able to wrestle away more control of the recordings, and their musical careers continued after the television show ended.

This episode of Documenting Popular Music, takes a look at the individual members of the Monkees and what they did after the break up – in the 1970s and 1980s.  Insight into their careers is provided by Monkees expert Fred Velez, who writes a blog for the website Monkees.net, and he authored the book A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You: The Monkees From A Fan’s Perspective.

Velez, who has a wealth of knowledge about the group, also offers some behind the scenes history, including how the Monkees and the Beatles hung out together, and how Dolenz ended up using a Beatles song in an episode of the Monkees TV show.

Part I of this feature takes a look at Nesmith and Dolenz.

Part II spotlights Jones and Tork.

 

Documenting Popular Music’s theme music by composer frankum (https://frankum-frankumjay.blogspot.com.es/), © copyright 2017 and used under a licensing agreement (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/legalcode) via freesound (https://freesound.org/people/frankum/). No warranties are given for the use of this music.

Album Review — The Eagles, Donna Summer, Garth Brooks, Vince Gill, Randy Owen and Many Others Pay Tribute to Dan Fogelberg

posted in: album review, Dan Fogelberg | 0

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About this Episode

Cover of the new tribute album to Dan Fogelberg

Dan Fogelberg passed away 10 years ago this month.  His memory has been kept alive this year by a number of events, including the release of two new albums, ‘Live At Carnegie Hall’ (a previously unheard performance from 1979) and a tribute album that features a long list of musicians that loved Fogelberg’s music.

This episode of Documenting Popular Music takes a look at the tribute album and artist such as Garth Brooks, who performs “Phoenix” with Trisha Yearwood providing background vocals; the late Donna Sumer, who sings an inspiring version of “Nether Lands” using the same backing track that Fogelberg used for the 1977 classic; Amy Grant and Vince Gill, who provide a duet on “Longer” that gives new life to Fogelberg’s biggest hit; Randy Owen, the legendary voice of the group Alabama – the best-selling country group of all time – sings “Sutter’s Mill,” originally from Fogelberg’s progressive bluegrass album ‘High Country Snows;’ Zac Brown and his band deliver a live version of “Leader of the Band;” and Fogelberg’s good friend Joe Walsh of the Eagles sings “Part of the Plan,” a song he originally produced for Fogelberg for the 1974 album Souvenirs. Fellow Eagles Don Henley and Timothy B. Schmitt sing backing harmonies for the new version of the song.

Other artists on the album include Michael McDonald, Jimmy Buffett, Boz Scaggs, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with Richie Furay, the late Dobie Gray, Train, Fool’s Gold (originally Fogelberg’s backing band) and Casey James.

Included in this presentation is inside, background information from Fogelberg’s former record producer, Norbert Putnam, one of the tribute album’s co-producers.  Putnam explains how Brooks and Summer got involved in the project, which is a true labor of love from Fogelberg’s widow, Jean Fogelberg, also a producer on the album.  She has worked hard to create a celebrated year for her late husband, and the tribute album is the final, very satisfying piece to an eventful year.

You can hear more from Putnam about his relationship with Dan Fogelberg in the Documenting Popular Music episode ‘Leader of the Band — Remembering Dan Fogelberg with Stories and Insights from His Record Producer’ released earlier this year.

 

Coming soon from Documenting Popular Music, a look at Gordon Lightfoot’s career with author Nicholas Jennings; a conversation with Merrilee Rush (“Angle of the Morning”), a look at TV theme songs from the 1970s that became Top 40 hits; and a biographical sketch of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018.

Robert Neil’s Show Notes

One of the biggest professional joys I had in 2017 was speaking with Norbert Putnam, a man who has had an amazingly successful career as a musician and producer. Norbert was Dan Fogelberg’s first record producer and Jean Fogelberg was nice enough to put me in touch with him for the radio-documentary we did on Dan’s career this year.  (Just to be clear, Jean Fogelberg was not involved in the documentary.)

I had originally hoped to talk with Norbert for about 40 minutes, but he is a very loquacious man with soo many interesting stories to tell, and we ended up speaking for more than two hours. (Thank you Norbert) During our conversation, he told me about Garth Brooks’ and Donna Summer’s involvement with the tribute album; however, the lineup of stars on the album had not yet been released, and Jean asked that I not use the info for the show.  I’m happy I could use Norbert’s recollections about Brooks and Summer for this review of the tribute album.

You can find more stories from Norbert – who has worked with Elvis, Jimmy Buffett, the Monkees, Joan Baez and soo many others – in his memoir, Music Lessons Vol. 1.  Find it at http://www.musiclessonsbynorbertputnam.com/.

Robert Neil

 

Song Notes

“Phoenix”

Performed by Garth Brooks

Written by Dan Fogelberg

© 1979 Hickory Grove Music, ASCAP

“Part of the Plan”

Performed by Joe Walsh

Written by Dan Fogelberg

© 1974 Hickory Grove Music, ASCAP

“Longer”

Performed by Amy Grant and Vince Gill

Written by Dan Fogelberg

© 1979 Hickory Grove Music, ASCAP

“Sutter’s Mill”

Performed by Randy Owen

Written by Dan Fogelberg

© 1985 Hickory Grove Music, ASCAP

“Nether Lands”

Performed by Donna Summer

Written by Dan Fogelberg

© 1977 Hickory Grove Music, ASCAP

“Leader of the Band”

Performed by Zac Brown

Written by Dan Fogelberg

© 1979 Hickory Grove Music, ASCAP

Documenting Popular Music’s theme music by composer frankum (https://frankum-frankumjay.blogspot.com.es/), © copyright 2017 and used under a licensing agreement (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/legalcode) via freesound (https://freesound.org/people/frankum/). No warranties are given for the use of this music.

The Making of a Classic – The Story of How One of Barry Manilow’s Most Beloved Songs Finally Became a Hit

posted in: music | 0

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About this Episode

Cover of Barry Manilow’s 1973, debut album

It was 1971, and a 25-year-old Barry Manilow was still a struggling musician and commercial jingles writer when he came up with a melody he felt was very special. That melody would become the song “Could It Be Magic,” which featured a chorus based on the chord changes in Chopin’s Prelude in C Minor.

“Could It Be Magic” had several early incarnations, including a version produced by a well-intending Tony Orlando that Manilow says thankfully didn’t become a hit. The behind the scenes story of how the song eventually became a Top 10 single – as well as Manilow’s unwavering belief that the song was something special – are detailed in this radio documentary.

 

Song Notes

 

“Could It Be Magic” (1971 version)

Performed by Featherbed featuring Barry Manilow

Written by Tony Orlando, Barry Manilow

© 1971 Orlando Music/ Manilow Music, BMI

“Could It Be Magic” (1973 version)

Performed by Barry Manilow

Written by Barry Manilow, Adrienne Anderson

© 1973 Kamikazi Music/Angeldust Music, BMI

“Could It Be Magic” (1975 version)

Performed by Barry Manilow

Written by Barry Manilow, Adrienne Anderson

© 1975 Kamikazi Music/Angeldust Music, BMI

 

“Mandy”

Performed by Barry Manilow

Written by Scott English, Richard Kerr

© copyright 1974, Screen Gems-Columbia Music/Grahple Music, BMI

“It’s a Miracle”

Performed by Barry Manilow

Written by Barry Manilow, Marty Panzer

© copyright 1975 Kamikazi Music, BMI

“KnockThree Times”

*Performed by Dawn

Written by Irwin Levine and L. Russell Brown

© copyright 1970 Pocketfull of Tunes/Jillbern Music/Saturday Music

Documenting Popular Music’s theme music by composer frankum (https://frankum-frankumjay.blogspot.com.es/), © copyright 2017 and used under a licensing agreement (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/legalcode) via freesound (https://freesound.org/people/frankum/). No warranties are given for the use of this music.
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