Sunday, December 07, 2008

Must grab download: DeShannon's Laurel Canyon

This week's technology feature is again and downloads but musical ones. Last week's feature on Amazon's downloadable films led to questions and comments regarding the music with several of you with dial-up writing to complain about being unable to download an album in full at Amazon and, if you attempt to do it track by track (a must for dial up users), you pay track by track (99 cents a track) as opposed to the album price which is generally cheaper.

Taking the feedback into account, we put a planned topic on hold and went in search of an album to download that had at least 12 tracks. At least 12? Dial-up users e-mailing asked that we note Rhino: Hi-Five Collections. If you go to Amazon's downloadable albums and see a Rhino: Hi-Five Collection, this is the only thing dial-up users report success with in terms of downloading in full. These are five track collections. Artists with these collections range from the excellent (Joni Mitchell, Roberta Flack, Stephen Stills, Curtis Mayfield, etc.) to the manufactured (the Monkees). You can click here for a listing of Hi-Five Collections and note there are also Hi-Five Collections by genre. These five-track compilations usually cost $3.99 but you can find some on sale for $3.49. (Buying the five tracks individually would cost you $4.95 so this isn't a huge savings -- savings is the focus of our next tech feature.)

Along with needing an album with at least 12 tracks, we wanted it to be something and someone worth highlighting, someone who does not get the cover of Rolling Stone next week (or Jann chatting them up inside the issue) but damn well deserves recognition. Since Jann's always had a thing for cocks, that meant we were looking for a female artist, women being the most ostracized and ignored in the popular music canon.

We also wanted something recorded as an album and not a greatest hits. Other than that, we were open to anything and Jess, Kat, Betty, Elaine and C.I. (our most musically aware) tossed out multiple suggestions. Laurel Canyon caught everyone's attention (C.I. suggestion). The LA canyon was home to many greats in the sixties including Cass Elliot and, in the seventies, would be associated with Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne and others. The title alone had our interest. The artist?

Jackie DeShannon. That is her name and that is the correct spelling. Album covers have sometimes missed that point in her illustrious career which may explain Amazon's search results. They have Jackie DeShannon and they have Jackie De Shannon. The misspelling of her last name ("De Shannon") took us to Laurel Canyon. (We went there because C.I. always thinks to try multiple spellings -- see Marica's Ebay commentary from September.) Using both spellings will provide you with 11 different albums (and a deluxe version of one of the eleven) as options to download.

Who is Jackie DeShannon? A singer, a songwriter. As a songwriter, her biggest hit may be "Bette Davis Eyes" (written with Donna Weiss and, recorded by Kim Carnes, held the number one spot on Billboard's pop chart for nine weeks starting May 16, 1981). As a singer, her biggest hit is "What The World Needs Now Is Love" written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. As singer-songwriter, her biggest hit is "Put A Little Love In Your Heart" (which she wrote with Randy Myers, and Jimmy Holiday).

While it would be silly to expect the average person to know who Jackie DeShannon is, it's amazing how little coverage she has received in recent years. Like most of her female peers, she's still not been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. This is an artist who has worked with Barry White, Jimmy Page, Marianne Faithful, Dr. John, Eddie Cochran, Van Morrison, Ry Cooder, Randy Newman, Bobby Womack and many others.

She is considered to be one of the first artists to grasp that folk could (and should) be melded with the then rock & roll. Her influence in the US and UK has been immense and we're talking about a woman who, performing her early hit, "When You Walk In The Room" (1963) on TV, would do so playing her guitar. Playing her guitar.

Maybe if she fit into the 'chick singer' stereotype, Jackie would get the sort of recognition she's earned? Of course, if she had that recognition, women would be aware that they were rocking out long before 'rock history' gives them credit and maybe that's the point in ignoring her?

Women are regularly ignored. Any 'history' of the genre or era includes every minor male and, to do so, makes room for them by ignoring the women who earned their place in history. But the books allegedly focusing solely on women aren't any better. Rolling Stone's hideous Book of Women In Rock manages to mention Jackie on two pages, in single sentences each. Page 74 notes that Cher recorded "Bob Dylan, Jackie DeShannon, and Ray Davies tunes." Page 76 notes, "Jackie DeShannon went to the Top Ten with 'What the World Needs Now Is Love" and that's it. In full. The Book of Women In Rock? 549 pages of text covering roughly forty years (the book was published in 1997) and that's it?

DeShannon the recording artist moved over to Liberty Records in 1960 and, more importantly for the label, songwriter DeShannon moved over to the label's Metric Music publishing house. Other songwriters at Metric included Leon Russell, David Gates, Randy Newman and Sharon Sheeley. DeShannon and Sheeley would write the Fleetwoods hit song "The Great Impostor" and, for Brenda Lee, the hits "Dum Dum" and "Heart in Hand." Singer-songwriters -- male or female -- were not then in vogue so DeShannon was a songwriter and a singer. In 1963, Sonny Bono and Jack Nitzsche wrote and produced "Needles & Pins" for her (providing her with her second charting hit). In this song and DeShannon's "When You Walk In The Room," you can hear where music will be headed later in the sixties. (Of Nitzsche, Jackie once said, "Jack understood me, and we shared similar tastes in music. When we were working together, he was so in tune and so sensitive to what I did.") And that is what you call being a musical pioneer. Someone who leads, not someone who follows.

DeShannon would open for the Beatles when they toured in the US in 1964. She spent time in England and she was among the first female solo artists to begin recording albums. For those confused, she recorded albums. She didn't go into the studio and stand before the microphone singing some smattering of songs. She recorded cohesive statements and did so long before Dusty found her way to Memphis. 1967's Are You Ready For This? is among her earliest albums. (Barbra Streisand recorded actual albums from the start of her career. She always had a strong artistic vision. However, Barbra was not part of the rock era during the sixties. Working with Richard Perry on Stoney End, released in 1971, she would join the rock era.)

Jackie DeShannon

As the sixties wound down, DeShannon recorded one of the era's masterpieces, Laurel Canyon. This beautifully produced and arranged album features Dr. John, Barry White, Harold R. Battiste Jr. and Russ Titleman among many others. And it features Jackie's classic "Holly Would."

I remember

That to Holly

Ever one was good

No one has ever looked

The way Holly could

She never cared

About herself

Lord, the way she should

No one will ever treat you

Like Holly would

You have to hear Jackie sing the song she wrote in a soulful, husky voice accompanied by Battiste on electric piano, Titleman on guitar, Dr. John on piano, Russ Trainer on bass, Abe Mills on drums (among others playing instruments) and Barry White, Brendetta Davis and Don MacAllister adding backing vocals. If you're not remembering the song or desperate to hear it for the first time yet, Battiste did the arrangement (it's up there with his arrangement of "I Got You Babe" as one of his all time best). As he once famously said, "There are no limits to art."

Listening to 1968's Laurel Canyon, you'll hear Carole King's still to come Tapestry. Jackie's re-imaging classic hits (Smokey Robinson & the Miracles' "You Really Got A Hold On Me" which features a nice interplay between Jackie and Barry's vocals especially, The Band's "The Weight," etc.) and while some might argue, "Yes, but Jackie didn't write those songs. Carole co-wrote 'Will You Love Me Tomorrow?'," Jackie wrote "Come and Stay With Me" and it had already been a hit for Marianne Faithful. She transforms the song (well done by Cher ,among others) and, yes, you do hear echoes of the work Lou Adler and King did on her Tapestry a few years later. In fact, you hear the singer-songwriter phase that will dominate the seventies throughout the album. Again, the term is "pioneer."

And her cover of the classic "Sunshine of Your Love" demonstrates just how much she can do with a song. Other standouts include the title track (written by DeShannon), "LA" (ibid), "Too Close" (written by Shannon, Charles Green and Brian Stone) and the Barry White penned "I Got My Reason." Twelve amazing, cohesive tracks that capture so much passion in their performances.

The CD pairs the album's twelve tracks with eight bonus tracks. These include 1969's "Trust Me" and "What Is This?" which were produced by Bobby Womack. Yes, "Trust In Me" would become a Janis Joplin standard in 1970 (as "Trust Me"), yes, Jackie recorded it before that and with Womack producing. The bonus tracks close out with Jackie's hit "Put A Little Love In Your Heart."

20 tracks? Download and cost?

DSL and wireless required less than six minutes both to download the full album. We can't be more precise because we noticed the wireless download was complete after the fact and when Jim pointed that out, the DSL crew checked their status to discover that they were complete as well. We weren't expecting that fast of a download.

Both groups were using Dell latpops with Windows Vista. If this is your first time downloading from Amazon's music, you'll be asked to install the Amazon MP3 Downloader. Jess notes the computer using DSL had already downloaded that (it has some tracks downloaded for the planned feature that were downloaded two weeks ago) last month and, yet, was again asked to install Amazon MP3 Downloader. The downloading of the Downloader appeared to take longer than downloading the album itself. (About seven minutes on each -- with a lot of griping from Jess that it had already been installed previously.)

Price? If you purchase track by track, you'll pay 99 cents per tune. If you purchase the album in full, you'll pay $9.99.


There are no notes with the download. You have no credits (we've pulled the credits from C.I.'s vinyl copy of the album). What about composer? We used the Windows Media Player for playback. In "Library," there are multiple classifications you can pull up tracks by, one of which is "Composer." Only three songs file under "Composer" (three of 20).

Sound quality?

The album is digitally remastered. Furthermore, Betty had a Thanksgiving eve emergency (teens and pre-teens without ear phones, oh my!) and ended up purchasing Jeleez headphones. She loves the sound quality they provide and we do as well, so we'll note these. You can find them for less than $20 at assorted retail and drug stores (in some cases, as low as $11.99). They are comfortable and do not make it feel like some expansive and expanding device has been placed in your ear canal. And, point, they have great sound quality. It sounds like you're in the recording studio with DeShannon.

Most of all you have an incredible album, a hidden masterpiece. Jim made the mistake of using Crapapedia for research and found very little and what he did find was wrong. Why Crapapedia tells their readers the album came out in 1969 is anyone's guess. It came out in 1968 according to the copyright stamp on the vinyl copy. (And C.I. places it as October 1968 but notes "that's a guess.") When they can't even get the basics right, you grasp how hidden this masterpiece has been.

Looking for music that will blow your mind? Download Jackie DeShannon's Laurel Canyon.
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