Category Archives: Pop

Joni Mitchell’s Career Retrospective Travelogue

Joni Mitchell’s career has been a long one, with many twists and turns. It was effectively brought to a close by her 2015 brain aneurysm, from which she continues to rehabilitate. 2019 has seen the celebration of Mitchell’s 75th birthday by a stellar group of songwriters and performers. In 2002 Mitchell released Travelogue, a retrospective of songs from throughout Mitchell’s career arranged and orchestrated by Vince Mendoza and produced by Mitchell and Larry Klein. This article discusses Travelogue in the context of Joni Mitchell’s career and its place as ‘Mitchell’s last album’, as she told Rolling Stone in 2002.

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Susheela Raman: Ghost Gamelan

Susheela Raman doesn’t think much of borders. Born in London to South Indian parents but raised in Australia, her musical career has been all about bringing together people, cultures, ideas, and sounds to create her own musical voice. She’s worked with musicians from South and South East Asia, Africa, Greece, Turkey, and North Africa on previous releases such as Music For Crocodiles and Vel. So it doesn’t seem at all odd that for her latest album, Ghost Gamelan, she has worked with gamelan musicians from Java.

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Red Rose Speedway/Wings

A bit messy, but archival edition shows it was better than many remembered

Red Rose Speedway is a watershed album in the Wings catalog, coming as it does between the somewhat remedial Wild Life (which McCartney has also treated to an archival reissue this year) and Band on the Run, which is generally acknowledged to be Paul’s undeniable post-Beatles masterpiece. Neither Red Rose Speedway nor Band on the Run manages to bring Wings out from under Paul’s shadow, but both are worthy albums.

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Tony Joe White Lived It and Wrote It

by Marshall Bowden

Tony Joe White passed away on October 24, 2018. He died suddenly at home of a heart attack only weeks after the release of his album Bad Mouthin’. The following piece is adapted from a review of White’s album The Heroines with additional observations on his collaborations with Shelby Lynne.

Tony Joe White’s music is generally described as swamp rock, and it is true that he was one of the first performers to have a hit record with that sound. Back in 1969, when “Polk Salad Annie” became a hit record, there were a few other performers, mostly black, playing a swampy cocktail of sounds from the southern United States, but the mainstream public had never really heard most of them.

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Sun Goddess

How the paths of Ramsey Lewis and Maurice White led to the recording of this quiet storm classic

Ramsey Lewis recorded this track in 1974 with Maurice White & members of Earth Wind  & Fire

by Marshall Bowden

Ramsey Lewis was one of the more popular jazz musicians of the 1950s and 1960s, bridging the gap between gospel, blues, soul, and jazz. The Lewis of this period is best known for his gospel and blues-inflected pop tunes with a heavy backbeat, such as “The ‘In’ Crowd”, “A Hard Day’s Night”, and “Hang On Sloopy”.

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“Ode to Billie Joe” & “Clothesline Saga”


New Directions in Music Song Remains the Same Series

by Marshall Bowden

Released in the summer of 1967, “Ode to Billie Joe” demonstrates how a good story can become more real than our own lives.

There was plenty going on that summer: the Monterey Pop Festival, Elvis married Priscilla, Richard Speck was executed, race riots raged across the country, the Vietnam War continued. The Doors released their debut album, Hendrix released Are You Experienced. Oh, and the Beatles dropped an album called Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band. No one expected “Ode to Billie Joe,” the debut single by newcomer Bobbie Gentry, to make much of a splash.

But for a time, all America became obsessed by the question of what happened on Choctaw Ridge that caused Billie Joe McAllister to commit suicide by jumping off the bridge. Like Who Shot J.R.?,  “Ode” became one of those cultural memes that spread like wildfire. Everyone wanted to know what the narrator and Billie Joe tossed off that same bridge:  your third period teacher, Dad’s barber Luke, Grandma, the cop directing traffic. Maybe even Bob Dylan.

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