Joel Goldenberg: The Winstons and others

Guitarist Jeff Beck and vocalist Keith Relf of the Yardbirds in the film Blow-Up.

We now plow on with the wistful W list, at least in terms of our first entry.

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The Winstons: This soul group had a late-1960s one-hit wonder with the incredibly touching Color Him Father, about a youngster whose father is killed in, presumably, Vietnam, and whose new stepfather is extremely loving and accepting of him. The lyrics are fantastic, and the music is late-1960s soul at its best.

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Edgar Winter: I had the absolute pleasure of seeing keyboard wizard Winter in Boston several years ago as part of Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band. My impression of him personally — a real Southern gentleman. And it was quite the experience to hear the wild instrumental Frankenstein played live. My favourite song of his group, as sung by the song's writer Dan Hartman, was Free Ride. The best part of the song is the chorus, during which the harmonies give the listener a near floating sensation. Also sounds like everyone playing and singing is having a smashing time.

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Bill Withers: One of the best male soul artists of the early 1970s with such classics as Lean On Me, Use Me and Ain't No Sunshine. I would call Withers' music folk-soul with the emphasis on the soul, while Richie Havens' music, to my mind, is folk-soul with the emphasis on the folk. By the way, several years ago I heard the  Withers song Lovely Day used on a commercial, and I searched it out on the Internet. It sounded quintessentially early 1970s, but it was a hit in 1977. Great song.

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Stevie Wonder: Without a doubt, one of the most talented artists of all time as a singer, writer and musician. One of my favourite albums of all time is the now-deleted Looking Back 3-LP set, which was the definitive compilation of Wonder's 1960s material, and I got it for a mere $3.99 at a Plattsburgh record store. His 1970s albums were mostly top-drawer artistic triumphs. And yet, my all-time favourite song of his is Stevie's reworking of the Beatles We Can Work It Out, in its mono single mix. The opening bass line just hits you in the chest on that version. It's probably the best Beatles cover version of all time. 

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O.V. Wright: I haven't heard a great deal of this 1960s soul singer's material, but I find it interesting that James Brown, during one of his longer song performances on the Live at the Apollo Vol. II album, sang part of Wright's You're Gonna Make Me Cry. Call it manual sampling.

And now, we proceed, exceedingly briefly, to the X list:

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XTC: This 1980s and 1990s group, in my humble opinion, was the New Wave version of the Beatles, in terms of song quality and innovation. That is most evident in the first several songs from the album Skylarking, produced by artistic whiz-kid Todd Rundgren. Their early hits were a little more herky-jerky. Still, Senses Working Overtime is a timeless classic.

And now to the Y list:

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The Yardbirds: It's not every 1960s group that has three legendary guitarists as members, but this group had Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. In fact, the latter two played together on a couple of the group's songs. Unfortunately, many of their great songs are available in less than hi-fi sound, and with some exceptions, not in stereo. The group hit a studio peak with the somewhat bizarre Roger the Engineer album, which sounds quite good, but also helped pioneer psychedelia with such rave-up singles as Over Under Sideways Down and, especially, Happenings Ten Years Time Ago, the latter of which features both Beck and Page.

Next time: The Yellow Balloon and others.

 

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