Joel Goldenberg: Thomas Wayne and others

Barry White

We are heading towards the end of this years-long series of favourite songs by solo artists and groups, as we plow ahead with the wondrous W list, beginning with a rather obscure artist:

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Thomas Wayne: Just based on the name, comic book and superhero movie fans may think I am referring to the father of Bruce Wayne, who was murdered along with wife Martha, which of course prompted the launch of Batman. But this Wayne recorded a quite badly recorded but stunningly eerie ballad called Tragedy, with ghostly female backing vocals to boot. The song must be good, because there were several cover versions, including an all-too-clearly recorded one by the very soft-sounding Fleetwoods and none other than Paul McCartney, in a long-unreleased version.

And by the way, the wistful, eerie tone of the song somehow makes me associate the singer Wayne with the fate of the comic book Thomas Wayne.

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We Five: While folk-rock was flourishing around the time this song was recorded, 1965, the song You Were On My Mind is closer to folk-pop. Very charming, but weirdly recorded with a somewhat muffled beginning, and most released versions are in mono or fake stereo. A real stereo version apparently lacks some instrumental elements.

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Lawrence Welk: No, I never watched this bandleader's really, really long-running TV show. As much as I was exposed to bland AM radio in my childhood, this was even too much for me. And yet his early 1960s hit Calcutta was a massive smash and deservedly so. Very earcatching and bright, and in super stereo. But there ain't no way I'm going to delve very deeply into his dozens of albums.

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Mary Wells: This Motown artist had some of the label's best early hits, especially the rhythmic Two Lovers and of course the #1 hit My Guy. I'll never figure out, not long after the latter song, why she decided to leave the label. She never hit as big again.

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Fred Wesley: Who, you say? This guy was one of James Brown's bandleaders, especially in the early 1970s, but really, the recordings released under his name are those of JB himself. Some of the songs are instrumental, some have group vocals, and some have JB himself vocalizing. The best of the songs under Wesley (and the J.B.'s) name is Doing It To Death, one of the tightest funk songs ever recorded. Funny enough, while it was released in 1973, it's only available in mono.

JB seemed to prefer mono later than most others, as Mama Feelgood by Lyn Collins, as well as Stoned to the Bone and the big hit There It Is by JB himself, were also recorded around that time and also only in mono. Even stranger, the JB hit Funky President, from 1974, was released in mono in its single version, but was stereo on the Reality album. That was par for the course in the 1960s and very early 1970s, but 1974?

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Wham!: This is not a song recommendation, but a tidbit.  One time, I was at Quartier Cavendish in Côte St. Luc watching the movie La La Land. At one point, a character called out "George Michael!" A couple of minutes later, I got a text that Michael had died.

Now that's eerie.

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Barry White: I was never that much into White's deep-voiced seduction soul songs, except for the fact that the man was musically brilliant, creating symphonic soundscapes. For proof, just listen to the instrumental Love's Theme by the Love Unlimited Orchestra, not to mention the musical backing for the songs White sings.

And now we have to stop for this week, because the next Retro Roundup will be devoted wholly to my favourite rock group (as opposed to pop — that's the Beach Boys) The Who.

 

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