Today’s post takes inspiration from one of my go-to sources, Parade magazine. That ubiquitous Sunday newspaper supplement ran a quite interesting article today on the songs of 1970, written by veteran music critic Jim Farber.
The Beatles’ last album, Let It Be, was released 50 years ago, a month after the band officially announced its breakup, and before any of the Fab Four had turned 30. The title track along with “The Long and Winding Road” would become #1 singles in a year extraordinarily rich in #1 singles. Here’s a version of the song about Paul’s mother, Mary, from the 2003 album Let It Be… Naked, a fantastic reworking the original album by Paul McCartney. If you like the sound of this version, check out the remix of “The Long and Winding Road”.
Only a few weeks after the release of Let it Be, McCartney released his eponymous solo album. The album’s best known track is “Maybe I’m Amazed”, written about another woman in Sir Paul’s life, his wife Linda. Here’s Paul and his band Wings performing it live in 1976, with guitarist James McCullough playing the guitar solo that McCartney played himself on the original recording.
A few months before the release of Let It Be, Lennon/Ono with the Plastic Ono Band released the single “Instant Karma”. Here’s a live version performed within days of the song’s release. Yoko’s contributions are suitably mysterious.
Among his bandmates, George Harrison scored the biggest hit in 1970 with “My Sweet Lord” from his triple-album All Things Must Pass. It closed out the year as the #1 single in the U.S.
Last night’s Grammy awards may have delivered a few surprises in the major categories, but our enthusiasm for Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories” and its hit song “Get Lucky” were matched by the Recording Academy’s. It was also nice to see a couple of awards go to Dave Grohl for the “Sound City” CD, including one to him and Paul McCartney for the track “Cut Me Some Slack”.
But scrolling way down the nominees and winners list on the Grammy website, you can find some gems that didn’t make the telecast or the mainstream media coverage.
In the Best American Roots Song category, comic genius and banjo player Steve Martin teamed up with Edie Brickell, wife of Paul Simon and former chanteuse of the New Bohemians, to write and perform “Love Has Come For You”.
In the category of Best Instrumental Arrangement, Gordon Goodwin put out a very nice take of the jazz classic “On Green Dolphin Street” performed by his Big Phat Band. Goodwin has won a Grammy before and picked up 13 nominations, and is also a three-time Emmy Award winner for his compositions and arrangements.
Twenty years after the release of Hootie and the Blowfish’s “Cracked Rear View”, the 16th best selling album in U.S. history, frontman Darius Rucker won this year’s Best Country Solo Performance for “Wagon Wheel”.
And finally, Best Traditional R&B Performance went to Gary Clark, Jr. for “Please Come Home”. Though most celebrated for his guitar playing (the solo comes at about 1:35), he shows off a fine falsetto on this tune. To hear Clark at his bluesy, guitar-slinging best (sans falsetto), check out his performance at the White House.
On October 14th Paul McCartney released his aptly titled album “New”, just a few weeks after Elton John released “The Diving Board”. McCartney’s Beatles and Elton John are the two top selling British artists of all time, with an estimated one billion albums sold between them.
McCartney serves up quite a mix of styles on “New”. The title track has a classic McCartney sound and was co-produced by Giles Martin, son of George Martin who produced many records for the quartet. “Appreciate” is something completely different. With the help of British uber-producer Paul Epworth, it seems more a modern take on the complex orchestrations that pushed the Beatles off the stage and into the studio in their later years.
Elton John returns to the style of his earliest albums on “The Diving Board”, delivering mostly piano-driven ballads with the help of American uber-producer T Bone Burnett. “Home Again” was the first track released from the CD a few months back. In a recent interview in Rolling Stone magazine, John says “What can I say, it’s a perfect song” of his early hit “Your Song”. So, let’s also recall some perfection, Elton John style.
If you’d like a bit more of Paul and Elton, check out our earlier posts: Paul Rocks Out and Elton and Pnau.
Dave Grohl’s 2013 plunge into documentary filmmaking “Sound City” mines the history of the recently shuttered studio where Nirvana’s “Nevermind” was recorded. Grohl weaves many story lines together in his film, from the people who built and ran Sound City, to the technology that made the studio famous and the later technology that doomed it, to the string of major artists that passed through its unassuming front door. He concludes with a strong statement about the virtues of musicians hunkering down in a studio till inspiration and perspiration get it just right, and shows us what he means by releasing “Sound City 606”.
Check out the trailer for “Sound City”, then listen to one of the first songs released from the CD featuring Paul McCartney rocking as hard as he has since “Helter Skelter”.
Here’s a link to page on the Sound City Studio website that lists every album recorded there: Sound City Recordings. It is an amazing list, and the very first album ever recorded there was Spirit’s masterpiece “Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus”. If you’re not familiar with that album or have forgotten what a tour de force it was, listen to “Nature’s Way” and “Mr. Skin”.