Maria Muldaur, I’m A Woman . . . Perfect song to kick off my all-woman lead vocals show (with one sneaky exception you’ll see, coming up). Muldaur is argualby best known for her 1973 hit, Midnight at the Oasis, from her first, self-titled album but in many ways that song isn’t representative of some of her bluesier, swampy style stuff she once termed “bluesiana’ – a combination of blues and Louisiana good-time music. I’m A Woman, once done by Peggy Lee, is from her second album, Waitress In A Donut Shop.
Koko Taylor, I’m A Woman . . . Not the same song as the Muldaur track. This one is blues belter Taylor’s reinterpretation, lyrically, from a woman’s point of view, of the Muddy Waters/Bo Diddley/Mel London-penned Mannish Boy. Da na na na num, boom de boom.
Pretenders, Stop Your Sobbing . . . A cover of the Ray Davies-written Kinks’ tune, which led to a relationship between Pretenders’ frontwoman Chrissie Hynde and Davies. The song appeared on the Kinks’ first album in 1964 and the Pretenders’ debut in 1979. It’s one of those few instances where I prefer the cover version and I’m a huge Kinks fan. It’s not markedly different, just sounds better to me, perhaps due to more advanced sound and production techniques. The Kinks’ version on their live One For The Road album kicks better butt given it was done later, on their tour promoting the 1979 major comeback Low Budget album.
Bonnie Raitt, Spit Of Love . . . Raitt’s albums are usually heavy on covers of songs by great writers like John Hiatt but she wrote this nice groove tune, from her 1998 album Fundamental.
Linda Ronstadt, Mental Revenge . . . A Mel Tillis song from her 1970 album Silk Purse. Early stuff. Very country, more so, arguably, than Tillis’s own version. Like Raitt, to an even greater degree Ronstadt was more an interpreter, and a great one, of songs written by others, than a writer herself. That’s not meant as a criticism by any stretch. There have been many artists – Elvis Presley for one – who didn’t write much of their own material although in Elvis’s case, he might have written but it was more a matter of that’s how the industry worked then; writers and performers were often separate. And in any behind-the-scenes looks at Elvis recording, it’s apparent he’s in command of the sessions so it’s not as if he and those like him were just voices for other people’s words. In Ronstadt’s case, there’s lots to be said for an artist’s ability to select great material to cover and she once said that some of the favorites among the songs she sang were not her hits, but deeper cuts. Like this one. Sadly, I had to say Ronstadt ‘was’ more an interpreter because she’s long since retired – her amazing and versatile voice has been silenced by progressive supranuclear palsy, a degenerative disease affecting the brain. Her wonderful career, including her sad decline, is well covered in the excellent documentary, The Sound of My Voice. A must watch for any music fan.
Pat Benatar, Rated X . . . Likely my favorite Benatar tune from my favorite album of hers, the debut In The Heat Of The Night, 1979. Rated X, surprisingly to me not on any compilation Benatar has released, was the first song I heard from the album and hence the first Benatar I ever heard, back when commerical rock radio dug a little deeper, because the song was only released as a single in France where it made No. 30. Written and also performed by England-born, Vancouver-raised Nick Gilder of Sweeney Todd and solo fame.
Keith Richards/Norah Jones, Illusion . . . Here’s my sneaky exception to the all-woman show theme, although there are occasional male voices on other songs in the set, via backing vocals. But no outright duets like this one with Jones from Richards’ most recent solo album, Crosseyed Heart, released in 2015. I play something from my favorite band, the Stones or Stones-related (what I call Stones, Inc.) material every Monday on my other show. And while I don’t intend to do that on this still-new Saturday gig (although I do plan to do a solo Stones show at some point along with solo Beatles, etc.), I wanted to play something from Jones and, well, this came up first in the computer when I was searching Heart tracks. Later, I saw other Norah stuff but, by then I was set so . . .
Marianne Faithfull, Guilt . . . Another from Stones, Inc. I suppose one could say, Faithfull of course once having been involved with Mick Jagger. From her brilliant Broken English album.
Fleetwood Mac, Storms . . . Stevie Nicks wrote and sang this one, from 1979’s Tusk album. Some people, critics included, were perplexed by the double album given the immediacy and more commercial appeal of the two records – the self-titled so-called white album and Rumours – that preceded Tusk but like so many doublt albums, it’s full of gems that reward repeat listens.
Alannah Myles, Rockinghorse . . . Myles had the massive hit with Black Velvet, from her debut album, along with several other big singles but this title cut from her second album, while not released as a single, remains one of my favorites of hers.
Sass Jordan, Ugly . . . Kick butt rocker from the Rats album. George Clinton of Parliament/Funkadelic fame is credited with ‘talking, backing vocals’ on the record and I’m pretty sure that’s him yakking on the intro and outro although there’s other guys playing instruments and providing backup singing on the track. Jordan has entered the covers album industry and that’s a good thing. She’s released two blues covers albums since 2020, the latest coming out in June of 2022. Rebel Moon Blues and Bitches Blues are terrific albums and unsurprisingly so, given Jordan’s throaty, seductive voice. It’s made for deep blues.
Jefferson Airplane, Greasy Heart . . . One of the great examples, to me, of Grace Slick’s singing. Viciously aggressive I’d call it, over top of great rhythm guitar work by Martin Balin and Paul Kantner. Jorma Kaukonen provides the lead guitar theatrics.
Janis Joplin, Half Moon . . . From Pearl, her final album, released in January of 1971, three months after Joplin died. Track for track, it’s her best, in my opinion but it’s the one I know best since I grew up with it thanks to my older sister playing the shit out of it and why wouldn’t she? It’s a great album. I had great sibling role models for my music in my older sister and brother, who I’ve often mentioned.
Bobbie Gentry, Apartment 21 . . . I’ve said it enough whenever I play her but it bears repeating for those who only know Gentry for her big hit, Ode To Billie Joe. I strongly suggest digging deeper. Great artist, one of the first women who wrote and produced much of her own material. She quit the music industry in the late 1970s, having had enough. I find that kinda cool. I’ve done it, I’m done, kind of thing. I like nonconformists, being one myself and it’s not contrived, it’s just one’s nature. She last performed publicly in 1981 and last appeared in public at the Academy of Country Music Awards in 1982 after which she essentially disappeared off the face of the earth. Now 80, presuming she’s still around, she lives in a gated community near Memphis, Tennessee, according to some reports. Or, according to other reports, she’s in Los Angeles.
Heart, Bebe Le Strange . . . Title cut rocker from the band’s 1980 album. It was released as a single but, ridiculously, didn’t make the top 100 on Billboard, the first Heart single not to achieve that status.
The Mamas & The Papas, Dream A Little Dream Of Me . . . Mama Cass, Cass Elliott, takes lead vocals on this standard that dates to 1931. John Phillips, prime papa, says so at the beginning of the song. And I trust him.
Melissa Etheridge, Refugee . . . Yes, it’s the Tom Petty song, done semi-acoustically, at least to start things off. It was a ‘new’ track on Etheridge’s 2005 greatest hits album. Nice version.
Martha and The Muffins/M + M, Obedience . . . This is an outlier among the more rock and blues-oriented sound of this set, a new wave, techno Talking Heads-type track from 1983’s Danseparc album, issued during the band’s brief and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to rebrand as M + M. The evolution of the band’s name is interesting reading. Originally, Martha and The Muffins was supposed to be a temporary name, but the name stuck, thanks in large measure to the band’s first and best-known hit, Echo Beach.
Patti Smith, Soul Kitchen . . . Cover of the Doors’ song, from the excellent all-covers album, Twelve, which I often mine for my shows if and when I play Patti.
Nina Simone, Wild Is The Wind . . . Great song, amazing voice. Thanks to David Bowie for introducing me to it via his version that appeared on the 1976 album Station To Station. Johnny Mathis also did it.
Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton, Hound Dog . . . Made famous in the mainstream by Elvis Presley, this is the original version of the Jerry Leiber-Mike Stoller track, recorded by Thornton in 1952 and released in 1953 and a big hit for her on the blues and R & B charts. Elvis followed it in 1956.
Joni Mitchell, The Wolf That Lives In Lindsey . . . Terrific experimental track from Mingus, the 1979 album Mitchell recorded with jazz legend Charles Mingus, his final musical project, recorded in the months before he died. Other jazz and jazz-fusion luminaries on the album are bassist Jaco Pastorius, sax player Wayne Shorter and pianist Herbie Hancock.
Blackmore’s Night, Fires At Midnight . . . From former Deep Purple founding guitarist Ritchie Blackmore’s folk, rock and medieval rock project in collaboration with his wife and lead vocalist, Candice Night.
Fairport Convention, Who Knows Where The Time Goes . . . Where does it go, indeed? The wonderful voice of the late great Sandy Denny, who also wrote the song, searches for answers. Led Zeppelin fans likely cottoned to her via her shared vocals with Robert Plant on The Battle of Evermore, from Zep IV.
Joan Baez, Simple Twist Of Fate . . . Baez covers one of her former flame’s tunes. I love how Baez, starting at the 2:24 mark for 25 seconds, sounds almost exactly like Bob Dylan. Maybe it is him. Good sense of humor, Joan.
Billie Holiday, Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off . . . I played Billie’s Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do on my Monday show last week. It came down to a choice between that song and this one, so I pushed this to Saturday, knowing I’d be doing a women’s artist show.
Dinah Washington, Baby Get Lost . . . All right, I’m leaving soon. Calm down, Dinah, alhough you’re sexy when you’re angry. Be happy you had a No. 1 R & B hit with this in 1949. I wasn’t even around then, so gimme a break; you’re obviously mistaking me for someone else. I showed up on the planet 10 years later.
Blondie, Fade Away and Radiate . . . From Parallel Lines, the 1979 album that broke Blondie big with hits like Heart of Glass, Hanging On The Telephone and One Way Or Another. This has a much different vibe than those songs, almost progressive rock in spots, and one of my favorite Blondie tracks.