Tunes: Chantels, Sam Cooke, Neil Diamond, Kris Kristofferson

Been into a weird retro-y mood this last week with my music, seeking out and listening to old soul and country from from the 50s (Chantels) and 60s (Cooke, Diamond and Kristofferson), mostly via reading lists on Metacritic and Allmusic.com.

Cover (The Best of the Chantels [Rhino]:The Chantels)The Chantels were one of the first all-black girl groups and sang vocal harmonies/doo wop. Their biggest hit, “Maybe,” peaked at #15 on Billboard in 1957 (though they had been together for 7 years by that point). It’s a sweet little number that makes we watch to watch Blue Velvet again.

I’ve been into Sam Cooke for a few years, mostly spinning thefew records I have of his that I have at home. The record I’ve been getting into this week, however, is his best known album, 1963’s Night Beat. It starts with the happiest version of “Nobody Knows” on record, and carries through with other blues standards.

So pleading really ignorant here, but I had no idea Neil Diamond was something beyond a jazz singer, whose choruses were only sung by drunk karaokers and wedding parties. So imagine my shock discovering Bang Years, a recent collection that chronicles his early days. Take this tune for instance.

pilgrim06360eI’m still exploring Kris Kristofferson and am not sure where I stand. My only experience with him — before picking up  s/t this week — comes from three funny but separate incidents: (1) my sister witnessing my dad’s drunk friend singing “Me and Bobby McGee” one night at karaoke bar in 1987, (2) seeing a member of Hot Hot Heat wear a hilarious shirt that read “Kris Fucking Kristofferson!” and (3) a lyric on the new Bill Callahan record (“Captain Kristofferson!”). But I do love this line from the chorus from “Me and Bobby McGee”: “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”