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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.
On Herb Alpert’s Beyond album you will find a cover version of the Earth Wind & Fire favorite “That’s The Way of The World.” In memory of leader Maurice White, who passed away yesterday morning (Feb. 4), we give you the EW&F version of that track. It is a song that Maurice closely identified with, despite the fact that it originated from the soundtrack of a barely-screened film that bombed at the box office! Here it is. Enjoy!
Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass, Vol. 2 featured the song “A-me-ri-ca” from the wildly successful cultural milestone West Side Story. While the story was originally produced on Broadway, it was the film that became a cultural phenomenon, and cover versions of the film’s most popular songs were found on seemingly everone’s albums back in the day.
Alpert changed up the original’s polyrhythmic structure and set it to his own mariachi-themed arrangement, a favorite track on the Brass’s second album that is as much fun to listen as the original movie clip from which it was taken.
On a chance meeting in a Vienna bistro, film director Carol Reed heard Anton Karas’s playing the zither (for tips!). Upon having the revelation that this was the sound he wanted for his film The Third Man, Reed convinced the 40-hear-old Karas to compose the entire film score. Karas revived a tune he hadn’t played in 15 years as the main theme song for the film. In the UK, where the song was as wildly popular as it was in the US, the theme was more popularly known as “The Harry Lime Theme,” named after the main character in the film (played by actor Orson Welles). It topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, spending 11 weeks atop the Billboard best sellers chart in the US.
Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass originally recorded the tune as a single, with “A Taste of Honey” on the B-side. DJs began playing “Honey” instead, which opened the floodgates for the immensely popular Whipped Cream & Other Delights album. “Third Man Theme” would end up on the following album, Going Places, several months later.
Leading off side two of the Sounds Like… Tijuana Brass album was “Town Without Pity.” The tune was originally a 1961 recording by pop crooner Gene Pitney, with music composed by Dimitri Tiomkin and lyrics by Ned Washington. It was composed for the film of the same name, and received a Golden Globe along with an Academy Award nomination for best motion picture song.
Very often, Herb Alpert’s albums were very “topical.” Like a newscaster dispensing the latest news, many Tijuana Brass albums would feature recent hits. Back in the era of the Lonely Bull album, another great style was taking over American airwaves and record stores: the Bossa Nova. “Desafinado” today is considered a Bossa Nove standard, composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Newton Mendonça. The earliest recordings of this tune by Joao Gilberto are for the most part unavailable today, but the most popular hit version was recorded by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd, on their 1962 album Jazz Samba, reaching the Top 20 in the US. Here is their version of “Desafinado.”
Two lucky winners will win a copy of the latest Herb Alpert CD, Come Fly With Me, signed personally by Herb Alpert and Lani Hall! To enter the giveaway and read the details, visit our forum. Contest ends on Feb. 21, 2016, so don’t delay!
The Coney Island album would stretch the “new” T.J.B. even further into new musical territory, covering tunes from many diverse artists and genres. “Señor Mouse” originated on the 1973 album Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy by Return To Forever. This was the first jazz-rock lineup of RTF which featured Chick Corea (keys), Stanley Clarke (basses), Lenny White (drums) and Bill Connors (guitars). Al DiMeola would replace Connors on the next album, taking RTF into its most popular and successful era.
Explaining both the album’s title track and “Captain Señor Mouse” as reminiscent of being in outer space, Corea explained that the song “…reminded me of a mouse at the helm of a spaceship;” hence, the title. Here is the Return To Forever version of “Señor Mouse.” Enjoy!