New Music for Old People: Andy Partridge, Chuck Ragan, Cissy Houston, The Belle Brigade and More

By , Columnist

Sly & The Family Stone

This column is like the title says - its intention is to fill the gap for those of us who were satiated musically in the '60s and then searched desperately as we aged for music we could relate to and get the same buzz from nowadaze. iTunes was the answer for me in 2003 and I have been following the new releases every Tuesday ever since I realized there was an endless stream of music I could enjoy there.

I also include older items that I felt were obscure originally and might not have been heard back then. The reason I am writing this column is to make sure others don't miss this wonderful music. These are not top ten items; but they SHOULD'VE been!

Below is a jukebox containing all the songs I picked this week. After you read about them below, go back and listen to whatever you like by just clicking on that title in the jukebox, or stream the whole playlist by clicking on the "play" icon at the top. It's free and it's the entire song. We're not selling anything. We're just in the business of hopefully making your days better by listening to great music.

We apologize to our readers/listeners who are trying to enjoy the playlists via mobile devices like iPhones/iPads and are finding that they can't; these are, unfortunately, circumstances beyond our control. At present, Grooveshark is not compatible with those operating systems, and in order to stream the playlist, you will need to use a PC or Mac.

Apr252014 by Willow on Grooveshark

1. "Gone" — Sevendust (2:48)

A good opener from this Atlanta band that formed in 1994 and began recording in 1997. They just released their tenth album, Time Travelers & Bonfires, and show no signs of being gone, as this title implies. A strong fan base keeps them together. I like this. It’s well put-together.

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2. "Josephina" — Big Head Todd & The Monsters (3:27)

Their latest album, Black Beehive, is one of their best and this has a subtle N’awlins thing constantly chuggin’ along. This is a catchy item.

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3. "Wake With You" — Chuck Ragan (2:33)

To me this is an interesting premise. The song reminds me of vintage Kristofferson. Ah, but the singer-songwriter's voice has a much more interesting sound than Kristofferson’s — more Tom Waits, actually. The combo works quite well. Ragan could attract more followers with this, his latest album, Till Midnight. Originally from a base in Florida, he began in the punk domain and slowly gravitated to more of a country setting. His voice is amazing; he sounds like the world’s most traveled, experienced, and yet yearning soothsayer. One listen should bring you aboard.

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4. "When Everything Was What It Was" — The Belle Brigade (3:16)

Lineage — it just can’t be denied. Barbara and Ethan Gruska are the children of movie and television scorer Jay Gruska. If that is not enough, they are the grandchildren of uber Oscar-winning film composer John Williams. With such an easy entrance to scoring, they were only interested in scoring a record contract. Their first album was in 2011 on Reprise. They learned from it and, armed with significant changes, plotted their follow-up. Reprise didn't agree/prefer their ‘new’ sound and let them go (without a reprise) to indie label ATO Records, where their new release Just Because hit the streets a month ago. Next month they will open for and back up Ray Montagne on a wide-ranging tour. I think that's a good combo to get out of the house for. Meanwhile there’s this, which is pretty good for the ear canals.

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5. "Blue Beret" (radio show) — XTC (3:00)

Andy Partridge, former co-leader with Colin Moulding of the now-defunct influential Brit band XTC, pulled out of live performing in a Brian Wilson-like move because of personal trauma. During the last legs of XTC’s non-touring existence, it was an unexpected surprise when Moulding and Partridge and guitarist Dave Gregory did a tour of radio stations, each armed with an acoustic guitar, and played for an hour live as a trio on various shows. I recorded the LA stop although I forget what station it was on. They played an unrecorded Partridge song called "Blue Beret" that was pretty amazing. So here it is; however, the quality is not so great, but the musical intricacies especially are, considering there are no bass and drums.

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6. "Blue Beret" (home demo) — Andy Partridge (3:07)

Partridge put out a four-volume set of all his demos and leftovers later on in life called Fuzzy Warbles and voila! — there was his demo of "Blue Beret" with, among other things, bass and drums … included here … now!

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7. "I Cannot Make It" — Sly & The Family Stone (3:12)

Back when I was putting BS&T together, I was obviously listening to all sorts of musics. One of my favorite debut albums in 1967 was called A Whole New Thing by a San Francisco band called Sly & The Family Stone. It didn’t sell very well and was a bomb at the time. However, they made their point to me. This was my favorite track from that album and I STILL love it and think it sounds great!

8. "Let the Good Times Roll" — Bunny Sigler (2:41)

This was actually a medley of three ‘hits’ by a duo called Shirley & Lee from the Crescent City on Aladdin Records. Bunny was on Philadelphia International Records, the Kenny Gamble-Leon Huff empire that gave us dozens of delectable soul hits and artists. Bunny never made it really big, but he was one of MY faves. Here, in addition to the title song, he covers "I Feel Good" and "Feels So Good." His arrangement is totally removed from the original recordings, but equally as good and that's why I love Bunny; and besides, as I type this, it’s Easter — a Bunny day as well. And Bunny is a chocolate bunny every day of his life. What a GREAT arrangement this track has — especially the brass!

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9. "Mio Amore" — The Flamingos (3:10)

Following the classic R&B single “I Only Have Eyes for You” turned out to be, saleswise, a comparatively failed attempt by this great group. However, artistically it stands up quite well. Like its predecessor, it is an amazing production and arrangement. I have remastered it for this column, because I can, and tried to emphasize the good things about it. Unfortunately, it was never released in stereo, like the one before it, albeit many years later. I had no access to the actual master either but I had great tools to work with.

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10. "This Empty Place" — Cissy Houston (2:29)

Here’s one I missed out on back in 1970. It was on the Janus label and has been included in a new compilation subtitled Black America Sings Bacharach & David. Of course I would have just called it Blackarach and then that title. It is a GREAT arrangement and cover of Dionne Warwick’s hit by her aunt (!), mother of the late Whitney and former member of The Sweet Inspirations. It’s my favorite track on this compilation, which includes Nina Simone, among others. This is a great tribute to the thrilling pipes of Ms. Houston. Now you can clearly see where Whitney came from and it's a great way to close out another week on the sustain, gang.

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