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“The Best Album Otis Redding Never Made”

2 Mar

otis

I have always loved the voice of Otis Redding. Who doesn’t, right? So much soul and feeling. So raspy and unique. More of a song stylist than a true singer. He could scream and shout with the best of ‘em, but his talents were perhaps best on display when he performed a slower ballad. That is especially true when the ballad tackled the topics of pain, loneliness, heartbreak or sorrow.

The cover looks like an old, time-worn LP cover. The cover art fits within the time period. Yet this is a completely new collection being released for the first time. Cool concept — and it works. The album is a mix of the familiar and the unfamiliar. The original songs and a few alternate versions. Some Redding penned originals and compositions by the likes of Eddie Floyd and Lloyd Price.

Most all the cuts here click. Those that don’t on all levels still demand your attention and curiousity. An example of the latter would be the alternate take of “I’ve Got Dreams To Remember.” There are a few awkward key changes that can be hard on the ear, but the feeling and emotion is still very much there. The backing band (Steve Cropper, Booker T and the boys) seems to be experimenting — trying to find their way at times on this take. I’m guessing that is why this version is subtitled “Rougher Dreams.” You can understand why this rougher take didn’t make the original record back in the late 60’s.  

On the other hand, the alternate version of “Open the Door” is simply killer stuff. Subtitled “Skeleton Key Version,” this one delivers the goods in the best Redding tradition. The 2:29 slow burn comes complete with door knocks and goosebump-inducing blasts from the mighty Memphis Horns and Booker T’s Hammond B-3. The collection closes with the hopeful “My Lover’s Prayer” — long one of my favorite Redding performances. It leaves you wanting more, so don’t forget to punch that REPEAT button. This makes for ideal late night listening.  

Turn the lights down and the volume up.

You’ll find plenty to like about this new addition to Otis’ legendary catalog.

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Otis Redding’s Lonely & Blue: The Deepest Soul of Otis Redding could pass for a title Stax/Volt might have released in the late ’60s. The look of the album reflects Stax’s design themes of the era. But in fact it’s a collection that never existed, until now, that homes in on one mood and one theme —heartbreaking, yearning ballads — of which Redding had many. The album will be released as a CD and blue vinyl LP on March 5, 2013 on Stax Records through Concord Music Group.

Lonely & Blue: The Deepest Soul of Otis Redding contains the hits (“I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” “These Arms of Mine,” “My Lover’s Prayer,” “Free Me”) alongside many lesser-known songs (“Gone Again,” “Open the Door,” “Waste of Time,” “Everybody Makes a Mistake,” to name a few). They’re all included in this compilation because they share the tangled theme of sorrow.

According to compilation producer David Gorman, “Given how nobody delivered a gut-wrenching sad song like Otis, I always felt he should have made an album you could put on late at night and settle into with a glass of something strong. The mood and the subject of every song is the same — Otis, heartbroken, and begging for love. I tried to find the saddest most potently heartbreaking songs he ever sang, with no regard for chart position or notoriety. There are a few hits on the album, but they’re there because they fit the mood, not because we wanted to include the hits.”

For instance, an alternate version of “I’ve Got Dreams To Remember” features lyrics that are darker and tell a more personal story than the better-known hit version. Little-known tracks like “Gone Again” and “A Waste of Time” are given the same weight as “I’ve Been Loving You too Long.” The motif of love is even subtly addressed in the sequencing, the album closing with “Send Me Some Lovin’” and “My Lover’s Prayer.”

The concept of Lonely & Blue: The Deepest Soul of Otis Redding plays out in the packaging as well, which was intentionally designed by Gorman to look as if Redding actually did put this album out at the height of his career. The typography, color palette, and layout are all meant to adhere to the Stax/Volt LP designs of the time. This extends to the liner notes, which are written in the present tense and credited to a fictitious DJ so that they read as if they were written while Redding was alive at his peak.

“The goal,” explains Gorman, “was to create the best album Otis never made and ‘reissue’ it in 2013 rather than do another hits compilation. We hope this album will reframe him as something more than an oldies radio staple and become his Night Beat (a classic 1963 Sam Cooke LP) — the album that exists as a starting point for people wondering why so many consider Otis Redding the greatest soul singer of all time.”

Track Listing:
1. I Love You More Than Words Can Say
2. Gone Again
3. Free Me
4. Open the Door [Skeleton Key Version]
5. A Waste of Time
6. These Arms of Mine
7. I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)
8. Everybody Makes a Mistake
9. Little Ol’ Me
10. I’ve Got Dreams to Remember [Rougher Dreams]
11. Send Me Some Lovin’
12. My Lover’s Prayer

Lauterbach’s Chitlin’ Circuit History Deserves Great Praise & a Wider Audience

28 Aug

Preston Lauterbach is a friend of mine — going back to my days in Memphis. Great guy, he is. And he knows a thing or two about music — and good eats. I was pretty impressed when he first mentioned that he was undertaking this project. It’s a big topic. But also a topic that has not been well documented in the recent past.

All that being said, I am even more impressed by the finished project. This is a well-researched and entertaining story. Preston has a way with words. His method is hip and engaging. He educates without sounding like a professor. I buzzed through this book in no time flat. I had long thought that I was well versed when it came to this shadowy corner of rock n’ roll history. Boy, was I wrong. So many wonderful nuggets of knowledge to be found — and savored.

This is a tasty pot of musical stew – and one I would suggest you dig into.

A definitive account of the birth of rock ‘n’ roll in black America, this book establishes the Chitlin’ Circuit as a major force in American musical history. Combining terrific firsthand reporting with deep historical research, Preston Lauterbach uncovers characters like Chicago Defender columnist Walter Barnes, who pioneered the circuit in the 1930s, and larger-than-life promoters such as Denver Ferguson, the Indianapolis gambling chieftain who consolidated it in the 1940s. Charging from Memphis to Houston and now-obscure points in between, The Chitlin’ Circuit brings us into the sweaty back rooms where such stars as James Brown, B. B. King, and Little Richard got their start.

With his unforgettable portraits of unsung heroes including King Kolax, Sax Kari, and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Lauterbach writes of a world of clubs and con men that has managed to avoid much examination despite its wealth of brash characters, intriguing plotlines, and vulgar glory, and gives us an excavation of an underground musical America. 34 black-and-white illustrations

http://www.amazon.com/Chitlin-Circuit-Road-Rock-Roll/dp/0393076520

Concord Gives Evans, King and Davis The Respect They Deserve

10 Apr

All three of these collections are worth your time. How can you go wrong with Miles Davis? Or the legendary pianist Bill Evans. Or the mighty Albert King? These 2-CD sets include many of the well known recordings. There are also many more obscure tracks for your discovery and enjoyment.

Miles Davis was obviously a Jazz giant, but his most commercially successful LPs were recorded for Columbia Records. Albert King’s searing blue guitar and powerhouse vocal attack became the blueprint for a couple of artists named Clapton and Vaughan. Yes, those guys! Bill Evans’ piano mastery has always been a bit more off the beaten path. Yet those in the know will tell you how influential he was — and continues to be to this day. We encourage you to seek out these excellent compilations and make them a part of your collection. You’ll be a better person for it.

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Concord Music Group has assembled three new titles in its ongoing Definitive series, one of which marks the series’ initial foray into CMG’s vast blues catalog. The Definitive Miles Davis on Prestige; The Definitive Bill Evans on Riverside and Fantasy; and The Definitive Albert King on Stax span a total of 60 years and include the music of two monumental figures in jazz and an equally influential figure in the blues. Each of the two-CD collections were released on April 5, 2011.

The two dozen tracks of The Definitive Miles Davis on Prestige follow the creative evolution of the most revered trumpeter in the annals of jazz. Spanning the first half of the 1950s, the collection captures Miles at the beginning of his breakthrough to mainstream appeal, according to the liner notes by music journalist and historian Ashley Kahn.

“The purpose of this collection is to deliver a full, definitive overview of that very special period in Miles’s career,” says Kahn. “Its focus covers the nearly six-year period when the trumpeter was signed exclusively to Prestige. Disc 1 offers the best of his 1951 to ’56 sessions primarily as a leader of various ad hoc all-star ensembles. Disc 2 provides a generous sampling of Miles the bandleader, in ’55 and ’56, at the helm of one of the most groundbreaking groups of the day.”

The collection also chronicles Miles’s dramatic artistic growth over a relatively short time, says Nick Phillips, Concord Music Group’s Vice President of Jazz and Catalog A&R and the producer of the collection. “The years between 1951 and 1956 are not a huge amount of time, but the development by Miles—as a musician and as a bandleader—is pretty astonishing in this period,” says Phillips. “This culminates in what ended up being one of the most legendary groups in jazz, the Miles Davis Quintet, featuring John Coltrane.”

The Definitive Bill Evans on Riverside and Fantasy tracks more than two decades of recordings by a highly influential figure in jazz piano. “It would be difficult to think of a major jazz pianist emerging after 1960 who did not take Bill Evans as a model,” says jazz journalist Doug Ramsey, who wrote the liner notes for the 25-song collection that begins in the mid-1950s and ends in 1977. “Indeed, many seasoned pianists who preceded Evans altered their styles after hearing him.”

What’s more, “Evans had a profound effect on how musicians play jazz and how listeners hear it,” says Ramsey. “He is so much a part of the jazz atmosphere that many musicians — regardless of instrument—who came of age in the 21st century are not conscious that his concepts helped form them.”

The collection also gives proper attention on the second disc to Evans’s Fantasy-era recordings of the mid-1970s, says Phillips, who also produced the Evans collection. “Because the Riverside sessions are so acclaimed and so legendary, the Fantasy tracks are often overshadowed,” he says. “But in listening to this collection, you realize that Evans was still creating some amazing recordings throughout the Fantasy period with some high- caliber musicians, like Eddie Gomez, Kenny Burrell, Lee Konitz, Tony Bennett, Ray Brown, and Philly Joe Jones.”

The Definitive Albert King on Stax follows 15 years worth of recordings—from 1961 to 1975, plus a final track from 1984—by a bluesman who’d spent the early part of his career playing to an African-American fan base in the roadhouses and theaters of the chitlin’ circuit. But by the latter half of the 1960s, the genre “was now attracting the rapt interest of young white listeners, their sensibilities opened wide by the muscular, in-your- face blues rock of the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, and Jimi Hendrix,” says roots music historian Bill Dahl in his liner notes for the collection. “These new converts were gravitating to the best the idiom had to offer. No single blues guitarist made a more stunning impact during that tumultuous timeframe than Albert King.”

“For as paradoxical as it might sound, you could make the case that Albert King was a cheery blues guy,” says Chris Clough, Concord’s manager of catalog development and producer of the Albert King collection. “He had that wry smile, and he often smoked a pipe. He was always well dressed and dapper. He was genuinely interested in putting on a show for his audience, and that sensibility comes through on these tracks.”

Dahl suggests that the years between 1966 and 1975 were a “Golden Decade” for King. “He was with Stax that entire time,” he says, “right up to the Memphis label’s unfortunate demise, cutting one enduring blues classic after another as he scaled the charts over and over again. In the process, King deeply influenced countless up-and-coming blues axemen, even though the ringing licks he coaxed out of his futuristic Gibson Flying V were all but impossible to accurately recreate.”

www.concordmusicgroup.com

Stunning New Otis Redding Live Release from Concord

24 Apr

Simply put, the late, great Otis Redding was a pure firecracker on stage. His live shows were riveting — whether he was backed by the MGs, the Bar-Kays, or “His Orchestra.” Yet very few quality live recordings exist to document Redding’s meteoric blaze across the 1960’s sky. I have long wished that I could hear Otis and the boys ripping it up in a small club setting. And now, several long decades later, my wish has been granted.

The sound quality of these 1966 live recordings is excellent, the horn section is blowing, and Otis is obviously in peak form. You can close your eyes and almost see Redding prowling the stage like an uncaged tiger, all the while testing the limits of his far-too-tight polyester slacks. Many of the classic songs you’d expect are featured in this 2-CD collection. “Security,” “Satisfaction,” “Respect,” “These Arms of Mine,” “I Can’t Turn You Loose,” and “Mr. Pitiful” are all gifted with the high-octane Redding approach.  

Listeners will also be rewarded with a few delightful surprises — most notably the Chips Moman penned “Destiny” and a 10-minute workout of James Brown’s “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.” It is also a joy to hear the onstage banter between the 24-year old Otis, the band, and his audience. His radiant personality shines through — as does his legendary sense of humor.  

I honestly cannot recommend this new release highly enough. If you count yourself as a fan of 1960’s pop culture, Memphis Soul, or simply American Popular music, this may be the best $20 you spend all year. I am just left scratching my head as to why it took so doggone long for these performances to finally see the light of day.

This rare live album from Otis Redding was recorded at the Whiskey A Go-Go on April 9 and 10, 1966. This is the first time the recordings have been released as a complete package.

In 1966, Otis Redding had emerged not only as the star of Stax Records but as one of nation’s most influential soul singers. With his version of “Satisfaction” climbing the charts in April 1966, Redding arrived in Los Angeles to play both the Hollywood Bowl (as part of a KHJ-AM listener appreciation concert that also featured Donovan, Sonny & Cher and the Mamas & the Papas) and a four-nighter at the legendary Whisky A Go Go on the Sunset Strip. According to Taj Mahal, whose ’60s band the Rising Sons opened the Whisky shows, “At that time, Otis was it.”

Live on the Sunset Strip, release on Stax Records through Concord Music Group, captures Redding in the white heat of transition, when his star power was undeniable and it was still possible to catch him backed by his own road band in the tight quarters of a smoky nightclub. The 2-CD set features three full live sets that have never been previously available in their entirety. A definitive live statement from Redding, the songs are sequenced exactly as they went down, complete with an emcee and spoken introductions by Redding. The booklet features rare photographs as well as extensive liner notes by Ashley Kahn, author of music biographies and a contributor to NPR’s Morning Edition.

Live on the Sunset Strip highlights versions of Redding’s best-known songs: “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” “Security,” “I Can’t Turn You Loose,” “Satisfaction,” “Respect,” “These Arms of Mine” and “Just One More Day,” to name a few.

As Kahn points out in his notes, “In 1966, Redding was 24 and defined not only the sound but the style and look of a true soul man. Tall and lanky, he was ready to drop to his knees and tear off the thin-lapelled jacket of his sharply pressed suit when it was time to deliver the goods. His ten-piece band was his personal, traveling amen-corner, urging him to testify night after night . . . His out-of-breath stage patter was warm and downhome. ‘Ladies and gentlemens,’ he addressed his fans, ‘holler as loud as you wanna – you ain’t home!'”

The Whisky A Go Go was known for its integrated booking policy and for helping bring awareness of R&B and blues to rock audiences, who attended shows by the Doors, Love, and the Standells at the venue. On April 7-10, the club booked the Otis Redding Revue for the Easter weekend that followed the Hollywood Bowl appearance. Redding’s entourage included an emcee and a full 10-piece band (led by saxophonist Bob Holloway) along with three up-and-coming singers performing one tune apiece before the headliner hit the stage. Engineer Wally Heider, the West Coast’s leading recorder of live performances, was hired to tape the three nights.

The shows did not go unnoticed by the Los Angeles Times, which noted: “Drawn by his growing popularity, a fervid audience shoe-horned into the club . . . Redding was assured of an In Group [sic] following Thursday night when from among his spectators emerged Bob Dylan, trailed by an entourage of camp followers.” (Legend holds that Dylan offered him “Just Like a Woman” as a possible cover that night, though Redding thought the song was a little wordy.)

Redding achieved even greater heights in the months after the Whisky performances, chalking up two new hits (“Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa [Sad Song]” and “Try a Little Tenderness”). He played San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium, took part in the Stax/Volt Revue through Europe in March ’67 and stole the show at the historic Monterey International Pop Festival in June of that year. The ultimate tragedy happened on December 10, 1967, when, as eloquently stated by Kahn, “his death in an airplane crash . . . dramatically froze his star forever in its perfect, meteoric apogee.”

In 1968, Stax posthumously issued the LP In Person at the Whisky A Go Go, with liner notes by Los Angeles Times critic Pete Johnson, who’d also reviewed the live show. In 1993, the CD Good to Me: Recorded Live at the Whisky, Vol. 2 expanded on a largely forgotten 1982 LP, Recorded Live. While those releases juggled selections from different shows, Live on the Sunset Strip stands out as a historically true document, offering the last three consecutive sets capturing Redding and his band in top form.

A little taste of Otis tearing it up at the Monterey Pop Festival

http://www.otisredding.com/ 

Cropper and Cavaliere re-unite for 2nd Concord Release

10 Apr

STEVE CROPPER (BOOKER T. & THE MGs) AND FELIX CAVALIERE (THE RASCALS)

‘Midnight Flyer’, Due In Stores June 15, Showcases Two Titans Of Blue-Eyed Soul’s Golden Age

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Steve Cropper, guitarist for Booker T. and the MGs and one of the primary architects of the unmistakable Stax sound of the 1960s, and vocalist/keyboardist Felix Cavaliere, the voice of the Rascals and the pivotal figure in the blue-eyed soul movement of that same era, have reconvened for their second collaborative recording. Sparks fly at the crossroads of Memphis soul and East Coast R&B when Stax Records releases Midnight Flyer on June 15, 2010.

Midnight Flyer, recorded in Nashville and mixed by the legendary David Z, is the followup to Nudge It Up a Notch, the 2008 maiden voyage by Cropper and Cavaliere that scored critical acclaim from the music and mainstream press. The San Francisco Chronicle called Nudge It Up a Notch “an unexpected delight,” while Blues Wax heralded the project as “one of the great surprises of 2008, and further evidence of Concord’s genuine commitment to the revamped Stax imprint.”

The Stax legacy – and Concord’s commitment to it – are very much alive in Midnight Flyer, an album that once again showcases the songwriting prowess of two towering figures from one of the most seminal periods in the history of American pop music. Assisting with the songwriting throughout most of the album’s 12 tracks is drummer/percussionist/vocalist Tom Hambridge, who also lent a hand with the crafting of the previous album.

“Felix and I come from pretty much the same musical school – but from different geographical locations,” says Cropper. “He’s a Jersey boy at heart, and I grew up in Memphis, but when soul meets soul, what can you say? There are no borders. There are no boundaries.”

Felix tells the story of the classic Rascals song, “Groovin'”

But geography does play a role in the making of great songs, says Cavaliere. “Steve has that Southern vernacular, which is something I really like,” he says. “It’s almost like another language to those of us from the East Coast. It has a certain folky quality to it. Some of those idioms are part of the hit songs that Steve has written and recorded over the years, and they’re part of this record as well.”

The impact of both of these musicians and songwriters on pop music is nearly impossible to quantify. As part of Booker T. & the MGs – the house band for the Stax label in its original incarnation during the 1960s – Cropper co-wrote and produced classics by artists like Eddie Floyd (“Knock On Wood”), Wilson Pickett (“In the Midnight Hour”) and Otis Redding (“Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay”). In subsequent decades, he lent his instrumental and production skills to a range of artists including Jeff Beck, the Blues Brothers, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and many others.

Cavaliere came to prominence in the mid-’60s as vocalist/keyboardist/songwriter for the Rascals (initially known as the Young Rascals). Cavaliere wrote and/or sang several of the band’s biggest hits, including “Good Lovin'” (1966), “Groovin'” (1967), “It’s a Beautiful Morning” (1968) and “People Got To Be Free” (1968). The phrase “blue-eyed soul” was coined during the Rascals’ heyday, due in large part to the group’s highly successful forays into R&B and soul – styles that had been developed and previously dominated by African-American artists.

Co-produced by Cropper, Cavaliere and Hambridge, Midnight Flyer captures the synergy and brilliance that can only emerge when two powerful forces of nature come together. The result is a range of styles and shades, from heartfelt ballads like “When You’re With Me” to the soul-charged “I Can’t Stand It,” a churning vocal duet featuring Cavaliere and his daughter Aria. “Sexy Lady” harkens back to the soul stylings of the ’70s, while the funky instrumental “Do It Like This” digs into a tight groove and makes plenty of room for Cropper’s tasty riff work to close out the set.

Some of Cropper’s tasty fret work with Booker T and MGs

“The main thing we both take away from this record is how much fun we had making it,” says Cavaliere. “We may have used a lot of new technology that didn’t even exist when Steve and I were recording back in the day, but the songs themselves are still the most important part of the process, and we just had a blast writing and recording them. I think that spirit comes through on the record.”

Cropper notes a timelessness about Cavaliere that serves as a metaphor for the music itself. “Felix is ageless,” he says. “Sure, you can look at him and see that he’s gotten older since those early days, just like we all have. But if you close your eyes, he sounds as young and energetic as he did when he was making records back in the ’60s . . . Working together on records like this reminds us of the kinds of things that go into the making of a good song. We’re still doing that, and we’re still having fun doing it.”

STAX Number Ones is a Good Place to Start

29 Mar

For those seeking a quick intro to classic Southern Soul, I suggest looking no further than the new Stax Number Ones CD. The new disc from Concord Music contains many of the most recognizable tracks laid down in the historic Memphis studio. There are a couple welcome surprises in the form of two somewhat obscure Johnnie Taylor hits:  “I Believe in You (You Believe in Me)” and “Jody’s Got Your Girl and Gone.” Pick up this CD and you’ll soon find yourself on the hunt for the countless other smashes conjured up at 926 East McLemore Avenue.   

Stax Records is where Southern soul became a global force in music. The label, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, gave rise to a number of stars – many hailing from its Southeast Memphis neighborhood. During the ’60s and into the ’70s, Stax studio was a wellspring of hit records that topped both the R&B and pop charts. On March 30, 2010, Stax Records – now operating within Concord Music Group – will release Stax Number Ones, an compilation of 15 chart-topping hits by Stax’ best-known artists.

Included in Stax Number Ones are Booker T. & the MGs’ “Green Onions,” Sam & Dave’s “Hold On! I’m Comin'” and “Soul Man,” Eddie Floyd’s “Knock on Wood,” Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” Johnnie Taylor’s Who’s Making Love,” “I Believe in You (You Believe in Me)” and “Jody’s Got Your Girl and Gone,” Rufus Thomas’ “(Do The) Push & Pull [Part 1],” Jean Knight’s “Mr. Big Stuff,” Isaac Hayes’ “Theme from Shaft,” the Dramatics’ “In the Rain,” the Staple Singers’ “I’ll Take You There” and “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)” and Shirley Brown’s “Woman to Woman.”

Stax Records, a division of Concord Music Group, has placed more than 175 hit songs on Billboard’s Hot 100 pop charts as well as a staggering 250 hits on the R&B charts. Stax Number Ones represents all 15 songs that hit #1 on either chart from the label’s golden era. It is a perfect sampling of classic Stax. 

http://www.concordmusicgroup.com/albums/Stax-Number-Ones/

Recipe for Spicy Honey Dipped Fried Chicken

23 Jan

If you can’t get to Uncle Lou’s in Memphis, this is the next best thing …

Chicken and honey is a classic combination that takes on a fiery twist in this recipe for crispy fried chicken dipped in honey and cayenne. This works well for any kind of fried chicken—bone in, boneless, or chicken fingers and nuggets. Short on time? Give deli fried chicken a quick dip and listen to your family rave about your cooking! Serve with cold, creamy cole slaw and buttered biscuits.

Tip:  The heat of hot pepper increases when it is heated up in food, so taste the honey dip to find your desired level of fire-power after heating it.

The Recipe

Spicy Honey Dipped Fried Chicken

  • 3lbs chicken pieces, boneless breasts, or chicken strips
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tsp. seasoned salt
  • 1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne, or to taste

How to Make Honey Dipped Fried Chicken

  1. Pour buttermilk over chicken in a ziplock bag and refrigerate at least one hour or overnight.
  2. Combine the flour, seasoned salt, and pepper in a plastic bag.
  3. Remove chicken from buttermilk and drain off excess.
  4. Shake the chicken one piece at a time in the bag of flour; shake off excess flour and allow the floured chicken to rest on racks for 20-30 minutes.
  5. Heat oil in a deep fryer, or pour to a depth of 1/2-inch in a deep frying pan and heat to 325 F.
  6. When oil is hot, place the chicken skin side down in the pan or fryer and cook for 10-12 minutes per side for bone-in chicken pieces, or until the chicken is cooked through and crispy brown.
  7. While chicken is cooking, combine the honey and cayenne in a small saucepan and heat over low heat until hot and thin in consistency.
  8. When chicken is done, use tongs to lift one piece at a time from the pan, shake gently to drain off excess oil, and dip immediately in the hot honey. Allow excess to drain back into the pan for a moment; place the dipped chicken on cooling racks over a cookie sheet to finish draining.

Serve immediately.

Don’t worry. You’re still the best, Uncle Lou!

Classic B.J. Thomas Re-Issues on Collector’s Choice

6 Jan

A grand total of 8 (count ‘em … eight!) BJ Thomas LPs have recently been re-issued on CD by the folks at Collector’s Choice. The recordings chronicle Billy Joe’s rise to fame during the 1960s and 1970s. Casual music fans surely remember Thomas as the Texas singer behind the original hits “Hooked on a Feeling” and, most importantly “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head.” The latter was a certified worldwide smash hit that was featured prominently in the classic film, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” However, fans digging a little deeper into BJ’s vault of recordings will be rewarded with several hidden gems. Of the 8 recent re-issues, the first 2 and the last two are perhaps the least inspired. The middle 4 LPs feature timeless pop and some of Thomas’ greatest performances on wax.  

The Sceptor LPs Young and In Love, On My Way, Raindrops, and Everybody’s Out of Town are lifted above the rest thanks to solid songwriting and tasteful instrumental backing. The bulk of the tunes are penned by masters like Burt Bacharach/Hal David and Mark James (writer of Suspicious Minds for Elvis Presley). Other contributors include the legendary Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham, Jimmy Webb, and Joe South. Most of these tunes were recorded by producer Chips Moman at American Studios in Memphis — the setting for many famous hit recordings by the likes of Elvis, Neil Diamond, and countless others.  Sceptor LP SPS 582 “Everybody’s Out of Town” is the best of the lot with standout tracks like Harry Nilsson’s “Everybody’s Talkin,” Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil’s “I Just Can’t Help Believing,” Mark James’ “The Mask,” Wayne Carson’s “Sandman,” and the Bacharach/David title cut. Frankly, there is not a weak track on the entire album. That was a rarity in a decade when LP’s were stuffed with quickly tossed together “filler.” This CD is essential for music buffs with an affinity for great singing & songsmiths at the top of their game.

B.J. Thomas (born Billy Joe Thomas) straddled the line between pop/rock and country, achieving success in both genres in the late ’60s and ’70s. At the beginning of his career, he leaned more heavily on rock & roll, but by the mid-’70s, he had turned to country music, becoming one of the most successful country-pop stars of the decade.

Thomas began singing while he was a child, performing in church. In his teens, he joined the Houston-based band the Triumphs, who released a number of independent singles that failed to gain any attention. For the group’s last single, Thomas and fellow Triumph member Mark Charron wrote “Billy and Sue,” which was another flop. After “Billy and Sue,” Thomas began a solo career, recording a version of Hank Williams’ standard “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” with producer Huey P. Meaux. Released by Scepter Records in early 1966, the single became an immediate hit, catapulting to number eight on the pop charts. Although he had a series of moderate follow-up hits, including a re-release of “Billy and Sue,” Thomas failed to reenter the Top Ten until 1968, when “Hooked on a Feeling” became a number-five, gold single. The following year, he scored his biggest hit with Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” taken from the hit film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It was followed by a string of soft rock hits in the next two years, including “Everybody’s Out of Town,” “I Just Can’t Help Believing,” “No Love at All,” and “Rock and Roll Lullaby,” which featured guitarist Duane Eddy and the vocal group the Blossoms.

After “Rock and Roll Lullaby,” Scepter Records went out of business and B.J. Thomas headed to Paramount Records. At Paramount, Thomas had no hits, prompting the singer to pursue a new country-pop direction at ABC Records. “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song,” his first single for ABC, became his second number-one record on the pop charts, as well as establishing a country career for the vocalist. For the next decade, he continued to have hits on the country charts, with a couple of songs — most notably “Don’t Worry Baby” — crossing over into the pop charts. During this period, he switched record companies at a rapid pace, but it did nothing to slow the pace of his hits. Thomas hit his country peak in 1983 and 1984, when he had the number-one hits “Whatever Happened to Old Fashioned Love” and “New Looks From an Old Lover,” as well as the Top Ten hits “The Whole World’s in Love When You’re Lonely” and “Two Car Garage.” Throughout the ’80s, B.J. Thomas recorded a number of hit gospel records for Myrrh concurrently with his country hits.

At the end of the ’80s, the hits began to dry up for Thomas, but he continued to tour, and put out the occasional country and gospel record in the ’90s. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide

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