Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold 29

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Hi everyone! Listen, I get it: I need to listen to ELO. Thanks for all the tips – and for enduring last week’s suckfest of Olivia and Cliff. I think this week’s a little better, but I’ll let you be the judge, as we dive into this week’s edition of Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold!

Pure Prairie League – Let Me Love You Tonight (download)

Remember “Let Me Love You Tonight?” I don’t think it’s ever been suggested by anybody, and I certainly wouldn’t have thought of it off the top of my head – but one day, it just magically appeared on my iPod, and from the second it began, I knew we had a Mellow gem on our hands. But first, the questions on everyone’s mind:

1) Who were The Pure Prairie League?
2) What were their dreams and ambitions?
3) Is Jefito back yet?
4) This sucks. (Not technically a question, but you can’t deny it’s on your mind.)

If you want quick answers so you can go about your day, here you go: 1) A bunch of putzes with guitars, 2) to get laid, 3) no, and why does everybody keep asking me this, and 4) I agree, and I’m the one writing it. But you might as well stick around, since I’m going to write about Pure Prairie League whether you like it or not.

Here at ATTMOMG (first time I’ve acronym-ed that, y’all), we often mourn the loss of the good ol’ days, back when relations between artists and record labels were based on more than just the bottom line. Pure Prairie League is another band that reminds us of a sweeter time; “Let Me Love You Tonight,” the band’s most successful hit, was on their ninth record. The band formed in Ohio in 1969, and, after building a strong following in bars around the Columbus area, were signed to RCA Records a year later. Now, I’m not saying that the record execs were saints; they gave PPL a fightin’ chance, but after two albums and nary a success on the charts, the group was dropped by their label.

Other bands might have quit while they were behind, but Pure Prairie League went back to basics, and continued to perform constantly wherever they could land gigs, usually in the Midwest. Their dedication paid off: after two years of constant touring and promotion, radio stations went back to album #2, Bustin’ Out, and began playing a track entitled “Amie.”

A quick word about this song: while “Let Me Love You Tonight” was certainly the band’s most successful hit, it’s probably not their best-known; “Amie” gets that honor. This tune, despite being primarily acoustic and full of delicious backing vocals, is not Mellow Gold, so we can’t cover it here. However, the song is fantastic that I think it’d be a crime to deprive people of it.

Pure Prairie League – Amie (bonus download)

Pretty tune, right? Plenty of people felt the same way – enough, in fact, that RCA re-signed Pure Prairie League. They re-released Bustin’ Out, which hit the Top 40 and went gold, and “Amie,” which also made the Top 40. (Never mind that the song’s lead singer, Craig Fuller, was no longer in the band – a long story that involves some dubious claims in order to avoid going to Vietnam.)

The success was short-lived, however, and it wasn’t long before Pure Prairie League were once again wondering if they were going to be able to make it through the lows, not to mention the oft-shifting band personnel.

Enter this guy.

Doesn’t look familiar? How about now:

Still no? What’s wrong with you people?

I’m guessing not a lot of people know what Vince Gill looks like, ’cause when I searched for his image, I found a whole bunch with his name included. But anyway, Gill showed up at Pure Prairie League auditions in 1978. He wasn’t planning on trying out – he had just shown up with a friend – but he wound up jamming, and the chemistry was…well, I guess it was good enough to join Pure Prairie League, whatever that’s worth, I dunno.


PPL with Vince Gill. Five guys, five shitty haircuts.
Dr. Hook could only hope to look so good.

With Gill on lead vocals, the stage was set for mellow goodness. However, before the magic happened, the band had one more task to complete: another unsuccessful album. (One would argue that the group was on a roll.) This time, they left RCA for good. And oddly enough, you know who picked them up? Casablanca Records. Yup, home of Donna Summer and The Village People. I mean, yeah, PPL wore lame outfits and had no taste in barbers, but still, did they deserve to be put on the same level as The Village People?

Anyway, Casablanca was where they released album #9, Firin’ Up. And finally – FINALLY! – we get to talk about “Let Me Love You Tonight.” First, you’ve got your title. Mellow is the band that essentially asks permission before loving. We’re not even talking about knocking boots, here. We’re talking about cuddling. C’mon, guys, even Dr. Hook’s looking more manly than you! One has to wonder who rejected the original title, “Um, Pardon Me For Interrupting Your Lunch, But If You’re Not Terribly Busy Later On, Perhaps I Could, Oh, I Don’t Know, Love You Tonight, Pretty Please?” The rest of the lyrics are pretty damn simplistic. The band realized that the chorus, with its Eagles-esque harmonies, was the best part of the song; if they had their way, chances are this number would consist of “let me love you tonight” over and over again. But you have to have verses, and so I guess the tactic was to just write whatever rhymed until we heard that music chorus again. They even wrote a bridge.

When the moon has forgotten what the night’s about
And the stars can’t work their places out
Hold me tighter than tight
When the daylight comes, it’ll be all right


What the fuck is he talking about?
I’ve seen refrigerator poetry better than this crap. And yet, he’s asking the woman to hold him. This just in: Vince Gill has no nads.

So you’ve got your mellow lyrics. You’ve got your mellow harmonies. You’ve also got a sweet bassline and lots of piano. But what’s the mellowest of the mellow on this song? The saxophone! Oh god, the saxophone. It’s pissing all over this track. I actually listened, and there are only 19 consecutive seconds of saxophone-free music. Who the hell can’t put down the sax for more than 20 goddamn seconds?

Curses! It’s David Sanborn! I should have known! You know, earlier in his career, Sanborn was playing with Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, and the Rolling Stones. Later on, he fell into a dark life of smooth jazz. Could it be? Could the smooth stylings of Vince Gill, Pure Prairie League and “Let Me Love You Tonight” have led Sanborn down this tragic road? We may never know, but I’m going to blame them anyway.

In all seriousness, “Let Me Love You Tonight” is perfect Mellow Gold. It’s short, it’s sweet, it’s rather wimpy both in musicality and sentiment, and it has way too much saxophone. What more could you want?

Gill left Pure Prairie League after – you guessed it – another unsuccessful album, which seemed just as well, as Casablanca Records bit the dust. Pure Prairie League essentially split up in 1987, but have reformed in recent years. In fact, if you really want, you can see them with a number of other MG bands: Poco, Firefall, and even Orleans! Just check their tour page and take your pick of venues: state fairs, aboretums, bars or even Renaissance Festivals. Pure Prairie League are still out there for your mellow pleasure.

Enjoy the two PPL tracks and we’ll see you next week for another Adventure Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold!

  • The truth of the matter is that the original lyrics were too risque for Mr. Amy Grant. Observe: Let me love you tonight / Can I reserve a space ‘tween your thighs? / Let me love you tonight / Kinda looks like you’ve done other guys… which, I guess DOES fit Dr. Hook more than Up With PPL… Side note: Man, everyone in the mid-70s looked like commercials for Quaker Oatmeal. Even I could have gotten some tail back then! (too bad I was only 7 or 8) ((too bad women only started digging 7 or 8 year olds in the late 90s)) (((why couldn’t some of MY teachers have been horny?)))

  • Jason, have you heard ELO? You really should. I’m sure even Jefito would approve. Does he still have a blog?
    I feel so gayr right now.

  • That’s a classic mellow gold adventure if ever there was one. Nice song, too, all things considered. The opening bars sound exactly like the incidental music cues on "Cheers" though – I’m always waiting for the music to fade out with an arpeggiated piano chord after the first two bars.

  • David

    He may not have any nads, but as Dw. noted, whatever his non-nads aren’t attached to is being parked in Amy Grant these days, and she is easily the hottest former CCM female musician from the ’80s to crossover and find mainstream success in the ’90s. Hands down.

    Also, “Still Right Here In My Heart” is awesome, too, with strings shitting all over it the way Sanborn’s sax defiles “Let Me Love You Tonight.”

    (And I know I don’t have to defend him here, but still … snark aside, Gill’s an incredible musician.)

  • You’re absolutely right about Gill, David, and if I had wound up with a little more time to write, I would have touched on that.  I actually don’t know much of his music, but I remember being absolutely blown away by his soaring falsetto at the Brian Wilson tribute in ’01.  His vocals on "Surf’s Up" would have made Carl proud.

  • Dan

    You mention  Poco, Firefall and Orleans, but I think Craig Fuller is with, or at least was with, Little Feat.

  • Fuller was with the Feat between, I think, ’88-’91, at which point he was replaced by Shaun Murphy (who was, and is, a backing vocalist for Bob Seger). I reviewed a Pure Prairie League record last year, and I’m 99% certain that Fuller is back behind the microphone for his old band now.

  • r

    Why isn’t "Amie" Mellow Gold? David Bowie Spiders from Mars guitarist Mick Ronson plays bass on "Amie." Craig Fuller replaced Lowell George on Feats’ "Let it Roll" album. While his voice was pleasing enough, it was a stretch for him to get that "grit" in his vocal delivery. I recently saw Sanborn with Michael McDonald and he was awesome.

  • Why isn’t "Amie" Mellow Gold?

    – no synthesizers
    – no saxophone
    – no bearskin rug
    – no Michael McDonald

    It’s a beautiful, sweet country song, but it’s not smooth – at least, not in the same way as the rest of our other Mellow tunes.

  • woofpop

    I have to chime in..
    You are right, Jason, "Amie" is not quite MG – but, it’s a closely related cousin –  "mellow ROCK".  It has to do with timing, instrumentation, lack of cheesy lytics (most of the time), but I will submit that mellow rock begat pure mellow gold.. 

  • As Jason pointed out in an earlier entry, he and he alone decides what is defined as Mellow Gold in these entries. But, being an observer for some time, I’ve created a set of common denominators for this particular genre, my very own mellow-meter :)
    So, for me at least, if the music has a decent combination of these elements, chances are it’s a Mellow Gold classic:
    – bland- gentle- cheesy- wussy- smooth- soft- artificial (in a wider sense: this could refer to instrumentation, but also i.e. to an artist abandoning his or their artistic integrity for commercial purposes or any other reason (like the Climax Blues Band)
    So, even though "Amie" is certainly gentle and soft, 2 out of 7 just doesn’t cut it, see?
    Very… quasi-scientific, no? Oh well, my therapist says I’m off to the ward now, so…

  • Stephen

    Ah yes, yet again my Nashville connection comes in handy. Mr. Gill and Ms. Grant used to live down the street from me in a house now owned by Bill Frist I believe. Heck, I even know Amy Grant’s nephew who just made a Christian indie rock album with John Davis of Superdrag and Amy used to come to all our middle school functions in her heyday (she was an alumnus as well). The jealousy on the message board is too much to bear! Haven’t seen Vince much, except I know he’s always playing at charity golf tournaments and is supposed to be a really nice guy.

  • Pete

    Jason, your list of Mellow Gold characteristics looks like something that would have been posted outside the door of a punk rock club in the late 70s. lol.

  • Listen, I’m not a Mellow Gold dictator.  Some of the very best gems have come as suggestions from readers.  And for the most part, everybody’s right on target.  I like Terje’s criteria, but pretty much, I just listen to the song and if it gets me to say to myself, "Holy shit!  Mellow!" within the first few seconds, it’s a keeper.

  • Since I was, as we all know, blessed with Mobile, Alabama’s FM 97, I was one of those lucky souls who got to listen to Pure Prairie League’s ""Bustin’ Out" LP for years before "Amie" hit the charts (without its "Falling In and Out of Love" intro, yet). In fact I ran out and  bought the vinyl. My favorite song from that disc, actually: "Early Morning Riser."
     
    Now that I think on it, I wrote a column for my hgih school paper recommending several acts whose early albums got lots of airplay on FM 97 and showed promise but got no chart action. As it turns out, they all generated chart hits shortly thereafter. My embarrassingly prescient list? Pure Prairie League, Randy Newman, Peter Frampton and Dan Fogelberg. What was I, the Mellow Gold guy of the horse-and-buggy era? Who knew. (Dan Fogelberg, standing in the rain and peeping at the girl who won’t pick upwhen he phones…that’s your man right there.)
     
    But as far as I was concerned…the PPL I was hearing by the time I was in college and grad school…definitely not the same band. It was like hearing those guys that said they were Ambrosia. I saw Craig Fuller’s name playing mandolin on Little Feat’s live album but he was sorely missed n his rightful place, spitting out "Boulder Skies."
     
    David Sanborn started out in Paul Butterfield’s Blues Band. Who knew.

  • I remember Sanborn sitting in with Paul Shaffer and "the World’s Most Dangerous Band" on Late Night With David Letterman back in the ’80s and early ’90s.  Does he still sit in with them on CBS?  And then I noticed his name in the credits of Michael Franks albums (along with the majority of Paul Simon’s backing band from One-Trick Pony) and Stevie Wonder’s Talking Book (his sax sounds great on "Tuesday Heartbreak") and I thought, Wow, he keeps getting cooler!  And smoother.  (I didn’t even mind his sax work in the Lethal Weapon movies.)  Is that Sanborn playing sax on Bowie’s Young Americans?  If so, kudos again!

    Hey, who sings that song that goes "Meet me in the middle of the night, let me hear you say everything’s alright …"?  It’s from the late ’70s or early ’80s, I think.  I’ve never known the title or the artist, or if I did once know this information, it slid back out of my brain at some point.

  • Did Sanborn really go all the way down the smooth path? I think there’s always been an aggressiveness to his music and his tone that’s saved his output from a lot of the smooth jazz trappings (even though that aggressiveness has often been applied in the fusion genre, but I like a lot of fusion, so there…). I don’t really know what he’s been up to the last 15 years, so I could be wrong…Oh, and Robert: Steve Forbert – Romeo’s Tune, 1979 – I love that song.

  • Sanborn’s 1991 album, "Another Hand," is a modern jazz classic. You can’t really defend the shit he was doing for Warners toward the end of his years with the label, but that’s partly due to his incredible talent. And speaking of Letterman, I believe it was on his show that I heard Sanborn built his first saxophone out of empty beer cans. It can’t be true, but I wish it was.

  • Just want to say that I love, LOVE, Amie. It’s eagles-riffic. Also, Jason should do a special MG tribute to David Sanborn at some point.

  • I actually don’t know much about Sanborn’s career.  It just seemed like an easy joke.  Many apologies.  :)

    "Romeo’s Tune" is on the MG list…you’ll see it here at some point, probably sooner than later since I just saw the video on VH1 Classic last weekend.  Man, was that guy ugly.

  • Wowza. PPL. Thank you for reminding about these guys and filling in those glaring holes in my head in regards to just where did Vince Gill and David Sanborn get their early starts! Whew, can sleep easier now.Screw Elo! Bring on the Pablo Cruise and Rupert Holmes!

  • Thanks, Terje!  I definitely didn’t know that was the title.  And Steve Forbert might as well have been Rocky Burnette for all I knew.<br><br>Jason, I asked you where Jefito went last Friday because I figured you’d either seen him in person or talked to him on the phone at some point.  And when you said, "I’ll call him tomorrow and see what’s up," I knew I’d asked the right person.  But when you said, "I bet he’s freebasing again," I thought that was kind of rude.  TRUE STORY!

  • "You can’t really defend the shit he was doing for Warners toward the end of his years with the label…"
     
    So true. I have "A Change of Heart" from 1987. Sounds like they laid down the rhythm track with a typewriter – it’s so static. That album was the reason I stopped buying Sanborn.

  • woofpop

    Richard Brandt is correct about those bands –  I’d add Little River Band and Pablo Cruise to that list, too – first couple of records = big FM airplay = cool (well, sort of..) then mellow (noticing that mellow perks it’s smooth head up about the time of the demise of ‘cool’ FM – so did mellow kill freeform FM, or was it an evolution?)
    David Sanborn will always be A-OK in my book, for being the host of "Night Music", arguably the best music television show, ever. And, Jefito is right about Another Hand – good stuff.
    Steve Forbert – young Woofpop’s first concert (opening for a pre-soundtrack "This Is It"- era Kenny Loggins) – good times (and nicely layered hair).. 

  • BD

    I went through a brief Sanborn phase, not coincidentally around the time he was on Letterman a good deal and not coincidentally around the time I’d record Letterman and watch the next morning. I also was exploring a few jazz genres, with everything from the Marsalis brothers (Black Codes from the Underground rocks) and Spyro Gyra. Hey, I’m not proud of that.

    And I loved Sunday Night. I’m a little envious that Britain still has a music show with co-host Jools Holland.

    Amie was on the jukebox at the local diner every night during the month or so that I was breaking up with a girlfriend named, you guessed it, Amy. Funny thing is that my wife loves it and always turns it up when it’s on the radio.

  • I’ll always remember the Letterman episode where, after Paul Shaffer’s death was revealed to be a hoax, Dave asked his bandmates what they would have done if Paul was really dead.
     
    "Oh, David says we can play in his band," they replied. "He’s won Grammies and stuff."
     
    "You traitor!" Paul screamed, then whipped out a revolver and shot David Sanborn dead.
     
    I wonder how many of your readers wish they had this on tape.

  • the younger audience knows this from “anchorman” – it’s playing on the car when ron burgandy is trying to seduce veronica corningstone on their date. really, a perfect song for such a cheesy dude.

  • I’m glad to see this song achieve official Mellow Gold status. It came up on my iPod the other day and I instantly flashed to this site. Crazy bastards think alike, I guess.

    Hey Jason, did you get my email about that other potential MG tune?

  • Yes, I did, and I apologize for being a dick and not responding.  I thought about it last night ("I’m a dick, I should really respond to Dave.")  I’ll get right on it.

  • Are “Night Music” and “Sunday Night” the same thing? I remember my dad watching that show around ’88 or so. He thought it was great too. It didn’t last very long, did it?

  • woofpop

    Yes, Robert, it is the same show. There was a name change for the show’s second season in 1989. Amazing range of artists on every episode – Look at the Wikipedia entry that has an episode listing – if not the best music show ever, one of the top five, for sure. I think it was re-run on a cable channel in the last couple of years – would have loved to have seen it again.

  • It just occurred to me that you never mined / explored / eviscerated "Feelings". I thought, of the entire Mellow Gold Growing Pains family, it was THE Mike Seaver. Or in the Mellow Gold Family Ties family, the Alex P. Keaton.

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  • Mellow Gold killed the saxophone in pop music.  Well, that and ’80s TV themes (which this sounds like).

  • I must share in the love for "Amie," btw.  It does the trick that neither Poco nor the Eagles nor almost anyone besides the Byrds and Gram Parsons could – serve as a decent country-rock track.

  • I wonder if Trio is the cable channel that re-ran “Night Music.” They seemed to show a lot of good stuff before they went belly-up.

    “Mellow Gold killed the saxophone in pop music. Well, that and ’80s TV themes (which this sounds like).” Agreed, Mike, at least when it comes to ’80s TV themes, and what about songs from ’80s TV-show soundtracks, like Glenn Frey’s “You Belong to the City”? The best was when the video would cut to the saxophonist standing on a bridge or a balcony, wailing away.

  • Stephen

    Did anyone see Ben Stiller on the American Idol charity show? Dude made two Mellow Gold references…first he sang "Reminscing" by Little River Band and added "I’m gonna keep singing this until we raise 20 billion dollars so you can get back to the other acts like Kelly Clarkson and….I dunno, Pure Prarie League or whomever." Maybe he’s a reader?

  • I’m not convinced Ben Stiller knows how to read.

  • Fock you, Jason Hare.

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  • From this week’s All Music new-releases newsletter: “Ween’s first album in four years–and first for Rounder Records–is a glorious return to the odd, off-kilter good times of their earliest records, playing like a cross between the sound of ‘Pure Guava’ and the sensibility of ‘Chocolate & Cheese.’ Far from being a self-conscious back-to-basics move, ‘La Cucaracha’ feels more like Ween just laying back and cutting loose, and it’s hard not to get caught up in their party here–especially when David Sanborn graces the album’s closing ‘Your Party’ with his signature smooth-jazz sax.”