17/04/2019: “Hallelujah, I Love Her So” by Ray Charles

Before Stevie Wonder, there was Ray Charles. By that, I mean that they both became very successful musicians despite being blind. Ray Charles is one of the pioneers of soul, and has had huge influence on the development of pop music.

He was placed by Rolling Stone as the 10th greatest artist of all time!

Stevie Wonder actually has his own take on this track; a distinctive electronic jam in his own incomparable style.

Nothing beats the original piece of feel good 50s magic though. Everything is bang on, from the dusky vocals, soaring horn arrangement, swing band rhythm section, and emphatic piano.

It’s a most lovely love song, which can’t help but put smiles on faces wherever it is heard…

There’s also a wicked sax solo by Don Wilkerson, which adorns the middle of the song like a polished brass love heart!

The song was released in 1955, and reached number 5 on the U.S. Billboard R&B Chart. It was also released on the 1957 album Ray Charles.

Classic in every way!

26/11/2018: “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay” by Otis Redding

This song almost didn’t get made. The tragic reason for this is that Otis Redding was killed in a plane crash less than a month after the song was recorded.

In fact, the plane crash was December 10th 1967, and the last session Redding got a chance to record for this song was December 7th. He had actually planned to go back and finish the song.

The producer, Steve Cropper, had to finish the song after Otis’ death.

The song is melancholic in a particular despondent way. It’s about a guy just sitting there watching the boats out of boredom, to get away from it all. So the feeling is like a guy kicking a stone or something like that.

The music itself is in that vein. It isn’t sullen, but it isn’t a triumphant song either. The vocals are great, and really convey the emotion of the lyrics. The rest of the song is simple, but that’s good. It means that nothing is taken away from Otis’ performance. The melodies really follow him, from the horns, the guitar, and the bass.

The song was released posthumously in 1968 on an album of the same name, and became a #1 hit. It also won two Grammies.

Taken from us too soon.

14/04/2018: “Play With Fire” by The Rolling Stones

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The Rolling Stones are one of the enduring legacies of British rock and roll. They are still very much going, with the band members in no rush to stop even as they enter their 70s. Jagger in particular is still evidently full of life, having had his 8th child in 2016…

“Play With Fire” was released in 1965 and appears on the album Out Of Our Heads, which shows a band starting to break out of rhythm and blues into a more recognisable Stones rock style. The song admonishes a girl who is obsessed with material things not to mess the author about.

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It’s a classy slow burning track that makes good use of a minimal backing over Jagger’s inimitable singing. The odd twanging that makes up much of the melody is from a harpsichord, and makes for a nice sound. An interesting quirk is that the track is credited to Nanker Phelge, which is the pseudonym used by the band when they all wrote a song together.