Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Gwen Guthrie

Artist: Gwen Guthrie
LP: 7" single
Song: "(They Long to Be) Close to You"
[ listen ]

With nothing ready to post today, I went rummaging through my collection this morning and found a 1987 cover of this old Burt Bacharach/Hal David tune, best known as a 1970 hit for The Carpenters. Guthrie's version, which includes additional lyrics like "I wanna' get so close to you, I'll be stickin' like Krazy Glue," only made it to #69 on the U.S. R&B singles charts, but it went to #25 on the pop charts in the U.K. Born in Okemah, Oklahoma in 1950, Gwen Guthrie began her music career when she was asked to sing backing vocals on Aretha Franklin's "I'm In Love" single in 1974. She then worked with artists like Roberta Flack, Stevie Wonder and Madonna before launching a successful solo career in the 1980s, releasing a string of hits that were immensely popular on the dance floor. Guthrie became known for her "controversial" songs in which she demanded that a man be fiscally responsible before becoming romantically involved with her. An ally to the gay community and supporter of the fight against AIDS long before it was fashionable, Guthrie donated the proceeds from her 1988 "Can't Love You Tonight" single to the AIDS Coalition. Sadly, Gwen Guthrie died in early 1999 from uterine cancer. You can read more about her life and career here and here and find her obituary in the U.K. Independent here.

[ Gwen Guthrie: July 9, 1950 — February 3, 1999 ]

Monday, August 30, 2010

Cupcake 5: Valentine Heart

The 14th of February was probably chosen as Valentine's Day because it was the ancient belief that birds, particularly lovebirds, began to mate on that date. Make a batch of these delicious cupcakes for the one you love. Alternatively, impress your family and friends with them.

Makes 6 cupcakes
6 tbsp butter, softened, or soft margarine
generous 3/8 cup superfine sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp baking powder

Marzipan hearts
1¼ oz/35 g marzipan
red food coloring (liquid or paste)
confectioners' sugar, for dusting

4 tbsp butter, softened
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 oz/25 g semisweet chocolate, melted
6 chocolate flower decorations

* To make the hearts, knead the marzipan until pliable, then add a few drops of red coloring and knead until evenly colored red. Roll out the marzipan to a thickness of ¼ inch/5 mm on a counter dusted with confectioners' sugar. Using a small heart-shaped cutter, cut out 6 hearts. Put these on a tray lined with waxed paper and dusted with confectioners' sugar. Let dry for 3-4 hours.

* To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Put 6 paper muffin cases in a muffin pan.

* Put the batter, sugar, and vanilla extract in a bowl and beat together until light and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs, beating well after each addition. Sift in the flour, cocoa, and baking powder and, using a large metal spoon, fold into the mixture. Spoon the batter into the paper cases.

* Bake the cupcakes in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until well risen and firm to the touch. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

* To make the topping, put the butter in a large bowl and beat until fluffy. Sift in the confectioners' sugar and beat together until smooth. Add the melted chocolate and beat together until well mixed. When the cakes are cold, spread the frosting on top of each cake and decorate with a chocolate flower.
side one:
01. It All Depends On You - Jackie Gleason
02. With Tomorrow - Gene Clark

03. The Time You Spent With Me - Ohio Express
04. I Fell In Love With a Ghost - Lydia Lunch
05. Say It Isn't So - Jackie Gleason
06. Stop Draggin' My Heart Around - Stevie Nicks w/ Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

07. Crève Misère - Georges Chelon
08. Nobody's Sweetheart - The Mills Violano Virtuoso (Double) of the Gay '90s Melody Museum, St. Louis
09. You Were Meant For Me - Jackie Gleason 

[song ends abruptly just as it's getting started.]
[ listen ]

side two:
01. When He Wants a Woman - Timi Yuro
02. Honey Bunch - The Gentleman Losers

03. Jealous - Jackie Gleason
04. Le Mur De La Prison D'en Face - Yves Duteil
05. God Knows (You Gotta' Give to Get) - El Perro Del Mar
06. Don't Wanna' Live Inside Myself - Bee Gees
07. Mirror Kissers - The Cribs
08. No Place So Alone - Tindersticks
09. Dark Is the Night - Jackie Gleason

10. Starry-Eyed and Breathless - Ethel Ennis 
[track suddenly cuts off for no apparent reason.]
[ listen ]

Friday, August 27, 2010

Crystal Gayle

Artist: Crystal Gayle
LP: 7" single
Song: "'Til I Gain Control Again"
[ listen ]

The third and final album by This Mortal Coil came out in 1991 at about the same time I did, and it was one of the main soundtracks for what was a pretty difficult time in my life. Their version of "'Til I Gain Control Again," with lead vocals by Heidi Berry, was one of the songs I listened to most often (you can hear it here), so it was a nice surprise when I recently came across this 1982 single that features Crystal Gayle doing a version of the song. "'Til I Gain Control Again" was originally written by singer Rodney Crowell and was first recorded and released by Emmylou Harris in 1975; you can listen to her version here. Crystal Gayle was born in Paintsville, Kentucky in 1951 and is singer Loretta Lynn's youngest sibling. Gayle has had 18 singles reach #1 on the country charts over the years, you can go here to find out which ones and to read more about the life and career of the talented singer known for her crystal blue eyes and her shimmering, incredibly long hair. I've always thought it must be kinda' gross cleaning out the drain in the tub after Crystal Gayle takes a shower.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Anna Oxa

Artist: Anna Oxa
LP: Anna Oxa
Song: "La Sonnambula"
[ listen ]

One of the things I like most about Italian pop music of the 1970s is that about 90% of the time, the singer is screaming at the top of their lungs by the end of the song. You can read about Anna Oxa here, and see her discography, tour dates, photos and more on her otherworldly website here—but be warned: loud music will automatically start to play and your cursor arrow will catch on fire!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Nicola Di Bari

Artist: Nicola Di Bari
LP: Un Successo Dopo L'Altro
Song: "Il Mondo E' Grigio, Il Mondo E' Blu"
[ listen ]

Here's a cool Nicola Di Bari song that features rambunctious percussive flourishes. Sorry if I seem a bit under the weather. I was out too late last night with some lemon juice, gin and a touch of absinthe—then awoke in the middle of the night from a terrible nightmare. (Armed with a broom, I was trying to fend off a cougar that had been about to attack the family dog. I figured that the dog and I would work together to get rid of the cougar, but as soon as the cougar turned its attention to me, the family dog trotted off to safety.) In my sleep-deprived haze, I left my homemade lunch sitting on the kitchen counter as I headed for work, and also forgot to grab my only functioning pen, so am using a crappy yellow Paper Mate ever-sharp today instead. Anyway, the Italian-language notes from the back of Di Bari's 1976 LP are included here:

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Artist: Aim
LP: Aim For the Highest
Song: "Seattle"
[ listen ]

Not to be confused with the toothpaste of the same name, the music group Aim released an LP back in 1974 featuring a song about Seattle. The lyrics mention taking a ferry to "Winslow Island," which I'd never heard of before, so I looked it up. Evidently singer Michael W. Overly was actually taking the ferry over to Bainbridge Island from downtown Seattle. The ferry stops at a little town there that was called Winslow until 1991, when it was incorporated into the rest of the island to become the island-town known today as Bainbridge Island (see map here). You can find a review of the "Aim For the Highest" LP on the GloryDaze Music website here, where a guy named Eric complains about Overly's "high-pitched tenor," his "painful yelping" and his tendency to "boogie things up" too often. But be sure to check out the counter-review submitted by Shelf Stacker, who claims that Aim's sole LP is full of "sunny West-Coast positivity," that Overly sounds kinda' like Stevie Wonder and that he would make sure to rescue the album if his house ever caught on fire. Personally, I like the record. My copy has a hole-punch too, but I Photoshopped it out.

Monday, August 23, 2010


Artist: Osibisa
LP: Osibisa
Song: "Oranges"
[ listen ]

Here's something wonderful and orange for a sunny Seattle morning that features early hints of the crisp coolness of autumn. "Oranges" is from "British Afro-pop band" Osibisa's self-titled 1971 debut LP; they've been making music ever since, as you can see here. Sadly, I just read on the group's official website that Osibisa trumpet and flugelhorn player Mac Tontoh died last week. You can find his obituary on the Modern Ghana website here.

ps. Yes, that's Roger Dean's artwork on the cover.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Heesch Family Singers

 Artist: Heesch Family Singers
LP: You Set My Spirit Free
Song: "Suzy's Prayer"
[ listen ]
Song: "The Chosen Vessel"
[ listen ]

This slightly warped record by the Heesch Family Singers is another I picked up at the Colville Habitat for Humanity Thrift Store. The Heesches are evidently natives of the small logging town, since their contact info includes a Colville street address. With "Suzy's Prayer," the Heesches pressure parents into teaching their kids how to pray, lest they be humiliated when called upon to offer grace while visiting a friend's house for dinner. Poor little Suzy's eyes fill with tears and she can barely croak an apology to her playmate's parents: "I am sorry, I am sorry, but I don't know how to pray. My mommy never taught me and I don't know what to say." What Suzy should have said is, "I am sorry, but I'm not really into that sort of thing. If you need to talk to God before we eat, go right ahead, but just leave me out of it." With "The Chosen Vessel," the Heesch Family Singers insinuate that God prefers dull, unattractive, broken people to good-looking, high-spirited, talkative ones who don't mind voicing their opinions. Some advice for the Heesches: if you're going to include your dog Quennie in the family photo on the back of your Christian music record, you might choose a picture where she doesn't look like she's possessed by Satan.

[ Quennie ]

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Arthur Lyman

Artist: Arthur Lyman
LP: Aphrodisia
Song: "O O"
[ listen ]

Here's one of the two Arthur Lyman records I picked up at the Goodwill Thrift Store in Colville on my way back from camping last week. I initially thought the woman on the cover was facing away from me, but then I noticed the strange hole in the center of her lower back. The illusion's kinda' creepy, if you ask me. Arthur Lyman was born, lived and died in Hawaii; he learned to play music when his father would lock him in a room after school with nothing but a toy marimba and a pile of Benny Goodman records. You can read about Arthur Lyman here and here, and the notes from the back of his 1968 "Aphrodisia" LP are included below. Though "O O" probably isn't the best song on the album, I chose it because I like the crazy title.

[ Arthur Lyman: February 2, 1932 — February 24, 2002 ]

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band

Artist: The Paul Butterfield Blues Band
LP: The Paul Butterfield Blues Band
Song: "I Got My Mojo Working"
[ listen ]

The blues has never been one of my favorite genres, but this 1965 debut album by The Paul Butterfield Blues Band is actually more blue-green, if you ask me. Though it sounds like Paul was likely playing harmonica as he sprang from his mother's womb, his singing voice is a little thin, if you ask me that too. My favorite track on the album is "I Got My Mojo Working," sung by drummer Sam Lay. A native of Birmingham, Alabama who was born in 1935, Lay came down with bad cases of pneumonia and pleurisy shortly after the release of this record and left the group. He went on drumming after he recovered, and has since been inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in Memphis, the Jazz Hall of Fame in Los Angeles and the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. You can read more about Sam Lay on All About Jazz here. Also appearing on this Paul Butterfield record are 23-year-old Elvin Bishop (rhythm guitar) and 22-year-old Mike Bloomfield (slide guitar). Sadly, Bloomfield died of a drug overdose in 1981, and then Paul Butterfield died of the same thing just six years later. You can read more about blues harmonica virtuoso Paul Butterfield on Wikipedia here, and the LP liner notes in which Pete Welding begs listeners to take Paul seriously as a blues performer even though he's young and white are included below.

 [ Paul Butterfield: December 17, 1942 — May 4, 1987 ]

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Terry Callier

Artist: Terry Callier
LP: What Color Is Love
Song: "Dancing Girl"
[ listen ]

Born in Chicago, Illinois in 1945, Terry Callier learned to play the piano when he was young. He started performing in Chicago's folk clubs and coffee houses in the 1960s, then hooked up with the Chess and Cadet labels to release three commercially unsuccessful LPs in the early 1970s. "What Color Is Love" from 1972 is the second of the three, featuring a musical style critics labeled "jazz-folk." Frustrated with the lack of interest in his musical career, Callier took classes in computer programming and got a job at the University of Chicago in the early 1980s, where he studied at night to earn a sociology degree. As is often the case with so many of the brilliant-but-neglected musical recordings of the USA, it required some Europeans to finally discover and fully appreciate the 1970s and early '80s work of Terry Callier. His music started getting played at clubs in the UK, where Callier began traveling to perform during vacation time from work. More popular than ever, Callier revived his music career in the late 1990s, releasing five albums in the past decade and working with the likes of Beth Orton and Massive Attack. Unfortunately, the good folks at the University of Chicago realized that it would be entirely too distracting for the students to have their computers programmed by a musical superstar, so Callier was let go when his moonlighting was finally made known. You can read more about Terry Callier on Wikipedia here and visit his official website here.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ronnie McNeir

Artist: Ronnie McNeir
LP: Love's Comin' Down
Song: "Funky Situation"
[ listen ]

Sylvester Stallone's new movie is #1 at the box office with $35 million over the weekend; China passes Japan to become the world's #2 economy; Zsa Zsa Gabor is back in the hospital to have blood clots removed and it's going to be a scorching 90° in Seattle this afternoon. I really don't know what to say about the situation in the world today—I got one word to say about it, and that's "funky." You can read all about Ronnie McNeir, who is currently a member of The Four Tops, on Wikipedia here.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Temptations

Artist: The Temptations
LP: Sky's the Limit
Song: "Smiling Faces Sometimes"
[ listen ]

Yesterday I parked in a yellow-painted loading zone with my hazard lights flashing just so I could run in and pick up The Temptations' 1973 "Masterpiece" LP at Everyday Music on Capital Hill, but it wasn't in the new arrivals where I'd left it the day before! Undaunted and with hazards still flashing, I dashed upstairs to the used 'T' section and found a copy of that LP along with two other Temptations albums I didn't already have, paid for them and was back in my car before you could say "parking ticket." One of the other two LPs I found was "Sky's the Limit" from 1971, which features the original 12+ minute version of Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong's "Smiling Faces Sometimes," which warns about seemingly friendly folks who really only want to stab you in the back! You can read more about the song here and find lots of information about The Temptations (the group's origins, lineup changes, discography, their legacy, whether or not they've ever used Auto-Tune) on Wikipedia here.