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May 27, 2012

Song of the Day #1057

Song of the Day: California Dreamin', words and music by John Phillips and Michelle Phillips, was a huge 1965-66 pop hit for The Mamas and the Papas, sporting a wonderful alto flute solo by one of my all-time favorite jazz musicians: Bud Shank, who was born on this day in 1926, and became one of the finest musicians in the West Coast jazz scene. It's not a "winter's day" in Brooklyn; we've had summer-like weather for awhile. But I'm dreamin' of a particular California attraction that celebrates its 75th anniversary today: Happy Birthday to the Golden Gate Bridge! Check out the original Mamas and Papas track, and instrumental versions by Wes Montgomery, George Benson, and, yes, Bud Shank too!

May 26, 2012

Song of the Day #1056

Song of the Day: Pieces of Dreams, words by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, music by Michel Legrand, is from the 1970 film, in which the title track is sung by Peggy Lee, who was born on this date in 1920. Check out versions by Jack Jones, Shirley Bassey, Johnny Mathis (on "The Tonight Show"), Barbra Streisand, and an excerpt from Peggy Lee.

May 25, 2012

Song of the Day #1055

Song of the Day: No More Tears (Enough is Enough), words and music by Paul Jabara and Bruce Roberts, went to #1 in 1979 on the vocal strength of Two Divas kickin' butt (and a lousy man "out that door"): Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer. How appropriate that this duet, which ends our Donna Summer Tribute, contains the longest sustained note by a female artist (Streisand, 14 seconds) of any #1 hit on the Hot 100, when the song that started the tribute ("Dim All the Lights") contains the longest sustained note by a female artist (Summer, 16 seconds) of any Top 40 hit. It's hard to measure the influence of an artist on those who have followed. To be dubbed the "Queen" (not that one, great though he was) of a genre that some have viewed with disdain is a limitation, of course, because the work of Donna Summer transcended that era. Or maybe Disco itself has lived on. People stopped using the Dreaded D-Word to describe any popular dance recordings, but the genre's influence can still be heard (in house, techno. electronica and more). And Donna was The Queen; it's clear to this fan that later dance hit-makers, from Madonna to Beyonce to Lady Gaga, owe much to Her Reign. Today, after more than a week of looking back, we have "No More Tears" moving forward. And lots of dancing left to do; check out the single version, the extended version (from Streisand's "Wet" album), and the 12" extended mix (from Summer's album, "On the Radio: Greatest Hits, Volumes I & II").

May 24, 2012

Song of the Day #1054

Song of the Day: MacArthur Park, composed by Jimmy Webb, has been performed by many artists through the years, including one by an actor who first took it, in 1968, to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart: Richard Harris (whose endearing performance as Albus Dumbledore in the first two "Harry Potter" films is captured in that tribute clip). Check out these other renditions: Waylon Jennings; Sammy Davis, Jr.; Stan Kenton; Woody Herman; Maynard Ferguson (my favorite jazz instrumental version); "Weird Al" Yankovic (spoofed as "Jurassic Park"); and Carrie Underwood on "American Idol" in 2005 (see 4:03-4:36), who famously quipped that she hadn't the faintest idea what the lyrics were all about! [YouTube links]. And then there's the seminal dance version by Donna Summer, recorded initially as part of a nearly 18-minute disco epic: "MacArthur Park Suite" [YouTube link] and released in 1978 as a stand-alone #1 Billboard Hot 100 and Hot Dance Club Play single [YouTube link]. I used to chuckle when she let out that Snoopy-like cry, which kicked off the thumping disco beat (at 01:49 here), but her version will always rock my dance floor.

May 23, 2012

Song of the Day #1053

Song of the Day: On the Radio, music by Giorgio Moroder, lyrics by Donna Summer, was recorded in 1979 by the singer for the soundtrack to the film, "Foxes." It is also featured in two versions on the singer's third consecutive #1 double-album, "On the Radio: Greatest Hits, Volumes I & II" (1979). Check out the single version, the longer "Greatest Hits" version, the extended 12" version, and a really nice compilation of the theme as it is heard throughout the 1980 film.

May 22, 2012

Song of the Day #1052

Song of the Day: Love is in Control (Finger on the Trigger) features the words and music of Rod Temperton, Merria Ross, and Quincy Jones, who produced the 1982 album "Donna Summer," on which this song appears. This enjoyable funky track went Top Ten on the Pop, R&B, and Dance charts. Check out the album version, the extended 12" mix, the Discotech remix, and a nice remixed cover version by Sheena Easton [YouTube links].

May 21, 2012

Song of the Day #1051

Song of the Day: She Works Hard for the Money, words and music by Donna Summer and Michael Omartian, is the title track to Summer's eleventh studio album and her biggest hit in the 1980s. It was also a #1 R&B hit, a huge pop hit in heavy rotation at the birth of New York FM Top 40 station, WHTZ (Z-100), and in heavy music video rotation on the relatively young MTV network. Check out the famed video, the album version, and an Eddie Baez remix [YouTube links].

May 20, 2012

Song of the Day #1050

Song of the Day: Bad Girls, words and music by the Brooklyn Dreams and Donna Summer, is the title track to Summer's 1979 album, which became a #1 pop, dance, and R&B smash. Check out the single version, the extended version, the famous medley with "Hot Stuff" and a nice live cover version by Jamiroquai [YouTube links].

May 19, 2012

Song of the Day #1049

Song of the Day: Hot Stuff, words and music by Pete Bellotte, Harold Faltermeyer, and Keith Forsey, is one of the "essential" Donna Summer dance hits, a rock-disco hybrid, electrified by the guitar work of Jeff "Skunk" Baxter. Summer got a Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for this #1 hit from her 1979 album, "Bad Girls." Check out the single version, an extended version, and the Funky House Remix [YouTube links]. (And an honorable mention must go to the great Steve Allen, who did a hilarious reading of the lyrics to this song on a television special.)

May 18, 2012

Song of the Day #1048

Song of the Day: I Feel Love was written by Giorgio Moroder, Peter Bellotte, and Donna Summer, who propelled this driving synthesized track (from her 1977 album, "I Remember Yesterday") to its exalted status in dance music history, influencing later dance styles, such as house and techno. Check out the original album version, the 12" extended mix, the famous Patrick Cowley underground 15+ minute megamix, and covers by Bronski Beat, Blondie, Madonna, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

May 17, 2012

Song of the Day #1047

Song of the Day: Dim All the Lights was written and recorded by the "Queen of Disco," Donna Summer, the five-time Grammy Award winner who died today at the age of 63. Featured on her hugely successful "Bad Girls" album, this song, produced by Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, was a massive hit in 1979. Its classic balladic intro shifts into the disco beat for which Summer was so famous. And the gal had amazing pipes; she was raised on gospel and electrified fans with her remarkably powerful vocal gifts. This particular song, for example, contains the longest sustained note in an American Top 40 hit ever sung by a female artist. Tonight, however, we "Dim All the Lights," as they do on Broadway in mournful tribute when a star dies; it is posted in genuine sorrow over the passing of a legend, whose music I've always danced to and loved. For the next few days, I will be offering a tribute in song that celebrates the continuing influence of Donna Summer on so many of the kaleidoscopic sounds of pop music to this day. Check out this selection on YouTube: the single and the classic 12" extended mix.

May 04, 2012

Song of the Day #1046

Song of the Day: Cute, composed by Neil Hefti, is one of those familiar tracks that has been heard everywhere, thanks to the famous chart Hefti wrote for the Count Basie Orchestra, featuring the fabulous fills of drummer Sonny Payne, who was born on this date in 1926. The most memorable cinematic treatment of this tune, where one can see Music as Comedy and Comedy as Music, can be found in "Cinderfella"; watch how Jerry Lewis Does the Dishes.