When Was The Last Time You Played This Album?


John Prine “Bruised Orange”

Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#139 in The Series) is John Prine, Bruised Orange.

John Prine’s debut album, called simply John Prine is considered his masterpiece, and rightly so.

It’s quite the feat when you think that he wrote Sam Stone, Illegal Smile, Donald and Lydia, Angel From Montgomery, Paradise, Six O’Clock News, You’re Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore and of course, Hello in There ALL before he was 25.

Looking at that track list you can see why that album is held in such high regard.  I am, however, going to feature Bruised Orange.

I’m not sure why this album was always so high on my list of Prine classics.  Part of it might be that it was new when I got my first guitar and I learned how to play many basic chords strumming to what’s here.

The songs here that I enjoyed attacking and killing on that old Ovation were Fish and Whistle, Aw Heck, Sabu Visits the Twin Cities Alone and of course, That’s the Way That the World Goes ‘Round.

Some great players made their way to the great Chicago Recording Company studio in 1978 to help with the sound.  Jethro Burns (Homer and Jethro), John Burns (Flyer), Tom Radtke (Bill Quateman), Corky Siegel (Siegel-Schwall), Mike Utley (Coral Reefer Band), Jackson Browne, Bonnie Koloc, and many, many more.

It was produced by Steve Goodman.

It reached #116 on the Billboard Album Charts.

Here’s a great version of That’s the Way That the World Goes Down (aka Happy Enchilada).  By John, at his kitchen table.

I’m following it up with a song not on Bruised Orange, but a great song none the less. It’s just something I want you to hear.  It’s called In Spite of Ourselves.  It’s hilarious!!  Please check it out. It begins with John telling a story about a movie he made where he and Billy Bob Thorton played brothers.  Their father was Andy Griffith. How ’bout that!

Levon Helm “Dirt Farmer”

Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#138 in the Series) is Levon Helm, Dirt Farmer.

Every year since the early 80’s I’ve come up with my own Album of the Year. This won easily as my Album of Year in 2008.  (It was actually released late in 2007, I know!)

We all know Levon Helm as drummer, picker and lead vocalist of The Band.  If you’re a fan of The Band, or just Americana music in general, you must add Dirt Farmer to your collection.

It was strange.  I actually had this album for quite some time before I really got into it.  I had it, gave it a quick spin when I must have been busy, or in a crappy mood, and then set it aside for at least three months.  Why, I don’t know.  But thankfully, I did give it a second listen. Some albums you have to be in the correct mood for it to work that first time.

So when I gave Dirt Farmer a second chance I was truly moved.  Levon Helm is an absolute amazing human.  He recorded this album when he was 67 years old and was just coming off throat cancer.   His voice was a little weak in places, and quite robust in others.  We have good days and bad days.  He’s since released a follow up called Electric Dirt and has been touring constantly.  Of Course he still has his acting career as well.  And he’s now 70 years of age.

On Dirt Farmer, Levon is joined by his daughter Amy Helm as well as former Bob Dylan band member, Larry Campbell.

The album begins with the traditional False Hearted Woman Blues. Next up is Poor Dirt Farmer.  It is pure ‘Band’ sounding, complete with Levon leading the verse vocals with a full vocal, full band chorus.  I would have loved to hear this with Rich Danko at his side.

Steve Earle contribute a track called The Mountain.  Got Me a Woman is a great blues track with basically Levon and his 8-string.

Single Girl, Married Girl is a fun sing-a-long explaining the differences of the two.

There is one song however that puts Dirt Farmer over the top. It took the album from a very good album to a great album.  That song is the ballad duet that Levon performs with his daughter Amy.  It’s called Anna Lee.  Written by Laurelyn Dossett, it is just Levon, Amy and Larry Campbell’s fiddle.  Father and daughter sound amazing together. If you don’t want to buy this complete album at least download this track.  Levon has a hard time hitting some of the notes.  But it just adds to the mystique and loveliness of the song. It actually feels like Amy is pulling him up at times.  Plus it fun to hear him sing about someone named ‘Anna Lee’ again.

Dirt Farmer was Levon’s first studio album since 1982.

It was released by Vanguard Records.

It won a Grammy Award for best Traditional Folk Album in 2008.

It peaked at #102 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums Chart.

I’m attaching a few videos.  The first is a great interview that Levon did describing his fight with throat cancer.  Please watch it.  It’s an inspiring tale.   Next up will be Poor Old Dirt Farmer and Anna Lee.

Bill Quateman “Bill Quateman”

Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#112 in the Series) is the debut self-titled album by”Bill Quateman.”

In 1972 I head a song on WXRT called ‘Changing of the Guard.’ ‘XRT has always given a run down on what they had just played. Usually as a set.  I loved the song and waited to hear who it was by.  Well That’s when I first heard the name Bill Quateman.

So made my trek to Hegewish Records and bought his debut.  Mind you I didn’t look at the song list.

Well somehow I got the album wrong.  The song I heard was Steely Dan.  But I screwed up what I was looking for and ended up with Quateman.

But I played the album anyway and it turned into one of my favorite albums of all time.  I still love it to this day!!

I’m not sure how he pulled it off, but Quateman was able to get Elton John’s backing band to play on this release.  Caleb Quaye and Davey Johnstone on guitar and Sid Simms on bass.   He also grabbed one of the best drummers in Chicago, Tom Radtke.

The music was wonderful. Folk – Rock I guess you could say?

Some of the tracks that jumped out were, My Music, Only Love, Only The Bears are the Same, Too Many Mornings, What Are You Looking For,’ and ‘ Get It Right On Out There.’

Jump forward about 30 or so years.  One night I was looking around on the internet and found Bill’s email address.  It was also a Yahoo Messenger address,  Well I saw he was online and we chatted for about 20 minutes.  It was pretty cool.  A few months later he did a show at Fitzgerald’s here in the Chicagoland area.  I was able to get together with him and I told him the Steely Dan story.  We both got a big kick out of it.

This is one of those albums that you can play over and over from start to finish. Check it out.

Steve Goodman “Somebody Else’s Troubles”

Today’s Cool Album of The Day is Steve Goodman, “Somebody Else’s Trouble.”

We’re going back to the Singer/Songwriter genre today.  If you look up Singer/Songwriter in the dictionary you’d see Steve Goodman’s face on the description.

He was one of the best. It’s hard to believe he’s been gone 26 years now.

“Somebody Else’s Troubles” was Steve’s third album.  It’s full of goodies!

The album starts with one of his most well known songs, “The Dutchman.” It’s one of the few hits that Steve did not write.  It was written by Michael Smith.

Other tracks you might know include ‘Lincoln Park Pirates, Chicken Cordon Blues,’ and of course the title cut, ‘Somebody Else’s Troubles’ which features an uncredited Bob Dylan on vocals.  Nice ‘get’ for that point in Steve’s career!!

The disc ends with one of my favorite Steve Goodman songs.  ‘The Ballad Of Penny Evans.’ It is song acapella and in first person. It’s the story of a young war widow and her angst of the Vietnam War.  You’ll be moved by this quite powerful story.

David Bromberg adds some great string work to the effort.

Steve Goodman’s “Somebody Else’s Troubles.” Today’s Cool Album of the Day!!

Here’s a great live version of ‘The Dutchman’ with Steve and Jethro Burns.

The Byrds “Sweethearts of the Rodeo”

Today’s Cool Album of the Day is the 1968 release by The Byrds, “Sweethearts of the Rodeo.”

Quite simply, a masterpiece. Was it the first country rock album? That’s debatable.

There has been so much written and discussed about this music that I’m not even going to try and invent an original idea.

Just listen to the music. I’d have loved to have heard Roger McGuinn and Gram Parsons stay together longer. But then Gram might not have gone on to to record two other great pieces of music (Gram Parsons and GP). And maybe he wouldn’t have gone on to discover (along with Chris Hillman) EmmyLou Harris.

Some of the classic songs here are Bob Dylan’s ‘You Aint Goin’ Nowhere, You’re Still On My Mind.’ Woodie Guthrie’s ‘Pretty Boy Floyd,’ and of course, GP’s ‘Hickory Wind.’

Cat Stevens “Teaser and the Firecat”

Today’s Cool Album in the Day is Cat Stevens, “Teaser and The Firecat.”

I was going to feature “Catch Bull at Four” because it contains ‘Boy With the Moon and Star on His Head’ but went with “Teaser and The Firecat” instead.

You could go with a couple different releases, but ‘Teaser’ has just so many classics.
‘The Wind, If I Laugh, Tuesday’s Dead, Morning Has Broken,’ and ‘Moonshadow.’

But there is something that will always be special to me about this album. That something happened on the night of January, 29th 1973, 6pm.Chicago time.

At that time the cease fire in Vietnam went into affect. I remember that like it was yesterday.

For some unknown reason, at that time I went to WXRT to see what they were playing. The station was a huge part of my habits back then.

They were playing ‘Peace Train.’
To this time, whenever I hear that song, I think about ‘That Day.”

Arlo Guthrie “Alice’s Restaurant”

Today’s Cool Album of The Day is Arlo Guthrie, “Alice’s Restaurant.’

An American Classic, simply put.

“Alice’s Restaurant” was recorded and released in 1967. It was Woodie Guthrie’s son, Arlo’s, debut album.

The story of ‘Alice’s Restaurant’ was the full Side A.

I’m not going to completely explain Arlo’s narrative here. It would take WAY to long and I’d probably screw it all up anyway.

But I will end with an interesting note. Richard Nixon was said to have this album.
‘The Song’ is 18:34 seconds, almost the exact same length as the Watergate tape gap.

Give this one a listen.

Eva Cassidy “Songbird”

Today’s Cool Album of the Day is Eva Cassidy’s, “Songbird.”

I’m not sure how many of you have heard of this young lady. I’m asking you to please read her story and listen to her music.

Eva Cassidy has, quite possibly, the best voice I’ve ever heard on a woman pop singer.

A few years back I was unaware of her. Then on a slow news night, ABC’s Nighline, did a feature on this young lady named Eva Cassidy. She was a singer songwriter from Washington D.C. She had released a couple of albums on a tiny local label that never really did much.

In 1996 she passed away after a battle with cancer.

A year or so later, a disc jockey in the UK began spinning her records and suddenly her music became huge overseas. They couldn’t get enough of it. So her label began releasing what they could. A demo here, a live show here etc etc. Most of the music released were cover tunes since they were taken from small café shows. But her vocals on tracks like Sting’s ‘Fields of Gold,’ Paul Simon’s ‘American Tune’ or Christine McVie ‘Songbird’ are just breathtaking.

I once looked on YouTube and was able to find, in three parts, that full Nightline piece. Look for it and watch it. It’s quite amazing.

I’m featuring her album called ‘Songbird’ here. But also look for other catalog items. A jazzy ‘Live at the Blue Note is also a keeper.

Bob Dylan “Blood On The Tracks”

Today’s Cool Album of the Day  is Bob Dylan’s 1975 release, “Blood On The Tracks.”

After going obscure, I felt it was time for a biggie.  Well, “Blood On The Tracks”  surely fits that bill.  This is the album that included one of his best ‘early, middle period’ songs, ‘Tangled Up In Blue.’

Other highlights include ‘Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts, Simple Twist of Fate and Shelter From the Storm.’

One of those songs can make up a decent album these days. There’s four on one disc.  The rest of the album was pretty darn good too.