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Archive for the ‘Merry Clayton’ Category

California Dreamin’: Carole King, Merry Clayton, The Everly Brothers Featured on “Lou Adler: A Musical History”

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Lou Adler - A Musical HistorySongwriter, manager, A&R man, producer, director, impresario, diehard L.A. Lakers fan – in his eighty years, Lou Adler has worn all of those labels proudly.  It’s hard to believe that the same man behind The Rocky Horror Show – both on stage and on screen – and Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke also helmed one of the most successful records ever in Carole King’s Tapestry, or that the same man penned a bona fide standard in Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World.”  But much of Lou Adler’s extraordinary career has defied belief, and Ace Records has recently summed it up in an exciting new compilation entitled Lou Adler: A Musical History.  Over 25 tracks released between 1958 and 1974, the anthology chronicles a singular showbiz life and also serves as a mini-history of Los Angeles pop-rock.

A Musical History traces the ascent of Chicago-born, L.A.-raised Adler from hustling songwriter to in-demand producer.  With future Tijuana Brass bandleader and A&M Records leader Herb Alpert, the young Adler co-wrote tunes for a diverse crop of artists including Cooke (“All of My Life”), Sam Butera and the Witnesses (“Bim Bam”), Jan and Dean (“Honolulu Lulu”) and Johnny “Guitar” Watson (“Deana Baby”).  Equally adept at rock-and-roll, doo-wop and R&B, the duo also found time to produce not just their own songs for these artists, but outside compositions.  The Adler/Alpert team revived The Spaniels’ “Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight” for The Untouchables and gave The Hollywood Argyles a run for their money with a cash-in cover of “Alley-Oop” by Dante and the Evergreens.  These slices of early-sixties pop kick off this set on a high note, but Adler’s first Golden Age really came when he split with Alpert in 1961.

The parting of the ways worked out for both men, with Alpert launching The Tijuana Brass, the hit “The Lonely Bull” and of course, A&M Records, just one year later with new partner Jerry Moss.  As for our man Adler, his association with Don Kirshner led to his opening the West Coast office of Aldon Music, as well as a production credit on tracks like The Everly Brothers’ Top 10 hit “Crying in the Rain.”  Most importantly, though, Adler made connections at Aldon that would come to, in large part, define his career – connections with the likes of Carole King and P.F. Sloan.  The achingly vulnerable “Crying” was co-written by Carole King and Howard Greenfield, moonlighting from their respective partners Gerry Goffin and Neil Sedaka.   In addition to King, Adler also met P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri at Aldon, pairing the two songwriters up and soon snatching them away from Kirshner’s empire to his newly-formed Dunhill Productions.

After the jump: much more on Adler’s illustrious career, including the complete track listing and order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

March 17, 2014 at 09:02

Ode to Bob: “Dylan’s Gospel” Reissue Due in April, Features Merry Clayton, Gloria Jones, Edna Wright

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Dylan's GospelLight in the Attic is getting ready to spread the Gospel of Bob.  Dylan, that is.  On April 1, the label returns Ode Records’ 1969 tribute Dylan’s Gospel to print with new CD and LP reissues.  Credited to The Brothers and Sisters, Dylan’s Gospel featured the cream of the crop of Los Angeles’ session singers including Merry Clayton, Clydie King, Patrice Holloway, Edna Wright and Shirley Matthews on a variety of Dylan staples, sanctified-style.

Producer Lou Adler formed Ode Records after selling his Dunhill label – the home of The Mamas and the Papas and The Grass Roots, among others – to ABC Records in 1967.  The impresario-producer kicked off Ode with releases by Scott McKenzie and Spirit and soon expanded its roster with releases from artists including Mod Squad star Peggy Lipton, Carole King’s band The City and a John Densmore/Robbie Krieger-produced outfit called The Comfortable Chair.  When Adler hit upon the notion of a tribute to Bob Dylan, he made sure that it would be something special.  Dylan’s career was, unbelievably, less than a decade old in 1969, yet he had already written a number of oft-covered songs which would become modern-day standards.  And so rather than another album of Bob Dylan, say, folk-rock-style, Adler took the troubadour to church.

He enlisted arranger-conductor Gene Page for Dylan’s Gospel.  Already noted for his work on Phil Spector’s production of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” and at Motown, the versatile Page would go on to orchestrate some of Barry White’s most lush compositions, work in Hollywood and on Broadway, and collaborate with artists like Elton John and Whitney Houston.  The 27-strong cast of powerful, big-voiced singers was primarily selected from that rarefied group that would be immortalized in the 2013 film 20 Feet from Stardom: backup singers, many of whom had a background singing in church.  “Gimme Shelter” co-vocalist Merry Clayton joined Adler’s Brothers and Sisters as did Edna Wright (Darlene Love’s sister and member of The Honey Cone), Patrice Holloway (co-writer with sister Brenda of “You Made Me So Very Happy”), Stax artist Ruby Johnson, Honeys member Ginger Blake, and the accomplished songwriter and “Tainted Love” vocalist Gloria Jones.

After the jump: what will you hear on Dylan’s Gospel?  Plus: the full track listing and pre-order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

February 11, 2014 at 14:56

Review: Merry Clayton, “The Best of Merry Clayton”

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Best of Merry ClaytonSay “yes” to Merry Clayton!

It takes a certain kind of talent to exercise restraint, to be able to generously support another artist while maintaining your own high standard of art, expression and individuality.  That’s the story of the background singer, and the story told by director Morgan Neville in his new film 20 Feet from Stardom.  Merry Clayton is seen in the film, both savoring and gently ribbing her role as the “diva” of the background singing clique – as the “lead background singer,” if you will.  But like many of the singers profiled in Neville’s fine film, Clayton harbored hopes for a solo career.  Riding high from her featured part on The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter,” the vocalist found a patron in Ode Records’ Lou Adler.  Between 1969 and 1975, Clayton recorded a handful of singles and one-off tracks plus three well-received albums for Ode; that body of work forms the basis of Legacy’s new anthology The Best of Merry Clayton.

Clayton was an interpretive singer recording at the height of the singer-songwriter movement.  So, at Ode, she drew on the songs of many of those talents, including James Taylor, Paul Simon, Bill Withers, Bob Dylan, Leon Russell and her labelmate Carole King.  In doing so, she reaffirmed the universality of the very personal songs they were writing.  The sound of almost all these tracks is R&B, or deep soul, with a firm rooting in gospel.  Though he certainly wished to break in Clayton as a marquee artist, producer Lou Adler certainly wasn’t aiming for a pure pop sound.  He was well-versed in that style, however, and his astute choice of pop and rock material showed off the many colors of Clayton’s (by necessity, adaptable) voice.  And the voice rarely holds back!  In the film, it’s posited that these records were met with commercial indifference because there was only room on the charts for one gospel-based artist: Aretha Franklin.  Clayton might also have been at a disadvantage not writing her own songs; the charts were also generally inhospitable at the time to those recording entire albums of “covers,” frequently the province of so-called MOR artists like Andy Williams and Johnny Mathis.  But the 17 gutsy, full-voiced tracks here don’t disappoint.

Take a look after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 9, 2013 at 09:53

Release Round-Up: Week of July 9

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Best of Merry ClaytonMerry Clayton, The Best of Merry Clayton (Ode/Legacy)

Tell all the people: the singer who gave The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” its soulful grit recorded several LPs for Lou Adler’s Ode label. In honor of her belated star turn in the new documentary Twenty Feet from Stardom, Legacy has released the first-ever compilation of selections from these works, including many impressive covers of the likes of The Doors, James Taylor and Neil Young. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

All True ManBrainstorm, Journey Into the Light / The S.O.S. Band, On the Rise / Alexander O’Neal, All True Man / Cherrelle, The Woman I Am (“Tabu Reborn” Expanded Editions) (Tabu/Edsel)

The fourth wave of Tabu reissues from Edsel stretch from 1978 to 1991, covering some of the lesser-known works of the label’s flagship artists.

Written by Mike Duquette

July 9, 2013 at 08:20

Release Round-Up: Week of June 18

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Patty Duke - ValleyPatty Duke, Don’t Just Stand There/Patty / Sings Songs from Valley of the Dolls/Sings Folk Songs (Time to Move On) (Real Gone Music)

All four of Patty’s United Artists albums released on a pair of two-fers, including 1968’s unreleased Sings Folk Songs.

Supremes - Cream of the Crop Paper SleeveThe Supremes, Cream of the Crop / Love Child / I Hear a Symphony / Join the Temptations / Sing Holland-Dozier-Holland / Supremes A Go-Go (Motown MS 649, 1966) (Culture Factory)

A bunch of Supremes classics – six albums from 1966’s The Supremes A Go-Go to 1969’s Cream of the Crop, their last with Diana Ross – all get the mini-LP treatment from Culture Factory.

Evening with Diana Ross

Diana Ross, The Boss /An Evening with Diana Ross (Culture Factory)

Culture Factory also brings Miss Ross’ long out-of-print concert disc back to CD, along with a new, mini-LP edition of the Ashford and Simpson-helmed favorite The Boss.

JULIA FORDHAM SweptJulia Fordham, Porcelain / Swept: Deluxe Editions (Cherry Pop)

The second and third LPs by U.K. singer Julia Fordham are expanded and remastered for the first time.

Porcelain: Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.
Swept: Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.

20 Feet from StardomVarious Artists, 20 Feet from Stardom: Music from the Motion Picture (Columbia)

The soundtrack to the anticipated new documentary about the best backup singers you might not have known, from Darlene Love to Merry Clayton. (Legacy’s releasing Clayton’s first-ever best-of compilation next month.) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Paul Young RRPaul Young, Remixes and Rarities (Cherry Pop)

Two discs of rare or new-to-CD bonus material from the ’80s crooner. (Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.)

Woody 100 ConcertVarious Artists, Woody Guthrie at 100! Live at the Kennedy Center (Legacy)

Not sure if this concert kills fascists, but this CD/DVD tribute to a folk legend, featuring John Mellencamp, Lucinda Williams, Rosanne Cash and more is a fitting way to honor one of the century’s best songwriters. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Tell All The People: “The Best of Merry Clayton” Shines Spotlight on “Gimme Shelter” Singer

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Best of Merry ClaytonFor Merry Clayton, fame was just a shot away.  For she was a member of a very exclusive club of well-respected yet all-too-unheralded performers: background singers.  Documentarian Morgan Neville’s new film 20 Feet from Stardom chronicles some of the great artists who have excelled in that capacity, including Clayton, Darlene Love, Lisa Fischer, Judith Hill, Claudia Lennear and Táta Vega.  Many of music’s greatest background singers also had solo careers, though, and Legacy Recordings and Ode Records are celebrating Clayton’s with the June 25 release of The Best of Merry Clayton.

This first-ever anthology for the singer – perhaps best-known for her prominent role on The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” – is arriving just one week after the film’s Columbia Records soundtrack, which also features Clayton.  The documentary, in theatres this month, boasts interviews with the likes of Brian Wilson, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Stevie Wonder, Mick Jagger and many others who have benefited from the talents of their background singers.  (Many such singers had prosperous solo careers before, during or after their background tenures, including Flo and Eddie, Luther Vandross, Deniece Williams, Cissy Houston, Dee Dee Warwick, and Darlene Love.  Even Mick Jagger once got into the act, memorably singing backup for Carly Simon on “You’re So Vain,” after all!)

But by the time of her incendiary spotlight on “Gimme Shelter,” the Louisiana-born Merry Clayton had been a familiar face in recording studios for nearly a decade.  She even recorded the original version of “The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss),” on which she was supported by The Blossoms – including Darlene Love!  Clayton’s role on “Shelter” in 1969 propelled legendary record man Lou Adler to sign her to his Ode Records label.  Her Ode debut, appropriately titled after the Jagger/Richards song, arrived in stores the following year.  It was just the first of three sublimely soulful sets from the vocalist.

After the jump: more details on the new CD plus a full track listing with discography! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

June 4, 2013 at 12:41