Friday, July 24, 2020

McQ's Best Of 1969 Vol 8 - Grade A Schmaltz

Guilty pleasure time, once again, as we look at 1969's most endearing second tier cheeseball singles.

As with 1969's Vol 4 - International mix we're mostly jumping between three specific niches, basking in the combined reflective glow of the 1969's most-dated country, soul, and pop hits.

Given the huge number of singles versus albums represented here, gonna circle back and hit the artist portion write up for this mix last.

But for now, set your phasers to "peak nostalgia," and prepare to beam back into some of 1969's warmest vibes.

Here's the Spotify link. Enjoy.

Set 1 (Ronco Worthy)

1. Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In - The Fifth Dimension (4:49)
2. Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head - B. J. Thomas (2:48)
3. Backfield In Motion - Mel & Tim (2:35)
4. Hawaii Five-O - The Ventures (1:54)
5. Harlan Country - Jim Ford (3:27)
6. To Be Young, Gifted and Black - Nina Simone (2:51)
7. Little Green Bag - George Baker Selection (3:15)
8. My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me) - David Ruffin (3:33)
9. Holly Holy - Neil Diamond (4:40)
10. Okie Form Muskogee - Merle Haggard (2:40)
11. I Don't Care Anymore - Doris Duke (3:08)
12. Love (Can Make You Happy) - Mercy (3:16)
13. Snowbird - Anne Murray (2:14)
14. What's The Use Of Breaking Up - Jerry Butler (2:36)
15. Jean - Oliver (3:11)
16. Choice Of Colors - The Impressions (3:20)
17. Don't It Make You Want To Go Home - Joe South (3:16)
18. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face - Roberta Flack (4:21)
19. I'm Gonna Make You Mine - Lou Christie (2:42)
20. Have You Ever Been Lonely? (Have You Ever Been Blue) - Charlie Rich (2:28)
21. Maxwell's Silver Hammer - The Beatles (3:28)
22. My Cherie Amour - Stevie Wonder (2:53)

Set 2 (K. Carpenter's Heavy Lift Day Mix)

23. Making Love (At The Dark End Of The Street) - Clarence Carter (5:09)
24. Homecoming - Tom T. Hall (3:21)
25. California Soul - Marlena Shaw (2:57)
26. In The Year 2525 - Zager & Evans (3:11)
27. California Bloodlines - John Stewart (3:08)
28. What Does It Take (To Win Your Love) - Jr. Walker & The All Stars (2:29)
29. Don'tcha Hear Me Calling' To Ya - The 5th Dimension (3:56)
30. I Scare Myself - Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks (5:18)
31. Who's Loving You - The Jackson 5 (4:00)
32. Witchi Tai To - Harpers Bizarre (2:43)
33. Goodbye - Mary Hopkin (2:27)
34. Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time) - The Delfonics (3:21)
35. Is That All There Is? - Peggy Lee (4:19)
36. Dizzy - Tommy Roe (2:57)
37. Black Pearl - Sonny Charles And The Checkmates Ltd. (3:27)
38. Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town - Kenny Rogers (2:53)
39. Smile A Little Smile For Me - The Flying Machine (2:56)
40. Too Busy Thinking About My Baby - Marvin Gaye (2:56)


41. Walk A Mile In My Shoes - Joe South (3:43)
42. Sweet Caroline - Neil Diamond (3:24)
43. Rainy Night In Georgia - Brook Benton (3:54)
44. Melting Pot - Blue Mink (3:52)
45. My Way - Frank Sinatra (4:37)
46. Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye - Steam (4:07)

About Grade A Schmaltz's 1969 Chart Toppers:

The 5th Dimension: The hugely popular African-American heirs to the breezy, harmonic folk-rock stylings of the Mamas and Papas (or as they themselves coined it "Champagne Soul") landed two huge cover hits off their 1969 release The Age Of Aquarius.  That first hit, their rendition of Hair's Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In, opens this mix, but instead of going with the album's second hit, a nifty version of Laura Nyro's Wedding Bell Blues, we went with the lively Don'tcha Hear Me Callin' To Ya
 instead, but if your a fan of such early adult-contemporary fare, be sure to check out the album in full... nut just for Wedding Bell Blues, but for the act's so cheesy but entertaining cover of Cream's Sunshine Of Your Love as well. 

B.J. Thomas: Following the success of his country pop single Hooked On A Feeling in 1968, up-and-coming crooner B.J. Thomas was approached about lending his voice to a new Burt Bacharach composition for the soundtrack to Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid entitled Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head. Thomas agreed,  and though the subsequent recording process was difficult (Thomas was suffering from mild laryngitis during the studio sessions and Bacharach demanded take after take after take), the end result was one of the biggest hits of 1969, and the Oscar winner that year in the Best Song category. It would however, be Thomas's last significant pop hit, as he fell hard into drugs over the next half decade, then after getting clean, re-emerged as the nation's top Christian singer throughout the back half of the 70s. 

Mel & Tim: We'll be tapping numerous mainstream 1969 R&B hits for this mix, all of them gems, and to get things started on the soul front, we're going with Mississippi duo Mel & Tim's, who scored the biggest (but far from only) hit of their careers with their self-penned debut single Backfield In Motion.

The Ventures: Absolutely inescapable in 1969 was Portland instrumental legends The Ventures' theme song to Hawaii 5-0, which however dated it feels today, was up to that point in time, one of the coolest theme songs in the history of American television. 

Jim Ford: One of the late 60s underground legends, oft-troubled singer-songwriter, ex-Bobbie Gentry boyfriend and future Sly Stone roommate and Nick Lowe inspiration Ford released his first and arguably best full length album in 1969, from which we are featuring the title track, Harlan County

Nina Simone: Yes, from a purely music/production standpoint, there are few 1969 songs featured in this mix collection that feel more dated than Nina Simone's Young, Gifted And Black, but there's no denying the song's positive political impact in its time, a trait that enabled it to become one of the defining anthems for the black power movement in the early 1970s, very much the equivalent of Kendrick Lamar's Alright for the BLM movement in the here and now. 

George Baker Selection: Coming out of nowhere in 1969 (or actually out of a lemonade factory where some of the band members held day jobs), was Netherland's R&B cover-band The George Baker Selection with the title track to their debut album Little Green Bag. Though often considered a nuggets-type band in the States (Tarantino featured Little Green Bag in Reservoir Dogs) the band actually had a hugely successful career, selling more than twenty-million albums throughout the seventies.

David Ruffin: Possibly the best R&B inclusion on this mix, My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left) was ex-Temptations frontman David Ruffin's debut single after leaving/being kicked out of the legendary vocal group. 

Neil Diamond: After a down year spent fighting his labelin in court over royalties, Eternal schmaltz god Neil Diamond had a huge year in 1969, releasing two gold albums, April's Brother's Love Traveling Salvation Show and November's Touching Me Touching You, as well as two of his most iconic singles, Holly Holy and his tribute to a then 11-year-old Caroline Kennedy, Sweet Caroline, which many years later Diamond would perform for Kennedy at her 50th birthday party.

Merle Haggard: We're probably short-changing country Merle Haggard a bit by only including one of his three number one country singles from 1969.  But when it comes to celebrating the square, schmaltzy, patriotic POV, Hungry Eyes ands 
Working Man Blues just can't compete (nor really can all but a handful of other 20th century songs) with the Vietnam-protestor trashing Okee From Muskogee.

Doris Duke: Though she never gained anywhere close to the audience or critical cache of Aretha Franklin, gospel-trained Georgian belter Doris Duke's 1969 album I'm A Loser, from which we are featuring I Don't Care Anymore, is now widely regarded as one of the best gritty southern soul albums of the era.

Mercy: A one hit wonder outfit originally from Florida, Mercy's saccharine gold 1969 smash Love (Can Make You Happy) proved successful and endearing enough to sustain lead vocalist/songwriter Jack Sigler, Jr.'s career indefinitely, as he continues to perform live as Mercy to this day. 

Anne Murray: Anne Murray delivers the delightful, grade-A schmaltz big time with Snowbird.  The lead single for the adult-contemporarian's second studio album This Way Is My Way, Snowbird made Murray the first Canadian female solo artist to ever hit number one on the US charts.

Jerry Butler: What's The Use Of Breaking Up was just the latest in an extensive line of hits for the Impressions first lead singer and Rock and Roll Hall-Of-Famer, who would continue to stay active on the pop and R&B charts for another decade before mostly tabling music for a second long career as a local Chicago politician, serving as a Cook County Commissioner for thirty-three years, having just retired in 2018. 

Oliver: A two hit wonder who would ultimately ditch the music industry, and like Jerry Butler, go on to have a very successful real-world second act, North Carolina pop-tenor William Oliver Swofford scored both of his hits in 1969, and both were covers. His first success was with a cover of Good Morning Starshine from the Hair soundtrack, which he then topped it months later with a our inclusion here, his earnest cover of the academy-award-nominated ballad Jean from the 1969 Maggie Smith film The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie included, which made it all the way to number 2 on the pop charts.

The Impressions: By 1969, The Impressions, enjoying their final year led by Curtis Mayfield before he would depart for a solo career, were increasingly focused on presenting strong social statements with their lyrical messaging, an aim clearly apparent on their biggest '69 hit, R&B chart topper Choice Of Colors from their '69 album The Young Mods Forgotten Story.

Joe South: Without question my favorite discovery on this mix is the late sixties body of work from Georgia-born songwriter, producer, and performer Joe South. An in demand session man and songwriter throughout the early sixties, South had played a role on many iconic recordings, playing electric guitar on the Simon And Garfunkel's Sound Of Silence (though not the title track) bass on most of Blonde On Blonde, and contributing the signature tremolo guitar to Aretha Franklin's Chain Of Fools, as well as penning hits for artists like The Big Bopper, Gene Vincent and Billy Joe Royal. But following the breakout performance of his own single Games People Play in 1968, South would enter an exciting creative period as a solo performer before the suicide of his brother and principal collaborator Tommy and the debilitating depression and drug use that followed would effectively derail his career.  But back to the positive, we're featuring two of his best 1969 singles from his 1969 album Don't It Make You Want To Go Home on this mix here, the lovely, earnest title track, and the irresistible gospel-rocker Walk A Mile In My Shoes.

Roberta Flack: Arguably the least schmaltzy song on this mix, with it's delicate, heartfelt nature The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, from jazz/soul great Roberta Flack's sophisticated debut First Take (Solid Recommend) still felt like it fit best with the other songs here. The song and album received critical praise in 1969, but it wasn't until two years later, when jazz/soul freak Clint Eastwood included The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face in the Play Misty For Me soundtrack, that the album hit number one on the chart.

Lou Christie: After being dropped by MGM, and then an unfruitful two year stretch at Columbia, early 60s soft rocker Lou Christie needed a new home, and he found it, for a stretch, in bubblegum focused boutique label Buddah records. Teaming Christie with producer Tony Romeo, the tandem went for a Phil Spector wall-of-sound vibe and struck gold with the Romeo-written number I'm Gonna Make You Mine, which would be Christie's last top-ten song in the US and his highest charter ever in the UK. 

Charlie Rich: Easily one of my favorite first time discoveries in putting this 1969 mix collection together, I came to love versatile country crooner Charlie Rich's ninth and final album of the decade The Fabulous Charlie Rich (Strong Recommend). Equal parts rousing Elvis Presley-styled rockers, affectingly earnest country ballads, and schmaltzy-as-all-hell orchestral numbers for the oldest portion of his fanbase, we're hitting just the third category here with Have You Ever Been Lonely (Have You Ever Been Blue), but we'll hear plenty more from Charlie and the album on Vol 15 - Croony Croon Croon

The Beatles: Imho, both as a musician and songwriter, Paul was always the most talented Beatle, but I also feel he always benefitted more filtering his work through Lennon's and Harrison's edgier sensibilities and sense of cool far more than they did screening their work through Paul. Simply put, left to his own devices, McCartney could be, and often proved to be, the epitome of uncool.  And rarely did his uncool reach the epic proportions that it did on Abbey Road's hyper-ambitious but ultimately beyond cheesy Maxwell's Silver Hammer. Hence it's inclusion on this mix here. 

Stevie Wonder: A man who needs no introduction, My Cherie Amour, the lead single for his 1969 album of the same name, was Wonder's highest charting single in 1969.  Finishing 1969 as it's #32 song on the Billboard year-end charts.

Clarence Carter: Bluesman Clarence Carter landed several singles on the charts in 1969, but ironically, it's the B-Side to hit Snatching It Back, a reworking of James Carr's The Dark End of the Street, retitled Making Love (At The Dark End Of The Street), that's his best remembered '69 song today. With its longwinded, "is he joking or is he serious?" biology lesson intro, it's pretty easy to see why this is the song that has endured in the public's memory, and given that classic intro, I felt it was the perfect song to kick off Set 2.

Tom T. Hall: Though story-spinning country legend Tom T. Hall's single Homecoming from his sophomore studio release of the same name never hit number one on the country charts (it peaked at five) like so many of Hall's songs that followed, or was even his highest charting song in 1969 (that being his first country #1 A Week In Country Jail from the same album), the touching, humorous snippet detailing a touring musician's check in with dad between stops on the road, it is now widely regarded by critics, along with 71's The Year That Clayton Delaney Died, as one of his two greatest songs.

Marlena Shaw: The first track of soul/bluesinger Marlena Shaw's career to garner attention after being discovered by a Chess Records executive while a bunny at Hef's Chicago operation, Shaw's grittier take on California Soul didn't perform as well as the Fifth Dimension and Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell versions released a year earlier, but it was Shaw's version that would go on to become a staple of the UK rare groove scene in the 1970s and stands as the best and most enduring recording of the Ashford & Simpson song today.

Zager & Evans: Over the course of the entire 1960s, there are very few songs that deserve the schmaltzy label as much as Nebraska pop-duo Zager & Evans lone hit In The Year 2525.  Fewer songs still were as much silly, cheeseball fun. 

John Stewart: Recorded around the same time at the same studio and with many of the same musicians who appeared on Dylan's Nashville Skyline, Kingston Trio-member John Stewart's second solo outing California Bloodlines is an appealing folk relic from the era and considered by many his signature solo statement. Going with the lovely title track as the stand-in for this one.  

Jr. Walker & The All Stars: More to come!

Dan Hicks & HIs Hot Licks: More to come!

The Jackson 5: More to come!

Harpers Bizarre: More to come!

Mary Hopkin: More to come!

The Delfonics: More to come!

Peggy Lee: More to come!

Tommy Roe: More to come!

Sonny Charles And The Checkmates, Ltd: More to come!

Kenny Rodgers U The First Edition: More to come!

The Flying Machine: More to come!

Marvin Gaye: As with Brook Benton to immediately follow, Marvin Gaye wasn't the first artist to record Too Busy Thinking About My Baby, (that would have been The Temptations in 1966 with Eddie Kendrick singing lead), but Gaye's 1969 cover, also produced by Norman Whitfield, had bigger chart success, so much so that it would go on to be the top R&B single of 1969, and Gaye's second most successful single of the 60s after I Heard It Through The Grapevine.

Brook Benton: Second out of the gate but first to across the finish line, Brook Benton's cover of Tony Joe White's classic soul ballad Rainy Night In Georgia was released just a few months after White's own similarly arranged version of the song, but managed to catapult itself to the top of the soul charts before White's version had taken heavy hold.  

Blue Mink: With its sentimental open call for racial tolerance and integration, Blue Mink's Melting Pot was just the first endearing salvo in a long string of top-20 UK hits for one of the island nation's most beloved pop acts of the early 70s.
Frank Sinatra: For a song that needs no introduction, the Frank Sinatra version of My Way actually has a great backstory.  The music for the song was originally recorded for the French Claude Francois song Comme d'habitude, which singer/songwriter Paul Anka acquired adaptation and publishing rights to after hearing the song while vacation in France. Soon after, Anka met Sinatra for a casual dinner with some friends, and Sinatra suggested he was ready to quit the business, so fed up was he with industry nonsense. Inspired, Anka stayed up the rest of the night, rewriting the song's lyrics as a concluding statement on a storied career exactly as Anka imagined Sinatra would say it. Much to Anka's label's chagrain, who felt he should keep the song for himself, Anka offered the song to Sinatra the very next morning.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Steam: And finally, was there any other way to conclude our look at 1969's schmaltziest singles than with the enduring ball-game classic Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Good By, a song attributed to a pop act, Steam, a band that didn't even exist when the song was recorded. It was actually the product of New York studio players Gary DeCarlo, Dale Fraschuer and producer/songwriter Paul Leka, recorded as a rush B-side for DeCarlo's single Sweet Laura Lee, but when a Georgia DJ opted one day to give the b-side a spin instead of the a-side, requests to hear it again immediately began pouring in, and the rest, as they say, is history, with the single now having sold well over 6.5 million copies in it's fifty year run.

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