Saturday, November 12, 2011

Chick Churchill “You & Me” (1974)

Besides singer/guitarist Alvin Lee, the only other member of the British blues-rock band Ten Years After who has ever released a solo album is keyboardist Chick Churchill. Churchill’s only solo album, titled You & Me, was released in 1974, when the original breakup of his usual band was all but final. Churchill wrote and produced the ten songs; besides playing the keyboards, he also arranged the strings. Two of his usual bandmates (bassist Leo Lyons, drummer Ric Lee) assisted on some tracks, as did Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson of Supertramp, Martin Barre, Cozy Powell, Bernie Marsden, and Bill Jackman. Churchill only sang the lead vocals on two tracks, “You’re Not Listening” and “Falling Down an Endless Day”. The other tracks were sung by journeyman vocalist Gary Pickford-Hopkins, who performed on Rick Wakeman’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth album that same year.

As you might have guessed after reading the names of the supporting players, the music on You & Me suggests that Churchill was considering a solo career in the then-dominant progressive rock genre. The album mainly consists of mellow art-pop. Although it’s not as stodgy as some entries in that genre, You & Me is also not particularly stimulating. Churchill’s playing distinguishes the material only slightly; it’s most effective on the pretty ballad “Dream of Our Maker Man” and the instrumental “Chiswick Flower”. The opening track “Come and Join Me” resembles a Rod Stewart song from the period, but has less vigor than Rod the Mod would have delivered. Churchill is able to carry the tunes on his two vocal turns, but he was wise to tap a professional to sing on the rest of the tracks.

Churchill did not continue to pursue a solo recording career. After the breakup of Ten Years After became official in 1976, Churchill continued to work in the music business as a publisher and promoter. Since then, Ten Years After have regrouped – but that’s another story.


Chick Churchill “You & Me” (Chrysalis CHR 1051) 1974

Track Listing:

1. Come and Join Me
2. Broken Engagements
3. You and Me
4. Reality in Arrears
5. Dream of Our Maker Man
6. Ode to an Angel
7. You’re Not Listening
8. Chiswick Flower
9. The Youth I Dreamt In Slipped Away
10. Falling Down an Endless Day

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Third Man Records vinyl exclusives, Part 9

Last week I received the ninth pair of exclusive vinyl items offered to platinum members of Third Man Records’ Vault service. For those who are unaware, Third Man Records is the label owned by Jack White, who is the leader of the White Stripes, the Raconteurs, and the Dead Weather. The Vault service promises to deliver exclusive vinyl-only records (one full-length album and one 7” single) to its platinum members every three months. According to the postmark, my package was sent on October 26th. I received it on the 28th.

Instead of recordings by White’s well-known bands, this ninth set of items consists of recordings in which White was a player, but where he ceded most of the spotlight to two elder statespeople who began their careers in the 1950’s. The package contains a live album (pressed in black-and-blue split-colored vinyl) by Wanda Jackson, recorded at Third Man Studios, as well as a DVD of the same concert, and a 7” single containing two 1998 recordings from Two-Star Tabernacle, a short-lived band which featured Jack White.

Two-Star Tabernacle was a late-‘90’s punk quartet consisting of a pre-Stripes Jack White, future Blanche founders Dan John Miller and Tracee Mae Miller, and future Detroit Cobras drummer Damian Lang. Their only official release before this Vault package was a 7” single recorded in 1998 with R&B veteran Andre Williams. (That single was “Ramblin’ Man” b/w “Lily White Mama & Jet Black Daddy”, released on Bloodshot Records, cat. no BS 041). Their Vault single was also recorded in 1998. The A-side is an early version of “The Big 3 Killed My Baby”, which was later recorded by the White Stripes for their 1999 debut album. This version is looser than the one by the Stripes, as Jack White and Andre Williams share lead vocals in raucous fashion. The B-side is a different version of Hank Williams’ “Ramblin’ Man” than the one which served as the A-side of the original Two-Star Tabernacle single. Where the original single’s version was a duet between Andre Williams and Dan John Miller, this version is sung only by Miller, and it has a more straightforward consistency. Good single. (By the way: happy birthday to Andre Williams, who turned 75 on the day this blog post was published).

Wanda Live! At Third Man Records finds 73-year-old rockabilly/country/gospel legend Wanda Jackson performing a set of oldies (and one Amy Winehouse cover) at Third Man Studios in January 2011, backed by an 11-piece house band featuring Jack White. The gracefully aged septuagenarian shows remarkable enthusiasm through her ten-song set (after the house band opens the show with the Bill Justis instrumental “Raunchy”). Her gravelly voice sounds only slightly more weathered than it did 50 years earlier, and the house band’s backing gives the set a neo-‘50’s vibe that feels both modern and nostalgic. Most of the songs date from the time of Jackson’s late-‘50’s, early-‘60’s career peak, including her own hit “Right or Wrong”; that song’s newly appreciated B-side “Funnel of Love”; “Let’s Have a Party”, a song made famous by both Jackson and her one-time boyfriend Elvis Presley; and “Like a Baby”, one of the King’s lesser-known songs. It’s an entertaining set, to be sure, though it’s hardly a major event.

As for the song that is not an oldie: the inclusion of Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good” is arguably a case of bad timing. This concert was recorded six months before Winehouse’s alcohol-related death in July 2011, but this Vault package was delivered a few months after that tragic event. It was Jack White’s idea to have Jackson cover the Winehouse song, his reason being that Jackson was the “bad girl” of her day, and her cover of the Winehouse song enables her to sound like a more contemporary “bad girl”. But, my, how “bad girls” have changed since Wanda’s day: Jackson has lived a long life and matured into an elderly woman who can rock and roll with grace at age 73, but Winehouse self-destructed at the early age of 27 (see my most recent blog post before this one). Jackson notes during the concert that she was understandably reluctant to record the song. Jackson’s voice does fit the song well, giving it a whiskey-flavored dimension, but it’s best for the listener to forget that a 70-something is singing it. When watching the DVD of this concert, that’s not so easy to do. We see a clearly wise old woman singing lyrics about cheating, about boozing, and about her stomach dropping and her guts churning. Distasteful? A little bit.

Listening to the 40-minute concert on vinyl is adequate, but watching the DVD is a better way to experience it. Jackson’s enthusiasm and White’s control come through more clearly in the visual medium. In keeping with Third Man’s devotion to vinyl, the DVD’s packaging resembles a miniature LP jacket and inner sleeve.

Another note for fellow vinyl aficionados: the forgotten practice of engraving text in the dead wax, or runout grooves between the sticker and the last track’s grooves, is evident on these items. Someone had fun carving the text into the single: Side A has “ole tre cantu sea, ewe dud culled la nord pole ice caps una mea ego” carved in the dead wax; the B-side has “una grande tray neco see ala maledicta puta mea una borne vida” carved. Side One of the LP has “Was that Sam Malone?” etched in the runout grooves; Side Two has “I think I saw Clara Clayton” carved.


Wanda Jackson “Wanda Live! At Third Man Records” (Third Man TMR085) 2011

Track Listing:

1. Raunchy (instrumental)
2. Riot in Cell Block #9
3. I’m Busted
4. You Know I’m No Good
5. Like a Baby
6. Right or Wrong
7. Fujiyama Mama
8. Funnel of Love
9. Blue Yodel #6
10. Let’s Have a Party
11. Shakin’ All Over


Wanda Jackson “Wanda Live! At Third Man Records” (Third Man DVD TMR 116) 2011

Track Listing is same as above.


2 ★ Tabernacle “The Big 3 Killed My Baby” (b/w “Ramblin’ Man”) (Third Man single TMR111) 2011

Track Listing:

a. The Big 3 Killed My Baby
b. Ramblin’ Man