Monday, March 20, 2017

Murray McLauchlan – Love Can't Tell Time; McLauchlan Delivers An Exquisite Set Of "New" Standards



Photos courtesy of Murray McLauchlan

New Music Friday: Many singers, at some point in their career, find their way to the Great American Songbook. Some go to that well more than once, such as Rod Stewart and Bob Dylan. Of all the standards albums I've heard, I don't think that anyone has produced one more enjoyable than Love Can't Tell Time by Murray McLauchlan, released Friday, March 17th. And this isn't even a standards album, it only sounds like one.

Murray McLauchlan is a Scottish born Canadian singer, songwriter, and musician with eighteen previous albums to his credit. I started listening to him back in the early 70s when men were men and records were made of vinyl. I enjoyed a number of visits to Montreal in those days, including a mid January honeymoon. There is a lot to like in Montreal: there's the food, the metro system, the diversity of international cultures, and the shopping, not the least of which is some fine record shopping.

Among my many finds there, I usually came home with McLauchlan's latest LP. I don't know if it was the switch to CDs in the 80s, or if I just didn't get into Montreal that often, but I lost track of McLauchlan... until last Friday when I noticed his familiar name on the list of new releases. Listening to it this morning flooded me with good feeling, hence this article.

The concept could not be simpler, or more well done. A batch of first rate material gets a thoroughly organic arrangement of acoustic guitar, voice, and bass with some of the sweetest swinging violin you've ever heard. McLauchlan says that the basic tracks where recorded "live off the floor" with the violin and some pedal steel added later. Click either the Spotify link or a track below to listen and you'll see what I mean.

The first track is "Pick Yourself Up", written by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields. This version is so good that McLauchlan actually reclaims the song from Breaking Bad, which used it to soundtrack a sequence of prison killings with Nat King Cole's version. That image was so disturbing that I hadn't been able to disassociate the scene from the song, at least until now.

Next up is the title track plus two more originals that are so well written, and so well played, that the first time through I didn't even realize that these were not simply standards that I didn't recognize.
"Of the songs I wrote or co wrote," says McLauchlan, "Love Just Can't Tell Time and Little White Lies have a special place in my heart. They were co written with my friend Alison Gordon, a take-no-prisoners gal who was a sportswriter, a novelist, a broadcaster and a great critic when any of us got off the rails. She passed away before I finished this record but she lives on in these songs."

"Hey There" and "Come Fly With Me" are two more covers of standards that are every bit as delightful as "Pick Yourself Up". Regarding those three covers, McLauchlan says, “They’ve been around for quite a while but they are my songs, in so much as I have made them my own. They’ve seen me through some dark times and helped me celebrate seeing the clouds from the other side..."

The album concludes with a string of four more originals. Beyond the beauty of the performances, arrangements, and production, the real genius of this album is the relentlessly high quality of the songwriting. The lyrics are wordy and use the language in a way that we don't hear much anymore. Combined with melodies that seem to be of a piece with the classics, it's no accident that this album plays like a standards collection; it can be hard to tell the difference. What I'm getting at is that Murray McLauchlan's Love Can't Tell Time offers seven original songs on par with the three standards he covers, so let's just refer to this as an album of "new" standards.

Murray McLauchlan – Love Can't Tell Time
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Tracklist: Click song name to listen.
01. Pick Yourself Up
02. Love Just Can't Tell Time
03. The Luckiest Guy
04. My Martini
05. Hey There
06. Come Fly With Me
07. Little White Lies
08. I'm Not Gonna Waste a Minute of My Life
09. The Second Half of Life
10. When You're At The Top




Bonus Interview: by Lynn Saxberg, Ottawa Citizen, February 23, 2017
Murray McLauchlan preview: 'The most important thing is always the song'

Canadian singer-songwriter Murray McLauchlan is gearing up to release his 18th studio album this spring. Lynn Saxberg talked to the veteran musician, 68, about the no-frills recording, and how a sojourn in Italy rekindled his love of playing guitar.

Q: Tell me about the new record.

A: It’s called Love Can’t Tell Time. It’s related in a way to the last one I did, Human Writes, insomuch as it’s recorded in a very basic way. My motto is, “As the world gets noisier, I keep getting quieter.”


Q: Did you work with a producer?

A: Are you kidding? I’m Canadian. What would I do with a producer?

Q: I don’t know. Maybe take orders?

A: Well, no.

Q: Fair enough. What was your goal in the studio?

A: I wasn’t really planning so much on making a record. I was just going in to lay down some stuff in this really kind of no-frills, no-artificial-preservatives-or-flavours manner, which is the way I like to hear music. I like to hear that it’s not possible to fake the fact that you can actually play.

Q: You’ve reworked some old songs and written new ones, including some co-writes with Alison Gordon, who’s not known as a musician.

A: Alison was a really dear friend who passed away before it got finished. She was a journalist, the first woman journalist on the baseball circuit. They nicknamed her the pecker checker. We wrote songs kind of on a bet. We’d been sitting on a patio at Allen’s restaurant on the Danforth, with some friends, and Alison sorta got on to the subject of how hard can it be to write songs. So I brought her into the process, and she fell in love with it. The title song is a co-write with her, and the idea of the song is that love just doesn’t happen for people who are the age of Romeo and Juliet. It can happen in a Chartwell home to people who are 85, and it’s just as intense.

Q: What about the song, The Luckiest Guy?

A: I wrote it for Denise (Donlon, his wife). It’s straight and simple: I am the luckiest guy. There’s a lot I could say about how quality of a person she’s been in my life. It’s not the first song I’ve written for her, but it’s one of the best. I like that line, “You stand out in any crowd of thoroughbred city girls.”

Q: It also has some cool guitar playing on it. Where’d that come from?

A: It’s sort of a progression of what started in early 2013, when I was living in Italy. I had time to reflect a bit, and fell in love with playing guitar and music again. During that time, I started learning this whole new language on guitar, which dovetailed nicely with my love of great guitar heroes, like Django Reinhardt. I’ve always been a huge fan of the Paris Hot Club records, and I’ve always loved Texas swing music. Now I find I can sit down and play along with Count Basie and his orchestra and I’m a very happy guy.

Q: Why were you living in Italy?

A: Well, I don’t know if you need a reason to go and live in Italy. It’s one of the greatest places in the world to hang out. It wasn’t that I was mad at Canada or anything, but I just wanted to get out of here for a while because if you’re here too long, it becomes too small a place and you have to get out every so often to get some perspective on different ways of living, and different thoughts. I also really wanted to try to get past the journeyman Rosetta Stone Italian I’ve been working on so I figured the best way was to go live there for a few months. And Denise had some time because she was working on her book.

Q: You weren’t planning to write songs there?

A: Nope. I didn’t have a plan other than to stretch out and open up my head. I absolutely fell in love with the place. It was not the first time I’d been there.

Q: What made you realize the recordings were turning into an album?

A: The results. The songs came out much better than I ever hoped they would. To me, the most important thing is always the songs. They’re at the centre. Whatever the technology, whatever you dress it up with, if there isn’t a good song at the centre of the exercise, it isn’t really worth it.

Q: You’re still touring consistently. Is it still fun?

A: I don’t not like it. I like playing music. That’s what I do. If I don’t do that, all kinds of bad things could happen.

Q: Anything else on the go?

A: Well, as a footnote to the “why do you record?” thing, I’ve been talking to a lot of people in the recent past and a lot of the conversation is, “How are you surviving?” It wasn’t really by any particular instinct, but suddenly when everyone is running around with their hair on fire, I made a little record, that if you sit down and listen to it for 45 minutes, it’s a chance to actually feel good.


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Friday, March 10, 2017

Svetlana & The Delancey Five At Joe's Pub, NYC, Saturday 3/04/2017; Swing for Spring – A Birthday Celebration!




Early last Saturday, I posted this: "I'm excited to see Svetlana & The Delancey Five tonight at Joe's Pub. If you're in the New York area, there are only a few tickets left and you must see this delightful singer and her amazing band. I don't see how music can get any better than this." Within about three minutes at Joe's Pub, I answered my own rhetorical question. The only thing better than the music on the debut LP by Svetlana & The Delancey Five might be hearing it live. No matter how good a recording may be, even a live one, there is no substitute for being right there in the moment to experience a great singer and band. There's nothing else quite like it.

Svetlana & The Delancey Five were in fine form for her birthday show Saturday night, March 4th at Joe's Pub. This is one of the best venues in New York, in that it's small and intimate, with excellent lighting and sound. Svetlana voice was clear, true, and strong. The band was tight, loose, and played some superb solos.

The opener was an instrumental, "Bernie's Tune", a jazz standard written by Leiber and Stoller with Bernie Miller (hence the name). Svetlana followed with the first of five songs that she drew from her debut album Night at the Speakeasy, which I included in my top 10 list of Best Music of 2016. "Sometimes I'm Happy" was the first such song, a totally delightful standard: "Sometimes I love you, sometimes I hate you / But when I hate you it's 'cause I love you." It was also a pleasure to hear "It's All Good" and "Lady Be Good", the latter also featured tap dancer DeWitt Fleming Jr. who, at one point, seemed to duet with the drum solo. I had momentarily forgotten that Svetlana had done a Beatles' cover on the album, so when she said that the next song would take her to Liverpool and New Orleans, I was pleasantly surprised by the New Orleans-style treatment of "Because" from the Beatles Abbey Road, so good. The fifth song from Night at the Speakeasy was the encore, and we will get to that shortly.

There were two new originals, which got their world premiere at the show. "Baby I'm Back" featured a horn arrangement with piano, including a piano solo. The song's two best features are the melody (by Svetlana and Ryan Shea Smith) and lyrics (by Svetlana). I knew I liked it when I first heard it; with repeat listens to the video, my appreciation only grows. The other new song was "It Is You" (music by Svetlana / Ryan Shea Smith + lyrics by Svetlana). Both her introduction and the song itself was so sweet, sincere, and tuneful you could not help but fall in love with it. These new songs are so good that I can not wait for the second album.

In addition to the opener, there were three more cover songs not from the record, and they were all great to hear. The full house at Joe's Pub was treated to some fine genre bending on the "Tennessee Waltz", a country standard written by Redd Stewart and Pee Wee King, which got an uptempo horn arrangement with some swinging solos on sax, trombone, and trumpet. "Pure Imagination" was sweet in more ways than one. The song was written by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley for the original version of the movie Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory; it was sung by Gene Wilder in the film. The Irving Berlin standard "Blue Skies" closed the show, complete with solos from Michael Hashim on sax, Charlie Caranicas on trumpet, Corey Wallace on trombone, William Test on piano, Endea Owens on upright bass, and Robert Garcia on drums (who also duetted again with Fleming on tap). Oh, and the exuberant vocals were by Svetlana.

The band returned to the stage minus Owens and her bass (who had to leave after "Blue Skies"). I really enjoyed Svetlana's subtle sense of humor when she introduced her last song, "You Are Like A Song", sung in Russian. "...For those of you who don't speak Russian ...yet." This beautiful song capped off an excellent set by Svetlana & The Delancey Five. I had been wanting to get up to New York to see this group play live for a long time, and I am quite glad that the birthday show at Joe's Pub presented an opportunity that I could not pass up.

Many thanks to Svetlana Shmulyian for the setlist, musician credits, and for an incredible night.
Many thanks to YouTube user WANDERMIND for the videos of tracks 3, 5, and 6.
Many thanks to Bev Kates for camera work and to Lindsey Mitchell for video production on tracks 7-11.
Whatever these videos lack in sound quality, they more than make up for with live energy.

Watch "Baby I'm Back", live at Joe's Pub.


Set List: Click song name to watch.
1. Instrumental - Bernie's Tune
2. Sometimes I'm Happy - Arranged by Adrian Cunningham (from Night at the Speakeasy album)
3. It's All Good - m/l Svetlana Shmulyian, arranged by Wycliffe Gordon (from Night at the Speakeasy album)
4. Lady Be Good - with special guest on tap dancing, DeWitt Fleming Jr. - arranged by Rob Garcia (from Night at the Speakeasy album)
5. Baby I'm Back - new original - music Svetlana Shmulyian / Ryan Shea Smith + lyrics by Svetlana Shmulyian, arranged by Jay Rattman
6. Because (the Beatles) - arranged by Rob Garcia (from Night at the Speakeasy album)
7.Tennessee Waltz - arranged by Rob Garcia
8. Pure Imagination - arranged by Rob Garcia
9. It Is You - new original m/l by Svetlana Shmulyian and Ryan Shea Smith, arranged by Wycliffe Gordon
10. Blue Skies - with special guest on tap dancing, Dewitt Flemming Jr , arranged by Svetlana Shmuylian and Seth Weaver
11. You Are Like A Song - Eddie (Ady) Rosner (from Night at the Speakeasy album)

Svetlana & The Delancey Five - Night at the Speakeasy
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Wednesday, March 01, 2017

The Stevie Nicks Expanded Remasters: Bella Donna (3CD) & The Wild Heart (2CD); These Excellent Sounding Remasters Come With Rare Tracks Aplenty Plus A Legendary Live Show



Photo courtesy of Stevie Nicks

Stevie Nicks joined a growing group of artists, which include The Who, Phil Collins, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and many others, who are seeing their catalogs revamped with double disc reissues of remastered albums containing rare material as a bonus. Nicks wrote and sang some of my favorite Fleetwood Mac songs including "Landslide" (Fleetwood Mac), "Silver Stream" (Rumours B-Side), "Beautiful Child" and "Sara" (Tusk).

When Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined Fleetwood Mac in late 1974, listeners immediately found their one album called Buckingham Nicks that had come out in 1973. When the reformulated Fleetwood Mac released their self-titled (white album) in 1975, fans marveled at the way in which Fleetwood Mac seem to have adopted the Buckingham Nicks sound. That album and its follow-up, Rumours, were both huge hits selling millions of copies and making Fleetwood Mac a household name.

Nicks remained a member of Fleetwood Mac when she established a solo career, releasing Bella Donna, her first album (1981). Its follow-up, The Wild Heart, was released in 1983. Both albums were majorly successful, both were certified platinum for having sales in excess of a million copies. These are the first Stevie Nicks albums to be remastered and released in expanded deluxe editions.

Bella Donna Remastered, Deluxe 3CD Edition
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First off, I'll say that the live concert on Disc 3 is worth the price of purchase all by itself. Disc 1 is the remastered album, and it sounds great. Driven by four hit singles, Bella Donna went on to sell over six million copies. "Edge of Seventeen" has become her signature song. Two of the singles were duets: "Leather and Lace" featured the Eagles' Don Henley; Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers both wrote and performed on "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around". "After the Glitter Fades" was the forth single.

Disc 2 has the rarities. There are four alternate versions, the most interesting of which is a solo Nicks version of "Leather And Lace". The other alternate versions will probably be most valuable to fans and collectors. There's a demo of "Bella Donna" and an early version of "Edge of Seventeen". In addition to the above, this disc also includes three songs that were previously unreleased. Finally, there are two songs that appeared on movie soundtracks, "Blue Lamp" is from Heavy Metal and "Sleeping Angel" is from Fast Times At Ridgemont High.

Disc 3 contains the live concert, recorded on December 13, 1981 at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles, on the last night of a short Bella Donna tour. The performances are excellent, and the set includes a number of Fleetwood Mac songs in addition to the tracks from Bella Donna. The finish is especially nice with a powerful "Edge of Seventeen" leading into Nicks' "Rhiannon" from Fleetwood Mac. The performance included a guest appearance by Roy Bittan from Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band. "Rhiannon" opens with an acoustic first verse, which Bittan plays on piano while Nicks sings; then the full band kicks in.

Watch the official music video for "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around"


Track Listings - Click song title to listen
Disc: 1
01. Bella Donna (Remastered)
02. Kind of Woman (Remastered)
03. Stop Draggin' My Heart Around (with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers) [Remastered]
04. Think About It (Remastered)
05.Edge of Seventeen (Remastered)
07. How Still My Love (Remastered)
08. Leather And Lace (Remastered)
09. Outside The Rain (Remastered)
10. The Highwayman (Remastered)

Disc: 2
01. Edge of Seventeen (Early Take)
02. Think About It (Alternate Version)
03. How Still My Love (Alternate Version)
04. Leather And Lace (Alternate Version)
05. Bella Donna (Demo)
06. Gold And Braid (Unreleased Version)
07. Sleeping Angel (Alternate Version)
08.If You Were My Love (Unreleased Version)
09. The Dealer (Unreleased Version)
10. Blue Lamp (From "Heavy Metal") [Remastered]
11. Sleeping Angel (From "Fast Times At Ridgemont High") [Remastered]

Disc: 3
01. Gold Dust Woman (Live 1982) [Remastered]
02. Gold And Braid (Live 1982) [Remastered]
03. I Need To Know (Live 1982) [Remastered]
04. Outside The Rain (Live 1982) [Remastered]
05. Dreams (Live 1982) [Remastered]
06. Angel (Live 1982)
07. After The Glitter Fades (Live 1982) [Remastered]
08. Leather And Lace (Live 1982)
09. Stop Draggin' My Heart Around (Live 1982) [Remastered]
10. Bella Donna (Live 1982)
11. Sara (Live 1982) [Remastered]
12. How Still My Love (Live)
13. Edge Of Seventeen (Live 1982) [Remastered]
14. Rhiannon (Live 1982) [Remastered]

Bonus Video - The concert which appears on Disc 3 was also filmed, and a shortened version appeared on HBO.


The Wild Heart Remastered, Deluxe 2CD Edition
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Disc 1 is the remastered album. The Wild Heart spawned three singles on its way to selling over two million copies. Guests on the album included Tom Petty, Mick Fleetwood, Sandy Stewart (who also did some songwriting), and Paul Buckmaster (Elton John) who arranged and conducted the strings on the closing track, "Beauty And The Beast". Steve Lukather (Toto) played on the album's biggest single, "Stand Back", and according to Wikipedia, an uncredited Prince played synthesizer on the track.

Disc 2 contains the rarities. There are two alternate versions, "Sable on Blond" and "Wild Heart", which is labeled as a "session" version. "Violet And Blue" came from the movie Against All Odds, it also previously appeared on the Stevie Nicks box set. There is one demo, "Are You Mine", one B-side, "Garbo", plus four tracks that were previously unreleased.

Watch the official music video for "Stand Back"


Track Listings - Click song title to listen
Disc: 1
01. Wild Heart (Remastered)
02. If Anyone Falls (Remastered)
03. Gate And Garden (Remastered)
04. Enchanted (Remastered)
05. Nightbird (Remastered)
06. Stand Back (Remastered)
07. I Will Run To You (Remastered)
08. Nothing Ever Changes (Remastered)
09. Sable on Blond (Remastered)
10. Beauty And The Beast (Remastered)

Disc: 2
01. Violet And Blue (From "Against All Odds") [Remastered]
02. I Sing For The Things(Unreleased Version)
03. Sable on Blond (Alternate Version)
04. All The Beautiful Worlds (Unreleased Version)
05. Sorcerer (Unreleased Version)
06. Dial the Number (Unreleased Version)
07. Garbo (B-Side) [Remastered]
08. Are You Mine (Demo)
09. Wild Heart (Session)

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