As the award shows come and go celebrating achievements in the Arts, this is a look back at the artists we lost in the industry recently. Music is the soundtrack to our lives. Imagine any motion picture, party, local event, or even just shopping at the mall without it. It surrounds us everywhere. Life would be pretty sterile without it. Many thanks to the following artists for their contributions to the sounds that fill our lives.
MINDY MCCREADY – MINDY MCCREADY – CAPITOL
If the dictionary had a picture next to the word ‘tragic’ there might be a picture of Mindy McCready (2/17/13) rightfully placed there. Her complicated life played out like a soap opera with an alledged underage love affair with a married sports figure, a broken engagement with a famous TV actor, attemped murder by her boyfriend, several attempts at suicide, prescription drug abuse, numerous arrests and jailtime (fraud, DUI, battery, indentity theft, breaking probation), and a notorious sex tape scandle. The only thing worse after death, would be a life story portrayal, with Lindsay Lohan landing the part. Aside from all the drama, McCready was a well accomplished country artist with a slew of hits early in her career. Her 2002 self titled release was refreshing due to it not being aimed at a Country-Pop cross-over and smartly leaning towards an Adult Contemporary approach, focusing more on her natural vocal talents.
THE TROGGS – FROM NOWHERE – FONTANA
The Troggs were one of the original ‹Garage Bands’ that taunted listeners with that unpolished sound that was intoxicating. Lead vocalist Reg Presley (2/4/13) had a raw vocal delivery that blended well with hard guitar riffs and a catchy chorus. Tracks like “Wild Thing” and “A Girl Like You” are staples in Rock History. “From Nowhere” their debut from 1966, was an inspiration to many punk bands in the late 70s.
ANDREWS SISTERS – BEST OF – CHARLY
The Andrews Sisters (lead singer Patty Andrews 1/30/13) recordings came from a time when album sales weren‰t the big thing, individual songs were. In the 30s and 40s the record industry was still in it’s creative stages and the 10Š EP (3 or 4 songs) was the more popular format that was marketed. So many classic tunes came from these ladies, but the Charly Records Label collection provides a great sampling of the hits and numerous lesser known tracks which were coupled with the standards like “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” “Rum & Coca-Cola,” and “Don‰t Sit Under The Apple Tree.” Buyer beware with many Andrews Sisters recordings there are many collections found with poor quality and many incomplete live recordings.
PATTI PAGE – IN THE LAND OF HI FI – POLYGRAM
Probably best know for “How Much Is That Doggy In The Window,” Patti Page (1/1/13) had two musical careers which spanned several decades. The classic Patti developed in the Big Band and Torch years, while the later Patti dabbled in the Country Music landscape. Country was always her first love and frequently had that flavor in her earlier recordings. “In The Land Of Hi Fi” spotlights Patti‰s vocals with the Big Band Era sound. This is a wonderful collection of standards and surprises from this versatile artist.
FONTELLA BASS – THE NEW LOOK – CHECKER
Working in music retail, countless times I have encountered customers looking for that “Rescue Me” song by Aretha Franklin, and they are always shocked to find it wasn‰t hers. Fontella Bass (12/26/12) had a few more R&B charted singles, but was never able to recreated the enormous pop success of Rescue Me. Even if you are the finest vocalist, many times the key to success is just a matter of the right song at the right time, very few artists even get that chance. “The New Look” is great time capsule piece of 1965 Soul and worth the listen.
DAVE BRUBECK – TIME OUT – COLUMBIA
With one of the best selling Jazz albums, Dave Brubeck (12/5/12) was an innovator in the history of Progressive Jazz. His classic track “Take Five” is the type of composition that immediately draws you into the thought of a likely accompaniment to any film noir. It was one of those cuts that just set the standard. Additionally, Brubeck was well known for having an interracial band and held strong to his beliefs, regardless of the pressures from the venues he played or from the record company.
R B GREAVES – R B GREAVES – BAREBACK
In the Pop History of ‘One Hit Wonders,’ R B Greaves (9/27/12) rode the charts with the Latin flavored ‹Take A Letter MariaŠ in 1969. Greaves, a nephew of the legendary Sam Cook, made only a few recordings, but this self titled album from 1972, comfortably demonstrated comparisons to his Uncle‰s legacy.
ANDY WILLIAMS – LOVE STORY (12Š SINGLE) – COLUMBIA
The King of White-Bread Easy Listening music and only rivaled by Perry Como, Andy Williams (9/25/12) was more than just a crooner. His 9 year run television variety show brought him into the living rooms of America in that innocent time of Family entertainment and introduced the world to the Osmonds. Best known for his renditions of “Moon River” and the Christmas staple “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year,’ my favorite is his disco spin on the theme from the 1971 film Love Story. Released in 1979, this recreation of his original recording took it to an almost 10 minute epic event. Even Ali McGraw couldn’t hold on that long in her last scene.
JOE SOUTH – DON‰T IT MAKE YOU WANT TO GO HOME – CAPITOL
Better known as a songwriter, Joe South (9/5/12) managed to break out a big hit of his own with the politically-laced “Games People Play” in 1969. One of his greatest writing achievements was one of my favorite country songs, “Rose Garden,” made famous by Lynn Anderson, and also rewarded him with a Grammy. His third release ‹Don‰t It Make You Want To Go HomeŠ has a very spiritual feeling and I feel was his best. It featured the cuts “Children” and “Walk A Mile In My Shoes,” an Elvis Presley concert favorite.
SCOTT MCKENZIE – THE VOICE OF SCOTT MCKENZIE – ODE
Scott McKenzie (8/18/12) is responsible for that theme to almost any film, documentary, or expose on the 60s flower power generation. “San Francisco (Be Sure Wear Flowers In Your Hair)” defined the essence of that movement. A tune like that has a life of it‰s own and though he never was able to duplicate that magic, he did co-write the Beach Boys #1 comeback hit, “Kokomo.” Initially McKenzie had close ties with John Phillips when they were part of the group The Journeymen. When the Mamas & The Papas came to light, Scott had declined to join them and settled for a solo career. In the late 80ës McKenzie joined the reformed Mamas & The Papas with Phillips as a touring group. “The Voice Of Scott McKenzie,” his debut release, is another one of those priceless nuggets that captures a moment in history.
MARVIN HAMLISCH – THE ENTERTAINER – MCA
Marvin Hamlisch (8/6/12), a triple threat composer, achieving an Oscar, Grammy, and Tony, is best known for the song “The Entertainer” from the motion picture ‹The StingŠ in 1973. Aside from his own performances he also was responsible for Leslie Gore‰s “Sunshine Lollipops & Rainbows” and “California Nights,” Barbra Streisand‰s “The Way We Were,” Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better,” Melissa Manchester‰s “Through The Eyes Of Love,” and the haunting theme from the film Ordinary People. His LP “The Entertainer” captured the feel of the music from The Sting and showcased other Ragtime pieces.
KITTY WELLS – HEARTBREAK USA – DECCA
Before Tammy, Loretta, and Dolly, there was Kitty Wells (7/16/12). Kitty was the first female country artist to ride the top of the charts solo and the first to release her own album of material. Her recordings date back to 1949, but my favorite is the “Heartbreak USA” album from 1961. Well established by this time, this LP from Ms. Wells was a bit more upbeat and paved the way to the more honky-tonk styling‰s found in the later 60‰s and early 70‰s female country artists.
ANDY GRIFFITH – SINGS FAVORITE OLD TIME SONGS – EMI
Unknown to many, TV‰s Sheriff Andy Taylor a.k.a Andy Griffith (7/3/12) had a solid Christian recording career. The same wholesomeness that he portrayed on Television came through with his music. Many times singing in more of a talk-sing approach, a sense of honesty came through with every line, just like it did when he spoke on TV. Aside from his Christian recordings, he dabbled in old country folk tunes throughout the years. Andy’s “Sings Favorite Old Time Songs” is a great collection of folk tales.
BOB WELCH – FRENCH KISS – CAPITOL
If you‰re looking for rock-pop perfection, just check out “French Kiss” from Bob Welch (6/7/12). Sure the best thing that happened to Fleetwood Mac was when he left and was replaced by Buckingham/Nicks, but his first two solo albums are favorites in my list of the best albums of all time. ‹Ebony EyesŠ was an AM Radio hot track for months when it was released as a single and his reworking of Mac’s “Sentimental Lady” was as smooth as they come.
ROBIN GIBB – SECRET AGENT – POLYDOR
All of the Bee Gees solo efforts were never as connected as their collaborated works, but “Secret Agent” from Robin Gibb (5/20/12) stood out as the better of the mix. The three tracks, “Boys Do Fall In Love,” “In Your Diary,” and “RobotŠ are the best and the rest is a little bit of filler. The problem with the LP as a whole is that it‰s stuck in that 80‰s time warp. It just has that sound found in so many ‹badŠ movies from that period with uneven beats and poor electronic sounds that seem to be just thrown in for no reason.
DONNA SUMMER – CRAYONS – SONY
This artist‰s passing was hardest for me to accept last year. Donna Summer (5/17/12) was an Icon from my youth and a big inspiration for my love of music. So many people just see her as the Poster Girl of Disco and write her off after four songs; “Love To Love You Baby, I Feel Love, MacArthur Park, and Hot Stuff.” Her voice was never really appreciated, mainly because she was centered in the Pop Market and the Black audiences never took her seriously as an R&B artist, and the White audiences were just looking for the hits. “Crayons” her last full album released was like a rebirth. Everything came together like dynamite. Her voice and the production were spotless. Alas all that ‘good’ was overlooked in the mainstream because popular music had moved on to hip/hop. My favorite track “Sand On My Feet,” so un-like her disco days is a perfect example of what the rest of the world was missing all along.
EARL SCRUGGS – EARL SCRUGGS AND FRIENDS – MCA
Earl Scruggs (3/28/12) is most likely best known for his 1962 collaboration with Lester Flatt on the “Ballad Of Jed Clampett”, the unforgettable theme from TV‰s Beverly Hillbillies. His 2001 release “Earl Scruggs And Friends,” featuring new and old songs with mighty star power guests like Elton John, Sting, Johnny Cash, Travis Tritt, and Melissa Etheridge earned him a second Grammy Award. Projects like this usually have mixed results, but with traditional and non-traditional artists on board, the diversity found on this release was remarkable.
MONTROSE – MONTROSE – WARNER BROTHERS
Back in 1973 Ronnie Montrose (3/3/12), a well respected guitarist due to his work with Van Morrison, Boz Scaggs, and Edgar Winter formed his own band carrying his name. Montrose ‘the band’ ended up being the launching pad for an unknown vocalist at the time, Sammy Hagar. After two albums Hagar departed for a solo career and Ronnie went on with the band and another lead singer. Aside from his solo projects, Montrose created another rock group in the 80‰s called Gamma. The initial Montrose lineup had incredible gusto with the FM Radio hits “Bad Motor Scooter” and “Rock Candy,” and are looked back on as one of the first Indie Heavy Metal bands.
THE MONKEES – THE BIRDS THE BEES AND THE MONKEES – COLGEMS
As one of the lead singers of the Monkees, Davy Jones (2/29/12) shot to instant teen idol stardom within moments of the groups TV series initial broadcast in 1966. Personally I was a fan of Mickey Dolez, the other notable lead, but I have to admit two tracks on “The Birds & Bees” are among my Monkee favorites; “Daydream Believer” and “Valerie.” As a solo artist, Jones’ recording success never came close to the large impact of the Monkees Group, but as a member he definitely has been imprinted in Pop History.
WHITNEY HOUSTON – WHITNEY HOUSTON – ARISTA
Sometimes I feel like I was the only one in world who felt that the passing of Whitney Houston (2/11/12) was way overblown in the media. Yes, I agree that her voice was astounding at one time, but self-abuse destroyed that wonderful instrument many years before her death. Her debut album was her finest and held two amazing songs that defy time; “Saving All My Love For You” and “The Greatest Love Of All.” These songs are the pure sound of the Whitney Houston that I remember and appreciate.
LESLIE CARTER – LIKE WOW (SINGLE) – DREAMWORKS
Leslie Carter (1/31/12) should have been an up and coming pop princess back in 2000. Being the sister of Nick Carter (Backstreet Boys) and tween-throb Aaron Carter, signed to a major record label (Dreamworks), and having her debut single “Like Wow” appearing on the soundtrack to the first Shrek film, everything seemed to be in place. The label decided to shelve her album‰s release after ‹poor testingŠ in the teen market. That was the end of her big break. She struggled for the next decade changing her sound in more of a rock direction with a band, but couldn‰t get a break. By this time the boy band frenzy had simmered down, so influence from Nick couldn’t help and Aaron‰s cuteness had withered, so that wasn‰t going to help her either. All she had left was her single which barely made Billboard‰s Hot 100. Her passing is still under question, but drug-related issues are alleged. The music business is very sad in some cases. Leslie was survived by her husband and former band mate Mike Ashton and daughter Alyssa born in 2011.
ETTA JAMES – AT LAST – ARGO
Etta James (1/20/12) recorded my second favorite song of all time ‹At Last.Š Many artists have recorded this track, but Etta‰s version gives me the goosebumps every time. Call me a romantic fool, but to me, you can genuinely feel the gratitude in her voice as she interprets finding the right ‘one’ in her life. No song has ever made me feel what love could actually be, until I heard that one. James was successful in Rhythm-Rock, Blues, Jazz, and her occasional venture into the pop market with a ballad was purely heavenly. Her debut album “At Last” is of the most essential recordings one could hope to have as it covers all the before mentioned genres in one helping.
JIMMY CASTOR – E MAN GROOVIN – ATLANTIC
A long forgotten founder of funk music, Jimmy Castor (1/16/12), was often written off due to the comedy element in his successful tunes. His two biggest hits “Troglodyte” and “Bertha Butt Boogie” were pop-novelties, but the music behind the joke was serious business. The “E-Man Groovin” album from 1976 shows this funky-sax musician at his finest level. Castor deserves a seat right along with George Clinton and Bootsy Collins in this field.