“Yancey Special”: Prog Reggae II

Keith Emerson would captivate me as a grade schooler with the deep, heavy Moog sounds he conjured for “Lucky Man” — the final track, fittingly, on a 4-LP box set from 1973 that got a lot of mileage in our household growing up, Superstars of the Seventies, one of the earliest titles in the Warner Special Products series.

Superstars of the 70s-a“Lucky Man,” from Emerson, Lake & Palmer‘s 1970 debut album, derives much of its appeal from being a “power ballad” that builds to an explosive solo, and yet Aerosmith would get all the credit for having created this new rock subgenre, even though “Dream On” did not hit the record racks until 1973.

Dig the ’70s earth tones, man

Superstars of the 70s-xAfter Emerson, Lake and Palmer went their separate ways in 1979, Emerson would arrange a reggae-tinged take on a Meade Lux Lewis boogie instrumental, “Yancey Special” for his 1981 solo album Honky:

“Yancey Special”     Keith Emerson     1981

Most fascinatingly, Emerson’s first solo album post-ELP global fame would be released on an independent Italian label, Bubble, aimed at the “Italo-Disco” progressive dance market. Honky would find release two years later in the UK on Emerson’s imprint, Chord RecordsRock and Roll Paradise asserts Italy to be the only country where Honky was a hit album.

Keith Emerson - bubble This review in Vintage Rock would note —

“Emerson, on an extended vacation in the Bahamas, rounded up a crew of local musicians and exploded with a wild variation of calypso and reggae tunes—foreign substances to the legions of ELP fanatics who were expecting something less whimsical and more monumental.  But really — you can’t blame him for turning his back on the “legendary” noose around his neck and indulging seafaring gems like ‘Hello Sailor’ and ‘Rum-A-Ting.’  And the irresistible boogie woogie of Meade Anderson ‘Lux’ Lewis’ ‘Yancey Special’ shakes the manacles off completely”

Keith Emerson LPAccording to the liner notes, “honky” was a nickname used by children of the island and, thus, appropriated by Emerson for the album’s title.  “Yancey Special” would hit the airwaves two years after Rick Wakeman‘s cod reggae version of “Swan Lake,” the featured instrumental in Zero to 180’s January, 2015 piece, “Prog Rock Reggae.”

Keith Emerson:  One of The Best (Literally)

BB Chronicles offers a 1990 soundboard recording of a little-known (and short-lived) supergroup named The Best that once included Keith Emerson, along with John Entwistle (The Who), Joe Walsh (James Gang/Eagles), Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter (Doobie Brothers), and Simon Phillips (er, Toto).

           Keith Emerson & the skunk                        Emerson & the ox & the skunk

Keith Emerson & the skunk-xKeith Emerson & the ox & the skunk-x

Emerson’s spirit, sadly, would leave us this past March. – his obituary from the March 13, 2016 edition of The Guardian.

Van Morrison’s 1969 Pop Reggae

All these years I’ve naively assumed “I Shall Sing” to be a Judy Mowatt early reggae original (and 1974 Jamaican chart-topper, according to this Los Angeles Times piece from 1986).  And yet that same Times piece makes clear, Judy Mowatt was taking her musical inspiration from Miriam Makeba (not Art Garfunkel), as “I Shall Sing” turns out to have come from the pen of Van Morrison, who first recorded it November 11, 1969 for his Moondance album – but ultimately binned it!

Van Morrison sheet musicOn October 8, 2013, Mojo would make a rather big to-do over the premeire of this Caribbean-flavoured “never-before-released” track:

“I Shall Sing” (take 7)     Van Morrison     1969

Miriam Makeba’s Warner Brothers single was originally selected by Billboard for its Top 60 Pop Spotlight (i.e., predicted to reach the Top 60 of the Hot 100 Chart) in its July 4, 1970 edition:

“This happy Van Morrison swinger serves as potent material for the top stylist.  Her most commercial outing in some time this could prove an out and out smash.”

Van Morrison - Miriam Makeba 45-aArt Garfunkel would have the most success with “I Shall Sing” in the States (#38 Pop) in 1973 — Billboard would select Garfunkel’s 45 as one of the “Top Single Picks” for the week of December 15, 1973 and have these words of praise:

“A zesty tune from Art’s current album brings us a happy picture with a Caribbean flavor.  This is hand clapping, joyous music with Garfunkel’s dueting with himself and lots of infectious music behind his saga of always singing as a way of staying happy.”

Van Morrison - Art Garfunkel 45-aIn 1971, Jean and the Gaytones would release a “strings reggae” version in both Jamaica & the UK (produced by Sonia Pottinger – with “Musical Fight” on the flip!), while France Gall would give the song the Schlager treatment that same year for the German market.

Toots and the Maytals, meanwhile, would arrange a stellar roots reggae version for 1976’s Reggae Got Soul album, while Marcia Griffiths would revive “I Shall Sing” in 1993 in a modern roots style.

Van Morrison - Judy Mowatt 45-a

Ian McLagan’s Reggae Bump

I still wish I had those post-it notes my brother Bryan made when I was 11 that helpfully pointed me to (1) which Jimi Hendrix albums to seek out (e.g., Electric Ladyland) and (2) which ones to avoid (e.g., Midnight Lightning).  Decades later I would make the accidental and hilarious discovery that Jimi Hendrix — who took a playful swipe at surf music in his groundbreaking composition, “Third Stone from the Sun” — and obscure “beach music” artist, Robert Ray Whitely, would both release songs entitled “1983the very same year.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a Big Brother’s (and Big Sister’s Day) so we could thank our older siblings for all their musical guidance and encouragement?

This past week I had the chance to reread Keith Richards’ 2010 memoir, Life (which my mother-in-law recently passed along), and somehow I only just now learned that keyboardist Ian McLagan was part of The New Barbarians, a rather unlikely musical aggregation that brought together Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, Bobby Keys, and McLagan, with legendary instrumentalists, Stanley Clarke and JosephZigabooModeliste — but only for a single tour and without producing any recordings.  [Not completely true:   I would later learn that McLagan was able to rally the group into Zuma Beach’s Shangri-La recording studio at the conclusion of the tour to lay down their 12-minute take on “Truly” by The Cimarrons – according to the BBC, the UK’s “first self-contained indigenous” reggae group.]

[L to R:  McLagan, Wood, Keys, Modeliste, Richards, Clarke]

New BarbariansNot too many years ago, brother Bryan had given me an autographed CD of Ian McLagan‘s second and final album for Mercury, 1981’s Bump in the Night, upon which Ian had written “Hi Chris, this one’s for Steve & Ronnie” (Marriott and Lane, undoubtedly — former comrades-in-arms in The Small Faces).  Tight-fisted Mercury would only allow one single for McLagan’s first album and none for its follow-up; nevertheless, if I were in charge, “Not RunninAway” would be my choice for the A-side:

“Not Runnin’ Away”      Ian McLagan     1981

Guitar, Keyboards & Lead Vocals:  Ian McLagan
Bass:  Ricky Fataar
Drums & Vocals:  Ricky Fataar
Lead Guitar & Vocals:  Johnny Lee Schell
Horns:  Bobby Keys

I’m happy to report that McLagan’s memoir All the Rage is, as widely reported, immensely good fun.  And also informative:  Phil Chen who we encountered last week, as one of the principal producers at UK early reggae label, Doctor Bird – would also be a dear friend of McLagan going back to the early 1960s, as recalled in All the Rage:

“Thanks to the constant barrage of phone calls to agents and bookers, we got to play at the Marquee Club in Wardour Street, Soho, quite a few times, opening for Graham Bond or Gary Farr and the T-Bones, or, more usually, Jimmy James and the Vagabonds, whose bass player Phil Chen is still my old mate.  The Jamaican Chinaman or Chinese Jamaican, whichever way you look at him, never seems to get any older, or like me, any taller.  Years later he toured with Rod Stewart and in 1979, joined the New Barbarians for our final gig at Knebworth in England.”

Ian-McLaganSadly, McLagan, a long-time resident of Austin, Texas, left us December 3, 2014.

Lucky Ladybug:  Still Reigning Champ — First Use of Phasing?

McLagan’s remarks in All the Rage on the use of phasing in Small Faces’ classic “Itchycoo Park” immediately brought to mind Zero to 180’s piece from July, 2013 about the first use of phasing in a popular recording and whether (a) 1959’s “The Big Hurt” by Miss Toni Fisher – as Rhino claims in its Nuggets II box set (and McLagan concurs) – or (b) November, 1958‘s “Lucky Ladybug” by Billy and Lillie – as Zero to 180 asserts – was the first to employ this futuristic sound effect.  At the very beginning of the song is where you can most easily hear the phasing effect, which is especially pronounced on the cleaned-up/remastered version on CD.

Billy & Lillie promo

Barbara Keith’s Liberation Gospel

Ed Ward wrote a special section devoted to 45s (non-album releases) in the original Rolling Stone Record Review from 1971, with particular praise for Barbara Keith’s A-side, “Free the People”:

“You may remember Delanie & Bonnie’s version of this song, and how good it was.  Well, Barbara’s the one who wrote the thing, and she does it up just as well as you might expect.  It lacks the Salvation Army feel of the D&B rendition, substituting instead a deeply-felt intensity that shocks the listener into realizing that this is, after all, a religious song.  ‘Rainmaker’ [B-side] fares nowheres near as well, but it isn’t quite as good a song to start with.  But I feel that Barbara Keith is a talent to be reckoned with, and we’ll be hearing more from her.”

Barbara Keith would would initially sign with Verve for one album (1969’s Barbara Keith) but then switch to A&M Records in August/September,1970.   On A&M Records informs us that her first single “Free the People” was “soon covered by Barbra Streisand and Delaney and BonnieMs. Keith also worked on an album for A&M that was never released.”

Barbara Keith PromoBillboard, in its October 3, 1970 edition, would include the 45 in its “Special Merit Spotlight” noting:  “infectious original rhythm ballad with heavy lyric line has all the earmarks of bringing Miss Keith to the charts in short order.”

Barbara Keith would leave A&M for Reprise, who would issue a new 7-inch version of “Free the People” – a song that was also included on 1973 Reprise LP, Barbara Keith.

“Free the People”     Barbara Keith     1972?

Bass:  Lee Sklar
Drums:  Jim Keltner
Percussion:  Milt Holland
Electric Piano:  Spooner Oldham
Piano:  Craig Doerge
Pedal Steel Guitar:  Richard Bennett

Barbara Keith UK 45

Winston Groovy would record a lovely “strings reggae” version for the UK market in 1971.

“Free the People”     Winston Groovy     1971

“Free the People,” fortunately, would be deemed worthy of inclusion in Rock Song Index:  The 7500 Most Important Songs for the Rock and Roll Era.

Sheet Music

Barbara Keith's Sheet Music

“Reggae Bagpipes”: Pop Reggae in the Extreme?

As I asserted in an earlier piece, string arrangements – when appropriate or called for – have the potential to enrich a song (reggae included)    Given Jackie Mittoo’s fundamental role in the development of Jamaican music as both a founding member of The Skatalites and music director at Studio One since the recording studio/label’s inception, I think it’s fair to assume that his decision to utilize a 32-piece orchestra on his 1971 album Wishbone was coming from, artistically speaking, “a good place” (“Right Track” would be the A-side of a 45 released in Canada, where Mittoo had emigrated).

But what about this 45 – a reggaefied take on an unofficial Scottish national anthem.  Artistically speaking, do you support Tony King’s decision to marry “Scotland the Brave” to a breezy early reggae backing track embellished with marimba?  Is this an inspired cross-cultural “mash-up” or rather, cloying crass commercialism?   Perhaps neither or both?

“Reggae Bagpipes”     The Magnificent Seven     1972

The single would find release in the UK, South Africa, Turkey, and New Zealand.  Says the person who uploaded this YouTube audio clip:

“South African group that evolved from The Vikings, formed in Johannesburg in the 1960s.  The group consisted of Emil Dean (Zoghby) (vocals); Paul Ditchfield (keyboards); Peter Michael (trumpet); Barry Jarman (trumpet); Harold Miller (bass); Jimmy Kennedy (guitar); and Doug Abbot (drums).”

Reggae Bagpipes 45

Music History Lesson:  “Scotland the Brave”

The Fiddler’s Companion dates “Scotland the Brave” to the turn of the 20th-century or just before — the tune sounds much more ancient than that, don’t you think?

“Scotland The Brave” from The Fiddlers Companion
“The oldest appearance of the melody Campin has seen was in a Boys’ Brigade pipe tune book from about 1911 where the title appeared as ‘Scotland, the Brave!!!’  Charles Gore say the tune appears to date from about 1891-5, when it was published in Keith Norman Macdonald’s Gesto Collection of Highland Music under the title ‘Brave Scotland’ and/or ‘Scotland for Ever.’  Brody (Fiddler’s Fakebook), 1983; pg. 252.  S. Johnson (The Kitchen Musician No. 4: Collection of Fine Tunes), 1983 (revised 1991, 2001); pg. 10. Reid, pg. 5. Reiner (Anthology of Fiddle Styles), 1979; pg. 16 (includes variations).  Sweet (Fifer’s Delight), 1965; pg. 50.  Wade (Mally’s North West Morris Book), 1988; pg. 18.”

“Gimme Reggae”: UK Pop Reggae 1969

How fascinating to learn that Blue Mink was an early champion of the “new reggae” sound (albeit one increasingly augmented by strings) that was starting to show commercial potential in the UK as the 1960s gave way to the 70s.

“Gimme Reggae”    Blue Mink

“Don’t call me Yank!” demands Madeline Bell on this track from Blue Mink’s debut album, Melting Pot – an LP that curiously was released in the US first (1969), then the UK (1970).

According to Discogs.com, “Gimme Reggae” was the A-side of a single release (with “Gidda Wadda Wobble” as the flip side) in 1970 – but for the Austrian market only!  Otherwise, “Gimme Reggae” did not enjoy single release in the UK & Germany until 1975 after the original group had decided to disband.

German Single – 1975

Blue Mink Reggae B-Side aWorth pointing out that the American version of Melting Pot excludes “Gimme Reggae”

“Jamaican Boy”: Jazz Fusion Reggae

Three musicians – Stanley Clarke, Jeff Beck & Steve Gadd – with keyboard embellishments from a fourth, Bayeté Todd Cochran:

“Jamaican Boy” was a 45 release from 1979’s I Wanna Play for You studio/live hybrid LP.

Stanley Clarke 45Not to be confused with Lloyd Clarke’s single release from 1964, “Fellow Jamaican.”

In a (potentially ironic) twist, NYC-born percussionist, Lenny White – Clarke’s former partner in jazz fusion supergroup, Return to Forever –  later served as the drummer for The Jamaica Boys, who released two albums on Warner Brothers.

Jeff Beck, interestingly, had received a shout out from Clarke three years previously on “Hello Jeff” (both an A-side and B-side on which Beck played guitar) and three years prior to that from Stevie Wonder on “Lookin’ for Another Pure Love” – an album track from Wonder’s 1972 breakthrough LP, Talking Book, on which Stevie encouragingly chuckles “Do it, Jeff” around the 2:00 mark.

“Swan Lager”: Prog Rock Reggae

Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman’s beery take on Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” became the A-side of a 45 released by A&M in 1979:

“Swan Lager” also served as side two’s closing track for 1979 double album, Rhapsodies.

How interesting to see one of the leading exponents of progressive “art rock” flirt with reggae rhythms on a track that Billboard, in its June 30 1979 edition, would identify in its list of recommended LPs as one of the album’s best cuts.  It would appear, unfortunately, that this attempt at classically-infused reggae failed to chart.

bowie producer, Toni Visconti, twiddles the knobs

Rick Wakeman 45Link to companion piece, “Yancey Special:  Prog Reggae II

Johnny Nash: Pop Reggae, 1972

Charlie Gillett  (author of 1970 seminal roots rock history, Sound of the City) writes this review of Johnny Nash’s 1972 LP, I Can See Clearly Now, for the Rolling Stone Record Review, which says, in part:

“It’s strange, but not accidental that the man who has brought Moog and accordion to a reggae record is a show business veteran from Texas, Johnny Nash.  This is actually Johnny’s second shot at making a name for himself with the help of the irresistible rhythms of Jamaican music.  Back in 1967, he went to Jamaica to record his own song, ‘Hold Me Tight’ and Sam Cooke’s ‘Cupid’ with a local rhythm section [i.e., the legendary Lyn Taitt & the Jets], and the record became a huge hit on the island.  The following year, first ‘Hold Me Tight’ and then ‘Cupid’ were issued as singles in Britain and eventually in America, and gradually became local hits.”

Later in the review Gillett makes this comment about the title track, which spent four weeks at the top of the pop chart beginning November 4, 1972:

“‘Stir It Up’ was issued as a single here and became a hit despite what must be a suggestive chorus; the melody line of that chorus has surely been planted in the subconscious of everyone who heard it, and will rest there forever.  Amazingly, the follow-up single and title track of the album, ‘I Can See Clearly Now,’ is just as memorable, and has a simple ‘philosophy’ lyric that we accept and believe even though it can’t be true.  Wishful thinking at its most perverse – nobody can remember a worse summer than the one we’ve been going through in Britain while this record has been selling by the thousands every day.  We take it because the arrangement is undeniable.  A brilliant pop record.”

You might be surprised to learn (as I was) that Johnny Nash released his first album in 1958 for ABC-Paramount.  1972’s I Can See Clearly Now, you might also be surprised to know, was issued by CBS/Epic in at least eight countries worldwide:  US, UK, Jamaica, Brazil, Canada, Netherlands, Spain & Taiwan (and Yugoslavia in 1974).

Johnny Nash aJohnny Nash b

One day I hope to hear the album track, “The Fish and the Alley of Destruction” (according to Wikipedia, it was replaced with “Cream Puff” on later pressings) — but until then, I will have to content myself with the album’s soulful and sweet closing track, “There Are More Questions Than Answers,” which features a lovely (and unexpected) steel guitar break around the 1:45 mark:

Charlie Gillett’s Got His Eye on Bob Marley

Towards the end of the review, Gillett has a lot to say about then-unknown Bob Marley:

“There are at least two more songs on the album that could stand as follow-up singles, ‘Comma Comma’ and ‘Guava Jelly,’ both of them written by Bob Marley, one of the great unknowns of Jamaican music, who also wrote ‘Stir It Up.’  All of his songs make magical use of an indescribable interplay between the peculiar rhythms of reggae and haunting tunes; but they still need Johnny’s sympathetic singing to prevent the simple lyrics from becoming banal.

“Bob Marley was involved as a session musician and assistant producer on the LP, as was a Texas musician named John ‘Rabbit’ Bundrick, who contributed three ‘deep’ songs to the record.”

Johnny Nash & Bob Marley Play a One-Time Acoustic Gig in London

Marco on the Bass relates the story of Johnny Nash & Bob Marley’s historic one-off performance at London’s Peckham Manor School in 1972.  The school’s art teacher, Keith Baugh, organized this event and informed Southwark News nearly 40 years later:

“My friend was working with CBS doing promotion work and it was his role to promote Johnny Nash’s single. We were all out in a club called the Bag of Nails in Soho when I ended up meeting both Johnny Nash and Bob Marley. During that conversation they were bemoaning the fact they couldn’t get their single in the top 40 as they could not get any national radio airplay. I suggested as a bit of a promotion they should come down and play to the kids at our school, and a few days later they came down and played two 45 minute sets.”

Marley & Nash in London - bMarley & Nash in London - aMidnight Raver also posted Andy Gill’s account of this one-time acoustic performance from the August 2002 edition of Mojo.

Readers of this piece might also want to check out 1973: The Year Pop Reggae Broke

“The Sun Is Going Down”: Rock Meets Reggae, 1972

Steve Miller Band filters reggae through early 70s rock sensibilities, mon, in the 97-second ditty, “The Sun Is Going Down” – from Recall the Beginning … A Journey from Eden, their seventh album for Capitol:

Four drummers credited on this album – Gary Mallaber, Jim Keltner, Roger Allen Clark & Jack King – not sure who’s keeping time on this track.  Album recorded in one day — not unlike Joe Pass’s Stones Jazz album — specifically, on January 29, 1972 (“completed on the full eclipse of the moon”).

Interesting to see Jamaican singer, Shaggy, utilize the bass line from 1973’s “The Joker”  nearly 40 years later in his #1 hit, “Angel” (that also borrows from “Angel of the Morning,” a song issued in 1968 rocksteady fashion by Joya Landis on Jamaica’s Treasure Isle label).

Steve Miller Signed to … Apple?

The legalese on the label – “Apple Publishing ltd” – caught my eye

Steve Miller LP … and sure enough, there’s an interesting side story there courtesy of Empoprise MU:

“Out of all the Apple departments that were cut by Allen Klein, his decision to effectively close down Apple Publishing made the least sense from a business perspective…Apple also held the European publishing rights for several promising American acts, including the Steve Miller Band…Although Apple Publishing was a large department with a staff that ranged from five to seven people, it was one of the few Apple divisions that saw any return on Apple’s investment.  According to Mike O’Connor, Apple was ready to sign UK publishing agreements with both Randy Newman and Harry Nilsson when Klein shut the department down.”