Monday, October 26, 2009

Can Anyone Give Me A Good Working Definition of "Rhythm and Blues"?

My last posting on this blog was, Top 20 R & B Songs Of All Times". When I first published this article, I had entitled it, " Top 20 Blues Songs Of All Times". However, after some thought I changed "Blues" back to "R & B" because it seemed to cover a broader area than limiting us to just the "Blues" genre. Since the last blog was published, I have had many discussions with several music buffs including, The Bassman who made it clear to me that there is a lot of confusion and different opinions floating around as to exactly what the term "Rhythm and Blues" means today.

First, I want to make it clear that I do not consider myself qualified as a Blues or Rhythm and Blues expert. But I do have an interest in this area and have done some reading on the topic so maybe we can get a better handle on this category by learning and sharing information together.

From what I can determine, The Blues was mostly born from southern black jazz musicians in the early 1900s. It was truly an American art form that eventually traveled from the deep South to the North and the rest of the US by black workers who moved North to find a better way of life. From a technical point of view, the Blues does have its own musical form but that became blurred as more and more Blues music started to emerge on the American scene. In the late 1940s, The Blues was still mainly owned by black American jazz performers but was starting to be noticed by white performers and the powerful white-controlled music industry. I would guess that those music executives were somewhat confused by this black form of music because, while it may have started with the Blues, it was expanding into other musical forms. Since most of this music was still coming out of the black community, the term Rhythm and Blues came into use to cover most musical recordings being marketed to black Americans.

As time passed, there were a few major changes in the term Rhythm and Blues that are important in understanding how it got to its present form. In the late 1950s, the black musicians playing and singing Rhythm and Blues provided the foundation for the development of the Rock and Roll movement in the US.   It was during this period in the late 1950s and early 1960s that many white Americans "rediscovered" Rhythm and Blues and the black performers who were singing these exciting songs. Suddenly, white groups were beginning to play and record this style of music with great popular success. The development continued into the 1970s with "Gospel", "Soul" and "Funk" being added to the category. The next change occurred in the 1990s when R & B became part of pop rock music.

So..... now it is clear to me and also should be to you, why it is so difficult to pin down the songs that belong in this category. The songs include Blues, Gospel, Soul, Funk and Popular Rock. It seems to me that there probably is a different correct list for each listener.

One thing I have not mentioned is that with the Blues, there is a certain life experience or emotion present that I believe make up the mainstay of R & B, and I will make an effort to list those songs. This will take some time so I am open to all suggestions while we construct the list.

PS: In looking for information on this topic, I came across a cool blog, Shades of Blue that you might want to visit. The site location is: . It's worth a look.

Friday, October 23, 2009

TOP 20 R & B Songs of All Times (1st Draft)

OK here are the first possible candidates for the Top 20 R & B songs list that we are developing in random order :

Ain't That A Shame, Fats Domino

Long Tall Sally, Little Richard

Gee Whiz! (Look at His Eyes). Carla Thomas

Lay Down Sally, Eric Clapton

Stand By Me. Ben E King 1961

Stormy Monday, T. Bone Walker 1947

The Thrill Is Gone, B.B. King

What's Going On, Marvin Gaye

The Long and Winding Road, Beatles

Me & Mrs Jones, Billy Paul

Soul Man, Sam & Dave

Like a Rolling Stone, Bob Dylan

Busted, Ray Charles

Respect, Aretha Franklin

Layla, Derek and the Dominos

What'd I Say, Ray Charles

Lite My Fire, The Doors

When A Man Loves A Women, Percy Sledge

Papa's Got A Brand New Bag, James Brown

I Heard It Through the Grapevine, Marvin Gaye

Papa Was A Rollin" Stone, The Temptations

Boom, Boom, John Lee Hooker

Chain of Fools, Aretha Franklin

It's Your Thing, The Isley Brothers

Good Man, Good Woman, Delbert McClinton

Everyday I Have The Blues, Joe Williams

I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues, Elton John

Let The Good Times Roll, Tony Bennett & B. B. King

Good Morning Heartache, Gladys Knight

At Last, Etta James

This Bitter Earth, Gladys Knight

Can't Get Enough Of Your Love, Barry White

Love Me Like A Man, Bonnie Raitt

Ain't No Sunshine, Bill Withers

Feel So Bad, Ray Charles

Baby I Am Amazed, Paul MeCartney

Why Me, Delbert McClinton

Never Been Rocked Enough, Delbert McClinton

I'm In Love Again, Fats Domino

Maybe, The Chantels

Sunshine of Your Love, Cream

Well there it is. There are a lot of potential great Blues songs out there and I am sure my readers will come up with many more before we attempt to name the Top 20.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Additional New American Standards Candidates

Here are a few more candidates to consider:

The Summer Knows: Released 1971 by Michel Legrand

Your Song: Released 1970 by Elton John & Bernie Taupin

Arthur's Theme: Released 1981 by Christopher Cross, Burt Bacharach, Carole Bayer, Peter Allen

Saturday, October 17, 2009

October Artist Spotlight: Jack Jones, Still Performing Better Than Ever!

Last winter when I was in the desert, I noticed that Jack Jones was performing at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert celebrating 50 years in show business and his 72nd birthday. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the concert due to other commitments but reading about the show did start me thinking about Jack Jones. I had lost track of his performing career and started to do some research as to where and what he was doing over the past years. I first saw Jack performing in Vegas in 1965, a long time ago for both of us! It turned out that Jack Jones lives in the desert. His youngest daughter, Nicole, is attending Palm Desert High School and also has her dad's love of performing. Nicole gets to perform with her dad during school breaks and has also appeared in some stage productions in the Palm Springs area. I also learned that Jack has been a long time supporter of the McCallum Theatre. This is an outstanding performing arts facility that brings outstanding talent to the desert every year.

It turns out that Jack has recorded over 50 albums, and I am sad to say that I am not familiar with most of them. However, I intend to give some of his more recent CDs a hearing over the next few months. The first CDs I want to listen to are "Jack Jones Paints A Tribute To Tony Bennett" and "New Jack Swing".

I have been enjoying a lot of Jack Jones songs recently being played on the XM Radio Sinatra station. I can't believe all the great songs Jack has recorded that were somehow overlooked by me. This just reminds me again why I am writing this blog. It's really an enjoyable effort on my part discovering all of the outstanding music and singers that I have missed over the past years. In the process, I hope I can help other music lovers share the new gems I discover.

By the way, Jack Jones will be performing at McCallum again this winter on Saturday January 9, 2010 at 8pm. Do yourself a favor, and if you are in the Palm Springs area, make sure you catch his show. You won't be disappointed!

Friday, October 16, 2009

20 Top (New) American Standards-Revised 10/16/09

I have checked out the dates that the current "prospects" were written and thought we should list the composer also.

The Shadow of Your Simile: Released in 1965 by Johnny Mandel & Paul Webster (Won the Grammy award for "Song Of The Year" and also the Academy Award for Best Original Song in the movie "The Sandpiper")

Something: Released in 1969 by George Harrison

Evergreen: Released in 1976 by Barbara Streisand & Paul Williams

How Do You Keep the Music Playing: Released in 1982 by Michel Legrand, Alan & Marilyn Bergman

Yesterday: Released in 1965 by Paul McCartney ( One of the most covered pop songs of all times with over 3,000 recorded versions)

Just the Way You Are: Released in 1977 by Billy Joel

Send in the Clowns: Released in 1973 by Stephen Sondheim

If I Ruled the World: Released in 1963 by Leslie Bricusse & Cyril Ornadel

What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life: Released in 1969 by Michel Legrand, Alan & Marilyn Bergman

The Wind Beneath My Wings: Released in 1988 by Jeff Silbar & Larry Henley

New York, New York: Released in 1977 by John Kander & Fred Ebb

Sunday, October 11, 2009

20 Top (New) American Standards

I want to start to develop the list of the new standards. They must be less than 50 years old.
Top Candidates in no particular order
The Shadow Of Your Smile
How Do You Keep The Music Playing
Just The Way You Are
Send In The Clowns
If I Ruled The World
What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life
The Wind Beneath My Wings
New York, New York
I Left My Heart In San Francisco (Written in 1954, released by Bennett in 1962)

This is the start of the candidates. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Number 1 Song In Great American Songbook

The Number one song in the Great American Songbook on my list is, "The Nearness Of You". This song was written by Hoagy Carmichael & Ned Washington in 1937. Before I comment on why this song is ranked above all others, let's talk about the common denominators that we can find in most Great American Standard songs. First and foremost, most of these songs are about romance and love, either finding it or losing it or somewhere in between. In the Top 20, 7 songs are about love lost and its pain and 13 songs are about love in bloom. I thought that talking about love and romance was pretty out of fashion with today's younger generation. However, every now and then I am surprised to find some younger people who actually like to listen to these great songs and lyrics. I suspect that there are a lot more people out there who, once exposed to these great songs, would sign on as fans.

I believe that in order to truly appreciate these love songs, you need to bring some life experience with you. I have always loved Sinatra, but as my life experiences increased, my appreciation for how the "Chairman of  the Board" approached a lyric also increased. Any singer can sing these songs, but when Sinatra sang, you could tell he was just not singing words, he was living the words. It's the same with us and our love of these great songs. We feel the love, we feel the pain and suffering, we feel the joy of loving someone both "Body and Soul".

The key that makes " The Nearness of You" so great is it's just a basic love song. It just tells the listener a love story pure and simple. Its lyrics can stand on their own and so can the melody. That's way this song is so popular with both singers and instrumentalists. It's just a great, simple love song. I am sure some of you reading this could add why the musical construction makes this all possible but for me the purity of the lyrics and melody is the only story I need.

Almost every major singer and instrumentalist has covered this song, but I have listed those that I think handle the song the best.

1. Norah Jones could well have the best recording of this song for my taste. This is surprising for me because there are very few of her recordings that I like, and, yet, I have her at the top of my list for this song. This is why you need to have an open mind when listening to music.

2. David Campbell is a singer from Australia who is not too well known in the US I got to see him In New York and he is a great singer. I don't think he ever got the right exposure here, but he is still recording in Australia and still comes to the US. He covered "The Nearness Of You" and blended it with the Sondheim terrific show tune, "Not A Day Goes By" on his "Taking The Wheel" CD. It's just outstanding and hope you can find it. Best place to find it is on iTunes.

3. Chris Botti recorded this song on his recent CD, "When I Fall In Love".

4. Check out older outstanding covers by Johnny Hartman, Jo Stafford and Oscar Peterson.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Top 20 Greatest New American Standards

Hey, I need some help. I have spent a lot of time on the Top 20 all-time greatest standards but need some help selecting potential new song candidates for the list of New American standard candidates. By new I mean in order to qualify for this list, the songs would have to be less than 50 years old. If you have any favorites, let me know.


Interesting question now that the Great Oscar Peterson has moved on into the Jazz Band in the sky. My answer to this question might surprise some of you. In my opinion, one of the top 5 candidates has to include Diana Krall. Yes, Diana is best known for her singing, but if you need some persuading, listen to some of her cuts on her CD, "Live In Paris" recorded in 2002 in Paris. This CD, that I think might have been overlooked by some who did not know Diana back then, gives an excellent preview of how multi-talented she is. Her treatment of the standards on the CD are fresh and border on brilliance. Combine this with her piano playing with what can only be described as an outstanding group of sidemen, and you have the making of a classic CD. The CD was recorded live in Paris, the 2nd home of American Jazz. When you listen to the cuts, notice the excitement and appreciation of the French audience. Take special note of Diana's playing on:

1. I Love Being Here With you

2. Deed I Do

3. Devil May Care

By the way, the work of the bassist, John Clayton, is as good as it gets! Now that Ray Brown has left us, John has stepped up and taken his place among the best of the best bassists playing today.

As a side note, Diana has just produced and played on the new Barbra Streisand CD, "Love Is The Answer" that was arranged by the great Johnny Mandel. I ask you, if Barbra Streisand agrees to have Diana Krall produce and play on her new CD, doesn't that tell you how much the real professionals think about her work today?

Bottom line is that Diana Krall has taken a permanent place among the Best of the Best playing and singing standards today. She can do it all and does!

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