Radio City With Jon Grayson & Rob Ross: Episode Seventy-One

Radio City With Jon Grayson & Rob Ross:  Episode Seventy One

This special 4th Of July edition finds Rob and Jon making America even greater with their presence and observations and you will be both entertained and fed a lot of food for thought.  Prepare to sit back with a cool drink and an open mind as they deliver on numerous topics, ranging from the shooting at the newspaper in Maryland; the primary elections in New York City; the winners of the John Tavares and Lebron James sweepstakes; the death of Jackson family patriarch, Joe Jackson; a salute to our nation, plus “In Our Heads” and so much more…

It’s a more-than-good one; take the time and let yourself join in on the inner circle.  Time to tune in and smile…

Radio City With Jon Grayson & Rob Ross: Episode Seventy One

The podcast will be on the site as well as for subscription via iTunes and other podcast aggregators. Subscribe and let people know about Radio City, as well as Popdose’s other great podcasts David Medsker’s Dizzy Heights and In:Sound with Michael Parr and Zack Stiegler.

Soul Serenade: The Whispers, “Bingo”

It’s the Fourth of July as I write this but you won’t be reading it until at least tomorrow. So I’ll just say that I hope it was a great day for you and your family and friends. These are troubled times in this country and it’s nice to have one day a year to remember how it all began for us and the principles that informed the country’s founding fathers.

This week we’re traveling out west to Los Angeles, California, specifically to the Watts section of the city. It was there in 1964 that Wallace and Walter Scott, identical twin brothers, got together with Gordy Harmon, Marcus Hutson, and Nicholas Caldwell to form the Whispers. Among their fans was Sly Stone who suggested that the group relocate to the San Francisco area. It wasn’t long before they were knocking audiences out with their powerful live show.

It was the Vietnam era and Walter Scott was among those who were drafted. He spent 18 months in the service before being discharged in 1969. That year, the Whispers released their first single on the local Dore label. “The Time Will Come” was a successful debut, reaching #19 on the R&B chart. Before long, the Whispers joined producer Ron Carson at his Soul Clock label. There they had their breakthrough single, “Seems Like I Got to Do Wrong,” in 1970. It was a Top 10 R&B hit and reached the Top 50 on the pop chart.

The Whispers

The Whispers continued to work with Carson although they left his label for the larger Janus Records, which was based in New York. Much of their recording in the mid-’70s was done in Philadelphia, working with Gamble & Huff producers and songwriters like Norman Harris, Bunny Sigler, and Earl Young, with backing tracks provided by MFSB. They scored a non-stop string of hits during this era with songs like “I Only Meant to Wet My Feet,” “Somebody Loves You,” “A Mother for My Children,” “Bingo,” and “In Love Forever.” In 1977, the Whispers returned to the Top 10 with their cover of the Bread hit “Make it With You” and in the late 1970s they scored with hits like “(Olivia) Lost and Turned Out,” and “A Song for Donny.”

The 1980s began with a bang for the Whispers as they rose all the way to the top of the R&B chart with their cover of the Sonny & Cher classic “The Beat Goes On.” The record also found Top 20 success on the pop chart. More big hits followed including “Lady,” “It’s a Love Thing,” “In the Raw,” “Tonight,” and “Keep on Lovin’ Me,” all of which reached the Top 10. But their biggest hit came with the 1987 smash “Rock Steady” which topped the R&B chart and was a #7 hit on the pop chart. Many of the ’80s hits were for the SOLAR (Sound of Los Angeles Records) label.

In the 1990s, the Whispers continued their string of hits with Top 10 successes like “Innocent,” “My Heart Your Heart,” and “Is it Good to You.”

Unlike many of their contemporaries, the Whispers had very few lineup changes over the years. In 1973, Gordy Harmon was injured in an automobile accident and he was replaced by Leaveil Degree who had been a member of the Friends of Distinction. Marcus Hutson died in 1992 and the Whispers decided not to replace him, continuing as a quartet. Nicholas Caldwell died in 2016 leaving the Scott Brothers and Degree to carry on the Whispers name.

Dizzy Heights #42: With the Prepositions, Vol. I

Started this show late last Saturday after spending the entire day driving back home from Wisconsin. I only had a handful of song ideas. And then BOOM. The show was basically finished before I went to bed.

That has never happened before.

Today’s word class is the preposition! There are TONS of songs that start with them, and I’ve included 25 examples here. And I’m going to do something a little different. I’ve tried keeping my set lists secret, but I was asked to list the bands played, and that seemed harmless, so here we go.

Making their DH debut: Billy Squier, Fleetwood Mac, Green Day, INXS (wait, WHAT?!), Joseph Arthur, The Outfield, Propellerheads, Tin Machine, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Veruca Salt, and The War on Drugs.

Coming back for another tour of duty: Blur, The Boomtown Rats, Cheap Trick, Daft Punk, Depeche Mode, The Divine Comedy, Kirsty MacColl, R.E.M., Robbie Williams, Roxy Music, Simple Minds, Sugarbomb, The Tubes, and Underworld.

Thank you, as always, for listening.

Popdose Exclusive Track Premiere: Django Haskins, “Snakes In The Seaweed”

Popdose is very pleased and proud to premiere exclusively “Snakes In The Seaweed”, the newest track from the upcoming album by Django Haskins, Shadowlawn.  The venerable North Carolina-based singer/songwriter/guitarist is unveiling his first solo album in 17 years!  Mr. Haskins, as many of you are aware, fronts the acclaimed The Old Ceremony and shares the spotlight in Au Pair with The Jayhawks’ Gary Louris; he’s also been a member of the touring company for the Big Star 3rd performances.

Shadowlawn began as a series of experimental recordings in his newly built studio, and eventually evolved into a kind of late-summer song cycle full of meditations on death, love, fear, wanderlust, and exploration of interior worlds.  “Snakes In The Seaweed” features backing vocals from another Popdose favorite, Skylar Gudasz and is a bit more “rock” than the rest of the album (which gives the overall feel of the album a very nice balance).

If you haven’t been introduced to the very fine work of Mr. Haskins before, it’s about time.  Sit back and enjoy “Snakes In The Seaweed” – and let your appetites be whetted for Shadowlawn.

Shadowlawn will be released on Thursday, August 2nd, 2018.

Soul Serenade: The New Birth, “Wildflower”

In 1972, a Canadian band called Skylark had a big hit with a song called “Wildflower.” The song was written by band member Doug Edwards and Dave Richardson, who was a friend of Skylark founder and future music business giant David Foster. The original version of “Wildflower” made it into the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and remained on the chart for 21 weeks.

“Wildflower” is the kind of majestic ballad that begs for covers and sure enough, there have been many of them. Among the artists who have recorded the song are Color Me Badd, Hank Crawford, Johnny Mathis, Lisa Fischer, Silk, and the O’Jays. Perhaps the most successful of these cover versions was the one released by the New Birth in 1974.

The idea for the New Birth came from two veterans of Motown Records. Both Vernon Bullock and Harvey Fuqua had been songwriters and producers for the label. The group actually coalesced in Louisville, Kentucky and included musicians Tony Churchill, James Baker, Robin Russell, Austin Lander, Robert “Lurch” Jackson, Leroy Taylor, Charlie Hearndon, Bruce Marshall and Nathaniel “Nebs” Neblett.

The New Birth

The origins of the group go back to 1963 in Louisville. There, Fuqua and Churchill had a band called the Nite-Liters. Russell, Jackson, Lander, and Hearndon were also members of the group. The Nite-Liters had a few hits including “K-Jee” which reached the R&B Top 20 in 1971. Meanwhile, Bullock had the idea of putting together several groups for a touring bill. He discovered a male vocal group called the Now Sound, and a female vocal group called Mint Julep. Bullock added singer Alan Frye, put everyone together with the Nite-Liters, and the New Birth was born in 1970.

The assembled group’s first success came in 1971 when a track from their second RCA album Ain’t No Big Thing, But It’s Growing, a cover of Perry Como’s hit “It’s Impossible,” became a minor hit. But Bullock wasn’t done manipulating the New Birth lineup. He found a group in Detroit called Love, Peace & Happiness (featuring former Marvelette Ann Bogan) and put them together with the Nite-Liters and existing New Birth members Londee Loren, Bobby Downs, and Alan Frye.

The New Birth was now 17 members strong and in 1972 they had their first Top 10 hit with another cover, this one their take on the Valentinos “I Can Understand It.” The single reached #4 on the R&B chart and had crossover success on the pop chart, reaching the Top 40. Bogan soon left the group to take care of her family leaving Loren the only female band member. But Bullock wasn’t happy with her vocal take on the next New Birth single, yes, a cover of Buffy Sainte-Marie’s “Until it’s Time For You to Go,” and he enlisted former Supreme Susaye Green to sing it. Fuqua and Carolyn Willis of Honey Cone provided the spoken word intro.

In 1974, the New Birth released an album called It’s Been a Long Time. The album spawned hits with the title track (#9 R&B) and their cover of “Wildflower” which reached #17 on the R&B chart and #45 on the pop chart. Later that same year, the sixth New Birth album was released after which the group parted ways with Fuqua and left RCA to sign with Buddha Records.

It was another cover that gained the New Birth their first and only #1 R&B single. This time it was a cover of the Jerry Butler hit “Dream Merchant” (“Mr. Dream Merchant” as released by Butler) which came from the New Birth’s first and only album for Buddha, Blind Baby. After that release, the group decamped for Warner Bros. Records where they had a few minor hits. After two albums for Warners, several members left the group, and the remaining group left Warners.

There were several label and lineup changes before Bullock put together a revamped lineup in 1994 under the name New Birth, leaving behind the ‘the’. Their most recent album was Lifetime which was released by Orpheus Records in 2005.

Radio City With Jon Grayson & Rob Ross: Episode Seventy


Radio City With Jon Grayson & Rob Ross:  Episode Seventy

Every show strives to be different and even after 70 shows, Rob and Jon show there’s no shortage of interesting topics to come across the table.  This week, the boys talk serious hockey as the NHL drafts begin; the Sarah Huckabee Sanders debacle; a follow-up on the fire set in Rob’s neighborhood and the prelude to the primaries; another bunch of fumbles by New York City’s mayor, “In Our Heads” and a great deal more!

This is one of those episodes to help lighten the load.  So kick back and relax and hopefully, you’ll have a laugh while you’re listening in agreement…!

Radio City With Jon Grayson & Rob Ross: Episode Seventy

The podcast will be on the site as well as for subscription via iTunes and other podcast aggregators. Subscribe and let people know about Radio City, as well as Popdose’s other great podcasts David Medsker’s Dizzy Heights and In:Sound with Michael Parr and Zack Stiegler.

Album Review: The Naked Sun, “War With Shadows”

This is the debut album from Philadelphia-based sextet, The Naked Sun, a band who began their quest for “honest rock” in 2011; after a 2013 E.P., Space, Place and Time, they unleashed a full-length, War With Shadows, in January and it showcases the band’s width for making interesting music.  The collection blends the basics of roots-rock and folk with layers of bolstering piano and organ, intricate pedal steel runs and melodic choruses – backed by satisfying harmonies.

The opening cut, “Do You Wanna Dance?” has a very nice, breezy, mid-’80’s pop feel (think bands like The Ocean Blue, etc.) – finely textured with tastefully nuanced effects and soundscapes mixed into the upbeat tempo and crisp guitar figures, along with very warm vocals and supporting harmonies; the country style of “Burke Hollow” is on-the-one, complete with tight harmony, shimmering guitars, sympathetic piano and catchy, while “Rose Gold” continues in the country vein with pedal steel runs and harmonica, making it a fine study in writing a modern country-pop classic.  “Purple Sunset” with its semi-R.E.M.-type opening guitar arpeggios is another upbeat piece with a great bass and drum interplay – and the bridge builds up into a throttling intensity, which kicks the song into high gear; “Jellyfish” is another of these “driving” tracks, with motoring drums and builds and builds with tension and drama while “Clouds” closes out this effort in a low-key manner, framed by an acoustic background which moves into a sweetly quiet country melody and structure (the use of cello is a very nice touch).

All around, a very fine debut release from this band.  Impressive – never precious and musically delectable.  The Naked Sun has delivered a first album that shines.  Give this one a whirl – you’ll get what I mean immediately.


War With Shadows is currently available