Sunday, May 17, 2009

Classic Rock Videos

Bad Company - Ready For Love

Rain Songs- part one

As the featured writer at, I thought that, with the spring rains that we are experiencing, it would be a great topic to look at some 'rain' songs. Here is the first installmnet (of four)

By Robert Benson

After a long, hard winter, we all look forward to the spring, the warmth of the sun and the longer days of April and May and then on to summertime. However, as they say- with spring a little rain must fall. In this four-part article series, let’s explore some popular ‘rain’ songs in musical history, you will probably be surprised how many of these songs from American music that you are familiar with.

B.J. Thomas scored number one hit in 1970 with the Burt Bacharach/Hal David song called “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head.” The song was written for the soundtrack of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. The cut was the second number one single for the Bacharach-David songwriting team and it won an Academy Award for Best Song, being only the second number one song of the rock era to do so.

Interestingly, the night before B.J. Thomas was to record the song, he was under doctor’s orders not to use his voice for two weeks (he was suffering from laryngitis). However, he pleaded with the doctor to treat his condition, explaining that he had to record a song for a new Paul Newman movie and the doctor gave him some medication to keep his throat lubricated so he could sing.

The next day, Thomas did five takes of the song before Bacharach was satisfied (and Thomas would later admit that if he had been asked to record one more take, he couldn’t have done it). After a few weeks his voice healed and he flew to New York to record the single version, this time his voice was crystal clear.

Some history books say that Bob Dylan was originally asked to record the song, but Bacharach disputes this, claiming that he had asked Ray Stevens to do it, but it wasn’t a career move that Stevens wanted to make. Ooops.

Iconic guitarist Eric Clapton released a cut called “Let It Rain” in 1972 (it peaked at #48 on the Billboard charts). Clapton wrote the song with the help of Bonnie and Delaney Bramlett while they were on tour together in 1969 (and while Clapton was still with the supergroup Blind Faith). The song is the last track on Clapton’s first solo album, which was coincidently produced by Delaney Bramlett. There is also a nineteen-minute version of the song on the Derek and the Dominos “Live at the Fillmore LP.

The song was not released as a single until 1972. Two years after the album came out. Jerry Allison and Sonny Curtis, both former members of Buddy Holly and the Crickets, along with Bonnie Bramlett and Rita Coolidge sang back up vocals.

Another fantastic rain song is the Creedence Clearwater Revival cut, “Have You Ever Seen The Rain,” which hit number eight on the Billboard charts in 1971 (from the LP Pendulum 1970).

There have been some who have speculated that the song’s lyrics were referring to the Vietnam War, with ‘rain’ being a metaphor for bombs falling for the sky. But John Fogerty, singer and songwriter for the band has stated that the song is about the rising tension and internal strife that CCR was experiencing at the time and about the imminent departure of his brother, Tom from the band (he ultimately left the band in early 1971 after the release of Pendulum).

Before there was the Partridge Family, another family band scored a huge hit with a ‘rain’ song. The Cowsills, a family pop group, hit number two on the Billboard charts in the fall of 1967 with the song called “The Rain, The Park and Other Things.” It is also known as the ‘flower girl song, in reference to the lyrics, “I love the flower girl.”

Some interesting tidbits about the cut are that it is one of only a few vocal works whose lyrics do not contain the song’s title. The song was co-written and produced by Artie Kornfeld, who later went on to fame as one of the concert promoters at the legendary concert at Woodstock. Additionally, the song was an international hit, reachi9ng number one in Canada in the week of November 13, 1967 and was also a hit in the UK.

“Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain” is a song that was written by Fred Rose and was originally recorded in 1945 by Roy Acuff and later in 1951 by Hank Williams Sr. But it is best remembered as the breakthrough number one hit for country singer Willie Nelson (the song hit number one on the country singles chart and number twenty-one on the Billboard Top 100), who also earned a Grammy Award for Country Male Vocalist in 1975.

Prior to the massive success of the song, Nelson had enjoyed mainstream success primarily as a songwriter; the best known song he wrote was “Crazy,” performed by Patsy Cline. He chose to include “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain” on his concept LP “Red Headed Stranger” and with his own unique style incorporated into the melody, the hit helped launch his career to country superstardom.

The cut has also been placed at number 302 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs. Interestingly, it is also the last known song that Elvis Presley performed before his untimely passing on August 16, 1977 (he had played the song at his Graceland home piano shortly before his demise).

Look for our next article coming soon, where we will explore more popular ‘rain’ songs in music history.

Music News & Notes

Don Henley Getting New Hits Set

It's been 14 years since Don Henley released Actual Miles: Henley's Greatest Hits so, for most artists, it would probably be time for a new career retrospective. For Henley, though, his only release over that time has been 2000's Inside Job.

That's one of the reasons that the upcoming "The Very Best of Don Henley" is not all that different from the 1995 retrospective. Specifically, the new album is the first ten tracks from Actual Miles, in the exact same order, plus the track Everybody Knows, which was recorded for Miles and three songs from Inside Job.

What is totally new, at least in the deluxe set, is a DVD with six of the hits from the first disc in their original video form (for some reason, though, the End of the Innocence video is not included) along with four additional audio tracks from various movie soundtracks.

Two versions of the set will be released on June 16 in physical formats with a single CD or the CD/DVD set.



Springsteen Euro Release

Bruce Springsteen & the E-Street Band will release a new Greatest Hits compilation exclusively in Europe for their upcoming tour.

The 18-track set expands the album released exclusively through Wal-Mart earlier this year with fan favorites Blinded By the Light, The River and I'm On Fire, Long Walk Home from the Magic album, and two tracks from the 1975 concert included in the recent box set (Because the Night and Fire). The other 12 tracks are the same on both albums.

Even the cover is very reminiscent of the Wal-Mart release with yellow tinting and the lettering in block letters. Springsteen on his motorcycle is replaced with a band photo.

The album is due in Europe June 1.


Vandaveer Announce US Dates, 7-inch Release

Vandaveer have announced their first 7-inch release. The limited edition vinyl, to be released with Providence's Supply & Demand Music, features two new tracks: "Turpentine" and "Woolgathering." Both tracks appear on the band's "Divide & Conquer," which has already seen release in France, Belgium and Switzerland. To celebrate the release of the 7-inch, Vandaveer are hitting the road for a US tour. The band, who just completed shows in Europe, have also filmed a video for their song "Fistful Of Swoon."

Vinyl records making a comeback


It's somewhat ironic that in an era when more and more people prefer to get their recorded music digitally, vinyl records are making a comeback.

It's not about nostalgia; young people love them too. Vinyl records are suddenly cool again and part of the reason is they sound better. There's a warmth to analogue sound that digital can't match.

That means you were right to keep your vinyl records for all these years despite the digital onslaught. Digital music has some advantages; it's portable and lightweight. A digital player will run through your entire collection and continuously play songs in any order you want, you can even broadcast them over the Internet.

Part of the reason vinyl records sound better is the way the music was mixed -- they needed to sound good on cheap radios. That means if you record your vinyl records on to a computer, the digital files you create still sound a lot like vinyl records.

Now you need to be aware of copyright restrictions. In Canada, making a copy of a recorded work that you already own is considered "fair use" as long as keep it for yourself. If the work is more than 50 years old, it is no longer protected by copyright and you can do whatever you want with it.

Some people find the task of converting their records daunting, but the rewards are well worth it. I have been digitizing my collection for years and people are always asking me how it's done, so I've put together some pointers. I don't want to get mired in tedious details here so I'm posting a more detailed version of this article on the web, just go to you want to see it.

First, it's not a good idea to rely on recordable CDs to store your music, they only have a life expectancy of about five years. You really want your music on a hard drive, then you can transfer it anywhere you want. I recommend buying an external hard drive, they're cheap, reliable and have unimaginable amounts of storage space.

You will need a good turntable with a magnetic cartridge, a funky old record player won't do. Fortunately you can still buy them new and the best deals are on-line. Most sellers are U. S. based and many won't ship out of the country, presumably to keep turntables out of the hands of terrorists, but some will. You can get a good, three-speed turntable delivered to your door for around $300.

Numark makes turntables with a USB connection that you just plug into your computer and you're set. If you want more control, Stanton makes a line of digitally controlled turntables for DJs that have both USB and normal connectors and do many weird things like play backwards. I also love this fact: they don't have a 78 speed but 33 and 45 add up to 78, press both speed buttons at the same time and voila, it's 78 RPM.

If you use an older turntable then you'll need a small preamp to bring the sound up to line level and you will likely need to upgrade the sound card in your computer. The most basic card will do and you can get one for under $50. You'll also need a connector that converts your turntable's RCA style jacks to a stereo jack that goes into your sound card -- you can get one at The Source.

Finally you need software to make the recording and there's a lot out there. One of the most popular is Audacity, which works well and is free.

Now you're ready to start recording. The first decision you need to make is what sample rate you're going to use. To make a file that is compatible with CD players, chose a rate of 44,100 and a resolution of 16 bits.

Once you record the selection, you'll want to remove the noise at the beginning and the end, so you just have the music. That's really easy, you'll see a graphic representation of the sound on your screen, you just highlight the part you don't want and delete it. It's just the same as taking an unwanted word out of a text document.

Most recording software includes a "noise reduction" feature but none of it works very well. It will take out some noise but will often make your music sound like it's playing under water. If you have clean records in good condition, noise reduction isn't necessary.

Occasional clicks and pops can be edited out manually. You just zoom in on the offending spot and cut it out. You want to cut out as small a portion as possible or you'll hear a jump in the sound.

Usually you can't control the volume while you're recording so you'll need to "normalize" it when you're finished. That adjusts the volume to the highest level possible without clipping or distorting any of the sound. Records have wildly different volume levels. If you normalize every file when you're recording, they should all play at more or less the same volume.

You need to decide on a format for saving your files. The best-known format is mp3, which is sometimes pronounced "empeg".

The mp3 encoding takes out some of the detail and compresses the file to a much smaller size preserving most of the sound quality. It's good because the file is small and it will play virtually anywhere.

Another common format is called the wave file, which ends with the extension ".wav".

A standard wave file does not does not compress the digital information at all so it is better sounding than an mp3 but it is often 10 times as large and needs special software to play it. For archiving purposes, you might want to save all your recordings as wave files for best quality, then make mp3 copies of them for portability.

Most software allows you to add information that is not part of the audio.

You can put in the artist name, the song title, the LP title, the genre of music etc. It's a good idea to do this as the player will display it, otherwise you just see the file name. You should also decide on a standard way to name and organize your files. You'll appreciate it when you're looking for a particular file a few years from now.

All this may sound like a lot, but digital archiving is a great way to get to know your record collection again.

You'll find you listen to your music more without even touching the vinyl records, you can put them in storage or sell them. The market for vinyl is strong right now, if you have a good collection, you'll make enough to more than pay for all the do-dads you had to buy to digitize them.

Lorne VanSinclair is organizer of the Toronto Musical Collectables Show & Sale, Canada's largest record collectors' event and is a website designer.