Tag Archives: Glen Campbell

Happy Birthday, Billy Preston

Murray The K wanted to be the Fifth Beatle, but I think Billy Preston earned the title. Considering the legacy of the band and the state of society in those days, adding Billy Preston as a member of The Beatles might have ended racism in 1970.

Back in the 60’s, it wasn’t unusual for musicians to be all over a band’s album and get no credit whatsoever. Motown, Stax and other labels had crack house bands that made everyone sound great. Most pop acts were noted for their vocal performances while a session band did most of the work in anonymity. Highly paid work, mind you, but still behind the pop culture curtain.

Consider that most people were shocked when The Monkees admitted that other musicians played on their albums, and at the time they were just four actors pretending to be a band! Glen Campbell and Jimmy Page played on countless sessions before becoming famous under their own name, much like many of the classic songwriters (Neil Diamond, Carole King, Burt Bacharach, etc.) figured out that you could make a ton of money behind the scenes but a ton more out front.

Ringo says he can join!

Billy Preston – has he ever not been smiling? – added a great vibe to the Beatles sound. His solo in “Get Back” makes the song what it is, and the track is actually credited to “The Beatles with Billy Preston” – the only time in the band’s career outside of the Tony Sheridan era where another artist shares billing with them. Nice resume, Mr. Preston!

Sadly, we lost him in 2006, three months shy of his 60th birthday. So whether you know him from his long list of guest stints (everyone from Little Richard and Ray Charles to Johnny Cash and The Rolling Stones – the list is almost endless) or his own chart topping hits “Nothing from Nothing” and “Will it Go Round In Circles“, celebrate the memory of Billy Preston today.

Billy Preston on Wikipedia.

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New Albums From Old Friends

Al Jardine – A Postcard From California

Sure, a lot of this is older Beach Boys material, and yes, Alec Baldwin’s narration within “A California Saga” is a little off-putting, but the important things here are (1) Al Jardine released an album and (2) damn, he sounds really good! Guests on the album – in addition to most of the Beach Boys – include Glen Campbell, Flea, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Steve Miller.

And Beach Boy fans will plotz when they hear the harmonies (including Carl!) on “Don’t Fight The Sea”. Obviously this album has been years in the making, and in keeping with Jardine’s personality it’s a tribute to the natural beauty of California rather than the cars/girls/surfing themes. Fans might have had demos and boots of some of these songs over the years but the sound here is first-rate.

Micky Dolenz – King For A Day

Despite the enormous success of The Monkees, Micky Dolenz still doesn’t get his due as one of the best vocalists of the rock era. I’ve heard it all – the fallacy of The Prefab Four and the lunacy of a fake band cast for television becoming a real one; even Dolenz discounts his own legacy (“it’s like thinking Leonard Nimoy was really a Vulcan”). But they’re wrong.

The Monkees had the cream of Brill Building songwriters at their disposal, and as unlikable a guy as Don Kirschner was, he knew what he was doing when it came to picking hit records. Now Dolenz takes a page from the past by recording an album of Carole King songs (hence the album title). Like most good ideas, there’s probably not a radio station format to match it up with, but I wouldn’t sell him short.

Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin

I guess a punster would call this album Adult Symphonies To God. After years of wondering whether an overweight and practically comatose genius would simply curl up and die in his sandbox, Brian Wilson fans have to be happy that he’s been able to get on a stage and play, open up his musical legacy to people who could help him (read: The Wondermints) and even create new works in his latter days.

Rumors persist that the surviving Beach Boys are going to bury the hatchet (and not in each other’s skulls) and reform, but whether or not that ever happens it’s good to know that there is work done above and beyond Mike Love‘s traveling circus.

Add these to the plethora of new releases from stars of yesteryear – Peter Frampton, Peter Wolf, Foghat, Steve Miller, Burton Cummings – in addition to old reliables like Tom Petty who just keep on going. Maybe the arena gig is now a club show in a Hard Rock showroom, and perhaps the radio play is limited to rockers turned DJ like  Little Steven and Alice Cooper, but for those of us who want to look beyond the top of the charts, there are plenty of great efforts sailing under the radar.

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Comebacks!

Everybody loves ’em. Josh Hamilton goes from phenom to crackhead to Home Run Derby winner in front of a packed and screaming Yankee Stadium and a global TV audience . Mickey Rourke goes from great actor to…something, and back to the actor that just might have turned in the performance of his life in The Wrestler. The 2004 Red Sox, down 3 games to none to the Yankees in the AL Championship series, get off the mat and sweep them on their way to their first World Series in 86 years and the start of their recent dynasty. Yeah, Flannery O’Connor was right: whatever rises must converge. (Huh?)

Some Yankees took it very hard.

Some Yankees took it very hard.

They don’t call me Captain Segue for nothing. Let’s talk about some musical comebacks in 2008.

Elvis Costello:  OK, you say he hasn’t really been anywhere. I counter and say he’s been all over the place, dabbling in blues, jazz, country and with whatever and whomever would have him. (You know, like that other Elvis guy who made all those movies?) But more importantly, every time he puts out a record I’m being told that it’s the one early Elvis fans – that’s me! – will see as the return to form. Except they’re not. To be fair, expectations are high for one of the best of his generation, and albums like The Delivery Man and When I Was Cruel have several solid moments. But with Momofuku(look it up, I did) he sounds like he’s really having fun for the first time in years (apparently sleeping with Diana Krall isn’t enough to make him happy). His songs have always boasted lyrics to die for, but these are also approachable enough to tempt new fans to take a plunge.

Rick Springfield:  Noah Drake lives! This Dr. Bristol look-alike (back in the day) has been making records fairly steadily through the years but he hasn’t been chart fodder in the States in a very long time. Most fans assume he stopped in the late 80s with Rock Of Life, but after a ten year break he has put out decent but ultimately underwhelming albums like Karma and The Day After Yesterday. Then he drops Venus in Overdrive on us in 2008, and it’s like a lost album from the prime years. He’ll probably never eclipse the 1-2 punch of Working Class Dog and Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet, but who would have thought he could rekindle the flames and sound so rejuvenated?

 Paul Collins: Like Mr. Costello, many thought his best work was long behind him and the sheer exuberance of his early albums was something he was no longer capable of nor interested in. And while true fans know that The Nerves and The Beat were two of the most important powerpop bands bands in history, neither made the commercial splash that Springfield or Costello did at their peak. After getting sidetracked first by the same-named UK ska band, then watching The Knack take their thunder, Collins and company all but disappeared from the populist radar. He recorded a more adult-sounding album with yet another version of Paul Collins’ Beat, followed by a couple of countryish solo efforts. Revered in Spain and other overseas markets, he wasn’t starving. But somehow he took a deep breath and gave us Ribbon of Gold, an album that is close enough to classic Beat without sounding too retro. There’s half a dozen great tracks here and “Falling In Love With Her” is roll-down-your-windows, quit-you-job pop nirvana.

 Glen Campbell: Talk about being blindsided! A career so far removed frpm present day that the tounge-in-cheek title Meet Glen Campbell will probably sail over many heads. It’s a covers album;  you might say “so what – James Taylor did one this year too!”…but did Sweet Baby James cover The Replacements, and Green Day? When Rod The Mod covered rock tunes from the 90s (When We Were The New Boys) and 70s (Still The Same) it was nice but not unexpected. This ia a career leap. I don’t know if this album will bring Campbell to the attention of a new generation (like Johnny Cash’s “Rick Rubin quartet”), but it’s a solid album that doesn’t have to apologize to anyone for anything. And if it gets young listeners to realize the amazing journey that is Glen Campbell’s career, that’s a bonus.

 Any Trouble: Never a first-tier band, they were too smooth for skinny tie pop and too quirkly for commercial radio. Ther loss, because Clive Gregson’s songwriting chops are first rate. “Girls Are Always Right”, “Trouble With Love”, the brilliant “Open Fire”…the list goes on. Making even Abba covers sound great, the band issued one smart record after another until commercial apathy drove them to split up two decades ago. Gregson next forged a nice career teamed with Christine Collister, and both were eventually drafted into Richard Thompson’s band in a low-key Buckingham/Nicks maneuver. Life In Reverse came out of nowhere in 2007; so obscurely promoted that it took this fan over a year to know about it. Original producer (John Wood), original label (Stiff Records) and original sound add up to a record fans must get and others must at least listen to.

And that’s just five artists off the top of my head; I have others. I’m sure you have yours. I’m equally sure at least one person will try to convince me that Brian Wilson reallycame back this year. Just like last year, and the year before that, and the year before, and…hey, get in line behind the McCartney fan pitching the same story, willya?

(I thought about loading a track clip for each, but come on…go to the artist site or MySpace or Amazon or wherever and take at least a quick spin through the album. Maybe if I get inspired I’ll at least insert the links for you, but I don’t know you well,anonymous reader, and how hard do you want a guy to work on a Friday night?)

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