Saturday, March 31, 2007

"Standin' on the corner all day, watchin' all the foxes go by"

I work the late shift, so this morning I watched soccer on TV (hobbling Ian Pearce shook off a sprained foot to score Fulham's equaliser as the hosts drew 1-1 with Portsmouth) and listened to some excellent Phoenix, Ariz. soul while walking on the treadmill.
Surely one of the classic tunes to come out of the Valley of the Sun (where I spent my high-school years) is "Standing on the Corner."
Written by ace producer Mighty Mike Lenaburg, this 1967 lost classic is sung by Michael Liggins.
Liggins is a Phoenix musical legend who deserves greater recognition. He played a wicked saxophone, first with the Soul Patrol and later fronting the Super Souls (pictured).
With the Super Souls, he recorded yet another lost classic, "Loaded to the Gills" from 1969. "Loaded" is such a cherished gem for FUNK FREAKS that it appears on two compilations I own -- "Eccentric Soul: Mighty Mike Lenaburg" from Numero Group records and "Cold Heat: Heavy Funk Rarities, Vol. 1" from Now-Again Records.
I'll be driving around a fair bit for work on this cloudy, dreary day. I'll brighten up things with some Michael Liggins.

Friday, March 30, 2007

I said: "Turn down that racket and pass me the coconut!"

This week, ROUTE 1 readers ponder the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What band would you want to accompany you if stranded on a desert island?" (Note: The island includes solar-powered amps.)
Dave B. -- The Village People - I would have a construction worker to build me a
house. A Cop to make sure all laws are enforced on the island. An Indian to send up smoke signals so I can be rescued. An Army officer to protect the island, should another island invade. A biker dude to protect me should there be a biker bar on this island. Finally a cowboy to wrestle up some grub for me to eat.
Clint A. -- Catherine Wheel.
Scout S. -- I guess I'd pick the Polyphonic Spree. Not because I like the music, but because there's like 30 or 40 people in that band, and I'm gonna need the manpower. We're gonna have to disassemble those solar powered amps in order to build generators, and probably some kind of radios.
Rick T. -- The Grand Ole Opry Staff Band. "Aaaahhh pick it, Leon!"
Lisa Y. -- At first I thought Jimmy Buffett. I'm not even a big fan, but I thought maybe his songs might make you feel like you're on vacation, rather than stranded. But after awhile, you might want to choke him... I love music, but I can't think of anyone I'd want to listen to over and over and over again.
Mike D. -- Now, if I was a single guy (or if there was no chance of rescue), I'd choose the Pussycat Dolls. I don't know if they can sing, but I bet they put on a heck of a stage show. But since I'm a happily married man, I'll go with Jimmy Buffett. I'm no Parrothead, but there's nothing like sitting around a campfire, singing along with someone strumming a guitar.
Erik H. -- I think the loneliness of a deserted island could mount fairly quickly, so I would want a band with a great sense of humor. I would pick Mental as Anything. They are hilarious. Plus, they're Australian, so perhaps at least one of them could teach me how to surf.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

C Gayle, S Chanderpaul, RR Sarwan, MN Samuels, BC Lara, DJ Bravo, D Ramdin, DR Smith, LMP Simmons, DB Powell, CD Collymore

Aahh... Cricket on the radio.
What better way to start a rare Thursday off work?
Well, there are probably several, if not many, more exciting ways to begin a day off.
However, I am enjoying listening to New Zealand's Michael Mason bowling to the West Indies' strike partnership of Chris Gayle and Shivnarine Chanderpaul in a Cricket World Cup "Super 8s" match live on Indian radio.
Gayle and Chanderpaul each scored a run in the first, rather sedate, first over of the match.
The Indian commentator just said:
"Chris Gayle is batting on banana peels."
I think he means that the West Indies opening batsman is playing too cautiously. At the end of the second over it is five runs without loss for the "Windies," who after getting absolutely hammered by Australia in their last match, really need to win to keep their advancement hopes alive.
The murder of Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer has understandably overshadowed any exploits on the field at this World Cup.
However, two achievements worth noting include:
1) South Africa's Herschelle Gibbs hit a record six sixes in an over off Holland's Dan van Bunge on March 16. In other words, Gibbs hit the ball out of the park on every ball bowled during the six-ball over. South Africa easily won the match.
2) Sri Lanka's Lasith "The Slinger" Malinga claimed four wickets on four balls -- another international record -- in yesterday's loss to South Africa.
At the moment, West Indies have a rather quiet seven runs after the first four overs.
Riveting stuff, thanks to cricket on the radio.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The best 8 minutes and 40 seconds I heard all day

Several times today I have dialed up on my iPod Lee Morgan's "Mr. Kenyatta," a wonderful track from his 1964 album "Search for the New Land."
Morgan plays a blistering trumpet solo, as always, but a trio of soon-to-be-famous sidemen do their parts to carry the tune as well.
Wayne Shorter plays tenor sax on the song, Grant Green plays guitar and the pianist is Herbie Hancock. Their solos are all memorable.
I listened to it during a lengthy midday walk (home and back from the office -- it took up nearly my entire lunch hour). I also listened driving around today and I am listening to it right now. Classic stuff.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

It should all wrap up with the "Climax Series"

But the just-underway Japanese baseball season won't end with the newly instituted "Climax Series," a fact that seems like one of those "only in Japan" oddities.
The season-ending Japan Series will once again pit a Central League club against a Pacific League club. The "Climax Series" will be the playoff system used to determine those representatives.
The Pacific League has used a playoff system for three years -- and has produced the past three Japan Series winners. This year, the Central League follows suit with a playoff in a bid to redress the competitive imbalance.
In the "Climax Series," the second- and third-placed teams in each league will play a best-of-three series, with the winner advancing to a best-of-five series against the regular-season pennant winner. The Japan Series remains a best-of-seven affair.
1) Former Angels and Astros skipper TERRY COLLINS becomes the fourth active American manager in Japanese baseball. Collins takes over the helm of the Orix Buffaloes. Marty Brown (Hiroshima Carp), Bobby Valentine (Chiba Lotte Marines) and Trey Hillman (Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters) are the other American managers. Valentine and Hillman guided their clubs to the past two Japan Series titles.
2) Tokorozawa's popular SEIBU LIONS are in trouble, caught in an under-the-table payoff scandal that could result in sanctions for the Pacific League club.
3) Major League Baseball scouts will keep their eye on NORICHIKA AOKI of the Yakult Swallows. Aoki batted .321 last season with 41 stolen bases and 112 runs scored.
4) The American scouts might want to watch KOSUKE FUKUDOME as well. Last year, Fukudome starred for Japan's World Baseball Classic championship team, then hit .351 with 31 homers and 104 RBIs for the Chunichi Dragons en route to being named the Central League MVP. Fukudome becomes a free agent after this season.
5) MASAHIRO TANAKA could help lead the 3-year-old Rakuten Eagles out of the cellar. Tanaka, 18, is a pitcher who led Hokkaido's Komadai Tomakomai to two of the past three Japanese high-school baseball titles. Tanaka was the top pick in the Japanese baseball draft.
6) NORIHIRO AKAHOSHI (pictured) will continue to pace my favorite team, the Hanshin Tigers. Akahoshi is known for his red wristbands and his speed -- he stole 35 bases last season.The Tigers finished first in the Central League in 2005 and second in 2006. This year, they will likely fight for one of three CL spots in the "Climax Series."

Monday, March 26, 2007

"Tunnel Vision" is out of this world

On our recent trip to Chicago I bagged a real gem of a two-DVD set.
"Tunnel Vision" includes 30 video clips from the two-decade career of Australia's HOODOO GURUS, as well as 16 clips of the band live.
You can trace the band's career by watching lead singer/songwriter/guitarist Dave Faulkner's hair: His hair initially towers over his head, and he admits to using altogether too much Aqua-Net. Faulkner's hair shortens and thins and eventually it reaches balding middle age. Much like the hair of many of the band's fans, I am afraid (and all-too-keenly aware).
Despite the gradually diminishing hair, the band never loses its ability to craft the catchiest pop around.
An accompanying, feature-length documentary, "Be My Guru," places Faulkner at center stage. Wave upon wave of fans, critics, musicians and fellow band members comment on Faulkner's remarkable songwriting ability.
Some bands can produce one or two or even five classic songs. Thanks to Faulkner, the Gurus launched catchy anthems like they were coming off an assembly line -- "Tojo," "My Girl," "Like Wow, Wipeout," "Less Than a Feeling," "Another World" (with a memorably wacky clip featuring the band as aliens, pictured above), "Bittersweet," "What's My Scene?" and "I Want You Back" to name just a handful.
I am working a later shift than usual today at work, so this morning I plan to revisit "Tunnel Vision" and its look at what must surely be my favorite band.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Pittsburgh meets Philadelphia

My BELOVED OREGON DUCKS battled hard but fell just short against the Florida Gators in NCAA action today, 85-77.
When not watching basketball today, I have been listening to the great 1958 album "Moanin'" by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers.
Pittsburgh's legendary drummer Blakey led a succession of bands called the Jazz Messengers, each featuring a number of absolutely stellar sidemen.
Jazz Messenger alumni include the likes of Freddie Hubbard, Wayne Shorter, Keith Jarrett, Branford Marsalis, Wynton Marsalis and Jackie McLean.
The sidemen on "Moanin'" are all from Philadelphia: trumpeter Lee Morgan, tenor sax player Benny Golson, pianist Bobby Timmons and bassist Jymie Merritt.
They really swing.
Golson wrote most of the material, and his status as a composer would eventually eclipse that of his playing.
I love hearing Morgan. He is my favorite trumpeter and on the title track and "Blues March" he is particularly memorable.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Our fun and foggy day in the Windy City

We told the girls -- including visiting niece Gabrielle -- that we were going to surprise them today with a ROAD TRIP.
As we drove deeper into unusually foggy Illinois, the girls' guesses drew closer to the truth:
"Are we going to Galena? Are we going to Rockford? Are we going to CHICAGO?"
We went to Chicago, where we:
1) Nearly got lost in the AMERICAN GIRL PLACE, a three-story, high-end doll shop which was PACKED with 12-and-under girls and their money hemorrhaging parents.
All three girls received a doll and two outfits.
2) Ate at PORTILLOS at Clark and Ontario. Of course I got a CHICAGO-STYLE HOT DOG -- an all-beef dog topped with mustard, onion, sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato wedges, tiny peppers and a dash of celery salt... but don't even THINK of adding ketchup.
3) Shopped at TRADER JOE'S. Yeee haaaa! After loving Trader Joe's stuff -- the peanut butter... the microwaveable Indian food... the cheap boxes of Charles Shaw wine (TWO BUCK CHUCK)... the San Pellegrino Limonata (the world's greatest sparkling lemon beverage) -- during my trips back to San Francisco and Reno, I can finally enjoy it here. In fact, I'm drinking Limonata right now!
4) Worshipped at IKEA. I mean, shopped at IKEA. I was finally able to show Kerstin and Annika my favorite store. We got some new kitchen chairs, Swedish cookies, a Swedish-flag colored umbrella, pint glasses and -- did I mention Swedish cookies?
5) Hit the Woodfield BORDERS on our way out of town. I got "Moanin'" (1958) by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers (featuring my favorite trumpeter, Lee Morgan) and "Tunnel Vision," the video collection of the Hoodoo Gurus.
What a day!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Fill in the___FQ___blanks

ROUTE 1 readers give credit where credit is due by filling in the blanks to complete this week's FRIDAY QUESTION:
"_______ does not get adequate recognition because _________."
Rick T. -- Old Country Music does not get adequate recognition because of the executives in Nashville pushing the NEW country.
Kerstin H. -- "Gilmore Girls," because it never gets nominated for any awards but it is one of the best-written shows on TV and the acting is some of the best acting I have seen.
Brian C. -- The Wrecking Crew does not get adequate recognition, because this group of session players provided the music on some of the major rock and pop albums of the 1960s. I had never heard of the Wrecking Crew until I received the March issue of American Heritage magazine. In those days, we bought those albums, believing that the artists on the cover were the ones playing on the album inside. The Wrecking Crew were so good, they were in constant demand.
For example? Here are the Wrecking Crew's Top 10 albums, according to the article: 1. Pet Sounds (Beach Boys); 2. Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon & Garfunkel); 3. If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears (Mamas & Papas); 4. The Monkees (The Monkees -- the word WAS out about their 'musicianship'); 5. Boots (Nancy Sinatra); 6. Whipped Cream (Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass); 7. Insight Out (The Association); 8. The Age of Aquarius (Fifth Dimension); 9. Live at the Whisky a Go-Go (Johnny Rivers); 10. Close to You (The Carpenters).
Scout S. -- Scout does not get adequate recognition because the world is a big stupid head.
Mike D. -- Disco does not get adequate recognition because of Bill Veeck and the Disco Sucks crowd. There were some great songs that could even get Gary D. out onto the dance floor.
Erik H. -- Paul Griffin does not get adequate recognition because his lack of appropriate credit belies his status as one of rock and soul's greatest pianist.
Griffin receives credit for playing on Brother Jack McDuff's "Who Knows What Tomorrow's Gonna Bring." Did you also know he played the organ intro to Chuck Jackson's "Any Day Now?" He also played on Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" (in fact, Griffin played on all three of Dylan's seminal, first albums of electrified rock), the Shirelle's "Tonight's the Night," B.J. Thomas' "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" and Don McLean's "American Pie." There are many, many more songs I could list.
Griffin died in 2000 at age 62 while awaiting a liver transplant. His obit in the Washington Post ran only three paragraphs. Griffin did so much for music, it should have run a whole page.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Make room for Lee Morgan

I have long been an admirer of LEE MORGAN, the Philadelphia trumpeter whose 1972 murder cut short a remarkable career that included the indelible solo on Dizzy Gillespie's "A Night in Tunisia" as well as his own classic tune, "The Sidewinder," a big-enough hit that Chrysler used it in an automobile ad during the 1965 World Series.
The past couple days I have been listening to Morgan's work on two more memorable albums:
1) On Jimmy Smith's "The Sermon," Morgan gets so lost in his solo on the song "J.O.S." that he ignores the leader's buzzing, organ-chord "sign-off" command. Morgan just keeps on playing. It is great music and very funny. "The Sermon," from 1958, is available on Blue Note Records.
2) On Hank Mobley's "No Room for Squares," Morgan provides a pair of originals, the lovely "Carolyn" and the catchy "Me 'N You." It is great "driving around in the sunshine music," particularly if you really don't have a place to go.
Mobley's "No Room for Squares," from 1963, is also available on Blue Note Records. Check out their Web site, located here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The greatest photo in jazz history?

On an August morning in 1958, first-time photographer Art Kane gathered more than 50 of the world's greatest jazz musicians for a group shot to grace the pages of Esquire magazine.
The photo featured musicians ranging from Red Allen to Lester Young, along with notables such as Thelonious Monk, Horace Silver, Sonny Rollins, Art Blakey and Dizzy Gillespie.
No such gathering had ever taken place before this photo, and no assemblage of history making musicians will likely ever occur again.
"What about Band-Aid?" my wife Jill asked last night.
What about it?
This photo is different. This photo is like Beethoven, Bach and Mozart posing for a painting.
You can learn more about the photo and the artists pictured at the Web site, located here.
Alert ROUTE 1 reader Mike M. told us about a newly acquired DVD at Dubuque's Carnegie-Stout Public Library: Jean Bach's "A Great Day in Harlem" details the circumstances surrounding the photo shoot, while offering details on many of the musicians involved. We all know about Count Basie and Coleman Hawkins. This documentary also informs viewers about the importance of Vic Dickenson and Pee Wee Russell.
You should check it out immediately. Well, immediately after I return it to the library.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Time to get funky. Seriously. Funky

I have been compiling a couple "funky" iPod playlists for my wife Jill to hear while working out at the fitness center.
The playlists include many of the essentials -- "Get on the Good Foot" by James Brown, "Express Yourself" by Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, "Slide" by Slave, by "Chase Me"Con Funk Shun and "Funky Walk (Pts. 1 & 2)" by Dyke & The Blazers -- but there seemed to be something missing.
Of course!
I had forgotten to include any Brother Jack McDuff!
One of history's funkiest musicians, McDuff continued the soul jazz movement began by Hammond organ master Jimmy Smith in the late 1950s.
By 1970-71, McDuff had developed a nasty style of funk that keeps feet moving and heads bobbing.
"Who Knows What Tomorrow's Gonna Bring" (Blue Note, 1971, pictured) is a fine example of McDuff in top form.
Composer, arranger and tuba player (?!?!) Ray Draper assembled an all-star band to back organist McDuff. Bassist Tony Levin, trumpeter Randy Brecker and guitarist Joe Beck are among the future rock and jazz luminaries playing on this great disc.
Songs such as "Who's Pimpin' Who?" are SERIOUSLY FUNKY and easily deserve a place on my funkified playlists.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The perfect combination of sound and vision

I have been carrying it everywhere the past few days, cracking it open frequently to take another look.
Lee Tanner's "The Jazz Image: Masters of Jazz Photography" is a magnificent collection of the iconic, black-and-white photographs of the jazz scene.
All of the famous photos are here:
* William Gottleib's shot of Charlie Parker and Red Rodney listening to Dizzy Gillespie (who is viewed in a reflection).
* Herman Leonard's portrait of Dexter Gordon at the Royal Roost, with smoke swirling around his head.
* Val Wilmer's depiction of avant-garde sax player Frank Lowe leaning against a subway station stairway railing while a train whizzes past him.
* Frank Wolff's wonderful shot of pianist Bud Powell with his son John Earl Powell peeking over his shoulder (pictured above).
The atmospheric, indelible images make me want to hear the music the subjects created, so I have been listening to a lot of jazz.
Together, the photos in the book and the music make a wonderful combination of sound and vision.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Sweet 16 and Jimmy Smith

I love watching Tajuan Porter play basketball.
The shortest player on the floor at 5-foot-6, Porter made his first four shots of the second half today -- and scored 14 points in all -- as MY BELOVED OREGON DUCKS beat would-be Cinderella Winthrop, 75-61, to reach the Sweet 16 of the NCAA men's basketball tournament for the first time since 2002. Aaron Brooks scored 22 points and Bryce Taylor played some great defense (pictured) for the third-seeded Ducks (28-7).

What better way to celebrate the great victory than listening to some great jazz?
Jill, the girls and I listened to JIMMY SMITH'S wonderful 1958 album "THE SERMON" while en route to the ANNUAL TELEGRAPH HERALD EDITORIAL DEPARTMENT CHILI COOK-OFF, where I entered my Cincinnati-style chili.
Alas, the Cincinnati-style chili could not compete with the top chili, which had just the right amount of ooomph!
Jimmy Smith had no such problems.
Arguably the greatest organist in jazz, the late Smith had more OOOMPH than many people ever experience in a lifetime.
On "The Sermon's title track -- all 20 glorious minutes of it -- Smith and guitarist Kenny Burrell get into a killer groove while tenor saxman Tina Brooks just wails. It is an example of jazz-soul at its most RIGHTEOUS, and it provided a wonderful anthem on the great day for MY BELOVED OREGON DUCKS.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

St. Patrick's Day miracle

I know what you're thinking -- you didn't even know Ireland played cricket.
Neither did I, and neither did Pakistan, apparently.
On this fine St. Patrick's Day in Jamaica, the Irish cricket team beat Pakistan by three wickets in the World Cup, 133-7 to 132.
The win for Ireland marks one of the biggest upsets in cricket history. The loss eliminates fourth-ranked Pakistan from the competition.
Niall O'Brien struck fro 72 Irish runs, while Andre Botha (hey! He doesn't sound Irish!) took two wickets for just five Pakistani runs.
About 1,500 Irish fans -- "the Blarney Army" -- accompanied the team to Jamaica for Ireland's inaugural World Cup appearance.
My, how they have been delightfully surprised.
Ireland were not expected to win any matches. They finished second-bottom of the recent World Cricket League, beating only traditional strugglers Bermuda.
It was actually a day of upsets, as perennial losers Bangladesh surprised mighty India by five wickets, 195-5 to 191.
So, after you raise that GREEN BEER FOR IRELAND, raise another for BANGLADESH!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Dub-dubba-dubboo, Beep-buh-buh-booo-bee-buh!

Know how catchy songs can get securely lodged in your brain, causing you to sing them to yourself long after you actually heard the songs?
This week, ROUTE 1 readers honor such songs by answering the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What was the last song you sang to yourself, long after you actually heard the song?"
Mike D. -- Thanks to fellow Route 1 reader Matt K. and his recent Crappy '80s
Lyrics question, I had a couple of Starship songs stuck in my head all weekend. "Knee-deep in the hoop-la ..." Aaaahhhhh!!! (Who would have guessed that "We Built This City" was co-written by Bernie Taupin?) I need to hear some quality rock music real soon to cleanse myself.
Kerstin H. -- "How to Save a Life" by The Fray.
Mary N.-P. -- Because of one of your PREVIOUS Friday Questions, I can't get "Wolverton Mountain" by Claude King out of my head (I've even sung it with a co-worker several times...)!
Rick T. -- The White Sox theme: "Na na na na, Na na na na, Hey hey hey, Good Bye." Go Sox!
Mike M. -- "TO-night's the NIGHT we make HIS-tor-Y, sure as dogs can FLY!!! Hmm hmm hmm hmm, la la la laaa, la la, PAR-a-DISE!!!"
Erik H. -- I have been silently bopping my head to it all this week during computer training: "They're doin' it on the moon, uhh! In the jungle, too, uhhh! Everybody on the floor, now -- uhhh! -- Jumpin' like a kangaroo. So let the horns do the thing they do, yo! EXPRESS YOURSELF!"
Oh yeah... Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band. "Whatever you do do do lawd, do it good! EXPRESS YOURSELF! EXPRESS YOURSELF"

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Happy Birthday Sly!

His vision? To combine rock, soul, funk and psychedelia into something you could:
1) Dance to.
2) Think about.
Happy Birthday to Sly Stone, born on this date in 1943 in Denton, Texas.
Music history books often make a point that Sly & The Family Stone were among the few integrated bands (Booker T. & The MGs is another) of R&B. I attribute that to two reasons:
1) San Francisco seems to be among the most integrated places on Earth, with every nationality of the world represented, often among just a few city blocks.
2) It was important for Sly to surround himself with the best available musicians.
I don't throw the "genius" tag around too lightly (well, perhaps I do), but Sly Stone certainly deserves it.
Happy Birthday Sly!.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Music for when your brain goes THWACK!

I am in training this week on our new computer system at work. Actually, it is "train the trainer" training, meaning I have to learn the new system well enough to teach it to other people.
As a result, I am leaving work with a "hurt" brain. I feel like my brain has been through a rigorous workout, leaving it sore and tired.
Luckily I have two things in my favor when I attempt to recover:
1) Good weather gives me an opportunity to take a long walk after work, giving my brain a rest as my body takes the lead.
2) I have a great new 60s soul playlist on my iPod to ease my mental pain.
The song that recharged my batteries last night? "You Left The Water Running" by Maurice & Mac.
"You left the water running, when your left me behind/You left the water running, it's running from these eyes of mine."
Maurice McAlister and McLauren Green never scored a very big hit with this song, written by Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham, but it sure lifted me out of my mental fatigue last night!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Let the MADNESS begin!

No, not *THAT* Madness... March's *OTHER* Madness: The CRICKET WORLD CUP begins today! Hosts WEST INDIES take on PAKISTAN in Jamaica, the first step toward the April 28 final in Barbados.
The cricket played at this world cup is the one-day variety. It is a shortened form of the sport that can take as many as five days to complete a standard match.
Here are six things you probably didn't know about this year's CRICKET WORLD CUP:
1) Three-time winners and defending champions (from 2003) AUSTRALIA might not win it all this year. Top bowler Brett Lee is missing with an ankle injury, and Australia recently lost one-day tournaments to both England and New Zealand.
2) Male and female fans of INDIA swoon for Mahendra Singh Dhoni. He is the world's third-ranked batsman in one-day cricket and his shoulder-length hair and Bollywood-star looks make him an idol among the masses. (Check out more about Dhoni at this Web site here.)
3) BANGLADESH might be cricket's biggest underachievers. With a population of 150 million and a history of cricket dating to the 1700s, Bangladesh should succeed on a par with regional neighbors India and Sri Lanka. Instead, they struggle in the sport. Bangladesh have even lost to CANADA.
4) CANADA -- of all countries -- has a team at the World Cup. Their best player, John Davison, is a bit of a ringer. Although born in British Columbia, he grew up in Australia and attended that country's famed cricket academy. Canada actually have more Caribbean-born players (six) than Canadian-born players (three).
5) NEW ZEALAND could surprise the field this year. Habitually bullied by near-neighbors Australia, the "Black Caps" could finally gain some revenge, thanks in part to young stars such as Ross Taylor. The 22-year-old debuted in style last year, scoring an unbeaten 128 runs against Sri Lanka.
6) Watch out for Yassir Arafat.
No, not *THAT* Yassar Arafat. He's dead and doesn't play cricket. *THIS* Yassir Arafat could become a star for PAKISTAN. He has already made a name for himself playing for Sussex in English county cricket (that's him pictured on the right) and the Punjab-born, 24-year-old right-handed batsman and bowler has represented Scotland 30 times internationally. He got his first big break playing league cricket in Scotland for Clydesdale.
The Cricket World Cup field seems wide open this year, with any number of competing nations boasting a chance to win the trophy. Let the MADNESS begin!

Monday, March 12, 2007

The one-and-a-half hit wonder

If there is no such thing as a "one-and-a-half hit wonder," then we should invent the term to describe Brenton Wood.
His 1967 smash "Gimme Little Sign" raced to No. 9 in the pop charts, so catchy -- including the memorable organ break in the middle -- that it endures in the public consciousness. Sing a snatch of the song -- stop -- and the people you are with can pick up where you left off.
"Just gimme some kind of sign girl -- oh, my baby -- to me that you're mine, oh yeah."
Wood could be termed a "one-hit wonder" except for one important detail: "The Oogum Boogum Song."
"That's one of those songs that I know what it is, but I don't know who did it," said one of ROUTE 1's readers after I mentioned my current fascination with Brenton Wood.
"Oogum oogum boogum boogum boogum now baby you're castin' your spell on me."
"The Oogum Boogum Song" preceded "Gimme Little Sign" in the spring of 1967 -- 40 years ago!? -- and reached No. 19 on the R&B charts and a respectable No. 34 on the pop charts.
Although it was a big-enough hit at the time, one hardly hears it on oldies radio these days.
Perhaps that's why people of a certain age can only SOMEWHAT recall "The Oogum Boogum Song." It seems to have faded from public consciousness.
Does that faded notoriety make "The Oogum Boogum Song" any less of a classic?
I would argue that it remains a stellar, catchy, wonderful song.
So, while Brenton Wood really can't be called a "one-hit wonder," because of "The Oogum Boogum Song," that same song's slip from consciousness stops me short from calling Wood a "two-hit wonder."
So, doesn't that make him a "one-and-a-half-hit wonder?"
Are there any more "one-and-a-half-hit wonders" out there?
What about Dobie Gray? "Drift Away" is every bit as classic as "Gimme Little Sign." Did you remember his version of "The 'In' Crowd?"

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Smilin' with Galaxy 722

I have been sitting here, listening to CLASSIC 1960s' R&B TUNES and smiling, thinking about my BELOVED OREGON DUCKS, the demolition of USC they performed last night (81-57) and their three seed in the upcoming NCAA men's basketball tournament.
The singers and songs that have caught my fancy tonight include Shreveport, La. native BRENTON WOOD and his marvelous "GIMME LITTLE SIGN," Milwaukee's finest, THE ESQUIRES, and their insanely catchy "GET ON UP" and a little tune that helped define a long-lost Bay Area record label, single No. 722 on Galaxy.
Brothers Max and Sol Weiss operated a San Francisco plastic molding business that included a record pressing plant in the 1940s, and one of their early clients was pianist Dave Brubeck.
This relationship with Brubeck flourished, and the Weiss brothers decided to start a record label called Fantasy and eventually a subsidiary called Galaxy, which the brothers named after a science fiction magazine.
While Fantasy was best-known for jazz, Galaxy was best-known for R&B, thanks in part to Charles Brown, Big Mama Thornton and (my own personal favorite) Oakland homeboy Rodger Collins.
None of these acts hit the big time with Galaxy, however, quite like LITTLE JOHNNY TAYLOR (pictured).
Galaxy No. 722 is Taylor's greatest hit, "PART TIME LOVE," which topped the R&B charts in 1963.
Songs such as that classic have kept me smiling tonight. Along with my BELOVED OREGON DUCKS, of course.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The amazing, probably true, tale of Dyke & The Blazers

Bassist Arlester "Dyke" Christian, guitarist Alvester "Pig" Jacobs and saxophonist J.V. Hunt were members of the Blazers, the backing band for the pre-stardom O'Jays.
According to most accounts, the trio were stranded on a 1965 O'Jays' tour in Phoenix, Ariz. after the O'Jays discovered they didn't have enough money to send them back to their Buffalo, N.Y. home.

The three musicians needed to make money somehow, so they drafted local Valley of the Sun musicians to play some gigs.
In came organist Rich Cason, bassist Alvin Battle (with Dyke switching to vocals), drummer Rodney Brown and tenor saxophonist Bernard Williams.
Dyke & The Blazers were born, and began playing a legendary series of gigs in the Phoenix area, including lengthy engagements at the historic Elks Lodge on South Seventh Avenue.
Williams arranged the material -- an early, particularly gritty form of FUNK.

Local producers Art Barrett and Austin Coleman of Artco Records discovered the group and in 1966 the label released a single of a song Dyke had written while he lived near 24th Street and Broadway Road in Phoenix.
"Funky Broadway."
Dyke & The Blazers scored a national hit with the song after Los Angeles label Original Sound picked it up for distribution, then collected big royalty payments when Wilson Pickett scored an even bigger hit with his cover version.
Two more Top 40 hits followed for Dyke & The Blazers -- "We Got More Soul" and "Let a Woman be a Woman, Let a Man be a Man" -- but Dyke had started using Los Angeles session musicians (the nucleus of The Watts 103rd Street Band) with increasing frequency.
Legend has it that the original band broke up in 1969, after their equipment was stolen from a club and not replaced.
A pillar of the Valley's soul scene, Williams contributed his sax to local gems such as "Too Good to be True" by Lon Rogers & The Soul Blenders (the opening track on the EXCELLENT compilation "Eccentric Soul: Mighty Mike Lenaburg").
Dyke never had a chance to create a memorable, post-Blazers career.
Arlester Christian was shot and killed near 12th Avenue and Buckeye Road in south Phoenix on March 13, 1971.
I have long loved Dyke & The Blazers ("We Got More Soul" was a soundtrack to my college years) and I have been listening to their amazing music for days now on my iPod.
Believe it or not, the band's music is more amazing than their tale.

Friday, March 09, 2007


ROUTE 1 readers are a worldly bunch -- as opposed to ROUTE 1 writers, who never seem to go anywhere cool.
This unfortunate dichotomy provides the segue to this week's FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What was your most memorable recent trip"
Rick T. -- Just got back from Nashville, Tenn. and beautiful Tallahassee and Panama City Beach, Fla.
Ellen B. -- Las Vegas.
Kerstin H. -- My latest trip to the library! I checked out "Chasing Redbird" by Sharon Creech.
Lisa Y. -- OK, maybe it is cheesy, but my most memorable recent trip was to a place called Northern Bay Golf Resort. I'd highly recommend it for a family vacation -- beautiful brand new condos, golf (which I don't do), lake, pool, game room, tennis, walking paths, basketball, sun, tiki bar, etc... It is right by Wisconsin Dells.
Rob K. -- Vernazza a couple of years ago was really something -- tucked into the shoreline of the Cinque Terre region of Italy, one of four other small towns wedged into the mountainous gorges on the Mediterranean Sea, all linked by trails through 800-year-old terraces that still grow lemon trees, olives and grapes.
That is followed closely by a motorcycle trip to the Blue Grass fest at Mudlake last summer.
Roseanne H. -- My most memorable trip was taking the train to Iowa to see you, Mr. Route 1. Very cool indeed!
Mike D. -- When we were kids, we took annual family vacations to various resorts "up north." Last summer, seven of the eight of us (and our families) recreated our youth by renting cabins for a week at a lakeside resort in northern Wisconsin. Campfires, swimming and early morning fishing on a misty lake -- it doesn't get any better than that!
Brian C. -- OK, this might not qualify as "recent," but it's the best I can do. In December 2000, I traveled to Thailand to attend the cremation ceremony for the father of my friend Chai. More than 2,000 people attended. In the days prior, there were three nights of "chanting" -- sort of a wake in the Buddhist tradition. The "chanting" was spread over three days to accommodate the crowds; the dates were announced on billboards in the city of Chiang Mai, Thailand's second-largest city. The "royal fire," used to light the crematorium, was brought to Chiang Mai from Bangkok -- a nine-hour drive -- by Thai soldiers sent by the King himself. I could fill the blog with the fascinating events. Oh, I should mention that Chai's father had died FIVE YEARS earlier. His body was kept in a climate-controlled cubicle in his office at the newspaper. Seriously.
Mike M. -- Last April, my brother Sam and I drove from Dubuque, Iowa to Breckenridge, Texas to attend my Great Great Aunt Lucille O'Brien's 100th birthday party. Aunt 'Cile was the oldest known Texan to sign the petition to add Kinky Friedman to the ballot for governor -- I have a talking Kinky Friedman action figure as proof! Unfortunately, Aunt 'Cile passed away in September, and Kinky lost the election in November.
Erik H. -- I continue to think about the trip my family and I took to visit my sister -- and my roots -- in San Francisco. One of our happiest moments was exploring a stationery store in Japantown. Cool pencils.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Que alalva el boogie

93.1 Amor... K-LOVE 107.5 FM... WOJO 105.1 "Radio Le Que Buena."
Radio stations that feature Spanish-language contemporary music are among the ratings leaders in America's biggest markets.
Each of the hit songs these stations play shares a common ancestor, a song I have been enjoying the past two days.
"Pachuco Boogie" is not just the lead track in an Arhoolie Records compilation of the same name.
Bassist Don Tosti (look for more on this musical genius in later editions of ROUTE 1) showed up for a Los Angeles recording session in 1948. Popular balladeer Ruben Reyes failed to show, so record label owner William Castillo asked Tosti and his band if they had anything they wanted to put on wax.
These jazz musicians worked up a jump blues -- an early form of R&B -- that incorporated Mexican traditional music and spoken-word elements featuring calo -- a barrio dialect passed down from Spanish gypsies to lower-status Mexicans. Drummer Raul Diaz sang about Pachucos -- the zoot-suit wearing Chicano youth who had created a vibrant subculture of music and dance (and violence; see this Wikipedia entry here).
The result? Almost assuredly the first Chicano R&B record and without doubt a cultural phenomenon and Hispanic anthem: By most accounts, "Pachuco Boogie" became the first Mexican-American recording to sell more than a million copies. Authorities accepted the song into the Smithsonian Institute archives in 1985.
I have been enjoying "Pachuco Boogie" for days: "Que alalva el boogie -- get in the groove with the boogie."

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Day of the Hearing, Night of the Hunter

This week I have been covering a complicated hearing held by the National Labor Relations Board.
I have relaxed at home by hanging out with my family, listening to music and watching films.
I watched Charles Laughton's "The Night of the Hunter" last night.
Surely, this film is one of the best in cinematic history.
Robert Mitchum stars as Harry Powell, a murderous crook who poses as a preacher in pursuit of a pair of small children who know the location of hidden bank robbery proceeds.
Powell possess a strange magnetism that draws females to him like a fly to a spider web.
That's tragic, because Powell also posses a psychopathic hatred of females:
"There are things you do hate, Lord. Perfume-smellin' things, lacy things, things with curly hair."
"The Night of the Hunter" plays like a chilling, vivid nightmare, so is it any wonder I didn't sleep well after watching it last night?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

A "forgotten oldie" and mini-symphony

ROUTE 1 reader Brian C. calls them "forgotten oldies," once-popular songs that have slipped from the public consciousness and rarely, if ever, make it onto present-day oldies-radio playlists.
I have been listening to one such forgotten oldie about a dozen times during the past two days.
Phil Spector produced Ike and Tina Turner's "River Deep-Mountain High" in
1966, then retreated from the public eye following that single's relative lack of success.
In 1969, Spector decided to make a brief return to the music business
and he signed a production deal with A&M Records.
A Ronettes single ("You Came,
You Saw, You Conquered") flopped, but then the man behind the famed "Wall of Sound" returned to the charts with a remarkable song.
"Black Pearl," by Sonny Charles and the Checkmates, Ltd., begins slowly, like some symphonies, before bursting out of the speakers in full-blown glory.
It is instantly recognizable as a Spector production: Why use a dozen-person chorus when a 100-member chorus is available? Why use one orchestra when you can employ three orchestras?
The glorious result? "Black Pearl" sounds like a mini-symphony, and the ode to a domestic servant reached No. 13 on the charts.

Spector's A&M deal was short-lived, however, and he would move on to controversially produce The Beatles' "Let it Be."

Monday, March 05, 2007

B'More... Mobtown... Charm City...

Jill heads to Baltimore later this week.
I have been digging up some information to help her prepare for the journey.
For example...
I forwarded to her the Baltimore City Paper Web site, located here. The paper's best-of-Baltimore awards included an honor for "Best Baltimore Blog," won by the comprehensive BALTIMORE CRIME BLOG, located here.
As you would expect from the setting of both "Homicide: Life on the Streets" and "The Wire," Baltimore has managed to elevate crime to high art.
The city provides the setting for some truly memorable crimes.
Paul Joyal, a Russian intelligence expert, recently learned about Baltimore crime the hard way: The Putin critic was shot in the groin on his way home from the Spy museum.
Ironic? Not in Baltimore, where two people die every three days because of violence.
Baltimore's sorrowful stories extend beyond the city limits, too.
Prince George's County authorities recently arrested 31-year-old Amara Eden.
Authorities say neighbors in the 7700 block of Topton Street smelled smoke coming from a house and called 911.
Responding firefighters found five children alone inside the house.
The children, ranging in ages from 6 months to 6 years, had started a fire in a bid to cook food.
Eden returned to the home as rescue workers began removing the children from the home.
Every place has its problems, of course, and Baltimore is by no means alone.
Perhaps, shedding additional light on the problem -- as BALTIMORE CRIME BLOG does -- will continue to raise the awareness that something must be done to stem the tide.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Association football as emotional rollercoaster

Carlos Tevez curled the free kick over the wall and under the crossbar, scoring his first goal for West Ham. The Argentine international then pulled off his shirt and hopped into the adoring arms of the crowd.
That was the height of jubilation for last-place West Ham today.
More than 50 minutes later, the team seemingly condemned for the drop felt the pain of absolute despair.
Tottenham Hotspur substitute Paul Stalteri pounced on a rebound and poked the ball into the net in the sixth minute of stoppage time and Spurs had won, 4-3.
Today's live match on Fox Soccer Channel was the best possible advertisement for football as the world's best game.
I am so thankful to have watched it!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Stax and suds in Soulsville

I'm doing the dishes and groovin' to a STAX RECORDS playlist on my iPod.
Believe me, the two really go together. Rufus Thomas (pictured, above) is shouting about "Walkin' the Dog" while I am scrubbing away at some old pan.

Here are FIVE THINGS that I love about the music produced by Stax Records in Memphis in the 1960s:
1) I love how Eddie Floyd pauses between "Knock" and "... on Wood."
2) I love how Carla Thomas tells Otis Redding to get a hair cut in "Tramp."
3) I love how the band gets into such an air-tight groove on Sam and Dave's "Soul Man" (which is so much better than the Blues Brothers' version that Dan Ackroyd should be prosecuted).
4) I love trying to figure out which gender Bobby Marchan is singing to in the occasional female impersonator's ambiguous "What Can I Do?"
5) I love how Rufus Thomas can virtually replicate "Walkin' the Dog" as "Can Your Monkey Do the Dog," and the song still sounds absolutely great.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Alas poor "Soul Shots," I knew thee well

Remember that battered old cassette tape, scratchy 45 or... er, that car commercial you loved so much? Wish you could have them back?
So do the ROUTE 1 readers who answered the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
Any songs or records from your past you wish you still had?
Scout S. -- With the advent of mp3s and illegal downloads, there is no such thing. Just yesterday, I had the theme from "The Greatest American Hero" stuck in my head. So I trotted over to the laptop, fired up my iTunes, and presto, the house was awash in the dulcet tones of Mister Joey Scarsbury. Actually, come to think of it, there *IS* one song. It's a jingle from a Mazda commercial, circa 1980. I get it stuck in my head all the time, and I don't know why. It's very jaunty, and it features a chorus of men and women singing:
"Sakes alive! Sakes alive!
Only Mazda's got a sporty truck
For just fifty-six ninety five!"
And then the following year, they changed it to "fifty-seven ninety-five" and ruined the meter. Which in turn, set my own wheels in motion to become a songwriter. My whole life is based on supply side economics. How sad.
Mary N.-P. -- "Wolverton Mountain" by Claude King in 1962. One of the oddest, but catchiest, songs I've ever been addicted to. Erik has it on a compilation album and is going to lend it to me. Yippee!
Mike M. -- When I was 3 or 4, my grandfather gave me an LP of John Philip Sousa marches by the U.S. Marine Band. I played it for hours on end, stored it in my toy box, and after a few years mended the worn-out album cover with a huge strip of green duct tape. I don't know what happened to my Sousa LP, but I wish I still had this gift from my grandfather, a man of great wit and humor, to pass on to my kids.
Roseanne H. -- I wish I still had all my old 45s -- Elvis, Fats Domino, Chubby Checker, etc, etc, etc. I don't even remember what happened to them.
Mike D. -- My brothers and I loved the "Funky Favorites" album, a Ronco compilation of novelty songs such as "Monster Mash," "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah," "Junk Food Junkie," "Purple People Eater" and "Leader of the Laundromat." Those were the days!
Brian C. -- When I was about 12, I acquired some 45s (yes, vinyl) belonging to my uncle, who was about 10 years my senior. The collection included Elvis' "Won't You Wear My Ring (Around Your Neck)?" and Bobby Darin's "Splish Splash." In 1966, those songs were not considered "cool," and I lost track of those 45s. Wish I had those "classics" back.
Inger H. -- I can't really think of any music that I don't have now that I could not easily get again. What I do miss sometimes is how it felt when I was falling in love with something, though. One of the few prized possessions that I brought with my for my year-long stint in England was a cassette tape of Scritti Politti's "Cupid & Psyche." I fell in love with that record, as it blasted through my headphones, as I careened around in my heavy, clunky three-speed bike. I huffed up hills and got lost and got rained on and kept accidentally ending up on the wrong side of the road after making a turn, the whole time listening to those incredibly infective, poppy melodies. I will always remember riding that bike when I think of this record, and thinking about this record always reminds me of the curious freedom of wheeling around a place you don't yet know, wind in your face, something new around every corner.
Erik H. -- Don't you just hate those stories that begin: "I had this one cassette that I just played to death?"
Well, sorry. I had this one cassette that I just played to death.
It was the year after my college graduation and I was living in Sonoma County but commuting to work each day in Marin County. Traffic was horrible, but "Soul Shots," a a battered little cassette tape compilation of ABSOLUTELY SMOKIN' sixties soul, was wonderful.
It had Billy Stewart's "Summertime," Larry Williams and Johnny Watson's "Two for the Price of One" and Dyke & The Blazers' "We Got More Soul," among other great songs, and I continually blasted it out of the car speakers. The music raced while the traffic crawled, and that little tape sparked my lasting love affair with soul music.
Alas, that little tape is no more. I could order a CD version from the Rhino Records Web site or I could purchase the songs from iTunes and create an identical playlist, but it could never been the same.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

"Catch the Retrievers on the rise"

Jill leaves for Baltimore in a week.
To help her prepare for her journey to "Charm City," we have been listening to Baltimore radio stations online most mornings this week.
You can find WBAL here, WHFS here and WNST here.
My previous exposure to Baltimore was almost exclusively limited to Barry Levinson films.
Thanks to the radio stations, I have been able to catch up on all sorts of Baltimore current events.
For example, SportsTalk 1570 WNST broadcasters are currently complaining about how the Orioles have excluded the name "Baltimore" from their road uniforms.
That's not all I have learned from listening to B-More radio stations.
Here are some other things I have learned:
1) The University of Maryland-Baltimore County Retrievers are enjoying one of their better seasons. Sixth-man Brian Hodges has scored in double figures in 20 games and the Retrievers finished the regular season with their best America East Conference record -- 7-9 (11-18 overall). The Retrievers tied with Maine for fourth place in the standings, and will face the same Black Bears this weekend in the America East Tournament.
2) The Jones Falls Expressway features some of the heaviest traffic in the Mid-Atlantic. Every morning, the WBAL traffic reports include news of congestion on the JFX, as well as stop-and-go progress on I-95 and both the outer and inner loops of the Baltimore Beltway.
3) Hunt Valley, Md.-based Sinclair Broadcast Group, which clashed with our local cable providers for months -- eventually pulling our local CBS affiliate from our cable package until the ugly corporate wrangling was resolved -- is now entangled in an almost identical dispute with Comcast in the Chesapeake Bay region.
See? Even in unfamiliar surroundings such as Baltimore, we can find common ground.