As you may have read in my review of Steve’s most recent book “Loud, Proud and Illegal”, he’s sold the commercial stations he part-owned to another company and found himself more ‘retired’ than he was earlier in the year. Didn’t last, though and he now finds himself presenting ‘Lovetown’, a selection of love songs, for a couple of hours between 11PM and 1AM five nights a week on Staffordshire Moorlands FM community station Moorlands Radio before flipping over to the digital-only service on Moorlands Xtra for the  next two hours. Not only that but another couple of nascent stations have offered him the same slot on their stations, provisional upon them being awarded licenses next year, in effect syndicating his show in different parts of the country and others are showing an interest. 

In order to celebrate this he’s listed fifty of his fave FM-friendly love songs on his ‘Broadcast Brothers’ Facebook page. Not being one overburdened with the work ethic these days, he’s sent the top five from this list in as his ‘Lovetown’ High Five this year.

 

5.Brenda Russell: “Piano in the Dark”

Very, very spooky this. This was the tune that was playing as I left the car headed for the Clifton tower block flat where I came within minutes of being Done for pirate broadcasting. (See Broadcast Brothers: On the Radio). It was also the scene of a weird one. The Clifton flats studio was draped in copious amounts of white material to deaden the sound a bit; and they only moved when the doors opened to let in the next presenter. So if those drapes moved significantly, you knew someone had just been admitted to the premises – and if this was unannounced, it was scarper time. I was playing this late one night coming towards the end of a show long forgotten now, with the legendary Josh in the studio with me feeding me the ad tapes. Suddenly, the drapes billowed, and we looked at each other…there was no-one to let anyone in, and neither of us had. ‘Funny,’ said the sadly now-departed Josh. ‘That happened the other night when we played this as well……’ Atmospheric, beautifully recorded (is that Michael McDonald I can hear in back?) and boy does she ‘sell’ this song. And with the tinkling of those ghostly ivories, every time I hear this I can’t help but think of all the pirate presenters and ‘staff’ who are no longer with us. And they are legion.

4.The Beach Boys: “God Only Knows”

The first line of the lyrics is the most complete statement I’ve ever heard about the Lurv Thang in a song. You’ve got the strength balanced against the vulnerability; you’ve got the conviction versus the doubt. And you’ve also got the greatest production genius ever to draw breath, Brian Wilson, dragging all sorts of kit in through the studio door to deliver something where the marriage between killer tune, bullseye lyrics and sympathetic production has never, ever, seemed closer. It is perfect.

 

3.Linda Jones: “(For) Your Precious Love”

This was recorded by Jerry Butler of The Impressions in his usual controlled and dignified fashion. It was a decent sized US hit and their version is well worth a listen. But oh my my, approach this version with asbestos gloves. This is anything but dignified and in control. This is THE ‘torch song’ incarnate. This woman sounds absolutely driven beyond the normal compass of human emotion. The scream approaching the end is just brutal and she nearly loses control of the whole thing in the last few bars. Again I say DO NOT LISTEN TO THIS if you are doing break-up numbers. And do not listen if you’ve had a drink. It is quite rare now as a vinyl and you will have all on to find it in this country but it is all over t’internet. Biographical detail; she died at the age of 27 whilst sleeping between shows at the Harlem Apollo at her mum’s house. A long-time diabetic, she may well have slipped into a diabetic coma.

2.The Righteous Brothers: “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling”

This is the most played record on American radio, ever. Let me say that again. Most. Played. US Radio. Can you even begin to imagine how much this has grossed? But you can see why within the first few bars. It is all there. The sullen accusation, the descending scale on the brass and strings, the doom – laden ‘wall of sound’ courtesy of Phil Spector and company, the despairing admission to himself that no matter what he does, It Is Over. The interplay between the near – hysterical falsetto of the late Bobby Hatfield – chalk another one off due to the Peruvian Marching Powder – and the deep, aching heartbreak of Bill Medley playing off against each other and the final ‘breakdown’ of the orchestra arrangement before the end you’ve got an immortal three minutes or so; even though you know the final plea ‘Bring Back – That Lovin’ Feelin’ has and will fall upon ears that have already gone deaf.

1.Billy Paul: Me and Mrs. Jones.

‘We gotta thiiiiing going on’. Billy Paul pulls off the impossible here. On the face of it here, this is a seedy little tale about some furtive and probably sordid mutual extra – marital. And yet. The problem here is that you can’t help but be dragged into the tension, the yearning, the hurt and the difficult decisions. So much so that you find yourself identifying with and sympathising with the protagonists, against your better nature. Without Billy Paul’s stella vocal performance, which would have been reduced to the very ordinary by the classic ‘Barry White’-style delivery, this would have been just so-so and you be excused for walking away from it saying ‘serves ‘em right’. But the jazz tones in his staccato, top-end delivery mesh so beautifully with the near-glissando string arrangements, which meld with the horn section and just drift effortlessly with little sprinkles of audio angel dust here and there. And then there are the backing vocals to consider. How can anyone imbue the word ‘Thiiiiing….’ with so much soul power. Part jazz, part soul, all Philly dreamboat, this, for me, is the best FM radio love song of all time. Released in 1972, it got to number 12 in the UK top 40 and number 1 on Billboard in the US. Billy Paul died about three years ago, aged 80. But, I suspect for many years to come, he will still have a thiiing going on.

Quick footnote: Our guess is that you’ll know four of these songs really well. If you haven’t heard the Linda Jones song you really should listen to it; it has the power of Millie Jackson at her very best. Obviously, as Steve says, don’t listen if you’re feeling fragile.

 

 

Ronnie TitleThere’s a couple of interesting tours coming up in late November/early December that we really thought we should share with you. First up is a tour by the absolute legend Ronnie Spector with her “Ronnie Spector Sings the Fabulous Ronettes” tour, featuring the greatest Ronettes hits, including “Me My Baby”, “Baby I Love You”, “Do I Love You” and “Wallking in the Rain”, plus Jeff Barry/Ellie Greenwich/Phil Spector originals that became hits as covers, such as “I Can Hear Music” (Beach Boys) and “Chapel of Love” (Dixie Cups). The tour follows the release earlier this month of “The Very Best of Ronnie Spector” on Sony Music.

As if that wasn’t enough, Ronnie’s also working on her new album “English Heart”, a set of covers of songs by the sixties British invasion bands including The Beatles, The Stones, Gerry and the Pacemakers and The Animals which is scheduled for release in April 2016 on 429 Records. If you want to see the greatest hits tour, Ronnie’s doing the following dates:

November 28                    Philharmonic Hall            Liverpool

November 29                   Royal Concert Hall          Glasgow

November 30                   The Sage                             Gateshead

December 1                        Town Hall                           Birmingham

December 3                        The Barbican                      London

December 4                        Colston Hall                       Bristol

In early December, the European leg of the Light of Day tour comes to the UK. The Light of Day Foundation is a charity raising funds for research into Parkinson’s and related degenerative diseases, which originated in New Jersey in November 2000 and has been supported by many performers including Bruce Springsteen (whose song gave the Foundation its name), Michael J Fox, Southside Johnny, Darlene Love, Willie Nile, Jakob Dylan, Lucinda Williams, Badly Drawn Boy and Gary ‘US’ Bonds.

The headline band for the UK tour this year is Joe D’Urso, Vini ‘Mad Dog’ Lopez, Eric Bazilian, Ed Manion and Jake Clemons. If you want to see some incredible musicians and donate some cash to a very good cause, then you can catch the Light of Day tour on the following four UK dates:

December 4                                        Oran Mor                                            Glasgow

December 5                                        TAPE Arts Centre                               Colwyn Bay

December 6                                        The Musician                                      Leicester

December 8                                        The Half Moon, Putney                  London

You should catch both of these tours if you can, and maybe we’ll see you at The Half Moon for the Light of Day gig.

And the next one please.  Steve Jenner is Managing Director and weekday drivetime presenter on Ashbourne Radio in Derbyshire (one of a handful of genuinely independent commercial stations left in the UK).  Steve has been a broadcaster for over 20 years and a DJ for much (much) longer and he knows a good tune when he hears one.  He’s also a bloody good bloke who doesn’t mind getting his round in.  As a man who knows about Phonographic Performance Licensing, he’s helpfully added the label information for each of the albums; and he’s ranked them 1 to 5 which none of the rest of us dared to do.

The Beach Boys – “That’s Why God Made the Radio” (Capitol)Product Details

This is either one of two things. A cynical last go at topping up the retirement fund by a bunch of coffin dodgers who ought to know better, or a hauntingly nostalgic and melancholy – soaked slice of harmony magic. Ok I’ve put it as my number 1 of the year so it’s pretty clear what I think and you can think what you like but if the title track doesn’t have you referencing back to summers long past and cars long gone to the breaker’s yard, you have no right to have been given ears. From the achingly beautiful opening sequence to the final track’s ode to transience, it is enchanting.

Paul Carrack – “Good Feeling” (Carrack UK)Product Details

This is either one of two things. A perfunctory and never less than professional run through of a handful of songs of varying quality, or a varied, extremely well performed set of well written and well chosen songs performed with love for the material, respect for the intended audience and a sure – footedness and confidence which only comes from year upon year of recording and touring with the very best. Ok I’ve put it as my number 2 album so it’s pretty clear what I think and you can think what you like but from the second the searingly optimistic title track folds into the live tour de force “Marmalade Moon” to the point when it finally puts you down, you’re travelling alongside one of the best popular musicians this country has produced. And that’s ever. It’s an album that smiles at you – and means it.

Sandi Thom – “Flesh and Blood” (Guardian Angels)Product Details

This is either one of two things. An Americanised watering -- down of a once feisty and original Scottish songwriter and performer and her work, or a compelling and never less than sumptuous piece of work which has moments of incredible tenderness and beauty. Ok, I’ve put it as my number 3 album so it’s pretty clear what I think and you can think what you like but if you come across a more moving and despairing rendition of a song than the towering “Big Ones Get Away” (Featuring Buffy Saint – Marie on spooky vocal enhancement) or the swaggering Rickenbacker of “Sun Comes Crashing Down”, buy me a copy of whatever it is and I’ll call you a Big Fat Fibber. Gorgeous.

Deacon Blue – “The Hipsters”Product Details

This is either one of two things. A gauche attempt by a bunch of 90’s burnt – outs to recapture the glory days and trying hard but not quite making which is worse than not bothering at all or an out – of – nowhere, died – in – the – wool, very pleasant surprise. Ok, I’ve put it as my number 4 album so it’s pretty clear what I think and you can think what you like but if there was a better summer FM choon than the title track this year outside of the Beach Boys album I’m afraid it passed me right on by. “The Outsiders” is pretty damn tidy too. As is the first track….oh, just stick the whole thing on. It’s real Deacon Blue. Says so on the tin.

Seal – “Soul 2”Product Details

This is either one of two things. Yet another of those awful rob – a -- genre albums artists who are struggling a bit due to reasons personal or professional insist on releasing (or their record company shamefully leans on them to do so) when they run out of ideas or it is a masterclass in how it should be done by an expert practitioner at the top of his game. Ok, I’ve put it as my number 5 album so it’s pretty clear what I think and you can think what you like but if you hear a better version of “Wishing On A Star” – and I include Rose Royce in this – or the criminally underplayed  Smokey and the Miracles “Ooh Baby Baby”, (which isn’t quite as good as the original but hey, we’re tickling the toes of the angels here) I’ll refuse to buy you a copy of the new Rod Stewart Christmas Album. You have to be an exceptional talent to carry this sort of thing off. Well done, Mr Seal.

Many thanks to Steve for that great selection.  There’s another selection coming tomorrow; I wonder who that could be?