Dory Previn – R.I.P   Leave a comment

Dory Previn

It was with great sadness that I learned (only yesterday) of Dory Previn’s death on Valentine’s Day 2012, aged 86. Dory is a very important part of the Female Singer-Songwriter brigade, appearing at the same time as Carole, Carly and Joni had also come to prominence (or perhaps because of), which enables us to mention her in the same breath, although in so many ways she was a one-off.

I remember back in 1988 when there was a surge of Female Singer-Songwriters (eg Tanita Tikaram, Julia Fordham),Q magazine ran an article about them, but also referencing back to some from the 70’s such as Judee Sill and, Dory.

I didn’t know any Dory music, nowadays I could have sampled something on Amazon or maybe on YouTube, but not then, so I had to take a chance. I found a second hand LP copy of Mythical Kings And Iguana’s which I think was a re-release as it had no lyrics – I did not know what to expect, but was very surprised, not only at the depth of the lyric writing and the song arrangement – but also perhaps because of that – that she was not much more widely known.

Mythical Kings is her finest album without doubt, it was her second, and she would produce 4 more and one live recording. All of these are available on CD, although the last one appears to have been mixed at the wrong speed. The first 4 LP’s are packaged as “Two-fers” but there is a very good compilation covering these.

So – what does she sound like ?

The voice is not particularly beautiful in a Joni Mitchell sense or strong, but when combined with her lyrics form a potent mix on her best songs. The only criticism I would make is that it does occasionally strain on the higher notes on some of her latter albums. The lyrics are sometimes very witty and ironic, incredibly descriptive and observational, often tackling subjects that no-one else ever would or has eg. male impotence, midgets – but don’t let that put you off.

If you don’t know anything by her – be sure to go and check her out.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2012/feb/15/dory-previn

http://www.mojo4music.com/blog/2012/02/dory_previn_rip.html

Kim Carnes – View from the House   Leave a comment

house

Kim’s 11th album View from the House was released in 1989 on MCA, three years after the relatively unsuccessful Lighthouse album. Many would not have been too aware that Kim had her roots in country, let’s face it she doesn’t have an obvious voice for country and she is famous for the archetypal 80’s hit Bette Davis Eyes. But country is where she started, her first LP Rest on Me having been produced by Jimmy Bowen. Kim teams up with Jimmy again for this album and shares production credits with him (Bill Cuomo also has a co-producing credit on the closing song). There are 5 covers on here, 1 Kim original, and the remaining 4 co-writes between Kim and Donna Weiss (tracks 1,2,8 & 10). The album reached no. 39 on the US Country chart and both Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness and Crazy In Love were hits on the US Country chart (no. 70 & 68 respectively). Crazy reached no. 13 on the US AC Chart. Kim retained a few of her old musical partners for this album, Josh Leo and the Craig’s Krampf and Hull.

Opening song Brass & Batons starts off with a jaunty fiddle melody courtesy of Mark O’Connor before seguing into a piano / synth based backing. The chorus seems to echo Kim’s career arc through the 80’s “Brass & Batons they fade away, they’re only moments in the haze”; this song builds on it’s fiddle / piano melody before being joined by Craig Hull’s slide guitar. Bruce Hornsby also plays accordion on this song, but it’s not too high in the mix and you barely notice him. Next up is the UK single taken from this LP – Just To Spend Tonight With You, which opens with Kirk Johnson’s harmonica (a little reminiscent  of Laura Nyro’s Stoney End opening). This is a gentle mid-tempo countryish sounding track that travels along quite nicely before cutting out to just Mark O’ Connor’s mandolin outro – a nice touch. Track 3 is more of a country rocker Heartbreak Radio – written by Troy Seals and Frankie Miller, Kim had covered his songs before this. Heartbreak is a little like Achy Breaky Heart, my friend described it as a bit of a “line dancing song” and she may not be too far wrong there. The lyrics are great fun and Kim gives it her all. This song was also recorded by Rita Coolidge as the title track of her 1981 album. Track 4 Crazy In Love is a completely different change of pace. Kim singing over an electric keyboard, it is just lovely and shows off Kim’s way with a lyric, understated, heartfelt, pushing at all the right points – probably the high point of this album – I love the way her voice dives to that raspy edge before rising again tenderly at the end. Side One ends with the jangly guitar of If You Don’t Want My Love (curiously credited to John Prine and Phil Spector), this was taken from John’s 1978 album. The song is quite gentle in tempo.

Side Two kicks off with the electric guitar of Willie And The Hand Jive. This is real fun but has more of a rocking Bo Diddley type rhythm than perhaps a country one. The song was written by Johnny Otis and was a hit for him in 1958. Next up and picking along with an acoustic country melody is another John Prine song Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness, later covered by Nanci Griffith. The accordion solo is by John Cascella. I’ve always enjoyed the lyrics and melody to this song and Kim does it credit; Lyle Lovett shares harmony with her. The piano ballad Blood From The Bandit follows; a bit of a downbeat song “Money buys anything anytime”. After this we are back in the country corner with the Kim original Fantastic Fire Of Love. This is a great song with a catchy chorus driven along by Mark’s fiddle oncemore. Crimes Of The Heart closes the album and is one of 4 songs written by Kim and Donna Weiss. This ballad starts off with the only obvious bit of synth on this recording, from Bill Cuomo, and this continues to form the backbone of the melody. I guess the message of this song is that no matter how hard we try we can all end up caught in something we don’t want and end up hurting someone, but despite that rather serious message it is a quite uplifting song. Bill co-produced this song with Jimmy and Kim.

View from the House is an enjoyable album, it has been classified as a “Country” album, but it’s not that country; If you like Kim but are frightened of dipping your toe into country waters I would say take the plunge. As this recording was from 1989 it was released on CD then, but hasn’t been re-issued since.

Kim Carnes – Lighthouse   Leave a comment

Lighthouse

Lighthouse saw Kim paired with producer Val Garay again, perhaps in an attempt to recreate the success of Mistaken Identity and Voyeur which he also produced. Husband Dave was strangely absent from this record. As a result of the Garay effect we see two Weiss / de Shannon songs for the first time since MI. Kim co-writes four herself plus the solo Black And White. Despite the production efforts by Garay which saw a sound more akin to his other work with Carnes, the album was not successful, peaking at no. 116 on the US Billboard charts. Divided Hearts was the first single, reaching no. 79 in the US but follow up I’d Lie To You For Your Love failed to chart.

I used to listen to Radio Caroline a lot in the 80’s and confess I had lost track of Ms Carnes, until Divided Hearts was released as a single which they played on heavy rotation. I consequently bought the Lighthouse album. Side one kicks off with this single which is a great Kim song. It has a sort of synth backbeat to it similar in feel to Bruce Hornsby’s The Way it Is from the same year. The chorus is a killer and has some strong BV’s from Philip Ingram, Kevin Dorsey and Oren Waters. Kim co-wrote this with Donna Weiss (who would have four co-writes on this LP), Kathy Kurasch and Kim’s son Collin Ellingson. Next up is a rather different track I’d Lie To You For Your Love opening with some strummed acoustic guitar that sounds a bit like Eurythmics’  Thorn In My Side. This song is a cover, being written by Frankie Miller, Jeff Barry and the Bellamy Bros. It’s a great song and rocks along nicely. Track three is again different in feel, opening with Steve Goldstein’s synth intro before Jerry Peterson’s sax kicks in. Black and White, written solely by Kim is a beautiful song and shows off Kim’s vocal prowess to great effect. The song tells the story of a relationship that once was, that just “burned too bright, I guess things just look better in black and white”. Track 4 Piece Of The Sky picks up the pace and is more synth driven than the previous songs although it is not set against a drum track. Unbelieveably this was the first song Kim recorded that was written by Donna Weiss and Jackie de Shannon since Bette Davis Eyes. You would have thought they would have been paired up again before now but no ; I really like this song, although I’ll admit the lyrics don’t really make much sense. Side One closes with a jangly guitar ballad – You Say You Love Me (But I Know You Don’t), a co-write with Val Garay and guitarist Craig Hull. Short and sweet this song is an interesting way to end Side One.

Side Two kicks off at great speed with the (sort of) title track Dancin’ At The Lighthouse with Jerry’s searing sax. A co-write with her old vocal partner Daniel Moore who adds great harmonies to this with the J D Steele singers. I always thought this could have sneaked out as a single. The pace doesn’t slacken with track two Love Me Like You Never Did Before written by Phil Brown and Eric Kaz, who both play on it. This tells the tale of someone who has been let down giving that person another chance but making it clear, it will not be the same this time around. The synth track sounds a bit like what Heart were doing at the time and Kim’s vocal is brilliant, she really put’s her heart and soul into this one. Track three is Along With The Radio written by Kim and Craig Krampf. This ballad sits on Side Two in the same place as Black And White on it’s flipside and they are quite similar, perhaps they both act as a centerpiece to each. This is a lovely simple song and a real band effort, I have always really liked this. The penultimate song is Only Lonely Love that slides along on a percussive synthy rhythm; this is a second Weiss / de Shannon song and again, this is very catchy, could have been a hit. Donna and Lauren Wood are on BV’s. Waddy Wachtel contributes a searing guitar solo. The Donna Weiss / Bruce Roberts song That’s Where The Trouble Lies closes the LP and is the most synthesised song on this record. The verse has a sultry Kim vocal, perhaps the chorus is a bit repetitive.

This release is less ’80’s’ than Kim’s previous efforts, it is more of a fusion between synthesisers and guitar driven songs, it is very much a band effort. The songs are mature (no Abadadabango here…) and has always been a massive favourite of mine, I love every song. I have always thought it a shame that on Kim’s many compilations it’s tracks are so rarely featured. The CD has for many years been selling for exorbitant prices on ebay but now Culture Factory are due to re-release it in one of their paper sleeve CD’s in August 2013. If you don’t know this CD but love Kim’s other work, go buy this album you will not be disappointed !

Cowboy Junkies – Live @ The Barbican 25.01.13   Leave a comment

Ok – Yes, I know, this is a blog about Female Singer Songwriters and Margot Timmins isn’t; brother Michael writes 99% of the material, but I have always loved them, so for me she is an honorary singer songwriter, whilst not ever penning a line herself. In many ways the songs are hers, as much as Michael’s. I have seen The Junkies twice before, but the first time didn’t really enjoy them. Maybe the venue or the mix of music was wrong, who knows – anyway at this gig they were the best I have ever seen them. Margot’s stage presence was incredible, she really lived and expressed the emotions in the songs, far more than I remember before. Her vocals were unsurpassed. The band were cracking too, the 4 plus Jeff Bird. Some of Michael’s guitar solo’s were Hendrix-esque but he never moves from his seat, both he and Alan Anton on bass seem to possess such inner control.

The last 4 releases by them have been part of what they have called The Nomad series – 4 very different pieces of work with it’s own identity. A selection of these songs were showcased in the first half, and are listed here :

Wrong Piano

I Cannot Sit Sadly By Your Side

Stranger Here

See You Around

Square Room

3rd Crusade

Late Night Radio

Damaged From The Start

Fairytale

Margot was comically disparaging about them beforehand reassuring the audience that all the well known stuff would be in the second half. I was really pleasantly surprised by the material, only Square Room drifted a little for me, but opener Wrong Piano and 3rd Crusade were really blistering. I bought the CD box set at the stall in the interval, for a very reasonable £25. Sorry Air Canada, your extra baggage fees will be a little lower going home…..

The second half contained, although not in this order:

Sweet Jane

Spiral Down

Good Friday

Five Room Love Story

Working on a Building

‘Cause Cheap is How I Feel

Misguided Angel

Blue Moon Revisited

A Horse in the Country

Something More Besides You

A Common Disaster

My Little Basquiat

Don’t Let It Bring You Down (Neil Young cover and show closer).

I can’t remember the order these came in (!) sorry ! but it was a really wonderful show, each song a surprise as to what was coming next. Towards the end, a lady tried to get Margot’s attention to give her some roses, and I just thought Oh God, she ended up throwing them onto the stage and then tried to make her way back to her seat, but…..Margot had seen her, picked up the roses (holding them throughout Misguided which she sang next) then hugged and kissed the lady, and odd as this sounds, I found my eyes welling up, it was such a lovely moment.

I must make sure I don’t miss them next time they visit these fair shores.

Kit Hain – Biography   Leave a comment

Kit Hain was born in Surrey, UK in 1952 and first met Julian Marshall at Dartington Hall, which is a prestigious music school in South West England. After this Kit attended Durham University studying psychology, dabbling in songwriting of the folksy type. After graduating in 1974 she performed part time in a jazz-rock group, and met up with Julian (who had just graduated from the Royal College of Music) in 1976 when she re-located to London and was needing some help on a song demo. The two started gigging as a duo and DitC began when Julian sketched out the piano chords, although it was Kit who contributed the melody and lyrics. Originally the song had, according to Kit, a very macho vocal with a reggae melody and the lyrics “Dancing in the City – Running down the alley – Pictures at the Pally  – Fun tonight” ! Kit re-worked this into the lyric and melody we know and love today. Trying to get some record companies interested, they only got a sniff with folk label Transatlantic and EMI, whose Harvest label (better known perhaps for Prog Rock) they eventually signed with. DitC was (along with it’s accompanying album Free Ride) produced by Christopher Neil who also produced Sheena Easton’s debut work, and featured Peter van Hooke, who featured heavily on Tanita Tikaram’s debut Ancient Heart. Dancing in the City was released in May 1978 and by July had reached its highest position of No.3. The album followed, but failed to chart and the follow up single, the lush, beautifully orchestrated Coming Home stalled at No. 39. The duo then went on a 15 date tour, but shortly after were no more. Kit released a solo single on Harvest – The Jokes on You, then two wonderful and under-rated solo albums Spirits Walking Out in 1981 and School for Spies in 1983. Not long after she relocated to the US, marrying renowned producer Mike Thorne (who also produced Carmel as well as Kit’s second album). Kit felt uncomfortable with being the centre of attention that a lead or solo singer brought and after fate took a hand decided she would be happier concentrating on songwriting. There is a very extensive and interesting interview with Kit http://www.stereosociety.com/khintmt.shtml  which goes into great detail and it would be pointless for me to reproduce that here. Her compositons have been recorded by Roger Daltrey, Cher, Peter Cetera, Chaka Khan, Cyndi Lauper, Barbara Dickson and many, many others. She also has a love for French pop, and has worked with many Belgian and French writers. A compilation of her solo albums called Looking for You was released on CD by Renaissance Records in 2011 – not quite sure why they did not do the two albums separately – they are both worthy of it. On Kit’s myspace page http://www.myspace.com/kittusmusic there are 7 new songs which are wonderful, and it says that she released an album in 1995 in Belgium called Cry Freedom; I would love to get hold of this, and I’m not sure if these 7 songs are taken from there. Becoming something of a polymath, Kit will have a children’s novel called The Flame in the Mist published in early 2013.

Julian on the other hand spent a short while in The Flying Lizards who had a sort of novelty (?) hit with Money (“That’s what I want”) in 1979, then also went to the US and formed Eye to Eye with Deborah Berg releasing two LP’s produced by acclaimed Steely Dan producer Gary Katz, and a third which was unreleased. After that he returned to teaching and composing classical works (you can feel the classical foundation even in Marshall Hain’s work). In 2009 he composed the acclaimed cantata Out of the Darkness. In 2012 he founded The London Song Company (see links for website address) along with Katie Whitehouse and Paul Hussell.

 

Marshall Hain – Free Ride   Leave a comment

Free Ride

Marshall Hain were a songwriting and performing duo – Julian Marshall and Kit Hain. Julian was the music maestro contributing incredible keyboard playing, sometimes with an almost classical feel, while Kit looked after the lyrics and added occasional guitar playing. Free Ride contains the massive hit single Dancing in the City. If you grew up in the 70’s and heard this now you would know it instantly and sing-a-long to the chorus, although you may not remember who performed it. Dancing in the City reached no. 3 in the UK singles chart in the summer of 1978, no. 43 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1979, but it was in Australia, Germany and South Africa where it reached No. 1. The one follow up single Coming Home reached no. 39 on the UK singles chart, and the album Free Ride followed, released on the Harvest record label as the singles had been and produced by Christopher Neil (later to work with Sheena Easton). Unfortunately this was a flop, and the duo disbanded in 1979. Why did it flop ? Perhaps the mixture of styles was too eclectic to pin them down, but more likely  it was a case of “wrong place, wrong time”. This was the era of Punk and New Wave and perhaps a more traditional songwriting duo just did not fit the bill.

For anyone who had been familiar with the massive hit single Dancing in the City or Coming Home for that matter, the opening track Different Point certainly is that; more rocking in tempo with a jazz rock feel enhanced by a great keyboard solo from Julian. This song ends and Dancing in the City immediately begins with that familiar “thunder” sound. This was a massive hit single which somehow seems so evocative of summer, Kit’s vocal is so distinctive, and the chorus very catchy. The drum sound is typically 70’s (courtesy of Peter van Hooke) and also incredibly distinctive, a real sing-a-long favourite.  Next song up is You Two, which bounces along driven by Julian’s piano playing. This is one of only two songs which Kit plays acoustic guitar on. Track 4 Real Satisfaction opens with Harold Fisher’s Caribbean sounding drums, and this is another song driven along by Julian’s keyboard playing. It is very catchy with Kit’s multi-tracked vocals on the chorus, very redolent of early Judie Tzuke. The song unusually has a wonderful marimba solo from Frank Ricotti. The final song on Side One is the follow up to Dancing – Coming Home. This is a lovely song, which really should get more airplay. It opens with Julian’s (or Chris’ ?) spoken line intro, then Kit starts telling her story of an independent person who wanted their freedom, but now finds that exhausted and wants to “come home”, musically the song is really a duet between Julian’s keyboard playing and Dave Olney’s fretless bass backed with a lovely string arrangement.

Next up is Take My Rumber, which is basically Julian playing a rumba (I assume), perhaps a little odd on a debut album, or perhaps nowadays it is the sort of thing you would find as a secret track; it’s presence does make this a 9 song album, which is perhaps a shame, I would have preferred another song, particularly with hindsight. The title track follows which is a real rocker, not to mention an interesting lyric from Kit (full of double entendres). Kit’s vocal range is really shown to good effect here. The song ends on a guitar solo from (I assume) Phil Palmer. Take My Number follows, which is one of only three ballads here. This is a lovely song, with a really nice chorus and vocal from Kit. This could have made a single I think, the chorus is catchy enough. Mrs The Train follows (Kit really did like playing with words – Misses The Train – gettit ?) – “They call me Mrs the Train, cuz I’m never gonna stop at your station”. This is a great rockin’ boogie-ish track, and then somehow the album is almost over, we are at the last track Back to the Green. Dancing in the City is over and its time to get out and back to the country. A very nice way to finish the album off, the orchestration is beautiful – and that’s Marshall Hain done.

Cherry Red have done a great job of releasing this on CD, and the original album line-up has Ben Liebrand’s 87 Summer City mix of Dancing in the City added to it, (it was also remixed and re-issued again in 92). Has Free Ride stood up the test of time ? Well No, but then it is of it’s time. This is a 70’s LP, enjoy it as such, it is much more than one hit single and a not so successful follow up. If you like early Judie Tzuke (especially Welcome to the Cruise) you will like this. Please can Cherry Red get hold of Kit’s two solo albums now ??

Kim Carnes – Cafe Racers   Leave a comment

For the follow up to Voyeur, Kim would work with Keith Olsen for the first time (he had worked with Fleetwood Mac on Tusk). Released in 1983 (Kim’s 5th album in as many years) it would not chart as high as it’s two predecessors attaining only a No. 97 placing on the US chart. Invisible Hands was it’s biggest hit reaching No. 40 in the US. The Universal Song, I Pretend and You Make My Heart Beat Faster would also be released as singles. Kim would be involved in writing only 5 of the LP’s songs. Kim is pictured on the cover on a vespa – not quite sure what a Cafe Racer is (any ideas ??), but it is a line from Track 5.

The opening track is very catchy with a more dance oriented synth beat and a great guitar solo by 80’s guitar maestro Steve Lukather ; also on guitar is Chas Sandford who appears a few times on this LP –  he would also write Talk To Me for Steve Nicks.The track was a co-write between Kim, Dave Ellingson and Martin Page and Brian Fairweather. Page & Fairweather would contribute to a further two tracks on the LP, and go on to write These Dreams for Heart. Catchy as the opener is, the chorus does get a bit repetitive. Next up is Young Love, featuring Lukather and Waddy Wachtel on guitar, with Mark Andes and Dennis Carmassi. Andes and Carmassi would in a couple of years become the rhythm section of a revitalised Heart. Met You At The Wrong Time Of My Life follows, which starts of with a very Foreigner like synth intro by Bill Cuomo, and has the first of three appearances by Sax stalwart Jerry Peterson. Hurricane picks up the pace a little bit, but for me doesn’t really go anywhere. Side One closer is The Universal Song which was released as a single reaching No. 40 in Netherlands.

Side Two starts us off with Invisible Hands which has hit written all over it, surprised it did not go higher ; again more dance oriented this Page / Fairweather track has a catchy chorus which Ms Carnes carries off well, I always enjoy this song. I Pretend is another Page / Fairweather song, a much slower mid tempo rocker – this song probably deserves a wider audience. Hanging On By A Thread is next up, a ballad featuring John Waite (later of Missing You fame) on backing vocals. This was the only Kim Carnes song on Cafe Racers that Kim wrote solely herself. A Kick In The Heart is a Mark Goldenberg song (he also worked with Wendy Waldman and Linda Ronstadt) although he didn’t play on it. In tempo this is more of a mid paced rocker, similar to I Pretend in feel. Finally the LP closes with perhaps it’s best known song – I’ll Be Here Where The Heart Is – featured on the Flashdance soundtrack  (which cements Kim Carnes’ part of the 80’s even more ! ). This is, one might argue the best track on the LP with a great chorus featuring backing from her husband Dave Ellingson and Daniel Moore (where was he in the rest of this recording – sadly absent). The track is a ballad with a synth beat in the background, and Waddy Wachtel’s guitar on the verses.

Cafe Racers is not one of my favourite Kim Carnes albums, her performances are great as always, I just don’t think the songs are quite up there. Shame.

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