30 may 2011

26 may 2011

the chords

by Jo-Ann Greene
By the end of 1978, it was evident that punk had spit its last, and new groups began springing up like weeds, all giving allegiance to the sounds of the past but dragging them through the ashes of punk. Among these bands were the Chords, a southeast London group formed in January 1979 when singer/guitarist Billy Hassett and his bassist cousin Martin Mason advertised for musicians in The NME and found guitarist and band songwriter Chris Pope. Original drummer Paul Halpin didn't stay long, at least behind his kit; eventually he became the group's tour manager. In his stead came Brett "Buddy" Halpin, and by March the Chords were taking the stage. They gigged continuously over the spring and summer, headlining two mod festivals at London hotspot the Marquee and recording their first Radio One session for DJ John Peel in early July. The Chords' reputation was rising quickly, and among their early supporters were Paul Weller, who caught one of their first shows, and Sham 69er Jimmy Pursey, who swiftly signed the group to his JP Productions company.

The quartet cut a handful of demos for Pursey before the relationship soured after he heckled the Undertones at a show which the Chords opened. This gave Polydor its chance, and the label now stepped in and signed the band. For their debut single, the Chords chose one of the songs recorded for Pursey, "Now It's Gone," recut it, and released it in September 1979. It rose to Number 63 in the U.K. chart, and they followed it up in January with "Maybe Tomorrow," which, bolstered by rave reviews in the press, shot up to the Top 40. A second Peel session was recorded in March, and the next month their third single, "Something's Missing," arrived. This taster for their debut album, So Far Away, didn't do quite as well as its predecessor, only reaching number 55. However, any worries that were harbored about the success of the full-length were put to rest with its arrival in May when the album slammed into the Top 30, bolstered by a U.K. tour.

The "The British Way of Life" single arrived in July and reached a measly number 55; "In My Street," released in October, did slightly better. However, the group continued touring successfully, until a show at London's Music Machine in November 1980. What transpired behind the scenes remains a mystery, but in the aftermath Hassett was relieved of his duties. In his stead came ex-Vibrators singer Kip Herring, although the old lineup was featured on the cover of their next single, "One More Minute," which arrived in May 1981. It was a flop, as was August's "Turn Away Again." The Chords called it a day the following month. However, the group was fondly remembered, and in 1986 a live set arrived, the cheekily titled No One's Listening Anymore, recorded back in 1980. A decade later, the two-CD compilation This Is What They Want gave fans precisely that, while the band's Peel sessions landed in shops the following year.

The Chocolate Watch Band

by Bruce Eder
Back in the mid-'80s, the Chocolate Watchband were trapped in an odd paradox (which actually wasn't that bad a place to be for a band that didn't exist anymore). They hadn't played a note together in almost 15 years, but their original albums were changing hands for $100 apiece or more, and a series of vinyl reissues, first as bootlegs from France and later legit ones from Australia, were selling around the world, and in numbers that only increased as more people had a chance to hear them. What's more, the group's sound was starting to be emulated in the work of then-current bands, playing obscure clubs in places like New York's Chelsea district and other locales as far east as the District of Columbia, made up of teenagers who were too young ever to have seen or heard the Watchband play, and living 3500 miles east of where the Watchband played out its existence, and most of its gigs, two decades before. The group had reached this paradoxical situation -- non-existence juxtaposed with a burgeoning cult of admirers around the world -- simply by being the best garage band of the '60s; or, at least, the best one ever to have had a serious recording career.

Indeed, they were a unique phenomenon -- based on their recordings, they were a world-class garage punk act, if that's possible, beating the Ramones to the punch by a decade, and showing more consistency than, say, the Litter, and more originality and range than the Shadows of Knight. While American bands of the period usually either detoured into folk-rock on their way to more elusive flights of languid psychedelia, or fell back on gimmicks and dumbing down their image (à la Paul Revere & the Raiders) to sell records, the Watchband retained an amazing purity of purpose and intent -- they owed a considerable (and undeniable) debt to the Rolling Stones for various elements of their sound, but they kept pushing the envelope, at least in intensity, and may even have matched the Stones in their psychedelic ventures when the time came to ante-up musically; they were like the Stones imbued with the more reckless and creative spirit of the Pretty Things. And in another reality, with their intensity and purposefulness -- lead singer David Aguilar can still stir listeners on his best records 40 years later -- the Watchband might've been America's Rolling Stones. They had the sound to do it -- and left behind a buzzsaw-textured rendition of one classic Bob Dylan song, and even gave the Kinks some serious competition with their cover of Ray Davies' "I'm Not Like Everybody Else" -- but not the breaks. Indeed, no sooner was the group out of the starting gate when they were compromised and then done in by a combination of internal conflicts and managers and producers with their own agendas. So this world-class act didn't find a concert audience outside of California for 30 years, and never charted a record nationally, and if you ask most casual '60s rock fans about them, you'll probably get little more than a blank stare. In fact, most will probably remember their AVI Records labelmates the Standells more clearly, because they actually managed to chart a few singles, even though they were a lesser band.

The Chocolate Watchband got its start at Foothill College in Los Altos, California in 1965, when guitarists Mark Loomis and Ned Torney -- both ex-members of the Chapparals -- joined in a fledgling outfit that later included Danny Phay (vocals), Rich Young (bass), Jo Kemling (organ), and drummer Peter Curry (soon succeeded by Gary Andrijasevich). This early Los Gatos-based version of the Watchband emerged in 1965, just as the British Invasion was starting to crest, and, with their raw, lean sound built on British Invasion-style R&B and pop/rock, achieved great popularity at the college and the surrounding area. They never made any official, commercial recordings, but a pair of demo tracks that surfaced in the '90s reveals a solid performing unit with some inspired playing -- especially on the lead guitar -- and an attractive if not necessarily bracing overall sound, and a lot of potential. Most of the latter seemed destined to be unrealized when Torney and Phay took an offer from a rival group -- the Otherside, which had formed out of an earlier band called the Topsiders -- and abandoned the original Chocolate Watchband, with Kemling following their lead. Loomis found a temporary berth with a very busy surf band called the Shandells, but wanted to play to an audience older than the pre-teens who attended their shows; he also saw no reason why he couldn't take another run at success, especially as the exiting members had made no attempt to keep the Chocolate Watchband name -- he got Andrijasevich back, and recruited ex-Topsider guitarist Sean Tolby (who'd also been left high-and-dry by the personnel switch), and then grabbed the Shandells' bassist Bill Flores. That still meant finding a lead singer to replace Phay, and it was just about then that he discovered David Aguilar, who was (nominally) a biology major at San Jose State University -- Aguilar also sang like a punk god, had a stage presence to rival Mick Jagger, excellent musical sensibilities, and could even write songs.

Thus was reborn the Chocolate Watchband in the spring of 1966, and what re-emerged was a much more powerful and impressive unit. They didn't play in front of people until they'd done some crash development of a proper stage act in Loomis' garage. They hit the ground running, playing the best white R&B-based rock heard anywhere this side of London, with a stage act that rivalled that of the Rolling Stones for excitement (and wasn't hurt by the presence of Brian Jones-lookalike Sean Tolby on rhythm guitar). The fact that they played Vox instruments only helped, making them look incredibly cool and their music -- already very potent -- sound like little else that was being heard around the Bay area. They secured the services of a manager who, in turn, got them signed to Green Grass Productions, a company co-founded by ex-Four Preps vocalist Ed Cobb, which had a recording deal with Capitol Records by way of the latter's Tower Records subsidiary. They played gigs with the early Jefferson Airplane and Big Brother & the Holding Company, and looked to be headed for that same level of possible success that those acts were already seeing. There was one false start, however, in the form of their debut single, "Blues Theme" -- an instrumental written by Mike Curb and originally cut by Davie Allan & the Arrows for the movie The Wild Angels -- it was getting radio play, but the original label had declined to issue a single on it, so Cobb and company jumped in with the Watchband, rush-releasing their version to try and grab some sales and attention -- the record was credited to the Hogs, owing to the tune's being associated with a biker movie, and the presence of the sound of a Harley on it; though they couldn't have known it, this wouldn't be the last time that the Watchband's identity was an issue on their records; and for reasons that seem bewildering, it came out on the kid-oriented Hanna-Barbara Records label, home of soundtracks to The Flintstones and other cartoons. The presence of the delightfully bizarre, satiric Zappa-like "Loose Lip Sync Ship," credited to Aguilar and Loomis as composers, on the B-side, only added a final piece of weirdness to the puzzle of that first release. The single never charted, but it was still a good record, and not a bad beginning.

The band was playing locally to bigger audiences and for larger fees than ever by the fall of 1966, and it was around that time that events around them were to help create ripples in their career. That summer, the district in Los Angeles known as the Sunset Strip -- renowned in the '40s and '50s for nightspots like Ciro's and, later, Dino's (owned by Dean Martin and immortalized in the TV series 77 Sunset Strip), but more recently home to clubs featuring rock & roll, including the Whisky A-Go-Go -- saw a massive influx of teenagers and younger twenty-somethings, with long hair and attitude; they were a long way from the '50s habitues of the area's nightspots, and their presence led to a decision by the police and L.A. County Sheriff's office to crack down on nighttime activities. That, in turn, led to a series of escalating conflicts between cops and teens throughout the fall of 1966, culminating in a violent confrontation at a club called Pandora's Box, where rocks and garbage were thrown, people on both sides were hurt, and property was damaged. That incident made the news and led to the closing (and bulldozing) of the club -- whose luckless owners probably hadn't paid enough money to the right local officials -- and the whole event made it into song and popular culture in the context of protest music, Stephen Stills penned his wryly ironic, vaguely ominous "For What It's Worth," which was duly turned into a hit by Buffalo Springfield, and on a cheesier but more visceral level, American International Pictures generated the film Riot on Sunset Strip, an exploitation movie par excellence rushed out to theaters in early 1967. The Standells (who were also managed by Cobb and Green Grass) provided the title song, and the Chocolate Watchband turned in a couple of excellent numbers, "Don't Need Your Lovin'" and "Sitting There Standing," and managed to appear in the movie, which has since become a '60s cult classic.

Everything seemed to be moving in the right direction, including a second single, "Sweet Young Thing" b/w "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue," that oozed excitement and punk defiance. The A-side, authored by Ed Cobb, was as salacious as anything that the Rolling Stones or Them had ever issued, and even had the temerity to half-quote the central sitar riff from the Stones' recent single "Paint It Black," while Aguilar seemed to sum up the searing passions of the Stones' 13-minute "Goin' Home" in just three minutes, and mostly the last 30 seconds of the song -- with every instrument on the record seemingly cranked up to 11 and over-mic'ed, it was a larger-than-life performance issued on Tower's subsidiary Uptown label in December of 1966; the A-side was supported by a rendition of Bob Dylan's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" that used Them's arrangement as a jumping-off point but pumped up the wattage and gave Aguilar a great vocal canvas to work with.

They followed this up in February of 1967 with "Misty Lane" b/w "She Weaves a Tender Trap," which was a somewhat more lyrical, melodic song than they'd been working with. It had a great beat and was a good showcase for Aguilar and company, and was also perhaps a bit closer to the sort of records that Loomis hoped to be making. The B-side, authored by Cobb, was a piece of soft pop balladry, complete with an overdubbed reed and horn accompaniment that had the bandmembers playing at midtempo with an acoustic instrument or two in evidence, and Aguilar in an almost languid performance; it was pretty enough, and a credit to everyone involved, but it wasn't what the Watchband was about. In retrospect, the members might've become concerned about precisely what was going on behind the scenes and what the thinking of their management was, but they were busy playing lots of gigs, not only in the Bay area but all over California, and whatever their feelings about some of the music on the singles, those at least represented the group's work and the records were getting played on the radio locally.

Soon after came the two songs for Riot on Sunset Strip, which ended up on the movie's soundtrack album, and a fourth Watchband 45, "No Way Out" b/w "Are You Gonna Be There (At the Love-in)" -- and after the seeming digression of "Misty Lane," the band seemed to be back in its own bailiwick, with a double-sided piece of garage punk gold. "Are You Gonna Be There (At the Love-in)," which ended up being used in the exploitation movie The Love-Ins (in which the band was supposed to have a major role but mostly ended up on the cutting room floor, as a result of some sort of havoc they created on the set), still resonates 40 years later as a moment of triumph for everyone, and the Cobb-authored "No Way Out" wasn't far behind, a shimmering piece of full-blown psychedelia with a killer performance by Flores and Andrijasevich in the opening, and Loomis' guitar laying down a jagged psychedelic blues lead line, while Tolby's instrument chimed and crunched away in the background while Aguilar intoned the spaced-out lyrics; even the tape effects and distortion at the end were handled with restraint and class.

That record came and went in June of 1967, heralding the Summer of Love. The Watchband set to work cutting their first LP, which duly showed up in September of that year with the title No Way Out, and to the shock of the members, they discovered that only a pair of tracks, "Come On" and "Gone and Passes By," had made it onto the album intact. The vocals on almost half the record (including the opening track) had been given over to Don Bennett, a singer and songwriter (and co-author of "Are You Gonna Be There (At the Love In)"), and two of the tracks were by an entirely different band altogether, a studio group put together by engineers Richard Podolor and Bill Cooper. The album's flaws seemed to lead to the exposure of fissures just beneath the surface of their success. The first to go was Loomis, who could play practically anything but whose taste ran to more lyrical sounds -- he was getting tired of the Watchband's high-energy, blues-based sound on-stage -- and he cut out for the Tingle Guild, a folk-rock band, with Andrijasevich in tow. Their exit prompted David Aguilar to split, leaving Bill Flores and Sean Tolby as the sole active members of the Watchband.

This is where the band's history gets confusing. Flores and Tolby managed to put together a temporary lineup to fulfill the group's upcoming gigs -- Tim Abbott on guitar, Mark Whittaker on drums, and Chris Flinders as vocalist -- and they were good enough so that, as a live act, the Watchband barely skipped a beat. Flinders and Abbott left before the end of 1967, however, and once again the group was reduced to half a band. Aguilar came back for a short time, but by December of 1967 the Watchband, in terms of what it had started out to be or any of the original participants, was essentially history. That didn't dissuade their management or their label from exploiting the name -- Podolor assembled a group of studio musicians and put Don Bennett at the microphone once more, retrieved some outtakes from the original group's sessions, and a pair of songs completed by the band, and delivered The Inner Mystique. With its splashy collage cover and spaced-out digressions, it was a slightly late psychedelic release in February of 1968, but the content actually bridged several musical styles; the pure psychedelia was mostly Podolor's ex post facto creation in the form of the instrumental "Voyage of the Trieste" and the ornate, shimmering interpretation of "In the Past" (a track originally done by the Florida-based We the People). Speaking for the real Watchband, in defiant, sneering punk tones, was a glittering remixed version of "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue," a beautifully conceived and executed rendition of "I Ain't No Miracle Worker" (authored by Annette Tucker and Nancie Mantz, of Electric Prunes fame), and Aguilar's greatest musical triumph on record, his fiercely defiant rendition of Ray Davies' "I'm Not Like Everybody Else," where he and the band proved that they could hold their own with the Kinks as easily as the Stones.

The irony of No Way Out and The Inner Mystique is that, while they weren't fully (or, in the case of the latter, remotely) representative of the group's sound, they still constituted superb pieces of psychedelic garage punk. In later years, Tolby would explain that the group's albums were always a bit more psychedelic than the group was on-stage or on their singles, and didn't truly reflect their real sound. Cobb and Podolor wanted a certain kind of sound on the LPs that the band, even when it was intact, wasn't always prepared to deliver -- in an interview conducted in the early '80s, Cobb said that the group couldn't work in the studio without first indulging in the contents of "the box," which, like a psychedelic-era dessert tray, contained every popular controlled substance (including hallucinogenics) then circulating, and he gave that as the reason behind the reliance on Bennett and the "ghost" band put together by Podolor. To be fair, some of the Bennett-sung material, such as the cover of Wayne Proctor's "In the Past," may not sound like the real Watchband, but they were great records and shimmering examples of psychedelic punk with a great beat and memorable hooks. Additionally, the bandmembers have never corroborated Cobb's account, and it is difficult to believe that a band that was as tight on-stage as they were known to be, and with the reputations for brilliant shows, could have ever indulged too much in that kind of decadence; it would have shown up on-stage, and in the music, and they cut great singles.

Neither of the first two albums ever sold in huge numbers, as none of the singles connected to them ever charted nationally, but they did well enough so that Green Grass and Tower saw no reason not to go for a third bite of the apple. The company started with Sean Tolby, who had taken over lead guitar with the Watchband before the end, and he recruited Bill Flores into what became a kind of cross-generational Chocolate Watchband, featuring Loomis and Andrijasevich and original, 1965-vintage lead vocalist Danny Phay (who'd ended up, after the Otherside, in the Tingle Guild alongside Loomis and Andrijasevich). The resulting album, One Step Beyond, was -- with the notable exception of the driving rendition of Ashford & Simpson's "I Don't Need No Doctor" -- far more laid-back than any of the group's prior releases, reflecting the folk-rock sound that Loomis, Andrijasevich, and Phay had been generating. The songs were all originals and not bad, if not as exciting as the best work on the two prior LPs, and among those participating in the sessions was Moby Grape guitarist Jerry Miller, who played on "Devil's Motorcycle." With an album out and a lineup intact, the revived Watchband began getting bookings, and while Loomis was forced to back out for health reasons (replaced by Phil Scoma, of the Hydraulic Banana), the group did endure after a fashion until the beginning of 1970.

That probably would have ended the Watchband's story, but for the fact that their records were too good to ignore. They were mostly forgotten during the '70s, except by film cultists who discovered Riot on Sunset Strip from its frequent television showings and started seeking out their music. By the early '80s, however, the psychedelic-punk revival and the burgeoning interest in '60s garage rock (fostered by the release of the original Nuggets and other, similar, subsequent compilation albums) had gathered enough momentum so that their original LPs started changing hands for $100 or more per copy, and it wasn't too long into the decade before the rising demand led to the re-release of the Watchband's music, initially from Eva Records in France in pressings of dubious legality and quality, and later under actual license from genuine master materials, by an Australian label. The Inner Mystique, in particular, proved popular in this edition, which proceeded to sell by the gross to wholesalers and retailers on four continents. David Aguilar had moved onto a university professorship in the natural sciences, and other members were scattered across the map, but suddenly their music was in demand -- and newer bands, such as the Tryfles, began drawing on the Watchband for inspiration and source material. The reissue of their material on CD only raised the ante and the interest, as a best-of from Rhino Records was followed by Sundazed and Big Beat records' re-releases of the original LPs on CD, complete with bonus tracks during the early to mid- '90s and beyond. There was enough activity surrounding the group so that one bookstall worker in Union Square Park in New York used to brag of having been a member of the Watchband -- and people listened.

By the middle of the '90s, ex-members had discussed the possibility of a reunion, but no such event ever materialized until 1999, and by that time Sean Tolby was gone. With Aguilar, Tim Abbott (subbing for Mark Loomis, who pulled out), Bill Flores, and Gary Andrijasevich back together, and Michael Reese filling Tolby's spot, they played their first gigs in the spring of 1999. Those shows culminated in November of that year with their appearance at Cavestomp in New York, which resulted in the concert album At the Love-In Live! (2001); in between the Cavestomp gig and the CD's release, the Watchband issued the first studio album made up entirely of their own work.

It was a long wait, but it was worth it, especially the live album, as the band ran through their entire core repertory in excellent form. The event also got the group -- who seldom got much coverage off the West Coast -- their first ever coverage in The New York Times, 30 years after their last regular gig. And they're still at it, as of 2005, playing gigs in Europe and finally getting the worldwide recognition and fan adoration that should have been theirs in 1967.

25 may 2011

The Fall - Mr. Pharmacist

Después de escuchar el excelente tema de John Cooper Clarke me ha venido a la cabeza este que tiene ciertas reminiscencias en el estilo. Por cierto sigue la sombra de Dylan también en esta canción de Mr.Clarke !!

Joy Division - Shadowplay (1978)

Fantástico tema con un arcaico y a la vez memorable sólo de guitarra de Bernard Sumner.
Tony Wilson creador de Factory Records presenta al grupo.

22 may 2011

Un clasico de los prímeros ochenta, fantastico, con aquel disco con librito!!!

19 may 2011


by John Dougan
Few performers in rock history have been as ferociously prolific as Billy Childish. In fact, a complete discography of his work as a solo performer and with his various bands would take up quite a lot of space. A singer, songwriter, artist, poet, critic, fanzine editor, and guitarist who suffers from severe dyslexia, he's a punk-inspired Renaissance man. However, most have never heard of him, or heard one of the over 50 recordings he's made either solo or with one of his many bands (Pop Rivets, the Milkshakes, Thee Mighty Caesars, the Delmonas, Thee Headcoats, and the Natural Born Lovers), or read his over 40 books of poetry and assorted scribblings. Surprisingly, Childish has been recording since 1979, playing a rough-and-tumble, punk-inspired approximation of what is normally called garage rock. Not one for elaborate production techniques, the consistent element of Childish's music is that all of it sounds as though it was recorded and mixed in about an hour. He values immediacy and intensity, and frequently seems itching to move on to the next song, or, more specifically, the next band. A truly primitive talent (due to his learning disability, he has had little formal education) who -- à la Jad and David Fair of Half Japanese -- eschews technical ability for pure emotion, Childish occupies an artistic role somewhere between mad genius and bratty goofball. Unfailingly sure of himself and his vision, his music is as honest and emotionally direct as one is likely to hear. Unfortunately, he also lacks the discipline of self-editing and, as a result, some of his lesser work rambles incoherently or simply sounds so similar as to be uninteresting. Years after his first single, "Fun in the U.K." (a tongue-in-cheek send-up of the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the U.K."), Childish is still producing material at an amazing rate, epitomizing the endurance and drive of an artist who in many ways is the archetypal rock outsider.


by William Ruhlmann
According to Billboard chart statistics, Chicago is second only to the Beach Boys as the most successful American rock band of all time, in terms of both albums and singles. Judged by album sales, as certified by the R.I.A.A., the band does not rank quite so high, but it is still among the Top Ten best-selling U.S. groups ever. If such statements of fact surprise, that's because Chicago has been singularly underrated since the beginning of its long career, both because of its musical ambitions (to the musicians, rock is only one of several styles of music to be used and blended, along with classical, jazz, R&B, and pop) and because of its refusal to emphasize celebrity over the music. The result has been that fundamentalist rock critics have consistently failed to appreciate its music and that its media profile has always been low. At the same time, however, Chicago has succeeded in the ways it intended to. From the beginning of its emergence as a national act, it has been able to fill arenas with satisfied fans. And beyond the impressive sales and chart statistics, its music has endured, played constantly on the radio and instantly familiar to tens of millions. When, in 2002, Chicago's biggest hits were assembled together on the two-disc set The Very Best of Chicago: Only the Beginning and the album debuted in the Top 50, giving the band the distinction of having had chart albums in five consecutive decades, the music industry and some music journalists may have been startled. But the fans who had been supporting Chicago for over 30 years were not.

Chicago marked the confluence of two distinct, but intermingling musical strains in Chicago, IL, in the mid-'60s: an academic approach and one coming from the streets. Reed player Walter Parazaider (born March 14, 1945, in Chicago, IL), trumpeter Lee Loughnane (born October 21, 1946, in Chicago, IL), and trombonist James Pankow (born August 20, 1947, in St. Louis, MO) were all music students at DePaul University. But they moonlighted in the city's clubs, playing everything from R&B to Irish music, and there they encountered less formally educated but no less talented players like guitarist Terry Kath (born January 31, 1946, in Chicago, IL; died January 23, 1978, in Los Angeles, CA) and drummer Danny Seraphine (born August 28, 1948, in Chicago, IL). In the mid-'60s, most rock groups followed the instrumentation of the Beatles -- two guitars, bass, and drums -- and horn sections were heard only in R&B. But in the summer of 1966, the Beatles used horns on "Got to Get You into My Life" on their Revolver album and, as usual, pop music began to follow their lead. At the end of the year, the Buckinghams, a Chicago band guided by a friend of Parazaider's, James William Guercio, scored a national hit with the horn-filled "Kind of a Drag," which went on to hit number one in February 1967.

That was all the encouragement Parazaider and his friends needed. Parazaider called a meeting of the band-to-be at his apartment on February 15, 1967, inviting along a talented organist and singer he had run across, Robert Lamm (born October 13, 1944, in New York, NY [Brooklyn]). Lamm agreed to join and also said he could supply the missing bass sounds to the ensemble using the organ's foot pedals (a skill he had not actually acquired at the time).

Developing a repertoire of James Brown and Wilson Pickett material, the new band rehearsed in Parazaider's parents' basement before beginning to get gigs around town under the name the Big Thing. Soon, they were playing around the Midwest. By this time, Guercio had become a staff producer at Columbia Records, and he encouraged the band to begin developing original songs. Kath, and especially Lamm, took up the suggestion. (Soon, Pankow also became a major writer for the band.) Meanwhile, the sextet became a septet when Peter Cetera (born September 13, 1944, in Chicago, IL), singer and bassist for a rival Midwest band, the Exceptions, agreed to defect and join the Big Thing. This gave the group the unusual versatility of having three lead singers, the smooth baritone Lamm, the gruff baritone Kath, and Cetera, who was an elastic tenor. When Guercio came back to see the group in the late winter of 1968, he deemed them ready for the next step. In June 1968, he financed their move to Los Angeles.

Guercio exerted a powerful influence on the band as its manager and producer, which would become a problem over time. At first, the bandmembers were willing to live together in a two-bedroom house, practice all the time, and change the group's name to one of Guercio's choosing, Chicago Transit Authority. Guercio's growing power at Columbia Records enabled him to get the band signed there and to set in place the unusual image the band would have. He convinced the label to let this neophyte band release a double album as its debut (that is, when they agreed to a cut in their royalties), and he decided the group would be represented on the cover by a logo instead of a photograph.

Chicago Transit Authority, released in April 1969, debuted on the charts in May as the band began touring nationally. By July, the album had reached the Top 20, without benefit of a hit single. It had been taken up by the free-form FM rock stations and become an underground hit. It was certified gold by the end of the year and eventually went on to sell more than two million copies. (In September 1969, the band played the Toronto Rock 'n' Roll Festival, and somehow the promoter obtained the right to tape the show. That same low-fidelity tape has turned up in an endless series of albums ever since. Examples include: Anthology, Beat the Bootleggers: Live 1967, Beginnings, Beginnings Live, Chicago [Classic World], Chicago Live, Chicago Transit Authority: Live in Concert [Magnum], Chicago Transit Authority: Live in Concert [Onyx], Great Chicago in Concert, I'm a Man, In Concert [Digmode], In Concert [Pilz], Live! [Columbia River], Live [LaserLight], Live Chicago, Live in Concert, Live in Toronto, Live '69, Live 25 or 6 to 4, The Masters, Rock in Toronto, and Toronto Rock 'n' Roll Revival.) To Guercio's surprise, he was contacted by the real Chicago Transit Authority, which objected to the band's use of the name; he responded by shortening the name to simply "Chicago." When he and the group finished the second album (another double) for release at the start of 1970, it was called Chicago, though it has since become known as Chicago II.

Chicago II vaulted into the Top Ten in its second week on the Billboard chart, even before its first single, "Make Me Smile," hit the Hot 100. The single was an excerpt from a musical suite, and the band at first objected to the editing considered necessary to prepare it for AM radio play. But it went on to reach the Top Ten, as did its successor, "25 or 6 to 4." The album quickly went gold and eventually platinum. In the fall of 1970, Columbia Records released "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?," drawn from the group's first album, as its next single; it gave them their third consecutive Top Ten hit.

Chicago III, another double album, was ready for release at the start of 1971, and it just missed hitting number one while giving the band a third gold (and later platinum) LP. Its singles did not reach the Top Ten, however, and Columbia again reached back, releasing "Beginnings" (from the first album) backed with "Colour My World" (from the second) to give Chicago its fourth Top Ten single. Next up was a live album, the four-disc box set Chicago at Carnegie Hall, which, despite its size, crested in the Top Five and sold over a million copies. (The band itself preferred Live in Japan, an album recorded in February 1972 and initially released only in Japan.) Chicago V, a one-LP set, released in July 1972, spent nine weeks at number one on its way to selling over two million copies, spurred by its gold-selling Top Ten hit "Saturday in the Park." Chicago VI followed a year later and repeated the same success, launching the Top Ten singles "Feelin' Stronger Every Day" and "Just You 'n' Me."

The next Top Ten hit, "(I've Been) Searchin' So Long," was released in advance of Chicago VII in the late winter of 1974. The album was the band's third consecutive chart-topper and another million-seller. "Call on Me" became its second Top Ten single. Chicago VIII, which marked the promotion of sideman percussionist Laudir de Oliveira as a full-fledged bandmember, appeared in the spring of 1975, spawned the Top Ten hit "Old Days," and became the band's fourth consecutive number one LP. After the profit-taking Chicago IX: Chicago's Greatest Hits in the fall of 1975 came Chicago X, which missed hitting number one but eventually sold over two million copies, in part because of the inclusion of the Grammy-winning number one single "If You Leave Me Now." Chicago XI, released in the late summer of 1977, continued the seemingly endless string of success, reaching the Top Ten, selling a million copies, and generating the Top Five hit "Baby, What a Big Surprise."

But there was trouble beneath the surface. The band's big hits were starting to be solely ballads sung by Cetera, which frustrated the musicians' musical ambitions. They had failed to attract critical notice, and what press attention they were given often alluded to Guercio's Svengali-like control as manager and producer. Chicago determined to fire Guercio and demonstrate that they could succeed without him. Shortly afterward, they were struck by a crushing blow. Kath, a gun enthusiast, accidentally shot and killed himself on January 23, 1978. Though he, like most of the other members of the band, was not readily recognizable outside the group, he had actually had a large say in its direction, and his loss was incalculable. Nevertheless, the band closed ranks and went on.

Guitarist Donnie Dacus was chosen from auditions and joined the band in time for its 12th LP release, which was given a non-numerical title, Hot Streets, and which put prominent pictures of the bandmembers on the cover for the first time. The sound, as indicated by the first single, the Top 20 hit "Alive Again," was harder rock, and the band's core following responded, but Hot Streets was Chicago's first album since 1969 to miss the Top Ten. Chicago 13 then missed the Top 20. (At this point, Dacus left the band, and Chicago hired guitarist Chris Pinnick as a sideman, eventually upping him to full-fledged group-member status.) Released in 1980, Chicago XIV, the last album to feature de Oliveira, didn't go gold. By 1981, with the release of the 15th album, the poor-selling Greatest Hits, Vol. 2, the band parted ways with Columbia Records and began looking for a new approach.

They found it in writer/producer David Foster, who returned to an emphasis on the band's talent for power ballads as sung by Cetera. They also brought in one of Foster's favorite session musicians, Bill Champlin (born May 21, 1947, in Oakland, CA), as a full-fledged bandmember. Champlin, formerly the leader of the Sons of Champlin, was a multi-instrumentalist with a gruff voice that allowed him to sing the parts previously taken by Kath. With these additions, the band signed with Full Moon Records, an imprint of Warner Bros., and released Chicago 16 in the spring of 1982, prefaced by the single "Hard to Say I'm Sorry," which topped the charts, leading to a major comeback. The album returned Chicago to million-selling, Top Ten status. Chicago 17, released in the spring of 1984, was even more successful -- in fact, the biggest-selling album of the band's career, with platinum certifications for six million copies as of 1997. It spawned two Top Five hits, "Hard Habit to Break" and "You're the Inspiration."

The renewed success, however, changed the long-established group dynamics, thrusting Cetera out as a star. He left the band for a solo career in 1985. (Pinnick also left at about this time, and the band did not immediately bring in a new guitarist.) As Cetera's replacement, Chicago found Jason Scheff, the 23-year-old bass-playing son of famed bassist Jerry Scheff, a longtime sideman with Elvis Presley. Scheff boasted a tenor voice that allowed him to re-create Cetera's singing on many Chicago hits. The split with Cetera had a negative commercial impact, however. Despite boasting a Top Five hit single in "Will You Still Love Me?," 1986's Chicago 18 only went gold. The band recovered, however, with Chicago 19, released in the spring of 1988. Among its singles, "I Don't Want to Live Without Your Love" made the Top Five, "Look Away" topped the charts, and "You're Not Alone" made the Top Ten as the album went platinum. Another single, "What Kind of Man Would I Be?," originally found on the album, was included as part of the 1989 compilation Greatest Hits 1982-1989 (which counted as the 20th album) and became a Top Five hit, while the album sold five million copies by 1997.

At the turn of the decade, Chicago underwent two more personnel changes, with guitarist DaWayne Bailey joining and original drummer Danny Seraphine departing, to be replaced by Tris Imboden. Chicago Twenty 1, released at the start of 1991, sold disappointingly, and Warner rejected the band's next offering (though tracks from it did turn up on compilations). Chicago, however, maintained a loyal following that enabled them to tour successfully every summer. In 1995, Keith Howland replaced Bailey as Chicago's guitarist. The same year, the band regained rights to its Columbia Records catalog and established its own Chicago Records label to reissue the albums. They also signed to Giant Records, another Warner imprint, to release their 22nd album, Night & Day, a collection of big-band standards that made the Top 100. They were now able to combine hits from their Columbia and Warner years, resulting in the release of the gold-selling The Heart of Chicago 1967-1997 and its follow-up, The Heart of Chicago, Vol. 2 1967-1998 (their 23rd and 24th albums, respectively). In 1998, they released Chicago 25: The Christmas Album on Chicago Records, and they followed it in 1999 with Chicago XXVI: The Live Album. In 2002, Chicago began leasing its early albums to Rhino Records for deluxe repackagings, often with bonus tracks. And the success of The Very Best of Chicago: Only the Beginning demonstrated that their music continued to appeal to fans. Feeding off the renewed interest, the band reappeared in 2006 with the new album Chicago XXX on Rhino. The rejected Warner album from 1993 was finally released by Rhino in 2008 as Stone of Sisyphus: XXXII.


by Steve Huey
There can be little argument that Chic was disco's greatest band; and, working in a heavily producer-dominated field, they were most definitely a band. By the time Chic appeared in the late '70s, disco was already slipping into the excess that eventually caused its downfall. Chic bucked the trend by stripping disco's sound down to its basic elements; their funky, stylish grooves had an organic sense of interplay that was missing from many of their overproduced competitors. Chic's sound was anchored by the scratchy, James Brown-style rhythm guitar of Nile Rodgers and the indelible, widely imitated (sometimes outright stolen) bass lines of Bernard Edwards; as producers, they used keyboard and string embellishments economically, which kept the emphasis on rhythm. Chic's distinctive approach not only resulted in some of the finest dance singles of their time, but also helped create a template for urban funk, dance-pop, and even hip-hop in the post-disco era. Not coincidentally, Rodgers and Edwards wound up as two of the most successful producers of the '80s.

Rodgers and Edwards first met in 1970, when both were jazz-trained musicians fresh out of high school. Edwards had attended New York's High School for the Performing Arts and was working in a Bronx post office at the time, while Rodgers' early career also included stints in the folk group New World Rising and the Apollo Theater house orchestra. Around 1972, Rodgers and Edwards formed a jazz-rock fusion group called the Big Apple Band. This outfit moonlighted as a backup band, touring behind smooth soul vocal group New York City in the wake of their 1973 hit "I'm Doin' Fine Now." After New York City broke up, the Big Apple Band hit the road with Carol Douglas for a few months, and Rodgers and Edwards decided to make a go of it on their own toward the end of 1976. At first they switched their aspirations from fusion to new wave, briefly performing as Allah & the Knife Wielding Punks, but quickly settled into dance music. They enlisted onetime LaBelle drummer Tony Thompson and female vocalists Norma Jean Wright and Alfa Anderson, and changed their name to Chic in summer 1977 so as to avoid confusion with Walter Murphy & the Big Apple Band (who'd just hit big with "A Fifth of Beethoven").

Augmented in the studio by keyboardists Raymond Jones and Rob Sabino, Chic recorded the demo single "Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)" and shopped it around to several major record companies, all of which declined it. The small Buddah label finally released it as a 12" in late 1977, and as its club popularity exploded, Atlantic stepped in, signed the group, and re-released the single on a wider basis. "Dance, Dance, Dance" hit the Top Ten, peaking at number six, and made Chic one of the hottest new groups in disco. Chic scrambled to put together their self-titled first album, which spawned a minor follow-up hit, "Everybody Dance," in early 1978. At this point, Wright left to try her hand at a solo career (with assistance from Rodgers and Edwards), and was replaced by Luci Martin. It was a good time to come onboard; "Le Freak," the first single from sophomore album C'est Chic, was an out-of-the-box smash, spending five weeks on top of the charts toward the end of 1978 and selling over four-million copies (which made it the biggest-selling single in Atlantic's history). Follow-up "I Want Your Love" reached number seven, cementing the group's new star status, and C'est Chic became one of the rare disco albums to go platinum.

1979's Risqué was another solidly constructed LP that also went platinum, partly on the strength of Chic's second number one pop hit, "Good Times." "Good Times" may not have equaled the blockbuster sales figures of "Le Freak," but it was the band's most imitated track: Queen's number one hit "Another One Bites the Dust" was a clear rewrite, and the Sugarhill Gang lifted the instrumental backing track wholesale for the first commercial rap single, "Rapper's Delight," marking the first of many times that Chic grooves would be recycled into hip-hop records. Also in 1979, Rodgers and Edwards took on their first major outside production assignment, producing and writing the Sister Sledge smashes "We Are Family" and the oft-sampled "He's the Greatest Dancer." This success, in turn, landed them the chance to work with Diana Ross on 1980's Diana album, and they wrote and produced "Upside Down," her first number one hit in years, as well as "I'm Coming Out."

The disco fad was fading rapidly by that point, however, and 1980's Real People failed to go gold despite another solid performance by the band. Changing tastes put an end to Chic's heyday, as Rodgers and Edwards' outside production work soon grew far more lucrative, even despite aborted projects with Aretha Franklin and Johnny Mathis. Several more Chic LPs followed in the early '80s, with diminishing creative and commercial returns, and Rodgers and Edwards disbanded the group after completing the lackluster Believer in 1983. Later that year, both recorded solo LPs that sank without a trace. Hungry for acceptance and respect in the rock mainstream (especially after accusations that they had ripped off Queen instead of the other way around), both Rodgers and Edwards sought out high-profile production and session work over the rest of the decade. Rodgers produced blockbuster albums like David Bowie's Let's Dance, Madonna's Like a Virgin, and Mick Jagger's She's the Boss. Edwards wasn't as prolific as a producer, but did join the one-off supergroup the Power Station along with Tony Thompson as well as Robert Palmer and members of avowed Chic fans Duran Duran; he later produced Palmer's commercial breakthrough, Riptide. Edwards also worked with Rod Stewart (Out of Order), Jody Watley, and Tina Turner, while Rodgers' other credits include the Thompson Twins, the Vaughan Brothers, INXS, and the B-52's' comeback Cosmic Thing.

Rodgers and Edwards re-formed Chic in 1992 with new vocalists Sylver Logan Sharp and Jenn Thomas, and an assortment of session drummers in Thompson's place; they toured and released a new album, Chic-ism. In 1996, the reconstituted Chic embarked on a tour of Japan; sadly, on April 18, Edwards passed away in his Tokyo hotel room due to a severe bout of pneumonia. Rodgers continued to tour occasionally with a version of Chic, and, in 1999, his Sumthing Else label issued a recording of Edwards' final performance with the band, Live at the Budokan.


by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Combining a love for British guitar pop songcraft with crunching power chords and a flair for the absurd, Cheap Trick provided the necessary links between '60s pop, heavy metal, and punk. Led by guitarist Rick Nielsen, the band's early albums were filled with highly melodic, well-written songs that drew equally from the crafted pop of the Beatles, the sonic assault of the Who, and the tongue-in-cheek musical eclecticism and humor of the Move. Their sound provided a blueprint for both power pop and arena rock; it also had a surprisingly long-lived effect on both alternative and heavy metal bands of the '80s and '90s, who often relied on the same combination of loud riffs and catchy melodies.

Cheap Trick's roots lie in Fuse, a late-'60s band formed by Rick Nielsen and bassist Tom Petersson in Rockford, IL. The group released an album on Epic Records in 1969; after the record failed to gain any attention, the band relocated to Philadelphia and changed their name to Sick Man of Europe. The group toured Europe unsuccessfully in 1972 and returned to Illinois in 1973. Not long after their return to Rockford, Nielsen and Petersson changed their band's name once more -- this time to Cheap Trick -- and added drummer Bun E. Carlos and vocalist Randy "Xeno" Hogan to the lineup. Hogan was fired the following year, making room for ex-folksinger Robin Zander to join the group. Between 1975 and the band's first album in 1977, Cheap Trick toured constantly, playing over 200 concerts a year while occasionally opening for the likes of the Kinks, Kiss, Santana, AC/DC, and Queen. During this time, the band built up a solid catalog of original songs that would eventually comprise their first three albums; they also perfected their kinetic live show.

Cheap Trick signed with Epic Records in 1976 and released their self-titled debut early the following year. The record sold well in America, yet it failed to chart. However, the group became a massive success in Japan, and the album went gold upon release. Later that year, the band released their second album, In Color. It backed away from the harder-rocking side of Cheap Trick, featuring slicker production and quieter arrangements that spotlighted the band's melodic skills instead. Due to their constant touring, the record made it into the U.S. charts, peaking at number 73. It became another gold-seller in Japan, however, where the musicians had become virtual superstars. Their Japanese concerts began selling out within two hours, and they packed the sizable Budokan Arena.

Cheap Trick's concerts at Budokan Arena were recorded for possible release, although the live album didn't appear until the band's third album, 1978's Heaven Tonight, was first released. That third album captured both the loud, raucous energy of Cheap Trick's debut and the hook-laden songcraft of In Color, leading to their first Top 100 single, "Surrender," which peaked at number 62. However, the live performances on At Budokan (1979) captured the band's energetic, infectious live show, resulting in their commercial breakthrough in America. The album stayed on the charts for over a year, peaking at number four and eventually selling over three million copies. Meanwhile, a live version of "I Want You to Want Me" became their first Top Ten hit. Later that year, the group released their fourth studio album, Dream Police, which followed the same stylistic approach of Heaven Tonight. It also followed At Budokan into the Top Ten, selling over a million copies and launching the Top 40 hit singles "Voices" and "Dream Police." In the summer of 1980, the group released an EP of tracks recorded between 1976-1979 called Found All the Parts.

Following the recording of the George Martin-produced All Shook Up, Petersson left the group in the summer of 1980 to form a group with his wife, Dagmar. He was replaced by Jon Brant. Released toward the end of 1980, All Shook Up performed respectably, peaking at number 24 and going gold, yet the single "Stop This Game" failed to crack the Top 40. One on One, the group's seventh album and the first recorded with Brant, appeared in 1982. Although it peaked at number 39, the record was more successful than All Shook Up, eventually going platinum. Nevertheless, the group was entering a downhill commercial slide, despite the fact that its music was becoming increasingly polished. Next Position Please, released in 1983, failed to launch a hit single and spent only 11 weeks on the charts. Standing on the Edge (1985) and The Doctor (1986) suffered similar fates, as the group was slowly losing its creative spark.

Petersson rejoined the band in 1988 and the group began working on a new record with the help of several professional songwriters. The resulting record, Lap of Luxury, was a platinum Top 20 hit, featuring the number one power ballad "The Flame" and a Top Ten version of Elvis Presley's "Don't Be Cruel." Busted, released in 1990, wasn't as successful as Lap of Luxury, peaking at number 48 and effectively putting an end to the group's commercial comeback.

Cheap Trick soldiered into the new decade by signing with Warner Brothers in 1994 and releasing Woke Up With a Monster, which peaked at number 123 and spent two weeks on the albums chart. That same year, Epic Records released a sequel to At Budokan, aptly titled Budokan II. Compiled from the same shows as At Budokan, the record served as an an effective reminder of why the group had become so popular in the late '70s.

In 1995, Cheap Trick asked to leave Warner's roster after the label's chief executives, Lenny Waronker and Mo Ostin, departed. The band then decided to go back to the basics, and several alt.rock superstars who had been influenced by Cheap Trick gave the band opportunities to restore its reputation. The Smashing Pumpkins had the band open their tour in 1995, and the group played several dates on the 1996 Lollapalooza Tour. That same year, the box set Sex, America, Cheap Trick appeared to positive reviews, and the band signed with the fledgling indie label Red Ant-Alliance before setting to work on a new album. Early in 1997, the group released a Steve Albini-produced single on Sub Pop, which was followed by the eponymous Cheap Trick, their acclaimed debut for Red Ant-Alliance, in the spring. Unfortunately, Red Ant-Alliance filed for bankruptcy seven weeks after the album's release, sadly putting a sudden halt on the group's building momentum.

On April 30, 1998, the group launched a four-night residence in Chicago, devoting each show to reprising one of their first four albums in its entirety. Those shows later yielded a 1999 live LP, Music for Hangovers, which the musicians issued on their own Cheap Trick Unlimited label. A band-authorized hits collection followed in 2000. By the dawn of the new millennium, Cheap Trick were still without a label, but had retained their loyal following by continually touring the world. Appropriately, another live set saw the light of day in 2001. Entitled Silver, the double-disc album (and companion DVD) documented the band's star-studded, career-spanning 25th anniversary show from August 28, 1999. The band also recorded another studio album, released in 2003 as Special One. It was followed in 2006 by Rockford, named in tribute to the band's hometown, and then The Latest in 2009. Cheap Trick also maintained a heavy touring ethic, canvassing America that summer alongside Def Leppard and releasing their tribute to the Beatles' penultimate album with Sgt. Pepper Live.

18 may 2011

Fleet Foxes live new Montezuma // He Doesn't Know Why - Helplessness Blues

Este canción (Montezuma) es una maravilla y el disco seguramente uno de los mejores de 2011.
La banda de de Robin Pecknold desarrolla su lenguaje musical plagado de influencias folk/rock con multitud de instrumentos , voces y coros brillantes.
HELPLESSNESS BLUES , es un gran disco . Formidable.
Recomendado a los seguidores de Crosby , Stills & Nash, Roy Harper, Fairport Convention, Beach Boys etc. FLEET FOXES una de las mejores bandas del momento y se puede afirmar también de los próximos años.

8 may 2011


by Richie Unterberger (all music)
Ray Charles was the musician most responsible for developing soul music. Singers like Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson also did a great deal to pioneer the form, but Charles did even more to devise a new form of black pop by merging '50s R&B with gospel-powered vocals, adding plenty of flavor from contemporary jazz, blues, and (in the '60s) country. Then there was his singing; his style was among the most emotional and easily identifiable of any 20th century performer, up there with the likes of Elvis and Billie Holiday. He was also a superb keyboard player, arranger, and bandleader. The brilliance of his 1950s and '60s work, however, can't obscure the fact that he made few classic tracks after the mid-'60s, though he recorded often and performed until the year before his death.

Blind since the age of six (from glaucoma), Charles studied composition and learned many instruments at the St. Augustine School for the Deaf and the Blind. His parents had died by his early teens, and he worked as a musician in Florida for a while before using his savings to move to Seattle in 1947. By the late '40s, he was recording in a smooth pop/R&B style derivative of Nat "King" Cole and Charles Brown. He got his first Top Ten R&B hit with "Baby, Let Me Hold Your Hand" in 1951. Charles' first recordings came in for their fair share of criticism, as they were much milder and less original than the classics that would follow, although they're actually fairly enjoyable, showing strong hints of the skills that were to flower in a few years.

In the early '50s, Charles' sound started to toughen as he toured with Lowell Fulson, went to New Orleans to work with Guitar Slim (playing piano on and arranging Slim's huge R&B hit, "The Things That I Used to Do"), and got a band together for R&B star Ruth Brown. It was at Atlantic Records that Ray Charles truly found his voice, consolidating the gains of recent years and then some with "I Got a Woman," a number-two R&B hit in 1955. This is the song most frequently singled out as his pivotal performance, on which Charles first truly let go with his unmistakable gospel-ish moan, backed by a tight, bouncy horn-driven arrangement.

Throughout the '50s, Charles ran off a series of R&B hits that, although they weren't called "soul" at the time, did a lot to pave the way for soul by presenting a form of R&B that was sophisticated without sacrificing any emotional grit. "This Little Girl of Mine," "Drown in My Own Tears," "Hallelujah I Love Her So," "Lonely Avenue," and "The Right Time" were all big hits. But Charles didn't really capture the pop audience until "What'd I Say," which caught the fervor of the church with its pleading vocals, as well as the spirit of rock & roll with its classic electric piano line. It was his first Top Ten pop hit, and one of his final Atlantic singles, as he left the label at the end of the '50s for ABC.

One of the chief attractions of the ABC deal for Charles was a much greater degree of artistic control of his recordings. He put it to good use on early-'60s hits like "Unchain My Heart" and "Hit the Road Jack," which solidified his pop stardom with only a modicum of polish attached to the R&B he had perfected at Atlantic. In 1962, he surprised the pop world by turning his attention to country & western music, topping the charts with the "I Can't Stop Loving You" single, and making a hugely popular album (in an era in which R&B/soul LPs rarely scored high on the charts) with Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. Perhaps it shouldn't have been so surprising; Charles had always been eclectic, recording quite a bit of straight jazz at Atlantic, with noted jazz musicians like David "Fathead" Newman and Milt Jackson.

Charles remained extremely popular through the mid-'60s, scoring big hits like "Busted," "You Are My Sunshine," "Take These Chains From My Heart," and "Crying Time," although his momentum was slowed by a 1965 bust for heroin. This led to a year-long absence from performing, but he picked up where he left off with "Let's Go Get Stoned" in 1966. Yet by this time Charles was focusing increasingly less on rock and soul, in favor of pop tunes, often with string arrangements, that seemed aimed more at the easy listening audience than anyone else. Charles' influence on the rock mainstream was as apparent as ever; Joe Cocker and Steve Winwood in particular owe a great deal of their style to him, and echoes of his phrasing can be heard more subtly in the work of greats like Van Morrison.

One approaches sweeping criticism of Charles with hesitation; he was an American institution, after all, and his vocal powers barely diminished over his half-century career. The fact remains, though, that his work after the late '60s on record was very disappointing. Millions of listeners yearned for a return to the all-out soul of his 1955-1965 classics, but Charles had actually never been committed to soul above all else. Like Aretha Franklin and Elvis Presley, his focus was more upon all-around pop than many realize; his love of jazz, country, and pop standards was evident, even if his more earthy offerings were the ones that truly broke ground and will stand the test of time. He dented the charts (sometimes the country ones) occasionally, and commanded devoted international concert audiences whenever he felt like it. For good or ill, he ensured his imprint upon the American mass consciousness in the 1990s by singing several ads for Diet Pepsi. He also recorded three albums during the '90s for Warner Bros., but remained most popular as a concert draw. In 2002, he released Thanks for Bringing Love Around Again on his own Crossover imprint, and the following year began recording an album of duets featuring B.B. King, Willie Nelson, Michael McDonald, and James Taylor. After hip replacement surgery in 2003, he scheduled a tour for the following summer, but was forced to cancel an appearance in March 2004. Three months later, on June 10, 2004, Ray Charles succumbed to liver disease at his home in Beverly Hills, CA.


Video del último disco de estos veteranos y epicos texanos