Friday, July 24, 2020

McQ's Best Of 1969 Vol 15 - Croony Croon Croon

Thrilling blue-eyed soul was everywhere in 1969, powered by great works coming from two distinct fronts.  In the more old-school fashion, traditional rock/soul crooners like Elvis Presley, Dusty Springfield, Scott Walker and Charlie Rich were releasing career best works.

But on the cutting-edge, a new crop of artists with a much more explosive, jammy, huge brass sound that would drive things forward into the next decade.

For sheer entertainment, this mix, especially the lively Set 2, is one of the best listens in our entire 1969 collection.

Here's the Spotify Link. Enjoy!

Set 1 (Old School Dogs)

1. Wearin' That Loved On Look - Elvis Presley (2:46)
2. Just A Little Lovin' - Dusty Springfield (2:19)
3. The Seventh Seal - Scott Walker (4:56)
4. Put A Little Love In Your Heart - Jackie DeShannon (2:37)
5. Only The Strong Survive - Elvis Presley (2:43)
6. Bright Lights, Big City - Charlie Rich (2:45)
7. 30 Century Man - Scott Walker (1:26)
8. Breakfast In Bed - Dusty Springfield (2:58)
9. Power Of My Love - Elvis Presley (2:39)
10. The Old Man's Back Again - Scott Walker (3:41)
11. Baby It's You - Smith (3:28)
12. Don't Forget About Me - Dusty Springfield (2:53)
13. Any Day Now - Elvis Presley (3:00)
14. Get Behind Me - Scott Walker (3:12)

Set 2 (Cool New Cats)

15. Vehicle - The Ides Of March (2:58)
16. Delta Lady - Joe Cocker (2:50)
17. Touch Me - The Doors (3:10)
18. These Eyes - The Guess Who (3:46)
19. And When I Die - Blood, Sweat & Tears (4:03)
20. Medicated Goo - Traffic (3:34)
21. Dear Landlord - Joe Cocker (3:25)
22. Beginnings - Chicago (7:54)
23. Laughing - The Guess Who (3:06)
24. She Came In Through The Bathroom Window - Joe Cocker (2:26)
25. Empty Sky - Elton John (8:30)
26. Undun - The Guess Who (3:26)
27. Handbags & Gladrags - Rod Stewart (4:26)
28. Quicksand - The Youngbloods (2:41)
29. If You Should Love Me - Ten Years After (5:24)
30. You've Made Me So Very Happy - Blood, Sweat & Tears (4:16)
31. Darling Be Home Soon - Joe Cocker (4:45)

Encore (Cats & Dogs, Living Together)

32. Life Has Its Little Ups And Downs - Charlie Rich (3:42)
33. No Time - The Guess Who (3:39)
34. Son Of A Preacher Man - Dusty Springfield (2:29)
35. God Bless The Child - Blood, Sweat & Tears (5:53)
36. Suspicious Minds - Elvis Presley (4:21)
37. With A Little Help From My Friends - Joe Cocker (5:12)

Now Meet The Croony, Croon, Croon Crooners:

Elvis Presley: It doesn't get more croony than Elvis at the top of his game, and few records present Presley at the top of his game more completely than his thrilling, reinvigorated 1969 comeback album From Elvis In Memphis. Tired of pouring his time and energy into empty soundtrack material, Presley refocused on singing songs he believed in, and the result was his best album of the decade. We're mining this album deep here, hitting the rollocking Wearin' That Loved On Look, the Vegas-y Only The Strong Survive, awesome blues-rocker Power Of My Love, and the sweeping, gospel-tinged Any Day Now in our old-timers focused Set 1, then reprising Suspicious Minds from Vol 1 - Nancy's Favorites! for our encore.

Dusty Springfield: Here, in Set One and our Encore, we dig deep into Dusty Springfield's slightly overrated but still excellent 1969 blue-eyed-soul landmark Dusty In Memphis (Strong Recommend), reprising Son Of A Preacher Man, and profiling for the first time classic tracks Just A Little Lovin', Breakfast In Bed, and the lively Don't Forget About Me

Scott Walker: Orchestral pop crooner Scott Walker was soon to take a walk down increasingly unconventional musical alleyway, but in 1969 he released two of his final albums that would still appeal to mainstream baroque pop fans.  First up in March, 1969 was the far weaker effort, Scott 3 (Mild Recommend), the one album out of his first four I'd deemed in hindsight relatively inessential, though it definitely has its adherents, and I personally love our one inclusion from the album, the Futurama covered 30th Century Man

But if Scott 3 was the weak link among Walker's first four eponymous release, Scott 4 (Strong Recommend), his first album composed entirely of self-penned originals, was the best of the bunch. Built around stunning, flowing orchestral pop numbers like the spoiler-loaded The Seventh Seal and The Old Man's Back Again, and Vegas-y lounge rockers like Get Behind Me, it's probably the most accessible album of Walker's career, and a great place for first time listeners to start before diving into his tremendously challenging later career work.

Jackie DeShannon: Songwriting Hall Of Famer DeShannon was still in the relatively early phases of her career, (even though she'd already been at it for well over a decade), having just spent an intense period in New York as Randy Newman's primary songwriting partner when she and her brother took a break from writing for others and penned and recorded her second mega-hit love song Put A Little Love In My Heart, which also launched a hit album of the same name

Charlie Rich: It might have been a relative commercial flop at the time even though it landed three songs on the country charts, but country legend Charlie Rich's eclectic The Fabulous Charlie Rich (Strong Recommend) was one of my own favorite first-time album discoveries in this deep dive back into the music of 1969. Several of the the album's best songs, from Raggedy Ann, to the old-fashioned cover of Have You Ever Been Lonely (included on Vol 8 - Grade A Schmaltz), to the spirited Elvis-styled rave up Bright Lights Big City (featured here), are exceptional, but the showstopper of showstoppers (also featured here) is the completely lived in ballad Life Has Its Little Ups And Downs, written by Rich's wife of forty-three years Margaret Ann.

Smith: Though they managed to get two albums to chart, LA-based, Gayle McCormick-led croony blues-rockers Smith make what will almost assuredly be their only inclusion in our mix collections with their one major hit, 1969's Baby It's You.

The Ides Of March: This Berwyn, Illinois outfit didn't last long after bursting out of the gate in 1970 with Vehicle, rumored to be Warner Brother's fastest selling single up until that point in time. After a couple of years riding the success of the single, which included a few other regional midwest hits, The Ides Of March called it quits until jumping on the nostalgia tour in the 90s.  In the interim, band co-founder Jim Peterik went on form Survivor. So yes, part of the band that gave us one of the best guilty pleasure cuts of all-time in Vehicle also gave us one of the all-time cheesiest in Rocky III theme song Eye Of The Tiger

Joe Cocker: As already stated in our right up for Vol 1 - Nancy's Favorites, Joe Cocker positively burst onto the blue-eyed soul music world in 1969 with two marvelous covers albums, starting with his fine debut With A Little Help From My Friends (Solid Recommend). Having already lost the debut's so iconic cover of Traffic's Feelin' Alright to Nancy's mix, we dive deeper with the equally beloved,  title track, which presents Cocker, backed by some ace Jimmy Page guitar work, at his most entertainingly histrionic, and a fine cover of Nina Simone/The Animal's Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood.

But as good as Friends the album was, follow up joe cocker! (Strong Recommend) was even better.  Here, having already lost the album's irresistible Hitchcock Railway to Nancy, we celebrate four more of the record's classic covers, with Cocker's soaring renditions of The Beatle's She Came In Through The Bathroom Window, Dylan's Dear Landlord, John Sebastian/The Loving Spoonful's Darling Be Home Soon, and best of all, Leon Russell's Delta Lady

The Doors: Let's be honest, The Door's 1969 release The Soft Parade (dubious Mild Recommend), a suspect mix of lounge-y cheese and Jim Morrison's increasingly ridiculous shamanistic rants, is arguably the worst album in the band's discography. But no matter how old-fashioned and Vegas-y the so croony Touch Me is, it's always been untouchable in my book, not the Door's best song, but the most broadly likable song in their entire repertoire.

The Guess Who: Coming from seemingly out of nowhere (actually Winnipeg, Canada), this Burton Cummings / Randy Bachmann led-outfit was a singles force in 1969, with four hit singles.  They also released two albums that year. First 1969 album Wheatfield Soul (Mild Recommend) only contained the first of their big 1969 singles, These Eyes, but in terms of the variety of its deeper cuts, is in some ways the more entertaining of the band's two '69 releases.

Their September '69 follow up Canned Wheat (Solid Recommend) tripled up the singles with Laughing, Undun and No Time, and surrounded those fantastic moments with some fine, jammier supporting material. The band would continue to experience great success on the singles charts in the next few years to follow, until Randy Bachmann left in 1973 to form his own chart-topping act Bachmann Turner Overdrive.

Blood, Sweat & Tears: Having already tapped Spinning Wheel from Blood, Sweat & Tears eponymous second release (Strong Recommend) for Vol 2 - Best Of The Best, here we celebrate the monster album's other monster hits with And When I Die, You Made Me So Very Happy, and their stirring cover of Billie Holiday's God Bless The Child

Traffic: Traffic's lone 1969 release, Last Exit (Mild Recommend), was actually an attempt by the record label to squeeze one more album out of the popular band's unreleased material, after the group appeared to be breaking up in early 1969 when Stevie Winwood left to form Blind Faith. It's definitely not a high point in the band's discography, but as far as industry cash grabs go, it's not bad, and a couple of its songs, Shanghai Noodle Factory, and especially the representative selection we're including here, Medicated Goo, are quite good.

Chicago: We've already touched deeply upon the off-the-charts jammy-ness of Chicago's debut in our Vol 9 - Jam On... and On... and On... and On... mix, and Nancy teased at the album's more mainstream sensibility with the inclusion of Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is on her Vol 1 - Nancy's Favorites. Here we close out our look at Chicago Transit Authority with its other enduring fan favorite, the marvelously croony Beginnings.

Elton John: As with several of the major 70s artists featured throughout this mix collection (e.g. Alice Cooper, David Bowie) to release early efforts in 1969, Elton John's debut Empty Sky (Mild Recommend) presented a pair of artists still very much trying to find their musical way and more caught up in the sounds of the moment than crafting that signature sound of their own. Bottomline, not a great record, but snippets of that John/Taupin promise do shine through, especially on the album's epic-length title track presented here. 

Rod Stewart: Running with Stewart's interpretation of Mannfred Man Earth Band's Mike d'Abo's Handbags & Gladrags here as a representative cut for Rod Stewart's excellent solo debut (released in the states in November 1969 as The Rod Stewart Album, and in the UK in early 1970 as An Old Raincoat Won't Ever Let You Down). Featuring Mike d'Abo himself on piano, the "being poor does not define you" song failed to take off when the album was first released, but experienced a significant chart surge in 1972 when the decision was made to rerelease it as a single.  It has since gone on to become a frequent needle-drop selection in several British television shows over the years.

The Youngbloods: After having already included opener Darkness, Darkness from The Youngblood's '69 release Elephant Mountain on our Vol 12 - Conventioneers, we tap the underappreciated Greenwich Village folk rocker's elegant croony pop side here with the lovely nugget Quicksand.

Ten Years After: We've scattered the top tunes on Brit-blues-rocker's Ten Years After's uneven but appealingly eclectic third LP Ssssh (Mild Recommend) across several mixes, hitting one of its two excellent straight-blues numbers, I Woke Up This Morning on Vol 3 - B.B.'s Badass Bluesdown, and the quaint, light-as-a-feather I Don't Know That You Know My Name on Vol 6 - Psychedelic Fade, but here, we tap the album's very best song, with the croony, sing-a-long splendor of If You Should Love Me

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