So Long 2016. You Suck.

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I’m sure this picture needs an update by now. 2016 saw the passing of too many wonderfully talented, admired and beloved people and too few scoundrels. In fact, it seems like the scoundrels outnumber the rest of us these days.

Happy New Year to you. May you have a scoundrel free 2017!

 

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Great Voice In The Sky

Every once in awhile you will be listening to some piece of music… a new album, an old friend, or getting into the back catalogue of an artist that you already know when, out of blue, comes a sound that absolutly floors you! A voice so perfect that it makes your heart skip a beat.

It demands your full attention. Conversation is paused. Work stops. Drowsiness  retreats toward lucidity. If driving, you must pull over.

My first experience with this phenomenon came while listening to the Pink Floyd album Dark Side of the Moon. It was probably the first time I’d heard the record, lifted from an older brother’s bedroom at a friend’s house one summer afternoon.

It was the end of side one, which we had listened to second in order to get at the good stuff on side two first. There was a slow part with some random voices saying God knows what and then Boom! The Voice!

After the chills subsided, all of us goosebump covered pre-teen boys looked at the wide-eyed friend next to us and mouthed “what the fuck!” in unison.

It turns out the voice belongs to a woman named Clare Torry, uncredited on the DSOTM album, and, unfathomably, somewhat lost to obscurity thereafter.

I’d have never known this except for the fact that Torry sued the band in 2004 for songwriting royalties and settled in 2005, ever after being credited with co-songwriting lyrics for Great Gig In The Sky with Richard Wright.

Torry did have a career as a successful session / backup singer for most of the seventies and eighties, singing a lot of jingles, TV theme songs and what not. She did manage one 2006 release of original material on an album but it was not critically acclaimed.

I dove into my record collection to find any other vocals by Clare Torry. Other than DSOTM, my finds were the Alan Parsons Project Eve album where Torry sings lead vocals on the song Don’t Hold Back. The Meatloaf album Bad Attitude from the mid-eighties where Torry sings on two songs, Modern Girl and (uncreadited again, WTF?!?) Nowhere Fast,  backing vocals on the Culture Club song The War Zone (very GGITS-like) and a Tangerine Dream record called Le Parc where Torry’s vocal can be heard on the final track Yellowstone Park.

Honestly, none of the above rose to the level of Great Gig In The Sky, but the essence of that performance remains intact.

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So, happy belated birthday to Clare Torry, who turned 69 on November 29th.

 

 

Pour Some Shuggie On Me

On November 30th one of my new musical crushes turned 63… Johnny Alexander Veliotes, Jr., also known as Shuggie Otis.

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My introduction to Mr. Otis came in a box of musty unloved vinyl records at a thrift store in a small town in the North Idaho Panhandle. I’ve never heard the name Shuggie Otis before and I’m sure he had never heard of me either!

Once I got it home and cleaned up, I was startled at how funky and fresh this 1974 album, Inspiration Information, sounded. It’s laid-back without being lazy, inventive arrangements sometimes layered with lush strings, sometimes with electric organ or horns, one song calling you out on the dance floor the next inviting you back to the couch to chill.

Credits on the back cover show that Otis played every instrument that’s not a horn! He also produced and arranged all of these tracks.

I was sold! I needed more…

It turns out that this is an easy artist to collect! Shuggie only put out three studio albums, but, owing to the admiration of more recent success stories like Prince, David Byrne and Lenny Kravitz, they’ve all been reissued!

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So, happy birthday Shuggie Otis! I’ll be on the lookout for some of your other work with your father’s band and other collaborations that exist out there on vinyl. Until then, best wishes and thanks for these three great records!