New Music for Old People: Mavis Staples, Chicago, Geoff Muldaur and More

By , Columnist

Jelly, circa 1977

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.

1. "1982-A" — The Sons Of Champlin (3:35)

When this was originally released in 1969, it was, like George Orwell's 1984, a look to the future, hopefully. This band deserved to be included in the uber-list of late '60s horn bands, i.e. BS&T, Chicago, Chase, and Sly & The Family Stone. But because they appeared to be dope-smoking Frisco hippies, they were unfairly not considered. They were unique — the songs were deep musically and lyrically, the horn parts were great, and jazz guitarist Terry Haggerty was the icing on the cake. This is one of my favorites and it stands up as well as any of the other groups. A great opener...

2. "Starting Over" — Avion (3:34)

This is comparatively more recent than the above, but smacks of some Beatles influences. This is NOT a horn band. My favorite part is how they got the guitar solo sound to replicate the buzzer announcing the end of a period in any sporting event played in a gymnasium.This is from their debut album in 2004. I don’t know if they’re still together. They are/were a Los Angeles band. After the previous track, this is indeed starting over. A well-done track for a first album.

3. "The Wild Ox Moan" — Geoff Muldaur (3:34)

After leaving his last name traces all over blues, folk and jug band music (ex-wife Maria nee D’Amato Muldaur and daughter Jenni Muldaur), we have the elder statesman of Americana historical music still making credible recordings. Here’s a song from the ‘20s that he sings amazingly, deftly incorporating falsetto and yodels. This version is actually better than the Taj Mahal version and that ain't easy to do. From the 1998 Hightone Records CD.

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4. "I Don't Wanna Beg You, Baby" — Jelly (3:38)

Actress Amy Madigan didn’t just pop out of some acting classes onto the big screen. In 1977 she was a key member of this trio that recorded one album for Elektra Records. Male member Fred Bliffert wrote and sang this duet with Amy that captures the essence of ‘70s soul music. Produced purrfectly by Chuck Plotkin (Bruce Springsteen) and arranged by David Campbell (Eagles and is also Beck’s father), this is really a timeless track from a very impressive debut album. The humorous part is Elektra Records had them tour as the opening act for one of their huge bands. The billing? Bread and Jelly! Too bad The Peanut Butter Conspiracy was already signed to Columbia Records.

5. "Time Waits for No One" — Mavis Staples (4:12)

At the time Mavis said, “I kissed a lot of toads in my life till I finally met Prince.” And Prince has his prints all over this — played all the instruments, sang the backup vocals, wrote the song, and produced the track. Widely avoided the top ten for some unknown reason. Here for your enjoyment. Soooo '80s...

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6. "My Pearl" — Automatic Man (2:51)

Michael Schrieve, Santana’s original drum kit tender (see the Woodstock movie segement), traded in Latino for Hendrixian with his new band back in 1977. Along with Pat Thrall on guitar, Todd Cochran on keyboards and lead vocal and I hope the bassist forgives me forgetting who he was, they jumped right in to jazzy, bent time signatures and a real Jimi hook. Made the charts but didn’t make the long haul. But that’s why we're here...

7. "Cuddly Toy (Feel for Me)" — Roachford (3:46)

roachford.pngAndrew Roachford, a UK African Brit, got on the Jimi train but took it to another stop completely with this commercial initial chart single. Big in England in the early '80s, Andrew is still crankin’ ‘em out today but with more modern sounds.

8. "Carried Away" — Lewis Taylor (3:28)

Lewis has been here before. He has two specialties: soul and surf. Last time we used a soul track, so here is some serious Brian Wilson-izing that sounds right off the Pet Sounds disc. This is from 2004; Lewis was two years from being born when Pet Sounds was released. You can’t tell from the track but this lad is a born and bred Brit. Cheers, mate!

9. "In the Country" — Chicago (5:45)

To me, this is the highlight of their second album circa 1969. How could BS&T, their main competition, compete with three great lead singers, really adventurous songwriting and arranging, and a guitar player that Hendrix himself admired? All that stuff is contained in this masterful track produced by Jim Guercio who somehow produced BS&T as well. This was one of the first tracks with drums in true stereo. Danny Seraphine shows them off quite well with a masterful drum arrangement. I love this... but it scared me back in ‘69.

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10. "I Can't Hold It" — Byron Cage (3:18)

My urban schoolmates turned me on to gospel music in the late ‘50s. My spirituality is not overwhelming but it has remained constant as a result. When a believer is playing or singing gospel music, they are not trying to conjure up a chart single (well, maybe some are) but this gang just wants to let it all go at once. They’re even telling you they can’t hold back and...thank heaven ! Now some of you may defer to Ozzy, Metallica, U2, or Green Day when you must rock. Give this a minute or two — this what I REALLY rock to. To me it is totally overpowering, no fakery, it’s live in church where no fakery is tolerated. These musicians and singers are kicking serious butt and that’s how I want to leave you this week!

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