New Music for Old People: Over and Under the Covers

Featuring Bryan Ferry, Howard Tate, Dr. John, Esther Phillips and more...

By , Columnist

Howard Tate

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.

Jan162015 by Willow67 on Grooveshark

1. "Goin' Down Slow" — Mel Brown (3:32)

This classic blues standard is done in a comparatively quicker version than its usual ballad style. Most famous as being a guitar sideman for Bobby "Blue" Bland, Mel also sang and made a bunch of solo albums. This is a typical “downtown with Mel Brown” track. Kinda really love the bass playing as well, but don’t know who dat is cause iTunes keeps secrets like dat.

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2. "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word" — Jimmy Scott (3:36)

If you’ve never heard him, he sings like a '40s her. He was a captivating live performer until his death this year on June 12. He suffered from a rare genetic condition called Kallman Syndrome which stunted his growth and prevented him from ever reaching puberty, which left him with a high contralto voice. Once I was in a cab in Nashville going from the airport to a bookstore appearance. The cabdriver was playing ‘50s and ’60s jazz on his sound system and I began to guess the artists successfully. He asked if I was a wagering man and suggested a bet — if I could guess the next song’s artist, then my ride was free; if I guessed wrong, the fare was doubled. I couldn’t resist. Not having a great deal of Jimmy Scott in my knowledge bank at the time, I scanned every female singer I knew in my mind and never came close in my three guesses. He was rewarded with the largest tip I ever gave a driver, and the sound of Jimmy Scott was forever burned into my brain. To this day, this track remains my favorite version of this classic Elton John/Bernie Taupin composition.

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3. "Words" — Gladstone Anderson and The Jets (2:02)

This is amazing! This is a great arrangement of a challenging composition, even as short as it is. I have always loved this; known in his native Jamaica as "Gladdy," he is one of the top studio keyboard players there and an occasional vocalizer. He's had a big impact on Jamaica's musical history.

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4. "I Can't Stand the Rain" Combo — Ann Peebles / Al Kooper (5:06)

The intro to this is actually the original 45 of Ann Peebles' charismatic single played at the slower speed of 33 1/3. This was an affectation of mine at the time (mid-‘60s-early ‘70s) brought on by overuse of Maryjane. High as a kite, I found that certain singles played at slower speeds were fascinating and revealing to me. Another of my favorites was “Bernadette” by The Four Tops. But on this track, what really got to me was — the tempo! After repeatedly listening to it at 33 1/3, I could no longer enjoy the original speed of this track as I thought it was waaaay too fast! Sooo, I set out to record it at the proper tempo to illustrate this to others who enjoyed the song... albeit at the wrong tempo. MY version follows Anne's 33 1/3 intro. I did it all myself, i.e. played all the instruments with the exception of the slide guitar which I have 3% skills on (that was generously provided by Ed King of the original Lynyrd Skynyrd). I released it much later — on an album of “greatest hits” and leftover tracks called Rare and Well Done, which was not one of my largest selling albums. I thought I’d include it in this appropriate column of comparatively crazy covers. But I wanted you to hear a wee bit of what inspired me and if you agree with me about the tempo, lemme know. Especially you crazy Colorado (legal marijuana) dudes and wimmens. By the way, dear friend and power-producer Bill Szymczyk (pronounced Sim-zick) helped me mix my version.

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5. "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen" — Dr. John feat. Ledisi (3:14)

This perennial blues/gospel goodie couldn’t be in better hands than the venerable Dr’s. And to add modern soul singer Ledisi’s obvious church background was an ear-opener to me. Twin tornadoes on an always tasty tune.

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6. "Everybody Hurts" — Joe Cocker (3:43)

Everybody hurts because Joe just left us — but not before leaving a legacy of a lifetime of great work. I was just starting to admire his later output of work for the maturity he added to the performances when I read the sad news of his passing.Coincidentally he was already skedded to be in last week's column AND this week's one as well. No doubt he will be in later columns for years to come. I was honored to play organ all those years ago on his version of "I Shall Be Released."

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7. "Girl of the North Country" — Howard Tate (3:43)

Only the late R&B producer Jerry Ragovoy could marry Bob Dylan and Howard Tate in a soul setting. Since I am a big fan of this song AND this singer AND Ragovoy, this was a no-brainer for me. That is a good way to approach this track. Pure enjoyment for both Tate AND Dylan listeners.

8. "In Your Eyes" — Nick Lachey (3:27)

This happens to me all the time now. I don’t watch ANY of the shows with singing contestants because a) most of them are probably fixed; b) I can’t stand the patter; c) I can’t stand audiences going berserk over mediocre performances, etc. etc. etc. So I heard this track on iTunes and I liked it and I always liked the Peter Gabriel original. I bought it awhile ago and it fit this column so I chose it. Then when I researched it, I found out many horrible truths. This Nick Latchkey (what I call him) HOSTED one of those shows, he was in the boy band 98 Degrees, and he gets parts in TV shows and movies. So forgive me and I hope you enjoy this Latchkey cover. I actually did, before I knew too much. Just shows to go ya.

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9. "From a Whisper to a Scream" — Esther Phillips (3:08)

I’ve always listened to Little Esther and Allen Toussaint as well. Awhile ago, Esther sang one of my fave Toussaint songs and I was quite pleased. It’s been covered quite a bit, the most noticeable being the Robert Palmer version where he was backed up by the Lowell George-led Little Feat. But dis is different den dat. Nice orchestral arrangement as well.

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10. "Johnny and Mary" — Bryan Ferry (3:56)

I was not a GIANT Bryan fan, generally speaking. I really liked “More Than This,” however, from the late Roxy Music days, and I always liked the original version of this song by Robert Palmer (there’s his name again). This is a really strange track but it works for me. If you’re not a studio musician, it’s very difficult to exercise self-control in the studio when recording. This track is an epitome of self-control and that’s kinda why I like it. Excellent version, Bryan...

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I guess you weren't carrying a spare jacket and had to go onstage with all that birdsh*t on it. I hate outdoor shows in the summer. Once I played outside on a windy night so I went on with a lotta hairspray on and a giant moth got caught in my hair and could NOT get loose, much to my performing disdain (TRUE story!).

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