Archive for the 'mellow gold' Category

Mellow Gold, Chart Attack And Others…at Popdose

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

It occurred to me this morning that there may be some people following jasonhare.com who either haven’t jumped on the Popdose train or may have missed my posts over there. As I mentioned earlier, the majority of my musical content will now be featured at Popdose, but when I do post an article, I’ll try to post an update here with a specific URL for you. In the future, you’ll be able to click on my author page at Popdose, and automatically pull up any articles I’ve written. For now, though:

Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold: Come join us as we make fun of smug ol’ Paul Anka!

CHART ATTACK: 2/7/87: More than you ever wanted to know about Billy Vera!

Songs For The Dumped: Come find out why getting dumped on my ass reminds me of Ann-Margret writhing in baked beans.

Enjoy!

Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold 47

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

mellowgoldlogo.jpg

I know, I know: where the hell have I been? Where the hell is your Mellow fix? I understand your pain, and I thank you for your continued patience as I try to see if there’s life beyond crappy music. But we have a MELLOW RED ALERT on our hands, people, and I need to bring it to your attention, like, yesterday.

Eagles – I Don’t Want To Hear Anymore (download)

That’s right! Mellow Gold, 2007 style! And grab this one quick, ’cause Irving Azoff is going to be banging on my door in about twenty seconds. This one comes from the brand-spankin’-new release, Long Road Out Of Firing Don Felder Eden. I don’t even have the album yet – we don’t believe in Wal-Mart in New York City – but at 6:45 this morning, my main man Jeff contacted me and insisted that I hear this track as soon as possible. And I knew he was onto something, because as I listened, my wife called out from the other room.

“Is this Mellow Gold?”

“Yes, how did you know?”

“Because it sucks.”

So quick! Download! And if anybody asks, you got this file from Jeff. You hear that, Irving? So don’t shut me down. Shut Jefitoblog down…oh.

So, unsurprisingly, this little ditty is sung by Timothy B. Schmit. What, were you expecting Joe Walsh? Schmit is, and always has been, The Boy Who Cried Mellow Gold. (Or, as Jeff has pointed out, “he’s the boy who cries everything.”)

Here’s a Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Wuss, back in the early ’70s.

schmit.jpg

And here he is today. From behind, he still looks the same – girly – but from the front, time has been a vicious vacuum cleaner, sucking out much of his face.

schmit2.jpg
“Trick or treat!”

Still, his voice has remained virtually unchanged. He’s still singing those high Eagles harmonies, and on the off-chance that the other guys let him sing a song by himself, he still embodies all the sensitive, feminine qualities we’ve grown to love. In fact, we owe Timothy a debt of gratitude, people. Think of his time in Poco. Think of his gentle vocals on “I Can’t Tell You Why.” Think of his attempt to resurrect the MG genre with “Love Will Keep Us Alive” from Hell Freezes Over. Is Timothy B. Schmit the only one who’s keeping the true spirit of Mellow Gold alive and well in 2007? Has Stephen Bishop contacted him about a duet? Do we have any solid assurance that he’s not going to cut his girly mane, and if not, can we get said assurance?

So have you listened to this song yet? Before we start,you should know who wrote this gem: Paul Carrack. And if you don’t know how far back Paul’s mellow roots extend, remember Mellow Gold #5, where we featured Carrack’s vocal on “How Long” by Ace (sadly, not the same “How Long” included on Long Road Out Of Eden). Carrack also had a hand in writing “Love Will Keep Us Alive” (with the late Jim Capaldi, no less). I had no idea Paul could be so wimpy. Oh well, the guy’s rich beyond his wildest dreams by this point, and may very well have another hit with this one.

Let’s start with the lame, audible count-off. Is that Don Henley? It doesn’t sound like Don Henley to me. I feel like Don Henley would have demanded his vocal be higher in the mix. Anyway, the drums are followed by some tasteful guitar licks and…synthesized strings? Really? Guys! You’re THE EAGLES! You can afford real strings! Don Henley has a string quartet permanently installed in his bedroom that wakes him in lieu of an alarm clock! (This makes those late-night necking sessions with Stevie Nicks really uncomfortable.) Why they bothered with this synth sound, I’ll never know.

The song continues with gentle acoustic guitar, peppered by a few “One Of These Nights”-esque electric guitar stabs, and of course, lots of organ. And when Timothy B. Schmit opens his decrepit mouth to sing, it’s mellow heaven.

It’s not the first time
That I’ve had the sense that something’s wrong

My god. It’s like 1980 all over again.

But I’m old enough to know

You can say that again!

That things don’t always work out like they should
I know you’re tryin’ hard
To break it gently to me, now
But there’s no easy way
To tell it like it is, so baby…

Are you ready for the chorus?

I don’t want to hear any more
You don’t need to tell me it’s over
I’ve been here before

It gets better. I’m not going to present all the lyrics, but here are some of my favorites.

Before you take my hand
And tell me softly in a whisper
There’s no need to explain
I’ve read the book; I know how this all ends

“Before you take my hand and tell me softly in a whisper.” I’m not sure if a Mellower lyric has ever been written. I mean, Carrack could have just said “tell me softly.” But adding “in a whisper” just increases the wuss levels to new heights. Hold on. I’m getting up from my computer and giving Paul Carrack a standing ovation. It’s well deserved.

I haven’t even reached the best part yet.

I won’t ask you to stay
I won’t stand in your way
Look me right in the eyes
Let me walk away with my head high

Too late!

If there’s some other guy
I don’t need to know why

I feel like doing a little mellow dance of joy. Awesome. “I know you’re dumping me like the wrinkled old lukewarm potato I am, but I’m not going to fight or attempt to win you back. I won’t get pissed off and slash your tires, either. I’ll just…you know…eat my oatmeal and let you go.” And what’s up with the logic here? “Let me walk away with my head high?” How so? That doesn’t even make sense! And you just know the other guy she’s banging is Joe Walsh.

This brings wussitude to a brand-new level. When the most the man will do is stick his fingers in his ears and go “LA LA LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU,” you know you’ve got the mellowest of the mellow.

So remember when I expressed my skepticism about Henley counting off the song? I’ll go a step further: I’m willing to bet there are minimal amounts of actual Eagles on this song. For starters, have you noticed that, just like “Love Will Keep Us Alive,” the backing vocals are completely nondescript? At least two of those voices belong to Schmit. Hmmm. I wonder how this went down? Looks like it’s time for another segment of…

Mellow Gold Theatre
- Eagles Edition –

Carrack: This may very well be the wimpiest song I’ve ever written. I can’t even sing these lyrics with a straight face. But I know someone who can, and who could bring me a lot of money doing so…(strokes hairless cat)

Schmit arrives at the door.

Carrack: AAAAGHH!! Take my money. Take anything you want. Just don’t eat my soul!!!

Schmit: Paul, it’s me. Timothy B. Schmit.

Carrack: Oh. (exhales) I thought you were the Cryptkeeper.

Schmit: Paul, do you have any new songs for me? I need to get one on the new album. Nobody respects me. They don’t even listen to me. And if I get one more noogie from Glen, I’m quitting.

Carrack: Fear not, my sensitive friend! I’ve got a song that’s right up your alley.

Carrack plays him the song.

Schmit: (sniff) It’s beautiful. The guys will love it. Can I have a Kleenex?

Carrack: Hang on, I’m buying a second boat.

The next day, back at the Eagles ranch:

Schmit: Guys! Guess what!

Frey: C’mere, you! (Jumps off of couch, starts chasing Schmit around the room)

Schmit: No! Stop! (starts crying)

Henley (gazing at visage in mirror): See what you did, Glen? He’s weeping again.

Schmit: Guys! (sniff) I just wanted to play you this song. I think it’d sound great on the new album.

Schmit plays the band “I Don’t Want To Hear Anymore.”

Henley: I agree. I don’t want to hear anymore. (Goes back to mirror)

Frey: C’mere, you! (jumps up again, chases Schmit into a corner)

Schmit: Wait, guys! Listen! Remember “Love Will Keep Us Alive?” It was our first #1 AC single, and the best-seller from Hell Freezes Over.

Henley: He’s got a point, Glen. Hello, Lite-FM money! We’ll do it!

Frey, mouth full of Doritos: C’mere, you! (Punches Schmit in gut)
-FIN-

Yeah, this is definitely how it went down. The Eagles then outsourced the song to session musicians in India, and are currently sitting back, just waiting to reap the benefits. I guarantee you that if this song is released as a single, it’s going to at least the Top 5 of the Adult Contemporary charts. It’s everything we could possibly want in a modern Mellow Gold song. I feel like less of a man already. It’s a classic.

See you next time for another Adventure Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold!

Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold 46

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

No worries, everybody: I may slow down, but I can’t quit the Mellow.

Dan Fogelberg & Tim Weisberg – The Power Of Gold (download)

(A word before I start:  I am aware that Dan Fogelberg has cancer.   Last year during Mellowmas, a Fogelberg fan (Fogelfan?) gave Jeff and I some shit for ripping on "Same Old Lang Syne" simply on the basis that he was sick.  It goes without saying that I wouldn’t wish any kind of cancer on anyone, and I wish him all the best as he continues his path towards recovery.  That being said, I’m sure Dan – or any artist – would not expect their music to be treated (or reviewed) any differently because of this.   And therefore, I see no problem with tackling "The Power Of Gold."  If you do, by all means, stop here.)

I first came across "The Power Of Gold" earlier this year when Jeff Ash – he of the fantastic AM, Then FM blog – recommended another song from the same album, Twin Sons Of Different Mothers.  (I’ll get to that song too at some point, Jeff, but fer cryin’ out loud, it’s seven minutes long.)  Twin Sons Of Different Mothers was the first of two collaborative projects between Fogelberg and falutist flutetits flutist flute player Tim Weisberg.  I’m guessing the two ‘bergs met at synagogue.


"Daaaaaan!  I told you I was going to wear this hairstyle to the photo shoot!"

Yes, the two of them look slightly similar, and both look like they’re mere moments away from going into hibernation for the winter.  The ‘bergs must have known this, as their ’95 reunion featured a disturbing lack of facial hair and a defensive title:

But enough about the smooth-faced ‘bergs:  today we’re talking about their hairy 1978 album, the one which perfectly represents the way two white guys would translate the term "brothers from another mother."  A bit of history, first:  it’s interesting to note that at this point in his career, Dan Fogelberg was a massive success, based not on any particular song but on an entire album.  (Imagine that.)  His second release, 1975′s Souvenirs, featured one (and at this point, his only) hit: "Part Of The Plan," which included backing vocals by Joe Walsh and Graham Nash, and peaked at #31.  However, Souvenirs managed to reach #17, and went on to sell over forty million copies.  (Wait a minute – sorry, that was Thriller.  Two million.  My bad.)  With that many copies sold, I suppose you could say that Dan Fogelberg truly, truly knew (wait for it)…the power of gold.

(This is what happens when I take more than two weeks off.)

But it’s true: anything Fogelberg touched turned to gold…fool’s gold, you might say.  (What is wrong with me?)  Fool’s Gold was Fogelberg’s backing band, and even they were able to release an album.  (By the way, vocalist for Fool’s Gold?  Tom Kelly, CHART ATTACK’s favorite songwriter!)   The point I’m feebly attempting to make is that the man was on a roll.  I mean, even when Fogelberg decided to ignore his current success and head towards a potentially career-damaging move, he couldn’t fail. 

See, Fogelberg knew Weisberg from his previous album, Nether Lands – the two had collaborated on the song "Give Me Some Time" – and Fogelberg suggested the two of them record an album entirely composed of instrumentals.  They almost succeeded: seven out of ten songs were instrumentals, and "The Power Of Gold" was actually a last-minute addition after they realized that their grand finale song, recorded with a full orchestra, featured an out-of-tune piano.  Fogelberg quickly whipped up the song, released the album, and fled the country, uninterested in hearing the critics rip apart his instrumental jaunt.  But as I said: much like Parker Lewis but inexplicably wussier, Dan Fogelberg couldn’t lose.  Twin Sons Of Different Mothers reached #8 and sold a million copies, with "The Power Of Gold" peaking at an impressive #24. 

I was but a year old when this song hit the charts, but I imagine the reaction was "wow, Dan’s really rockin’ this one!"  Which is not to say that he was, in fact, "rockin’ this one."  In Fogelberg standards, however, this was some pretty heavy shit.  I’m not saying that all his other stuff was chock full o’ wuss, but…well, yes, I guess I am.  In fact, I don’t know if you know this, but when someone (Jeff) is being a pussy, I now call them (him) a Fogelberg.  Still, how do you think this conversation went down?

Dan:  Tim, I think this song could be our opportunity to really rock out.
Tim:  Dan, I play the flute.

That being said, "The Power Of Gold" features less flute than any other song on the album.  There may be some light flute (y’know, as opposed to heavy flute) over the main riff of the song, but it’s obscured by those bad-ass (not true) electric guitars.  I imagine that Fogelberg and Fool’s Gold began recording the song, and invited Weisberg to jump in whenever he felt comfortable.  Weisberg, however, just sat there, looking slightly lost, and eventually began reading the classifieds until Fogelberg poked him in the back with the end of his acoustic guitar.  ("Hey, I’m paying you by the hour here.") 

So what else does "The Power Of Gold" have going for it?  Well, don’t look to the lyrics, that’s for sure.  In fact, I bet you can’t even make out most of the lyrics; they’re buried in the mix.  My guess is that Fogelberg had the line "are you under the power of gold?" and simply worked backwards from there, finding words that rhymed with "gold" (using "sold" and "cold" but, sadly, not "mold," "resoled" or "cuckold").  I seriously have no idea what the hell he’s talking about.  Let me look up some of the lyrics.

The story is told of the power of gold and its lure on the unsuspecting
It glitters and shines, it badgers and blinds
And constantly needs protecting
Balance the cost of the soul you lost with the dreams you lightly sold
Are you under…the power of gold

Oh, wait!  Guys!  I get it!  He’s talking about THE MUSIC INDUSTRY!  Either that or he’s after me lucky charms!

Okay, so maybe there’s some real meaning in the lyrics.  How about the music?  Well, it’s definitely on the heavier end of mellow, but the drums are still weak, and there’s way too much piano – especially that run down the keys occurring right before "the power of gold" on every chorus.  Everyone knows that runs down the piano keys are supposed to occur spontaneously in a moment of passion.  For shame, Dan!

However, the thing you’re most likely to remember about "The Power Of Gold" will be the excellent (and high) harmony line over Dan’s lead vocal.  That’s good ol’ Don Henley, providing some of his trademark, "Witchy Woman"-esque falsetto.  (Fogelberg was managed by Irving Azoff, who also managed The Eagles.)

Despite the odds, "The Power Of Gold" does manage to toe the line between rock and wuss-music, and therefore is a worthy addition to your shameful Mellow Gold collection.  And as you all know, some of Dan’s mellowest hits were still to come.  (Note: any of you hijack this post and turn it into a rip on "Longer," I will personally hunt you down and punch you in the mouth.  I love that song – especially the flugelhorn – to the point of tearful irrationality.)  And after listening to "The Power Of Gold" and a few other Fogelberg tunes over the past few days, I think I’m actually becoming a fan.  I suppose I’m under the power of…okay, I’ll stop.

See you next time for another Adventure Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold!

I’ve Never Been To Ron Miller

Friday, September 14th, 2007

One of our readers, Shawn, has pointed me over to his blog where he’s posted the extremely rare demo of Charlene’s "I’ve Never Been To Me," covered back in Mellow Gold #26.  The demo is by the song’s original writer, Ron Miller (who apparently died this summer).  Take a listen over at Music In Me.

My mouth dropped when I heard this deep, lower-than-Barry-White voice essentially growl the lyrics.  By the end of the song, I wanted to commit suicide.  Thanks, Shawn, for the link!

Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold 45

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

Well, howdy again, folks, and welcome back to another not-so-exciting wusspedition!  (I just made that word up!)  Today’s another one of my favorites from the early ’80s!

America – You Can Do Magic (download)

America has received the Mellow Gold treatment here before: who can forget good old MG #38 and the
The Sixth Day Of Mellowmas?  So while I don’t have to supply you with any history on the two main men of America – Gerry Buckley and Dewey Bunnell – I do maintain that "You Can Do Magic" deserves its own entry.  There are various reasons why, and they’re apparent from the minute the song begins.  Take a listen, won’t you?  Those wimpy drums, reminiscent of Robbie Dupree’s "Steal Away," let us know exactly what what’s in store: gentle, gentle rocking.  I mean, you can’t actually have a real rocker if Gerry Buckley’s going to sing.  His enunciation and vocal quality just screams whispers "I’m meek!"  And take a listen to those smooth harmonies!  The piano!  The triangle!  The frickin’ triangle, ferchrissakes!  It’s weak.  Weeeeeaaaak.

And yet, "You Can Do Magic" is the most daring single ever released by America.  Why?  Because of its harsh language, of course.  You know what I’m talking about.  It’s the second part of the chorus.  That one line that pierces through all of us, thanks to the filthy, filthy mouth of Gerry Buckley.

You know darn well when you cast your spell

A few months ago, I was having dinner with a bunch of relatives.  My aunt was telling me that she enjoys reading my website, but every once in a while, covers her eyes and says to herself "that can’t be my Jason writing that."  She’s talking about those moments where I’m all fuck this, fuck that, fuck fuck fuckity fuck fuck.  So what I’m wondering is: who in America has an aunt that made them feel guilty?  Because that’s what I want to believe.  I want to believe that the first version of this song went something like "you know muthafuckin’ well when you cast your spell, beeyotch," but they changed it due to external circumstances.  Because what I’m really afraid of is that the conversation went more like this, in yet another segment of Mellow Gold Theatre:

1982.  Capitol Studios, Hollywood, California.  In the room:  Gerry Buckley, Dewey Bunnell, and some other guys in the band that nobody gives a shit about.  The band is in the middle of a heated discussion about how to make America relevant again.

Beckley:  You guys, it’s 1982!  Times are changing!  We haven’t had a single since our lame cover of "California Dreamin’" three years ago!  If we want to keep up with the times, we need to be different!  Edgy!  Daring!

Bunnell:  Well, Gerry, what do you suggest, exactly?

Beckley:  I suggest we say a naughty word.

Stunned silence from all parties.

Beckley:  I’m serious.  What if we say…."darn?"

Bunnell, with tears in his eyes, storms out of the room.

Twenty minutes go by.  The rest of the band sits there.  The audacious suggestion hangs in the air.

Finally, Bunnell re-enters the studio.

Bunnell:  I say we do it.

Beckley:  Dewey!  But…are you sure?

Bunnell:  Darn sure, Gerry.

Other d-bags in band:  Yaaaayyyy!

The duo hug and kiss on the lips.  All is well in America.

- FIN -

Of course, this never happened.  (Shocked, aren’t you?)  In reality, "You Can Do Magic" was written by Russ Ballard, former leader of Argent (he left before "Hold Your Head Up") and writer of songs such as "God Gave Rock And Roll To You" and Rainbow’s totally awesome "Since You’ve Been Gone."  He also wrote and performed on some Roger Daltrey solo albums, but won’t admit to it even if you put a gun to his head.  Anyway, here’s how it all went down:  America manager Jim Morey was well aware that the band was fading fast; their last album, Alibi, was their third American hitless release, and peaked at #142.  Morey contacted Ballard, who had written a song for Alibi, and asked him for a few more, since clearly Beckley and Bunnell weren’t cuttin’ it.  Ballard gave the band a song called "Jody," and this one.  The duo heard the demo and knew instantly it was perfect for the group.  As Bunnell said, "
There wasn’t a doubt in our minds that that was the single, and if that didn’t make it, then something was really wrong."

Ballard flew over to Abbey Road Studios in London, recorded the entirety of the track on his own, then brought Beckley and Bunnell over to sing.  That’s right:  for a period in the early ’80s, America became The Monkees.  But no matter:  Ballard had written the song exactly in the style of America, right down to the guitar sound and the full harmonies. 

I do think he could have done a little bit better with the lyrics, though.  I don’t know why, but I almost always tune out the words whenever I hear this song.  Seriously, I hear the words "doubt," "darn," "well," "spell," "hypnotize," "eyes," and that’s it.  In fact that last line of the chorus always eluded me:  "A heart of stone can turn to…" what?  Gay?  Taint?  I swear I have never been able to make out this word.  Turns out it’s "clay."  Looking at the lyrics, I realize Ballard had to rhyme with the word "way," but seriously, the heart turns to clay?  CLAY?  Whose heart turns to clay, Russ?  Really?  Why not just break the rhyme?  How about "dust?"  Or "dirt?"  Or "shit?"  (Sing that last one to yourself.)

Regardless of the lyrics, "You Can Do Magic" gave the band the comeback they so desperately needed:  in October of ’82, the song reached #8 on the charts, making it their first Top 10 since "Sister Golden Hair."  And although the accompanying album View From The Ground didn’t crack the Top 40 (#41…d’oh!), the band still had a certified hit on their hands.  They even filmed a video – and you know it’s gonna be good when, in retrospect, Bunnell says "we missed the boat on videos."

Look at this!  Four fucking freaking guitarists in the video, and not one person on a piano.  I don’t know what I love more: the adorable collection of pastel shirts, the drummer who clearly lost a drumstick up his butt somewhere, Beckley’s glasses that, once again, threaten to swallow his face whole, Bunnell’s stripey shirt and the way he bounces up and down, and…wait a minute, that totally looks like me!  Except for the facial hair, which I can’t grow!  I love the early-’80s production values as well: the random cuts to "magic hands," the fact that they’re playing on some sort of cloud, and the lead guitarist is ripping that riff so damn hard that smoke is appearing by his feet…let’s face it, it’s perfect.  And by perfect, I mean horrible.

I kid, though.  I love "You Can Do Magic."  Against all odds, it does somehow rock a little, and you really can’t go wrong with those terrific America harmonies.  So forget about the fact that Buckley and Bunnell were clearly just Ballard’s puppets: the song gave them another well-deserved shot at success.  And isn’t Mellow Gold better when it has a happy ending?  (Of course not, but I have to end this entry somehow.)

See you next week for more wussy music!