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Potpouri (01/05/2001) Write to CD Shakedown
Leslie GoreBest of Leslie Gore (MCA 2000) - Here's one I didn't see coming. Twelve delightful slices of 60's perky pop by New Jersey's own Leslie Gore. And, of course, it helped that young Leslie had the renowned Quincy Jones as her producer. Gore was discovered when her demo tapes were forwarded to Jones, the head of Mercury Records A & R Department.

Leslie GoreFor their first session, they picked "It's My Party" out of a pile of 200 songs, and the 1963 song about Judy stealing boyfriend Johnny shot to number one. It was followed by "Judy's Turn to Cry" (number four), in which Johnny leaves Judy and returns to Leslie after he catches her kissing another guy. In the end, "She's a Fool" (number five) points the blame at both girls.

Clocking in at under 30 minutes, Best of Leslie Gore shows how a hit song is constructed. The liner notes by Tony Sachs are just like the music - short, sweet, and to the point.

Leslie GoreLeslie Gore (b. 1946) enjoyed the heady rush of fame. Beginning at age 16, her first four singles were top five smashes, and her first nine all landed in the top 40. By 1967, Gore's day in the sun passed with "California Nights," her last top 20 hit. Since then, she has stayed active performing as well as writing.

But her slices of sugary pop remain fresh to this day, and show Leslie as a charming voice. Expect to be surprised by Best of Leslie Gore.

ElwoodElwood, The Parlance of Our Time (Ryko Palm 2000) - Elwood is a New York City-based duo that draws on pop, hip-hop and urban to establish a new millennium sound. With lots of samples and loops, The Parlance of Our Time flows melodically.

Elwood consists of North Carolina-born Prince Elwood Strickland III, and his co-producer and partner Brian Boland. Mix Beck with the Chemical Brothers and Portishead, and you get a feel for the music. Elwood entered a special cooperation arrangement with Chris Blackwell's sputnik7.com, the online representative of the Palm Entertainment Music labels.

ElwoodPrince's studio expertise comes from a decade-long stint as engineer of a recording facility in New York's Soho district, where he worked on records by the hip-hop elite, including Tricky, De la Soul, D. J. Muggs, and Prince Paul.

The best track is a funkified remake of Gordon Lightfoot's 1974 smash, "Sundown." The track is one of three produced by UK legend Steve Lillywhite (who has worked with the Pogues, Morrisey and U2).

ElwoodSays New Jersey native Brian, "I was driving in my car and heard the original version on the radio. As soon as the chorus hit, I heard Prince's voice." The song works best when coupled with the video directed by Steve Carr (who also directed Ice Cube's number one hit, "Next Friday").

ElwoodWith a hit song, Elwood is focusing on assembling a live outfit, since he basically emerged directly from the studio. In describing The Parlance of Our Time, Elwood says, "It encompasses everything - language, communication, a hook and a song. It fits the whole record. The more I said it to myself, the more perfect it sounded."

Elwood is making music in a new style - heavily dependent on studio techniques, yet no stranger to a groove. While the album falls off after the opening track, there is something different on The Parlance of Our Time.

Don CovayDon Covay & Friends, Ad Lib (Cannonball Records 2000) - Minnesota-based Cannonball Records comes out with a winner on Ad Lib, the first new studio recording in years from r&b great Don Covay. In addition to old standards, the album features a plateful of new tracks by Don Covay, working with producer and bandleader John Tivin.

The Don Covay story begins with Covay working in the Washington, D.C. with his vocal group, The Rainbows (which included future superstar Marvin Gaye). Covay developed a looser, raunchier style after watching Little Richard tear it up on stage, and penned early 60's hits for artists such as Gladys Knight, Hank Ballard and Chubby Checker.

Don CovayCovay hit his stride on "Mercy, Mercy," anchored by a crack New York rhythm section and a then-little known guitar player recruited by Covay - Jimi Hendrix. Covay's influence extended when his songs were recorded by such acts as the Kinks and the Rolling Stones. Covay's last studio release for friends Gamble & Huff got lost in the 70s, and it wasn't until the 80s that Covay recruited John Tivin for his live performing band.

With Huey LewisCovay was felled in 1992 by a massive stroke and has spent the past several years recuperating. Covay recruited a host of friends to help him with the new project, including Paul Rodgers on "Mercy, Mercy," Huey Lewis on "The Red Comb Song," Otis Clay on "He Don't Know," and Wilson Pickett on "Three Time Loser."

Ad Lib represents Covay's live-in-the-studio approach, where he is reported to be "far more comfortable ripping up the script than following one." The backing band on Ad Lib includes Sally Tivin on bass guitar, Antone Figg on drums and percussion, Paul Shaffer on piano and keyboards, and John Tivin on guitar and organ.

Don CovayCovay's free-reeling style is apparent throughout, beginning with the extended jam of the "Don Covay Boogie." Particularly effective is "Chain of Fools," with guest duet vocalist Ann Peebles. Explains producer Tivin, "Ann and Don squeeze a little extra sauce out of the song, juicing up the lyric and working together as if they have known each other for years."

According to the liner notes, "This album contains no sample, loops, protools-enhanced performances or digital instrument. All the music was performed by actual musicians in real time without click tracks."

Paul SchafferAlso included is a rollicking "Poontang," first performed by Don while in the hospital. Says John Tivin, "You haven't lived until you have been on stage with Don Covay singing, 'Come on baby, take off your dress/You know what I like the best' to an audience of 200 or so men and women in wheelchairs all singing along, 'I want some poontang'."

Another fun track is "Hall of Fame," featuring Dan Penn and with a spoken intro by Paul Shaffer from the "Tonight Show" band. Explains Tivin, "Paul Shaffer sets the stage as our MC, meanwhile adding a soulful Hammond organ and some Johnny Johnson style piano licks, while Dan and Don make their case."

In addition to help in the studio from his friends, Ron Wood of the Stones has drawn a new portrait of Don for the album cover. For a serving from a master of old style R & B, try Ad Lib.

- Randy Krbechek © 2001

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