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Mike Ragogna

Mike Ragogna

Posted: December 20, 2010 12:42 AM

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So, you think you know all things AC/DC? Really. Well, take a hit of the essays, historical photos, memorabilia, and general overkill contained between the over 225 pages of High Voltage Rock 'N' Roll: The Ultimate Illustrated History and you'll be intimidated indeed. Rock journalist Phil Sutcliffe (with a little help in sidebar form from folks like Robert Ellis, Joe Bonomo, Philip Morris, and a cast of 17 others) supplies the biographical and historical spunk that takes us from Angus & Malcom Young's vision through the Brian Johnson and Chris Slade roster adjustments and, of course, way beyond. Commentaries and reflections by Jimmy Page, Billy Gibbons, Joe Perry, Steve Vai, Ace Frehley, Meat Loaf, Jack Johnson (yes, Jack Johnson), and Joe Elliott round out the over-the-top celebration that is Illustrated History. Some of the early shots of the band by Philip Morris and Bob King are worth the price of the book alone. But add club pictures by Jenny Lens and Robert Francos and the behind-the-scenes images contributed by Robert Ellis and Robert Alford, and you have a visual history that is as valid as any of the authors' contributions or researchers' timelines and discography. Who knew there was so much to know about this metal prototype from Australia, one that most forget contributed to the hard rock scene in the U.S. more than most American bands did. Now you know, and the rest, as they say, is Illustrated History.

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Jane Roman Pitt (aka Ladylullaby) - Midnight Lullaby

When it comes to successfully marketed children's music, you've got two categories: The listenable and the horrible. For the most part, the former category has been advanced by aging singer-songwriters and artists who actually are trying to establish a higher caliber of releases than the condescending junk lining the endcaps of kids' clothing and toy stores.

Midnight Lullaby, the latest album by Jane Roman Pitt, who is in the process of re-establishing her identity as "Ladylullaby" Mannheim Steamroller-style, is a beautiful addition to not only those aforementioned outlets and the children's section of whatever is left of record stores, but to any grownup's CD or MP3 collections.

Jane's vocals are like a cross between '80s country crooner Judy Rodman and Karen Carpenter's, and the simple instrumentation borders on country, adult contemporary, and folk, an amalgam overseen by co-producer Mac Gayden whose pop über-classic "Everlasting Love" gets re-recorded so often (including by U2), it might as well be a Beatles song. Mac's hypnotic acoustic guitar and slide work embrace each song with a vine-like rapture, and Martha Jacobs' cello--along with Pete Finney's pedal steel, and Curt Perkins' always elegant keyboards--make this outing not just soothing for the kiddies, but a fireplace essential for the Cabernet crowd.

Apparently, Donovan insisted Jane record his "La Moora," and Nashville hitmaker Hugh Prestwood donated his previously unrecorded "Dreaming Sweet Dreams" as the project developed. Jane's choices of the lightly bluesy title track written by Tom Waits, Sade's "The Sweetest Gift," and Dixie Chicks' terrific vocalese disguised as the song "Lullaby" show her understanding of the craft of songwriting, and her own original "Welcome Home To Love" is a song Judy Collins needs to record like tomorrow.

Midnight Lullaby is all so delicate and tasteful that it naturally will bypass hipster ears. But thankfully, most art doesn't need pop culture's permission to be beautiful or approval to influence, something this project could do if the right ears hear it. The album is a simple offering, not pretending to be anything more than a collection of gentle, lovely, and soothing recordings that parents and children can enjoy together. Sweet dreams everyone.

Start Here: "Baby That's Not All," "Dreaming Sweet Dreams," "Forever Young" and "Welcome Home To Love"

Tracks:
1. Baby That's Not All
2. My Darling
3. Dreaming Sweet Dreams
4. Lullaby
5. Midnight Lullaby
6. Welcome Home To Love
7. The Sweetest Gift
8. La Moora
9. Whisper Warm
10. Forever Young
11. Goodnight, Golden Slumbers

website: ladylullaby.com

Intermission: Elvis Costello's "I Lost You"










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A Conversation with Chip Taylor

Mike Ragogna: Chip, hi.

Chip Taylor: Hey Mike, how are you? I am in my New York apartment away from the cold outside. The sun is shining through the window, so I feel great.

MR: Very nice, quite cozy. So, you have an album that was nominated this year for a Grammy--Yonkers, NY.

CT: Yes, this is a wonderful thing. I love Yonkers, New York and it's something I've loved doing, going out and playing it around the world. In fact, I wasn't sure that it would go over around the world as there are a lot of stories attached to it. In the midst of all the songs, every once in a while, there is a story told about different things, like in Saw Mill River Road. It takes me back to a place where I used to play music when I was 15, 16 years old in Yonkers, in a place called the Chat 'n' Chew, where I used to play Johnny Cash songs. So, I love these memories that I am getting from playing that stuff. But that being said, I am always onto the next thing. I have been on the road with Carrie Rodriquez promoting our new duet album.

MR: That's the album The New Bye & Bye, a "best-of" collection, right?

CT: It's a collection with four new songs that are kind of featured in the show, and it's wonderful to be singing again with Carrie. We haven't sung together in a couple of years and it's magic to me. If anybody hears what we've done in the past, a lot of those folks probably get the same chills that I get every time I am on stage with her singing. It's great.

MR: True, her violin is haunting, the vocals are beautiful. You met her at SXSW, that's how the two of you got together?

CT: Right. Several years ago, she showed up at one of my shows, and she had just graduated from Berklee. Somebody brought her to one of my shows and we met for the first time. She had known some of my music but not all of it, and she had never sung before. She was a brilliant violinist. I saw her the next day and hired her as a fiddle player. I got her to sing harmony, and then that wonderful voice kind of came out of nowhere. We became the team "Chip Taylor & Carrie Rodriquez" for several years, and it was just wonderful.

MR: And you have since recorded several albums with her.

CT: Three albums were on the Americana charts--one went to #1, one went to #2, and one went to #3. We recorded a live album in Germany with Bill Frisell and the gang that was great, and then this new one.

MR: I interviewed Bill Frisell a couple of months ago, what a great musician and a wonderful guy.

CT: Yeah, there is nobody like Bill.

MR: Now, some of the songs that Carrie knew when she met you had to be "Angel Of The Morning."

CT: She said she knew Angel Of The Morning" and "Wild Thing," and she had been a big, big Janis Joplin fan, so she knew "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)." She knew those, but wasn't familiar with my album at the time which was Black And Blue America. She wasn't familiar with the country success that I had had so much, that's where we got focused-in our early recordings in the folk/country side of things.

MR: I actually worked at Buddah (respelled "Buddha"), the reconstituted version that was a label at BMG. Two of the albums that I desperately wanted to put out at the time was the Gorgoni, Martin & Taylor album and your solo Gasoline album.

CT: That's wonderful. We were signed by Neil (Bogart) and Buddah. Neil was just a wonderful innovator and he went with his own spirit, went with us, and gave me my opportunity to record my own first album which was Gasoline. That led me to Warner Brothers and Last Chance and This Side Of The Big River and Some of Us. So, I owe a lot to Neil.

MR: Speaking of Warners, I think the year Last Chance came out was on a lot of top ten lists.

CT: Well, it was a cult thing. Those were the days when all of this country stuff wasn't happening and The Byrds made that wonderful album, Sweetheart Of The Rodeo and Gram Parsons started to get involved. He had that great stuff with Emmylou Harris and all that stuff including mine was kind of underground. It wasn't really happening. We had a cult following, I was happy to be in that mix. I did a cover thing, a Neil Young song for Mojo Magazine the other day. I was thinking about Neil and that he was one of the great guys that we all loved, but he was one of the ones that made it into the mainstream. He remained so rich in character throughout that period of time.

MR: Speaking of Emmylou Harris, I came across her version of one of your songs that I had always loved by Anne Murray. It was one of the most touching recordings that producer Brian Ahern ever produced with her, and of course, I'm talking about "Son Of A Rotten Gambler." When I listened to Emmylou's version, it was in love again. And even The Hollies took a swing at it. "...Rotten Gambler," like Tim Moore's "Second Avenue," seems to me to be one of those potential classics that the masses just didn't catch a break.

CT: It's a funny thing. You don't like to talk about these things too much, but the truth of the matter is, it was a wonderful show business story. Anne Murray's version of a "...Rotten Gambler" was just a magnificent record, and it was a single released from the (Love Song) album because Annie asked it to be released when she went on tour and it was quickly becoming her biggest success in years. As it was bulleting up the charts, it was around October, the company had another album planned for release, and they needed it to get final quarter billing. So, instead of continuing promoting the single, they released the other album and stopped the single as it was bulleting up the charts in one of the most terrible business decisions. They were just so short sighted to get the billing for that one year, and forgot that they could have had a classic for years and years to come. Thank you for your comments about it. I certainly feel the same way.

MR: I think it's a magnificent record. I am with you on that.

CT: I got chills when that song came on (the radio), I remember now thinking about it. I was in the South and Anne's record started with a fade-in organ which I had never heard before on a record, and I could hear the DJ saying "Number One, One, One..." and then you hear this fade in organ for several seconds, and then Anne starts out, "And his love will be his vision." Beautiful.

MR: I would imagine there are pockets in this country that really know "...Rotten Gambler" as if it were a Top Ten record.

CT: I was just thinking about that the other day. I was playing in Massachusetts with Carrie and in Massachusetts, one of the first things I recorded years ago before I had the albums out on Warner Brothers and before I wrote all my hits, was a song called "Here I Am." It was released at the same time that Glen Campbell released a song by the same title, not the same song, and it was released in the same week. I picked up the trade papers and there were both of our records reviewed, only there was one big difference. Glen was a star and I was nobody.

MR: That's heart breaking.

CT: And so Glen got most of the big treatment for the airplay, but mine got pockets of treatment. So, in certain towns like Hartford and Baltimore, my record went to #1. It went to the '80s on the national charts, but had it not been for that thing, it might have done better. I produced Billy Vera and Judy Clay and had two hits with them, "Story Book Children" and Country Girl/City Man." "Storybook..." was the first one. It was not as huge a hit on the West Coast as it was in the East. It was huge here. The other one was the reverse. "Country Girl/City Man" was huge down South and the West Coast and not so big in the East. Those were the days when things like that could happen.

MR: Again, you've got to wonder how important a record is in certain parts of the country even when it isn't a national hit. Artists and labels are always thinking in terms of big national hits.

CT: Right.

MR: So, you were signed at 15?

CT: Yes, at 15 or 16. I was signed to King Records at the time, and the New York division was the all black division. I was signed by a wonderful A&R guy named Henry Glover who had signed Hank Ballard and the Midnighters and James Brown. He had written "Sexy Ways" with Hank Ballard. He was something. We were trying like crazy just to get signed by anybody. My guitar player went door to door with our acetate demos or whatever you called them. Somehow or another, Hank let him in.

MR: How did it feel being signed at 15?

CT: It was a dream come true. I was just on fire when Henry Glover called me and said, "Son, you're on King Records." Man, oh my goodness what a thing this is you know. It was just a wonderful, wonderful period of time. The problem was I loved making the recordings, and augmented the band with Mickey Baker and Panama Francis. These were unbelievable characters and wonderful players. We didn't sell enough records to hold that together. I did okay with one single on Warner Brothers, but I was desperately trying to stay in the business, so I started writing for other people just to jump the gun a little bit. One of the first people, in fact the first person that recorded one of my songs, was Willie Nelson. All of a sudden, I was in the business as a country writer and so happy to be doing that. The dream was always to be a singer, but boy, anyway to get into this business was good enough for me.

MR: Was that song "He Sits at My Table"?

CT: Yeah. Remember, it was a hit of sorts. I didn't particularly like this record as it was one of those corny over-produced records, but Willie loved that song. When I came back to making music ten years ago, he saw me and came over to me and he welcomed me back. He said, "Welcome back, Chip. You know I recorded one of your songs years ago," and I said, "Yeah, I couldn't forget that, Willie!" So, he sang me two versus of the song right there in the parking lot. Really something.

MR: That was your transition into a major songwriter?

CT: Yeah. It was survival.

MR: Looking at your career back then and what you are doing now in terms of your duets with Carrie Rodriquez, plus keeping in mind that music entities are downsizing, what kind of advice would you give to new artists?

CT: Companies aren't really out there looking. They should just get rid of their marketing people. One of the biggest things an artist can do for himself is develop a following, not to write a song or to play it and say, "Oh, I have something wonderful, it's just great." Well, I am sure it's great, and it's good to have that feeling. But now, you're better off if you tell somebody, "I had this song and I played it the other day. I play it every once in a while in person, every week in person at this little place. And now, I got a hundred people asking me for this little song every night." If you do that, then you've got something going on, you know?

I would suggest not to fool yourself. Go out and if you think you got something, go test it out with people and even if you play for no money, you can start gathering fans and then fans can usually tell you what songs really move them. You learn from them, that's the difference now. You have to do that now whereas before, it was a little different. If I felt I wrote a good song, there were some people who may want to hear it back in the day, particularly once I got published by a good publisher. But even these days, great publishers don't have access to opening the doors for artists. Most artists are self-contained, and they have folks around them and they have their own people who write their songs or they do. So, they aren't out there looking so much for songs. It's not what it was like when I was back writing songs. People were looking all the time, and I had a great publisher who would take whatever energy I gave them and go try and find somebody to sing one of those little songs.

MR: Well, one of those little songs that we briefly mentioned earlier was "Wild Thing." What was your first reaction when you heard "Wild Thing," not only by The Troggs, but also when you heard Jimi Hendrix doing it?

CT: Both were terrific reactions and it was a wonderful feeling because it was back in the day when the business was just starting to form itself and rock 'n' roll was just starting to come in. Some people got it and some people didn't, and some people who had power got it and some people who had power didn't get it. What I am talking about are people who had something to do with recording your songs. What you always hoped for is that your song was recorded in a way that felt good--that was the biggest thing to me, did it feel good. Did it have the passion that you had for it when you wrote it? Did it get close to that? So, honestly, I can say The Troggs' record was very close to my demo. I played it with a big open-hole acoustic guitar, and I did the demo at this little studio with Dick Charles in New York. I banged on some things and overdubbed just to keep the passion going and held the "five" chord for extra beats or whatever I felt like, you know? I always did everything by feeling, no mental things. And when I heard that The Troggs had recorded it and I heard the record I just thought, "Oh man, they got it. They just totally got this record and the feeling of this song!" So, I was thinking to myself, "If this is not a hit with them, then this is not going to be a hit because you can't ask for anymore than that."

So, at the same time that The Troggs' record was happening, exploding in England, Europe and here, Jimi Hendrix heard it. I had met Jimi Hendrix a couple of years before and he was trying to become a songwriter back in New York in the day. I met him for a couple of days, and all of a sudden, he became this hero in England, and rightfully so. Jimi heard The Troggs' record played on the airwaves over in England as he was becoming a star. He said he didn't care if it was an uncool thing to cover a song. He was becoming this new sensation, and he used to play it at the end of every set. So, when he did it at Monterey, the folks at the publishing company set up a private screening for me and said, "Chip, you're not going to believe what Jimi Hendrix did to your song last week. Come over tomorrow and we are going to show you a private screening." Oh man. I remember shrinking down in my chair and thinking, "Oh my God." As you look back it was so out there and so wonderful.

MR: While we are at it, let's get the story of "Angel Of The Morning" when you heard Merrilee Rush do it?

CT: Well, actually, the first one who recorded it...I was producing an artist called Evie Sands with my partner Al Gorgoni, a wonderful, wonderful writer, wonderful producer, wonderful guitarist. Al and I got along great, and he played the nylon-stringed guitar on most all of my early demos that are country hits that I had. He did the demos with me. He and I ended up producing some things together, Evie Sands was one of them, and we loved her. She was something else. So, we did a version of "Angel Of The Morning" with Evie, we were quite excited about it, and it was released on Cameo/Parkway. Two weeks after it was released, the company went bankrupt, but it was out there, and a lot of stations had it and were playing it. It was the #1 record in several markets with airplay requests. There were 10,000 records shipped, and they were gone in two days, so Evie was the hard luck girl. She was supposed to be the one to have the first hit. Then my friends Chips Moman and Tommy Cogbill from Memphis asked if it was okay if they could do a version of it with one of their artists and that was Merrilee Rush. They knew that Evie's was dead in the water, and they did a wonderful, wonderful record of it.

MR: I am a big fan of Al Gorgoni. He produced one of my favorite albums, Lay It All Out by Barry Mann.

CT: Oh, great. Yeah, he is one of a kind.

MR: And, of course, all the work that he did in that whole American Studio cartel. So, years later, it was revived by Juice Newton.

CT: It's a wonderful kind of story how that record was recorded. Capital had been trying to break Juice Newton for three or four years. They weren't successful at it, but they were doing okay. She was really liked in-house--and that's a very important thing for artists to know. When you are liked by the staff, it goes a long way. If you are just a decent person, it goes a long way. When you play the rock 'n' roll game and get a little pretentious with folks, it could very well come back to hurt you. In her case, they liked her a lot and were trying to break her. They had a big meeting to try and figure out what to do to break Juice Newton. One of the promotion guys, from what I heard, said, "Well, we are all being silly here. If you want to break Juice Newton you can do it in one simple way. Just record a version of "Angel Of The Morning." Everybody said, "Well, okay," and the producer was there and said alright. So, they went into the studio right away and recorded it.

MR: Beautiful. And then it was used as the basis for Shaggy's "Angel" in 2001.

CT: It was so exciting because the record was selling so well, I am always pleasantly surprised. One of my friends in the city who is involved in the industry and rap stuff had a little label in New York. He said "Chip, you're the next single with the Shaggy thing, and it's going to be big." Then, two weeks later, he said, "Chip, this is going to be humongous." I didn't know, I just knew it was at #80 or something on the charts. Then, I realized how big it was getting and it was going to #1 and I really had not met him yet, didn't know much about him.

So, I went out to Long Island to get to meet him and say hi and to figure out what in the heck he was talking about. (laughs) He is just a great guy. I went out to meet his manager and brought some champagne and some little bottles as I figured there would be a bunch of fellas out there. Shaggy had just gotten to town and he invited me to his house. I met his kids and his producer and the singers and it was just a wonderful meeting. It was great.

MR: What does the future bring for Chip Taylor?

CT: That is the interesting thing after all these years. I am so excited about things and have never been more prolific. I produced a couple of albums with a wonderful Canadian fiddler, a lovely girl, a very talented Kendal Carson. I have done some work with her, some work with a few movie projects which I love. I did an album with John Platania, and we are thinking it was heroically reviewed and it put him in a new dimension, I think. Everyone knows who John is these days--the guy that played with Van Morrison on "Moondance" and "Domino." We have a new album coming out with John, Kendal and I sharing vocal duties called Rock 'N' Roll Joe, it plays almost like a little rock opera kind of thing. It has an adjoining website which will be announced and presented in March. It's dedicated to all musicians who never got their just due, who never got enough credit like Al Gorgoni and folks like that. We have that coming out. I have wonderful folks involved in it. So, that's coming out. And when I was in Norway last month, I recorded 15 new songs with John Platania and some Swedish musicians that just kills me. So, that will be my September release. I am just recording all the time and just loving every minute of it. Kendal has wonderful new things coming out on her own. Oh man, so good.

MR: Are you going to be at SXSW in March?

CT: Yes. The plan is we are going to present Rock 'N' Roll Joe there.

MR: I'll be there and I am really looking forward to it.

CT: It's the best. I have good memories around it every year, and it is the place where I first met Carrie Rodriguez, so wonderful things can happen down there. Last year, a fellow from Japan had seen my show a couple of times at SXSW, and Kendal, John and I got this big invitation to go to Japan next month. So, we are going. A lot of good things can happen at SXSW.

MR: Well I hope to see you when I'm down there. It would be great to catch up in person.

CT: Great, Mike.

MR: Before we go, please would you talk about "Bastard Borthers" off of Yonkers, NY?

CT: My father was a golf professional and his day off was Monday. He used to love to take us to the train station and talk to the conductors. So, here is a Monday with my Dad and Mom, my brothers. On the album, I call them my "Bastard Brothers" cause they are the guys who took the fiddle away from me when I was seven years old in order to stop the screeching in the house. They are wonderful guys. My brother is Jon Voight the actor and Barry Voight who is the guy that invented the formula to predict when volcanoes will erupt. He is a real hero in the family. But this is a Monday. "Charcoal Sky" takes us to a Monday with my brothers Barry, Jon, my Mom Barbara and my Dad Elmer at a train station.

MR: You were going to be a professional golfer at one point, weren't you?

CT: I did turn professional for a brief minute. I was a good junior golfer and so was my brother Jon. We won some tournaments, played in the national juniors. I turned pro around the same time I was signed to King Records. I turned pro and played in a couple of tournaments, but music is what I really wanted, so thank God, I got there.

MR: Nice. Are you happy that we left the Voight connection to the very end here?

CT: I never mind talking about it, I love my family, love my crazy brothers. We are all such good friends and always interested in each others' work. I can't wait to hear what Barry's doing, if he is going on one of his volcano expeditions. He is always writing to me about that stuff. And Jon is always reading me scripts of his new things and is always interested in what new music I have. They are good vibration folks to be around.

MR: Nice. Thank you very, very much Chip Taylor for visiting with us today on solar-powered KRUU-FM.

CT: Great to be with you, Mike.

Tracks:
1. Barry Go On (Put Yourself On The Mountain)
2. Charcoal Sky
3. Gin Rummy Rules
4. Hey Jonny (Did You Feel That Movie)
5. Without Horses
6. No Dice
7. Bastard Brothers
8. Piece Of The Sky
9. Saw Mill River Road
10. Yonkers Girls
11. Yonkers N.Y.

(transcribed by Erika Richards)

 
 
 

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