Curtis Knight was a guitar player who’s musical output was sadly overshadowed by his connection to Jimi Hendrix. This entire album is consistently amazing, with floor-shaking drums and bass (play it in the booth), and top-notch songwriting by Mr. Night. The WOBC copy is cleaner and more crackle-free than the youtube clip.
Calvin Keys – Proceed With Caution! (Jazz)
Calvin Keys is a Jazz and session guitarist from the Bay Area who has played with greats like Ray Charles and Bobby Hutcherson. This is his second solo album on the label. Again, this has a sweet cover, with a leapord skin-clad Keys scowling straight at the camera. The music is equally good. It was released in 1974 on the famed Black Jazz label. Like other early 70s Black Jazz titles, this record is full of loud drums (provided by the talented Leon “Ndugu” Chancler, who would go on to play drums on Michal Jackson’s “Billie Jean”), and Fender Rhodes. Most of the album is straight-ahead jazz, but tracks like the soul-influenced “Aunt Lovely” depart from that format.
To say that time forgot Lee Hazlewood isn’t quite right, but he’s not exactly a household name, either. He’s the other half of the Nancy (Sinatra) and Lee tandem, the relatively obscure pop genius behind “These Boots Were Made for Walkin.’” His crotchety baritone and air-tight lyrics put him in the same league – in a lot of ways – as Leonard Cohen, or at least Tim Hardin, but he’s got a wry streak that you’d be hard pressed to find from other late-‘60’s/early-‘70’s troubadours.
To say that time forgot his 1971 album Requiem for an Almost Lady is a little more on-point. Originally only released in Sweden and the UK, it was re-released in 1999 on CD in the US. When the board was rearranging CDs in the pop vault, I found the station’s copy. His name rang a bell, since I’ve been on a Nancy Sinatra kick for the better part of a year now, and the greatness of her collaborations with Hazlewood has never been lost on me. This was the first Hazlewood solo I’d come across, and it seems as good a place as any to start.
There’s a self-consciously campy quality to Requiem that will endear some, and no doubt irk others. It is, first and foremost, a breakup album, and Hazlewood never minces words (though he doesn’t give any names). He introduces each of the ten songs on this album with some self-styled platitude about romance, and that’s where most of the camp lies. He could be your creepy uncle, the wizened dude pounding Wild Turkey at the end of the bar, or the poet laureate of something in between. “In the beginning there was nothing,” he says in the album’s opening seconds, “but it sure was fun to watch nothing grow.” He offsets those kinds of wistful remembrances with deadpans like: “I’m glad I never owned a gun.” I happen to like this combo. It works best songs like “I’m Glad I Never,” “Little Miss Sunshine (Little Miss Rain),” and “If It’s Monday Morning,” the latter two of which rival any of Hardin’s or Kris Kristofferson’s hits. While the album isn’t all gems, these cuts alone make it worth the listen.
Given his status as a niche songwriter, it makes sense that Hazlewood doesn’t carry the name-recognition that Kristofferson, Hardin, or Cohen do. Still, he’s a nice foil to these guys. For every great songwriter inspired by the craftsmanship of these songwriters, there are others who tend to embody only their more lachrymose and affected moments. If there were more songwriters like Hazlewood, people might write pop songs better able to express the conflicting emotions – a little more sunshine, a little more rain — that come with heartbreak (save his concession that he’d “rather be her enemy than have her call me friend”). But Lee’s all we’ve got, and that’s really not so bad.
RIYL: Tim Hardin, Kris Kristofferson, Leonard Cohen, Nancy Sinatra
Digging around in WOBC’s vault of folk vinyl for my country show last summer, I came across a compilation called Country and Eastern. I didn’t think I would like it because the part of country that is western and not eastern is what usually appeals to me. But on that record is a track by Nanci Griffith (“I Wish It Would Rain”) that got me thinking beyond the parameters of raspy old man country music.
It turns out that we’ve got a whole lot of Nanci Griffith in the vault here, including her 1986 album Lone Star State of Mind. The record does well what country music does best: songs about really sad things that don’t make you sad, and songs about getting out of town. My favorite is “Ford Econoline,” because I love songs about ladies pursuing happiness by taking to the open road, and “Cold Hearts/Closed Minds” is a really sweet contribution to the I’m-gonna-leave-you-in-the-morning classification of sad songs. -Stella
From the Vault is a reoccurring feature where fearless DJs plunge into the depths of the station vaults to bring you the freshest stuff gone stale! In addition to a massive LP collection, we’re also sitting on hundreds of 45s eager to see the light of day. Enjoy!
This single from 1982 was a minor hit for Vanity 6, a girl group trio formed and produced by Prince under the pseudonym Jamie Starr and the Starr ☆ Company. “Drive Me Wild” and its rockin’ B-side, “Bite The Beat,” appear on Vanity 6’s only full-length album, their self-titled debut release (pictured above). According to unconfirmed sources, Prince had been wanting to mentor a girl singer or group since the late ’70s when he saw the film A Star is Born starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. “Drive Me Wild” is everything you’d expect from a tune ghost-written by Prince, featuring sultry spoken female vocals: you’ll be stepping back and forth in no time at all. -Will Floyd