Today’s column is about Clive Powell and his friends and associates. Who? I can hear you ask. Who indeed? This is another column with music suggested by Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, and all will be revealed.
It is GEORGIE FAME today, and no, Mr and Mrs Fame didn’t call their little boy Georgie. The young Clive Powell was from Lancashire, England, and had piano lessons as a kid.
As a teenager he entered a singing contest at one of the infamous Butlins holiday camps. He won that and was offered a job there. Not too long after that, he went to London and the entrepreneur Larry Parnes started managing him. It was Larry who insisted that Clive change his name to Georgie Fame or he wouldn’t be used in any of Larry’s shows.
Georgie soon proved a success traveling the country with English and visiting American musicians. He eventually got to record and produced some of the more interesting pop songs from Britain in the mid-Sixties, but jazz was his real interest.
Now to the music. First off, we have Clive with a couple of his friends, VAN MORRISON and JON HENDRICKS, singing one of Van’s greatest songs, Moondance.
My goodness, it doesn’t get any better than this. Well, except for Van’s original. Of course, Van’s in the mix as well in this version. Add to that perhaps the finest male jazz singer ever, Jon Hendricks, and we’re swinging.
Okay, we now have Jon Hendricks in the mix, we’ll take a step backwards to the group that brought him to worldwide fame, that is LAMBERT, HENDRICKS AND ROSS. These folks were the epitome of cool singers in the late Fifties and early Sixties. They took jazz singing and turned it on its head.
They were hugely influential, most obviously in the work of Manhattan Transfer, but also on the Pointer Sisters, Bette Midler and it may not be stretching it too far to suggest Joni Mitchell as well.
Georgie is one of the few singers around to take an interest in the art of vocalese, which is essentially what LH&R performed. I imagine that’s why he’s recorded with both Hendricks and Ross over the years.
Here we have the ones who really started it all, Lambert, Hendricks and Ross with Moanin’.
Let’s get ANNIE ROSS together with Georgie. Annie is often described as Scottish, however, she was born in London and, when she was four years old, the family settled in Los Angeles.
She was a bit of a child actress and when she was eight, appeared in The Little Rascals singing Loch Lomond. She also played Judy Garland’s sister in a film.
By her mid-teens, Annie was not only singing but writing tunes as well. Before she was 20, Annie was living in Paris where she met some of the great jazz musicians of that time (or any time really) and started recording with them.
Annie met Dave and Jon when they required a choir for a song they were recording. She was the only one who could sing their complicated arrangement, all the rest were dismissed and a new vocal group was born.
Later, Annie and Georgie got together to record an album of Hoagy Carmichael songs. Here they sing My Resistance is Low.
Alas, we can’t feature Dave Lambert singing with Georgie as he was killed in a car accident in 1966.
Getting back to Van Morrison, it’s time for a solo number from him. Well, any time is time for a solo from Van. When I say solo, I mean he’s not singing with any of the others; there are other musicians playing on this track.
The A.M. and I played many Van tracks to come up with one that fitted with the rest of the music and showed off Van’s scat singing. I suggested just about anything from “Astral Weeks” but it isn’t the A.M.’s favorite. It doesn’t matter, there are plenty more great Van albums out there.
As she chose the rest of the music for this column, it was her choice for Van’s number as well and that is Tupelo Honey.
In keeping with the spirit of the column today, we have Lambert, Hendricks and Ross singing with JOE WILLIAMS and backed by the COUNT BASIE Band with the Count doing some fine ivory tinkling on the track as well.
Joe was a Chicago-based jazz singer who appeared often with Count Basie (and many others). Television viewers may remember him playing Bill Cosby’s father on The Cosby Show. I can’t imagine I need to introduce Count Basie to any readers of this column. Put all of these elements together and we have the song, Goin’ to Chicago Blues.
And now for something (not quite) completely different. Okay, the genre and the style is the same, it’s just that we haven’t had MARK MURPHY sing with any of the other artists so far.
I imagine he probably has done so over the years, but not on any of the albums we own. It doesn’t matter, he fits right in as he’s another singer of vocalese.
Mark continues to experiment. In the Fifties, he’d sing Charlie Parker; these days he turns Johnny Cash and Coldplay songs into jazz classics. This tune, though, leans more towards Charlie Parker (and LH&R). It is Mark with Be Bop Lives (Boplicity).
To finish off, we’ll go back to the source of this column, back to Clive and to the song that really put Georgie Fame on the musical map.
This is really an unusual track considering when it was recorded. The time was the swinging Sixties and The Beatles and the Stones were doing their various things. The other British groups were pretending to be black blues men from Mississippi. The Americans were doing something similar with a bit of folk music in the mix as well.
Georgie came out with this wonderful jazzy song and topped the charts, knocking The Beatles from that position for the first time in ages. No one else was performing music like this in the pop world, and it brings us back to Jon Hendricks who wrote the lyrics to the tune, Yeh, Yeh.