Five For Friday: Steve Winwood (One Guy, Multiple Acts)

Multi-instrumentalist (primarily guitar and keyboards) Steve Winwood has been around for going on 60 years, and he still manages to sound fresh. Let’s take a look…

  1. Spencer Davis Group, "I’m A Man": Steve started with the Spencer Davis Group in 1962, when he was 14, and stayed with them until 1967. "I’m A Man" was released in ’67, from their album The Best of The Spencer Davis Group featuring Steve Winwood. It reached #10 in the US, #9 in the UK, and #1 in Canada.
  2. Traffic, "Paper Sun": After leaving Spencer Davis, Steve started Traffic with Jim Capaldi on drums, Chris Wood on saxophone, and Dave Mason on guitar. They recorded three albums together before splitting in 1969. "Paper Sun" was their first single, from their first album, 1967’s Mr. Fantasy. It was writen by Winwood and Capaldi and reached #5 in the UK but only #94 in the US.
  3. Blind Faith, "Sea Of Joy": Steve left Traffic in early 1969 and started jamming with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker from the recently-dissolved Cream and Ric Grech from the band Family. They managed to release one eponymous studio album and play some concerts before splitting up. "Sea Of Joy," written by Winwood, is from that album and features some violin playing from Grech.
  4. Traffic, "The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys": Steve started working on a solo project after leaving Blind Faith, and invited Capaldi and Wood to assist him. That solo project soon became Traffic’s most successful album, 1970’s John Barleycorn Must Die. After recording a live album, 1970’s Welcome To The Canteen, they went to work on The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys, released in 1971. It became a Top 10 album in the US, earning Platinum status from RIAA. The title track ran over 11 minutes long, too long to release as a single, but it got a lot of airplay on US album-oriented rock stations, especially when the DJ had to run to the restroom…
  5. Steve Winwood, "Back In The High Life Again": Steve left Traffic in 1974 to get off the road and do session work, including work with his Traffic mate Jim Capaldi, Toots & The Maytals, and Sandy Denny. Island Records began putting pressure on him to release a solo album; he released an eponymous album in 1977, followed by Arc Of A Diver in 1980. Both albums were recorded in his home studio, with him playing all the instruments. Since then, he’s released eight more albums, the most recent being 2017’s Greatest Hits Live. "Back In The High Life Again" is from the 1986 album Back In The High Life; it reached #13 on the Hot 100, #19 on the Mainstream Rock chart, and #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart in 1986.

Steve Winwood, your Five For Friday, October 23, 2020.

Five For Friday: Eric Clapton (One Guy, Multiple Acts)

Eric Clapton has been playing professionally for almost 60 years. To try and present samples of each musical project he’s been a part of in that long a period of time would be practically impossible. I finally realized that the best I can do is present some of his music from his early career, say during the ’60’s and ’70’s. So that’s what I’ll do…

  1. The Yardbirds, "Louise"/"I Wish You Would": Clapton played with The Yardbirds from their inception through March 25, 1965 (my ninth birthday), the day their breakthrough single, "For Your Love," was released. "Artistic differences" caused him to leave: he was more of a blues purist, and wanted to do more than record three-minute singles for Top 40 radio. This clip is from 1964, and he’s standing at the left of your screen if you’re looking straight at the band, and he’s in the foreground when looking from the side.
  2. Cream, "Crossroads": After a couple of years with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, he was invited by drummer Ginger Baker to join his yet-to-be-formed band. Clapton agreed, provided Baker hired bassist Jack Bruce. Baker was hesitant, because he and Bruce had both been in the Graham Bond Organisation and never saw eye-to-eye there, but he agreed. "Crossroads" is a Robert Johnson song that Cream covered on their 1968 album Disraeli Gears. Released as a single in January 1969, it reached #28 on the Hot 100.
  3. Blind Faith, "Can’t Find My Way Home": Clapton and Traffic’s Steve Winwood started jamming together after both Cream and Traffic disbanded, and with the addition of Baker and bassist Ric Grech decided to form Blind Faith. They lasted one album and one tour before splitting up in early 1970. "Can’t Find My Way Home" was written by Winwood for the group’s eponymous 1969 album. This live version is from a 1969 concert in Hyde Park, the band’s first.
  4. Derek & The Dominoes, "Bell Bottom Blues": Clapton, keyboardist Bobby Whitlock, bassist Carl Radle, and drummer Jim Gordon had met while working with Delaney & Bonnie and Friends. They became Derek & The Dominoes when they played on George Harrison’s 1970 album All Things Must Pass. They released just one studio album, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, joined by Dave Mason on guitar on some tracks and Duane Allman on lead and slide guitars. The album received critical acclaim but didn’t sell well. "Bell Bottom Blues" was the first single, released in January 1971; it only reached #91 on the Hot 100 the first time it was released, while reaching #79 on its re-release with Jimi Hendrix’s "Little Wing" as the B side.
  5. Eric Clapton, "Forever Man": To represent his solo career, I chose this song from 1985. From his ninth studio album, Behind The Sun, this was also his first music video. It topped the Mainstream Rock Airplay chart and sold over half a million copies.

And that’s Five For Friday for October 16, 2020. (And a happy 66th anniversary to my parents. Hope they’re celebrating.)

Five For Friday: George Harrison (One Guy, Multiple Acts)

Yes, this is later than usual. I decided to do this today instead of yesterday because frankly, I needed the sleep. And I slept very well last night.

Figured I’d go with an easy one today. George Harrison is the reason I chose the guitar way back when. He had a long and productive musical life, as a member of The Beatles, The Traveling Wilburys, and as a solo artist. It was hard to just pick five songs to represent his career. I did my best, and I’ll explain my choices as we go along.

  1. The Beatles, "Don’t Bother Me": This was the first song George wrote for The Beatles. He says he wrote it to find out if he could write a song. For a first effort, it’s a minor masterpiece. It’s typically George, who was an introvert and would want to be left alone in the situation.
  2. The Beatles, "Savoy Truffle": George wrote this for Eric Clapton, who loved candy and as a result was always battling dental issues. The lyrics are the names of the various chocolate confections in a Mackintosh’s Good News box, and the warning was that, after eating all the candy in the box, you’d have to have all your teeth pulled out. George, who was typically limited to one song per album, was represented on all four sides of the white album (the others are "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," "Piggies," and "Long, Long, Long"). You can see that he really matured as a songwriter.
  3. "All Things Must Pass": George had written this and offered it as a track on Abbey Road, but it was decided to go with "Maxwell’s Silver Hammer" instead. George held on to the song and used it as the title track on his first post-Beatles album that shows he had been busy writing songs in the latter days of The Beatles. The album was six sides of some pretty incredible music.
  4. "When We Was Fab": From 1987’s Cloud Nine, a look back at his Beatles days. The sitar, cello, and overall psychedelic sound of the track make it sound like The Beatles circa 1967. There are numerous guest appearances, including Ringo, Jeff Lynne, Elton John, and Neil Aspinall, The Beatles’ former road manager, who bore an uncanny resemblance to John Lennon. For years, George claimed that the left-handed bass player in the walrus suit was Paul McCartney, but after George had died, Paul let on that he hadn’t been able to make the filming, so he told George to put someone in the waltus suit and tell everyone it was him.
  5. The Traveling Wilburys, "End Of The Line": From their first album. The video pays a beautiful tribute to Roy Orbison, who had died before the video was made. George is playing slide guitar in the video, a huge part of his sound in the latter days of The Beatles and the rest of his career.

I was tempted to include many more songs, but held it to five. Maybe next freebie day on Monday’s Music Moves Me, I’ll include many more. For now, that’s George Harrison, your Five For Friday, October 9, 2020. (And a happy heavenly 80th birthday to John Lennon…)

Five For Friday: Joe Walsh (One Guy, Multiple Acts)

Today we’re starting a new series, suggested by my brother Kip. His idea was to take a musician who’s been around for a while and do songs from the different bands he’s been with. He mentioned Eric Clapton, who’s been with The Yardbirds, Cream, Blind Faith, and Derek & The Dominoes as well as having a solo career, or George Harrison, who’s been with The Beatles and The Traveling Wilburys as well as going solo. Strangely, the first guy I thought of was Joe Walsh, the "Clown Prince Of Rock," who started out with The James Gang in the late ’60’s and has been a constant in music ever since.

  1. The James Gang, "Funk #49": One of the first albums I got after getting my stereo was The James Gang’s Rides Again, that band’s second album. Side 1 was all electric, and Side 2 was all acoustic. The first song on Side 1 was "Funk #49," so named because there was a song called "Funk #48" on their first album ("Funk #50" would come on a later album). All the members of the band (Walsh, bassist Dale Peters, and drummer Jim Fox) were all given credit for writing the song. Released as a single, it made it to #59 on the Hot 100. It was more of an album cut that got more play on FM rock stations, one of the more recent developments at the time.
  2. Barnstorm, "Rocky Mountain Way": After leaving the James Gang in 1971, Joe formed the band Barnstorm with drummer Joe Vitale and bassist Kenny Passarelli. Dunhill Records billed the three albums they recorded as Joe Walsh solo projects, which didn’t sit well with him; Wikipedia tells us he said "I wanted to be a band, not a solo artist. Vitale, especially, should’ve gotten more credit ’cause it wasn’t all me. . . . It was in every aspect a collaborative effort." "Rocky Mountain Way" was on Barnstorm’s second album, 1973’s The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get, when the band was joined by keyboard player Rocke Grace. Joe plays lead and slide guitar as well as using a talk box. It reached #23 on the Hot 100 and #13 on the Cash Box chart.
  3. Eagles, "Life In The Fast Lane": Joe joined The Eagles for their 1976 studio release Hotel California and stayed with them until 1980. He wrote "Life In The Faast Lane" with Don Henley and Glenn Frey for Hotel California, and it became the third single from that album. The song peaked at #11 on the Hot 100 and #12 in Canada.
  4. Ringo Starr and His All Star Band, "It Don’t Come Easy": Joe was a member of the first several All-Starr Bands and appeared as a guest artist on several later incarnations. This was recorded with the first incarnation of the band, around 1990.
  5. Joe Walsh, "Analog Man": Joe’s most current solo album is 2012’s Analog Man, which includes performances by co-producer Jeff Lynne, Ringo, Peters and Fox from The James Gang, Vitale and Passarelli from Barnstorm, and Little Richard. This is the title track, and it probably captures the feeling of many of the older people in the audience. and by the way, "Funk #50" is on this album.

Joe Walsh, your Five For Friday, October 2, 2020.

Five For Friday: Michael McDonald (Yacht Rock)

Some of you will be happy to know that this will be the last Yacht Rock post for a while. I haven’t decided what will replace it yet (and I’m open to suggestions), but I think five months is plenty of time for this. So today, we’re going to talk about the Godfather of Yacht Rock, Michael McDonald.

The first a lot of us heard of Michael was when he joined Steely Dan in 1974, providing lead and background vocals on the albums Katy Lied (1975), The Royal Scam (1975), and Aja (1977), also playing keyboards on some tracks. In 1976, he was recruited by The Doobie Brothers, at the suggestion of former Steely Dan guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, when Tom Johnston fell ill. Originally he was just going to stand in for Johnston, but he was such a good fit that they asked him to stay when Johnston returned. (I always felt that his voice and keyboard playing was such a strong influence that it was as though they had morphed into Steely Dan.) At the same time, he also worked as a backup singer, keyboard player, and songwriter on projects by Christopher Cross, Bonnie Raitt, Keny Loggins, and Toto, among other acts.

After the Doobies split up in the early ’80’s, McDonald started his solo career, releasing If That’s What It Takes in 1982. The album contained such classics as "I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near)" and "I Gotta Try" with Kenny Loggins.

  1. "I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near)": Written by McDonald and Ed Sanford. Its similarity to "I Keep Forgettin’" by Lieber and Stoller resulted in them getting writing credits as well. It reached #4 on the Hot 100 and the Cash Box Hot Singles chart, #5 in Canada, #7 on the R&B chart, and #8 on the Adult Contemporary chart in 1982-83.
  2. "Sweet Freedom": Recorded for the soundtrack of the 1986 film Running Scared which starred Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines. It reached #7 on the Hot 100, his last single to reach the Top Ten, #4 on the Adult Contemporary chart, #8 on the Hot Dance Club Play chart, #12 in the UK and #25 in Canada.
  3. "Take It To Heart": Title track from his 1990 album, it reached #4 on the Adult Contemporary chart that year.
  4. "Ain’t No Mountain High Enough": Michael recorded several albums of Motown covers, Motown (2003). Motown Two (2004), and Soul Speak (2008). "Ain’t No Mountain High Enough" is from the first album; it was released as a single in 2004 and reached #5 on the Adult Contemporary chart.
  5. "Yah Mo B There" (with James Ingram): First appeared on Ingram’s 1983 album It’s Your Night. It was released as a single late that year, and reached #19 on the Hot 100, #5 on the R&B chart, and #44 in the UK. A remix by Jellybean Benitez the following year reached #12 in the UK. Ingram and McDonald earned the 1985 Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group.
  6. "On My Own" (with Patti Labelle): Written by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager, this appeared on Patti’s 1986 album Winner In You. The single, released that year, was a huge hit, reaching #1 on the Hot 100, R&B and Adult Contemporary charts, #2 in the UK, #1 in Canada and The Netherlands. It was the biggest hit for both performers.

And that’s Five For Friday for September 25, 2020.