2 Shades of Grey

Songs from the soundtrack of your life


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Musicians we lost in 2015 – part 2

The sound of New Orleans, Allen Toussaint died in November 2015 aged 77.

His songs were recorded by the Stones, The Pointer Sisters, Boz Scaggs, Glen Campbell and Robert Plant and he played on recordings for Paul McCartney & Wings, Elvis Costello and Eric Clapton. He allegedly once said “I’m glad the Stones recorded my song – I knew it would roll all the way to the bank“.

His songs like “Ride your pony” and “Working in a coal mine“, recorded by Lee Dorsey, were loved by soul fans and were staples for cover bands (like ours) in the 60s.

The New Orleans sound was distinctive and recognisable anywhere. “It’s everything. It’s who we are, the food we eat, the history, Mardi Gras, the second-line brass bands who strut that stuff, the syncopation, the humour, and the slightly slower pace than the rest of America, the war we mosey along rather than running the race” Toussaint once said. “We’ve held on to our old world charm longer than others”

He grew up in this cultural melting pot amid veteran jazz and R&B musicians. He learned to play the piano at the age of seven inspired by Professor Longhair, a legendary boogie-woogie (more strictly rumba-boogie) pianist and blues singer who also inspired Dr John, Fats Domino and Huey “Piano” Smith”.

He said he tried to play anything he heard – blues, gospel, R&B, even classical. “Music babysat me through my childhood“. He started playing with a band called the Flamingos featuring guitarist Snooks Eaglin in the 1950s progressing to playing piano on Fats Domino sessions.

He later became A & R man at Minit Records where he managed the recording sessions and shaped the sound in a more soulful direction. He also began working with Irma Thomas, the Soul Queen of New Orleans, who is one of my favourites with “Time is on my side” a classic (covered by the Stones).

That part of his career was interrupted by the draft in 1963. He resumed his career working with the aforementioned Lee Dorsey and his band which became Toussaint’s house band. In the 70s he worked with a lot of rock singers, as already mentioned above, but also Elkie Brooks, Paul Simon and Little Feat.

His last UK chart entry was “Here come the girls” a song he’d written 40 years earlier and which you may remember from a Boots (high street chemist) advert in 2007.

He was recognised in his later life with a life-size statue of him erected in New Orleans, his city of birth, and a National Medal of the Arts awarded to him by President Obama, both in 2013.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which destroyed his house and recording studio, he temporarily relocated to New York and took to the road. And that’s where he died, in Spain during a tour of Europe.

Here’s a YouTube video of him performing “Southern Nights” , a song he wrote and which topped the charts for Glen Campbell. It also earned him the title of Southern Knight.

 

 


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Lucy’s back in town

Lucy Zirins made the 26th Great British R & B Festival in Colne the venue for her northern homecoming.

Since I last saw her at the Mechanics Institute at the 25th Burnley International R & B Festival in 2013 she has moved to London and picked up a backing band The Southern Company comprising: Pete Billington on keyboard and fiddle, Andy Crowdy on double bass, and Simon Price on drums.

So there she was on Friday on the British Stage. She sounded as good as ever although to my ears a bit more country than blues – but who cares as longs the music is good, which it was.

She sang a mix of songs from her first album “Chasing Clocks” and some from an upcoming EP “What’s in front of me“. She even included that gospel classic “Wade in the Water” referencing Eva Cassidy. I remember  the Ramsey Lewis version from 1966 but that’s showing my age.

DSC00688DSC00692DSC00693DSC00695DSC00705Her voice was stronger and the band were tight and she can only go on to better things. One small thing though. What happened to her resonator guitar?


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Overnight Rock Success at the age of 65…………(there is hope for all of us)

Kindadukish's Blog - I am not a number, I am a free man (The Prisoner)

Those “things”, we now know, included Wold’s 2006 appearance on Jools Holland’s annual Hootenanny. When the Oakland, California-born veteran performed “Dog House Boogie” on a self-made instrument called The Three-String Trance Wonder, hits on the website one of his sons had built for him shot from a tawdry 75 to a nifty 1.7 million.

“Yeah, Jools made me,” says Wold. “They had to shut down the server and all the computers went bad.” Now six albums to the good, this 72-year-old conduit of gnarly country blues is…

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B.B.King………….one of the last of the great “Blues men”

Kindadukish's Blog - I am not a number, I am a free man (The Prisoner)

One of the few remaining great blues men has died. The death of B.B.King was announced today and so that legacy of great blues men gets shorter and shorter.

Born in 1925 King has had a long and successful career performing concerts up until very recently. When asked why he continued to tour at such a mature age he simply replied “I need the money”

There are many videos on YouTube featuring King playing with his own band as well working with many of the white modern blues guitarists (Clapton, Keith Richard etc) but the video I have featured is a performance of “When love comes to town” playing alongside U2.

This track was featured on the Rattle and Hum album that U2 released and King has performed it live with them on several occasions, hence the video.

Sit back and watch a true great at work because not only…

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Can’t believe that hip-hop has had a bigger influence than the Beatles

vibe_headphones_speakers_1600_wht_5392But that’s what scientists are saying.

Using techniques normally used in evolutionary biology scientists at Imperial College and Cambridge University analysed 17,000 songs from the US Billboard charts between 1960 and 2010.

They gave each song a unique signature based on harmony and timbre and with that were able to trace the rise and fall of different types of music.

They found among other things that tunes using dominant 7th chords became rarer over time. This chord is common in blues and jazz music and reflects their decline. They also looked at “thrashing guitars” associated with rock music.

The scientists found three big changes over the 50 years they examined.

In 1964 the Beatles invasion of America; in 1983 with synth music; and in 1991 with hip-hop.

There is still a lot of diversity in music despite the decline in the 1980s when synthesiser groups like Duran Duran dominated the charts. The scientists consider that revolution the most boring  and it took the hip-hop revolution to change that.

Personally I don’t buy this and would question hip-hop’s influence. But then I’m old-fashioned. I go the the R&B section of a record store still expecting to find John Lee Hooker or Howling Wolf not the pretentious urban music that goes by that label today.

 


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Chris Rea sings about Xmas

SCAN0099Chris Rea, singer and blues/slide guitarist, has recorded 24 albums, released 70 odd singles and had over 30 UK hits.

He’s also written many memorable songs including “On the Beach” “Stainsbury Girls” and “Road to Hell“. Plus a few songs about Christmas.

This one,  “Winter Song“, was recorded in 1991 and it reached No 27 in the UK charts.

This particular copy of the 7” 45 rpm  vinyl is unusual in that the cover has been produced as an Advent Calendar.

SCAN0100The back of the sleeve shows a miniature shot of the cover of the Auberge album from which it was taken.

There were two other tracks on the record; “Footprints in the snow” and “Tell me there’s a heaven“, so quite a Christmas/religious theme to this particular release.

Here’s the song taken from Youtube