“Love So Fine” is something of a lost A&M hit. It sounded like it should have been a smash on the charts, yet it was pretty much forgotten over the years. Diehard fans of Roger Nichols with his Small Circle of Friends hadn’t forgotten, and Herb Alpert covered this with his Tijuana Brass on the Herb Alpert’s Ninth album. After a decades-long absence, Nichols and the Small Circle of Friends have released two albums in recent years, well worth seeking out if you liked their smooth vocal sounds from the original A&M album!
One of our favorite tracks from the Coney Island album was “Vento Bravo,” composed and originally performed by Edu Lobo. Here is the cut featured on his Missa Breve album from 1973.
It’s no secret that “Maniac” was a popular #1 hit by Michael Sembello (especially given its appearance in the film Flashdance), and it was a natural for Herb to cover the tune in a modern TJB fashion on his Bullish album. To the uninitiated, Sembello seemed like a one-hit wonder, but he was (and still is) a busy gigging musician, having appeared on many popular recordings. His experiences reach as far back as Stevie Wonder’s landmark Songs in the Key of Life, which he recorded on as a teenager. Sembello has also recorded his own music on A&M. Herb’s Bullish album hinted at “Tijuana Brass” on its cover, and the album coincided with a reunion tour of the 70s-era T.J.B..
The songwriting duo of Burt Bacharach and Hal David created the music for the Broadway production Promises, Promises, which was an adaptation of the Billy Wilder film The Apartment. Dionne Warwick would make this tune an international hit, and Herb covered it on his You Smile–The Song Begins album from 1973. The vocal version of tune appears at the end of the production.
The Crusaders (Joe Sample, Wilton Felder and Stix Hooper) had a hugely successful jazz/funk/R&B crossover hit with their tune “Street Life,” featuring the vocals of Randy Crawford. Herb not only covered “Street Life” on his Rise album, but featured the maestro himself, Joe Sample, on keyboards in this performance.
Here, then, is the full album length version of “Street Life.”
Herb Alpert’s Rise featured this low-key album track on side two. Penned by singer/songwriter Bill Withers, “Love Is” appears on his album ‘Bout Love. Long out of print, it has recently been made available on CD by way of the Complete Sussex & Columbia Album Masters box set, containing mini-LP versions of all of Wither’s albums, for about the cost of two single CDs. Essential!
Nestled on side two of Herb Alpert’s Ninth (not to be confused with Beethoven’s) is a little ditty called “The Love Nest.” While it sounds like a little hideaway for an “innocent” little triste, it actually dates back nearly a century. It comes from a musical production, “Mary,” with lyrics by Otto Harbach and music by Louis A. Hirsch. It was made more popular through a mention in the classic novel “The Great Gatsby.”
For a little bit of fun today, we present two versions for you! One by John Steel dating to 1920, and a neat little workup via the smooth eight part vocal harmonies of The Randy Van Horne Singers, from the RCA album Clef Dwellers. (Apologies for the lousy sound on the Van Horne version–the original LP smokes this digital trainwreck!)
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“Skokiaan” took the world by storm several decades ago. While it wasn’t strictly a #1 hit, there were so many versions out there that it was hard not to hear the song on radio.
“Skokiaan” was written by Rhodesian (Zimbabwean) musician August Musarurwa in 1954, and was covered by such diverse artists as Louis Armstrong, Perez Prado, Ray Anthony, Spike Jones (as “Japanese Skokiaan” with lyrics by Freddie Morgan), Bill Haley, and yes…Herb Alpert, whose recording landed him on the R&B charts for the first time.
The original recording is by a Rhodesian band called The African Dance Band of the Cold Storage Commission of Southern Rhodesia. We have linked to this version of the track below for your enjoyment.
And…just what is “skokiaan?” It is a type of bootleg alcoholic beverage, usually brewed within a day by someone at home. So, take a few sips and give this a spin!
The tune “Lemon Tree” has its roots in the late 1930s. Based on an old Brazilian folk song “Meu Limão, Meu Limoeiro,”, Will Holt wrote this English version of the song in the late 1950s. While the tune was performed by Peter, Paul & Mary, Bob Marley and The Wailers, Roger Whittaker, Chad & Jeremy and others, it was the Trini Lopez version (below) which would become a Billboard Top 20 hit. The Tijuana Brass would cover this on the food-themed Whipped Cream & Other Delights album in 1965.