Monday, December 11, 2017


Barbara Dane

When a friend restated the simple question—“Who is the best singer?”—that her mother had recently posed, I chuckled at the burden of having to develop a response. Far too many locales, styles, eras, people, and tunes jumbled themselves. The friend, a formidable singer herself, had replied “Freddie Mercury” to her mother, perhaps owing to a Queen song she’d just overheard. In fairness, I love a question both fundamental and fundamentally unanswerable, as this one. Quite a few people can sing, by the way. So, to repurpose a phrase, I pressed my ear to many hundreds of exemplary numbers.  

Too, I required a framework. I chose the twentieth century since it has concluded for the most part. (I leave the twenty-first century to its inhabitant critics.) It felt inequitable to compare men and women together, thus I opted to develop a separate list for each. “Critical acclaim” would be necessary for inclusion but not “star status.” I rejected singers whose catalogues presented “same-y” or saccharine. Character, roughened voice, pioneering sound, and jarring delivery all appealed to me. I hardly resisted a song that “ripped my heart out” (to borrow another phrase.)

If I studied a variety of styles, including jazz, rock, folk, country, blues, soul, and R&B, I left opera, easy listening, and other niches to inhabitant critics. Rather than be “an island” I allowed the counsel of others to penetrate the cold, unforgiving veneer of my soul. Published lists, however, such as the Rolling Stone Magazine “100 Greatest Singers of All Time,” often disappointed me. I tended to reject a vocalist who recorded flippant material, but not a singer who presented with a (classically) lovely voice. Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man” is just such a (classically) lovely song. 

Rev. Gary Davis

The representative record for each singer (accompanying the lists) may be the one you’d expect, or if not, then a solid starting point. Some of these musicians—Karen Dalton and Rev. Gary Davis, for example—might not appear on any other lists of this nature. Good. Investigate these marvelous artists with my blessing. And why, Dear Reader, should my list reinforce any others? (Nota bene: Twelve of my twenty singers did not appear on the Rolling Stone extravaganza.) Here we have a scatting, haunting, versatile, steaming, scuffling, powerful, sensitive, trailblazing, salty, enchanting group—and that’s just the women. The men will add the candors of gravel, work-fat vernacular of sinew, law-breaking impulses of restlessness, transcendence of zen, and gyration of dialect.

Freddie Mercury did not make my list. Tina Turner did not make my list. Patsy Cline did not make my list. Marvin Gaye did not make my list. They’re all very fine vocalists. But this gathering concerns itself with “unassailable” qualities. By that, I mean the shadow in the voice, how it burrows into reason long after it has burrowed into stark emotional discharge. How it may glide or stagger between the stations of crisis and (however naked) the stations of distrustful calm. Some of these vocals peaked like trumpets. Some negotiated new terrain where the words of a song (necessarily) gave way to sound-play. Some voices burned free of rooftops and treetops and fingertips, like late-day sunlight in early winter.

To me, each of these unassailable singers could answer my friend’s mother’s unanswerable question. Enjoy.  

Mahalia Jackson

The Ten Unassailable Female Vocalists of the Twentieth Century (with Representative Record + Year Recorded)
Betty Carter (“Sounds (Movin’ On)” 1980)
Karen Dalton (“Katie Cruel” 1971)
Barbara Dane (“Special Delivery Blues” 1957)
Aretha Franklin (“Respect” 1967)
Billie Holiday (“Strange Fruit” 1939)
Mahalia Jackson (“Keep Your Hand on the Plow” 1955)
Nina Simone (“Feeling Good” 1965)
Bessie Smith (“Down Hearted Blues” 1923)
Kitty Wells (“It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” 1952)
Tammy Wynette (“Stand by Your Man” 1968)

Next 5: Ella Fitzgerald, Janis Joplin, Jean Ritchie, Koko Taylor, Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

Van Morrison

The Ten Unassailable Male Vocalists of the Twentieth Century (with Representative Record + Year Recorded)
Louis Armstrong (“Heebie Jeebies” 1926)
Ray Charles (“I’ve Got a Woman” 1954)
Rev. Gary Davis (“Samson and Delilah” 1961)
Bob Dylan (“Like a Rolling Stone” 1965)
Roscoe Holcomb (“On Top of Old Smokey” 1961)
Robert Johnson (“Hell Hound on My Trail” 1937)
John Lennon (“Imagine” 1971)
Little Richard (“Long Tall Sally” 1956)                       
Van Morrison (“Brown Eyed Girl” 1967)
Elvis Presley (“Heartbreak Hotel” 1956)

Next 5: Johnny Cash, Sam Cooke, Howlin’ Wolf, Leadbelly, Jimmie Rodgers.

 Kitty Wells

Discography / Women
Betty Carter: “Sounds (Movin’ On)” from The Audience with Betty Carter (Bet-Car Records, 1980)
Karen Dalton: “Katie Cruel” from In My Own Time (Paramount Records, 1971)
Barbara Dane: “Special Delivery Blues” 1957 from Trouble in Mind (San Francisco Records, 1957)
Aretha Franklin: “Respect” b/w “Dr. Feelgood” (Atlantic, 1967)
Billie Holiday and Her Orchestra: “Strange Fruit” b/w “Fine and Mellow” (Commodore, 1939)
Mahalia Jackson: “Keep Your Hand on the Plow” from The World’s Greatest Gospel Singer (Columbia, 1955) [Arguably a more stirring rendition recorded live, with Duke Ellington; see: Mahalia Jackson Live at Newport 1958 (Columbia)]
Nina Simone: “Feeling Good” from I Put a Spell on You (Philips, 1965)
Bessie Smith: “Down Hearted Blues” b/w “Gulf Coast Blues (Columbia, 1923)
Kitty Wells: “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” b/w “I Don’t Want Your Money, I Want Your Time” (Decca, 1952)
Tammy Wynette: “Stand by Your Man” b/w “I Stayed Long Enough” (Epic, 1968)

Roscoe Holcomb

Discography / Men
Louis Armstrong: “Heebie Jeebies” b/w “Muskrat Ramble” (OKeh, 1926)
Ray Charles and His Band: “I’ve Got a Woman” b/w “Come Back” (Atlantic, 1954)
Blind Gary Davis: “Samson and Delilah” from Harlem Street Singer (Prestige Bluesville,1961) [Arguably a more stirring rendition recorded live; see: Rev. Gary Davis “Samson and Delilah (If I Had My Way)” from The Reverend Gary Davis at Newport (Vanguard, 1968)]
Bob Dylan: “Like a Rolling Stone” from Highway 61 Revisited (Columbia,1965)
Roscoe Holcomb: “On Top of Old Smokey” from The Music of Roscoe Holcomb and Wade Ward (Smithsonian Folkways, 1962)                                                             
Robert Johnson: “Hell Hound on My Trail” b/w “From Four Until Late (Vocalion, 1937)
John Lennon: “Imagine” from Imagine (Apple Records, 1971) [Arguably better performances with the Beatles, including, for example, “A Day in the Life” (1967), “Come Together” (1969), and “Revolution” (single version, 1968)]
Little Richard: “Long Tall Sally” b/w “Slippin’ and Slidin’ (Peepin’ and Hidin’)” (Specialty, 1956)
Van Morrison: “Brown Eyed Girl” b/w “Goodbye Baby (Baby Goodbye)” (Bang Records, 1967)
Elvis Presley: “Heartbreak Hotel” b/w “I Was the One” (RCA Victor, 1956)

Sources for discography: 45cat, Allmusic, Discogs, Smithsonian Folkways, Wikipedia. 

Betty Carter

Also See
Louis Armstrong: “Am Pluto Waterly Yours
Jump Around: Top 25 Greatest Jump Blues Songs
John Coltrane: Energy Kick

Saturday, November 11, 2017


A young woman walked against the traffic, downhill, the breezy orbit of her scarf—the swept springs—unconceiling her, a sonorous swerve, ringlets brunette, varnished at street corners in the dipping light of eye contact. The many dress heels to pavement, the minutes and halves of a percussion compass would offer a bliss-erratic as bright as the tours of flickers, but for the directional mechanism of depletions in reverse. Those drab-dressed, vents whipping or other exodus, the day flattening. Three months later plus an hour, the weather had returned to seasonal: granular tableau above the river’s widening, husk yellow. She repaired, at the river, to the gradations of a hill, clean grass and dusty crown overlooking an eddy revolving with one styrofoam cup. Trees across the water in woolens. The sky lofted towards the coordinates of digital transmission. To receive alloys, the subfrigid metals of static, the needle electric in the ear, despair, of the listener. An air traffic pattern was changing, a rope of departures growling at the dimming detonation of the west. “I would shrink from attackers,” she may have thought. The young woman would turn away from the laugh of a bottle-thrower breaking, perhaps, on a vacant basketball court. An open palm, she concluded, is not always grasping for a handout, but a device that measures risk. The skeptic. The skeptic.

resurrection week editorial schedule:
Sonnet (for Clarice Lispector)

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Praise Poem for the Music and Musicianship of Marian McLaughlin and Heterodyne: Mariya Shesiuk and Ted Zook

The Venue & the Principals

At Baltimore’s impressive Four Hour Day Lutherie, a multi-purpose establishment where the practice of making stringed instruments meets the practicing musicians who make stringed and other instruments “go forth to song”, guitar player and singer Marian McLaughlin shared the bill on November 2nd with the improvisational project Heterodyne, formed by Mariya Shesiuk (keyboards, synthesizer, voice) and Ted Zook, basscello. Since Heterodyne invites an extended family of guest performers to join their appearances, I eagerly joined as “words.” In my experience, small performance spaces often facilitate some of the most indelible displays of musicianship, and this event at the Lutherie would hardly derail such a theory.

Marian McLaughlin

Marian McLaughlin might describe herself as an experimental folk musician, and to that, I’d add a few humble thoughts about her indigenous connection to guitar as well as her kindly relationship with audience. One could ponder the mastery of technique when watching Marian play and one could ponder the inevitable well of her abundant discoveries. I’d wager on the inner life of the artist, the sincere weights of her process, the implicit prevalence of her storytelling and imagery. What devotee of Debord would fail to register her travels through numerous stations of keen hypothesis? Marian’s beckoning voice can be observed in a constellation that clearly unifies audience members, the enviable concertgoers who thirst for this warmth of communion. 

Heterodyne: Mariya Shesiuk and Ted Zook

Heterodyne doesn’t simply certify a state of urgency. The consequential partnership between Mariya and Ted establishes itself in a vaulting appraisal that situates listeners amid dilemma, some parts nocturnal, some parts urban-nocturnal, some parts the fluidity of human resourcefulness attempting to achieve salvation, boot-sock, boot-sock. Even as our social contracts wobble, even as alarms signal the absence of meaningful doctrine, the music of Heterodyne proposes the kind of ambient elasticity that can enroll all the wayward bodies who might otherwise drift toward despondency. Optimism, we are reminded, cannot be the province of superficiality, but could accompany the exacting genesis envisioned by Mariya and Ted.

For a free recording of Heterodyne (plus “words”) at the Four Hour Day Lutherie, click [here]

There Will Be Additional Ruckus

The very same lineup will renew the ruckus on November 16, 2017 at The Dewdrop Inn, at 8:00 p.m., in Washington, D.C. Come see Marian McLaughlin and Heterodyne (plus “words”) as we stamp our sawing & yodeling, etc., onto worthy square footage of metropolitan terrain. Huzzah!

resurrection week editorial schedule:
Marian McLaughlin & Heterodyne

Tuesday, November 7, 2017



Welcome to Cozy Cole’s blistering R&B shaker, “Cozy’s Mambo.” This music will make you dance, jump, and sing. Let’s get on with it, then.

Twenty-five Word Song Review

Were there two drummers? Did Cozy have four arms? He owned a trick drum kit, right? No, No, No. Was he tap-dancing? Oh, yeah!

We Know a Bit about This Song

“Cozy’s Mambo” is an original.

The likely personnel include George Kelly (tenor sax); Gene Redd (vibes); John Thomas (piano); John Faire, Fred Jordan (guitar); Edwyn Conley (bass); and Cozy Cole (drums). Cozy recorded it in Cincinnati, Oh. (1959) as “Cozy And Bossa” also known as “Cozy’s Mambo.” It was released as Bethlehem 3067 and King 5303 in 1960.

We Know a Bit about Cozy Cole

Born William Randolph Cole, and given the nicknames “Colesy” and “Cozy” by schoolmates, the young drummer first envied Duke Ellington drummer Sonny Greer. As a kid, Cozy learned to tap dance, and incorporated that style into his drumming. He would eventually bridge the worlds between swing, bebop, and rock ‘n’ roll as a drummer. According to critics, he also pioneered “hand and foot independence” (perhaps also termed “coordinated independence”) which may form the basis of much modern drumming.

Cozy played on “Load of Coal” aka “Load of Cole” which Jelly Roll Morton recorded in 1930. His subsequent recordings with Cab Calloway—including “Paradiddle” and “Ratamacue”—emphasized drums, some of the earliest recordings to do so.

In addition to his activities with Jelly Roll Morton and Cab Calloway, he toured, appeared, or recorded with Blanche Calloway, Benny Carter, Willie Bryant [the unofficial mayor of Harlem], Stuff Smith, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, and Lionel Hampton. He was one of the first African American musicians to play in a network band, for CBS, in the early 1940s.

Cozy recorded as leader on Love, King, Coral, Columbia, Bethlehem, Verve, and many other labels. He appeared in several movies, including I’m in the Revue (Italian), Don’t Knock the Rock, and The Glenn Miller Story. He also featured in Broadway musicals: Carmen Jones and Seven Lively Arts.

Together with Gene Krupa, he co-founded a drum school that lasted 20 years until Krupa’s death in 1973. Well after he’d established himself professionally, Cozy enrolled at Juilliard School of Music, where he continued to study drumming. He toured Europe with Jack Teagarden and Earth “Fatha” Hines. He toured Africa.

Cozy Is Best Known for “Topsy I” and “Topsy II”

In 1944, Cozy scored a minor hit with “Just One More Chance,” which he recorded on Keynote [1300] as the leader of the Cozy Cole All Stars. The song rose to #10 on Billboard’s Harlem Hit Parade.

Yet the drummer enjoyed national prominence when he released “Topsy I” and “Topsy II”—a drum-inspired jazz piece spread out over two sides of a 45—in 1958. Cozy was 49 at the time. “Topsy I” charted at #27 on Billboard’s pop charts, but “Topsy II” reached #3 on Billboard’s pop charts and #1 on the R&B charts. (It also reached #1 on Cash Box.) The same side also charted in the U.K. (#29 on the pop charts.) The tiny Love Records label released “Topsy I” and “Topsy II”; the record would sell one million copies and receive a gold disc. In the same year, Cozy released “Turvy I” and “Turvy II.” The former didn’t chart, but the latter would make the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #36.

The title, “Topsy”, derived from a few different sources. Ultimately, it may refer to Topsy herself, a character in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, but it also refers to a piece that appeared in Mr. Tom, a folk opera written by jazz musicians Edgar Battle and Eddie Durham, also with Peter Doraine. As Cozy recorded both “Topsy” and “Turvy”, obviously he punned on the informal phrase, topsy-turvy. Battle and Durham composed the song “Topsy” presumably in the 1930s, when Count Basie (1937) and Benny Goodman (1938) recorded it.

Cozy’s Legacy

Preston Epps and Sandy Nelson both inherited from Cozy, taking drum-themed rock ‘n’ roll recordings onto the charts. The English rock ‘n’ roll drummer Colin Powell changed his name to Cozy Powell, in tribute to his idol. In older age, Cozy Cole earned a bachelor’s degree at Capital University when he was awarded (as a junior) an honorary doctorate from the same school. He passed away in 1981.

Sources of Information

Black Cat Rockabilly Europe Cozy Cole page
Capital University Endowed Fund Listing
Discogs entry for Cozy Cole
Discogs entry for “Cozy’s Mambo”
Drummer World page for Cozy Cole
JazzDisco listing for Bethlehem Records discography (1958 onward)
Modern Drummer (background piece
Modern Drummer (tribute/obituary) by Scott K. Fish
Way Back Attack (Michael Jack Kirby) Cozy Cole page 
Wikipedia entry for Cozy Cole 

resurrection week editorial schedule:
“Great White Water” (Shaker)
“Cozy’s Mambo” (R&B Shaker)



Welcome to “Great White Water,” a rowdy Shaker without identifiable musicians. This music will make you nod your head instantly. Let’s get on with it, then.

Twenty-five Word Song Review

Not the lovely crest of the wave, but the crashing, turbulent, growling finale. The danger and the thrill. Which is precisely where this song begins.

We Don’t Know Anything about The Song’s Musicians

Whoever they are, they played this song in 1963 or 1964 as part of the soundtrack for the 1964 beach movie, Surf Party, starring Bobby Vinton and Patricia Morrow.

A Bit More on Surf Party

Two bands—The Routers and The Astronauts—appear as themselves in the film. Some surf legends also appear, including Mickey Dora. Citing it as a ripoff of the earlier film, Beach Party, critics largely panned Surf Party and the male leads, but did credit the leading women as having done reputable work. The soundtrack was assembled by the legendary composer and arranger, Jimmie Haskell, who, along with William Donaldson “By” Dunham, was credited with writing several of the songs for Surf Party, including “Great White Water.”

That’s about It, Folks

Our tireless discography department can now rest. If you, Dear Reader, know more about this song, please leave us a comment. Enjoy! 

Sources of Information
45worlds (UK release)
45cat (Japan release)
AFI page for movie, Surf Party
Discogs entry for Great White Water
IMDb page for Surf Party soundtrack
Jimmie Haskell website
Thomas Lisanti book (2005) Hollywood Surf and Beach Movies
Wikipedia entry for Surf Party

resurrection week editorial schedule:
“Great White Water” (Shaker)
“Cozy’s Mambo” (R&B Shaker)

Monday, November 6, 2017


[Made note: Greeks do not like Al Gore, former V.P. U.S.A.] Al Gore at the Autobus Stop, Al Gore at the Tzatziki Vendor, Al Gore in Athens, No! This could result in Al-Gore-A-Phobia.

Received a citation for “Disturbing the Cod-Peace”, by Officer (Miss) Demeanor. Told to leave that cod-peace in extra virgin turmoil. [Made note: extroversion term oil.]

Decide between (a) Rockin’ the Casbah & (b) Rockin’ the Cash Bar. [Made note: Schlitz Malt Liquor Istanbull.] Dwayne Johnson?—The Rock?—in the Casbah? (Skip.)

Jumping ship became an art form. Sailors as artists tossing themselves into the cold, cold briny. [Made note: Shipmates to holler “Man Oeuvre Board!” when considering bodies of work.]

[Made note: Maneuvers & Manures.] The Hind-Lick Maneuver, The Heinz-Lick Maneuver, Orchestral Manures in the Dark, Heimlich Manure, Military Manures, The Hymie Lick Maneuver.

So, a guy named Walter bought a gate. [Made note: That would be Walter’s Gate.] It didn’t keep out Republicans. Then came Congressional “Probe.” Then came “Special” Prosecutor.

Hoity Toity physicians & their big-box booksellers. Those medics should shop for paperbacks local. If so, they’d be Doctors Without Borders! [Made note: French: Medecins Sans Front Ears.]

[Made note: if The Autobahn is where Germans can drive as fast as they please] then is The Audubon where Birds can fly as fast as they please?

[Made note: If I’m full of awe, then am I awe-full?] (Skip.)

NASA hiring astronaughts & expecting missions to succeed! Why not rocket the hip-hop musician, Nas, into space? [Made note: shorten NASA to Nas.] Best idea since Big Ben Gay Talese.

SUNY-Previn sucks, the cafeteria smells like wet dogs, the dorms are gross & the quad is full of douchebags. Should I transfer to Rutgers-Hauer? [Made note: RISD-Snider?]

Retreats used to be full-scale military disgraces. Now you don’t even leave the office and you order-in Buca di Beppo. [Made note: the dog expects a second treat nowadays; a re-treat.]

[Made note: Who log-ins?] Kenny? Kenny log-ins? How many Kenny log-ins? [What?] Log-ins & Messina? How many Log-ins & Messina? [Huh?] The Messina comin’? Land O’ Lakes & Honey!

I need a prescription filled immediately. I need Apothecary Now. [Made note: Fro-Yo Yo Ma & Pa Kettle.] Then I called A.A. for a tow. “Al-Gore-A-Phobia Anonymous,” said a man named Stavros. Honest mistake!

resurrection week editorial schedule:
Notes (for Sonnet)

Thursday, August 17, 2017


Some people read poems about spending a lot of time in graveyards. They don’t hate these poems. “Ooh!” they say. “I hate spending a lot of time in graveyards!” Not all poems are about loitering in cemeteries, though. Some lyrics concern a horsey, the current president, or the prevalence of vulgarity. “Vulgarity-current president,” says one ambitious verse. “Horsey-vulgarity,” goes another. Yet a third may offer, “Current president-horsey.”

If someone has died, there follows the day after someone has died. That day is almost always wintry, even if it’s the chalky cloud-swells of a wintry sky during a season of oppressive heat. Can the sky grow any oilier or smokier? In the end, there are no achievable geometries. (Can you disprove it?) Perhaps the word “achievable” should be subtracted. It supposes attainment, as in scaling a truth, or encountering a love that forever regenerates forgiveness.  

Another person has been slain. Most cessation doesn’t murder but murder almost always results in cessation. Perhaps the holy nature of stoppages kindles an impulse to envision the kingdom of the dead. Of all the unachievable geometries—wandering, sound maps, savage proximity, and slackening—only slackening can result in catastrophe. There follows the day after someone has died. That day, and every day in succession, is a white stone. Can you disprove it?

My friend, we’re all going to spend a lot of time in graveyards. Ever notice how walking is like the body through the body? Currency jangles in a coin pocket. The afternoon declares shady intervals until the curvature and curtain of disengagement. Some people read poems about the moon, its quarter-hopes and half-hopes, its hidden alertness. They don’t hate these poems. The moon tugs and we may listen in order to defamiliarize. As with any loss, how crucial the disbelief?