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I’ve brought a turntable into the main house from the garage. The garage is where I keep the bulk of my books, CDs and LPs, but I haven’t been enjoying them there because of the winter weather.
I had to make a careful selection of records to keep in the house—not too many, but a solid variety. I settled on these:

The Best of Johnny Kidd & The Pirates. The outstanding British rendition of “Shakin’ All Over.”
The Pachelbel Canon and Other Baroque Favorites, Jean-Francois Paillard Chamber Orchestra and Others.
Schoenberg, Transfigured Night (New York Philharmonic).
Domenico Scarlatti, Sonatas for Harpsichord played by Fernando Valenti.
Bartok, Concerto for Orchestra (Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra).
Sylvie Vartan, Sylvie. One of my all-time favorite pop albums, with a fantastic version of “Rescue Me” with the new French title (and very different sentiment) “De Ma Vie.”
The Mason Williams Phonograph Record. “Classical Gas” and other singular works by the esteemed comedy writer and musician.
Gounod, Faust (Andre Cluytens conducting the Orchestra and Chorus of the Theatre National de L’Opera).
Gilbert & Sullivan, The Pirates of Penzance (D’Oyly Carte).
’60s Beat Italiano Volume 1. Various Mersey-influenced artists, Italian-style.
Willie Loco Alexander, Solo Loco. On the top of my shelf.
Apollo 100, Joy. Blissful bubblegum synth classical pop.
The Fleshtones, Up-Front. Their debut major-label EP, with “Girl from Baltimore” and the monumental “Theme from The Vindicators.”
Petula Clark, The Other Man’s Grass is Always Greener. Contains “Cat in the Window,” better known as a hit for The Turtles.

Plus these soundtracks:
Mary Poppins (the Disney movie)
Bye Bye Birdie (Broadway, with Chita Rivera)
Kiss Me Kate (Hallmark Hall of Fame, with Alfred Drake)
Stardust (the David Essex film)
The Jungle Book (Disney)

…and these convenient multi-LP box sets:
The Swing Years. 72 tracks from 1936-46 by two dozen separate big bands on this Readers Digest compilation.
50 Most Electrifying Broadway Showstoppers. Compiled by the Longines Symphonette Society. One of the best original-artists showtune comps I’ve ever encountered. Most-played track: Ray Bolger singing “Once in Love With Amy” from Where’s Charley?

Not too much repetition here, though two of the soundtracks feature Dick Van Dyke. Two are ‘60s Disney movies. Both the Johnny Kidd hits collection and the Stardust soundtrack contain the song “A Shot of Rhythm & Blues.”
Most recent record of this lot is Solo Loco, from 1981. The Fleshtones 12-inch EP is from 1980. Most of my ‘90s and ‘00s vinyl comes from Connecticut bands. That’s a whole separate stash to be appreciated at another time.

R.I.P. Michael Brown: Fifteen Best “Walk Away Renee” Covers

• Willie Loco Alexander and the Baboon Band. From the Boston Incest Album released by Sounds Interesting Records in 1980. Alexander was a keyboardist who dabbled in baroque pop himself with The Bagatelle back in the ‘60s.
• Billy Bragg. A story-song, using the “Walk Away” melody as the soundtrack. Stunning.
• The Four Tops. A genuine hit for the group, which they were still doing when I saw the last Levi Stubbs Tops tour in 1999.
• Arrows. Mid-‘70s British band who had the original hit with “I Love Rock ’n’ Roll” in 1975. Their “Walk Away Renee” is very close to the Left Banke version, just a touch rockier. Heavier drum sound.
• Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes. Lush in ways Michael Brown did not consider: bluesy lead vocals, female backing vocals, melodic bass lines…
• Linda Ronstadt. Folksy, with prominent acoustic guitar and, I guess, cello.
• Vonda Shepard. If Nina Simone had covered this song, it might have gone like this. Rangy vocals and all piano.
• Gabor Szabo. Mournful instrumental classical-guitar rendition.
• Somerdale. Wondrous stadium-rock-anthem style version. Hard to know what to make of this; it’s just overwhelming.
• Les Fradkin. By changing a few inflections and scansions, Fradkin shows you how regimented the lyrics to this tune are. Then the guitar breaks free too.
• Terry Reid. Takes the whole thing apart and puts it back together as a Brit-blues exhibition.
Dummy. Loud and fast and gnarly. Kind of wrong.
• Alvin Stardust. Horribly dated—not in a baroque pop kind of way; in a ‘70s studio-pop tricks way.
• Willie Bobo. Hipster jazz rendition. Nothing baroque about this one.
• Karla DeVito and The Roches. Overblown production with soaring vocals and obtrusive horns.
Carol Noonan. Lyrical and sweet and slow.
• Jive Bunny and the Mixmasters. One of those “Stars on 45”-style medleys matched to a steady propulsive dancefloor beat. This one’s made up of Four Tops hits, including “Walk Away Renee.”

It should be noted that there’s a Louisiana band called Renee and The Walkaways, and a 2011 documentary titled Walk Away Renee, about a road trip the filmmaker Jonathan Caouette takes with his mother Renee.
Interesting that most, though hardly all, covers of “Walk Away Renee” choose to retain the violins. Yes, the original coined the whole concept of baroque pop, but the song itself is rather straightforward and could be taken in a number of directions.

R.I.P Michael Brown: Five Best “Pretty Ballerina” Covers

• Jason Falkner. Upbeat and poppy, without sacrificing the nuanced keyboards.
• Alice Cooper. On the unsung Dirty Diamonds album. Paying great respect, in that inimitable Alice growl.
• The Dickies, a punk wall-of-sound effort, with guitars carrying the melody and some real glam danger.
• Aqua Velvet. Earnest female vocals and trenchant percussion.
• Eels. Raw live version, but neatly balanced. A bonus track on the Live at Town Hall album.

Great Dr. John Piano Solos in Unlikely Places

“Oo-ee,” Ringo Starr. From the 1974 album Goodnight Vienna (the one with the Klaatu from Day the Earth Stood Still on the cover). Just heard this on the Beatles Radio online station, which sent me rushing to Google who played that intense keyboard solo, which led in turn to this list.

Chastity, original motion picture soundtrack. Rebennack co-composed incidental music for the 1969 film with Sonny Bono, who had written and produced the flick as a solo vehicle for his then-wife Cher. Lots of ominous chords and somber-sounding dramatic strings.

“Let It Loose,” The Rolling Stones, 1972.

“Working in a Coal Mine with Dolly Parton, Alan Toussaint and Irma Thomas.

“Mockingbird,” Carly Simon and James Taylor. (Dr. John’s playing is the only good thing about this otherwise egregious cover, which was unavoidable on AM radio in 1974).

Indian Blues, the multi-traditional jazz album by Donald Harrison Jr.

Rickie Lee Jones.

Aretha Franklin’s “Young, Gifted and Black” album.

Dolly Parton’s Heartbreaker album, 1978.

Willy Deville. The late great New York rocker used Dr. John on four of his albums between 1978 and 1995.

Popeye’s Chicken & Biscuits. The “Love that chicken” jingle, which he also sings.

The very special theme song from Blossom, which he also sings.

The theme to the PBS series Curious George.

Two songs on Blues Brothers 2000, in an all-star band (The Lousiana Gator Boys) alongside B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Clarence Clemons, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Bo Diddley and many others.

Spiritualized, “Cop Shoot Cop.”

The Princess and the Frog, “Down in New Orleans,” written by Randy Newman.

“Let ‘Em In,” the Wings song, from the new Art of Paul McCartney tribute.

My personal favorite Dr. John/Mac Rebennack records:

Dr. John Plays Mac Rebennack, for his version of Hoagy Carmichael’s “The Nearness of You.”
In a Sentimental Mood, for his version of “Makin’ Whoopee!” with Ricke Lee Jones.
In the Right Place, for the title song and “Such a Night.”
Ske-Dat-De-Dat…The Spirit of Satch, for the strange cover of Brecht & Weill’s “Mack the Knife” and the frisky take on “Dippermouth Blues.”
Storm Warning: The Early Session of Mac “Dr. John” Rebennack, from when he was primarily a session guitarist.

Audiobooks I’ve Heard So Far This Year

Midnight Haul, Max Allan Collins
Quarry, Max Allan Collins
The Baby Blue Rip-Off, Max Allan Collins
Library of the World’s Best Mystery & Detective Stories, edited by Julian Hawthorne
Animal Farm, George Orwell
Great Expecations, Charles Dickens
The Woman Who Married a Cloud—The Collected Short Stories of Jonathan Carroll
The Call of the Wild, Jack London
The Land That Time Forgot, Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Man Who Knew Too Much, G.K. Chesterton
Tom Sawyer Abroad, Mark Twain
Johnny Carson, Henry Bushkin

Books I’ve Read So Far This Year

The City, Dean Koontz
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, Gabrielle Zevin
Missing Reels, Farran Smith Nehme
Off the Record (The Record Series Book 1), K.A. Linde
On the Record (The Record Series Book 2), K.A. Linde
For the Record (The Record Series Book 3), K.A. Linde
The Saint in Action, Leslie Charteris

Andy Kaufman: The Truth, Finally, Bob Zmuda & Lynne Margulies
I Must Say, Martin Short
My Life is a Situation Comedy, Bill Persky
Chasing the Ripper, Chasing the Ripper
And Now…—An Oral History of Late Night With David Letterman
Charlie Chaplin—A Brief Life, Peter Ackroyd
The New England Life of Bob Montana, Carol Lee Anderson
Pranksters—Making Mischief in the Modern World, Kembrew McLeod