Archive | February 2012

My Favorite Singer

My favorite singer is the answer to an interesting bit of trivia — In all of the Led Zeppelin albums, there is only one song that has a vocalist from outside the band. The singer is Sandy Denny and the song is The Battle of Evermore. As I stated in my Introduction to this blog, I listen to the voice as an instrument, and I think Sandy Denny’s voice is just beautiful. Listen to her duet with Robert Plant:

Sandy Denny was best known as the lead singer for the folk rock band Fairport Convention (she was a member of the band from 1968-70 and 1974-75). Fairport Convention are, according to their Wikipedia biography, “widely regarded as the most important single group in the English folk rock movement. Their seminal album Liege and Lief is generally considered to have launched the electric folk or English folk rock movement, which provided a distinctively English identity to rock music and helped awaken much wider interest in traditional music in general.”

Here are videos for two traditional folk songs from Liege and Lief that showcase her wonderful singing. The first is English folk ballad Matty Groves, about an adulterous affair that ends badly:

Tam Lin is a Scottish ballad about a man who is a captive of the faeries and the woman who rescues him:

Sandy Denny was also an accomplished songwriter and musician. Best known of her compositions is Who Knows Where the Time Goes, which was a hit for Judy Collins and has been covered by many others. Here’s a video of Sandy performing her song:

I didn’t find a lot of live footage of her, but I did find this clip of her performing 3 songs while accompanying herself on piano and guitar — North Star Grassman and the Ravens, Crazy Lady Blues and Late November. The first song is the title of one of her solo albums.

Sadly, she died young, at 30. She left behind an impressive body of work, and that wonderful voice that we can listen to.

NRBQ

NRBQ was a band that could play a little bit of everything, from rockabilly to Beatles-influenced pop to jazz and blues. They were what I think of as a musician’s band — no great commercial success but popular with other musicians (Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney were fans). They were famous for taking requests from the audience and playing ANY song that was requested. In my opinion, the best bar band ever. They flirted with widespread recognition on several occasions, but never quite got there. Get That Gasoline Blues reached #70 on the Billboard charts in 1974, their only appearance in the Hot 100.

NRBQ stood for New Rhythm and Blues Quartet during most of the band’s existence, but the “Q” originally stood for Quintet, since they started out in 1967 as a 5-piece band.  A handy abbreviation I would say. From 1974 to 1994 the band members were Terry Adams (keyboards), Joey Spampinato (bass), Al Anderson (guitar), and Tom Ardolino (drums).

The following video of them performing the rockabilly classic I Got a Rocket in My Pocket shows some of their strong points. You can see them careening back and forth between order and chaos.  Terry Adams demonstrates that the piano can be a percussion instrument.

The song Me and the Boys was one of their most popular. It was covered by Dave Edmunds, Bonnie Raitt, Thin Lizzy and Twisted Sister, among others, and the Dave Edmunds version was used in the movie Spring Break. Here’s a video of NRBQ with the Whole Wheat Horns (who doubled as the band’s roadies). Donn Adams (Terry’s brother) on trombone does a fine impression of a car taking off at the end.

This next song, Ridin’ in My Car, should have been a hit. It’s a terrific song that has all the ingredients for a great pop song. Here’s the video:

The song was recently covered by She and Him. Here’s a video of them doing the song along with NRBQ guitarist Al Anderson (who wrote the song).

One more great pop song — Magnet — which is one of my favorite songs ever.  I love the lyric “You’re like a magnet, I’m like a piece of steel, the way you break my will”. This is the only video I could find with NRBQ’s version of the song: