Saturday, April 27, 2013

Rain: I Wish it Would Rain

The Temptations: I Wish it Would Rain

[purchase]

When I attended high school in the 1960s as a “military brat” in Japan, I would have to ride a drab Navy-gray school bus daily for about 40 minutes to Yokohama. We’d have a lot of fun during those rides, and I’m not sure how the Japanese bus drivers put up with us. One great memory is the back of the bus rendering a terrible version of The Temptations’ “I Wish It Would Rain.”

Sunshine blue skies please go away, The girl has found another and gone away. With her went my future my life is filled with gloom, So day after day I stay locked up in my room. I know to you, it might sound strange but I wish it would rain.

One good musical friend (Brent Cooper, drummer in one of my high school bands) would sing lead while the rest of us would respond with “Oh how I wish that it would rain.” Even if some of us didn’t know all the lyrics, the entire bus of kids would build a final crescendo when the part came around exclaiming “Oh I wish it would rain, Let it rain, let it rain.” It was a sure way to bring a little sunshine to our teenage lives.

Sadly, on New Year’s Eve 1967, songwriter Roger Penzabene committed suicide a week after the release of “I Wish it Would Rain.” He couldn’t bring himself to leave his cheating wife. Besides "I Wish it Would Rain," his other last composition ("I Could Never Love Another") is also full of heartfelt soul and emotion.

A year or so later, The Chambers Brothers covered The Temptations’ hit. The USO brought them and The Temptations (as well as many other great acts like Sam & Dave, The Supremes, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, etc.) out to the Yokosuka Navy Base where I was lucky enough to see them live in concert for about $5. Released in 1968, the song appears on their vinyl album “A New Time – A New Day” as the opening track on the B-side. The Chambers Brothers had hit it big with "Time Has Come Today," and I liked their sound. They had great vocals backed up with their signature Sixtyesque psychedelic soul, jams, cowbell, screams and fuzz-toned guitars. I think I’ll go hunt down that LP and give it another spin for some fine nostalgic memories of the sixties and my high school bus rides.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Rain: As The Rain



Jeb Loy Nichols: As The Rain
[purchase]

My last post discussed a memorable concert that I attended with my whole family in 2004, memorable not only because of the great music, but which has stuck in my mind for a silly reason---some guy yelling out at a random moment in a song. Today’s post is about a concert that I attended with my wife, a few years earlier, that is memorable not only because of the music, but because of another, not at all silly reason.

Jeb Loy Nichols is another one of those guys who I tend to write about—people who seemed close to a commercial breakthrough, but never quite got there. “As The Rain” was probably the first song of his that I was familiar with, from his debut album, “Lover’s Knot.” His sound was an interesting mix of rock, folk, jazz, R&B, and whatever, and his voice was unusual, in a good way. His next album, “Just What Time It Is,” released at the end of 2000 was the one that seemed poised to do something—it had at least three great songs on it. After that, though, I kind of lost track of him, although I have recently discovered some more good music from him. He was one of the performers at the concert at issue.

Lucy Kaplansky was the other. Although a Chicagoan by birth, she became closely identified with New York, both because of her participation in the local folk music scene and because she went to college and practiced psychology here before she fully committed to her music. Her literate songs and exquisite covers, combined with her beautiful voice, has made her a family favorite for years. Here is a link to a bonus track from Kaplansky: Manhattan Moon [purchase] which not only references her adopted city, but also our theme, rain.

One of the great things about living near New York is that there are many opportunities to see outdoor concerts, many of them free, and the kind of musicians that I like often participate in these free shows. The Nichols/Kaplansky show, which was a fine, free concert, sponsored by the wonderful WFUV, part of a series of folk/rock shows on the plaza of the World Trade Center, was held on a beautiful July evening.

Less than two months later, coincidentally on the same day that Kaplansky released her album “Every Single Day,” the plaza ceased to exist.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

RAIN : THE HISTORY OF RAIN

                      


Jackie Leven :  The History of Rain
(purchase link)

At last, a reason to post an offering from my hero, if that be an odd concept for someone of my, um, mature years. Having dipped my toes into the waters of  this Machine, I now feel sufficient confidence to put up what may read little more than a paean of praise, albeit wherein my bias is accepted freely and openly. This man, with us sadly no longer, is a GENIUS. And I can say "is" rather than "was", as his legacy lives on and is there for the finding, yet many may be unfamiliar with his considerable back catalogue. Let this be an introduction, from perhaps his most conventional and accessible LP, the Argyll Cycle, Volume 1. Forget  all the brouhaha around any other ideas of celtic soul, for this is the real deal, gorgeously evocative of his homeland, drenched in mists of melancholia, aching at the seams of heartbreak.

A gigantic bear of a man, Jackie had what many may call a colourful life, even when extricating the mythology from his usually self-penned manuscript, as there was a delight, maintained lifelong, in embellishing the truth, as if this lily ever needed any extra gilding. For the truth involved near-death, serious drug abuse, torrents of alcohol and the poetry of the gutter. I won't regurgitate the details, but this eulogy by eminent media scribe, Paul Du Noyer, covers most of the tracks, as well as pointing toward a not half bad sampler. The problem with Jackie, however, is that samplers can merely but flicker over the quantity of his output, rushing out product on a more than yearly basis, whether under the ever supportive patronage of his always loyal record label boss,or side pseudonymed projects to soak up his excess. And songs were not always or even his greatest strength, as his live shows, usually just himself in shorts and ripped denim shirt, tousled hair and battered accoustic, with his tapping foot miked up for percussion, adjacent to a pint glass of indeterminate sustenance, were a whole other experience. A song, lovingly crafted over very many layers in the studio, would emerge, beautifully barren and bare, accompanied only by his stunning instrumental technique. But a song would often be preceded by an as long as the song anecdote, wherein he could display, within the same tale, both the heights of his literacy and the depths of his profanity. Truth, as cited, often immaterial to the telling, he could have you laughing for your life, ahead of then making you weep for and with his widescreen window on a bleak humanity, populated in granite streets leading to stormy harbour walls, rain, always rain, falling incessantly.

If you do nothing else today, search out this man. You will, I promise,be the better for it.