Thursday, February 26, 2009

M&M Minimix #2 - I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know

Picking the all time best love songs is way more involved than it first seemed, mostly because there are so many great songs to choose from (might be a good topic for an XPN 885 survey/countdown). One song that would definitely make my short list of the all time best love songs is "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know", written by Al Kooper and released on the very first Blood Sweat & Tears album in 1968. In the past year or so, I've run across three excellent cover versions which I am pleased to stream for your listening pleasure as the Music & More Minimix #2. Enjoy.

M&M Minimix #2 - "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know"

First up in the mix is Marc Broussard's very soulful take from his 2007 release SOS: Save Our Soul,a loving tribute to the great soul songs of the sixties and seventies. As if we needed one more commentary on the sad state of the record business, this record is already out of print; however download and used cds are readily available.

Holly Palmer's voice gets up front and personal with the Fender Rhodes at the beginning of this 2007 version from Songs for Tuesday, her fourth album. The smoldering slow burn ignites into a full band workout a couple of minutes in.

Last December 8th, the Long Island City Bar held a John Lennon tribute night to mark the anniversary of Lennon's death, and Chrissi Poland sang a couple of Lennon tunes including a beautiful take on "Jealous Guy" which she said was inspired by Donny Hathaway's live version of the song. Taking that cue to refresh on Hathaway's short but brilliant recording career, the mix concludes with his superb version of "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know" from his classic 1973 album Extension of a Man,his last studio album. Best known for his hit single duets with Roberta Flack, Hathaway was a gifted singer, songwriter and musician, and much like Lennon, left this life way too soon. Listening to his recorded work now, it's clear that he was a man way ahead of his time.

And finally, here is the original version, written and sung by Al Kooper from Blood Sweat & Tears' first album, Child Is Father to the Man(1968). The arrangement and production on this sounds as fresh and powerful now as it did when it was first released over forty years ago.

Blood Sweat & Tears - "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know"

If I ever leave you
You can say I told you so
And if I ever hurt you baby
You know I hurt myself as well

Is that any way for a man to carry on
D'you think he wants his little loved one gone?
I love you Baby, more than you'll ever know
More than you'll ever know

When I wasn't makin' too much money
You know where my paycheck went
You know I brought it home to baby
And I never spent one red cent

Is that any way for a man to carry on
D'you think he wants his little loved one gone?
I love you Baby, more than you'll ever know
More than you'll ever know

I'm not tryin' to be
Any kind of man
I'm tryin' to be somebody
You can love, trust, and understand
I know that I can be, yeah yeah
A part of you that no one else could see
I just gotta hear, to hear you say
It's all right
Yeah, yeah, yeah!

I'm only flesh and blood
But I can be anything that you demand
I could president of General Motors baby, heh
Or just a tiny little grain of sand

Is that any way for a man to carry on
D'you think he wants his little loved one gone?
I love you Baby, more than you'll ever know
More than you'll ever know

If I ever leave you
You can say I told you so
And if I ever hurt you baby
You know I hurt myself as well

Is that any way for a man to carry on
D'you think he wants his little loved one gone?
I love you Baby, more than you'll ever know
More than you'll ever know

I love you, I love you, I love you baby!
Well all right!
I told ya, so many times before
I love you
I love you!
If you don't know, then I'll tell ya one more time
I love you!
I love you!

Al Kooper's website.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Billy Joel - "Just the Way You Are" - Best Love Song Ever?

Listening the the 30th anniversary reissue of The Strangerthis week, "Just the Way You Are" jumped out, sounding just as great now as it did thirty years ago; totally knocking me over with it's timeless beauty and the down to earth sentiment that is the core of the song. The Legacy division of Sony/BMG does a fabulous job respecting the legacy that lives within their vaults, and their reissues are of the highest quality; (the 30th anniversary Born to Run is another great one). This package includes not only the original album but two previously unreleased concerts, a CD recorded live at Carnegie Hall on June 3, 1977 and a DVD that includes an early 1978 concert filmed for BBC television plus two live promo videos. As good as "Just the Way You Are" sounds on the original album, check out this live version from the Carnegie Hall concert, the song was brand new, not even recorded yet for the album and he sings it with a freshness and feeling that he might not have felt the next 100,000 times he sang it.

Listen to "Just the Way You Are" live at Carnegie Hall, June 3,1977

The personnel on the Carnegie Hall concert are:
Billy Joel - Vocals & piano.
Richie Cannata - Sax & keys.
Doug Stegmeyer - Bass.
Liberty DeVitto - Drums.
Howie Emerson - Guitars.
The Joe Malin Orchestra under the direction of Frank Owens.

The 30th anniversary edition box set also includes a reproduction of Billy's hand written lyric sheets, a poster, and a glossy booklet with lots of great photos and discussion of the album, the recording, and Billy's career. The two coolest things about The Strangerthat I didn't previously know are that Hiram Bullock played guitar on it, and that "Just the Way You Are" almost didn't make the record. The box set booklet explains:

Joel almost didn't put the song on the album, "even after we changed the drum part," he says. "We'd listen to it and go, 'Oh, that's a chick song.'" It was, in the right ways. When Phoebe Snow and Linda Ronstadt stopped by A&R (A&R Studios on 52nd Street in NYC, where The Stranger was recorded) one day and heard the track, Joel says, "they said, 'We love it! You have to put it on the album!' I was like, 'Yeah? Really?' I was too close to it."

"Just the Way You Are" went on to win Grammy awards for Song of the Year and Record of the Year, 1978. The Stranger,released in September 1977, hit number two on Billboard's album chart and remained on the chart for two years and has sold over ten million copies.

Original single picture sleeve, courtesy Billy Joel's website.

Don't go changing, to try and please me,
You never let me down before,
Don't imagine, you're too familiar,
And I don't see you anymore.

I would not leave you, in times of trouble,
We never could have come this far,
I took the good times, I'll take the bad times,
I'll take you just the way you are.

Don't go trying, some new fashion,
Don't change the colour of your hair,
You always have my, unspoken passion,
Although I might not seem to care.

I don't want clever, conversation,
I never want to work that hard,
I just want someone, that I can talk to,
I want you just the way you are.

I need to know that you will always be
The same old someone that I knew,
What will it take till you believe in me,
The way that I believe in you?

I said I love you, and that's forever,
And this I promise from the heart,
I couldn't love you, any better,
I love you just the way you are.

I don't want clever, conversation,
I never want to work that hard,
I just want someone, that I can talk to,
I want you just the way you are.

Best Love Song Ever? With all that in mind, I want to compile by decidedly un-scientific survey, a list of the greatest love songs ever. I want input from everyone with an opinion, please post a comment here or by email and list the three best love songs you can think of, and if one stands out in your view as the greatest love song ever, please say so. Just one ground rule - only one song per artist. I could, without breaking a sweat, list ten great love songs by Stevie Wonder or the Beatles but that would be too easy, so if a particular artist has multiple great love songs, just pick your favorite by that artist. That's it - I'll post the results and stream the top songs later on this spring.

The Stranger: 30th Anniversary [Limited Edition] (Deluxe Boxed Set - 2 CDs + 1 DVD)

Billy Joel's website.
Legacy Recordings' website.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Jef Lee Johnson - Sunset Sessions at Chris' Jazz Cafe, 2/11/09

Jef Lee Johnson played a great trio set tonight, as part of the Sunset Sessions at Chris' Jazz Cafe. Having seen Jef play exquisitely beautiful guitar many times as part of Lelia Broussard's band (had the pleasure to see him back Melody Gardot and Lizanne Knot as well), it was a treat to finally get to see Jef perform his own music.

Listen to "Sizzlean"

With a hot band consisting of Charlie Patierno on drums (Melody Gardot's band) and Tarus Mateen on bass (first time gig), Jef played a couple of wide ranging sets that moved from some intense improvisational jams to jazz, blues and funk. "Everything Starts Now" had some Hendrix style vocals by Jef and lots of great solos. "Sizzlean" brought the funk quite nicely. Jef is an incredibly artful player, never shows off but kills with his melodic and rhythmic sense and a beautiful technique and tone.

I've seen Patierno play many times with Melody Gardot, the last time being last August at World Cafe Live, a show which left me thinking how an already awesome jazz band has been seasoned by spending two years together travelling the world with Melody and are totally playing at the top of their game. Charlie's drums are rock solid and tight with Jef on every tune. Jef mentioned that this was Mateen's first live gig, but clearly not his first time playing the bass. He was totally on it with Jef and Charlie song for song, the three of them turning in about two hours of music that was a total treat to hear.

The Sunset Sessions is a series of live sets running daily from 5-7pm, booked by Ronald Talton at Chris' Jazz Cafe, an extremely friendly venue with a comfortable performance space which sounds as good as it looks. Chris' Jazz Cafe is a restaurant as well, their food is delicious and the full menu is available during the Sunset Sessions. The $5.00 cover is the deal of all bargains, and there's no better way to end the workday and avoid the rush hour traffic than to come chill with some great live music. The location could not be more convenient, about a half block from Broad and Sansom in the very heart of center city Philadelphia.

Jef is one of Philadelphia's finest musicians and if you don't know him yet, check out his myspace, have a listen and come see him play live. His session credits are formidable, and in addition to the several great singers I've mentioned above who have availed themselves of Jef's services over the last few years, have a listen below to a beautiful piece of session work Jef did on Venissa Santi's debut CD Bienvenida, which was just picked up for release by Sunnyside Records, due April 21st.

Listen to Venissa Santi - "Como Fue" feat. Jef Lee Johnson on guitar.

Jef's most recent release is a tribute to Lonnie Johnson recorded with Blues Anatomy. It takes a little work to track down all of Jef's records, but well worth it. Dreambox Media is the best place to start; you can also find Jef on Amazon and iTunes. Click here to check out David Mills' blog for a nice profile of Jef with interview from 2007.

Blues Anatomy with Jef Lee Johnson - Rediscovering Lonnie Johnson (Range Records, 2008)

Jef Lee Johnson's myspace.
Chris' Jazz Cafe website.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Lily Allen - Live on Jonathan Ross, 1/30/09

Thanks to lallenvideos for this youtube clip which includes a live performance of "The Fear" from Lily's second album, It's Not Me, It's You,due out Tuesday here in the USA.

Lily Allen - It's Not Me, It's You (Capitol, 2009)

Lily Allen's myspace.
Lily Allen's website.
lallenvideos' youtube.
lallen's fansite.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Kate Havnevik Releases New Single "Halo" to Preview New Album

Listen to "Halo"

Kate Havnevik has just released "Halo" as a single, available now on iTunes, to preview her second album, now in the final stages of recording. As on her first album Melankton,which was one of the highlights of 2006, she's again working with producer Guy Sigsworth, and is currently putting the finishing touches on the album for release later this year.

Kate's sound has an occasional similarity to that of Imogen Heap, the common denominator being Sigsworth, who has worked with both of these fine singer/songwriter/musicians; and while their songwriting is distinctly different from one another, the sonic reference points in common work to make both artists' recordings a listening delight.

Photo by Vicky Dawe.

Kate Havnevik's myspace.
Guy Sigsworth's myspace.