Tag Archives: Temptations

T.G.I.F. – Ten Rockin’ Remakes

Hit Factory

Rock music has always drawn upon other influences; one could argue that it’s the perfect intersection between the influences of country, soul and r’n’b. And many of the biggest rock bands have repaid that influence by performing those influential songs on record and in concert. Sometimes those influences were from their peers.

When classic rock was starting to explode in the 60’s, Motown was right there with them on the charts. People often forget to list Smokey Robinson and Holland-Dozier-Holland in the same breath as Brian Wilson, Lennon-McCartney, Paul Simon, Ray Davies, Jagger-Richard and other dominant songwriters. What an amazing amount of creative genius sharing the spotlight in the same short period of time.

So today I’d like to offer Ten Rockin’ Remakes of soul classics from some of my favorite rock bands. Proof positive that great music knows no color.

The Faces:   “I’m Losing You” – even hotter live than on record.

Humble Pie:   “I Don’t Need No Doctor” – Steve Marriott is The Man.

The Rolling Stones:   “Just My Imagination” – from a 2007 live show.

Mitch Ryder:   “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?” – great Jimmy Ruffin tune.

Jeff Beck:   “People Get Ready” – when you say “Beck” I think of him first.

The J. Geils Band:   “Where Did Our Love Go?”  – from the 2009 reunion.

Herman Brood:   “My Girl” – Almost unrecognizable in this re-arrangement.

Credence Clearwater Revival:   “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” – I guess you’d classify this as swamp soul!

David Bowie:   “Knock On Wood” – from the underrated David Live album

The Band:   “Baby Don’t You Do It” – Marvin Gaye cover from The Last Waltz

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40 Years On: Hall and Oates

They met forty-three years ago in a Philly club and they’re still making music together today. Arguably the biggest musical act in the world for a few years, they didn’t have to resort to giving themselves a pompous nickname; they let the charts do the talking. And while they might be flying a little lower and slower these days, Daryl Hall and John Oates have a hell of a legacy.

I’m not the typical Hall and Oates fan. While there was no denying their bouncy dance-pop hits of the early 80’s, I have a fondness for the more organic songs they started out with, like “Sara Smile”, “She’s Gone” and “When The Morning Comes”. I also have a soft spot for some of the more rocking songs that didn’t make big waves; “You Must Be Good For Something” and “Don’t Blame It On Love” being two of my favorites.

Some mistakenly see them as lightweights who got lucky by hitting their stride just as MTV was getting started (in fairness it did seem like their videos aired hourly. But their origins were Philly soul (well documented in the box set) and they ran the table from folk to rock to dance pop with equal success. When they were at the apex of their fame, they cut a great live album with Temptations David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks at the Apollo Theatre, where years before Hall occasionally worked as a backstage gofer.

They attracted excellent studio musicians, especially hot guitarists like Robert Fripp, Todd Rundgren and Rick Nielsen to pinch-hit on the sessions ; the list of their sidemen is a rock’n’roll All Star team. But the music really came alive thanks to a rock-solid touring band featuring future SNL bandleader G.E. Smith on guitar. (For those unfamiliar with Smith I highly recommend finding a copy of his first solo album In The World, a vastly underrated guitar pop/rock gem unlike anything else he has recorded.)

But on to the box set…

While not strictly chronological, the four CDs in this set do loosely follow Hall and Oates’s career path from a studio album perspective. Each CD finishes up with live recordings whose material matches up to the era, even if the date of the recording does not. It’s an interesting choice, perhaps to encourage the listener to take the journey rather than centering on the “live disc” or the one with most of the big hits. It’s also interesting to see how their organic sound formed and then was heavily influenced by producers Arif Mardin and David Foster before the duo felt comfortable enough to take the reins themselves.

Their studio and touring bands were always peppered with first-rate players, and early confidante Tommy Mottola (aka “Gino the Manager”, later the president of CBS and Sony) brilliantly moved them from a solid but struggling pop band to arguably the most popular recording artist of their time. Unlike some who sat back and took success for granted, Hall and Oates were savvy enough to learn how to thrive and survive in a fickle industry.

Read the rest of my review at PopMatters

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Blast From The Past: David Johansen Group

If I’m going to continue to pace the room in breathless anticipation of the upcoming New York Dolls album ‘Cause I Sez So (produced by Todd Rundgren), I might as well dance.

Yeah, we took the ferry, whatchagonnadoaboudit?

Yeah, we took the ferry, whatchagonnadoaboudit?

A few months after the release of his first solo record, David Johansen packed the Bottom Linein NY for a three-night stand, the middle night being simulcast on WNEW-FM. A limited edition 9-song promo was released after that, but the full 18 track set didn’t surface for another fifteen years. And fifteen years after that, it still holds up.

The band, like Johansen, were Staten Island natives, albeit younger; to them Johansen and the Dolls were icons. Guitarists Johnny Rao and Thomas Trask, bassist Buz Verno and drummer Frankie LaRockawere a tight band in need of a singer, and after some relentless pursuit Johansen agreed to join in, bringing Sylvain Sylvain in tow. The sound of The David Johansen Groupbore a strong resemblance to the Dolls, but the campy chaos was now a streamlined soulful rock attack, with three guitars dancing atop a formidable but not-flashy rhythm section. In other words, rock’n’roll that could appeal to a much wider audience – more punk than the classic rockers and more structured than the punk bands. And since it was 1978, it was another validation that disco did suck.

The set was killer, featuring solo and Dolls tunes as well as the usual bevy of great covers, ranging from Motown (“I Found A Love“, “Reach Out I’ll Be There” and “Love Child“) to bubblegum pop (“Build Me Up Buttercup“) and even a whack at Bonnie Tyler’sIt’s A Heartache”, sandwiched within “Personality Crisis” just to keep the crowd honest.  They kicked it off in high gear with “Cool Metro” and peppered the crowd with rave-ups, swinging r&b and the usual cocky/funny shtick from David as front-man. When Johnny Thunders jumped onstage to close it all out with “Babylon” it must have been absolute bedlam.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen The New York Dolls several times in their original incarnation, and when they broke up it was a sad but inevitable occasion. But I was thrilled when Johansen rebounded with several good albums, and during this phrase of his career I saw the band six or seven times. They never failed to light the place on fire, and thankfully a couple of those are captured for posterity; both Live It Up and this album are highly recommended. I was not a Buster Poindexter fan and liked, not loved, The Harry Smiths. But having seen the 21st century version of the New York Dolls a few times already, I can vouch that they are in prime ass-kicking form.

So until that new album drops, to quote “Frenchette“…let’s just dance!

david-johansen-live-it-up

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